In practically all Vedic texts a concept called yajña is employed, which is loosely translated as a “sacrifice” and the performance of the yajña is said to be the means to advance spiritually. For most people, yajña is understood as a fire lit in a pot into which food grains are offered with a mantra. While this is by no means an aberration, it is not the only sense in which the term yajña is used. For example, the Bhagavad-Gita (BG) describes how the processes of Aśtanga-Yoga and Jnana-Yoga are also yajña. Then we have terms such as Sankīrtana-yajña which seem to have nothing in common with a fire sacrifice, Aśtanga-Yoga, or Jnana-Yoga. In what way are all these practices connected? What is the meaning of yajña that unifies these diverse practices into a single holistic understanding of yajña?
The initial thesis of Freudian psychoanalysis and that of Vedic philosophy are similar—namely, that our surface behaviors are the result of a deeper “unconscious” reality. The person in both cases is described hierarchically—e.g. as an iceberg, with only the tip visible, while most of its reality is invisible. Nevertheless, there are numerous differences in the process of how the unconscious is created—the process is repression in Freudian theory and it is expression in Vedic philosophy. But the biggest difference lies in their description of fear and desire. In Freudian theory, desire is internal and fear is external. In Vedic philosophy, fear is even deeper than desire, and causes that desire. In other words, we are triggered into action due to our fears. But even deeper than fear is envy due to which we don’t want to accept that we are small parts of a bigger whole and we must act our part. The Vedic description of how desire is created from fear, and fear from envy, provides a very useful and practical contrast to the theories of the Freudian unconscious, besides a guide on how one can overcome fear and desire by giving up envy.
Vedic knowledge was previously imparted in a systematic manner, covering spirituality, social roles and responsibilities, as well as vocational education on a person’s role in society. For example, Mahabharata describes how the Pāndava and the Kaurava were sent for education to Dronacharya where they were taught spiritual topics, their duties as kings, and the science of warfare and weaponry. This principle—i.e. spirituality, duties, and vocation—still holds good. However, much by way of duties and vocations has now changed. This post argues that the traditional Gurukula system—with its rigorous emphasis on the chanting of Vedic mantra, the performance of yajña, and the rigorous mastering of Sanskrit to interpret the Sanskrit texts—is no longer necessary and in many cases not feasible. We should instead view the Gurukula as centers of scientific education of reality based on Vedic principles.