JAPA — YAJNA
Excerpts from God Talks With Arjuna (X:25; XVIII:70)
by Paramahansa Yogananda
Japa, in general, is devotional repetition, aloud or mentally, of sacred prayers, words, or names of God. Chanting of any word creates a certain vibration; practice of japa fills the mind with holy vibrations that neutralize vibrations of material consciousness. There are special incantations used in India, called mantras, which have great vibratory force. (The proper use of specific mantras that elevate the consciousness Godward—as meditation on Aum, for example—is a sacred part of the science of Kriya Yoga.) Repeating them aloud or mentally—with sincere feeling, intelligent understanding, and intense concentration and determination to persevere until divine contact is actually felt—produces distinct results; body and mind are charged with power as their vibratory rate is heightened.
Yajna signifies a sacrificial rite for uniting the oblation, or what it symbolizes, with the object of worship—such as offering human desires into the purifying flame of Spirit, or casting the sense mind into the fire of cosmic consciousness. The ultimate purpose is yoga, the union of soul and Spirit.
Though any kind of japa offered sincerely as yajna is advantageous, chanting or praying aloud has the defect of diluting the attention—diffusing the energy in the outer action of vocalizing. (Overemphasis on devotional paraphernalia or on the external arrangements of the place of worship also tends to divert the soul outward.) Silent worship has greater power; one's mental energy goes more quickly and directly to the indwelling Spirit.
The supreme form of japa-yajna is superconscious chanting, divine union through the actual perception of the purifying vibration of holy sound. It does not involve any physical or mental repetition of a word or words. The yogi's attention is concentrated on listening to the actual cosmic sound of Aum, the Word of God, vibrating within him. Through this superior japa, the yogi expands his life into cosmic energy, his joy into divine ecstasy, his soul consciousness into cosmic consciousness, as he floats in the sphere of the ever-expanding cosmic sound of Aum.
The purpose of the spiritual technique of yajna, worship of God through symbolic sacrifice, is destruction of sins by wisdom and union of soul and Spirit. The yogi in the performance of yajna invokes the manifesting power of the Sacred Word. Yajna is performed in the sacrificial fire ceremony; in japa, repeated chanting of Aum; in whisper chanting of Aum with interiorized concentration on burning material desires in the fire of spiritual perception; and in ecstatic mental prayer actual communion with Aum, or God—symbolized in the Gita as the "sacred dialogue" between Krishna and Arjuna. In this last form of yajna, the human consciousness is purely transmuted in the wisdom flames of Cosmic Consciousness. Hence it is called jnana yajna, or divine sacrifice through wisdom. This is the highest form of yajna, and is the true inner sacrificial rite.