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Atma Yajna – Process Of Self Purification

Atmayajna, or Atma Yajna, is a process of self purification. In the case of a deva yajna, the ritual is performed by another priest but in atma yajna, the person himself performs the yajna. The aim of a Vedic ritual is to get certain benefits like long life, children, wealth, sufficient food, cattle and many more. In a ritual, the oblation is a representation of the sacrificer himself as seen in the prayers ‘Yajasva tanvam tava svam’ (Rig Veda VI.11.2) and ‘Svayam yajasva tavam vridhanah’ (Rig Veda X.81.5) ‘sacrifice thyself augmenting thy body.”

Being an oblation to the gods, the first-sacrificer, Prajapati, gives himself up to the gods for sacrifice  (Satapatha Brahmana VIII.6.1.10). The sacrificer’s offering of his self in sacrifice is enacted in various ways. For example, Prastara or Kusha grass is thrown into the fire which actually represents the oblation of the sacrifice himself into the fire, and the fire also knows that the sacrificer is coming to surrender himself. Also, the sacrificer casts a representation of himself into the fire in the form of grains, which represent an eternal cycle of birth and rebirth in this world and heaven.

In a somayajna, soma plants are pressed, strained and the purified juice thus obtained is offered into the fire. It is also drunk by the priest and the yajamana. But in atma yajna, the sacrificer himself is the offering, ransoming self by self (Kaushitaki Brahmana XIII.3) or by self, he enters into self (atmana atmanam abhi sam vivesha – Yajur Veda XXXII.11) where the sacrificial property is the human form (Satapatha Brahmana III.8.3.1-3).

In the context of initiation, self-sacrifice is a very clear concept. On the day of fasting the initiated enters the jaws of agni (fire) and soma, offering himself as a victim to them, which is a way of his redemption (Kaushitaki Brahmana X.3). In the Satapatha Brahmana (III.3.4.21) the initiated sacrifice is treated as the oblation offered to gods which indicates that the sacrifice, who is swallowed up at every stage of the sacrifice, must redeem himself from the jaws of death. This is because the soul is only knowable by the mind; it embraces all these senses of the body as a charioteer of the bodily-chariot.

In atma yajna, the sacrificer is the oblation and his salvation as the self is his reward.