radhanath swamiQuestion: I want to understand the concept of yajna (sacrifice) which Krishna talks about. Yajna, in relevance to modern times; can it be related to in modern times?

Radhanath Swami: Yes, it is a timeless principle. How to apply spiritual truths, according to time place and circumstance, takes wisdom – wisdom of the scriptures, wisdom of saints and wisdom of own intuition. So yajna has many meanings. In one sense, yajna means the ‘homa’, the performing of oblations to a sacred fire. And in another sense, yajna means sacrificing something selfish for something divine. Neglecting the bad dog to feed the good dog is also a form of yajna. Yajna also means whatever particular spiritual practice we perform – it may be puja, it may be bandana (prayer), or may be mantra japa.

This age of Kali is a time, or let us say a season, predominated by the tendency for quarrel and hypocrisy. Cornel West once, when we were having a conversation together in Princeton University, he said something that really inspired me. Because he is a very religious man himself as a Christian, he said, “In this world people are constantly being bombarded by weapons of mass distraction.” So our spiritual practices are meant to help us to focus our energies in such a way that we are making progress towards our spiritual goals in whatever we do. So to make those choices are a form of yajna. But in this age, where the tendency is strong towards quarrel and hypocrisy, where there are so many distractions, the simplest most powerful and accessible of all forms of yajna is the chanting of God’s names.

Lord Chaitanya wrote a prayer – namnam akari bahuda nija sarva shakes – “My dear Lord, you have many names that you have revealed in many religions over the ages. And you are personally present with all of your powers, with all of your grace, with all of your love in your names. And there are no hard and fast rules for chanting these names.” Even a child can chant. It doesn’t matter what material designation or role in our society may be; it’s so accessible. Whether you are in the bathroom, or whether you are on  the altar of a temple, you can chant God’s names and we can invoke that grace and be purified by that grace. Lord Chaitanya himself personally chanted this mantra, Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare. He proclaimed, according to the Kali Santaran Upanishad, that it is Maha-Mantra, special medicine of a yajna to clean our hearts, to awaken that love within us in this age of Kali.