A common question posed by the moderns is whether the outer yajňa yields the benefits mentioned by Sāyaņa. We have to recognize that the final result of any action is really the outcome of a variety of forces with various intensities. One can cite specific instances like the result in a written or oral examination, result of a plan for doubling the sales, recovery from an illness or surgery etc. In each case a variety of forces are involved. For instance, in the case of healing, the faith of the patient, physical condition of the patient, the psychological and technical competence of the physician, the physical facilities and medicines etc., release their own forces which combine in an unknown way to yield the final result.
This applies to yajňa also. The result of the yajňa is the result of the play of forces introduced by the performer yajamāna, the priests, the power of the mantrās and the power of the rite involving various steps, and finally the faith of the persons who are witnessing the rite. Even then the successful performance of a rite yields only one type of force, even though it may be potent. No yajňa even if done correctly can cure a person if he/she persists in the mode of life which lead to the disease. In the same way, Vijayanagar empire in which Sāyaņa was a minister did not achieve much success in battles during the latter part of its life, inspite of the performance of rites which supposedly guarantee victory.
There are several books in English, Kannada, Sanskrit and other languages which recount the instances of healing and other helpful actions performed by spiritually advanced persons i.e., persons who have done tapas by means of blessings alone or by the use of mantrās. Bhavabhūti the famous playwright and Bhartŗhari, the famous grammarian have written extensively on the power of the potent word mantra. Interested persons can refer to the essay entitled, “the Vāk of the Veda and the throb of the tantra” by Sri Kapāli Sāstry in his Collected Works [Vol. 1]. The biography of the famous poet, freedom-fighter and spiritual personality, Vāsişhţha Gaņapati Muni who lived in the twentieth century gives many instances of the help rendered to both individuals and communities placed in difficult circumstances by using mantrās from Rig Veda. Consider for example the releasing of rain. It is accepted in the Hindu tradition that yajňa causes rain; see for instance Bhagavad Gīta (3.14). Kāņda 2 has several brāhmaņa passages dealing with the release of rain. The book by Ārya recounts the experiments in releasing the rain and also stopping the rain by performance of yajňa under specific circumstances; in, the revered H.H. Kanchi Swami explains why the performance of Varuņa japa does not yield the desired result of rain in the neighbourhood. The book details a simple version of a rite agnihotra to purify the environment used in parts of USA. The purification was also achieved in areas of Eastern Europe which were intensely contaminated by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. In other words faith and sincerity of the persons chanting the mantra and performing the rite are more important than the mechanically “correct” performance of the yajňa, i.e., the rite and chant should be done in a meditative mood. But the books detailing the rites like the Brāhmaņa books or shrauta sūtra books never mention the necessity of faith and sincerity.
Summing up, the mantra chant can be effective if the following five steps are observed scrupulously:
- correct chanting: committing errors in chanting implies that the chanter is not serious about his goals or the efficacy of mantra;
- meaning of mantra, i.e., not only the meanings of the words in the mantra, but the meaning of overall appropriateness of the mantra for the occasion;
- faith in the mantra and in the directions given by the teacher,
- sincerity or transparency, i.e., you feel that you are talking to the cosmic power;
Unselfishness: the performer should pray that all should benefit from the yajňa.