Swamiji explained that in ancient times people used to perform yagam as another form of abhishekam. Instead of pouring the ingredients on a form or statue of the Divinity, they poured ghee, fruits, herbs and other sacred ingredients in the fire so that they burned up and reached the Divine in the form of smoke. They did this while chanting mantras. Making their minds one-pointed in this way they then looked at the fire and the vibrations of the Divinity would come there.
The Siddhas taught how to perform abhishekams and yagams thousands of years ago. Swamiji says that these rituals are beneficial for us even now because the easiest way for a human being to go close to the Divine is to worship the Divine while forgetting himself and surrendering him or herself with true devotion, which is what these pujas help us to do.
Swamiji said that whatever rituals we perform properly with devotion have power and it is beneficial to participate in them. If we eat the food that is left over after a yagam, it is healthy for the body and feels good. It is said that the smoke of a yagam is also very healthy and can even bring relief from the effects of natural disasters and the radiation of an atomic bomb blast! Swamiji explained that the mantras have power because of the divine power that is within each of us. Therefore only if you chant the mantras with feeling and belief in that inner power will they truly work.
Agni is the fire-deva, also called the God of fire. In Vedic times Agni was invoked every day. He was deemed the messenger who brings our oblations to God. The sun is another form of Agni, the deva of fire.
“In all these pujas, it is essential to forget ourselves and wholeheartedly dedicate our minds to the deity. Chant the sacred names, decorate the Divine with a garland and offer flowers. If you chant the names of the Divine (astotra) and forget yourself you will get goose bumps! When you forget yourself, your mind will become truly immersed in God. (…)
To come to that state, you need to change your lifestyle and devote more time to puja. We are revelling in this worldly life and say that we cannot take time off from maya (the worldly illusion). When you set aside time and do this puja, you are practising yoga and devotion at the same time (bhakti yoga). When you perform puja regularly, you will discover that there are many works to be done for it. Then we become very busy as if we were doing asanas, and our body, mind and entire being are fully involved in it. The mind becomes one-pointed. When we engross the mind and thoughts in the action of puja, we forget ourselves and that great divine power, grace and wisdom becomes merged with our hearts. If you practise puja steadily it also takes you to a higher level.
Many people have attained wisdom or liberation through ritual worship. (…) You have gained this great opportunity to worship and constantly remember the Divine with a steady mind. Don’t miss it!”