Chapter 27, The Five Great Duties

We shall now describe briefly the method of performing the five great duties, the daily performance of which is incumbent on men. Of these the first is theBrahma yajna. It consists in the learning and the teaching of the Shastras, the Vedas, etc. together with their angas (limbs) and meditation and worship (of performed by all.

The method of learning and teaching (the Shastras) is the same as described in the chapter on Reading and Teaching. The method of meditation and worship at the (two twilights is the same as given in my book named ‘The Pancha Mahayajna Vidhi.’

Similarly the agnihotra also is to be performed according to the directions contained in the same book. We shall now quote the authorities on the agnihotra to performed in connection with the Brahma yajna.

‘Ye men! Do ye always kindle the fire with purified substances, ghee, etc. and fuel, with a view to benefit others by means of purifying the air, the medicinal herbs, the vegetables and the rain water. And carefully burn in the fire the purified substances which possess the property of destroying disease, and are strength-giving, sweet to the taste and sweet-scented and fit to be burnt. Do ye perform the agnihotra always in this manner and through this act benefit all creatures.’ Yaju III. 10

‘Let a performer of the agnihotra entertain such thoughts: ” I establish in front of me fire which is the messenger for carrying the objects to be burnt in homa to the regions of the air and the cloud-hand.” Fore is called the

carrier of burnt oblations, because it carries what is thrown into it to other regions. May I teach other inquirers the properties of fire. Fire, by means of this process of agnihotra, diffuses bright qualities in the world of purifying the air and the rain water.” Or,
“O God Agni! I acknowledge Thee alone a my adorable God. Thou impartest to us the highest knowledge full of excellent virtues. May I proclaim Thy glory. Do thou through Thy grace fill this world with divine qualities.” Yaju XXII. 17

“God, the Lord and protector of the household and its inmates, adored and worshipped in the mornings and evenings, bestows on us health and happiness and most excellent objects. For this reason He is called by the name of Vasudana, the giver of wealth. O God! Preside over our imperial activities and our hearts. May we grow strong in body by proclaiming Thy glory.’

In this verse ‘agni may be also taken in the sense of trerrestrial fire. [The verse would then mean]. “This material fire is the protector of the household and its inmates. It brings to us health, happiness and most excellent things of the world, if it is served daily in the morning and the evening. It is useful in our activities connected with the preservation of the empire, etc. May we grow strong in body by kindling fire by means of agnihotra, etc.” Atharva. XIX, 7. 3.

The first portion means the same as the above. The meaning of the additional portion is:-
‘May we by performing the agnihotra and worshipping God in this manner remain prosperous fro a hundred winters i.e. a hundred years consisting of a hundred winter seasons. It is our desire that by performing this act we may never come to grief and suffer loss.’ Atharva XIX, 7. 4.

For performing the agnihotra one should prepare a vedi of mud or copper, and ladles and vessels for ghee, etc. of wood, silver or gold. Then one should kindle the fire on the Vedi with mango or palasha (Butea Frondosa) wood or with wood of other similar trees and reciting mantras should daily burn in the fire the substances mentioned before, in the morning and the evening or in the morning alone.

The verses to be recited at the time of the morning agnihotra:-
“With a view to benefit the whole world by obeying His commands we offer (this) one Ahuti (oblation) to God, who resides in everything that moves or is stationary, who is the illuminer of all luminaries and who is the life of all.’

‘With a view… to God who, on account of His being the indwelling ruler of all, instructs

the wise in truth and who resides in the self of all.’
‘With a view…to God who is self-luminous the illuminer of the whole world and the Lord of the universe.’

‘With the view….to God, who pervades the luminous orb of the sun, and Jiva, who dwells within the dawn illumined by the sun’s light and in the mental faculties of the Jiva and who is the self (i.e.) the enlivener of all. May He with His divine love and kindness make us wise by endowing us with the excellent qualities of knowledge, etc.

These four ahutis are to be offered at the time of morning agnihotra.
The ahutis at the evening agnihotra are to be offered with the following mantras.
‘With a view to ….. to God who is all knowledge, the illuminer of luminaries.

‘With a view…. God who is all knowledge, etc.’
The third ahuti should be offered with the mantra:-
‘With a view to…God who pervades the luminous orb of he Sun and dwells in the night together with the wind and the moon. May He be gracious unto us and in His grace bestow on us the everlasting bliss of emancipation.’

The performer of agnihotra may perform it at evening with these mantras or he may perform the agnihotra once only with all the mantras.

‘O God may this act of ours which we have performed with the intention of doing good to others be successful through Thy grace. We, therefore, surrender this act to Thee.’

In the fifth Panchika of the thirty first Kandika of the Aaitareya Brahmana the mantras for the morning and the evening agnihotra are given as Bhur bhuvah svarom svaha.

The following mantras are recited at the morning as well as at the evening agnihotra.

In these mantras the words Bhuh, etc. are the names of God. Their meanings have been given in the exposition of the Gayatri mantra Q.V.

Agnihotra is that ‘in which something is thrown into fire for the purpose of purification of air and water or in the name of God or for the sake of obeying God’s commands. It is obvious that when by burning fragrant, tonic, sweet, intellect -improving,

courage-imparting, fortitude-producing, strength-giving and disease-destroying substances in fire, air and rain water are purified, immense benefit results to all the objects of the earth and immense happiness to all the creatures on account of their coming into contact with pure air and water. And consequently, the performers of agnihotra, on account of the benefit to others, gain immense happiness through the favor of God. These are some of the reasons for performing the agnihotra.

The third yajna – the Pitri yajna.
Pitriyajna is of two kinds. One is called the Tarpana the other the Shraddha

Tarpana is the act by means of which we seek to satisfy and make comfortable the learned, the devas, the rishis and the pitris. Shraddha means to serve them faithfully and sincerely. These acts (Tarpana and Shraddha) are possible only when the learned are alive but not possible to serve them, they being absent, and also, because, the object of the act is

defeated and it becomes a useless act. The teaching is that this act is to be performed with reference to the living alone, because in their case only service is possible owing to both the server and the served being present at one and the same time and place. Those who are to, be served are three – the devas, the rishis, and the pitris.

Text on the word ‘Deva’. 


“O God! Purify me inevery way (absolutely). May the learned, who are devoted to Thee, and obey Thy will, who are good and wise, purify me by imparting me knowledge. May our intellects become pure by meditating upon Thee and by the knowledge given by Thee and may all creatures of the earth be full of comfort and happiness and pure through Thy favor. Yaju XIX. 39.

There are two characteristics, viz., truth and falsehood which divide men into Devas and manushyas. The devas resort to truthful act, the 

manushyas to false speech, false thought and false action. Hence one, who renouncing falsehood accepts truth, is counted among the devas. One, who giving up the truth, resorts to falsehood, becomes manushaya.

One should, therefore, always speak the truth, believe the truth and act the truth. The deva who has taken a vow of truth becomes glorified among the glorious and the manushaya goes down to the reverse state. Shatapatha. I.1.1
Hence here the learned alone are the devas. Shatapatha III. 7.6.

Texts on the word ‘Rishi’. 


The verse quoted viz. Yaju XXX1. 9 has been explained in the chapter Creation.

The act pertaining to a rishi is the teaching of all the sciences to others after one has oneself learnt them. The Rishis are to be served by means of the act of learning and teaching. The servers who act according to the pleasure of the rishis become happy. He is called a rishi who having learnt all sciences, teaches them to others. Shatapatha I. 7. 5.3.

He, who takes up the work of teaching, is said to do the act pertaining to the rishis. he, who offers good things to the Rishis, the devas and the students and always devotes himself to the acquisition of learning, becomes learned and of great mental caliber and attains to the yajna of the highest knowledge. All men should, therefore, accept this as the act pertaining to the rishis. Shatapatha I.4. 5. 3.

Texts on the word ‘Pitri’. 


All men should behave and persuade others to behave as follows:-
“Please my father, grand father, etc. and my preceptors, etc. with your service and acquire true knowledge, remain faithful and be contented with what is your own property. They are to be served and pleased with tone-imparting, fragment, pleasing and invigorating drinks, with nectar-like juices of various kinds, honey and self-ripe fruits, etc. Yaju II. 34.

‘May the wise protectors, the pitris, who are of a peaceful and tranquil disposition and experts in extracting and preparing the juice of the soma plant, and also, who with the object of gaining happiness in this world believe firmly in God and who use and employ material fire for the performance of agnihotra and for

success in scientific pursuits, come near us and may we also always seek their company. May we, on seeing them approach, stand up and offer our respects to them by addressing them with a pleasant countenance: “Come, sir, and take your seat. Fathers! Be pleased with our service which is like nectar in thisyajna of welcome. Protect us and instruct us in true knowledge. Yaju XIX. 58

‘O Pitris! make us happy by giving us the gift of knowledge in this assembly or school, and accepting what we offer you in accordance with your learning apply yourself gladly and enthusiastically in the work of the gift of knowledge and the preaching of truth. May you move freely among us, being pleased with our proper reception and good manners. Yaju II. 31

O Pitris! we honor you for the sake of receiving from you the juice of the soma plant and the happiness of the highest knowledge, for the sake of acquiring from you the science of fire and air, for the sake of learning from you the means of livelihood for supporting life, for the sake of learning from you the means of livelihood for supporting life, for the sake of acquiring the knowledge of emancipation, for the sake of removing the times of distress, for the sake of showing indignation towards the wicked, for the sake of subduing anger and for the sake of acquiring knowledge of all kinds.

We honor and respect you again and again. Fathers! Impart to us a knowledge of household affairs. Fathers! We offer you all things over which we have control so that we may obtain knowledge from you the may we never obtain knowledge from you and may we never deteriorate. Fathers! Be pleased to accept clothes, etc. which we offer you. Yaju II.2.

‘ O Pitris! fill men with learning and accept as your pupil this Brahmachari boy, who comes to you wearing garlands to beg a gift of knowledge from you. May you so act that men of this world may be endowed with learning and good culture and excellent knowledge may progress amongst men. Yaju II.3

‘May the glory, which is full of true knowledge and other similar qualities, of my living and learned preceptors who are devoted to religion, God and the good of all men, who follow the exact mean in matters connected with religion, God and such excellent objects as true knowledge, and who behave without such defects as fraud, etc. towards their pupils and disciples in imparting them true knowledge, etc.’ remain firm for a hundred years, so that we may always remain happy.’ Yaju XIX. 46.

‘Let the wise pitris of the lowest, middle-most or the highest order in point of attainment of qualities and the pitris who are of a tranquil disposition, who have no enemy and who know God and the Veda, always protect us by imparting to us a knowledge of the affairs of giving and taking. Those pitris alone are to be served, because they, being in another region, are incapable of receiving our service and we also are unable to serve them.’ Yaju XIX. 49.

‘May we approach the pitris and obtain instruction from them in matters connected with the acquisition of such excellent qualities as learning, etc. and in beneficial acts in which the mind feels intellectual pleasure. They possess a knowledge of God who is, as it were, the vital fluid in the bodily organs of all. They always 

make new discoveries in the realm of sciences and find new opportunities of doing good deeds. They know the Atharva Veda and are experts in military science, are pure and of mature wisdom, are calm and peaceful and are specialists in the performing the yajnas and other useful acts.’ Yaju XIX 50.

[The words samanah and samanasah have already been explained.]

‘The learned pitris who are presiding judges of courts of justice find everlasting joy in the administration of justice and dispense the benefits of the kingly duty viz., the protection of the subjects) become common among us. We offer our respects to such dispensers of truth and justice. May true and conscientious officers of justice always reside amongst us.’ Yaju XIX 45.

‘One can know God who is the bestower of all true knowledge and who has laid down its conditions, when one is actuated with the desire to make a free gift of knowledge, etc., to all and associates with the teachers who are well versed in the science of soma, take the greatest delight in matters of knowledge and other good things, are keepers of the science of soma and having themselves learnt all sciences are engaged in teaching them to others, and also, when one associates with the father, the grand father and other elders whose one object of desire is God and religion.’ Yaju XIX 51.

Let all men obtain the objects of their desire by acting in this way.

‘May the learned pitris, who are masters of Brahma Vidya, the highest of all sciences, and whose activities are always directed towards the greatest good and protection of all,

favor us with a visit at their arrival may we greet them in these words: ‘O learned men! Come and be pleased to accept these things which are fit subjects of gift and acceptance. O pitris may we, under your protection, always serve you. After accepting our service make us the recipients of the happiness of knowledge. Remove the sin of ignorance and make us sinless, so that we may become free from all sin and guilt.’ Yaju XIX. 55.

‘May the pitris, who are the masters of Brahma Vidya and who taste the juice of the soma plant with their food, come in this place after having drunk the somajuice. May I have full acquaintance with the pitris mentioned above, who are givers of knowledge and other good qualities. By knowing them and associating with them may I acquire a knowledge of the all-pervading God, of His manifold world formation and of the imperishable

state of Moksha. Men should always associate with the learned because by associating with them alone can the obtain the state of Moksha from which they do not fall.’

[Here there is anomalous use of the atmanepada and the suffix of the first person is elided.] Yaju XIX. 56.

‘O venerable Pitris! you are our invited guests. Occupy these comfortable seats of excellent manufacture. Accept our hospitality and renew your visits again and again and having honored us with your visits hear our questions and answer them. Protect us always be bestowing on us gifts of knowledge and instructing us in affairs of the world.’ Yaju XIX. 57

‘O Pitris! experts in the science of agnihotra and of Brahma Vidya, be pleased to come near us. Your policy is most excellent and you deserve veneration. Visit every house and every assembly for the purpose of giving advice and stay there for a while and then go to other places. Please accept our humble efforts to serve you and excellent viands that we have prepared for you.

Honor us with your stay at our home or in the assembly and makes us rich with the riches of knowledge, etc. which make men strong and brave so that we may always have among us brave commanders, strong in mind and body and rich with the treasure of true knowledge.’ Yaju XIX. 59.

‘May we always learn true knowledge and the art of living according to truth and justice from the Pitris, who are well versed in the science of electricity and devoted to the cultivation

of the sciences of air, water, geology, etc. and who move, live and have their being in the self-effulgent God – the illuminer of true knowledge – enjoying the bliss of the science of life by means of their bodily and mental vigor and make all men enjoy it. May the learned, and may we also, obtain true knowledge and wisdom, remain independent in matters which concern our own individual welfare but dependent in matters which concern the good of all men, so that God who shines with His own light and makes His devotees also shine with it, may, through His grace, keep the bodies of the learned strong and healthy for our sake and may we have an abundance of learned men in our midst.’ Yaju XIX. 60

‘O Men! Invite ye the Pitris who possess tact that and resources and know when to act and serve them even as we invite and serve them.

They drink the juice of soma, are wise, well versed in acts which men ought to do and are pleased with making and receiving the gift of the science of soma. May they take us under their patronage, so that by associating with them we may become the lords and protectors of the glories of true knowledge and worldwide empire.’ Yaju XIX. 16

‘O God! Thou knowest the Pitris who are present in our midst and whom we know, and also those who live in distant lands and are not here and for this reason whom we do not know. Do Thou bring about our meeting with them and bring to us the learned Pitris who are not here.

Do Thou supply our well performed yajna with articles of food and drink and other accessories so that we may be able to successfully perform the action-portion which is productive of prosperity in this and of happiness in the next world.’ Yaju XIX 67


‘O God! Bring us the Pitris, who having finished their studies, are now engaged in the work of learning and teaching and those who have mastered the sciences of physical geography, physiography and geology and also those who are full of courage and strength, are devoted to the cause of the welfare of the subjects, are presidents and members of the state assemblies, and are entrusted with the administration of justice. We offer our respects to such Pitris’ Yaju XIX. 68.

‘O God! Desiring Thee, we install Thee in our hearts as our Lord and as the dispenser of justice in our kingdom. O Lord of the universe! May we always hear and recite to 

others Thy shining glory so that we may learn true knowledge and offer wealth, etc. to, and enjoy the pleasure of the company of, the learned Pitris who are actuated by a desire to preach the truth and disseminate knowledge. Do thou bring such Pitris to us.’ Yaju XIX. 68.

‘O God ! desiring Thee, we install thee in our hearts a our Lord and as the dispenser of justice in our kingdom. O Lord of the universe! May we always hear and recite to

others Thy shining glory so that we may learn true knowledge and offer wealth, etc. to, and enjoy the pleasure of the company of, the learned Pitris who are actuated by a desire to preach the truth and disseminate knowledge. Do Thou bring such Pitris to us.’ Yaju XIX. 70.

‘We offer good and other excellent things to the fathers who give us knowledge and are called Vasus on account of their efforts to make the science of immortality i.e. moksha their own or on account of their having acquired knowledge by observing Brahmacharya for 24 years, and their being engaged in tutorial work; to the grand fathers, who are called Rudras because after having studied for 44 years, observing Brahmacharya, they are performing the duties of teachers; to the Pitris the great grand fathers, Adityas, because observing Brahmacharya for 48 years they have become complete masters of knowledge and

being engaged in teaching others are shedding the light of true learning around them. O Pitris! we offer you our constant obeisance. May you feed and clothe yourself here and make yourself comfortable. [The word amimadanta has been explained before]. O Pitris! be pleased with our service and hospitality and makes us service and hospitality and make us pure by your advice and destruction of the defects of ignorance.’ Yaju XIX. 36.

O Fathers! Grand fathers! And great grand fathers! Purify us gain and again by your words, thoughts and acts and make us do pure deeds by advising us to perform pure and holy acts and to observe Brahmacharya so that we may life up to a hundred years. [The verb ‘purify’ is to be repeated three times thus; O fathers! Purify us, O grand fathers! Purify us, O great grand fathers! Purify us in order that men may become centenarians and obtain

the full term of human existence. Here vasu, rudra and aditya are the names of the learned on the authority of the text of the Chhandogyopanishad viz. Purusho vava yajnah. Yaju XIX 37.



We now lay down the method of performing Balivaishvadeva.
Balivaishvadeva is to be performed with cooked food not containing acids and salts.

Let a Brahmana perform daily the homa of Vaishvadeva in the household fire according to the prescribed rules in honor of these devatas with cooked food. Manusmriti III. 84. Texts on the performance of Balivaishvadeva.

As sufficient fodder is placed before a horse so we too in obedience to Thy commands,

O God, place the homa offerings before uninvited learned visitors. May we find joy in faith, in proper objects of desire and the glories of a world-wide empire. May we never transgress Thy will O God! And injure the creatures of the world, but may all living beings be our friends and may we be friendly to all and remain always engaged in doingmutual good. Atharva XiX. 7. 7 55

The verse quoted afte this viz. Yaju XIX. 39 has been explained in the section on Tarpana. Svaha to agni (i.e. self-effulgent God.)

[The word agni has been explained supra] Svaha Soma i.e. God the creator of the whole universe and the giver of happiness to all, svaha to agnihoma, the in-breathings and the out-breathings [The meaning of this word has been given

supra], svaha to vishve devah i.e. the attributes of God which illumine the universe or svaha to the learned; svaha to Dhanvantari, i.e. God the destroyer of all disease; svaha to kuhu i.e., the power of remembrance or the Darsha yajna performed on the last day of the dark half of the month when the moon is altogether invisible, svaha to anumati i.e. the act of thinking over and inwardly digesting what one has studied after finishing one’s education or thePournamasa yajna performed on the day of the full moon, svaha to God, the protector of the whole creation, svaha to Dyavapritivi i.e. numerous blessings which flow from fire and earth and display are the highest skill of God and svaha to God, who gives us the joys which our hearts desire.

One should place upon the earth morsels from one’s daily food for the dogs, for those

who have excluded from the society of the virtuous, for the chandalas, for those suffering from horrible diseases, for the birds, crows, etc. and for the insects, ants, etc. Manu III. 92.

According to this couplet one should place six morsels on the ground. Having in this way divided the food among all living creatures one should secure their contentment.

Yajna, the Atithi yajna.

Atithi yajna


Now we shall speak of the fifth yajna, the atithi yajna. All joys reside there where the learned, who come to a householder’s house uninvited, are duly served and honored. The atithis are said to be those persons who possess complete learning, do good to others, have their senses under control, are virtuous, are truthful in speech, are free from deceit and cunning and are always moving about. Atharva XV. 2. 11. 1.

There are many mantras of the Vedas which we can quote as authorities for our view. But having regard to brevity we quote only two of them.

‘Service is due to the atithi who possesses the above-mentioned qualities, who is endowed with the most excellent attributes and whose time of going and coming is not fixed, and who arrives suddenly and as suddenly departs according to his own sweet will.”

Whenever an atithi may happen to come to the house of a householder, he should rise to receive him and saluting him with great pleasure should offer the best seat. After rendering him proper service he should ask him: “O the best of men! Where did you stay (last night). O honored guest! Accept this water. As you satisfy us and our friends, etc. with your truthful advice we also try to please you (with our service). O learned man! We are ready to do your pleasure, order us to bring the thing you may have a liking for. O atithi! we are resolved to serve you according to your will and pleasure. We shall serve you in the

way best calculated to fulfill your desire so that in return for our service we may have the advantage of your company and by augmenting our knowledge we may secure lasting happiness.

After performing the homa with these mantras one should offer the Bali (oblation).

[The word namah (obeisance) is derived from the root ‘nam’ which means to make obeisance, to honor, to speak. It means that men obtain true knowledge by thought preceded by good action.]

Our obeisance to God the glorious, whose attributes are eternal; obeisance to the Supreme self, who possesses the attribute of dealing out impartial justice; obeisance to the supreme Lord the most excellent, who has the attribute of highest of knowledge; obeisance to the Most high, who is giver of happiness

to all. [The meaning of the word soma has been explained already.] May we make proper use of the gases which through the support of God sustain and keep in motion and order the whole word. We make obeisance to the all-pervading Deity (or may we utilize the waters of the earth).

[The meaning of the word adbhyah has been given in the explanation of the mantra Shannodevi etc.]

Obeisance to the Lord of the worlds; (or may we derive benefit from the great trees, the lords of forests which God has created with good qualities) Obeisance to God, of the highest glory, whom all men serve and who is full of all bliss and beauty; (or may we derive joy from the beauty of the universe created by God).

Obeisance to the power of God which provides happiness for all. Obeisance to God who is the author of the Veda which contains all the arts and sciences; (or who is the Lord of the universe.) Obeisance to God who is the Lord of akasha, the residing place of all creatures. Obeisance to all the learned.

[The meaning of the words Vishvebhyo devebhyah has been already explained].

May the creatures

which walk by day or prowl by night never inure us, through the favor of God, and may they never oppose us. Obeisance to the power of God which sustains all the jives. Obeisance to the wise who, keeping the vow of Brahamcharya, are engaged in instructing us and whom we serve with food.

[The words Om pttrihhyah svadhayibhyah svadha namak has been explained in the section on Tarpana. The word namah denotes humility for one’s own self and respect forothers].

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