We received emails stating objections against our post on homa from homa propagandists. Debunking the counterpoints and for greater visibility here is another post..
1. 1/10th homa of japa count means one need not do japa just doing 1/10th count homa is equally powerful. It is just a creative way of writing in shastras.
A: No. This is super spurious logic, can come from people who have never done full mantra puruscaranas in the traditional way nor actually seen the effects of the whole process step by step. Tantra-s declare each mantra must be done lakhs of time (specific count based on the specific mantra) and then one goes into doing 1/10th homa, then 1/10th tarpana, marjana (sometimes abhiseka) and finally bhojana or feeding brahmins or upasaka-s or kaulas or kumaris depending on the nature of the mantra.
Of these the tantra-s further declare that all the steps can be replaced by japa, except bhojanam. Meaning neither homa, nor tarpana, nor abhisekam is mandatory, but they are recommended for an ideal mantra practice. So one has to do twice of count of japa for each step if one skips homa, except the last bit: feeding cannot be replaced by anything. Which means only japa and upasaka/brahmin/kaula bhojanam becomes IRREPLACEABLE.
This dictum is constant across every single text of tantra sadhana.
If one were to assume that the logic meant only doing 1/10th homa is more powerful and sufficient than japa and no need for separate japa, well why stop at homa, go straight to tarpana or bhojanam since their counts are even lesser and just keep feeding people forget the mantra itself – which by itself is fine, but will it lead to the high states of sadhana that the texts describe? Nothing can be more ridiculous conclusion than this!
These kinds of spurious logic only comes from people who have never gone through the sadhana process at all but merely armchair theorizing and speculating and misguiding others (which is the BIGGEST ADHARMA).
The whole point of this krama is so that the deity – which is nothing but the name or the mantra being chanted – must gather shakti through all the five tattwa-s and only then the upasaka can claim to have reached the condition of siddhi. What is siddhi? Not some miraculous ability though that is possible too, but quite simply a perfect communion with the mantra devata or the deity of the mantra.
Because there are panchamahabhuta-s or five great tattwas that together cause creation, therefore there are 5 limbs of mantra upasana: japa, homa, tarpana, marjana and bhojanam. All this is well accepted siddhanta since very inception of mantra shastra-s.
2. Sadhus keep dhunis so we can too.
A: Only Naga sadhus and nathapathi sadhus keep dhunis, vedantic sanyasis cannot keep fire. Neither a naga nor a nathpanthi is given to keep a dhuni on day one of their diksha, they need to go through a system of sadhana before they reach the stage. Here too the sadhana process is pretty much on the same fundamental logic: FIRST JAPA, THEN DHUNI. Every few years during the Mahakumbha Naga diksha is given to 100s of people by the various naga sampradaya-s. Nobody tells them now you are free to do homas as you please. Far from it the Guru guides them in a system of upasana, after only after a certain stage is crossed, and one renounces formal society, then one is allowed to maintain a dhuni.
In other places where dhunis are kept and maintained for centuries in some sampradaya they follow 1000s of strict rules with only certain aghoris who have crossed a threshold of sadhana allowed to offer unrestricted ahutis, rest of do pranam to the dhuni from a distance.
All of it – as already mentioned – simply follows the foundation laid down by innumerable texts of mantra upasana. Fire is to be used wit mantra only when a certain stage is crossed, not otherwise. One can ask the Mahamandaleshwara of the Naga Akhada-s and the same answer will come from him.
Further what applies for naga-s do not apply for grihastha-s. By this logic many aghori-s and purnabhishikta kaula-s regularly perform fire rituals in agni taken from a smashana and use karan for tarpana – should others also do it then?
Respecting fire is one thing because we use fire daily, yes sure and that is why we have a deepam during sadhana, but we also use, air, water, earth every day. Creation would fall apart. Because the shakti of fire is very intense and because most ordinary people simply cannot endlessly keep adsorbing that shakti without vomiting it out in their lives and atmospheres, and causing damage to themselves and others; that is precisely why things like agnihotram was designed in such a restrictive fashion (specific counts given at specific times of the day only and not randomly or as per will)so that just the right dose of it comes into the life of the individual without causing problems. And to do this required tremendous control in their lifestyles which is so difficult than even the traditional community finds it hard to maintain in today’s world, what to speak of others.
And agnihotram and homa are not at all the same thing (neither is agnihotram and aupasana agni the same) right from philosophy and goal to praxis everything is different here. Those who wrote out shastras knew these things perfectly well and accordingly designed the systems which will work best for people.
Is there any condition under which text of mantra sadhana allows endless homas? Yes. After mantrasiddhi – one is free to do any homa of that mantra under any circumstance because the mantra itself guides the individual. But never before. This is the well accepted siddhanta of all path both vedic and tantrik since the very beginning of dharma.
3. Doing homa is just like doing japa infront of fire.
A: Oh really? Then why add the swaha to the mantra while giving ahutis? This sounds scarily like Deepak Chopra kind of verbal gibberish.
The problem with these kinds of very loose, pick and choose logic is that it betrays superfice and perhaps aimed at those who are majorly decarcinated with neither sufficient study nor experience, and not even the urge to actually go out and find people of calibre and authority and there are plenty of them in this land still and sit and learn from them or at least ask them for an explanation of the logic and the systems already in place and try to find out why it has been so effective for such a long time.
It is a bit disturbing to find that people have no qualms about the fact they propagate a system without one shred of shastra pramana (one of the signs of deep kaliyuga is the neglect of pramanas) and are equally confident and happy about it!
All such new cagey efforts must be pronto renamed as religion of convenience because that is what it is in practice.
4. We can just pray to god in fire..
A: Yea we can also pray in the shower why make a specific room for puja?. Seriously. Tampering with the structure or logic of sadhana system without having sufficient basis and on very flimsy ideas of god accepts all prayers even if one violates all rules is the way in which pagan/Hindu systems are eroded from within one step at a time till eventually, it leads to monotheism. This is how it happened in ancient Indo Europeans worlds, and same happens in India, this is exactly a similar kind of logic that leads to the desecration of the Shani temple and Sabarimala because anything goes and why follow rules and whatever I feel is right must be right shastra-s be damned…
In polytheistic systems and pagan system there is a concept of a Supreme substrate Power, but we do not worship that Power by any known means. That is why no rishi made any temples to the atmah or brahman. Because no prayer no ritual can help in this matter because it is so fundamentally objective and detached from the human condition. Why do renunciates then meditate on it? To gain it’s all-objective, all-neutral perspective. This principle is beyond dharma and adharma and does not care one bit if the world or dharma survives or dies, unlike the monotheistic deity who they believe interferes in history and has special favors for its chosen lot etc. A Ramana Maharishis sits in the heart of the agni linga of Shiva and never did a single fire ritual or any known ritual nor asked anyone to do one.. because there is no ritual route to the brahmic state..
For everything else, when approaching a deity, there are rules which needs to be followed. A Shaktipitah cannot come up at any random place, nor a temple is a congregational space like in monotheism – it is house of the devata ruled by the laws of agama shastra. Same way the rituals are also to be followed as given in the shastra-s.. There is no concept of I do as I feel in polytheistic systems.
It is not enough to believe in the deity but also to believe in the inviolable sacredness of the praxis which leads to the deity – there is no protestantism in paganism, and mixing the two leads to eventual and inevitable death of the latter. Lack of belief in the exact process of the ritual is a form of atheism. The last of classical worlds in the world of the Hindu and everything else has been absorbed by the monotheism bug which has morphed into new avatars of social justice equality systems and all-is-one secularism. These are fundamentally incompatible with the pagan worldview.
The world is not equal neither are individuals, each one, based on capacity and competency is allowed to do some rituals and denied the authoritzation for some others. There are no rights by default in the dharmic religious approach, there is only adhikara through competency. One does japa to earn the adhikara to do homa. This is how it works. A vira has the adhikara to do some rituals which a pashu cannot, or a divya can do some rituals in a way which a vira not allowed to do. So on and so forth. Everything bit of dharma is based on adhikara.
For example in the schema followed in traditions one may worship the same form of Shakti but cannot go into the urdhamnaya mantra-s directly. One has to cross from different stages of mantra sadhana and when adwaita bhava arises in the upasaka, he or she is allowed to do sadhana of the mantra that emanated from Shiva’s upper-face. Violating adhikara brings a counter-reaction and downfall eventually. This is how sadhana shastra are designed in dharma and no senseible teacher ever asks his disciples or students to violate these.
And this is why more than ever the shastra-s are so very important, because the provide the boundaries and directives and the lines of development allowed, or not. For the perceptive student of history and dharma one will find that more one deviates from core dharmic core praxis (without sufficient consensus and authorization) automatically eventually it leads to separatism down the line.
5. With new age new ways of doing sadhana has to be supported
A: Assuming for the sake the argument this is right – now who has the authority to make such a change? Just about any random individual because hey some xyz god came and told him he must do so? This must be the heights of self-confidence. There are still strong, authoritative and deeply learned and widely respected men and institutions and longstanding sampraday-s in India. On this topic all of them are in agreement regardless of whether they are of vedic fold or tantrik.
Anyone who desires to modify the sadhana process, historically speaking such rarely happens, does so by providing shastra pramana and making it pass through the test/point/coun-point of others who are authorities on the topic – and not making internet posts and declaring oneself as know-it-alls among a crowd of the excitable and ignorant who are easy to be fooled!
Why haven’t the veda chanting styles been changed to make them simpler for people? Why use cow ghee and not ghee made from buffalo in ahutis? What happens if one saces nairitti and keeps doing homas? And if these rules are so important, how can one ignore the most fundamental of all rules: adhikara of mantra sadhana to move into the stage of homas after japa..
Again, re-iterating, japa of a mantra gives the adhikara for homa of that mantra and so on.. this is the krama that is accepted, and valid.
6. Various saints and avadhoots have done things contrary to shastra (so we can do as well)
A: Yes, the shastra-s allow avadhoota-s and high-class saints to do as they want and we are also told not to follow what they do blindly. There is no copy-paste vidya in sadhana. We worship Krshna as a devata, but do not follow blindly what he did because his inner state is totally different from ordinary people. Same logic applies to avadhoota-s. We do not and infact cannot copy them, if we do we are sure to fall.
7. Veda-s speak of agni as first among deities.. (so all must do homas daily?!)
A: Veda-s speak of Indra as greatest among deities. Why not conduct and popularize mass worship of Indra?
The term agni is interpreted in dual manner. One can go to the adhyatmikta interpretation of Sri Aurobindo in which case agni is not external fire, but the aspiration-force inside an upasaka. One may go to external fire, in which case one has to follow the rules set by the vedic rishi-s and their descendants for such an engagement.
A: Yes Agnihotram is the vedic karmakanda linked to agni that can be done regularly but it is very strict in it’s method, very restrictive in the number of offerings and it needs a tremendous change in lifestyle in order to safely harness the power thus generated for the greater good.
In the Mahabharata Yudhisthira tells the Yaksa-s that a brahmin is one who has unblemished character, and who does agnihotram. Very fine clue as to what kind of character one must have to be able to synthesize this practice, else the practice leaves the upasaka or worst, causes other problems. One of the most important rules for daily agnihotram is to ensure that food consumed is made by the individual himself or his wife or mother, or someone else who follows the same acara or conduct related to food in daily life. Even today there are great acaraya-s who practice agnihotram and follow this rule. There are other changes needed too in lifestyles. There are mostly so exacting that even the traditional community cannot follow and maintain them anymore, so it is kind of amusing to believe others/random folks are able to stick to such strict guidelines of lifestyle.. Not more than 50 families in India have the capacity to continue nitya agnihotra today because it is not that easy. It is not a do as you please business.
And even in agnihotram – which is NOT homa – the process is exact and cannot be tampered with.
9. Swami Vivekananda reformed things.. (So we are liberty to create new methods)
A: No. First of all the great Swami’s opinions of different matters underwent tremendous changes in his life. For example he disliked Tantra initially, later develop deep curiosity on Tantra sadhana, and mandated that Kali and Durga pujas to be help in every RK Mutt exactly as per the Tantra shastra guidelines. Only a qualified pourahita that is one with proper tantrik diksha does the Kali and Durga pujas even today every year. Vivekananda also wrote down an executive document on how to run he mutts and what kind of upasana to be done by the monks and it is as per the shastra every bit of it.
And his Guru Sri Ramakrishna and Ma Sarada would not even eat food if not cooked by brahmin who follows the acara-s of a brahminical lifestyle, what to speak of their sadhana..
RK was such a stickler for shastric rules that when he first came to Dakshineshwar even before his vision, his role was only to help his brother by handling the clothes of the vigraha of Kali. Just so he could do that, he took a formal tantik diksha because tantra-s are clear that Kali (and other Mahavidya) upasana cannot be done without a diksha. And later on he had another tantrik diksha from the Bhairavi Brahmani under whom he followed the sadhana krama exactly as set in the texts.
Only exception RK made regarding food was with respect to food give by Vivekananda. Otherwise he was always for following the instructions of the shastra particularly with respect to sadhana. So all claims of this or that saint violated the rules of sadhana are not true at all, if reads with a clear understanding of the texts, and can critically examine things.
CONCLUSION AND PREDICTION
Our job here is to put forth the view of the best upasaka-s and acaraya-s in India. What violates their opinions, or works in blatant and wilful disregard of shastra-s will be criticized which is not so much to convince those who are already convinced, but to act as a warning and explain why the traditions and shastras are so important both from a spiritual point of view as well as a materialistic point of intersection between dharma and modern ideas chiefly and unfortunately because many seems to be completely unaware of the traditional and time-tested ideas of sampradaya-s.. These questions will be raised by traditional dharma time and again and claims of this and that magical being or god coming and authorizing appears completely unconvincing, more like a fig-leaf to hide the fact that only homas without japa has zero basis in dharma and shastra-s.
Things like only homas have been tried in India even before by organizations and none have attained even 1% practical success among the mass of practising Hindus. There is no reason to believe any new attempt will cross the 1% upper-limit because all said and done even today shastra-s are very deeply respected here as it should be. The day shastra-s are disregarded it would be the end of Sanatana Dharma.
About outside India, we cannot comment because that is goat-yoga territory.. nobody has a clue what they are doing. Some famous upasaka used to say that all the half-baked pretend-gurus set up camp outside India. Perhaps there is a truth in that declaration..