According to Vedic principles, a grihastha (householder) is expected to perform PANCH MAHAYAJNAS (5 Daily Duties) to the best of his capacity and ability. These Mahayajnas are briefly described below:-
(i) Brahma Yajna: It comprises studying and (a) preaching of vedic scriptures, (b) morning & evening meditation, and (c) practice of yoga discipline.
(ii) Deva Yajna: It involves Agnihotra (havan) which comprises feeding of fire with ghee and purifying herbs while reciting mantras from the Vedas. In the process of association with the learned and the good persons one can acquire knowledge and also cultivate purity of thought, truthfulness and similar other noble qualities. The substances of Agnihotra, such as, pure ghee, camphor and other herbs, etc. Used in havan keep the air fresh and pure. Agnihotra is useful for promoting health and intellect.
The above two yajnas should be performed daily during morning at sunrise and during evening at sunset. some donations and food should be offered to the needy, poor deserving people, as part of the Dev Yajna.
(iii) Pitri Yajana: It consists in serving the learned good teachers, Scholars,Parents, Old people, greats yogis and holy persons etc. This yajna is divided into two parts i.e.. Shraddha and Tarpan, which are briefly explained as under:
(iv) Vaishwadeva Yajna : It involves offering of some part of cooked food to fire in the kitchen. such food should be sweet and its purpose is to spread sweet smell and purify the air . Some food should also he offered to dogs, birds, insects etc. some food should also be offered to the needy hungry outside or other people who are distressed, disabled and cannot earn their living. The purpose of this Yajna is to purify the air in the kitchen and to help animals and birds like stray dogs, cows, etc and those who are distressed and need food.
(v) Atithi Yajna: An Atithi is one who comes unexpectedly. In ancient days, a Sannyasi, a virtuous scholar and preacher of righteousness used to move around preaching knowledge for the good of all mankind. They would visit households without any prior information of the householder. It was the duty of the householder to offer them water, food, clothes, etc and to serve them and make them feel at ease. The sannyasi would impart proper knowledge and good advice to the householder and then move away for onward journey. The householder should ensure that he is serving and honoring only a genuine sannyasi.
The performance of the above YAJNAS leads to several benefits, which include purification of air and environment, advancement of knowledge, service of he elders and the learned, help to the birds, animals, hungry and distressed needy person, etc. In short, it makes the life of the performer virtuous, peaceful and happy. It leads to refinement of character, promotion of righteousness and brings one closer to God. The performance of these YAJNAS, as part of daily duties, would, not only, bring progress and improvement in the life of an individual but it will also produce happiness in the society at large and the whole universe, as well.
Yajna has a wider meaning also. Any good act performed for general welfare may be called 'YAJNA'. One should understand the meaning and true spirit of Yajna and perform these rituals and all good acts, as far as possible. Infact, one should make whole life as YAJNA by performing these acts of general welfare.