Sacrificial rituals (karma kanda) dominated the early Vedic religion. However, with the internalization of Vedic rituals and emergence of the Upanishadic philosophy, the importance of rituals diminished. As stated before, the seers of the Upanishads regarded them as lower knowledge or even ignorance (avidya) and encouraged people to pursue the path of liberation to avoid rebirth and continuation of bondage to the cycle of births and deaths. Many Upanishads discourage people from indulging in superficial sacrificial rituals and instead encourage them to contemplate upon the Self or Brahman. However, some suggest a middle path and the need to maintain balance. The Bhagavadgita suggests that sacrifices should be performed as an obligatory duty, as an offering to God, without desire for their fruit.

In todays’ world, sacrificial rituals have lost much of their significance, partly because the they are performed in Sanskrit, which many Hindus do not know and thereby fail to understand their significance. Secondly, many people have little or no faith in them. From a modern perspective, the rituals also appear to them as primitive and rather superstitious. Thirdly, the rituals demand purity, sincerity, austerity and prior preparation, which many people find difficult to practice. They also cost money, time and active participation. Some Yajnas cost a fortune to perform and beyond the capacity of ordinary people. Lastly, secular education and western influence greatly diminished the importance of Yajnas in the minds of many educated people.

Therefore, today many educated Hindus are not seriously committed to performing the yajnas. They may occasionally perform them or participate in them due to family or social pressures on occasions like marriage, the conception of a child, etc., but with certain reservations and indifference. For most of people, the yajnas are a part of an ancient tradition, which they do not understand and which they do not recognize as relevant or important in the present-day world. However, many educated people rightly recognize the importance of the Upanishadic knowledge and the need to pursue self-knowledge.

Vedic rituals generated controversy even in ancient India, resulting in the rise of many independent schools of thought around sixth century B.C. Foremost among were Charvakas, Lokayatas and other materialists and agnostics, who doubted the sanctity of the Vedas or the role of God in creation. Rival traditions such as Jainism and Buddhism also questioned the efficacy of Vedic rituals and sacrificial ceremonies in resolving human suffering and the role of Brahman. The Buddha acknowledged the existence of the Vedic pantheon, but questioned the value of sacrifices and ritual worship and advised his followers to strive for liberation rather than seeking material rewards through superficial rituals.

It is true that the importance of the Yajnas and their value have greatly diminished in today’s world due to various reasons such as the influence of modern, secular education, the complexity involved in performing them and the decline in the number of priests who can perform the various yajnas strictly according to the established procedure. However, we should not lose heart.

Although the importance of Yajnas has greatly diminished in the modern world, they still constitute an important part of Hinduism and cannot be ignored. The primary purpose of Yajnas is nourishment of Vedic gods, which is an obligatory duty for the followers of Sanatana Dharma. The gods depend upon us for nourishment. If we do not nourish them through sacrifices, they will grow weaker while evil will grow stronger, which in turn will effect the world itself. Hence, at least some yajnas still need to be performed physically or mentally to keep the gods nourished and the world safe. Even the simple act of offering the food to gods before you eat will make a world of difference to gods and to you. The puja ceremony which we practice at homes and in temples is also a form of sacrifice only, and a modern substitute for Yajnas. Surely, the food which we offer to gods during the ceremony goes to them. Whether your sacrificial actions are part of a yajna or not, they do cleanse your mind and body and protect you from harm and evil. Therefore, even if you do not perform the physical Yajnas, you should bring the spirit of the Yajnas into your daily life through internal Yajnas and use that approach to improve your life and destiny.