The Mule always gets the carrot once the load is up the mountain and his legs have begun to buckle. There is a prize after all. And it is: ‘The Other Shore’.
The ultimate intent of Yajna, of ceremonial sacrifice, was the gaining of Immortality [Sanskrit: A-mrityu; mrityu, as in mortalis, mort, mortal].
The pivotal verses that birth the first intuition of Shūnyam in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad are in fact a response by Yagnavalkya to Maitreyi’s query on Death.
‘Thereupon Maitreyi said: “Venerable Sir, if indeed the whole earth, full of wealth, belonged to me, would I be immortal through that?”
“No,” replied Yajnavalkya, “your life would be just like that of people who have plenty. Of Immortality, however, there is no hope through wealth.”
Then Maitreyi said: “What should I do with that which would not make me immortal? Tell me, venerable Sir, of that alone which you know to be the only means of attaining Immortality.’
The finale, the ultimate crown for those who began the search all those many years ago was to be more than trophy-wives and corner-offices.
They were looking for the biggest prize of all. Something called ‘Immortality’.
Yajna today stands domesticated as the Puja and ‘Immortality’ has been toned down to requests for an employable son-in-law. But that is another story.