For material prosperity there are recommendations in the Vedas for various types of yajña (sacrifice). In Bhagavad-gītā (3.10) it is confirmed that Lord Brahmā created all living entities, including human beings and demigods, and advised them to perform yajña according to their material desires (saha-yajñāḥ prajāḥ sṛṣṭvā). These performances are called yajñas because their ultimate goal is to satisfy the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Viṣṇu. The purpose of performing yajñas is to get material benefit, but because the aim is to simultaneously satisfy the Supreme Lord, such yajñas have been recommended in the Vedas. Such performances are, of course, known as karma-kāṇḍa, or material activities, and all material activities are certainly contaminated by the three modes of material nature. Generally the karma-kāṇḍa ritualistic ceremonies are performed in the mode of passion, yet the conditioned souls, both human beings and demigods, are obliged to perform these yajñas because without them one cannot be happy at all.
Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura comments that these karma-kāṇḍa ritualistic ceremonies, although contaminated, contain touches of devotional service because whenever there is a performance of any yajña, Lord Viṣṇu is given a central position. This is very important because even a little endeavor to please Lord Viṣṇu is bhakti and is of great value. A tinge of bhakti purifies the material nature of the performances, which by devotional service gradually come to the transcendental position. Therefore although such yajñas are superficially material activities, the results are transcendental. Such yajñas as Sūrya-yajña, Indra-yajña and Candra-yajña are performed in the names of the demigods, but these demigods are bodily parts of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The demigods cannot accept sacrificial offerings for themselves, but they can accept them for the Supreme Personality of Godhead, just as a departmental tax collector of a government cannot collect taxes for his personal account but can realize them for the government. Any yajña performed with this complete knowledge and understanding is described in Bhagavad-gītā as brahmārpaṇam, or a sacrifice offered to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Since no one but the Supreme Lord can enjoy the results of sacrifice, the Lord says that He is the actual enjoyer of all sacrifices (bhoktāraṁ yajña-tapasāṁ sarva-loka-maheśvaram). Sacrifices should be performed with this view in mind. As stated in Bhagavad-gītā (4.24):
brahmārpaṇaṁ brahma havir
brahmāgnau brahmaṇā hutam
brahmaiva tena gantavyaṁ
“A person who is fully absorbed in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is sure to attain the spiritual kingdom because of his full contribution to spiritual activities, in which the consummation is absolute and that which is offered is of the same spiritual nature.” The performer of sacrifices must always keep in view that the sacrifices mentioned in the Vedas are meant to satisfy the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Viṣṇur ārādhyate panthāḥ (Viṣṇu Purāṇa 3.8.9). Anything material or spiritual done for the satisfaction of the Supreme Lord is understood to be an actual yajña, and by performing such yajñas one gets liberation from material bondage. The direct method of getting liberation from material bondage is devotional service, comprising the nine following methods:
śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ viṣṇoḥ
arcanaṁ vandanaṁ dāsyaṁ
This ninefold process is described in this verse as viśuddha-vijñāna-ghanaḥ, or satisfying the Supreme Personality of Godhead directly by transcendental knowledge concentrated on the form of the Supreme Lord, Viṣṇu. This is the best method for satisfying the Supreme Lord. One who cannot take to this direct process, however, should take the indirect process of performing yajñas for the satisfaction of Viṣṇu, or Yajña. Viṣṇu is therefore called yajña-pati. Śriyaḥ patiṁ yajña-patiṁ jagat-patim (Bhāg. 2.9.15).
The Supreme Personality of Godhead’s deep scientific knowledge is concentrated to the supreme point. For example, medical science knows some things superficially, but doctors do not know exactly how things happen in the body. Lord Kṛṣṇa, however, knows everything in detail. Therefore His knowledge is vijñāna-ghana because it does not have any of the defects of material science. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is viśuddha-vijñāna-ghana, concentrated transcendental knowledge; therefore, even though He accepts karma-kāṇḍīya materialistic yajñas, He always remains in a transcendental position. Therefore, the mention of aneka-guṇa refers to the Supreme Personality of Godhead’s many transcendental qualities, for He is not affected by the material qualities. The different kinds of material paraphernalia or physical elements are also gradually transformed into spiritual understanding because ultimately there is no difference between material and spiritual qualities, for everything emanates from the Supreme Spirit. This is realized by a gradual process of realization and purification. One vivid example of this is Dhruva Mahārāja, who took to meditation in the forest to achieve material benefit but ultimately became spiritually advanced and did not want any benediction for material profit. He was simply satisfied with the association of the Supreme Lord. Āśaya means “determination.” Generally a conditioned soul has the determination for material profit, but when these desires for material profit are satisfied through performance of yajña, one gradually achieves the spiritual platform. Then his life becomes perfect. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (2.3.10) therefore recommends:
akāmaḥ sarva-kāmo vā
yajeta puruṣaṁ param
Everyone — whether akāma (a devotee), sarva-kāma (a karmī) or mokṣa-kāma (a jñānī or yogī) — is encouraged to worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead by the direct method of devotional service. In this way one can get both material and spiritual profit simultaneously.