Yajnasya devam rtvijam
The very first stanza of the Rig Veda, the magnum opus of Hinduism, invokes Agni--the sacred fire that is at the centre of all creation; the power from which we derive light as well as heat; the veritable essence of the sun, which nourishes the earth and all the beings on it.
Agni or fire is one of the panch tattvas , the panch bhootas, or the five elements that are the building blocks of life. Agni is an essential part of all Vedic rituals too, where oblations are made to the fire to be carried up to realm of the Gods. Prayers or human petitions to the higher power are offered to this messenger. When we die, it is flames to which we are consigned. Fire and fire rituals are an integral part of many other religions across the world too. Be it the fire temple or the agiyari of the Zoroastrians, where fire consecrates everything and represents the Ahura Mazda, or Christianity, where the Burning Bush is regarded as the manifestation of god.
"It is essential to remember that one must stoke the fires that nourish and not the fires that have a potential to consume the self. "
The fire element is revered because of its many powers. And that which is powerful does appear daunting! The fire burns--literally and metaphorically as well--when contained within the homa kunda (the sacred rites vessel) where its flames can mesmerise with their mystical light and sattvic power; a cinder let loose on the forest floor can quickly turn into a fearsome blaze destroying all that comes in its path.
Revising the dictum of "yat pinde tat brahmande (that which is within is a microcosm of the outer world)," the fire that rages within the human being, can define the quality of life too. Ancient wisdom ascribes two kinds of fires that dwell within the human system -
-- Bhootagni (the fire of the spirit)
-- Jatharagni (the fire of the gross body)
Fire always feeds on fuel. Stoking the jatharagni and feeding its fires, the fuel of greed, lust, bodily hunger and desire, the gross existence becomes stronger. It makes the body heavier and the thoughts too.
To the contrary, if the bhootagni is fed with practices of yoga, mindfulness, spiritual knowledge and suchlike, the spiritual body gains tremendous vitality and a sense of connectedness to the Source is made stronger. It is essential to remember that one must stoke the fires that nourish and not the fires that have a potential to consume the self.
The sacred ritual of agnihotra is all about performing oblations to the fires that purge all that is diseased, heavy and negative and to purify the environment that one inhabits. Participating in a fire ritual is the fastest way to cleanse one's aura and to increase spiritual power.
Here are some important lessons from fire.
1. Destruction is necessary and good: The old order is replaced by the new. Old patterns and stagnant energy must be released. That which is not serving an individual can be destroyed by the fire and new possibilities emerge. It's worth noting that after a forest fire, the life that comes forth is more lush and green. It does take a while for renewal but the result is amazing.
2. Burning is the fastest way to draw attention: This one is easy, for almost all human beings have experienced scalding at one time or the other--whether it is a physical burn or an emotional wound that refuses to heal. It is a sensation hard to ignore. Wherever the pain is, it is the very spot where gentle, loving attention and healing must be directed.
3. Nothing purges or purifies like fire: A number of sacrificial rites involve fire. In Hinduism, the energy of fire is supposed to cleanse the environment where the fire ritual takes place. Its non-form quality and intensity are able to purge even the most errant and stubborn negative energies.
4. It can harden and stabilise: The heat generated through penance or austerities is called tapas. It is through this fire or intense bhootagni that the spiritual progress of an individual is firmly set.
Also read 5 Life Lessons From Water.