Continued from AYURVEDA AND AGNI – 1
Ayurveda says that the Nature or entire Universe is governed and composed by five gross elements (Pancha Mahabhutas) viz. Space, Air, Fire, Water and Earth. The human body is part of this nature so it is also governed and composed by these five elements. All these elements, more than physical substances, represent the specific qualities and properties associated with these elements.
Agni (or the biological fire of the body) has been given prime importance in Ayurveda from the point of view of health. Agni refers to the universal principle of transformation in all its forms. The Agni in human body is responsible for digestion, absorption, assimilation and transformation of food into nutrition and energy. Agni is also responsible for transformation of sensory perceptions and information into knowledge and understanding. Agni is vital for visual perception, skin lustre and regulation of temperature, confidence, courage, enthusiasm, laughter, mental clarity, intelligence and reasoning capacity. Agni is responsible for respiration and utilization of Prana. Agni helps in cellular metabolism (cellular level breathing) and maintains flow of cellular communication. Agni gives us patience, provides strength and maintains lifespan, vitality and vigour.
According to Ayurveda each of these five elements is linked with specific sensory organ, specific sensory perception, specific organ of action and specific motor faculty.
In case of Agni this co-relation is as below:
After looking at this table, one can easily understand why it is necessary to walk for some time every day to keep the vital fire inside burning.
It is said that each part of the human body is associated with a particular God. ‘Padayo Vishnu tishtatu’, meaning Lord Vishnu is present in the feet. Lord Rama is said to be present in the naval region, the seat of Agni (here, referring to the digestive fire). Lord Rama is also one form (avatar) of Lord Vishnu. Vishnu represents the maintenance principle. This again signifies that Agni is vital for maintenance of human body and walking is the best way to keep this Agni alive.
If you really go into the details, originally the Vedic tradition had only fire ceremonies. Fire sustains life. Without fire nothing will move. The first mantra of the oldest scripture known today to mankind, the Rig Veda, is about Agni, the sacred fire. In Vedic tradition, not a day passed without worshipping the Agni.
The fire element which is present in nature in different forms is also present in human body. When you worship the fire outside, the fire inside also gets rejuvenated. Our ancients knew this secret of life. Now also in many Hindu households there is this beautiful tradition of offering water early in the morning to the Sun. Water element denotes union, love, togetherness, being one with something. Sun denotes the fire element. In many parts of India “Chhath Puja” is performed where fast is kept and rising and setting Sun is worshipped by standing in water up to naval region and offering water to the Sun. Naval region is the seat of Jatharagni (digestive fire inside). Offering water denotes the union. When we worship Sun by offering water it revitalizes the Agni inside us.
“Surya Namaskara” or Sun-Salutation is a beautiful sequence of Yoga developed thousands of years ago. It is said that Sri Krisha used to practice this yoga sequence and taught it to Pandavas. “Surya Namaskaras” help in development of Manipur Chakra, (naval energy centre). Sri Krishna was also called as “Padma Nabha” because his naval chakra was said to be the size of fully blossomed Lotus (Padma). The qualities of clarity of mind, self-confidence, bliss, self-assurance, knowledge, wisdom and the ability to make correct decisions are associated with blossoming of the Manipur Chakra. It is the seat of digestive fire. Its mantra is ‘Ram’.
Agni is the fire inside us, the consciousness in us, which is so alive. It is such a great purifier. But the problem is – we do not allow the Agni to do its purification work.
In fever, our body becomes hot. Body activates its defence mechanism. It is burning all those foreign particles and bacteria that have entered the body. When this foreign bacteria or virus goes out of the body, our fever comes down. The purpose of fever is to purify our body. But as soon as fever comes we take medicines to subside the fever. We should remember that fever in a controlled form is good for us.
The fire of fasting (Jatharagni) can purify our blood and remove the toxins from the body. In Hinduism, Christianity, Jainism, Islam and in almost all the religions of the world, fasting and prayer are prescribed for purification. Hunger is connected with primordial survival instinct and it touches the deepest mental impressions (sanskaras) in us. If we do meditations and sincere prayers while fasting, it has manifold effect. It can burn all the rubbish that we collect due to actions of the past. It can burn lot of past Karma. But we never let the fire of hunger to come up. We keep stuffing our tummies before we feel hungry.
The fire of pure love and knowledge (awareness) can purify our entire existence at all the levels. But we never allow that to happen.
Let us again honour that ‘Agni’ or fire inside and outside which sustains our life and gives direction to our life.
“Om Mahaajvalaaya Vidmahe,
Tanno Agnih Prachodayaat”
~ Sanjay Sabnis
(With inputs from Vaidya Shrikant Bagewadikar, excerpts from the book “Ayurveda Simplified” by Dr. Nisha Manikantan and talks of Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji)