Art of Living Wisdom.

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.

Ayurvedic Agni

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:

Element SenseQuality SenseOrgan SensoryFaculty Organ ofAction MotorFaculty
Agni(Fire) Form Eyes To See Feet Movement

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, 

                                          Agnidevaaya Dhiimahi, 

                                                             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)

Art of Living Wisdom.

Recently at Pune my wife and I were fortunate enough to meet a renowned master of Ayurveda. He was an elderly gentleman of around 60-65 years with an impeccable reputation as an Ayurvedacharya. It was vouched by many that he can tell the exact number of blocks in your arteries just by checking your pulse (Nadi Pariksha).

We were lucky to get his appointment even though it was one of his ‘off’ days. After doing our ‘Pulse Diagnosis’ (in which fortunately no blocks were declared), we got some time to talk with him. My wife asked him, “How come some people though very old still have a very alert and attentive mind, whereas some people lose the alertness of mind and enthusiasm even at the age of 50 -55 years?”

His answer to this question was an eye-opener.

He explained that, as per Ayurveda the body is made up of seven ‘dhatus’ (seven constituents):

  1. Rasa – Blood serum, lymphatic fluid
  2. Rakta – Blood cells
  3. Mamsa – Muscle tissues
  4. Meda – Fat tissues
  5. Asthi – Bone tissues
  6. Majja – Bone marrow and nerve cells (Brain neurons, spinal cells)
  7. Shukra – Reproductive cells (Eggs & Sperm cells)

ayurveda

Ayurveda has beautifully explained the process of digestion. Ayurveda says that it is the fire (Agni) element in our body which helps in digestion. The digestion process is similar to a distillation column of a refinery. In a distillation column, different constituents get separated from the feed at different temperatures. Similarly during digestion separation of different nutrients from the food takes place at different intensities of fire (Agni). At low levels of ‘Agni’ the Rasa dhatu is produced. For producing Rakta a little higher amount of ‘Agni’ is required. Mamsa requires still more amount of ‘Agni’. And so on. Shukra requires the maximum amount of ‘Agni’ (energy).

Now with age, if we do not take proper care, this ‘Agni’ gets diminished. Suppose the  ‘Agni’ in our body is just sufficient to convert food to ‘Meda’(fat) but not sufficient to generate ‘Asthi’ (Bones), then there will be accumulation of fats. Bones will not get sufficient nutrition. Bone problems will start. At the same time nutrition to bone marrow, nerve cells as well as reproductive cells will get affected. Brain neurons will start showing degenerative changes. Memory, attentiveness and alertness will reduce.

So the key to good overall health is proper digestion. If you don’t want to lose your vitality with age then you have to keep the fire inside you burning. How to keep this fire burning? The Ayurvedacharya suggested simple lifestyle changes and told that the key to maintain the ‘Agni’ was very simple – keep walking.  .

He said that every day one should take ‘nature walk’ for minimum 45 minutes (at a stretch). Exercise inside a gym or any other type of yoga cannot be substitute for this ‘nature walk’. We have to walk in an open unprotected environment for 45 minutes. He said that the hormones released by the body when exposed to unprotected environment are different than those released under the protected environment.

He also insisted that we can have heavy breakfast and lunch but try to minimize or avoid our dinner. We can have fruits and liquids for dinner. We should keep a gap of minimum 3 – 4 hours between dinner and sleep. We should reduce the intake of wheat because wheat flour produces ‘Gluten’ which is not good for digestion. Roti of Jawar, Bajara, Makai or Rice can be taken in place of wheat roti. We should not drink lot of water immediately before or after meals. Only small sips of water should be taken during meals. Water can be taken 15 minutes before meals or 30 minutes after meal.

I have followed these simple steps since last few weeks and I am already feeling much more energetic and lighter.

This interaction with the Ayurvedacharya compelled me to read some more on Ayurveda and ‘Agni’.

More About ‘Agni‘ in the coming post.

Jai Gurudev

Sanjay Sabnis

Movies to Watch.

Released in 2007, August Rush is a moving drama of hope and unwavering faith, the touching story of the 11 year old protagonist, August Rush, orphaned since birth, yet holding onto this one core belief that it is through music he will find his parents again.

August is born of intense parents, both musicians, and although he is unaware of this fact, his sensitive soul grasps music everywhere. He hears music in the rattle of the tram, in the clanging noises of New York, and all these sounds he intrinsically imbibes and harmoniously transforms in his soul, later creating an indelible and unique stamp on the music he composes.

The movie itself unfolds like a musical composition – opening softly with a scene of August in the fields listening to the music of wind moving through the paddy. It is here right at the beginning that he shares his secret to the audience: “Listen…can you hear the music? I can hear it everywhere…in the air, in the lights, it’s all around us! All you have to do is open yourself up… all you have to do is listen!”

ag5

It is innocence, and a return to the self, a sense of belonging to all of nature and the universe that can make one open to the music of the cosmos, the music that moves the planets and moves the self. It is this “opening” to a higher force or call it the “higher self” that invests the little boy with creativity and such unshakeable faith, even in the face of cruel opposition from those who have lost their innocence.

The boys at his orphanage taunt him and roughly awaken him at night. They have come to shake his faith, to break him, the way some people take joy from merciless acts. The huckster, who falsely claims to be his father, also mocks Evan (August’s birth name) when he is afraid of losing him, by cruelly telling him, your parents must be dead and gone, you are wasting your time looking for them.

This is a movie that will make you wonder…about that mysterious power that brings things together, scatters and then reunites them again. This is a story of ultimate victory of good over bad; one that proves that devotion beats doubt. It reveals that if there is something you want, more than anything else, and that if it stems from a pure intention, the Universe is there to support you, despite all the odds. It is a story of love, undying faith, loyalty, and supreme effort. What ties the trio together is their sincerity to find each other. The flame of faith that burns in them colors the certainty of their coming together.

Spiritual leader, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says life is a combination of fate and free will. When confronted by challenges it is foolish to despair and wail, “This is my destiny! I’m helpless!” Gurudev encourages us to apply our efforts. Our efforts will surely pay, if not bringing us the result that we desire, at least the relief that we tried our best. “Put your efforts and then let go.” The results are not in our hands. So it is best to do your best and then surrender to the Divine will.

life combination

Just when we begin to relax and rejoice at the prospect of a reunion of this star-crossed family, the movie reaches a crescendo as we watch August helplessly snatched away by his foster father, in the midst of the rehearsal for his grand debut performance. The tables turn once again when in a random meeting at the park, where August is back to collecting coins in a cap, his father walks up to him, admires his playing and rekindles his lost faith. Only a few hours before the performance August manages to run away from the peddler; ultimately breaking from the tyranny of deceit and doubt.

The movie ends in a gentle yet powerful finale with the long lost lovers finding each other in the crowd and August, on completing the composition, turning around to face the audience and his parents whom he intuitively recognizes. The movie ends with his winning smile.

ag1

This is a movie for music lovers and those inclined to muse over the dramatic twists of fate, a film that will certainly lift your spirits and rekindle the lost child in you, and make you believe once again: that in this world of uncertainties if you have the faith you can turn your fate around!