The Sacred Fire and Agni
DR. DAVID FRAWLEY
The great spiritual teachings of the ancient world — deriving from an era before our consciousness became dominated by the rational mind — speak primarily in terms of symbols. Vedic sages articulated this approach stating that "the Gods love the mysterious and dislike the obvious." The wise often avoid stating anything directly because most people are unprepared to see the truth. The wise prefer to intimate the truth to real seekers whose minds are receptive, rather than trying to broadcast it to those who are not really interested. Their goal is to stimulate our own insight and experience, not merely to pass on a belief or idea as final.
Spiritual truth transcends mere words. Whatever is put into words immediately becomes profane, a commodity capable of manipulation and distortion. Truth is not the evident form, but the hidden fire. We cannot find truth in outer forms any more than we can see fire in wood that has not been enkindled.
For the ancient sages the soul was the sacred fire. No philosophy was necessary to explain its self-evident effulgence. They lit its flames on their altars and in their hearts as the Divine consciousness coming forth from the material world. Through it, they achieved a state of consciousness far beyond our current idea of intelligence as defined by the scientific mind and its emulation of external reality. Through it they touched the cosmic mind of which our human mind is but a spark.
The sacred fire was their main tool of communication with both inner and outer worlds, through which they could contact channels of universal thought and energy as easily as we can tune into the different broadcasting stations. Meditating on the sacred fire linked them with the sacred order of life, which they called "sacrifice" owing its interdependence. They became a sacrifice, as it were, offering their lives to the cosmic fire. Their human personality was exchanged for a sacred role as guardians of the light.
The religion of fire was our first religion from the days the cavemen built their first fires and felt the great mystery of life. The fire was our first guru in the infancy of our species from which we learned the secrets of light and consciousness. The sacred fire, we could say, is the spiritual ancestor of all people of all races and continents. The religion of fire remains our natural religion—the very basis of our aspiration as a species to find the light.
Native and tribal peoples today remain closely connected to the sacred fire. They perform regular rituals to honor the sacred link with the universe that fire represents, much like the ancients once did all over the world. They sustain the bond of the sacred fire in an age that has forgotten the luminous origins of life.
Such fire rituals are called yajnas (pronounced "yagyas") in the Vedic tradition. There are daily, monthly and seasonal fire rituals for keeping us in harmony with the cosmic movement of the light. There are special fire rituals for specific purposes, like the achievement of personal goals such as prosperity, or spiritual goals such as the reduction of negative karmas. There are broad social fire rituals for universal peace and the general well-being of the world. Some yajnas are specifically astrological in nature. Many Hindu temples still perform such fire rituals, particularly in South India. Certain modern Hindu movements like the Arya Samaj and Gayatri Pariwar emphasize them as part of daily practices for everyone.
When we participate in such special or sacred fires, particularly at key transitional points of sunrise and sunset, full moon nights or the solstices, we enter into the universal order of light. We become part of the day, the month and the year. The universe begins to stir inside us and work its magic of growth and change. Time becomes a process of transformation, nourishing our inner light and ripening our souls.
The Ancient Global Fire Religion
Our human species is a species defined by the discovery of fire. Fire, we could say, was the first teacher of our species through whom we learned our main arts, crafts and sciences. The sacred fire was the basis of the first human culture, which was the culture of fire.
The great ancient fire religions of India, Persia, Ireland, Greece, China, Israel and Mexico are but different facets of a universal and eternal fire teaching. These religions of light arose organically before any particular organized religion or code of belief was defined. They projected the religious urge at the start of our civilizations, setting in motion our spiritual aspiration as a species that remains our inner sustaining force. The Rig Veda, perhaps the oldest book in the world, begins with the image of the fire sacrifice:
I worship the Sacred Fire (Agni) that is chief priest, the deity of the sacrifice, who works according to the seasons, the invoker, best to grant the treasure.
The Sacred Fire honored by the ancient sages is invoked again by the new. For us he manifests all the Gods.
To you, oh Fire, day by day, by dawn and by dusk we come bearing our offering of surrender, the king of the sacred rite, the guardian of truth, flourishing in his own nature.
The Rig Veda explains this inner fire or Agni as the principle of light in nature and in our own souls:
Thou, oh Fire, shining forth throughout the days, from the waters, from the stones, from the forests and from the herbs, thou oh Lord of souls are ever born pure!
Oh Fire, whom the waters, the mountains and the forests carry as the child of truth, you are enkindled with force by men on the summit of the Earth. You have filled with your radiance both the worlds and stream with smoke in Heaven.