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The Secret of Agni

The Journey of the Soul through the Kingdoms of Nature

by  David Frawley

Spacer "Thou, oh Agni, shining forth throughout the days, from the waters,
Spacer from the stones, from the forests and from the herbs, thou as the ruler
Spacer of all human souls, are ever born pure." (Rishi Gritsamada RV II.1.1)

The Soul in Human Beings

The human soul or Agni is the ultimate result of the evolution of the animal soul and of the plant and mineral realms as well. It evolves a new type of Agni as intelligence (called buddhi, dhi, prajna, kratu or medha in Vedic thought), manifested by our manual and vocal skills, our unique hands, mouths, brains and nervous systems.

Humans have not only an instinctual mind that can find food and protect the body, but an intelligence that can digest ideas and discover the nature of truth beyond all bodily concerns. They can look beyond the outer forms of nature to its inner spirit. They have a conscience and can discern right from wrong and truth from falsehood. Through this higher intelligence, they can develop philosophy, art, religion and spirituality.

The human fire of intelligence can extend the range of the sense and motor organs by developing various tools, machines, vehicles and instruments, which has produced modern computers and the mass media. We can delve into nature with such tools and extract her animal, plant and mineral essences as metals, gems, fibers, dyes, spices, oils and medicines. We can develop our own plants varieties and breeds of animals, becoming mini-creators of our own.

The human kingdom itself has many domains or breeds including different races, ethnicities, cultures and languages and various social orders as priests, warriors, merchants, farmers, intellectuals, artists and so on, each with its own type of Agni, fire or activity.

However -and most unfortunately- our human species is not yet very evolved, being probably a young species that has yet to manifest its real potential and the higher aspects of its intelligence. The animal fire still burns strong within us, but without the grace of nature that the animals have to keep it in harmony with the world of nature. We have cultivated an artificial animal fire through meat-eating, the use of intoxicants, excessive sexuality and a cult of aggression and violence that pervades much of our culture extending even to our religions. Instead of using our higher intelligence to breed a higher human type, we have turned it into an artificial cunning that is destroying the very planet on which we live. We have bred a human species that is against both nature and the spirit, trapped in a world (a concrete jungle) not of spiritual intelligence but of artificial intelligence and artificial cravings.

The human soul that should be the crowning glory of nature and the protector of the Earth is trampling upon the very animals, plants and even rocks through which it evolved and which are its mothers. This is because we have forgotten our soul, our Agni, our flame portion of the Divine light. We have lost touch with our heart, our origin and our goal. Our artificially cultivated ego has become our dominant motive force and it is fed with the dark fires of greed, lust and ambition. This is the tragedy of our current civilization and the global crisis it has created. Instead of promoting the Divine light, we have created a false Agni or fire of consumerist desires that may end up destroying ourselves as well as our environment. In little more than a century, our species, almost like a disease, has devastated the beautiful planet that gave it birth.

As human beings, we are or should be the intelligence of fire. Fire was our first guru and guide in the infancy of our species. It taught us how to cook our food, how to forge metal and many other skills of early humanity. It taught us our first religion, our most ancient rituals, and functioned as our first doorway into the cosmic mind. Today we need to return to that original fire spirit and discover its inner message.

While minerals represent the earth fire, plants the water fire, and animals the fire fire, humans can manifest the air fire. Through the cosmic air element the human fire can transcend form and enter into the cosmic spirit. We can liberate the soul fire from its bodily limitations so that it can freely move through the entire universe. We can free the bird of the soul from its bodily shackles.

The Soul in Yoga

Yoga’s main concern is a higher human evolution -the manifestation of the soul or Agni in its full glory, to turn the human being into a universal being. The fire of Yoga is meant to turn our crude human nature into something genuinely spiritual, to replace our egoic mindset with pure awareness beyond desire. It can help us realize our higher human potential which is universal.

One of the earliest sections on Yoga in the Upanishads states, "First yogically controlling the mind and extending the power of intelligence, discerning the light of the fire from the Earth, the solar Creator carried it upwards." (Svetasvatara Upanishad II.1).

The Agni or flame within us naturally seeks to return to his Divine solar home. Our soul’s fire is the Divine will within us to return to God. We must bring that spiritual fire out of the Earth of our hearts to illumine our lives and reconnect us with the greater universe of consciousness.

All the different practices of Yoga serve to develop Agni on different levels. Asana practice purifies and balances the digestive fire (Jatharagni). Pranayama purifies, balances and energizes the pranic or breath fire (Pranagni). Pratyahara or internalization purifies and internalizes the fire of the sense and motor organs (Indriya-agni), particularly the eye and speech, which are the main forms of Agni in the sense and motor organs. Dharana or concentration focuses and heightens the fire of the mind (Manasa-agni). Dhyana or meditation increase the fire of wisdom (Buddhi-Agni). Samadhi or absorption merges us into the Divine fire to transform our consciousness at a soul level (Jiva-Agni).

So too, the different paths of Yoga cultivate different forms of fire. Jnana Yoga or the Yoga of knowledge burns our samskaras and karmas in the fire of knowledge (Jnana-agni). Bhakti Yoga or the Yoga of devotion burns our lower passions in the fire of Divine Love (Prema-agni). Karma Yoga burns our egoistic impurities in the fire of service (Seva-agni). Raja Yoga, the integral Yoga, burns our conditioned habits in the fire of Samadhi. Hatha Yoga, the Yoga of psycho-physical practices, use Yoga postures and Pranayama to purify the body and mind.

We must learn to sublimate our fire from an animal to a Divine level. This is not to suppress it or try to put it out but to take it to a higher level of manifestation. It requires the fire of austerity and simplicity (tapas), recasting the base metal of our lower humanity into the pure goal of the enlightened nature. This is the Yogic fire alchemy. In this process, a new form of the Divine fire, the Kundalini force, which is a higher aspect of the Pranic fire, arises from the base of the spine and carries our consciousness upwards out the top of the head and into the higher consciousness beyond all time and space.

The Universal Soul

Through the process of Yoga, the individual soul can expand into the universal soul, which is the real goal of our journey through Nature. In Vedic thought, the individual soul is called Agni Jatavedas, the knower of all births. As the Rishi Vishvamitra states (RV III.1), "Oh Agni, these your eternal births for you the ancient we proclaim anew. Hidden in all births is the knower of all births. By the sages he is enkindled inextinguishable." We must learn to awaken at the level of the soul and the spiritual heart, as beings of consciousness seeking immortality through many bodies and many births. We must awaken to our Divine mission of Self-realization, not just for our individual needs but for the evolution of life and consciousness in the world of nature.

This Divine fire is born within all creatures as their soul and sense of Self. Through Yoga it expands into the universal and becomes Vaishvanara Agni, meaning the fire as the universal soul person. In the process Agni unfolds all the Gods or Divine powers (the Vasus, Rudras and Adityas of Vedic thoughts) and takes us through all the worlds or realms of consciousness from the Earth to the highest formless heavens (the Lokas and Rochanas of Vedic thought). Notably, Agni unfolds the Lords of Dharma as the great Gods, Varuna and Mitra, who symbolize the truth principles of purity and compassion. Agni merges with the descending Vayu or electrical/lightning force of Indra (truth perception), which destroys all ignorance and brings the soul into the infinite.

As the Rishi Bharadvaja states,

"The eternal light is placed within us for the vision, the swiftest consciousness among the moving senses. All the Divine powers of common mind and common perception follow perfectly that single Will. Wide moves my ears and wide my eyes facing this light that is placed within the heart. Wide moves my mind in a deep understanding. What can is say, indeed what could I think? All the Gods surrendered to you in awe, Oh Fire, as your enduring throughout the Darkness. May the universal soul (Vaishvanara) protect us with his grace. May the immortal one protect us with his grace."

Whatever we see on Earth is a form of Agni. All human beings are forms of Agni. The Sun, Moon and stars in the sky above are also forms of Agni. The highest form of Agni is the Brahmagni (Agni or Brahman or the Absolute). This is the Agni of pure being (sat). This is Shiva, the fire that creates, preserves, destroys and transcends the entire universe.

May that Agni awaken in you! May all human beings manifest the Divine Fire and restore the Divine Light to this troubled world!

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.

"May we abide in the favor of the universal Fire, for he is the ruler resplendent over all the worlds. Manifesting from us he perceives the entire universe. The universal Fire spreads himself through the Sun.

Present in Heaven, Agni is present on Earth. Present here he has entered into all the plants. The universal Fire by his sudden power is present everywhere. May he protect us by day and by night." (Rishi Kutsa, RV I.98.1-2)

David Frawley (Vamadeva Shastri)

(Excerpt from the article: The Secret of Agni)

American Institute of Vedic Studies/ On-line Articles

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