7.17.2018

Discovering the Panchagni Ritual


As I dive deeper into the scriptures I have come to realize that almost every subtle logic of existence has a gross counterpart in karmic terms. The basic premise of Hindu texts emphasises on the fact that we are a part of nature and it is our responsibility to understand this silent truth and work with nature, not against it. 

Lets assume we are completely in sync with that statement, which is actually far from the truth, lets take it up for better understanding of a deeper subtle concept in the journey of discovering the self. "I am", and "my nature" is what I am wired to being. But does that mean the end of things?… no not quite, the whole idea of Sadhana, Tapasya, Vrat and Puja gear us towards a far more difficult lifestyle, with a zeal for endurance. The ideas here is, "I am, BUT I am NOT the center of things". I am but a figment of that great energy that has the inherent power to give me this birth and take it away from me as well, at will. While I am here, I am preparing myself with due discipline and austerity enhancing my capacity mentally, emotionally and physically to face that ultimate reality, better equipped than I otherwise would have been. 

But what is the real puja, the real sadhana. The version we know is still karmic in nature, we “do” puja, we “do” sadhana. Should we not do it, it alters our lifestyle and we possibly blame the world around us for it. The gross level of sadhana, is to ensure this particular lifestyle is set into our daily schedule, in the form of discipline. It brings with it many benefits at different levels, not necessarily material in nature. The focus remains of the purpose of the sadhana, the deeper meaning of the sadhana. We can start with a physical discipline, but at some point it needs to transcend into a mental discipline of deeper purpose to get to the true meaning of it. We need to stop “doing” and start “being”. Karma again is short lived, dhyana tends to stick on for longer. If we contemplate on the purpose of the ritual, the deeper and more subtle aspects of the faith start to shine. 

In my search to understand this concept of ritual performance in the mind, we may potentially call it Manasa puja, I have come to realize that the mind has to progress spiritually, hence a karmic ritual without the mind in contemplation alongside is a potential waste of time. At some point, the mind evolves so much that the karmic ritual may not be required at all. The puja is now Manasik, it has entered a different plane, it has been absorbed into out system so deep that its a natural output in the mind, we don’t have to take trouble on it… it becomes a part of us. Bhakti plays an integral part here. It stitches in contemplation with emotional love which is a potent mixture within us. The good news is we are capable of having brilliant spiritual experiences, the hard luck is, we need to make it persist. 



I chanced upon a very difficult ritual called the Panchagni Sadhana while I was hunting for deeper significance around the concept of fire. It has captured my imagination and it was hard to let go. The upanishads gave me a subtle view into its potent world but as I searched, it strangely landed me at the doorstep of the Nagas at Kumbh Mela. It intrigued me and I discovered, they perform the Panchagni ritual in a gross form, with fire surrounding them and the sun playing the central theme. The Sadhak sits at the center with bowls of fire burning in four directions around him, the fifth fire is that sun that burns down on him during the day or made even more difficult by placing a kapala-dhuni over his head. These are difficult forms of Tapasya, and they do make a person endure the heat of the afternoon in summer and the chill of the night in winter. There are various combinations of the fire but the bottom line is a deeper association with the divine flame. 

The subtle concept describes a world where the worship of fire actually triggers the conquest of the senses, the 5 elements, where fire plays a supreme role. The worship of fire as a being in itself, is a far more powerful form of worship. It opens the gates to unknown concepts that exists around us, we are just blind men walking through all these magical possibilities, practically unaware of them. This human body is capable of a lot more than we have chose to make it work on. We have powerful tools, and all we need is some decent direction with persistence to boot, to get to a place far more enlightening from where we currently are. And this journey cannot be done the karmic way. The outer display may look like we are “doing” something, but the inner journey is far more subtle and way more potent. The idea is to move from the gross form of ritual to a subtle form of living a breathing reality. 

There will be change, big change… the question is, are we ready to take that ride for if we do, there is really no turning back. 

Photo courtesy: Patrika.com

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