The power of fire
The complexity of the fire element plays a central role in human history and in the universe. Of course, the other elements ether, air, water, and earth are equally involved in the development, but none is advancing the development so intensively like the fire.
The fire element – symbolized by the sun does not only signify light and heat, it also stands for transformation and evolution. Transformation means change and development. It transforms the matter into other forms of appearance, it changes its state of aggregation: matter becomes liquid and liquid becomes gaseous. Watch nature and observe the interplay between matter and sun, the course of the seasons, becoming and decay. Fire taught humans to process clay, to build houses, and to produce dishware and vessels, and to transform metal into tools, jewelry and weapons.
On one hand fire is the creative power and on the other hand it brings the opposite pole of destruction – two poles that need to be applied in a useful way by the humans. The emphasis is on use. In the spiritual development, too, fire plays a crucial role. It stands for intelligence, attention, perception, and the resulting insight and implementation. This means both the transformation of thought and of action.
The key position of fire
In the doctrine of Ayurvedic philosophy and medicine, fire has a key position between the subtle elements air and ether and the gross elements water and earth. Fire unites with the bioenergy Pitta and the element water to the transforming power that acts between the subtle energy Vata – built from the elements ether and earth – and the gross bioenergy Kapha – built from the elements water and earth. The five elements are present in everything: in humans, animals, stones, plants, and in the cosmos. According to the Ayurvedic view, the tri-doshas Vata, Pitta, and Kapha are responsible for all positive and negative changes within the body. They handle the communication between body and mind.
In the Vedas the Fire God Agni is seen as the source of all wisdom, he is the ruler of the natural power of transformation. Through the light of the fire, vision is possible – matter reveals to eye, man recognizes the world. Agni, the digestive fire, carrying the name of the Vedic god plays a very special role in Ayurvedic medicine.
In the organic nature, the fire principle cares for the transformation in food, its optimal metabolism, and the quality of the body tissues. It determines and regulates the body temperature. Depending on how Agni is burning, food is metabolized and provides the body cells with the optimal nutrition and Prana (vital energy).
The quality of food and the healthy digestive power determine the physical strength, mental presence and charisma with which people meet their environment. The image of a campfire may very well illustrate the significance of the digestive power: the fire that burns best leaves fine-grained ashes without residues. However, when the fire carbonizes and does not really get started, the ashes are grainy and full of debris. Transferred to the quality of digested food, it is understandable what happens on the transportation into the cells. The fine vessels that are traversed by the undigested food pulp that should be processed furthermore may not be passed in an optimal way. Deposits and slacks occur. These are called Ama in Ayurveda. This is why in every Ayurveda treatment the basis is that a healthy digestive power is stimulated and excretion of Ama is promoted. Corrections in lifestyle and balancing the mental stability are included into the treatment. Proverbs in colloquial speech referring to digestion may very well characterize this such as:
To cause somebody an upset stomach.
What’s eating you?
Feel the firepower
The Pitta dosha has its seat in the stomach, in the duodenum and small intestine. Its power of leadership and transformation creates joy of work, determining and deciding. It fills us with knowledge and motivation and helps to cope with obstacles. When we usefully profit from this energy we are in our power.
In the Vedas Agni the God of Fire is considered as the source of all wisdom
When, however, the energy loses the healthy connection to our mind a destructive character can be unfolded which expresses on the physical plane by inflammations, indigestion, diarrhea, blurred vision (seeing red): acid, spicy, too salty and hot meals should in this case absolutely be avoided. This includes all acidic fruits and vegetables, coffee, meat, alcohol and vinegar, and very salty foods such as cheese and convenience meals. Our menu should comprise of cool, bitter and sweet food.
When there is a lack in fire energy we feel unmotivated, indecisive, tired, ponderous without appetite. We suffer from bradypepsia, increase in weight, mucilage:
The image of a campfire is a good illustration for the meaning of the digestive fire
The elements water and earth, i.e., bioenergy Kapha is out of balance. Warmth, movement and ease should be brought to the organism. When the nervous system is over-excited, lack of concentration, disturbance of sleep, timidity and fearfulness determine the mind. Constipation, bloating, cold hands and feet are the result. Then bioenergy Vata lost the balance. In this case warming food can stimulate Agni, balance the body temperature and inspire the mind with new courage.
Learn to control the fire
Agni, the fire principle on the physical plane is closely related to our spiritual nature. The spiritual fire is assigned to the gunas, the three spiritual qualities: It is called rajas and means activity, restlessness and dynamic movement. It causes feelings and emotions. It is the active power, which is the basis for all movements of our will, the sensitive organs ears, skin, eyes, tongue, and nose, as well as all motoric organs such as mouth, hands, feet, reproductive and excretory organs. When it burns too much, emotions occur such as fury, hatred, aggression, envy, ambition and unhealthy competition, which due to their destructive character may cause deep injuries and devastation on physical, psychic, and the material plane.
Whereas Pitta symbolizes the transforming power which acts between the bio-energies Vata and Kapha, rajas stands for the power of transformation between the two other mental qualities: sattva – the principle of stability, purity, vigilance, essence, feeling and emotion in peace and balance and the tamas, the principle of inertia, passivity, darkness, ignorance, and heaviness.
The spiritual fire is associated with the guns – the three spiritual qualities.
The three gunas act in a dynamic interplay, they stand for the ups and downs in life. They are interlinked and influence each other. Rajas control the interplay of the gunas, it moves towards sattva or tamas and pushes the person in his/her development: what makes us more conscious is sattva. What tarnishes our consciousness is tamas. Promoting sattva means to achieve the state of balance and healing and to support spiritual growth.
To enlighten, to regulate and to control the fire – in whatever form – is on every plane one of the greatest challenges for humans.
“The yoga student has to climb two steps: First sattva has to be developed and then it has to be transcended. To develop sattva means to purify body and mind. To transcend sattva means to exceed body and mind to get into touch with the true self beyond manifestation. The one who did not develop sattva will not be able to transcend it. Do not forget this important rule! When there is a lack in sattva or purity in body and mind – and even in the emotions, it is too early to strive for enlightenment. We support sattva through proper food, physical cleaning, mastering the senses, mantras, and devotion. Higher forms in meditation help us to transcend sattva.” David Frawley
…..to be continued