"That man has reached immortality who is disturbed by nothing material. " ~ Swami Vivekananda

Sacred Space: Reflections

Yagya: the Sacred Fire

Dr. David Frawley , also known as Pandit Vamadeva Shastri, is an unusual western born knowledge-holder in the Vedic tradition. A yogi, he is a Vedic historian who also teaches Vedic sciences, Ayurveda, astrology and has written several books and articles and been asociated with many yogis and sages in his pursuit of generating awareness of Advaita Vedanta and the Sanatan Dharma
More writings from his website

The Vedas are based upon the concept of Agni or the sacred Fire. They set forth an elaborate Fire ritual (Yajna) that is identified with time (kala), causation (karma), and space. This ritual defines the entire cosmic order (ritam or Dharma). The ritual has several levels of application as elemental (adhibhutic), psychological (adhyatmic) and spiritual (adhidaivic). The elemental level reflects the Earth, the gross elements, and the outer form of the sacrifice. The psychological level relates to the Atmosphere or middle realm and to our inner faculties of mind, prana, speech, sight and hearing. The spiritual level reflects Heaven, the Gods or cosmic light forces symbolized by the Sun, Moon and stars.

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David Frawley In the Vedas Yajna is identified with the Creator (Prajapati or Brahma), who through various Yajnas creates the world. Yet Yajna is also the activity of the soul (the individual human being or Jiva), who through the Yajna gains the fruits of karma as well as union with the Creator. These two, the Creator and the soul, are one as the Purusha, or higher Self. The Purusha is the universe personified as a human being, the cosmic man or person. The Purusha is identified with the Sun, who is time and the Kala Purusha or being of time.

There are many forms of Vedic Yajnas. All involve various offerings of prayers, mantras, ghee, and food to the sacred Fire as it is enkindled at special times.The goal of the Yajna is to conquer respective divisions of time in order to reach the eternal. This is also to conquer the different worlds or go beyond space. Performance of daily Yajnas takes one beyond the duality of day and night and the world of the Earth. The monthly Yajnas take one beyond the fluctuations of the month and the world of the Moon or the Atmosphere. The yearly Yajna takes one beyond time and all of its fluctuations symbolized by the year and the world of the Sun or Heaven. On an inner level these Yajnas take us beyond mental and emotional fluctuations to the equanimity of pure consciousness or pure internal light.

The first of the Vedic Gods is Agni or Fire, through whom the Yajna proceeds. Of similar great importance is Vayu or Indra, who relates to Air, wind, Prana or spirit. Indra is the foremost and most commonly lauded of the Vedic Gods. Once the Fire is enkindled, the second stage of the Vedic ritual is for the Air or spirit to manifest. The Fire moves up to Heaven and then the Wind descends from Heaven to the Earth. Agni (Fire) generates Indra or Vayu (Wind or energy). For example, the first hymn of the Rig Veda is to Agni or Fire and the second is to Vayu or Wind.

Vayu is said to be Ishwara, God or the Creator, or the cosmic spirit, the evident or manifest Brahma (pratyaksha Brahma - Taittiriya Upanishad, Shantipatha), the formless Divinity. Agni is identified with the individual soul and the form aspect of Divinity. However the cosmic form of Agni as the Sun is identified with the Creator and the Supreme Spirit, who is also Vayu or Indra.

Each of these two great Gods has its respective field of action. Agni is the deity of the Earth (Prithivi). He is enkindled on the Earth, in a specially dug Earth altar (vedi). The Fire burns the wood from the Earth. Earth is also the ashes (bhasma) left over from the Fire.

Vayu is the deity of the Atmosphere (Antariksha), which is also identified with the Waters (Apas) or the Ocean. This is not only the field of the rains, but of the whole movement of Water from the Earth to the sky and back. The Waters also symbolize space, the cosmic waters. There are Waters beneath the Earth as well as above Heaven, through which Vayu moves everywhere. Vayu is the Lord of the ocean (Shukla Yajur Veda XXVIII.7). Indra's main action is slaying the dragon who withholds the Waters to release them to flow into the sea.

Putting Agni (Fire) and Vayu (Air) together along with their related support worlds of the Earth and the Waters, we get the four elements behind the zodiac - Fire, Earth, Air and Water. A Fire sign rests upon an Earth sign and an Air sign rests upon a Water sign, just as the sacred Fire relates to Earth and Wind to Water. Fire signs represent Agni (light) and Air signs represent Vayu (movement and order). These two are held or contained in Earth and Water signs, which they stimulate. Fire lights up the Earth and Air moves the Waters.

The Vedas speak of a tripartite or threefold universe. Though there are various threefold orders in the Vedas the most characteristic is the three worlds of Earth (Prithivi), Atmosphere (Antariksha) or the Waters (Apas), and Heaven (Dyaus), adding the third world of Heaven to the other two worlds already mentioned. The God of Heaven is Surya or the Sun who can be identified either with Agni or with Vayu because he is the source of both light and life. Note the Brihaddevata of Shaunaka for a discussion of how the Gods relate to the three worlds.

Agni and all the Vedic Gods, though they have their prime form in one world, have additional forms in all three worlds. Agni is primarily the sacred Fire on Earth. Yet he is lightning (Vidyut) in the Atmosphere, and the Sun (Surya) in Heaven. Each of the three forms of Agni has its Earth or world support which is its fuel, wood on the Earth, clouds in the Atmosphere and the stars in the sky. The three worlds of Earth, Atmosphere and Heaven are called the three Earths because they function as containers for the cosmic Fire on these three different levels.

Vayu or Air similarly has three forms in the three worlds. In the Atmosphere he is the thunder, represented by the God Rudra (Shiva) and other deities of the rains like the Maruts. In Heaven he is associated with Indra, who is Vayu as the cosmic lord, and represents the solar wind or wind rising from the Sun. Vayu on the Earth is associated with the sacred Fire and its maintenance. All three forms are associated with cosmic law (ritam or Dharma), which is sustained by Vayu and its right movement.

The three worlds are also called the three Waters or three oceans. Each form of Vayu is associated with a particular form of the Waters or the ocean. The Earthy or sacrificial form of Agni is associated with ground Water and with caves and springs and with the water and ghee (clarified butter) that is offered to the Fire. The Atmospheric wind (thunder) is associated with the ocean and the rains which are created by Water evaporating from the sea. The Heavenly (solar) wind is associated with the cosmic ocean and heavenly Waters which are also the Milky Way. Space is the Waters of Heaven through which the Sun moves like a boat.

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