We are a Reflection of Our Atmosphere:
Self-development and the path to higher awareness is filled with new discoveries, challenges, pitfalls and rewards. Within a stressful atmosphere inundated with distractions, temptations and frustrations it can be difficult to remain calm much less find the strength to better oneself.
Agnihotra, when performed daily at both sunrise and sunset, creates a cycle of protection. It generates an atmosphere more conducive to meditation and inner harmony. Though the stress and strain of life exists in the outer world, one’s mind and body are given a boost in the direction of inner peace.
Then, in such a rarified atmosphere, it becomes easier to become more loving, practice patience, and learn to listen to the calm voice within. One can begin to face oneself, and using simple techniques, begin unraveling the ‘ties that bind.’ Self-development becomes easier. Agnihotra sets the stage for it. When one’s environment itself is more peaceful, inner peace is more likely to unfold.
Age-Old Spiritual Traditions:
In ancient times, going back many thousands of years, Vedic culture took a scientific approach to attaining higher consciousness. It was a culture of Satya Dharma (Universal Path of Truth), which meant honoring eternal spiritual principals and regarding all life as sacred. It is said that there was a Golden Age (Satya Yuga) when humanity lived in peace and the world was kept in a state of balance by honoring all life forms and walking the path of Truth.
We are now in the midst of what Vedic texts call the Kali Yuga (Age of Pollution). It is the nuclear age of great technological advancement, but also extreme polarity and strife. Humanity is at a pivotal point where we must make the choice to evolve and transform or face destruction.
Agnihotra has been resuscitated at this time in order to be used as a tool to cleanse the atmosphere, encourage peaceful living and to help restore Mother Nature to a state of balance once again. Along with this great tool, come the ancient teachings of the Fivefold Path.
THE FIVEFOLD PATH:
The Fivefold Path is the basis of the teachings of all true Prophets, Divine Messengers and Saints who have come to serve humanity. It is a blueprint of universal knowledge given through the Vedas, the most ancient wisdom known to humankind. This knowledge does not belong exclusively to any country or community. It is the common heritage of all peoples, given through Sanskrit, a language as old as creation. These principles can be practiced for self-development by anyone from any walk of life, regardless of race, religion, or belief system. Below, these five essential teachings are explained.
Fire ceremony is ancient. It is known throughout all cultures of the world. Many of the old cultures have long lost their fire ceremonies, yet in nearly every civilization, sacred fires were performed for healing and purification purposes.Yajnya is the first step on the Fivefold Path. By resuscitating these ancient fire practices and performing Agnihotra on a daily basis, one simply opens the shades and lets the sunshine in! It creates a more harmonious atmosphere in which we can become more free, more aware, more conscious, more compassionate, more understanding and more service-oriented. Boosted by harmonious atmosphere, we move into a new state of awareness. And more importantly, we are at the same time serving our planet by helping to purify the atmosphere and rejuvenate our Earth.
Daan is the practice of sharing your assets in a spirit of humility. When you give without expectation, we break the grip of attachment to the material world. It is a gift not only to the receiver but also to the giver. Of course, when practicing Daan it is important to give without desire for recognition or to boost one’s pride. Give humbly, if possible even anonymously. As we begin to practice Daan, then we realize that the attachments we have in life are pulling on our minds.
Now, the world is so imbalanced with its quest for material gain, and what one has or lacks materially. The paradox is, when we practice Daan in a true state of humility, we often notice that it actually attracts material prosperity. By becoming less attached, Daan can open the door to the flow of energy and material needs seem to be met with ease. Whether you are wealthy or poor, giving without attachment is a wonderful practice that will enrich your life.
The third aspect of Fivefold Path is Tapa or Self-Discipline. This is, simplified, a way to train the mind to go in the right direction. All of us have addictions, whether they are to certain types of foods, behavioral patterns or bad habits. Whatever the case, the practice of Tapa helps to bring the intellect and our emotions back into harmony.
For instance, if you notice that you have an addiction to sweets, you can make a decision to not eat any foods with sugar for a period of one month. Over that month, you will begin to notice more, the subtle games the mind plays. Quickly, your perception and consciousness become more sensitive and receptive, simply by gaining a bit more control over your desires.
There are many ways which one can practice this in one’s life—tapa on speech is particularly powerful. Not speaking badly about anyone, refraining from gossip, speaking only truth—these are effective ways of practicing self-discipline. The ways are varied, but if one concentrates on the areas of one’s life where one feels weakness, those are often the best places to begin to make a change. Tapa strengthens one’s resolve. Many times, applying limits or structure to one’s life can actually bring one more freedom ultimately.
The law of cause and effect, which governs our universe, when carried to subtler levels, is the law of Karma. This is the law of “You Reap as you sow.” We cannot remain without action—indeed, even inaction is action! So every moment we are creating Karma.
In this fourth step, the goal is to begin to become more aware of our thoughts, words and actions. By doing so, it brings us into a much more aware state of being. In even contemplating this, one begins to shift one’s priorities to place Service first.
As Mahatma Gandhi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
Ultimately, we come to the search for who we are, what is our purpose in life. We begin to ask ourselves these questions in an effort to discover and develop ourselves.
This is the fifth and final step in the Fivefold Path. All of the previous principles naturally lead to this. The Sanskrit word Swadhyaya means simply, Self-Study. It does not mean ‘self-analysis.’ Swadhyaya is done in a more meditative way. When one examines his or herself, one needs to be fearless. If, in looking within, one finds areas in need of improvement, one begins making energetic effort to change that which needs revision in oneself. One does this without blame or shame. One’s mind opens and one’s heart follows suit.
The process of Swadhaya, is not only about identifying weaknesses and working on them, but it also helps us discover our natural gifts and talents. By doing so, you can find the best way to fulfill your true purpose in life. We are all different and unique, with particular passions, interests and callings. By discovering our true gifts, we can then begin to focus on how we can serve humanity, however great or small.
As we begin to become more understanding of our own weaknesses, loosen our attachments to material possessions, discipline our thoughts and clear our minds, suddenly the world opens up to us in a new way. We begin to ‘walk the walk’, not just ‘talk the talk.’
Inner peace becomes something more tangible than before. As Agnihotra clears away the cobwebs of doubt and ego, one’s true spirit can really begin to shine. We begin to see the world outside ourselves and find our way to navigate through it, bringing more light to all we meet. It is a step-by-step process requiring honesty and fearless effort, which finally culminates in being able to fulfill the commandment of “Love Thy Neighbor As Thyself.”