MYTHOLOGY is replete with stories about fire, indicating the significance of this element in human perception. From Agni, the god of fire, sacrifice and divine knowledge in Vedic cosmology to Prometheus, the man who brought fire to humanity in Greek mythology—the tales are many and varied. According to the yogic system, both the human body and the cosmos are composed of just five elements: earth, water, fire, air and ether. With mastery over these five elements, one can experience the entire cosmic mechanism.
Among the five elements, fire is particularly significant. Life upon this planet, as we know, is essentially solar-powered—we are alive thanks to a huge ball of fire. Any machine we create is invariably fuelled by fire. We may call it electricity, petrol, gasoline, diesel, wood or coal, but it is essentially fire-driven.
Fire also finds a deeper manifestation within the human system. The fires that burn within us can be categorised into three, in terms of life experience. The first is jatharagni. Jathara literally means stomach or the digestive process. Food is a fuel that needs to be broken down to release energy, and without a little digestive fire in your belly, you cannot digest it. If this digestive fire is well-fuelled, it also becomes reproductive fire. These two fires of digestion and reproduction are together called jatharagni. If your jatharagni is strong, you enjoy a robust body.
Another fire belongs to the realm of the mind and beyond and is called chittagni. Chitta is a dimension of intelligence which transcends the limitations of the physical. Your physical form is an outcome of a certain memory structure—genetic and karmic. There is something in you that remembers how to turn a meal into a human being, and not, for instance, into a rhinoceros! It is memory which gives you a form. Much of your intelligence is subservient to this memory and serves the integrity of your form.
But chitta is unsullied by memory and does not serve the physical form. Chittagni is the fire of intelligence, of intellectual acumen. If your chittagni is not reasonably fired up, your intellect becomes feeble and ineffective. When your chittagni burns bright, the physical aspects recede in importance, and you are often less interested in food and sexuality. This is not about renunciation, as is often believed, but about transcendence.
The next dimension is bhutagni—the elemental fire. When bhutagni is active, your focus and interest will shift away from the antics of your body and mind to a more fundamental aspect of creation. Mastery of bhutagni gives you mastery over the life process itself. If you can touch the elemental fire of bhutagni, you become a boundless being.
Beyond all this is sarvagni, a dimension in which there is no creation as you know it. According to modern science, the physical aspect of creation makes up less than 4 per cent. The rest, they say, is dark matter and dark energy. Sarvagni is that dimension. Generally, a yogi will focus only on sarvagni because this is the ultimate fire. Jatharagni is a very obvious fire, chittagni is subtler, and bhutagni subtler still. But sarvagni seems almost absent. And yet, without it, nothing would happen. It is a very cool fire that doesn’t burn like the others, but holds all other fires within it.
When you approach a level of yogic expertise termed bhuta siddhi, you have achieved mastery of the elements. Life opens up its bounty to you. Health, well-being, clarity, enlightenment—none of these can be denied to you anymore. Even a sambar takes at least 13 ingredients! But life is just a game of five ingredients: once you master these, you can penetrate the deepest mysteries of the universe. Not surprisingly, those who have attained self-realisation have often termed it a cosmic joke!