This world is made of multiple layers of reality. The physical world, perceptible to our senses, is just one of those layers. This is a world of mortals—the souls that are born and must die. This physical world is called samsara, the place for migratory souls. This world is made of five gross elements: earth, water, fire, air, and space. Our bodies are also made of these five elements. Everything in this material world is constantly changing. Death, decay, and destruction are intrinsic attributes of this world.
The five elements constituting this world are inert in themselves. It is the mind that makes matter and the body made of it become alive. The mind itself is animated by the power of prana, the force behind breathing. Prana is the intrinsic force of the soul, the absolute consciousness. The unique association of the soul, prana, mind, and body is called the state of living. When prana shakti, the intrinsic force of the soul, puts the mind and the body together, it is called birth. And when this connection falls apart, it is called death. This is a complete biography of all living beings.
While living here, we have access to only a thin slice of the total reality. By harnessing the power of mind and by freeing ourselves from the fetters of matter, we can see a reality that transcends this material world. This is what is called yoga. In other words, a systematic practice of yoga allows us to see clearly the reality pertaining to the physical as well as the non-physical world. It also empowers us to see the relationship between the two.
While living on this plane, we can know what lies beyond. This allows us to face the reality that awaits in the life hereafter. This is called moksha, liberation, for we are no longer uncertain about our future. Freedom from uncertainty takes away our doubt. We are at peace here and now. We take this peace with us when we die, and it is this wealth of peace that breathes unique life into the non-physical world where we make our residence for a while. In layman’s language, it is called living in heaven. In the language of yogis, however, it is living in freedom.
The physical world is subservient to the non-physical world. Knowing this fact is the first step toward enlightenment. Not knowing this fact is called ignorance. The physical world offers all the tools and means that we need to discover the dynamics of heaven, hell, and beyond. Similarly, in our body are found all the tools and means to discover the dynamics of the mind and the entire inner dimensions of life. According to Yamaraja, the master who has complete knowledge of the world here and hereafter, the science of sacred fire explains how to make the best use of all the gifts that are deposited in the material world as well as in the human body. In Sanskrit, this science is called agni vidya.
According to agni vidya, fire is sacred. Fire is the direct manifestation of the divine. Emphasizing its importance, the scriptures say that it is the carrier of the gods, it is the mouth of the gods, and it is itself God. There cannot be a greater sin than trivializing this living god. In fact, the worship of fire and the worship of the divine through fire rituals has been at the heart of spirituality in all the ancient traditions of the world. In the Vedic tradition of India, the science of agni vidya is divided into two parts: bahir yaga, external ritualistic practices, and antar yaga, internal yogic practices. If understood properly, the external ritualistic practices that center around fire can breathe spirituality into our mundane world; similarly, the internal yogic practices, while keeping fire the focal point, can make our body a gateway to understanding our mind and soul.
Source: Pursuit of Power and Freedom by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait
Pursuit of Power and Freedom
This is a new translation, with an extensive commentary, of the Katha Upanishad. It is a dialogue between an accomplished master, Yamaraja, and an ardent seeker, Nachiketa. Their burning desire for unveiling the mysteries of life enabled them to invest all their resources – physical, mental, and spiritual – in the pursuit to live and not to die.