“Agni, the all-seeing, who lies hidden in fire sticks, like a child well guarded in the womb, who is worshipped day by day by awakened souls, and by those who offer oblations in sacrificial fire–he is the immortal Self” (Katha Upanishad 2:1:8)
According to the researches of Sri Aurobindo, in the Vedas and upanishad Agni is not the supposed god of fire, but the will power of the individual which manifests specifically in the practice of yoga. This is not the whimsical will power of egoic goals, but the will to liberate our consciousness from all bonds. This manifests exclusively in spiritual practice, not in philosophizing or in feeling spiritual. This is the highest form of action possible to any being in relativity, and merits our careful analysis.
Hidden in fire sticks
The fire for the Vedic sacrifice is kindled by the friction of two sticks. The upanishad uses this as a simile, saying that the yogic fire “lies hidden in fire sticks.”
“Like a child well guarded in the womb”
The propensity toward the Divine is rare, and it is also fragile because the downward pull accumulated in thousands of previous lives threaten its very existence. Consequently, the wise sadhaka guards it well once it arises, ensuring that it can grow unhindered and in time come forth as the liberating force we need to be successful yogis. The observance of Yama and Niyama are absolutely essential in this (see The Foundations of Yoga), as is the need to reorder one’s life so as not to put this developing power in danger of harm or destruction.
“Worshiped day by day by awakened souls”
The idea of the previous section is being continued. The awakened (though not yet enlightened) soul cherishes the yogic will, and realizes that it is a worshipful thing–the Godward-tending divine power of the divine Self that moves within him like an embryo within the womb. Day by day he worships it by using it to meditate.
“Those who offer oblations in sacrificial fire”
Those who are consciously engaging in Ishwarapranidhana, the offering of the life to God, extend the power of their spiritual will beyond the practice of meditation into every moment of their life and activity, using it to accomplish a spiritualized mode of life. Here, too, the necessity for reordering the life of the sadhaka is evident.
May that divine Agni be enkindled and maintained within us.
- Abbot George Burke (Swami Nirmalananda Giri)