‘Agnihotra’ for Earth’s health
On April 9, Araw ng Kagitingan, I attended a workshop offered by kindred souls concerned about the healing of Earth and its inhabitants. But more than just being concerned about our wounded planet, these persons are preoccupied with the enrichment of our earthly dwelling and our own human lives.
Accepting the invitation was easy because the workshop was to be held in a farm set up and tended by friends of more than three decades, a place where I have felt at home since its beginnings. I wrote a cover story about this place in the Sunday Inquirer Magazine many years ago when it seemed so very far away, when little was heard about women of good education and comfortable means who put their hands on the plow and tilled fields. I am referring to my friends Emma Alday and Isyang Lagahit, who had left the comfort of convent life to dig into the riches of the earth.
Off I went to the farm in Tiaong, Quezon, site of the “Bahay Madre,” the cradle of the Susi Foundation that continues to serve farmers and advocates natural and organic farming and other soul-enriching pursuits. I was one of 20 or so persons of very diverse backgrounds who were seeking, if not already walking, the same less-trodden path.
Our group had a journalist (me), women farmers, a brass sculptor, a chemist, teaching scientists/agriculturists, information technologists, promoters of indigenous culture, a soprano and her Belgian husband, several NGO veterans, a young Frenchwoman from an NGO, two women from a shelter for abused children, and a transgender (now a woman). Four have had religious formation in a convent setting, and two were drug addicts who have recovered and who now help the young find wholeness.
“Agnihotra” practitioners freely shared (it has to be free) their knowledge and experience of this ancient yajna (ritual or sacrifice) that began in ancient Hindu civilization. Many Agnihotra practitioners around the world are into natural farming. Scientists are now discovering that Agnihotra resonates with their fields of expertise.
After almost a whole day of exercises, reflections and nourishing farm food, we were ready for Agnihotra. The word is derived from the Sanskrit agni which means fire, and hotra or healing. Agnihotra is a process of purifying the atmosphere through a especially prepared fire. It is performed at sunrise and sunset. The use of healing fire goes back to the ancient science of Ayurveda.
Ideally, only one person should be performing Agnihotra, but we all needed to go through the practice. Laid before us were inverted pyramid vessels made of pure copper. In the vessels were dry cow dung chips sprinkled with ghee (clarified butter). The dung came from grass-fed cows. On our left palm were some grains of whole, unpolished brown rice divided into two parts, just enough for three fingers of our right hand to pick up. The grains had ghee on them. We waited for the precise time when the sun would set.
(While I was writing this piece I received an e-mail from an Agnihotra practitioner who downloaded for me a daily sunrise/sunset timetable for my street in Quezon City for the whole of 2014.)
So how did the ancients know the exact time of sunrise/sunset on a given day? They simply knew, the way wild creatures knew. I remember that sunset scene outside a Cagayan cave when the bat leader flew out right on cue with thousands of other bats following. And years ago, while I was trekking in a silent mountain fastness, a million cicadas suddenly broke into a symphonic chorus at dusk. Who gave the cue?
During ancient times when the atmosphere was yet free of pollution, the window of opportunity to access the flood of energy from the sun was wider. In our time, this window has narrowed, hence the need for technology and accurate time pieces. The bats know better.
We had lit the cow dung in our copper vessels a few minutes before sunset. The pyramid acted as generator, so to speak, and the fire as turbine. At the precise time of sunset, we began chanting the short mantra. While on the word swaha, we placed the first pinch of rice into the glowing fire in our own vessels. And on the second mention of the word, we placed the second pinch. We maintained total silence while the fire warmed our faces. We waited for a few more minutes for the leaping fire to die down into ashes.
The Agnihotra ashes have so much life-giving potency; they go a long way to heal Earth and living things. Great, too, for drinking water. By the way, there is a lot to learn about cow dung—what’s in it, why it’s considered clean, healthy, and even medicinal.
I brought home with me an Agnihotra kit (copper vessel, dry dung, ghee, rice, etc.) which I hope to light up in my vegetable garden on some days at sunrise and sunset.
From an Agnihotra website: “Tremendous amounts of energy are gathered around the Agnihotra copper pyramid just at Agnihotra time. A magnetic-type field is created, which neutralizes negative energies and reinforces positive energies. Therefore, a positive pattern is created by one who does Agnihotra merely by his/her performance. Agnihotra purifies the atmosphere of pollutants and neutralizes harmful radiation. The resultant atmosphere gives nourishment to plant life.”
At work in Agnihotra are the science of sound and vibration and other subtle forms of energy. Quantum mechanics, too, but some practitioners avoid the Q word lest orthodox scientists protest its use. You can google Agnihotra and learn about its origins, practice and efficacy. But going through the exercise with those who practice and believe in it is something else. Modern science is just starting to delve into its amazing, radiating effect.
When the Easter fire is lit, I will pray and remember. Rabboni!
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