MYTH BUSTING ABOUT FIRE RITUALS ON THE HOLY OCCASSION OF KARTIKA POORNIMA AND DEVA DEEPAVALII
It is a modern-day trend a new-agey idea that by doing fire rituals alone – homa/havan – one can make great spiritual progress or faster progress. Not only is it a myth but a dangerous one propagated by self-serving individuals of questionable spiritual achievement but lot of self-promotion and marketing. Regardless, let’s see the traditional and spiritual point of view here.
Before that what is considered as traditional in the adhyatmikta space? A dharmik sampradaya or school of thought that has survived for centuries, whose principles and guidelines are based on the parameters set by the shastras, and most importantly, which has produced a line of strong spiritual giants and saints who has inspired people. It is important to create a lineage of saints for a sampradaya to survive for the simplest of reasons because that shows the principles and directives followed in the sampradaya can and does produce unquestionable spiritual results.
Almost all authentic traditions whether vedic or tantric are clear on one thing, only fire rituals and nothing else is a bad idea which has the potential to lead to problems in the long run mainly due to overactivation of one tattwa while disregarding the others. Creation, and sadhana, progresses mainly through the balance of all the five tattwas that contribute to creation. Agnihotram is allowed in the vedic tradition but that is the limited and exact process, far away from modern-day homas to devatas which is much more elaborate mechanism involving longer engagement with fire.The primary concept of Tantrokta sadhana is first activation of the mantra or stotra via repetitions and japa done sufficiently, which creates the astral formation of the devata whose japa is being conducted, then doing homas which are 1/10th of the repetation of japa, finally steps of abhiseka and tarpana and marjana and feeding upasakas or brahmins. Then the mantra works through all the tattwas and produces the intended spiritual effect on the consciousness of the sadhaka leading to complete accomplishment.
The Tantra-s even recommends for someone who cannot perform all the steps should only focus on japa and do it more – for japa is the base, the easiest and most effective of all sadhanas, everything else is but an anga or auxiliary process of this, and they do not stand alone nor have the power to bring about the necessary fullness of spiritual development that japa or repetitions of holy names/mantra can do. By following this principle for 1000s of years all traditional sampradayas have produced great spiritual giants one after the other which means this principle is well tested and authentic – this road does lead to actual adhyatmik development. Tampering with it opens the possibility of dangerous missteps and backfiring which can happen when done for long periods of time, and therefore there is not a single known case of a saint or siddha who has attained to spiritual perfection by performing either only homas, or only tarpana etc, whereas there are many many examples of people who have attained to the ultimate states via only japa. All this is perfectly in tune with what Lord Shiva has already declared and predicted in the vast Tantra shastras.
In the Mahabharata we find this interesting story of a king who wanted to perform a continuous 12 year homa, so he prayed to Mahadeva and Mahadeva granted him the desire, and send in none less than Durvasa to conduct as the priest for the 12 year non-stop homa. End of it fire become so aggravated that it asked Krshna and Arjuna that for restoring its balance it needs to eat up the whole forest filled Khandavaprastha with trees and living animals all to be burned alive, and if the Nara-Narayana helped him with it, Agni would gift them a weapon. It was during this episode that a colony of Nagas were burned alive except one, Taksaka who vowed to exact revenge on Arjuna’s descendants and later on attacked Parikshita. Basically this story is the clearest demonstration of the effects that happen when fire is constantly aggravated without sufficient compensation from the other tattwas, thus opening the doors of endless destruction, seeds of which are very much present inside fire itself. Knowing this well, the all-seeing Great Lord Shiva, who speaks the Tantrik Vidhan and the greatest rishis who formulated the sadhana shastras have given the core principles of sadhana, how much of japa must go in before fire is to be used, to what degree and for how long, in order to produce the most perfect spiritual result.
There is nothing like endless and random homas for ages and ages, which is sure to lead to problems.Those who have an agenda to propagate homas – often driven by deeprooted asuric egos of messiah-complex, believing they are here to save the world types – give out various rationales for why *only* homas work. Let’s deconstruct that myth.
STORY 1: Some deity appears and tell them to spread homas.
ANALYSIS: Dharma does work that way ever. No deity will come and tell do a sadhana or process in violation of the guidelines set in shastras. That kind of stuff happens in Abrahamic religions one prophet comes and cancels past prophets and new revelatons appears – not in dharma. Nobody will ever come and ask to change/tamper the sadhana guidelines drastically from what is already set in shastras because the shastras were given by the most-farsighted Lords of dharma. If vedic then it is the rishis, and if tantrik then it is Shiva himself. Nobody violates their guidelines. It is more likely a case of the individual’s own desire and self-projections.One can rework philosophical interpretations or spread bhakti to any one dharmic devata, but never tamper core methods of upasana – that is FIXED. Because that is what works. Always.
This is why sadhana dharma is sanatana and eternal.Every single acarya or saint who has given a method of sadhana is always based on guidelines of shastras. Only homa (WITHOUT JAPA) is against clear shastric injuctions.
STORY 2: Miraculous benefits happened by doing only homas.
ANALYSIS: Sure, for every one instance of benefits there is one where reverse effects and negative effects have happened via homas. Very recently came across an indvidual who started homas and someone in the family died which caused such a shock that he left sadhana itself. Could be a coincidence, but same logic applies also for all so called benefits of homa sadhana.Anecdotal evidence does not mean a thing which judging the validity of otherwise of a method of sadhana. To explain in other words cult figures like Ram Rahim apparently used to castrate followers who would get that done claiming all sorts of miraculous benefits from the same, until everything came crashing down.Judgement of sadhana is based on shastras and traditional wisdom and not on stories of some alleged temporary benefits or mishaps.STORY 3: Some great book or individual is recommending it.ANALYSIS: Nothing, and definitely no modern book, is replacement of the shastras. The Shakti inherent in the shastras is timetested for 1000s of years, modern books are at best a few decades old, they sink as fast as they rise, and they never have the shakti to override the primary shastras. This should be commonsense by now if one really wishes to progress in sadhana.
STORY 4: Homas are simplifying sadhana for individuals. Others like mantras need complex technicalities.
ANALSYSIS: Far from it, there is no simpler sadhana than namajapa. Infact shastras provide for all options. For example to do namajapa of a deity needs no diksa at all, anyone anywhere can do it. Only when bija mantras come into play that diksha krama is necessary to rightly guide the individual into the sadhana.When Swami Vivekananda came back from US with some foreign disciples he would often send them for spiritual advise to some old widowed women who were devotees of Sri Ramakrshna. When asked why, Swamiji would say these women speak 2-3 hours daily doing namajapa, the shakti they have acquired via that is so strong that they can pull any ordinary person into the spiritual path. None of them had any mantra diksha – because to chant just the names of a devata, any devata, is a birthright of everyone individual.To claim that homas are somehow easier than namajapa is the most ridiculous propaganda ever done, and such absurd claims can come only from egotistic self-serving cultists interested more in propagating their own selves rather than actually helping dharma. The road to adharma is often paved by superficially good-intentions covering deep-seated messiah-complex egos instead of honoring and following the clear guidelines of shastras which had given for the benefit all dharmik people.
Easiest sadhana to do is pick the 108 names of a devata one loves and keep chanting them for an hour or two daily, do it for 6 months without break and see the effects.
STORY 5: Homa is just a method of prayer.
ANALYSIS 5: No they are not. This is a visesh method, a specialized way of upasana. And whenever visesh methods are employed visesh rules and caveats also come into play. Driving a cycle and driving a fighter plane does not have the same rules.For prayer one can sit and close ones eyes and pray with bhakti or just chant names of a devata. Nothing else is needed.
STORY 6: Agnihotra was recommended in vedic dharma.
ANALYSIS: Agnihotra and homa to pouranika and tantrika deities are NOT the same. Agnihotra has a very small and fixed number of ahutis it cannot be extended indefinitely or any time anywhere kind of thing. It is more like a token number of ahutis given to UNIVERSAL deities – NOT to a deity for personal spiritual growth. Infact ALL VEDIC Karmakanda is designed such that it is NOT meant for individual spiritual growth or communion with any devata (individul progress is irrelevant here) but only to sustain the UNIVERSAL dharma which included the functioning of vedic society and attain postmortem benefits. A homa to a deity in the post-vedic times on the other hand is meant for individual spiritual help of the upasaka! And this causes a HUGE difference in the nature and impact of the two fire rituals.Someone who does not understand this basic is the least suited to give advises on any sadhana, least of all fire sadhana.
STORY 7: Nitya homas in tantra
ANALYSIS: Huge amounts of caveats and methods are added in tantra BEFORE one can indulge in nitya homa as prelims to be done. Also just like agnihotram it also restricts ahutis. One celebrated tantra speaks of only 16 ahutis at a time and not more, AFTER one has already done suffiient mantra japa of the devata.
So what is the necessity of homa? It is a vital process, an inseparable anga (limb) for completeness of sadhana. After japa of the names of a deity is done it creates an astral formation of the devata, then one must do homas, 1/10th of the count, to infuse consciousness into that astral formation, and then it gathers lifeforce and interacts with the upasaka guiding him into higher realms. This is the main sadhana, this is dharma. To give an analogy fire is like the tadka that is added into the daal to make it tastier, while the main body of the food or daal is the japa itself. Now imagine replacing the daal itself and consuming only tadka will produce a nice damage to the whole system in the long run, even though initially it may seem very tasty. Or homa/fire is like special supplements and steriods to boost one’s phsyical exercise, but if one skips going to the gym – does not do japa sadhana – and only takes steriods just a matter of time when everything will come crashing if not lead to complex diseases. The foolish king from the Mahabharata did a 12 year continuous homas whose reaction caused such aggravation of the fire element that it burned to death living animals and a whole forest, and caused a chain reaction leading to deaths and devastations spanning generations. This was also Lord Shiva’s way to teaching, for one who has fine perception, what damage happens with unrestricted aggravation of fire and it is not a co-incidence that rudra was often considered as strongly linked to agni in the true vedic age (before identification with Skanda came in).
The shakti that is generated by fire is tremendous. So powerful that only a small limited amount is enough for an ordinary sadhaka, then only it integrates with the mind-body and helps in progress. Trying to take too much of that shakti does not work because Shakti will not stay unless one has the adhara (MIND-BODY COMPLEX) for it. One of the chief effects of excessive, endless homas (even done with good intentions) for years will lead to severe conflicts to arise in the person’s environment and atmosphere, even for the most tame and mild individual, as a first thumb rule, but not the last of the effects, and that happens to everyone whether they may publicly admit it or not out of ego or to save face. This is the firm conclusion asserted by shastras and accepted by almost all great saints and siddhas across centuries, who have attained to great perfection in the sadhana of devatas. At no point is only homa as a primary sadhana recommended, without doing japa of the mantra whose homa is being done.
Revere Agni, honour it, use it in the right way in the right amount and it will help the sadhaka. Misuse it out of context for ego-driven agendas to create cults, and it will sow the seeds of destruction inevitably. Like it did in the great Mahabharata.Anyone who says otherwise is spreading adharma, whose long term repercussions would be very, very drastic! Wishing everyone a fantastic year of sadhana and spiritual growth.