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Chakral Interpretation of the First Hymn of Rigveda

Each of the nine mantras of the first Hymn can be translated in many ways, sometimes as high as a dozen, all plausible. It seems that these multiple meanings are intended, for the gods are fond of hidden meanings. Thus, it is said: परोक्षप्रिया एव हि देवाः 2 | (1.3.14, AB).[i]

In spite of multiplicity of meanings of each mantra, some of the translatons seem to run through like a single running thread. One such thread relates to the chakra interpretation of Agni, i.e. as inner fire. Agni can be said to reside in the navel, which is called the region of fire, Agni Tattva or Agni Mandala. Kundalini is said to reside in the Muladhara. When it is activated, it is experienced as intense heat or inner fire. This is how it is felt as it moves from one chakra to the next. (Swami Sivananda).[ii] Inner fire or Agni, in this sense, represents the source of the spiritual progress of one wishing to submerge his self in Siva at sahasrara.

Prana is of different qualities. The lower chakras use a different quality of prana, than higher chakras. The quality of pranic energy that is used in lower chakras, below the solar plexus, is usually not suitable for the chakras above the solar plexus, and can cause ailments.[iii] The Agni Mandala serves to transform and purify the upward flowing energy from the muladhara. Any contamination of the profane in the lower order energy of the lower chakras is transformed and purified in this mandala, and only the pure form is allowed to move upward. Thus the agni mandala both unites and separate the profane and the divine.

We shall link together the translations of different mantras as they relate to this inner fire. The first two mantras are merely introductory, and the esoteric chakra references commence explicitly from the third mantra.

First three mantras

अग्निं-ईळे पुरोहितं यज्ञ-स्य देव-मृत्-विज्-अम् |  होता-रं रत्न-धा-तमम् ||  (1.001.1)

अग्निः पूर्वे-भिर्-ऋषि-भिर्-ईड्-यो नूत-नैर्-उत | स देवाँ एह वक्षति || (1.001.2)

अग्नि-ना रयिम्-अश्-न-वत्-पोष-मा-इव दिवेदिवे  | यश-सं वीर्-अव्-अत्-तम्-अम् || (1.001.3)

Agni praise I, entrusted of yagna is he, the god (who) removes fear to connect oneself with. Hota is delighted as (such) wealth (he) has so as to make one faint away.

Agni it was, before men became Rshis, whom men implored for Union. This was commended with certainty (for attaining) God/Siva/Vishnu; gods; (for those) desirous to grow or become powerful or to accumulate (wealth).

(With) Agni in nabhi (chakra):  (one) wealth enjoys, prosperity is possessed of, authority increases as it were, day by day.                 For fame or wealth, meditation, to be powerful, animate and obtain, become immovable (and) fix oneself.

Purport

Since the third mantra provides the key, we move backward from it in interpreting.

1.001.3

(With) Agni in nabhi (chakra):  (one) wealth enjoys, prosperity is possessed of, authority increases as it were, day by day.                 For fame or wealth, meditation, to be powerful, animate and obtain, become immovable (and) fix oneself.

अग्नि-ना means Agni in navel or nabhi. This are is also called the Agni mandala.[iv] Some accounts include only the Manipura Chakra in this. According to Pranic healing, there are four chakras in this region: Nabhi, Spleen (front and back), and Manipura (solar plexus). The last is called the energy clearing house, controlling body heat, while the spleen chakras act as entry points for prana. The navel chakra controls the intestines.[v] In this sense, it is appropriate to speak of the Agni Mandala as a whole containing four chakras that would be covered by the term fire in the navel. For this reason, the terminology used in Rigveda: “Fire in navel” seems to be inclusive on purpose, as it covers functions of all the four chakras.

The mantra says that to animate and obtain the benefits from the chakras in the region, one must become immobile and fix oneself (तम्-अम्). This implies fixing concentration on the region, after assuming a stationary posture.

The benefits mentioned are those that are said to accrue from the Manipura Chakra. These include, meditation, fame, wealth and personal power. This corresponds to existing beliefs about the functions of the Manipura Chakra.

According to Satchakranirupana or The Serpent Power (trans. Arthur Avalon), “Physically, Manipura governs digestion, mentally it governs personal power,[vi] emotionally it governs expansiveness, and spiritually, all matters of growth.”[vii] Regarding spiritual growth, in some traditions, Kundalini shakti has to be activated by focusing on or fixing on the Manipura Chakra.[viii] For this reason, the Manipura Chakra is important for meditation. Others point out that: Manipura chakra is concerned with the drive for fame, wealth and power.[ix]

1.001.2

Agni it was, before men became Rshis, whom men implored for Union. This was commended with certainty (for attaining) God/Siva/Vishnu; gods; (for those) desirous to grow or become powerful or to accumulate (wealth).

The interpretation of the third mantra, throws new light on the second mantra. The Agni referred to therein can be interpreted as fire in the navel or Agni Mandala.  

The second mantra says that before man became Rshi, he approached Agni for Union or Yoga. We may recall that Rshi were sages who saw the mantras of Vedas (मन्त्रदृष्ट). Swami Sivananda casts the following light on this matter.

According to him, vedas form the sound-manifestation of Ishvara. This has four divisions, the highest of which is Para finding expression only in Prana. The second division is Pasyanti which manifests in the mind. Interestingly, however, its seat is the Manipura Chakra. Yogis who meditate on this chakra, can experience the “Pasyanti state of a word which has colour and form, which is common for all languages…”[x] Hence they are called seers of mantras.

Thus, it becomes clear, why man sought union with Agni in the Agni Mandala, before he became a Rshi.

The second line talks of the spiritual benefits of activating the Manipura Chakra. One can attain to God (Siva, Vishnu) or the gods. The word used for God is स, which can mean God, Siva or Vishnu. The use of the word with multiple meanings seems to be deliberate in order to include all varieties of belief about a Supreme Personal God. It also allows for attaining to other gods. Thus, polytheistic beliefs are also allowed for.

The mantra says that these divinities can be approached by those desirous of (एह) वक्षति. This remarkable word which is rooted in वक्ष्, has three meanings: to grow, accumulation, to be powerful. All meanings apply. Growth, presumably refers to spiritual growth. Accumulation is that of wealth. Power could mean social power or personal power – both are affected by the activation of the Manipura chakra.

1.001.1

Agni praise I, entrusted of yagna is he, the god (who) removes fear to connect oneself with. Hota is delighted as (such) wealth (he) has so as to make one faint away.

The import of the first mantra now becomes clear. The hota or recite of Rigveda is delighted because he is possessed of such esoteric knowledge as will make one faint away.

The yagna which is being referred to is a personal sacrifice, consisting of unbroken restraint. This is made clear by the fourth mantra, and we will shall elaborate on this in the next post. Here we recall the words of Sri Aurobindo: “We find in the Gita the word yajna, sacrifice, used in a symbolic sense for all action, whether internal or external, that is consecrated to the gods or to the Supreme. Was such symbolic use of the word born of a later philosophical intellectuality, or was it inherent in the Vedic idea of sacrifice? I found that in the Veda itself there were hymns in which the idea of the yagna or of the victim is openly symbolical, others in which the veil is quite transparent.”[xi]

Why is Agni entrusted of this yagna, and why is he praised as a god who removes “fear to connect oneself with”?

Agni, it is said owing to a softening of a curse of Sage Bhrigu, purifies all that passes through it.[xii] It has already been pointed out that the chakras below the solar plexus use a different quality of prana than chakras above the solar plexus, and that this quality of energy is not suitable for the higher chakras, and can cause ailments. Agni mandala contains chakras, that purify the prana that passes from the lower chakras to the higher, thereby reducing the fear of ailments. Also, the higher chakras, especially the sahasrara and ajna chakras receive divine pranic energy. Mixing of the profane forms of pranic energy which are used in lower chakras with this divine energy received by higher chakras, can have very damaging psychological consequences. This is the reason for the fear of contaminating the divine with the profane. Agni, residing in the Agni mandala, purifies the pranic energy that flows upwards, and therefore removes the fear of the pious of connecting with the divine.

According to some authorities, the manipura chakra itself has purifying properties. Thus, “The benefit of meditation on this chakra comes from its purifying qualities.” [xiii]  It is said that according to the Agni Purana, before beginning the worship of Sri Vishnu, a devotee should meditate on his navel in order to remove all impurities.[xiv]

Thus, it seems plausible to praise Agni as the god who removes the fear to connect oneself (with divinity).

This, and the benefits that flow from meditating on fire in the navel, make clear, why Agni is entrusted of the internal yagna of personal sacrifice.

 


[i] For the gods appear to be fond of cryptic epithets; yea, the gods appear to be fond of cryptic epithets. (Swami Nikhilananda, http://sanatan.intnet.mu/ cryptic: of an obscure nature, having puzzling terseness, having a secret or hidden meaning (AED)

[ii] Also: “When Kundalini is at one Chakra, intense heat is felt there and when it leaves that centre for another Chakra, the former Chakra becomes very cold and appears lifeless.” Kundalini Yoga, Xth Edn. DLS.

[iii] E.g ailments can be caused by substantial amount of red prana in the ajna and throat chakras. P. 29, Advanced Pranic Healing, Master Choa Kok Sui, World Pranic Healing Foundation, India.

[iv] Kundalini Yoga, 10th Edn, Swami Sivananda, DLS.

[v] P. 22-3, The Ancient Science and Art of Pranic Healing, Master Choa Kok Sui, Yoga Vidya Pranic Healing Series.

[vi] For the Chinese, navel transforms essence, or jing, into qi energy. And Qi is frequently translated as “natural energy”, “life force”, or “energy flow”. Qi is the central underlying principle in traditional Chinese medicine and martial arts. Qigong http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chakra

[viii] According to many traditions, including Kundalini Yoga, the third chakra is the actual place of awakening the kundalini energy. http://www.spiritvoyage.com/blog/index.php/kundalini-yoga-and-the-chakras-manipura-navel-chakra/

[ix] the identification with ego and the quest for power, which is the concern of the third chakra: manipura.

This force can manifest itself as the quest for worldly success through the acquisition of wealth or fame, or by trying to control others or the environment. http://www.jivamuktiyoga.com/teachings/focus-of-the-month/p/chakras-0

[x] “The Vedas form the sound-manifestation of Ishvara. That sound has four divisions,—Para which finds manifestation only in Prana, Pasyanti which finds manifestation in the mind, Madhyama which finds manifestation in the Indriyas, and Vaikhari which finds manifestation in articulate expression. … The seat of Pasyanti is the navel or the Manipura Chakra. Yogins who have subtle inner vision can experience the Pasyanti state of a word which has colour and form, which is common for all languages and which has the vibrating homogeneity of sound.” Kundalini Yoga, Xth Edn., Swami Sivananda, DLS.

[xi] P. 41, Secret of the Vedas, Sri Aurobindo.

[xii] A woman named Pulomā was betrothed to a demon; Bhrigu, seeing her beauty, married her according to Vedic rites, and carried her off secretly. The demon, by the aid of Agni, discovered the bride’s hiding-place, and took her away to his home. For rendering the demon this assistance, Bhrigu, cursing Agni, said, “From this day, you shall eat everything.” Agni asked Bhrigu why he had cursed him, seeing that by speaking the truth he had simply done his duty; and reminded him that “when a person is asked a question, and intentionally speaks what is false, he, with seven preceding and seven succeeding generations, is cast into hell; and that he who withholds information is equally guilty.” He goes on to say, “I, too, can curse, but respecting Brāhmans restrain my anger. I am really the mouth of the gods and ancestors. When ghī is offered to them, they partake of it through me as their mouth; how then can I be said to eat everything?” Bhrigu hearing this consented to modify his curse, by saying that, “as the Sun by his light and heat purifies all nature, so Agni should purify all that passed through him.” http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/hmvp/hmvp38.htm

[xiv] In order to worship the lord one should wash his head, rinse his mouth, control his speech and should sit in the posture of a Swastik or in Padmasana with his face directed towards the east. Then he should meditate in the middle of his navel and purify all the impurities of his body. While worshipping Lord Vishnu it is absolutely necessary that he burns down all impurities that are present in his body. http://www.indianetzone.com/45/vishnu_worship.htm

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