Earlier in the season, September 13, 2009, The Meditation Center consecrated its new Havan Kund (Sacred Fire Pit). Emilio Bettaglio spearheaded the project with the help of several volunteers who assisted in the construction over the summer months. Dozens of people came together to participate in the consecration ceremony led by Emilio Bettaglio and Swami Ritavan Bharati. Overall, it was a great success! There was much talk about doing several more ceremonies in the future.
However, a very highly respected sage by the name of Swami (self-proclaimed Nitpicky) Veda immediately pointed out some very important customs that were lost during the consecration ceremony! – At least from what he could tell in documentary photos that started to circulate around the global community. Immediately, he recommended that The Meditation Center summon Pandit Hari Shankar Dabral to show the community firsthand how to conduct these sorts of ceremonies in the future.
Pandit Dabral led an extensive satsang around the topic of the Sacred Fire Ceremony. He began by explaining the ways in which these sorts of ritual practices are ingrained and taught to individuals in India, starting from birth - primarily through the observation of parents and elders, as examples, while simultaneously participating in the rituals.
These sorts of rituals are integral to the cultural context from which they originate; therefore it typically isn’t something that is taught primarily through words, but though observation and awareness to details from those who are experienced in the actions.
By bringing the understanding within, there develops an internal philosophical understanding and the desire to question becomes less and less. That being said, Panditji strongly encouraged the community to ask many questions even if they seem stupid or childish, because we all have to start from somewhere. By following some important principals, we begin to experience things differently.
Panditji went on to talk about the importance of integrating the Yamas and Niyamas in our daily practice, particularly the principle of Saucha (Cleanliness). He went into extensive detail about the importance of bathing the body daily and wearing clean clothing (ideally before meditation and participation in ritual activities). Often-times, we spend a great deal of time making ourselves look clean and nice when we go out to a party or want to impress someone etc. but what about the Divine? How would you like to look and feel when you meet Divinity?
He also emphasized the importance of keeping one’s meditation space immaculately clean and pretty at all times – with the idea that a sage could come to visit you, unannounced, at any time. By conducting ourselves in a way that is vigilantly clean and tidy we begin to treat our bodies and our entire lives as a sacred shrine.
This is why we participate in ritual, not to become overly superstitious, to condemn ourselves and/or others as impure, nor to simply act out a dramatic event for our own amusement. We participate in ritual so that we can practice the action of treating something as sacred and precious - so that we can expand that to our lives and take nothing for granted.
Before participating in the sacred fire ceremony, Pandit Dabral recommends that we follow the following procedures with the principal of saucha :
Keep the inside and outside of the kund (fire pit) clean.
1. Always try to evoke the Guru.
2. Try to fast the day of the ceremony within your own capacity.
3. Use pure wood (ideally with an aromatic quality such as wood from a mango tree).
4. Bathe the body and wear clean (preferably sattvic) clothing that covers the arms and legs.
5. Immediately before the ceremony, again wash your hands, face and mouth.
6. Do not go near the kund with shoes (out of respect for Agni (the fire deity) and in attempts to maintain the sanctity of the place).
7. Make all offerings with the right hand because the energy force is different therefore utilizing the right hand creates a certain energy flow and the energy of different elements in the body due to the body alignment.
8. Avoid using the index (pointer finger) when making offerings, offering samaghri (mixture of herbs) etc
9. Sit properly (do not put your feet toward the kund out of respect and reverence for the divine.)
10. Make all offerings gently and offer them in the way that you would like to be offered things (do not trough things sloppily, with anger, excitement or lack of awareness).
11. Begin by evoking the spirit of Agni and paying homage to that which is the path of light and righteousness.
12. Pay homage to Guru. Start with the recitation of the Guru mantra at least 3 times (each time ending with an offering of Ghee)
13. Pay homage to Ganesha (deity of the root charka) to bring us solidity in our practice so that we will not be moved from concentration.
14. Do personal prescribed practice (ityukta, gayatri, mahamrityungaya etc)
15. End again by paying homage to Agni and internalizing the fire and light within.
16. Clean the kund (all debris that is left on the top step is swept into the fire, all of the rest that falls on the second or third tiers are unsuitable for the fire and can be spread in the forest).
“The ritual of worshiping Agni (the Fire Deity) is to evoke and acknowledge that presence within ourselves,” Panditji stated. Agni is the primordial force that brings us to move and act, to burn and to purify our samskaras and all negativity that we carry with us. We participate in these rituals to acknowledge the path of fire and light so that we may shine in this lifetime and become as pure as gold. We begin by evoking and acknowledging the external fire and paying homage to it. But overtime we internalize that experience and worship our own internal fire within our navel center. Then we no longer need the elaborate ritual of the physical fire because we can worship the Havan Kund within ourselves.
These are the tools given to us by the sages. Sometimes we are not able to understand exactly why we should follow these ritual practices, but over time we will see that certain actions create a particular energy field that is conducive to certain things we wish for in our lives.
The Meditation Center is an AHYMSIN affiliated center. Their website is https://www.themeditationcenter.org/jnana/index.php?
Pandit Hari Shankar Dabral is an initiator, a member of the AHYMSIN Adhyatma Samiti, and a center leader in Calgary, Canada. Please see the website