Agni in Ayurveda – 1


[ As I described in this ( Prana – ultimate medicine ) note that , if we have control over प्राणमय कोश, and not attachment with gross body (अन्नमय कोष) , it is not difficult to manage disease-free life as प्राण is the ultimate भेषज (medicine). Since it is not possible without practice and sadhana, we must try to understand अन्नमय sharir. Well-being of अन्नमय कोष depends upon digestion process. GUT is the center for sthul/gross body. For that, understanding fire is important. As I learn and realize, I will share notes on fire in this series of notes. ]

Fire (external) reflects fire (internal)
Fire (external) reflects fire (internal)

In Ayurved, Agni is one of the important factors which is required to be examined before initiating the treatment of a patient. The role of agni in the animal body is very much emphasized in Ayurved. It is stated that all internal diseases are caused by the vitiation of this agni and this is the pivot round which the remaining factors responsible for the maintenance of health and causation of diseases as well as decay revolve.

In Ayurved, human body is considered as a replica of the universe; whatever is available in the universe they are all represented in the human body, may be in a modified form. The physical agni (fire) is directly linked up with the biological agni inside the human body.

It is, impossible to explain or comprehend the biological phenomena described in Ayurveda without having a good background of the material objects enunciated in these ancient philosophical works. In fact a rational explanation of various aspects of agni can better be provided if its relation with physical agni is elucidated.

Agni in Ayurveda is described as pitta of the system [1]. Since Agni is described in terms of pitta, it is important to know, what does pitta mean?

पित्त is derived from the root तप. ‘तप संतापे’ धातु से कृदन्त विहित प्रत्यय द्वारा ‘तपति इति पित्तं’. The one that generates heat. The one that burns. This term has three meanings associated with it.

  1. तप संदाहे – Burning of nutrition consumed
  2. तप ऐश्वर्ये – a substance which endows auspiciousness
  3. तप संतापे – Generation of heat

Since Pitta performs fire life actions, it is described as Agni in Ayurveda. Some of the functions associated with Pitta are: Splitting food, burning, combustion, oxidation, heat production, conversion. In short, Pitta digest the food and transform it into various active body tissues.

There is a saying in Ayurveda that a person is as old as his or her agni. Krushn, Bhishma and Arjun at battleground, are shining examples of powerful Agni.

Charaka Samhita describes:

“The span of life, health, immunity, energy, metabolism, complexion, strength, enthusiasm, luster, and the vital breath are all dependent on agni (bodily fire). One lives a long healthy life if it is functioning properly, becomes sick if it is deranged, or dies if this fire is extinguished. Proper nourishment of the body, dhatus, ojas, etc., depends upon the proper functioning of agni in digestion.

“The five types of agni, corresponding to ether, air, fire, water, and earth, digest the respective components of the food.… In this way, balanced agni cooks the appropriately chosen and timely consumed food, and leads to promotion of health.…

“Agni is necessary for the normal process of digestion, and the subtle energy of agni transforms the lifeless molecules of food, water, and air into the consciousness of the cell.”

Start your day by worshiping eternal fire. Remember and re-iterate your worship through-out the day. Popular word for this worship is Sandhya.

Fire is the reason of existence
Fire is the reason of existence

More in second part.

[1] मरीचिरुवाच अग्निरेव शरीरे पित्तान्तर्गतः कुपिताकुपितः शुभाशुभानि करोति – चसं-१,१२.११

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