Wisdom of Five fires (Panchagni Vidya) is a part of Chandogya Upanishad and it appears in Fifth chapter of the Upanishad. This Upanishad directly deals with the true nature of Brahman, the Supreme Self.
The first chapter starts and deals with the meditation on OM”Udgitha Vidya” The word Vidya in Panchagni Vidya is to be understood as Meditation and does not mean knowledge.The Celestial Region, the Atmosphere, the Earth, Man and Womanare the five stages of the Fire which becomes the object of meditation known as the Panchagni Vidya.
The Belief is that the five fires are given the five liquid oblations of
- Faith to Heaven: Soma Raja is generated
- Soma to Rain God: Rain is generated
- Rains to Earth: Food is generated
- Food to Man: Sperm is generated
- Seminal fluid to Woman: New born emanated.
This particular Upanishad starts with a story: Svetaketu was son of sage Uddalaka also known as Gautama who was well educated and confident of his knowledge. There was a noble, highly learned king of Panchal, during the late Vedic period named PravahanaJaivali. Svetaketu went to his court for sharing his knowledge. The moment Svetaketu arrived at the court, the king received him with due respect and offered him requisite hospitality, being a Brahmin boy and well versed with Vedas and all branches of learning. The king asked the boy, ” Are you well educated? Have you studied? Is your education complete? Has your father instructed you?”
The boy replied. “Yes, my education is complete and I am well-read.” Then the King asked some questions. ” Naturally, you are a well informed and able to answer my questions. You are proficient in every branch of learning.” The boy affirmed and the King asked the following five questions.
“Do you know where people go after they depart from this world? When people die, where do they go? Do you know the answer to this question, my dear boy?”
The boy replied, “I do not know. I am unable to answer.”
The king then asked, “Do you know wherefrom people come when they are reborn into this world?” The boy said, ” No, I do not know answer of this also”.
The third question posed was ” Have you any idea of the paths along which the Souls ascends, the paths being known as Devayana and Pitrayana? Do you know the difference between these two paths? Why is one distinct from the other?” The boy said, ” I do not know the answer to this question also.”
The fourth “Why is it that the yonder world is not filled with people and overflowing? Always, the world is able to contain people and it is never flooded with them. What is the reason for this?” The boy said, ” This also I do not know.”
And finally, the fifth question being” Do you know what are the five oblations that are offered and how the fifth oblation as liquid becomes a human being?”
“The boy said, this too I do not know”
Then the King said, ” Why did you say that you are well read and well instructed? King said ” How is it possible that you are not able to answer even these questions. What made you think that you are well educated. What is that your father has taught and you are not able to answer these?” Listening this from the King, boy realized that his education was incomplete and his pride vanished. The boy realized for the first time that it was his wrong idea that he knew everything. Feeling disgraced, he returned home and took his father to task for not teaching this Vidya which could have helped him in answering the questions put by the king. But Sage Gautama himself was unaware of the answers.
Therefore sage Gautama went to the king Pravahana to learn the Vidya. King received with due respect and offered him many gifts. But the sage Gautama refused to accept gifts since he was interested only to be enlightened on the discourse which King mentioned to the boy Svetaketu. King then Commanded him, ” Stay for a long time.” Then King said, O Gautama, before you, this Vidya was only contained within the Kshatriyas but now, I share it with you”.
The King then imparted the following knowledge to the Brahmanas which came to be known as Panchagni-Vidya where the King explained the five fires:
- The First fire is Swargaloka (Heaven): The Sun is the fuel (sacrificial stick) of this Fire. The rays of the Sun are the smoke, while the day is the flame. The moon is the ember. The stars are the sparks of this fire. When Agnihotra is performed, the jivas become Soma Raja(moon) and enter Swargaloka.
- The Second fire is Parjanya.The God of rain is the sacrificial fire; air is its fuel; the cloud is the smoke. Lightning is the flame. The Thunderbolt is the charcoal. The roars of the fire are the sparks. Soma Raja (Jiva) is the oblation in this fire.
- The Third fire is the Earth. For this fire, the year is the sacrificial fire. Akasha (sky) is the smoke. The night is the flame. The directions are the live charcoals. The directions are the sparks. The oblation in this case is rain. When the rains reach the earth, food is grown.
- The fourth is man himself. His speech is the sacrificial fire. His prana is smoke. His tongue is the flame. The eyes are the live charcoals, and his ears are the sparks. Here the oblation is food. From that food the seed of man is born.
- The fifth fire is Woman. The interconnection between man and woman is the live charcoal. The small pleasures are the sparks. The oblation is the seed of man and from this does a new-born emanate.
The Jiva which has ascended to the Heavenly world by the virtue of good deeds descends on the exhaustion of that merit to the earth to take up another life, from heaven in the form of rains. There in the earth, the self enters a food grain growing on a plant and then enters the blood of the male who consumes that food grain and that turns into sperm. Finally, when the seminal fluid enters the female womb upon coitus, the Jiva also enters the womb along with it. In the womb it gets embodied.
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