Agni Purusha, Being of The Fire

-8 May, 2020

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श्रद्धाशक्ति तथा भविष्य निर्माण

Creating The Future & The Power of Belief

There are those who are not content being what they are or doing what they are doing. You can make them out quite easily: they stand out with their intensity of being, their restlessness, their quiet defiance of all that is established and accepted. You cannot fit them into neatly labelled categories. They are also not nice people to know. They provoke, they attack. But they are also very humble, and very vulnerable in their humility.  

Very often, their discontent arises not from failure or apprehension of failure but, ironically, from  success. The more they do things well, the more they are acknowledged to be good in their work, the more they grow disenchanted. This is disenchantment that drives them towards higher heights, deeper depths. They do not rest till they have driven themselves to their utmost. You find them in every field: sports, business, art, media, even religion. I call them “beings of the Fire”. 

Many years ago I had met an old mystic in the Himalayas who had told me that the earth survives on spiritual fire, the fire that is at the core of the sun and in the core of our being — he had called it Agni. Without this Agni, he had said, the earth dissipates into cold death and life into cold night. All life and consciousness is the blaze of this Cosmic Fire, the Agni in the soul. Now the time has come, he had told me in grave and intense syllables, for the balance to be tilted, one way or the other: the dark and cold night or the Sacred Blaze, the Fire. 

“And who tilts the balance, Baba?” I had asked in my timorous innocence. 

“You,” he had replied, without hesitation, with force and meaning, “You and those like you who have the courage to seek, the courage to call, the courage to demand from life nothing but the highest!”

“But we are seekers, we don’t know, we don’t even know if what we demand is real..”

“No,” the old mystic had said, “You are beings of the Fire. Agni Purusha. Those like you will keep the Sun alive. Or else, it will be death and darkness!” 

It is this Fire that is at the heart of human existence, the shakti, the force, that animates all life towards more growth, more consciousness, more life. This is the fire of evolution.  It took me many years and much inner labour to even begin to understand the words of that old Himalayan mystic.  But when I did begin to understand, I began to seek out these Agni Purushas, these Beings of the Fire. First, of course, in myself; and then in others whom I’d meet. 

One thing immediately became very clear: that such beings of the Fire are rare. They are like a different species, still very few, and very scarce. Probably like the first mammals must have been in the twilight age of the dinosaurs. It is the mediocre that dominate the world; those Bright and Radiant beings of the Fire retire into anonymity or renounce altogether this dismal world of ours. And they leave it, by sad default, to the mediocre. Generations go to waste, preoccupied with the banal, the inane, while the spirit of the earth rots. 

Someone has to speak for the earth and for her spiritual truth. Now or never. Or else, we will lose our future to the careless and the wanton. Some angel in some imagined heaven will write our epitaph in the Bard’s words: ‘twas a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing

This is the decisive hour. This hour will tilt the balance. The hour of God, as Sri Aurobindo wrote. And what are we — the worthies of earth’s evolution — doing? Those who can act, labour, and create, have offered their souls to the all-pervading god of Money. Their very identity is related to material success and monetary gain. And those who can think, study, contemplate and teach, the philosophers and intellectuals,  are unable to inspire and lead by their philosophies and teachings. Somehow, the Fire is not in their Word. And so the young remain clueless about their own and their world’s futures. And the elders are lost in either nostalgia or cynicism.  

The thinkers only talk, they have mastered that skill — and thank God for that, for at least something is mastered. The doers, the actors and the managers on the world-stage, only rush from one deadline to the next, clueless of what is happening and where they are headed. The doers have no time or patience for the thinkers; the thinkers, cynical to the marrow of their bone, distrust the clueless doer.  And so there is this great divide. The philosopher sits in his spacious armchair and smokes his metaphorical pipe, dreaming of some distant utopia. The doer struts and frets his brief apocalyptic hour on the stage, and then is heard no more!

So, the question: Who shall lead? Or, to be more precise, what shall lead? The mind? But the mind is all confused, full of jargon and statistics, either too cynical to act or too carried away by its own all-consuming self-interest to care. The heart? But the heart is too timid, too hesitant to act decisively and potently: it has grown too old, too sad, too soon to affect anything real at all. In other words, mind and heart are both tottering and ineffectual. It must something else, then.  

And that something else — may it not be the spirit, the soul that our gurus and seers hold as the supreme attainment? The Inner Wisdom of the Zen Master, the indwelling Buddha, the Inmost One of the Vedas? It really doesn’t matter what you call it. What matters is that you believe in it, believe that something like that exists in you, a pure flame of consciousness, an unchanging source of wisdom, compassion and love that is independent of all circumstances and relationships. An unerring will, intention, and judgment that simply knows what is right and just and does not need to struggle with contending and contradictory pulls. 

Believing this will be a first important step. And that, in itself, will be the beginning of the cure of that dreaded malady of cynicism that seems to have gripped everyone across cultures and societies: a crippling inability to believe in anything good or noble. And this is precisely the point where things come apart: for if we cannot believe, we cannot lead, inspire, or affect. The true cause of our collective impotence is this: that we cannot believe. We have become a society of non-believers, of cynics and sceptics; and following the inviolable law of life, we end up actualizing in our personal and collective lives what we hold in our expectations. So we get the worst because we expect the worst! We get the Devil because we cannot believe in Godhead, our religious sentiments notwithstanding. 

So to create meaningful leadership, we must first create belief, faith, hope and confidence in ourselves, in our civilization, our culture, our human future. But this must not be the hope and confidence of mere positive thinking or self-hypnosis. This faith and belief, hope and confidence, must arise from a deeper source within, a deeper and truer consciousness, a surer and more luminous inner knowing and wisdom. In other words, we need to rediscover in ourselves spiritual faith: and spiritual faith does not mean faith in a god dwelling in some high heaven but faith in godhead in humanity: we need to believe that we ourselves are capable of the good, the true, the noble, and the beautiful. 

Reflect on the fact that it is a lot easier to believe in a god dwelling in the high heavens than in a godhead dwelling in ourselves as our highest possibility. Believing in a  heavenly God can happily coexist with not believing in humanity. But to believe in the human, in myself and in you, demands extraordinary effort — the effort of understanding human nature, of accepting blunders and stupidity and still not losing hope, of refusing to surrender to mindless cynicism or heartless despair.

Such effort implies a tremendous vision of our own future. And a tremendous understanding of human nature, a profound feel of human growth and possibility. After all, what does cynicism really mean?  Does it not simply mean that we have not delved deep enough into ourselves? That we have not understood the true significance of human life? That we are only skimming the surface, and believing what we see at the present moment to be all of the truth? It is like looking at an unfinished painting of an artist and dismissing it as bad work just because we do not know how the finished work will look like. At best, impatience; at worst, childish stupidity. 

But to see the emerging whole in the struggling part, to glimpse the dawn in the darkest night or the perfect form in the uncarved stone, to imagine the flower in the closed seed, to feel the torrent in the trickle of a stream: these call for imagination, faith, insight, understanding, patience, humility. And, of course, a new way of seeing, a new kind of perception. 

And this new kind of perception is no mystic mumbo-jumbo: it is a simple and practical way of re-looking at ourselves, our history, our possibility, our dynamically unfolding spiritual reality. It is a pragmatic way of reassessing the human story, the human narrative, of learning to understand deeper patterns, subtler nuances. I call this spiritual seeing: spiritual not in the religious sense at all but in the sense of immediate, direct, essential seeing; seeing without the veils of mental biases and emotional conditionings, social or cultural prejudices, personal or personality-driven blind-spots; seeing that is pure, an intuitive, non-intellectual direct perception of the essence rather than overt detail. 

When you begin to see this way, you begin to notice details that you had never noticed before. Things fall in place like pieces of a cosmic puzzle. Meanings unfold, naturally and effortlessly. A wisdom dawns, a quiet light of understanding fills the hours of your days and nights, the very quality of your everyday life changes, and you begin to catch at least the first and tentative glimpses of the Wonderful in the mundane, the Splendour in the ordinary. 

The sequence is simple: believe in that something in you, the Buddha within, the Wisdom, the Light of your own highest possibility; be attentive to it, and it will grow more and more conscious and concrete in your experience. Once that begins to happen, try to hold it more and more consciously in your everyday life and acts, in your thoughts and feelings.  It isn’t difficult. In fact, it  is much simpler than holding on to the things we usually hold on to, and it is infinitely more liberating. 

Read in Hindi

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