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Panchagni Vidya – Meditation on Five Fires in Hinduism

The aim of Panchagni Vidya, meditation on five fires in Hinduism, is to develop intense detachment to worldly life and turn ones’ attention towards moksha or liberation. Panchagni Vidya is mentioned in the Chandogya Upanishad chapter V. It was taught by King Pravahana, son of Jiwala, to his student Svetaketu.

Symbolically, Panchagni Vidya tells an individual the difficulties in the journey of life. So when a seeker gets a human form, the seeker should use it to escape from the cycle of birth and death.

The five fires (Agni) in the Panchagni Vidya are:
  • Heaven
  • Rain god
  • Earth
  • Male
  • Female
As per Hindu religious teachings, detachment is one of the effective means to liberation – freedom from suffering and misery.

To achieve bliss on earth one needs to constantly think of the pains and perils of birth in a body in the world.

Panchagni Vidya teaches in depth the misery that is caused during the time of birth and death. The meditation of the five fires induces in a seeker the spirit of dispassion.

The belief is that the five fires are given the five liquid oblations of
  • Faith to heaven
  • Soma to rain god
  • Rains to earth
  • Food to man
  • Seminal fluid to woman

At the fifth oblation into the womb of the female, the self gets the body.

An atma 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 that turns into sperm. Lastly, when the seminal fluid enters the female womb upon coitus, the atma also enters the womb along with it. In the womb it gets embodied.

All this shows how hard and painful is the journey of the being to the womb, particularly when the grains are harvested, dried, pounded, boiled, eaten, crushed by the teeth, mixed with digestive fluids, burnt up by the digestive fire – to finally enter the distressing sojourn in the mother’s womb for nine months.

Notes taken from - Encyclopedia of Hinduism – Volume VIII – IHRF – ( page no 12 -13)