During the last week that I was there, I was honoured to be part of the Laxmi Narayan Aradhana, which was a tribute to Sri Swamiji’s (Swami Satyananda’s) Panchagni sadhana. Panchagni is a sadhana of endurance, of focus, of purification, and of Grace in which one sits surrounded by 4 external fires, with the 5th being the hot sun above, and temperatures often reaching 100 degrees Celsius!
During one satsang, Swami Satsangi (Swami Satyasangananda) told us how Sri Swamiji used to say that we are all doing Panchagni, that we are all slowly burning up in the 5 internal fires of kama or desire, krodha or anger, lobha or greed, moha or attachment and mada or intoxication with pride. She explained that panchagni sadhana is done by a Paramahansa (someone who is no longer bound by the reality of dualism, and who has control of the elements - so please do not attempt this yourself as it can be potentially fatal for one who is unprepared) to purify these 5 internal fires completely and permanently, thus resulting in a permanent state of Atmabhava, the experience of oneness with everything.
These 5 frequencies of affliction are inside us all, and that is the key word here. Inside. If we don’t identify with one of them, say, anger for example (or if it has at least been purified enough not to be a habitual response), then no matter what comes at us in life, it cannot be the root of our response. It takes a healthy dose of courage to see when these 5 traits are calling the shots on our reality but, with dedication and persistence, when the noose of habitual responses is finally loosened, we evolve into a functional perspective steeped in awareness, clarity, and swadhayaya - self enquiry, which to me are the corner stones of true freedom.
Later in the same series of satsangs, Swami Satsangi uttered a sentence that I found so multi-layered that it is still reverberating in my being today. She said that this year it was Rikhia's sankalpa, or resolve, and our own duty, to be happy. She didn’t say enlightened, she didn’t say selfless, she didn’t say compassionate, she said happy.
My western mind at once dismissed it, “you can’t just ‘be happy.'" “That's a lovely sentiment,” my mind offered, “of course you can be happy, you live in Rikhia!” But as I sat with this, and all the other things she was talking about, I realized that she was right. It is our duty to be happy. We are responsible for our own 5 fires, and accountable to do the work to purify their hold on our reality. No matter what the outside world is dealing us, happiness is a choice. It is not the result of everything on the outside being ok, it is the fruit of having the right perspective on life from the inside. Happiness is an act of inner strength and the result of purification, since happiness is who we are, and not what we feel. Consider all the tools, techniques, examples shown by the masters guiding our lineage, blessings of all the aradhanas that we have born witness to and been a part of. It becomes clear. YES, we most certainly do have a duty to harness all the blessings and experiences in order to spread that love around by being happy. Genuinely happy.
Now, it's not that we won't experience hardship, challenge, sadness, nor upsetting events. We may. But when our happiness is not dependant upon the outside world, there is a space, an expansion inside our consciousness that allows us to be present with our reality in the current moment, and to then choose to be happy at the same time. It is not that we suppress or negate the things that trouble us. This happiness does not limit the pallet of our emotional experience; rather, it is a frequency, a perspective of awareness that can simultaneously experience the ups and downs of the duality of this external realm, while not becoming disturbed at the deepest level of our inner joy, of our inner happiness.
So, after sitting with this mandate for a week or so, while I appreciate Swami Satsangi's words that as sadhakas it is our duty to be happy this year, I believe that what she was actually saying is that it's time for us to take responsibility and be accountable for the 5 fires burning inside of us, because those fires deplete our ability to hold a space of inner happiness while moving through this dualistic world. We need to step up our commitment to Self, become stronger in our resolve to know thyself, have the courage to face our inner fires, not reject them, and then cultivate the opposite of them. When so many of our impulses are to buy into greed, hold onto attachments, placate our desires and unleash our anger, may we instead strive to cultivate and express the ability to choose different, to choose the opposite; to loosen the noose and experience our innate state of happiness.
In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” You cannot drive out anger with anger, you must cultivate acceptance; you cannot irradicate greed with greed, we must learn to let go, to share, and to give; we cannot neutralize pride with more pride, we must be the example of humility.
So, as we step into this beautiful February of 2019, may you find some time, no, may you make the time to explore your 5 fires, to cultivate your positive traits, and to be unwaveringly Happy.
Om and Prem,
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