Last month on our Winter Solstice retreat we embraced an ancient Tantric yoga practice, a sacred fire ceremony, called a havan.
Havan is a fire ritual also which has its origins in Indian Vedic culture dating back over 4500 years. It is also called agnihotra, homa therapy or yagyopathy and these terms tend to be used interchangeably. Multiple healing therapies are involved. All natural ingredients are used in havan which have Ayurvedic healing properties. Mantra’s are chanted and offered to the fire which intensifies the effect of the mantra.
Havans are not mere rituals, they are a means of purification and have a powerful, transformative and healing effect on oneself, others and the environment. In a havan all aspects of manifest creation are used which is represented by a combination of five basic elements — prithvi (earth), jal (water), agni (fire), vayu (air) and akash (ether). Of all these elements, agni, fire, occupies a special place. While it is possible to pollute all the other elements, agni cannot be polluted. Rather it is a medium of purification and transformation of all the other elements.
"The act of offering is called ahuti or oblation. With each offering 'Swaha' (I offer) is said. All ritual offerings into the sacred fire are offered with this mantra; sva means 'oneself' and ha means 'to offer'. The implication is the offering of oneself for the sake of others; the oblations are meant as substitutes for oneself. One is reborn through the act of sacrifice, the old being is burnt up and a new, divine being emerges, consecrated to altruism. Thus yajna is truly a transforming rite of passage ritual." - The Ancient Sacred Fire of Yajna by Swami Muktananda Saraswati (Australia)
"Various symbols and actions are used to redirect our senses and heighten our sattwic emotions. The fire represents God or truth. The sacrificial food, the samagri (mixture of seeds, plants, resins, grains, etc.) is offered into the fire. The mixture represents our worldly samskaras such as attachment, greed, violence, etc. that bind us to our lower nature and trap us in egocentric thoughts and desires. We offer the seeds of all future actions into this fire of self-knowledge to be completely consumed. Symbolically we are offering our very lives into the fire of purification and sacrifice. While a specific number of people will actually offer the samagri, each of us can participate equally in the ritual by the degree of our sankalpa, awareness and surrender.
The offerings are substances that sustain life and always the best quality available is offered. Many of the items are natural antiseptics and aromatics. As they burn, the subsequent vapours pervade the atmosphere, destroying pollutants and purifying the environment for many kilometres around. The vibrations of the mantras enhance the beneficial effect of these vapours. This ritual not only benefits the external environment, the participants of yajna also benefit as purification takes place in each individual's internal environment as the vapours and mantras permeate the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual entity." - The Ancient Sacred Fire of Yajna by Swami Muktananda Saraswati (Australia)
Why perform Havan?
"A havan is performed for internal growth, purity, health, long life and purifying the surroundings. It is also conducted to express and ignite love and respect towards all natural assets, to be in nature’s surrender, to understand ones thoughts and feelings and above all to achieve and evolve a psychic state, which only thinks of the welfare of others, to expand ones thought to make it universal. All these are possible by consistently performing havan. To the ones we love the most we offer the best. Hence through the process of havan we learn to beautify our whole being, offer it to the source of our being, and surrender to it. This is the ultimate prayer." - Meena Om
"Medicines and herbs are vaporized by offering them as oblation in fire and they enter the human body in gaseous form through nose, lungs and pore of skin. It is easiest, less risky method of intake of medicine and it makes sure that it reaches every cell of the body." - Treatment by Yagyopathy (Yagya Vigyan) - Nikhil Kalp Kuteer