Tantrik Homa Western Transmissions: Fire Notes from The Secret Shrine

Rig Veda
HYMN I. Agni.
1 I Laud Agni, the chosen Priest, God, minister of sacrifice,
The hotar, lavishest of wealth.

2 Worthy is Agni to be praised by living as by ancient seers.
He shall bring, hitherward the Gods.

3 Through Agni man obtaineth wealth, yea, plenty waxing day by day,
Most rich in heroes, glorious.

4 Agni, the perfect sacrifice which thou encompassest about
Verily goeth to the Gods.

5 May Agni, sapient-minded Priest, truthful, most gloriously great,
The God, come hither with the Gods.

6 Whatever blessing, Agni, thou wilt grant unto thy worshipper,
That, Angiras, is indeed thy truth.

7 To thee, dispeller of the night, O Agni, day by day with prayer
Bringing thee reverence, we come

8 Ruler of sacrifices, guard of Law eternal, radiant One,
Increasing in thine own abode.

9 Be to us easy of approach, even as a father to his son:
Agni, be with us for our weal.

Sankhaayanabrahmana (2,8):
“This fire offers itself in the rising sun. Yonder sun when it sets, offers itself in the fire at night. The night offers itself in the day, the day in the night. The exhalation offers itself in the inhalation, the inhalation in the exhalation.”

Burn Everything
We are students of the alchemical path searching for and creating spiritual gold. Alchemical and natural gold are purified and tested in fire. Fire burns away all the dross, fire instigates all the distillations, the combustion that liberates the essence of the holy herbs. The assay of precious metals in the fire is final, absolute and honest. The fire is a burning, eating conflagration, consuming, relentless in appetite. The spiritual fire blazes to burn away all karmic stains, all attachments, all entanglements, all the binding narratives and conditionings that infect the singularity of focus of thought, word and action.  The supernova of internal light scorches limiting and entrapping desires, ignites the energetic fields and recreates the solar and lunar discs of the inner universe in the fractal procreative process of the deepest inner alchemy. The health and training engage the kinetic energy, spiral the crucible on the potters wheel, baked and fired in the blazing kiln of life. The operations commence with the friction and spark, the flint and steel of mind and body uniting and jumping realms in the spark of ether and earth. Too hot and furious, the fire can flash and become destructive and out of control. Too little and it can flicker and go out. The final sacrifice, the final transmutation is of the disillusioned goblin of lower ego, the neurotic binding wrong views and poison notions that twist and distort, manifested in a dark psycho-spiritual poison coursing through the systems. The complete calcination of the toxic poisons that cling and permeate, over and over again in the fire weakens the bonds of matter (mater, or mother) birthing the Elemental Son/Sun of the fully Realized Self. The gold knows no fear in the assayer’s eye, and the blazing energy needed to manifest such a level of attainment in this modern world must burn hot enough to persist in a path born of a time and space wherever everything is sacred to land where almost nothing is. The philosophical salts, the purified bhasmas, the therapeutic metals are killed and reborn in the fire relentlessly, the cycles of incarnation consigned to the ether in cremation, until the purity of uncompromisable essence remains, unchanged and impermeable to fire.

Heritage of Fire
Anthropologists note that before fire was mastered through exerting friction or sparks, fire was discovered and passed along from person to person, carefully protected and nurtured in situations where losing the fire would mean catastrophe. This control of fire illuminated the night, allowing a new dimension of activity in darkness, and the symbolism of sharing light and teachings to dispel spiritual darkness remains the most potent metaphor for spiritual wisdom. Fire as a technology for communicating with the subtle, divine realms has a vast and ancient history across the Indo-European world maintaining the symbolic and aesthetic consistency that we seek in finding the essence. As the brilliant scholar on esoteric Asian fire cults Richard K. Payne writes, “The analysis of Indo-European religions suggests that there was a common set of practices related to fire… found in both Roman and Greek ritual praxis, as well as in Indo-Iranian and Vedic cultures. There are several specific continuities between the Greco-Roman use of fire and the tantric… In Rome, the fires for Vesta, goddess of the domestic realm, were kept on a circular hearth. Among the three fires of Vedic practice, the domestic fire (gārhapatiya) is also maintained on a circular hearth. Iranian practice also employed three hearths, the domestic one being circular. And in tantric Buddhist practice, the fire for protection (śāntika) is built on a circular hearth as well. The association between the concept of the domestic and the function of protection is a suggestive, if not perfect, match..”
Payne notes the symbolism goes beyond hearth shapes, into esoteric and microcosmic elements, writing, “In Roman, Vedic, and tantric traditions, fire is conceived as the agency by which offerings are carried from this world to the gods, and are at the same time purified. In the Vedic tradition, fire is also anthropomorphized as Agni. Agni is a multiform deity found both in beneficent forms, such as the cooking fire and ritual fire, and in destructive forms, such as wildfires and the cremation fire—though the latter is also ambivalent as that which first purifies and then carries the deceased to the realm of the ancestors. Similarly in Vedic ritual Agni purifies the offerings made into a fire, and transmits them to the deities. Not only is Agni a deity symbolically key to Vedic rituals employing fire, but he is also to tantric homa as well. In Japan, both the Tendai and Shingon traditions of tantric Buddhism employ the figure of Agni (J. Katen, 火天‎, literally “fire god”). He is most usually the first deity evoked in a sequence of offerings.”
So concise and brilliant is Payne’s analysis, we continue to quote, “Across this range of traditions, the symbolic homologies of fire with a variety of bodily functions are also similar. Thus, fire is likened to sexuality, to digestion, and to breath. Associations specifically between the fire ritual and sexuality themselves constitute a wide symbolic range. In Greek tradition, the hearth of Hestia is considered feminine, while the fire in the hearth is itself masculine. A different pairing of symbolic associations regards the widespread technology of making fire by means of a “fire drill.” This involves a flat board laid on the ground that has a depression into which a vertical stick is placed and rapidly rotated. The friction creates heat that causes fine shavings or grass to catch a flame, which is then fed. In Vedic interpretations, the flat board and the vertical stick are feminine and masculine, respectively. By analogy with the symbolism of sexual intercourse, desire (kāma) is identified with inner heat (tapas), which is itself produced ritually, especially through yogic practices.”
This becomes linked to spiritual understandings of the sexual energy, digestive energy and the breath control and fire keeping practices, from alchemy to inner energetics. Payne continues, “Another analogy is made between the ritual fire and digestion, and indeed one of the forms of Agni is the digestive fire. Just as a person consumes food and digests it, so the ritual fire consumes offerings and transforms them into the food of the gods. Just as digestion has been homologized with fire, so has the breath. One such instance is the transformation of the twice-daily agnihotra ritual into an interior ritual, the prāṇāgnihotra. In the prāṇāgnihotra, which may also be understood as a kind of yogic practice, the breath takes the place of the external ritual. Having become qualified to perform the agnihotra, a brahman is enjoined to perform it twice each day. This continuity of twice-daily performance is then equated with the continuity of the breath.”

Universal Fire, Local Fuel
Each teaching and transmission is contextual in all but the core essence. The contextual facade of essential teachings is the time, persons and places in which this teaching unfolds, taking on local color and customs. This is particularly evident in various lineages, where Vedic Sanskrit Mantras are re-cast into Tibetan or Japanese etc. to the incorporation of new deities, local spirits, traditions, transforming the doctrines into the palatable aesthetics of its new host culture and country. Thus in Japan, Buddha looks Japanese, the mantras and mandalas are largely Japanese (or have Japanese versions) and ritual ingredients are Japanese, but there is the core essences of Vedic Gods and root mantras, as well as the philosophical and spiritual essence of the Tantric sources.

An example of this can be found with a master like Kobo Daishi or Kukai, who did not attempt to bring the Chinese version of an Indian teaching and present it in boldly Chinese or Indian terms, nor did the Chinese apparently teach him an Indian version but rather the Chinese “version” that inevitably must change due to language, customs, dispositions and temperaments. The Chinese had mastered a translation style, Kukai distilled its essence and passed it through the Japanese cultural filter, as did other masters in Tibet or Nepal or wherever else these traditions surfaced. This indicates an exoteric fluidity, a certain creative license in the outward forms of the teachings as well as implications that the heirs to the lineages were not trying to mimic or be identical to the original Indian sources. As such we have undertaken decades of training and initiations in various traditions and have extracted the core essentials, leaving any superfluous cultural residues or facades that have accrued through transmissions. We honor these traditions and their teachers, but it becomes necessary to take the wisdom and knowledge and make it relevant in one’s homeland, time and context while retaining the core link with the most ancient traditions that were common and largely cohesive across the ancient Indo-European world. It takes a certain maturity on the path, a comfortable and thorough knowledge, to transmit esoteric technologies and concepts across cultures in a way that preserves the essence of the original and yet allows it to take new, progressive forms within a new host.

A syncretic approach is an eventuality on most sincere paths, as in pragmatic considerations of a martial art (which is a perfect example as having lineage techniques, energetics and esoteric contexts that are commonly fused into new systems by adept fighters). Therefore this is quite different than a hodgepodge of “a little of this, a little of that” spirituality but rather the retracing and recombining of lost and scattered wisdoms. The masters of old produced treatises of alchemy, medicine, meditation, cosmology. They were masters precisely because they boldly combined and created new systems, innovated and discovered new techniques, and aspired and reached intelligences that communicated secrets. Many Buddhist writers have noted that the banyan tree that sheltered the Buddha often germinates through bird droppings that land in the branches of other trees. The banyan crowds and obscures its host tree through aerial roots, that form massive trunks and limbs. These scholars note the spread of the Buddhist doctrines is very much like the spread of the banyan tree, which is so powerful that it takes root and overwhelms the other tree that sheltered its seedling.
To put it another way, despite caste systems of priests, then gurus, lamas etc., there has always been independent and folk traditions, anarchist ascetics, lay movements, householder and tribal tantrik groups that used all these techniques outside of the orthodox that has always sought to control and mediate access to the power in these practices and techniques. As scholars note there is a “dogmatic, self-congratulatory trend of ‘authoritarian institutionism’ that comes to dominate, restrict and control esoteric practices even after the caste and priest systems diminish in authority.” But the truth is no one “owns” these in any sense, they all derive from a common source.

To quote a manual on modern agnihotra, “Mantras are given in Sanskrit language which was nobody’s mother tongue at any time on Earth. All languages of the world have words coming from Sanskrit. But there is not a single word in Sanskrit that comes from any other earthly language. There are vibrations that exist everywhere. It is only vibrations when you go into it. Where there is vibration there is also sound. When we do these Mantras, the sounds we utter activate these special vibrations that will create certain atmosphere or effects. Then the desired results are realized. These vibrations exist for everything, so anything can be activated, controlled or changed by Mantras. When one utters the Mantra with a pure mind into the Agnihotra pyramid at Agnihotra time, the ash retains that energy and the healing properties of the ash become more powerful.” Agni is fire, which is a Mahabhuta (constitutive substance), one of five that the earliest Vedic thinkers believed to constitute material existence, and that later Vedic thinkers such as Kanada and Kapila expanded widely, namely Akasha (ether, space), Vayu (air), Ap (water), Prithvi (earth) and Agni (fire).

The Linga is also Agni or the Fire which arises from the Kund (Altar) or Yoni (which actually means womb, abode etc.). If we look at the older Yonis, we will find them round and also often square-shaped and layered, reminiscent of the ancient Vedis or Fire-altars of the Vedas. As noted, the Linga is the Agni or Fire in the center of it. The original “Yoni-puja” then was the Vedic Hawan or Agni-Hotra, the offering of substances into the Fire altars and consumed by Agni, the Fire-principle, representing also biologically in the material sense, the female reproductive system, which is Pitta or Agni in nature.  Many suggest these are only symbolic, but surely in the Tantrik setting there is the undeniable hypersexual imagery, unabashed and unashamed to combine and use the vital flowing bliss of sexual fire, coupled or in orgiastic groups of various combinations, to fuel a spiritual fire that burned away attachments, tensions, the snares of unknown fantasy and the energetic stress of unrequited impulses suppressed over generations. When these energies are combined, like the diverse ingredients in the crucible, and are transmuted to spiritual intents, they invoke an ancient, creative power so intense and real that we have been trained to fear and repress it down to a psychological level of disturbance.  It is this sexual eros, the madness of crowds, that makes the masses exploitable and manipulated in the titillations of extremes of sex and violence.

Fire God
The etymology of the term Agni has much to teach. Some derive it from agnir, which means “leader, guide, going in front,” based on the Vedic premise that fire leads and is the chaplain of the gods. He is the divine priest, who connects and brings the gods and men together, the first among all gods whose presence can be felt and who attends a ceremony, the first among all priests around whom other priests gather, he is the one who leads and guides all men.  It is also derived from agri, the root of which means “first,” referring to “that first in the universe to arise” or “fire” according to Shatapatha Brahmana. Indo-European origin myths commonly feature a bird, or bird-like being, that carries or brings fire from the gods to mankind. This feathered messenger brings an elixir of immortality from heaven to earth, in traditions associated with the Hamsa goose in India and the feathered Immortals of China. In either case, the bird returns everyday with sacrificial offerings for the gods, but sometimes the bird hides or disappears without trace. “Agni is molded in similar mythical themes, in some hymns with the phrase the “heavenly bird that flies.” The Vedic creation myths say the universe began with nothing, neither night nor day existed, only the God Prajapati (also referred to as Brahman).  Agni originated from the forehead of Prajapati and with the creation of Agni came light, and with that was created day and night. Agni, states these Samhitas, is the same as the Brahman, the truth, the eye of the manifested universe, and thus the fire is a microcosmic aspect of the divine energy.
Agni can be the digestion, the spiritual and the sexual fire and breath, and all  simultaneously as the integrated inner flame. Agni has many sexual connotations in its folklore. The sexual imagery of yoni and agni fire can not be denied, such as is found in the Upanishads, “Her lap is a sacrificial altar; her hairs, the sacrificial grass; her skin, the soma-press. The two labia of the vulva are the fire in the middle. Verily, indeed, as great as is the world of him who sacrifices with the Vâjapeya (‘Strength-libation’) sacrifice, so great is the world of him who practises sexual intercourse, knowing this; he turns the good deeds of women to himself. But he who practises sexual intercourse without knowing this-women turn his good deeds unto themselves.” Agni’s consort/wife is Svaha, a term found at the end of many mantras, often translated as “so be it” but literally means “well said.” This no doubt is derived from the relationship of this term in the fire rites as far back as the Rig Veda, where the Svaha is the personification of the ritual fire oblation. Although called a minor Goddess, Svaha is one of the many divine mothers of Kartikeya. She is considered to be a daughter of Daksha and she presides over burnt offerings. Her body is said to consist of the four Vedas and her six limbs are the six Angas of the Vedas. It is said that the gods to whom offerings are being made through yagna refuse the offerings unless the word ‘svaha’ is uttered during the sacrifice, which explains its use at the end of many mantras as being “accepted.”
In the Mahabharata and many other stories, Agni is constantly assuming various forms to seduce women. Svaha assumed the forms of the wives of the Seven Rishis (Saptarshis) after Agni retired in penance for lusting after their wives. She assumed all their wives forms (but one) and the two engaged in erotic play in the forest.  Many other instances connect Agni with a burning lust and sexuality, as in some stories “by his boon granted them (women) sexual liberty, so that the women of that town always roam about at will, each unbound to a particular husband.”  It is because of the bliss and ascetic practices all ignite (ignis being a Latin cognate of agni for starting fire) two types of this inner fire.  One is tapas and the other is kama – the heat of desire [the Vedic god Agni is often personified as Kama. The many stories of the folklore of Shiva as celibate ascetic and then amorous lover engaged in seducing the Rishis wives in orgies in the Pine Forest or Mohini etc. demonstrate the accumulation of tapas that can be used to manifest creative energies once linked with sexual energy. Shiva is the embodiment of both these energies, which are only paradoxical to limited and prejudiced understandings and conditions of sex, negative disgust at the body or sexual activities. They can also attempt to cast these practices as “right hand” and only imaginary or visionary forms.
There is the famous example of when Shiva and Parvati dallied in the erotic bliss for a little too long, the gods sent Agni in the form of a turtledove, cooing in noises that mimic sexual arousal. This noise distracted Shiva, causing him to ejaculate his semen, which is mercury, all over Agni, nearly burning the bird to a crisp. Agni quenched the burning sperm in the Ganges river, which spit the seed into a river bed of beads. This baby was suckled by the Krittikas (Pleiades) until Mahadev scooped him up and gave him to Parvati and this is the birth of Lord Murugan. (Many gurus and swamis say that this event of the Ganges spitting the sperm went clear to the North, which may well be the home of the Vedas. They swear that Skandha-navia or Scandanavia is named for this birthplace. It is interesting to note that many Vedic scholars propose a Northern, Aryan origin of the Vedas, while the chief source of the Norse myths, Snorri Sturluson thought the Nordic Aesir tribe of gods came from Asia. Asgard, he conjectures, is the home of the Æsir (singular Ás) in As-ia, making an etymological connection between the three “As-“; that is, the Æsir were “men of Asia,” not gods, who moved from Asia to the north and some of which intermarried with the peoples already there. While some think this is an error or fanciful, modern studies of migrations of ancient Indo-Europeans corroborates this.)
The names of the Gods and elementals are frequencies of self-organizing intelligences, the must subtle aspects of consciousness understood in the ancient world as the logos, the word or sound made flesh or material. Creation is literally spoken into existence, mastering mantras of these fire entities partakes of that creative sonic energy. These mantras are further natural sounds in nature that are amplified and articulated and intuited by the deepest seers and visionaries who attained the focus and clarity to understand and teach others. These teachings are provisional, accelerating ripening and generating momentum but they must not become crutches, placebos and traps based on “expert testimony” and attempting anachronistic lifestyles in the Kali Yuga without what moderns might call role-playing. This involves a certain amount of genuine ordeals and danger in training to become authentic and cross the thresholds of imposed limitations. Fire is both dangerous and protective, a potential danger and tool, just as the inner fire of passions and energy. The safety of retreat centers, tour groups to temples, meditation spas, and packs of tourists on sacred mountains are all fine and good for some. But the authentic path is often solitary and precarious tests of Will and energy. The crushing eradication of tradition of post-modernism in the West necessitates an absolute reconstruction and orientation to navigate life and step outside of the repressive flow of time and passive experience. The magical, Tantrik and erotic energies are all possible tools to create and manifest a meaningful life lived in beauty and liberation.
These can happen from sheer necessity since in Japan there was no dairy to speak of, sesame oil was used to replace ghee and wood dried cow dung, as in Tibet it was products of the yak instead of the cow. These adaptions are largely glossed over by scholars, but again they are key to those seeking an authenticity in practice and yet who are limited in securing all the complicated ritual implements. In fact, it can be said that the earliest fire rituals were very simple and only became complex in intentional occultation and obscuring, putting these techniques far outside the ability of any but the priest class to perform. Homa itself is a refinement of Vedic fire rites and is an abbreviated form of yajna, from the root yuj- to unite The refinement and adaptations of different groups of the fire rituals known as homa merit a lengthy study from its various incarnations in Tantric and Buddhist sources back to the earliest Vedic examples.

Eternal Flames
Keeping the fire, the hearth is a fundamental aspect of humanity, deep in our psychology from preserving and maintaining the fire that was difficult to obtain until fire was mastered. As different herbs and woods were burnt in caves or small domiciles, the psychoactive or even toxic properties would be noticed; if sufficient quantities were burned, and then ingested, the visionary nature of fire would become realized in the practitioner through this sacrament. It is likely that burning of dried plants for warmth and light played a major part in primitive pharmacology in noting the psychoactive, medicinal and cleansing effect of certain plants. For instance, the herbage of Peganum harmala was used as a firewood in certain times of need, and it is consumed for entheogenic, ritual, as well as medicinal purposes, and is used both as fumigant and incense among other things (dye, talismans, oil). The dance of the flame could portend auspicious times or trouble, in the proto-divinations that evolved into pyromancy and skrying by flames.
But the simple warmth and light alone would have dramatic psychological effects that are encoded in our DNA and folk soul. Anthropologists from the University of Alabama believe that modern day humans’ relaxing response to fire is evolutionary and have demonstrated that sitting in front of fire, staring at flames has been proven to lower blood pressure. The same study showed we also become calmer and more sociable and they believe it is an evolutionary function that was a major part of the life of prehistoric people would have gathered around campfires to keep warm and make friends, which would have given them a survival advantage. Fire kept away wild animals, provided warmth, light, cooked food, and became the way to communicate through the smoke, the prayers and spells to the subtle realms and heavens. Fire seems to exist beyond this dimension, its elemental power is one of the five components of existence. It becomes the perfect metaphor for power in potential blessing and curse, a tool both dangerous and vital. It feeds and consumes and demands to be fed, linking it with the very notion of sacrifice. Offering in the harvests, the herbs for medicine, the local sacred magical plants and vital components of life like ghee or oil thus gives a portion to the divine. It is thus a gesture of thanks and a sacrifice of one’s portion, even just symbolically.
One of the perfect examples of the homa rites adapted and refined to a unique group’s specific ritual purposes is found in the Shugendo mountain sects of Japan. Those that are so concerned with a pure lineage and lambast syncreticism in esoterics have no historical understanding of these transmissions, and the adaptations, appropriations, political and cultural aspects involved in these occult traditions. There were even the “Indo-Greeks” and Menander I, the Greek patron of Buddhism, dating a century before Christ and the common era. In fact much of the art, iconography, and deity images can be traced back to mutual influences, and even the main shape of a stupa evolves through influences of Hellenistic architecture. We digress into these subjects to demonstrate the fluidity in the ancient world of eclectic, syncretic influences that mutually inspired and influenced from vast time and space. This is a spirit of vibrant spiritual exploration that has been tainted by such notions of cultural purity and cultural appropriation, which are serious issues, but only to those that remain in the superficial forms and facades of the Perennial Tradition. This is a document for practitioners, and not academics or those who stay in the comfortable confines of books and platitudes of ossified and compromised lineages. The fire rites must be extremely adaptable to their present conditions while retaining as many of the core traditional aspects as possible. Ideally one should study the traditional rites of as many fire traditions as possible, immersing oneself in the ancient lore and traditions that stretch back well before priest classes and scriptures were written. One should appreciate the vast folk fire rituals that are in domestic traditions all over Asia to propitiate local energies and resolve energetic conflicts between the family and society.

Sacred space can be an intrinsic quality of a particular place such as an imposing mountain or deep forest that is wild with power. But more often a space becomes sacred through ritual or the deep spiritual events that transpire. The regions of India and surrounding areas partake of both inherently but the shrines and temples are often the sites of some saint’s great efforts in spiritual practices. This supreme effort sanctifies the area. The mountains of Japan would have certainly had indigenous gods and spirits that were part of the folk traditions, but it was the presenting of the Dharmic energies through the Tantric practices of the realized masters like Kukai that transformed them into living Pure Land Mandalas and Power centers of initiation. This is the template for one’s practice, be it in an actual mountain abode or a backyard, deep in a forest or hidden in some tiny secluded area in an urban sprawl. It is a means of presenting and focusing energy in a particular place. The vagabond yogini or yogi can have a portable altar and implements, using the local flora and fauna and foods as the sacrificial offering. Those in the ashrams and domestic situations can establish a permanent location and empower it over time, focusing and deepening the connection with the land, the local energies and the visionary microcosmic ritual purification.
We emphasize that it is part of our tradition to consider the local environment, and the folk soul of the participants in honoring their biological sacred traditions and gods in forging the tribal bonds. This has clear precedents in all religious traditions as they spread into surrounding countries and cultures. We feel it is vitally important to research, acknowledge and find the sacred in one’s own biological traditions and ancestral heritage and incorporate the best of its wisdom into one’s reality. This is essential for deep psychic and spiritual decompartmentalization and assimilation on the highest levels of reconciling all of these aspects of the Self and ancestral energetic signatures and dispositions.

The Japanese mountain cults again stand as exemplary models of such practices, with the perfect balance of their ancestral traditions and shamanism within imported faiths that they saw as superior in may ways in terms of Wisdom. Rather than jettisoning their vast history, they blended it seamlessly in cosmological, philosophical and aesthetic harmony that thrived in a framework of the most refined ascetic and esoteric techniques.  The Shugendo (literally “the path of training and testing” or “the way to spiritual power through discipline) syncreticism and distillation of skillful means over a projected mountain mandala of initiations and physical ordeals is one of the best templates for training. This is a respect for ways and means to health, empowerment and liberation from psycho-spiritual obstacles that transcends lineages, cults, time, place. The fire rites are the central axis point of this spiritual landscape no matter how vast or small in terms of physical topography. The homa fire can even be refined and simplified further to simple lamp meditations.

What Remains
Again the gold does not fear the assayers fire, but the neurotic and psychic grasping of the mind can fear the heat of the blazing siddhi of fiery discernment. The wounded consciousness consoles itself in the illusions, the comforting, infinite kaleidoscope of attractions and distractions, the anesthesia of novelty, the narcotic trance of the spectacle. The comfort of our personal narrative, visions, teachers, experiences, the Gods and Buddhas themselves limit and attempt to define and validate some mark in this fleeting floating dream. So much of the path is forgetting, letting go, going beyond and sacrificing the wicker constructs of self that memory and ego imprison. Romantic notions, nostalgia, the unexpressed frustrations of unfulfilled expectations linger in the energetic definitions of self. The prima mater of alchemy is filthy, toxic, discarded and disregarded by the masses yet known as precious by the wise. The toxic sheaths of conditionings, the confirming notions of the old, the previous and the prior have to be confined to the mind’s furnace of purging purifications. The gold will remain, the eternal, incorruptible, untarnishing wisdom under the rust and red dust of generations and humanity. These have been polished up to a degree and brought to the west, and the glossy spas have some solace to offer, but they are ultimately rest stops, an attempt to compromise the radical Siddha teachings to comfortable, safe and unchallenging platitudes of a theological Catholicism without the guilt, inquisition and apparent scandals. The fire of the world, the incendiary and volatile simmering of the world age’s final ignition point shines the light on the hell of self-imposed tyrannies and indoctrinations that disempower and smolder the pure spiritual fire of the individual. Bending into the flames, embracing the fire and torching the old idols of self are the liberating consummation of spiritual effort and freedom. What remains is the true Self, the Absolute Lamp and Light of the purified individuated consciousness participating in the divine processes of return, renewal and rebirth by fire.
The fire can leave its residues that are sometimes cast away as the caput mortem by ignorant alchemists and spagyrical herbalists. All can be refined and transmuted in the Art, all serving purposes from the base to the waste, and this is understood in the East, where the sciences of alchemical salts originated. The uses of the ashes from cremation grounds to sacred fires and incense burners constitutes a rite and medicine that has the sworn devotions of millions who attest to their power. The holy ashes are used in medicines, in the yogic bathing of Shiva and his disciples and are known in various names Vibhuti (Sanskrit:  vibhūti), also called Bhasma (ash), Thiruneeru and Vibhooti etc. The sacred ash made of burnt dried wood from Agamic rituals is used by devotees traditionally as three horizontal lines across the forehead and other parts of the body to honor Shiva. Vibhuti smeared across the forehead to the end of both eyebrows is called Tripundra. This empowers with the sacred source of the ash, and the energy of fire as the incineration of attachments and clinging thoughts as well as a layer of protection and to stop dissipation of spiritual energy. At the end of every time cycle the world is reduced to ashes by Lord Shiva, just as the microcosmic holocaust of the cremation ground is a destruction of a unique galaxy and world.

Vibhuthi  has a special meaning in the residual ash of sexual energy (retas), the sublime ash of sexual fluids transmuted through tapas and energetic radiance. The burnt remains of semen, or externally the semen of shiva as mercury, can be sublimated in various ways to convert from vigor (tejas) to brilliance (ojas).

True energetic or Tantric sex, and in Daoist sexual arts, rides the edge of this orgasmic energy (or the celibate’s asceticism) that initiates a conflagration of reactions in the body. The mind has to be detached from the body’s passion, able to retain and control the sexual energy while paradoxically increasing its intensity. The actual procedures depend on the wet and dry methods as in external alchemy, either slow and long or fast and intense. The ability to simultaneously participate in the fire in the body while remaining fixed and in control exemplifies the stabilized mind that is trained to be unperturbed in the chaos of existence. Then the mind is but a witness, a master gazing upon the fire of sexual energies expressed, directed and potentiated. The afterglow of the experience can vary in different schools and within certain rites. At times expelled, at times retained, the essences can be used to birth and manifest the intentions in the exoteric seeding of consciousness that is powerful enough to attract life into the material world. Retained and directed upwards it can reverse the dissipations and burst the nadis of knots and tensions, flooding the sexualized healing energy and burning the psychic tangles of pain and trauma. The spine becomes the candle and wick of the hot blue flame of inner consciousness glowing in the inner sanctum of the Mind. Yogic heat is well known with the Tibetan tummo or gtum-mo; Sanskrit: caṇḍālī , the ancient root word of candle. Both techniques are necessary at different times, but they are often taught exclusively except in certain sects and Daoist traditions that escape the dualist morality of right and left hand paths (and prefer to be spiritual equipped with both hands and paths.)

More Fuel for the Fires
The medicinal and spiritual uses of ashes we will save for another, more focused monograph from the use in all aspects of alchemical medicine, yoga and celestial agriculture. We are devoted to the use of ash from agnihotra as well as in the activated charcoal for detoxification as well as the bhasmas of the Siddha and Ayurveda traditions, the calcined bamboo salts of Korean Daoists, and the bio-char we help produce from bamboo. These are sacred and ancient practices of land stewardship, ecological alchemy, and indigeneous technologies that are used to create healthy societies and thriving cultures. The Siddhas discuss at length in ancient manuscripts the connection between soil fertility and health and the blossoming of culture. In fact there is a direct correlation to soil, mineral bioavailability and the worst of modern farming in the suppression and spiritual assault on the world. The chemicals and exploitive practices, which are driving many to cancer and suicide of farmers worldwide are the macrocosmic poison of the toxic aggregations of control and greed, turned into horrors in this world such as the sickness, old age and death that shocked the future Buddha into renunciation. The cancers, poisons and destructions of the world age call for the sacred ash of our own spiritual effort, the burning of all toxic clingings, the alchemical stewardship of producing and transmuting ourselves and sacred space. This is the true path of Shiva in eradicating the toxic build ups of world ages and poisons in the holocaust of divine focus, and the rising from the ashes of pure subtle gold.

There is a brilliant summary of this by renowned scholar of Japanese Homa rites Richard K. Payne in his article Homa: Tantric Fire Ritual (http://religion.oxfordre.com/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780199340378.001.0001/acrefore-9780199340378-e-82?rskey=vzbQ7u&result=2)

For a very good article on bio-char