As one of the powerful elements from the spiritual culture of India, the sacred fireplace, called dhuni, is a skillful tool to capture the ordinary mind and lead it toward infinity. It is a natural outer mandala for yogis and yoginis, a complete installation, both for the wanderer and the hermit. In ancient times, it is said, yogis were able to manifest what they wanted from their dhuni. Having realized true reality, the holders of the dhuni were in control of the elements and could manifest anything out of space or make it vanish again into space.
The dhuni’s form symbolizes the yoni, the inner female temple and is regarded as a living deity. An impassioned unity forms by adding wood. When the five elements meet with a directed intention, a deeper connection forms within the holder of the dhuni.
The yoni as the mandala with four walls, elements and representations of virtue, are a natural set up for having a simple life and a place to sit continuously. A perfect site has been created. Together with the understanding that this is the oldest fire in the universe, it can develop into being the center of the world.
It is said that while caring for the dhuni for twelve years without letting the fire extinct, the fire element connects with the inner fire of the planet. After that accomplishment, no matter where in the world, the dhuni holder always sits in the center of the universe.
The practitioner who has taken the sacred fire as path cares for the eternal flame as his or her own child, giving the best food and suitable woods, flowers, oil, incense, edibles, drink. Mantra, music and mudra-gestures are important as representations of the eternal process of change and transformation of all levels of existence. Like the world, a dhuni is always changing, giving birth, sustaining and destroying. With all the elements manifested—space, air, fire, water and earth—the holder of the dhuni has taken seat and is constantly aware of and reminded of the deity, the elements and the symbolic meaning of the attributes. Such a mandala is so easy to maintain, since it is complete, natural and a palace, especially when living off grid.
My Indian teacher Hari Giri taught me how to establish the dhuni site, considering the nature and intent of the rite, and how to choose an auspicious date and time to start. When making the dhuni it is important to consider the intention. The dhuni’s surrounding site is a living palace, and by sitting there day and night, the dhuni rituals correspond well with a daily routine. The yogi cares for the fire as for a little child, waking up the dhuni in the morning around four o’clock by opening the center of ashes, letting the embers shine brightly in the special early morning air, slowly adding new wood and a little breakfast for her in form a clarified butter and incense.
After doing purification yoga such as shower, clean clothes and other aspects of kriya yoga, the day continues with cleaning the dhuni with water, clay and some cow dung. Then follows arranging the ashes, decorating with flowers, rinsing the whole site by sprinkling water and lastly blowing the conch to invoke the deity. Now the place is ready for worship with noble-minded attitude, meditation, mantra recitation and pranayama. When time comes for breakfast, a part is shared with the dhuni together with understanding how to multiply the giving.
So goes the whole day caring, sharing, and shifting the direction of one’s body and eye gaze following the rhythm of the sun, looking to the eastern sun in the morning and saluting the sunset in the west in the evening. In the evening the dhuni is put to bed like a child by cuddling the embers gently with ashes, tugging them in for the night to make sure they are still live the next morning.
Living with fire in such a simple and delightful manner gives much space to just be. Looking into the eternal flames, listening to the endless storytelling from the old wood, which has a lot of life experience and secrets to tell, and finally listening to the timeless sound of the world, when the spinning stops. Caring day and night quickly transforms the rhythm of ordinary reality.
The dhuni ritual, in the many different variations, is an ancient tradition with roots in the ceremonies of the Mahabharata and Ramayana. There is a dhuni in Varanasi that has been burning continuously for four hundred years. During this time its lineage has produced many great beings. Among Buddhist hermits the fireplace is initiated to be the mandala of the five female buddhas. The flames and the heat is Pandara Vasini, the female buddha of the lotus family and consort of Amitabha, the buddha of Infinite Light.
At the inner level the channels and winds of the energy-body are the dhuni site. Here is no need of a fireplace in the mountains or in the jungle anymore. Now the fire burns without smoke and wood. There are yogis and yoginis who live within the body, dwelling in heart and mind. Remaining in this siddhasana, the inner dhuni holder is totally liberated from the cycle of rebirth.
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