“Once upon a time Upakosala Kamalayana lived with Satyakama Jabala the life of a Brahmacharin. He tended his fires for twelve years. Satyakama performed for other disciples the ceremony of completing studies and returning home, but did not perform the ceremony for Upakosala. The wife of the teacher said to him, ‘This Brahmacharin has undergone severe austerities and has tended the fires properly; you should teach him so that the fires may not blame you.’ But the teacher went away on a journey without instructing him. Through mental sufferings Upakosala began to fast. The wife of the teacher said to him, ‘O Brahmacharin, do eat; why are you not eating?’ He replied, ‘In this (very ordinary and disappointed) man (i.e. myself) there are many desires running in various directions; I am full of mental sufferings; so I shall not eat.’ Thereupon the fires said among themselves, ‘This Brahmacharin has undergone severe austerities and has tended us properly; come let us instruct him’. They then said to him, ‘Prāna (life) is Brahman, Ka (joy) is Brahman, Kha (ether) is Brahman’. He said, ‘I understand that Prāna is Brahman; but I do not understand Ka and Kha.’ They said, ‘What is Ka, even that is Kha; and what is Kha, even that is Ka’. Then the fires instructed him about Prāna (Brahman) and the Ākāsha within the heart related to it. Then the Garhapatya fire instructed him: ‘Earth, fire, food and the sun (are my forms). The person who is seen in the sun, I am he, I am he, indeed.’ ‘He who knows it thus and meditates on it, destroys sinful acts, wins the region (of fire), reaches the full length of life, lives gloriously, and his descendants never perish. We protect him in this world and in the next, who knows it thus and meditates on it.’” ~Chandogya Upanishad
Tended His Fires
Upakosala tended his fires faithfully for twelve years. But simply tending ordinary fires seems like an odd assignment for a spiritual student, a Brahmacharin. But if you read through the quote entirely, you will get the idea that these are not ordinary fires, and tending them is not the same as tending a campfire or a fireplace. These “fires” talk among themselves. This article might give us a clue. According to it, there are five fires of which knowledge is taught. Without going into detail, the fires are The sun, the air, the earth, man, and woman. But that is just as enigmatic as calling them fires.
I think what is being called fires in this ancient book are spiritual energy sources. It then makes perfect sense that the sun is first on the list as it is the primary source of energy on Earth, both physical and spiritual. The sun fills the air and the Earth with energy, and that energy is passed on to men and women. But there still seems to me to be something missing here. Specifically, how would a spiritual student tend such fires? While adepts should care for the sun and the Earth, I think that is limited. And the Upanishad does say “his fires” which makes them seem personal. Continue reading “Tended His Fires to Awaken His Soul”