"Besides heat and comfort, the energy of fire has to do with ripening and maturing. Fire purifies through burning negativites." Healing with Form, Energy and Light
Many of us pause to reflect on life and death when someone we know dies. With the death of an extended family member this week, I’m reminded of the strong smell of burning wood from the fires at Pashupatinath in Kathmandu, Nepal.
In Nepal’s center city (of eighty percent Hindus), I stood on the other side of the river behind Pashupatinath and watched three burning fires. Each fire was the body of a loved one surrounded by the family. These death rituals are open to the public to remind us all that our time here on this material world is short and unknown.
Within minutes to hours after a loved one dies, many Nepalese gather the family and head to the holiest Hindu temple in all of Nepal. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is located along the Bagmati River, that eventually flows into the Holy Ganges River in India.
Because the Bagmati is considered a holy river, shortly after death, families take the body to be washed in it. According to the Nepalese Hindu tradition, the dead body must be dipped three times so that the reincarnation cycle may be ended. After the last visit to the temple, the deceased is covered by a white cloth. Then, the body is placed on a ghat, according to the social hierarchy. There is one space for the royal family, one for rich families with prestige, and others for common people.
Then a pile of wood is ignited near the mouth of the dead body as Hindus believe that the spirit leaves the body through the mouth. In the end, the ashes are eventually pushed into the river below. Many relatives who join the memorial procession also bathe in the Bagmati River or sprinkle the holy water on their bodies at the end of cremation, as they believe this act will purify their soul.
This last rite of passage returns the body to the five elements: fire, water, earth, air, and space. The element of fire represents a transformation of energy. Our spirit that was living in the material world of our body, moves on to become part of the spirit world, the air, when our body dies.
According to the Yoga Sutras, one of the main causes of suffering is clinging to life. However, when we attune with the bigger picture and higher spiritual energy, we realize that our experience in this body is just one tiny moment of infinity. Just as we came into this body, so we leave it, our soul or inner spirit energy will simply change into another form.
Whenever I see death, I am reminded of how short our life really is. We do not know the day or time that we will leave this body, so we are encouraged to live every moment towards the light. Our third chakra is our fire source of energy that hovers just above our naval. This solar plexus is a mini yellow sun that activates our willpower and discipline to follow our purpose in life.
Middle Eastern poet and philosopher Rumi boldly states, “Set your life on fire. Seek those who fan your flames.” In other words, live life enthusiastically and transform your energy towards the light of connectivity. This relates to the inspiring words of popular survivalist Bear Grylls, “This is your life. Live it with energy and purpose in the direction that excites you. Listen to your heart, look for your dreams: they are God-inspired.” Fear of death keeps us weighed down to the material world. When we let go of fear, we learn how to truly live.
Photo Credit: The Living Yoga Blog
My Kathmandu city tour guide Keshar Jung Thape, with Mosaic Adventures, informed us that many parents bring their children here to remind them not to steal as we can’t take the material world with us into the spiritual world. Asteya is the fourth Yama of Patanjali’s Path to Enlightenment. These concepts are recommended for virtuous and enlightened living. The practice of asteya stresses that one must not steal, nor have the intent to steal another's property. Desire and envy prompt stealing and they are often disguised in get rich quick schemes or shortcuts, like plagiarism. However, money was designed to be an honest exchange of value in the form of services or goods. Some people view money as a source of power over others. Manipulating this value exchange causes harm to others and therefore is not a practice of the light.
All misappropriation is an expression of a desire for power and a lack of compassion for other beings. Gandhi believed asteya as human right to property without fear. Another perspective of stealing another's property is stealing from one's own potential ability to develop. This concept reminds us of the non-material richness of our lives.
“This is your life. Live it with energy and purpose in the direction that excites you. Listen to your heart, look for your dreams: they are God-inspired.” -Bear Grylls
What is your potential and purpose in this life?
At my most recent yoga camping retreat, Natural Connection, we gathered around the campfire and discussed these important prompts with tears of joy and connectivity.
My purpose is to live life to the fullest with curiosity and joy. I take steps of courage to overcome fears and let the light shine of loving connectivity, peace, and joy as far as I can.
Hannah seeks to find relationships between nature, cultures, yoga, and art through her writing.
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Fun Yoga in the Park
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Lessons from Abroad