Havans, yagnyas, wedding rituals and other ceremonies generally use a lighted fire pit as the holy altar of the Lord. It is worshipped and offerings are made to it. Symbolic of the Lord, it is viewed with reverence, not only when alight but even after it extinguishes itself. The holy ashes are put on the forehead as Prasad.
Amongst the five elements, the fire is the closest in comparison to the pure consciousness. Fire is lit by fire, sustained by fire and consumed by fire. The three aspects of divinity (karana) creation, (dharana) sustenance and (Laya) destruction, are visibly manifest in fire.
Fire like divinity, assumes forms of objects that contact it, yet itself is formless. It lends its qualities of heat and light to all matter that contacts it. The pure consciousness also lends its qualities to the reflecting medium, the body mind and intellect, as they appear to have intelligence, movement and beauty.
Fire is self illumining. It enables us to see fire in the light of fire alone. Self effulgent, it lights up objects all around it, so that we see only by its grace. The supreme Lord also is described as ‘self-effulgent” and the “eye of the eye” by Kena Upanishad.
It is said that to meet the Lord is to become the Lord. One loses one’s individuality of name and form to merge, to become the Lord Himself. You realise the deep truth that the mahavakyas declare: “Tat twam Asi” (you are that) and “Aham brahmasmi” (I am Brahman) likewise, anything that meets fire, merges to become fire alone. It has to perforce drop its individuality of name and form, it then is only fire.
A strong likeness to the descriptions of divinity makes fire the closest symbol of the supreme consciousness, and therefore is considered as divine and pure. Likened to the Lord Himself, fire is worshipped in many forms in many religious places of worship. Even offerings to the Lord, of lighted diyas and candles are in effect fire unto fire alone.
Prarthna Saran, President Delhi Chinmaya Mission.