The Fire of Consciousness
ॐ श्री चिदग्नि कुण्ड संभूतायै नमः
om śrī cid-agni kuṇḍa sambhūtāyai namah
"Om. We bow to Her, She who rises from the fire-pit of Consciousness"
-from the *Lalitā Sahasranāma*
The ancients tell us that fire is hidden in the fuel that sparks it, that the burning is buried within, unseen. This potency is sleeping, waiting to awaken. Once the spark catches, what was trapped within is freed, and with this awakening, energy, heat and power are released. Then we see clearly what had been hidden before.
Consciousness, like fire, sleeps within us and within the objects all around us. Coiled like a serpent at the very base of our physical awareness is the divine energy that is our Mother Herself, limitless Consciousness lying within our core, the birth cord that has never been and never can be cut, but only unwound through our conscious striving. This striving becomes the heat, then the spark, then the fire that burns away all ignorance. Like fire, Consciousness, as it awakens, transforms whatever it touches. As it sheds each old limitation and lets go of each old identity, more energy is released to continue the process of complete transformation. And each new shedding, each new letting go is a sacrifice.
The fuel on fire sacrifices itself as it burns away—what may have been solid turns to vapor as it lets go of its physical limitations. And this sacrifice is replicated, like a fiery mitosis, as the binding oxygen gives way to the stronger bonds in carbon dioxide and water, releasing energy as it lets go. As impassioned electrons shed their own radiance, then carbon dioxide, water vapor, oxygen, nitrogen—all sacrifice themselves, and in doing so, become the blazing flame that transforms, that reduces what was thought to be permanent and real into its material essence: the fuel becomes ash, having served its purpose.
When Consciousness has broken through the final barrier, all that is left is ash. As sadhus, we adorn ourselves in ash, to remind us that this body will become only ash, that our life is meant to be the sacrifice that allows Consciousness to unravel fully, that our life should be the fuel that becomes the burning pathway for our Mother’s divine dance. Ash is simply the sign that the fuel has been successful in its sacrifice, has fulfilled its purpose. Ash is the bliss that alone remains when our being has been completely consumed by Consciousness.