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Building Soma Through Balanced Agni
There is a beautiful fairy tale from ancient India, recounted in English by Joseph Jacobs, entitled “How the Sun, Moon and Wind Went Out to Dinner.” In this tale, three siblings – the sun, the wind and the moon once went to dine with their uncle and aunts, while the mother (a distant star) waited patiently for their return. It is said that both the sun and wind selfishly consumed the meal before them. The moon, out of pure love and devotion, placed portions of each course aside, to share with her mother upon her return.
After the siblings had returned, the mother, who had kept a watchful eye upon her children from a distance, casually inquired if they brought anything back to her. Both the sun and wind were spurned for their lack of thoughtfulness, whereas the moon was cherished by their mother. To the sun, the mother cursed him with heat, burning and scorching all to mark his forgetfulness towards her. She then spurned the wind with parching dryness, blowing and shriveling all things he touches. But to the moon, she turned and praised her by saying: “Daughter, because you remembered your mother, and kept for her a share in your own enjoyment, from henceforth you shall be ever cool, and calm, and bright. No noxious glare shall accompany your pure rays, and men shall always call you ‘blessed’”.
This tale mirrors some of the beautiful truths found within Vedic literature.
Surya is characterized as having bright, hot and drying characteristics, and is believed to be slightly malefic in nature, and astrologically related to the will and intellect. Chandra, or Soma is cooling, calm, reflective and possesses a slightly intoxicating effect, and is astrologically related to the mind and emotions. It is also said to have a contrasting “juicy” nature in opposition to the drying nature of the sun. In tropical climates where the sun can manifest extreme heat, the cooling contrast of the moon offers gentle, rejuvenating reprieve. Anila possesses the characteristics of movement and dryness.
The Sun and Moon have a profound and equally deep relationship with the earth, and all its living inhabitants.
The relationship between these two heavenly bodies can be observed both at a macrocosmic and microcosmic level. Because of the exacting mathematical distance between the heavenly bodies, one cannot ignore that the two are a) equally sized from the earth’s perspective, and b) have the power to eclipse one another. Both can exact an astrological influence on us, as well as possess a symbiotic relationship to one another.
At a microcosmic level, these aspects are also mirrored.
In Ayurveda, Soma is equal to and dependent on the counteractive concept of Agni in the body. Agni is the cosmic solar principle, which is linked to light, fire, heat and transformation within the universe. The application of heat leads to purification, cleansing, and transformation, whereas its deficiency is said to result with the accumulation of undigested substance (Ama) which can be toxic to the system.
By contrast, Soma is the cosmic lunar principle, which is linked to coolness, calmness, and rejuvenation in the universe. It is a restorative energy which builds, expands and grows. Its insufficiency can be linked with poor tissue growth, lack of calmness and ungroundedness.
On one side, Soma is the fuel for Agni, and Agni cannot burn without it. On the other side, refined Soma is the final product of Agni. If Agni is too hot, it depletes Soma, and if there is excessive Soma, Agni becomes dulled. The one principle cannot exist independently of the other, and the two are relatively balanced in an ideal state.
Overexposure to lunar, or Soma-based energy can have an intoxicating effect on the psyche, making a person a “lunatic” (from latin “lunaticus”, literally “moonstruck”), whereas overexposure to Agni energy can make a person overheated, irritable, or tempered. Both Soma and Agni are equally required for normal homeostatic function within the body and mind.
Soma is also a concept that has appeared in many places within Vedic literature, and has been a subject of some debate, for some time.
The ninth mandala of the Rigveda speaks of a divine nectar flowing from the lotus feet of the Goddess Indra, and Sushruta also expounds on characteristics of the Soma plant. Several attempts have been made to link it to a specific genus or herb. Some yet believe it is a divine nectar, yielding to higher states of consciousness, and even immortality. Adepts of yogic practices have associated it to an subtler energy which pours through the consciousness.
All truths considered, experts have yet to agree as to what Soma truly is. There is evidence of some truth within all Vedic avenues of research. The search for Soma, however, truly is a solitary journey for each one to awaken within ourselves, as it is not to be understood…it is to be experienced.
Through connecting the dots between Ayurveda and Vedic philosophy, Soma leaves for us a trail of bread crumbs, beckoning us back towards our true nature of blissful health.
We can also see that through the symbiotic relationship between Surya and Soma, on a microcosmic level, a healthy Agni within the body plays an key role in balancing Soma. Ayurveda teaches us that balanced Agni (including all its subtypes) yields to a substance called Ojas, which is a refined liquid, linked to immunity, positive energy levels and well-being. Ojas itself is said to bear pure Soma.
Building Soma is ideally achieved through balancing Agni within the body by right living and elimination of Ama, consuming an Soma-rich diet (comprising of ojas-rich foods for the body and pleasant sensory experiences) appropriate to one’s constitution and through taking of Soma-building herbs. It is even further refined by adherence to yogic practices and rites that unlock higher states of consciousness. It is a beautiful and delicate balancing act that is truly unique journey for every person on the planet.
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