Chapter 12: Transformation Is the Test
It is worth noting that fuel is preserved in the form of ashes after it has been consumed, whereas fire is not saved in any form. It is so pure that it leaves no ashes of itself behind. In actual fact, ash is formed out of impurities. Fire is simply the purest existence. It leaves no trace whatsoever behind it. It is a very arduous search for the seeker to find an ideal symbol on the outside for what happens within. The best symbol found up to now is fire. Whether burning constantly in the Parsi temples or in the religious sacrifices of the rishis, or in fire sacrifices or in the temple lamps, fire is to this day held as the best symbol, closest to the happenings within - those transcendental happenings within. This is why people consider it a god.
What is it that is considered a god? It is not simply that which is divine, because everything and everyone is divine. Everything is divine because everything comes out of the divine. The dictionary meaning of the word devata is one who is divine, but everyone is divine. Some know this fact and some do not, but what is there which is not divine? The stone, the tree, the river, the mountain, the sky - all are divine. Each atom is divine. So the word devata does not mean that which is divine. Why is a thing designated a god in a special additional sense? It means this: it is not only divine, but also leads others to divinity. One who turns others to divinity, who indicates the divine, who turns our longing towards divinity, is a god. That is why the sages could say the master is God. There was no other reason but this. If one is reminded by looking at the sky of that which is without form, then the sky is God. But we have difficulty in understanding this.
Those who read the Vedas today find it difficult to understand its assertions that the sky is God, Indra is God, the sun is God, and so on. They think, “What is all this madness, all this nonsense?” When Westerners first read the Vedas, they too found them difficult to understand. They said, “This is polytheism - a religion of many gods. These people have a tendency to see God in all things.” But no, it is not that. Anything is a god through whom divinity is remembered, by whom one is struck with divinity, through whom the strings of the veena of the heart are caused to vibrate, through whom one begins the journey towards the divine.
Look at the sky. If you continue to look for some time, the form will vanish and the revelation of formlessness will begin. The sky is thus pointing towards formlessness. Shall we then be so ungrateful as not to thank that phenomenon, saying, “O God, you reminded me of the formless; I am thankful”?
Go on looking at fire - that was the purpose and meaning of the religious fire sacrifices. The offering itself is not so important in fire sacrifices; what is important is to be one with the transcendental journey of fire, through sitting near it. You see the fire leaping upwards, its flame vanishing into that great nothingness, and if at that moment you become one with that flame with a concentrated and meditative mind and lose yourself in that void, then fire becomes your god.
That is God through whom you hear the divine, through which you are inspired within to move towards divinity, through which your dormant seed of divinity is broken open, leading you to divinity. That is why the sage says, “O God, O fire, lead me to the right path. I do not know the path. I do not even know that which is meaningful from that which is meaningless. I am ignorant. Please lead me.”