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Homa VariationsThe Study of Ritual Change across the Longue Durée$
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Richard K. Payne and Michael Witzel

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780199351572

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199351572.001.0001

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Buddhist Permutations and Symbolism of Fire

Buddhist Permutations and Symbolism of Fire

(p.67) Buddhist Permutations and Symbolism of Fire
Homa Variations
Tadeusz Skorupski
Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the history of fire-related ritual practices and symbolism starting from the earliest period of religious history in the Indian subcontinent, the Vedic hymns and Upaniṣads. The variety of symbolic characterizations includes fire as a natural phenomenon, as a cosmic force, as the fire of digestion, and as a key element of Brahmanic ritual. Fire is also personified as Agni, who in addition to all of these different forms is also the ritual intermediary, purifying the offerings made by humans and carrying them to the gods. Buddhism reinterpreted and adapted this fire symbolism and yogic practices employing fire symbolism were integrated into Buddhism. This study includes meditative practices, such as the kasiṇas, and esoteric physiological interpretations of fire, relating to the psycho-physical internalization of ritual practice. Fire is identified with bodhicitta, the luminous consciousness of the Buddhist practitioner.

Keywords:   symbolism, kasiṇas, Upaniṣads, ritual practice, meditative practice, internalization

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