Does This Man Know Something We Don’t?
By EILEEN ROWE THE NEWS AMERICAN July 7, 1977
Most of us believe burning produces pollution. It’s axiomatic – fire makes
smoke, and that means gunk in the air. No more. Now even this fundamental law of physics is being argued. There are some among us who believe burning little fires can actually purify the atmosphere (and a whole lot more) provided the right fuel is used – cow dung.
That’s right. Prosaic materials peat or coal or gas or oil might pollute, but dried cow manure, clarified butter, rice and wood can purify. This is the teaching of Vasant V. Paranjpe, a native of India who is visiting the Baltimore area for several weeks to spread his message of purifying the atmosphere. To date he has lectured at John Hopkins University and Dundalk Community College.
Paranjpe, a small dark man who smiles a lot and rejects formal titles such as guru, yogi or master, says he is teaching the precepts set forth by the ancients. His lessons in “healing the atmosphere” are knowledge that is old as creation. The manure-butter-rice blaze, which is called agnihotra, is only the part of his doctrine – five rules leading down the path to happiness. The other four are more commonplace and can be found incorporated in just about any religion – share with others, practice self-discipline, be a nice guy and practice self study.
But these fires are everything but common (especially for anyone who’s ever smelled roast cow droppings.) Not only is the kind of fuel vitally important, but the point in which it is lit must be of a special material and shape. Prescribed light up time is sunrise and sunset. A mantra should be sung over the blaze.
“The effect of burning specific substances in a pot of prescribed metal having a prescribed shape and size and utterance of specific vibrations have a combined effect on the atmosphere,” maintains Paranjpe. “This affects the biological functioning and gives a push to the mind in the direction of love.”
The whole affair sounds terribly yoga, but the Indian teacher disclaims close identity with the Hindu discipline. Asked if he is a yogi, he answered with typical Eastern inscrutability.
“It depends on what you term a yogi,” he says. “You have a certain picture of yogi and certainly I am not that. I am just teaching a few things based on the ancient knowledge given to the yogas.
“It is based on the yoga science, but these teachings can fit in any formal religion because basically what we teach is how to become a better member of your community, group or religion. It is mainly putting stress on the purification of the mind. That means to be full of love and to react to all circumstances in life with love – then alone you can be happy.”
Paranjpe, who was born near Bombay in 1921, says he is teaching this ancient wisdom in modern scientific terms. “Actually I have no educational background of what you call science, but I have learned in the ancient traditional way. It is all from ancient teachings but I am using the language of modern science because it is easier to understand for modern people.”
His description of his own education sounds as enigmatic has some of his teachings. He explains that “he learned these things in India through someone. They were taught to me but it is not important how it came. It is important what I am talking about.” He also talks about knowing the essence of things by “grace.”
Yoga or not, science or hokum, there is a growing number of agnihotra practitioners in the area. One adherent puts the number of purifying fires lit around these parts in the thousands. While there is no organization or group, there is a company which prints the teachings of Paranjpe, The Agnihotra Press, Inc., in Randallstown.
In other parts of the world still more pollution fighters are lighting their fires. The practice has become so popular in West Germany that a special school instructing in Paranjpe’s Five-fold Path of Cosmic Scriptures has been set up and a pharmacist has begun manufacturing salves and capsules containing the ashes from agnihotra fires which are believed to have uncanny healing powers.
The druggist, Monika Jehle, is visiting the Baltimore agnihotra contingent and exploring the possibility of introducing these medications here.
So far, she says the ashes have been successfully used in treating sinusitis, skin fungus, non-healing wounds, ankle swelling, nasal congestion, colds, sore throat, migraine, nervous disorders, gastritis and diarrhea. She has even produced a suppository to treat rectal cancer.
“It was very interesting. We first noticed that the ashes had beneficial value when we noticed that the plants in the garden where we threw them away got much more healthy,” she says.
“Next we tried pulverizing the ashes and applying them to diseased skin. It healed in several days.”
Paranjpe teaches that agnihotra is “a process of fumigation which affects the intensity of pathogenic bacteria, agnihotra atmosphere gives nourishment to plant life. Within three weeks you can notice the effect on plants if they are kept in a room where agnihotra is practiced regularly.”
As explained before, his teachings go back to ancient knowledge. Now that he’s begun spreading the word, there are those among us who must change our views. There was a time when fires polluted. No burning, especially not of droppings, we were told. But now it’s healing the atmosphere. (In any case it will be a great story for the fire marshall next time he comes around.)