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Dogma of Putting fire into Mouth

Date: Sat, 10 Mar 2012 19:19:28 -0000
From: "Amit Deva"
Subject: Dogma of Putting fire into Mouth



Note: This letter is related with every Ananda Margii, irrespective of where they live because in this day and age dogmas rapidly spread from one continent to the next.

When someone dies then according to Baba's guidelines in Caryacarya the cremation is performed. (Reference "Disposal of Dead Body" chapter in Caryacarya Part 1.) That is our system in Ananda Marga.

Side by side however, in India there is a long-standing custom of putting fire into the corpse's mouth to start the cremation. As Ananda Margiis, when cremating the deceased, we might depend upon a hired crew. In which case, that crew would most likely begin the cremation by putting fire in the mouth, as that is the tradition. But we should not follow this method.

As Ananda Margiis, we must be alert; Baba warns not to start the cremation by putting fire in the mouth. 

Baba says, "As the practice of putting fire into the mouth of the dead body is repulsive, it should not be encouraged." (CC-1)

We should adhere to Baba's tenet and never allow our AM cremations to begin in this offensive manner.

All this begs the question: Why was this system of putting fire in the mouth started? Baba did not explain the history of this custom in Carayacarya. But in the following teaching Baba reveals the history behind this dogma of putting fire in the mouth to start the cremation.


Here is Baba's teaching of how this dogma began.

Baba says, "In ancient times there was the custom of interring a person after death or floating the body on water. After the discovery and invention of fire people considered it proper to burn the dead body. Thus in the pre-Vedic and at the beginning of the Vedic era the prevalent custom was to bury the body. In later times, much later times, the system of cremation came into vogue. When the system of cremation became common people used to think: This rśi who tended, preserved and meticulously served the fire throughout his life with the help of orally-pronounced mantras will no longer preserve the fire with the help of those mantras. Thus, at the time of offering his dead body to the fire, the ekarśi fire should first touch his mouth one last time; then let the burning grass or hay consume the rest of him. This custom of touching the mouth with the ekarśi fire gradually became transformed into a social tradition. Those who did not maintain the ekarśi fire also had fire put into their mouths. The rule was even introduced for those who had nothing to do with the fire at all. What was tradition became a compulsory social observation." (Shabda Cayanika-2, Eka to Ekáuṋga, Discourse 12)

At the beginning, the ekarśi fire was only put to the mouth of the deceased rśi as a sign of respect for it was he who chanted the mantras and maintained the fire during his life. From there the custom spread throughout society and became the norm.


Next, Baba tells more details how this dogma evolved and took a new turn.

Baba says, "When superstition entangles a person it likes to tie him up thoroughly, step by step. This fire-in-the-mouth ritual became one such type of thing. The priestly tradition also devised a new mantra to accompany this putting of fire in the mouth; this mantra has no relationship with the ekarśi fire of ancient times. I do not even like to think about the abominable way we put fire in the mouth of our recently departed loved ones at the time of performing their funeral rites. The mantra [used by Hindu priests] is also unusual. The common people either do not understand the mantra or recite it out of fear; it bears no relationship whatsoever to the original ekarśi fire." (Shabda Cayanika-2, Eka to Ekáuṋga, Discourse 12)

So first the dogma started with the application of the ekarśi fire to the priest or rśi, then it became commonly done to all, and then its meaning became twisted and related with heaven and hell. That is what Baba is describing below.


"The mantra goes like this:"

Krtvá tu duśkrtaḿ karma jánatá vápyajánatá;
Mrtyukálavashaḿ prápya naraḿ paiṋcatvamágatam.
Dharmádharmasamáyuktaḿ lobhamohasamávrtam;
Daheyaḿ sarvagátráńi divyán lokán sah gacchatu.

"That is: “This deceased being may have committed bad actions, knowingly or unknowingly. Today he has been swallowed by death; today he has reached the state of dissolution into the five elements. In him was righteousness and unrighteousness. He was enveloped by greed and attachment. Now let his entire body be consumed by the fire. May he go to heaven.” Anyhow, whoever likes it, let them recite it, but superstition-free human beings act with due reflection and thought." (Shabda Cayanika-2, Eka to Ekáuṋga, Discourse 12)

In the above section Baba reveals how the dogma grew and how the related shloka did not at all reflect the original meaning of the ekarśi fire.

Then Baba reveals more and concludes His teaching about the ekarśi fire.

Baba says, "At one time people supported the inhumanness and cruelty or irrationality behind the practice of sati* by using the scriptures as a pretext. Later it was seen that that scriptural support was not authentic. Wise and learned men should think carefully just how far this practice of putting fire in the mouth is desirable. This practice may not be as terrible as sati, but that it is an abominable practice there is little room for doubt."

"The ekarśi fire that was put into the mouth of the munis was the fire that they themselves preserved. Today the fire that is put in the mouth is the fire that is produced from a match (deshlái). Is this not a mockery of history?" (Shabda Cayanika-2, Eka to Ekáuṋga, Discourse 12)

[* Sati : There was the dogmatic tradition in India where the wife would thrown herself on her husband's funeral pyre.]

So in the above quote, Baba has described how in this Hindu ritual, the people do not know what they are doing nor why they do it.


We Ananda Margiis should not do this - we should not fall into this same dogmatic custom of putting fire into the mouth. It is is disrespectful, uncivilised, and unsightly; plus it is a dogma with no rational foundation. So there are two main reasons we should not fall prey to this faulty approach of putting fire in the mouth.

Those who have attended cremations in India may have sometimes noticed how the body was burned in this dogmatic way of putting fire in the mouth. Funeral workers (dom) do like this.

Everyone in the Marga must be aware about this dogma otherwise in this day and age when people are traveling all around and moving from one continent to the next, then dogma can spread.

Finally, because Baba has mentioned cremation in Caryacarya, as part of our do's and don'ts of life, we should educate ourselves & others, and not fall prey to this dogma of putting fire in the mouth. Our duty is to put an end to it




Nowadays making a fire is very easy. One can light a match stick, flip a switch, or ignite a burner to start a fire. Whereas even a few hundred years ago it was very difficult to start a fire. And fire was highly needed for one's basic sustenance.

For this reason, long ago in the vedic age, fire was treated as something very holy and important; and those who preserved the fire were regarded as holy people. They were very keen to keep it lit by frequently adding wood etc. By this way they kept the fire alive. In turn, he would give fire to those who needed fire in the community. Those rishis protecting the holy fire were ekarsi rishi. They were treated as most respectful and holy.

Baba says, "What I have said about the preservation of the sacred fire was the norm but there were some few exceptions. There were even some rśis who did the various works for preserving the fire by themselves such as the fire rituals, feeding it with wood and so on. They did not even take the help of their sons and wives. A fire that was preserved and tended by one such rśi was known as ekarśi. An ekarśi fire was considered extremely holy." (Shabda Cayanika-2, Eka to Ekáuṋga, Discourse 12)

Nobody else had the right to touch that fire nor could anyone else tend to its maintenance. Only the ekarsi could do. Others were entrusted with this as the slightest bit of negligence would ruin the fire. And if the fire went out it was a serious problem.

When the ekarsi died then out of respect the fire was put in his mouth to pay respect because he would repeat the mantra to keep the fire alive. It was a very holy tradition and this system of putting fire in the mouth was gradually copied by the entire population. Thereafter, whoever died was given respect by putting fire in the mouth.

Of course, as we now know, Baba guides us that this custom of putting fire in the mouth is useless and outdated and we should not do it.


In those early days, fire was extremely important; it totally changed society. Fire made life bearable and was related with the survival of each and every person, yet it was very difficult to start. So everyone had great respect for the keeper of the fire.

For instance, during the hot and dry season a fire might erupt in the forest and then they would take a piece of that fire and keep it under watch. Those who maintained that fire were revered.

But putting fire in their mouth at the time of death is totally dogmatic and akin to putting penicillin in the mouth of the one who discovered penicillin, and then putting penicillin in the mouth of anyone who died. Such is the dogma of putting fire in the mouth of the deceased.


"Ma'nus' yeno ma'nus'er tare sab kichu kare ya'y..." (P.S. 2192)


Great persons - proper human beings - do everything in their life for the upliftment of others. They never forget that animals, birds, and plants also belong in their vast family. Such sadhakas feel that no one is alien because in their heart they feel that each and every being cherishes their life. They are true neo-humanists. Why do human beings cry, feeling isolated in their own suffering after losing their path in the Cimmerian darkness. Our love and care will bring everyone close to us; nobody will be left behind, crying and suffering in frustration. On this auspicious crimson occasion we will save everyone and provide them shelter from the  burning flame of illiteracy, starvation, and all kinds of troubles. By taking Cosmic ideation, elevated human beings have come on this earth to serve everyone: The entire humanity plus birds, animals, plants, flora and fauna, & animate and inanimate objects- the entire creation...

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