Saturday, August 21, 2010

The concept of 'Agni'

Every human being in this world takes food to survive. Food comes from the external world to the body is to be broken up, absorbed and assimilated. A heterogeneous substance has to be made homogeneous. The factors responsible for this in the body is called Agni. In the Rig Veda, the most ancient Vedic text, life or Ayur is defined as Agni or fire, which is our soul or life-essence.
"Agnireva shareere pitta anthargata: " - The word agni represents various types of enzymes in the gastro-intestinal tract, in the liver and in the tissue cells themselves.
When the  doshas of the body are in the state of equilibrium, agnis or enzymes function normally. When there is any disturbance in this equilibrium, there's impairment in the functions of agnis. Basically, there are 13 Agnis in the body;
  • Jatharagni
  • Pancha Bhutagni (5)
  • Dhatvagni (7)
Jatharagni refers to the phenomenon of gastro-intestinal digestion. Bhuthagnis help in the transformation of the external mahabhuthas in to internal ones. That is to make the extraneous mahabhutas homologous. Dhatvagnis or enzymes are located in the tisssue elements of the body. They help the assimilation and transformation of the nutrient material recieved after the bhutagnipaka into substances homologous to the  tissue elements.
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The four states of the Agni [according to how they manifest in the human being]:
  • Vishamagni
  • Tikshnagni
  • Mandagni
  • Samagni
Vishamagni: An erratic state of Agni arising as a result of the influence of the Vata. It is most common in Vata types of Prakriti. Sometimes it digests slowly, sometimes normally. Sometimes produce,
           Adhmana [distension of abdomen]
           Shula [colicky pain]
           Udavarta [upward movement of vayu in the stomach]
           Samga [constipation]
           Atisara [diarrhoea]
           Antrakuj [gurgling sound in the intestines]
           Gaurava [heaviness]

Tikshnagni: The action of jatharagni in this state is influenced predominantly by Pitta. It is said to be excessively excited and hence it is known as tikshnagni. It easily digests even in a very heavy meal, in a very short of time. It makes possible for a glutton to digest his all too frequent meals. Consequently many nutrients are not absorbed by the small intestine, and loose stools result. There can also be dryness in the mouth or skin with irritability and burning sensations.

Mandagni: The action of jatharagni is considerably inhibited due to the dominent influence of Kapha. In this state the agni is unable to digest and metabolise even a small quantity of otherwise easily digestable food. It can results a feeling of heaviness following meals, sluggish bowels and sticky stools.
Samagni: In the well equilibrated state of functioning of tridoshas, the jatharagni also functions normally, ensures complete digestion of food ingested at the proper time without any irregularities. When agni is strong and balanced, the enzymes and acids do a thorough job of breaking down and metabolizing the foods you eat so that they can provide proper nourishment for your cells and tissues to function and replenish themselves.

Agni and a disease:
A disease is caused by the obstruction of the channels of circulation. The obstruction is caused by accumulation of waste products. When agni becomes impaired because of an imbalance in the tridosha, the metabolism is drastically affected. The body's resistance and immune system are impaired. Food components remain undigested and unabsorbed. They accumulate in the large intestine turning into a heterogeneous, foul-smelling, sticky substance. This material, which is called ama, clogs the intestines and other channels, such as capillaries ad blood vessels. These waste products can be eliminated if  the agni or the enzymes of that locality are stimulated. Hence it is described as,
"Kayasya antaragne chikitsa kaya chikitsa" C/ Su/ 30 - Kaya Chikitsa [the treatment] is aimed at the optimal performance of Agni.
Longevity depends upon agni. Intelligence, understanding, perception and comprehension are also the functions of agni. The colour of the skin is maintained by agni, and the enzyme system and metabolism totally depend upon agni. As long as agni is functioning properly, the processes of breaking down food and absorbing and assimilating it into the body will operate smoothly.
Dr. Indunil Weerarathne

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