Agni Yoga

Agni Yoga

Yogaschool|name=Agni Yoga
religious_origins=Vedas, Hinduism, Buddhism
regional_origins=Himalayas, Russia, New York City
founding_guru=Nicholas Roerich and Helena Roerich
popularity=Growing from the early 20th century
related_schools=Temple of the People
practice_emphases=Creative action and thought

Agni Yoga is a spiritual teaching transmitted by the artist Nicholas Roerich (Nikolai Konstantinovich Rerikh in Russian) and his wife Helena Roerich (Yelena Ivanovna Rerikh) from 1920. The followers of Agni Yoga believe that the teaching was given to the Roerich family and their associates by Master Morya, the guru of H. P. Blavatsky, a founder of the Theosophical Society. In the seventeen volumes of Agni Yoga that have been translated into English from the original Russian, as well as in the letters of Helena Roerich, the Agni Yoga teaching is also referred to as the Teaching of Living Ethics, the Teaching of Life, the Teaching of Light, or simply as "the Teaching."


Fire and the New Era

Agni means "fire" in Sanskrit. The fire god Agni is a major deity in the Vedic pantheon, especially in the Rig Veda. Agni and fire have a broad spectrum of meanings in the Agni Yoga books. They often refer to: the primordial light and life at the root of the universe; cosmic energy, or the "Fire of Space"; and "psychic energy," the powers of the human mind and heart, particularly those manifesting in love, thought, and creativity. In general, fire is a powerful transformative energy, a swift, subtle, connective force of high vibration.

Agni Yoga states that humanity is entering a New Era in which the flow of cosmic fire pouring onto the Earth will intensify. There is danger that this fire will fuse with volatile energies within the Earth and bring on earthquakes and other upheavals. ["Agni Yoga" 307, 341; "Infinity" I 1.] The situation is exacerbated by humanity’s misuse of "fire": not only such gross fires as combustion and electricity, but also the subtler fires of thought and feeling. ["Fiery World" II 19.] If humanity and our planet are to survive, we need to be able to consciously accept this powerful energy from space and transform it into a constructive force. ["Fiery World" III 378.] In accomplishing this, we first must purify and refine our psychic energy, the subtle force at the root of our emotions, perceptions, and thoughts. This gradual process involves expansion of consciousness, as well as the kindling of the subtle energy centers in the human organism and the transmutation of their fires. ["Letters of Helena Roerich" I, pp. 227-229, 7 June 1934.]

Unlike most traditional approaches to the mastery of subtle energy, Agni Yoga insists that mastery must take place within the context of contemporary secular life. Monasticism is replaced by action for the Common Good, creative work that helps build a new era based on knowledge that is both scientific and spiritual. Although "The coming epoch will be under the Rays of three Lords—Maitreya, Buddha, and Christ," ["Letters of Helena Roerich" II, p. 353, 31 July 1937.] the New Age is known as the Age of Maitreya, the future Buddha, because the characteristics associated with Maitreya will come to the fore. Moreover, because "The Epoch of Maitreya proclaims woman. The manifestation of Maitreya is linked with the affirmation of the Mother of the World, in the past, present and future," ["Hierarchy" 13.] the coming era is also known as the Epoch of Woman, or the Epoch of the Mother of the World. It is also the Epoch of Shambhala, since humanity will be directly ruled by the Brotherhood of Adepts that dwells in Shambhala, a mysterious abode in Central Asia. "What are the signs of the time of Shambhala? The signs of the age of truth and cooperation." ["New Era Community" 242.] "One should understand the most proximate gifts of evolution: first—psychic energy; second—the woman's movement; third—cooperation. Each of these gifts must be accepted in full measure, not abstractly." ["Aum" 414.]

Building the Temple

In addressing "builders and warriors," the very first lines of the Agni Yoga teaching ["Leaves of Morya’s Garden" I preface.] indicate two aspects of the external work of those who follow Agni Yoga: construction of a New Era, and the battle to create conditions under which construction is possible. ["Supermundane" I 116, "Aum" 11.]

The constructive work outlined in the Agni Yoga books embraces every domain of human life. In the first paragraphs of the Teaching, the work is likened to the building of a New Temple for all humanity, the temple being a symbol of spiritual knowledge. ["Leaves of Morya’s Garden I" ("Call") 1, "H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings", XI, p. 89.] Art and beauty are also emphasized from the very beginning. ["Leaves of Morya’s Garden" I 2.] "Remember, Art is the one vital medium of the coming culture. Through Beauty will you approach." [Ibid., 333.] Working with children is another early theme that continues through the entire series. [Ibid., 375, 378.]

In the field of medicine, Agni Yoga anticipates developments in later decades. "Agni Yoga approaches just in time. Without it, who would say that epidemics of influenza should be cured by psychic energy? Who would pay attention to new kinds of mental illness, brain disease, and sleep disorders? … [O] ne should think seriously about the new enemies that are created by the conditions of contemporary life. One cannot apply the old methods to them; a new approach will be developed through the expansion of consciousness." ["Agni Yoga" 492.]

The new approach will focus on "psychic energy, because its crystal brings about the best healing. It is possible to extract deposits of this energy, which is a panacea for all illnesses." [Ibid., 495 in English; 476 in Russian.] Just as an emotion like irritation gives rise to chemical substances that deposit in the body, so does the sacred energy, "because each energy has a physical crystal." [Ibid., 220.] Along with study of the "nerve centers" (chakras), research on the chemical deposits of subtle energies "will form the future direction of medicine. Through these domains humanity will come closer to detecting the subtlest energy, which for the sake of simplicity we call ‘spirit.’ The next step in the development of culture will arise from discovery of the emanations of this energy." [Ibid., 42.]

Agni Yoga favors empirical research on the interaction of psychic energy ("mind" or "spirit") with the human organism and its environment, and it often discusses how scientists might best approach this new field. [E.g., "Agni Yoga" 396; "Heart" 480, 584; "Fiery World" I 453; "Aum" 342.] At the same time, Agni Yoga endorses aromatherapy, ["Aum" 221, 224, 384.] Ayurveda, ["Brotherhood" 538.] herbalism, suggestion, ["Heart" 74, "Fiery World" I 293-295.] and other practices about which mainstream Western medicine remains skeptical. "We [of the Brotherhood] do not ignore the methods of Western science, but We lay psychic energy in the foundation. Having come to the conclusion that psychic energy is necessary both for ourselves and for experimental procedures, We are primarily concerned with creating conditions favorable to its accumulation." ["New Era Community" 198.]

The accumulation of psychic energy requires attention to the macrocosm as well as the microcosm. The "course of the luminaries"—the motion of celestial bodies, particularly the planets that represent the seven lines of cosmic life—and the chemical composition of their rays have a powerful impact on human events. The ancient science of astrology should be revived, especially for medical and governmental purposes, ["Fiery World" I 293 and 218, as well as "Leaves of Morya’s Garden" II ("Illumination") p. 205-206, 3.5.7 (328 in Russian) on astrology and urban planning.] but it needs to be combined with practical knowledge on the ground ["Brotherhood" 23.] and the inner knowledge of a fiery heart. ["Fiery World" II 115.] The expansion of consciousness will naturally carry humanity to the "far-off worlds," including planets on a higher plane of existence. ["Leaves of Morya’s Garden" II p. 133-134, 2.8.15; 224 in Russian.]

Agni Yoga’s insight into the Earth’s critical situation is ahead of its time. "People will ask, ‘Right now, how can we serve on Earth in the most beneficial way?’ They should restore the Earth’s health. There is a whole list of ways to carry out this worldwide task of restoration. One should keep in mind that people have destroyed the resources of Earth without mercy. They are ready to poison the earth and the air. They have laid waste forests—the receptacles of prana. They have diminished animal life, forgetting that animal energy nourishes the earth. They believe that untested chemical substances can take the place of prana and earthly emanations. They plunder mineral resources, unmindful that a balance must be maintained. They do not think about what caused the catastrophe of Atlantis. They neglect the fact that chemical substances should be tested over the course of a century, for a single generation is too short to determine whether a substance will bring evolution or its opposite… They think that by some act of mercy the weather will clear and people will become prosperous! But the problem of restoring health does not cross their minds. So let us love all of creation!" ["Fiery World" I (1933) 630.] There is also discussion of such issues as climate change, ["Fiery World" II 19.] desertification, ["Fiery World" I 317.] excessive urbanization, ["Fiery World" I 323.] air pollution, and narcotics. ["Fiery World" II 351.]

Warriors of Light

"What to call the illness of the planet? The best name would be ‘fever from poisoning.’ Stifling gases from the detritus of the Subtle World’s lower strata are cutting the planet off from the worlds that could be bringing it assistance. The Earth's destiny may end with a gigantic explosion if this thick veil is not penetrated." ["New Era Community" 49.] To avoid this fate and bring about the renewal of the Earth, people must consciously participate in the tremendous battle that rages not only in our visible world but primarily in the invisible Subtle World. ["Heart" 184.] This will help to save the Earth, end Kali Yuga, and usher in the Epoch of Maitreya, an age of worldwide peace and culture. ["Hierarchy" 109, "Infinity" II 135, "Leaves of Morya’s Garden" I 105, "Heart" 154.] This being a battle between the earthly world and the subtle, in a certain sense, the struggle will help link these worlds, ending the unnatural state of isolation in which earthly humanity now exists. ["Supermundane" II 376-377, 388; "Heart" 180.] By bringing all forces into play and raising tension and danger to an unprecedented level, the Battle makes it possible for the "Warrior of Light" to temper herself or himself, attain joy, and kindle the chakras, especially the heart. ["Fiery World" III 350, "Hierarchy" 320, "Supermundane" I 61, "Infinity" I 48, "Agni Yoga" 111, 650, "Infinity" II 324, "Fiery World" II 82.]

The Battle can be looked at from many perspectives. It is a conflict between the elements earth and fire, ["Agni Yoga" 121, "Fiery World" III 329.] between the higher and lower fires, ["Fiery World" III 574; see "Leaves of Morya’s Garden" I 276.] and between the separative aspect of Saturn and Uranus the synthesizer. ["Infinity" I 338, 356.] Perhaps most fundamentally it is a battle between the creative, affirmative power of the human free will and the destructive power of negation or nihilism. ["Infinity" II 320, 138.] Agni Yoga says Yes to every aspect of life, including conflict. For the Brotherhood, battle is fundamentally defensive, but it is able to use the unavoidable battle to affirm the highest creative values. ["Brotherhood" 490, "Supermundane" I 116.]

A human being is inevitably involved in three battles: the battle between free will and karma, that is, between the higher self and the lower personality; the battle between the Brotherhood (or Hierarchy) of Light and the disembodied forces of evil; and the cosmic battle "between the subtle energies and the waves of chaos," a battle that continues forever. ["Supermundane" I 161, "Supermundane" IV 825, 831, "Hierarchy" 168, "Infinity" I 51, 293.] The Battle may also refer to Armageddon, the international conflict that started in 1931. ["Heart" 184 (1932). In 1931 the Manchurian Incident ushered in the Second World War.] In any case, Agni Yoga differs from most "spiritual" teachings in that it is "not a peaceful teaching" but a "call to battle." ["Leaves of Morya’s Garden" I 194, 319.] It is full of martial imagery—swords, shields, arrows, spears, and armor—and seeks to inculcate such martial virtues as courage and vigilance.

Four Stones

The second book of the Agni Yoga teaching, "Leaves of Morya’s Garden" II ("Illumination"), indicates four basic principles for action. "Friends! Place four stones in the foundation of your actions: First—Reverence for the Hierarchy. Second—Consciousness of unity. Third—Consciousness of co-measurement. Fourth—Application of the principle, ‘By thy God.’" [Page 144, 2.9.10 in English; section 235 in Russian.]

Along with many schools of Asian thought, Agni Yoga teaches that spiritual liberation depends on cultivating awareness of unity, which is possible only with the guidance and protection of the compassionate enlightened beings who belong to the Brotherhood, the Hierarchy of Light. Co-measurement is the ability to understand the relative importance of things and act accordingly. It is related to "goal-fitness," the ability to evaluate and adjust one’s thoughts and actions in light of conscious goals. ["Agni Yoga" 259, "Supermundane" I 127.]

"By your God" means the ability to understand the highest ideals of other people—their gods, so to speak—and affirm them. In the past, a person would assert the sanctity and value of his own god, but now it essential to "find the God of each one and exalt Him. One can understand this with reason, but it is more important to embrace it in the smile of the spirit." This principle of Great Tolerance "is the basis of the New World." ["Leaves of Morya’s Garden" II p. 124-5, 2.8.2 in English; section 211 in Russian. See "Letters of Helena Roerich" II p. 525, 26 January 1939.]

The Fiery Transmutation

The initial steps of Agni Yoga resemble those of Raja Yoga: purification, striving, study, and mastery of prana, the life force. [See Patanjali, "Yoga Sutras"; "Letters of Helena Roerich" I pp. 411-412, 12 March 1935.] "A young person may ask, ‘How should Agni Yoga be understood?’ Say, ‘As discernment of the all-connecting element of fire, which nourishes the seed of the spirit, and its application to life.’ The young person may ask, ‘How can I approach that knowledge?’ ‘Purify your thinking, and after determining your three worst traits, consign them to the flames of a fiery striving. Then choose a Teacher on Earth and, while getting to know the Teaching, strengthen your body with the medicines and pranayama indicated. You will behold the stars of the spirit; you will see the fires that purify your centers; you will hear the voice of the Invisible Teacher; and you will enter into other aspects of the subtlest understanding that transforms life.’" ["Agni Yoga" 185; see also 103, 217, 527.]

As in Raja Yoga, successful practice under a qualified guru results in development of clairvoyance, clairaudience, and other subtle faculties, as well as the kindling of the psychic centers—the chakras. Besides the seven chakras often mentioned in esoteric literature, Agni Yoga touches on the kindling of the centers in the lungs, shoulders, and other parts of the body. ["Letters of Helena Roerich" I pp. 426-427, 12 April 1935.] Special emphasis is placed on the fires in the heart center and the Chalice, or the Anahata chakra, which is behind the heart. [Ibid., II p. 371, 2 September 1937. See "Agni Yoga" 549 on the relation between the Chalice and Kundalini.] In the latter are stored spiritual accumulations from past lives, including "straight-knowledge," a very high degree of intuition. ["Letters of Helena Roerich" I p. 448, 8 May 1935.] "People often confuse great straight-knowledge, which is the result of many experiences and wonderful accumulations over many incarnations, with a certain psychism. The latter manifests in more or less correct presentiments, dreams, and perceptions of the astral plane that correspond to the perceiver’s consciousness. Straight-knowledge, on the other hand, knows with certainty, knows the essence of everything happening, knows the direction of evolution as well as the future. Straight-knowledge is the synthesis of spirituality; naturally, it only belongs to a great spirit who has accumulated its Chalice, regardless of how modest his or her social position may be." [Ibid., p. 167, 19 June 1933.]

Although in general Agni Yoga avoids negation, including prohibition and renunciation, ["Leaves of Morya’s Garden" II p. 176, 3.3.2 (293 in Russian); "New Era Community" 221.] it expresses strong opposition to magic, mediumistic practices, and psychism—the pursuit of lower psychic powers and attachment to psychic phenomena [H. P. Blavatsky also follows Asian tradition in this regard by distinguishing between spiritual and psychic powers. See "Psychic and Noetic Action" in "H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings" XII pp. 350-374.] —because they hinder the practice of Agni Yoga. For the same reason, Agni Yoga opposes "mechanical" exercises that seek to awaken the inner power by manipulation or strengthening of the outer. Even exercises to develop concentration have subordinate value. Inspiration from the Hierarchy, an essential condition on the path, "descends through a single basic condition. Neither concentration nor command of the will, but love for the Hierarchy gives rise to direct Communion. We do not know how better or more precisely to express the guiding law than as a surge of love. That is why it is timely to cast aside magic with all its compulsion and be imbued with love to one’s very core. Then one can easily approach the source of Being through a truly wondrous feeling. Precisely, amidst the disintegration of the planet, one needs to turn to the principle that will most effectively restore health. And what can more strongly unify than the mantram, ‘I love you, O Lord!’ Such a call makes it easy to receive a ray of knowledge." ["Fiery World" II 296. See "Leaves of Morya’s Garden" I 342 and "Letters of Helena Roerich" I 247-248, 21 July 1934.]

Love, then, is what makes it possible to receive inner knowledge, especially when accompanied by gratitude and joy. ["Heart" 278, "Hierarchy" 273, "New Era Community" 156.] Courage and patience are also needed, ["Leaves of Morya’s Garden" II p. 28-29, 1.11.3 (72 in Russian); "Heart" 478-479.] for Agni Yoga is not merely a matter of kindling the centers with a "Kundalini experience," but involves years of "fiery transmutation" by which the feelings, thoughts, and sensations are refined, eventually allowing the Yogi to function in his or her subtle body, and later the still more sublime and powerful fire body. ["Agni Yoga" 224, 225, 439; "Hierarchy" 106; "Fiery World" I 526; "Fiery World" III 297, 355, 359; "Supermundane" I 48.] The development of these bodies makes it possible for a Yogi to attain immortality—the ability to act consciously at will in the earthly, subtle, and fiery worlds ["Letters of Helena Roerich" I p. 473, 11 June 1935; vol. II pp. 248-249, 31 August 1936.] —and work for the good of others on a vast scale. Because the world is currently in such chaos, during the process of transmutation feelings of anguish are inevitable; they need to be acknowledged and overcome. ["New Era Community" 184, "Agni Yoga" 568, "Infinity" I 356.]

In outlining "four gates," "Agni Yoga" 163 gives an overview of the entire process. "He who would swim must dive fearlessly into the water. And he who has determined to master Agni Yoga must transform his entire life with it. Why do people think they can spare Yoga a portion of some idle hour and remain in impure thought the rest of the time? Truly, all actions ought to be imbued with the purifying power of fiery striving… This most synthesizing Yoga exacts an obligation to construct your entire life in accordance with a discipline that is externally imperceptible. If this imperceptible discipline no longer feels like chains but instead turns into the joy of responsibility, we can consider the first Gates open. When one awakens to the cooperation with the far-off worlds, then the second Gates will open. And when the foundations of evolution are understood, the bolts will fall from the third Gates. And finally, when the advantage of using a densified astral body has been understood, then the bolts of the fourth Gates will fall away. As this process goes forward, the fires of the centers of knowledge kindle, and amidst the lightning bolts of the subtlest energies, straight-knowledge emerges. Cherish, then, the fire of knowledge and guard the growing power." [Regarding the twelve steps of acquiring knowledge, see "Agni Yoga" 107.]

The Maitreya Sangha

Beginning with "New Era Community", the third work in the Agni Yoga series, the covers of all of the books display a square in which are written the Sanskrit words “Maitreya Sangha.” This implies that Agni Yoga is a teaching for the Sangha—the spiritual community—that will follow the future Buddha, Maitreya.

The name Maitreya derives from the Sanskrit "maitri" (metta in Pali), "friendliness" or “loving-kindness.” Maitreya is also called “Ajita,” which means “the invincible one.” Both Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism recognize Maitreya as the next Buddha, the fifth Buddha who is to succeed the fourth Buddha, Gotama. Maitreya will be the last of the five Buddhas who attain enlightenment in this kalpa, or great cycle. Asanga, the founder of the Yogacara or Consciousness-only school of Mahayana Buddhism, is said to have gone to Maitreya’s abode in Tushita heaven and obtained five teachings from him. In 5.67 billion years, Maitreya will be reborn in the physical world and become a Buddha. Until then, he will be a caretaker who watches over the Earth’s destiny. []

The emergence of millenarian movements expecting the advent of Maitreya indicates that Buddhists have not always taken the 5.67-billion year figure literally. Moreover, Maitreya is sometimes depicted in the bhadrasana posture with his legs extended, indicating that he is preparing to descend to a lower plane. [Blau, Tatjana and Mirabai, "Buddhist Symbols", 117.] Theosophists might explain the 567 figure as indicating that Maitreya will appear at the end of the present “Fifth Race” and in the Sixth and Seventh Races. ["H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings" XIV 451, VI 116, 266-268; "The Secret Doctrine" I 470.] Agni Yoga follows the racial theories outlined by Blavatsky and claims to be a teaching for the Sixth Race, which is beginning to manifest as the Epoch of Maitreya draws near. “Now We are gathering the spirits of the sixth race, and Agni Yoga is the Call!” ["Infinity" I 188.]

In Vajrayana or Tantric Buddhism each of the Buddhas who appear in this world is aligned with one of the five Dhyani-Buddhas who exist in higher worlds. As the fifth earthly Buddha, Maitreya is linked with the fifth Dhyani-Buddha, Amoghasiddhi, the Buddha of “infallible achievement,” “the invincible conqueror” who unfailingly attains his goal. Amoghasiddhi represents the perfected state of the "samskara-skandha" (sankhara in Pali), mental phenomena and motivational factors, including thought and will. He is associated with the All-Accomplishing Wisdom, which leads to unerring action free of envy and jealousy. This wisdom is the synthesis of the other four. Amoghasiddhi is the center of the “karma” group of deities, “karma” indicating “action” and “energy,” and not simply “fate.” He is typically shown with his right hand lifted in the mudra of fearlessness, which brings peace and protection to all. He is associated with the direction north, the element air, and green, a color that calms anxiety. His symbol is the double-vajra, two thunderbolts that form an equilateral cross, and his seed syllable (bija) is “Ah.” His throne is supported by garudas, creatures that are half man and half bird. His consort is Tara, the mother goddess in Mongolia and Tibet. [Govinda, Lama Anagarika, "Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism", pp. 121-122, 110, 261 ff.]

Agni Yoga emphasizes action and achievement on the earthly plane: “By human hands must the Temple be built… Actions will be achieved by human hands as a result of the highest creativity.” ["Leaves of Morya’s Garden" II 2.5.4 and 2.6.1; Russian 152, 169.] The strong affirmation of creativity that runs throughout the Agni Yoga teaching signals a break with older concepts of spirituality. “Do not judge much; rather, act. Do not sit in contemplation; rather, create and discover.” ["Leaves of Morya’s Garden" I 315.] “I shall shorten my psalms, and I shall limit the length of my hymns. And achievement will be my prayer, and I shall start it with silence.” [Ibid., 360.]

The Russian word for “achievement,” "podvig", shares some meanings of "siddhi", as it indicates a heroic deed that involves intense striving, self-abnegation, and heroism. [See "Letters of Helena Roerich" I pp. 285-286, 29 August 1934; p. 266, 8 August 1934.] In Agni Yoga "podvig" implies synthesis, the ability to embrace contrasts. The Agni Yogi “acts for spirit, but does not detach himself from Earth.” ["Agni Yoga" 261.] Agni Yoga affirms both of the Origins (Начал): Matter and Spirit, Yin and Yang, the vertical and horizontal axes of the equilateral cross. The achievements of Agni Yoga are manifested in the active lives of Nicholas and Helena Roerich, known in the books as the Guru and the Tara (or Urusvati).

As in the Five Books of Maitreya and Consciousness-Only thought, the concept of “manifestation” (явление) is an essential one in Agni Yoga, variants of the word appearing well over 1000 times in "Infinity" I alone. The fundamental idea is that a Yogi should not only be aware of Truth but also work with cosmic forces to manifest or express it in creative thought and action. The concept of manifestation is also symbolized in the smiling mouth of Budai Luohan (布袋羅漢, Hotei in Japanese), a form of Maitreya in East Asia; the open mouth expresses manifestation, as well as the seed syllable “Ah,” which is associated with the throat center. [Govinda, op. cit., 181, 184.] The large bag Budai has slung over his shoulder may refer to meritorious “accumulations” such as those that Agni Yoga says are stored in the Chalice, the Anahata chakra behind the heart.

Fugong-chengjiu (不空成就, Fuku-joju in Japanese), one Chinese name for Amoghasiddhi, means “accomplishing everything everywhere without exception.” In Agni Yoga this appears as the practice of “cementing” or saturating space by imbuing it with thought and pure energy. ["Infinity" II 395, 398; "Hierarchy" 105; "Fiery World" III 163, 225; "Aum" 339.]

The themes of love, tolerance, fearlessness, victory, invincibility, energy, flight, and the future are also shared by Agni Yoga and the Maitreya-Amoghasiddhi constellation.

The above does not validate Agni Yoga’s claim to be a teaching for the Maitreya Sangha, but suggests that whoever was the source of the Agni Yoga books had knowledge of the symbols and ideas traditionally associated with Maitreya and Amoghasiddhi. The Roerichs’ son, George (or Yuri), was an outstanding Tibetologist [Рерих%2C_Юрий_Николаевич] , and the Roerichs consistently expressed a sympathetic attitude toward Buddhism. Their writings, including "Foundations of Buddhism" by Helena Roerich, show familiarity with the Buddhist literature available in Western languages at the time.

The Agni Yoga Series

The Agni Yoga teaching was given out in the following books:

"Leaves of Morya’s Garden" I ("The Call") (dated 1924, but transmitted from 1920 to 1923, with the Russian original first published in Paris in 1923)
"Leaves of Morya’s Garden" II ("Illumination") (1925, but transmitted from May 1923 to June 1925)
"New Era Community" (1926)
"Agni Yoga" (1929) (first English edition in two volumes)
"Infinity" I (1930)
"Infinity" II (1930)
"Hierarchy" (1931)
"Heart" (1932)
"Fiery World" I (1933)
"Fiery World" II (1934)
"Fiery World" III (1935)
"Aum" (1936)
"Brotherhood" (1937)
"Supermundane: The Inner Life" I (1938)
"Supermundane: The Inner Life" II (1939)
"Supermundane: The Inner Life" III (1940)
"Supermundane: The Inner Life" IV (1941) (Due to its length, the single-volume Russian "Supermundane: The Inner Life" has been divided into four volumes in the English translation.)

The letters of Helena Roerich, the "Mother of Agni Yoga" may also be considered an integral part of the teaching. Two volumes of her letters have been translated into English and published in book form by the Agni Yoga Society with translations of the Agni Yoga series.

The first line of the Agni Yoga teaching reads, "Into the New Russia My first message," ["Leaves of Morya’s Garden" I preface.] underscoring the future role of Russia. This passage was rendered "into the New Country" in the 1953 English translation, and "into the New World" in the 1999 translation. While in no way denying the significance of Russia—the teaching was given in Russian to Russians, and even today is most widely read in Russia—these translations are in keeping with the statement in the same book that "The Teaching is intended for the entire world, for all beings." [Ibid., 417.] "The books of Agni Yoga are a gift to humanity." ["Infinity" I 72.] "First of all forget all nationalities, and understand that consciousness is developed by perfecting the invisible centers. Some await a Messiah for a single nation, but this is ignorant, for the evolution of the planet can only take place on a planetary scale. Precisely, the emergence of universality must be thoroughly grasped." ["New Era Community" 71.]

The Agni Yoga Teaching is most easily approached by people who have a karmic link with the Masters ["Letters of Helena Roerich" II p. 484, 12 July 1938.] and by those who belong in spirit to the Sixth Race—and they are all over the world. [Ibid., II p. 219, 18 June 1936.] Readers who are expecting a spiritual exposition in the form of a treatise will be frustrated. The messages in the teaching were transmitted by clairaudience according to the recipients’ circumstances. [Ibid., p. 86, 7 December 1935.] The books are compiled from Helena Roerich’s notebooks, and the messages are often short and not directly linked to each other. Ideas on any given theme are scattered throughout the entire series. But Agni Yoga claims that, "The Teaching grows spirally, as does everything that exists," ["Agni Yoga" 413.] and that there is an inner rhythm in the growth of this spiral. ["Supermundane" II 333.] "Someone will ask why the Teaching is scattered like seeds. Answer that only from a variety of threads can a complex pattern be created. Someone will ask why the Teaching has no completed tenets. Answer that in completion lies death. Someone will ask why the parts of the Teaching cannot be logically connected. Answer that it would be ugly to grow only a head or only a hand." ["Leaves of Morya’s Garden" II p. 94-95, 2.6.5; 173 in Russian.] Because of this unorthodox arrangement, students are told to reread the teachings often and under varied circumstances. ["Leaves of Morya’s Garden" I preface; "Agni Yoga" 382, 468; "Fiery World" II 204, 285.]

From the fourth work in the series, "Agni Yoga", the books are prefaced by the words "Signs of Agni Yoga." This is not to say that the first three books are any less an integral part of the series. On the contrary, Helena Roerich states that "New Era Community" is her favorite book ["Letters of Helena Roerich" I 502, 6 July 1935.] and writes about the first two books, "Leaves of Morya's Garden" I and II, "In a way, they are an introduction to the Agni Yoga series, but actually they touch on the majority of questions and aspects of life that are worked out and elucidated from different angles in subsequent volumes of the Teaching." [Ibid., II p. 17, 30 August 1935.] That the series has a definite order is made clear in the explanation why the two volumes of Infinity were given before later books whose contents seem easier to understand. ["Brotherhood" 296.] This might be taken to mean that the series should be read in order, but "It is right to assign to co-workers the collecting of parts from the Books of the Teaching pertaining to separate subjects" for publication. ["Fiery World" III 530.]

Many of the early books in the series were translated into English soon after they were completed. The translations have often been revised: e.g., the sixth "edition" of "Agni Yoga" was published in 1999. New translations sometimes incorporate material not included in previous ones. The entire series has also been translated into several European languages and partially into other languages, including Japanese. Generally, neither "authors" nor translators are named, in keeping with the instructions in "Agni Yoga" 580. Section 669 of the same book enjoins that the Teaching be "placed at the crossroad"—made available to interested people without any effort to persuade or force them. The Agni Yoga Society in New York has carried out this instruction by giving access to the Russian originals and translations into various languages on its website. []

Agni Yoga and Other Teachings

Historically speaking, Agni Yoga is one of several teachings that developed within the theosophical movement that H. P. Blavatsky, Henry Steel Olcott, William Quan Judge, and their associates launched in 1875. The Roerichs joined the Theosophical Society (Adyar) in the 1920s, and Nicholas Roerich carried on a friendly correspondence with Dr. Gottfried de Purucker, head of the Point Loma Theosophical Society. Helena Roerich made a Russian translation of Blavatsky’s magnum opus, "The Secret Doctrine", and translated several of the Mahatma Letters in "The Chalice of the East". She spoke highly of Annie Besant, but in general had little use for 20th-century theosophical works, particularly those of C. W. Leadbeater, whom she considered to be an opponent of the Agni Yoga teaching. ["Letters of Helena Roerich" II pp. 486-487, 12 July 1938.] The paintings of Nicholas Roerich are popular among theosophists—a painting dedicated to Blavatsky hangs in the Theosophical Headquarters in Chennai, India—and some books issued by the Theosophical Publishing House have Roerich paintings on their covers. However, the books and periodicals of theosophical societies almost never touch on the teachings of Agni Yoga "per se".

"Someone may ask about the relationship of Our Teaching to the one already given by Us through Blavatsky. Answer that each century the appearance of a detailed exposition is followed by a culmination, a teaching that concludes what has been given and, in a practical way, moves the world forward along the lines of humaneness. Thus, Our Teaching includes the "Secret Doctrine" of Blavatsky. Likewise, Christianity was the culmination of the collective wisdom of the classical world, and the Commandments of Moses were the culmination of the wisdom of ancient Egypt and Babylon." ["Fiery World" I 79.] While there may be few discrepancies between the teaching of Agni Yoga and the Theosophy given by Blavatsky and those close to her, the styles of the teachings are very different, with Agni Yoga making little attempt to shore up its assertions by reference to other sources. Agni Yoga also tends to put theosophical terms into the vernacular: "monad" becomes "the seed of the spirit," and "Fohat" becomes "the Cosmic Magnet."

Agni Yoga is squarely within the age-old theosophical tradition that sees all ancient religions and philosophies as expressions of the same essential truths. Just as Nicholas Roerich painted the "Banners of the East" series depicting great saints of Eurasia and Egypt, Agni Yoga makes mention of the founders of major religions, as well as Akbar, Milarepa, Ramakrishna, St. Sergius of Radonezh, St. Catherine of Sienna, Paracelsus, and Hermes Trismegistus. Christ, Buddha, and Maitreya are the most frequently cited personages, along with Plato, who is called "the Thinker" in "Supermundane". The majority of the references to Christ and God are in the first two books, "Leaves of Morya’s Garden", most likely with the idea of starting from ideas already familiar to those being taught, who were raised in Christian or, quite often, Judaic traditions. The mention of Origen, a great theologian of early Christianity, as well as numerous biblical references show familiarity with Abrahamic religions. Thus Agni Yoga does not reject the idea of "God" and even considers "godlessness" in the guise of religious fanaticism to be a grave problem [Fiery World II 85, 92; Fiery World III 330.] ; but ultimately it regards "God" to be the "Origin of Origins" and not a personal deity. ["Fiery World" I 628-629.] Helena Roerich translated and defended a controversial Mahatma Letter that refutes the orthodox concept of God. ["Letters of Helena Roerich" II pp. 321-330, 11 June 1937; p. 196, 24 May 1936.]

In its attitude toward the sacred, as well as in its acceptance of karma, reincarnation, and a community of saviors, Agni Yoga adheres to the same principles as Asian thought outside the Abrahamic traditions, particularly Mahayana Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta. The Roerichs began their study of Asian thought by reading the words of the Indian saint Ramakrishna and his chief disciple, Vivekananda. ["Letters of Helena Roerich" I pp. 217-218, 2 June 1934.] Madam Roerich also mentions reading Lao-tze, the Confucian Analects, and the Lamrim of Tsongkhapa, among other works, ["Letters of Helena Roerich" II p. 277, 7 January 1937.] and consistently shows a friendly attitude toward the religions of India, where the Roerich family lived from the late 1920s. On the other hand, like Blavatsky she often is critical of Christian intolerance and fanaticism, making a sharp distinction between dogmatic theology and the teachings of Christ and Origen, which she considers to be in harmony with those of Eastern thought. [Ibid., I 175-176, 17 February 1934.]

Regarding the various teachings that grew out of modern theosophy, Helena Roerich particularly values "The Teachings of the Temple", said to be transmitted to Francia LaDue by Master Hilarion from 1898 to 1922. [Ibid., 173-174, 17 February 1934.] On the other hand, she consistently dismisses the works of Alice Bailey as false, although acknowledging that Bailey’s Arcane School has given classes about Agni Yoga, since Bailey recognizes Agni Yoga to be a true teaching for the future. [Ibid.] Helena Roerich’s criticism of the Bailey teachings was not included in the English translations of her letters, and some writers in the Bailey tradition have accorded her a very high occult status.

Mark and Elizabeth Prophet, founders of The Summit Lighthouse and the Church Universal and Triumphant (CUT), claimed that "Ascended Master El Morya" commissioned them to carry on the work of the Roerichs, and that their daughter was an incarnation of Helena Roerich. [El Morya, "The Chela and the Path", p. 122, as cited in a review by Joseph P. Szimhart,]

Regarding other kinds of yoga, "Agni Yoga" 193 writes, "Even in this age of firearms, a skilled archer is still considered a fine marksman. The same holds true of the various Yogas. Except for Hatha Yoga, all of the Yogas are beautiful in their attainment. It would be unwise to belittle any of them. One should only speak in terms of better applicability to the present process of evolution." "Let us see wherein lie the similarities and differences between Agni Yoga and previous Yogas. Karma Yoga has many similarities with Agni Yoga when it works with the elements of this world; but when Agni Yoga acquires paths to realization of the far-off worlds, the difference becomes apparent. Raja Yoga, Jnana Yoga, and Bhakti Yoga are all sheltered from reality, and therefore they cannot enter into the evolution of the future. Of course, an Agni Yogi should also be a Jnani and a Bhakta, and the development of the forces of his spirit makes him a Raja Yogi as well. How beautiful is the possibility of responding to the challenges of the future evolution without rejecting the past conquests of the spirit! One should not boast of innovating, because it is only the combination of the elements involved that brings about a renewal of possibilities." ["Agni Yoga" 161.] "There are a few informed persons who are aware that all the Yogas are fundamentally based on fire. Agni Yoga is a synthesis of all Yogas. In all the ancient Hindu scriptures the approaching Fiery Epoch has been predicted. It is said that Agni – the Fire that is found in varying degree at the foundation of all Yogas – will saturate the atmosphere of our planet to a tremendous degree, and all the branches of Yoga will be fused into a fiery synthesis. Truly, Agni Yoga is a fiery baptism." ["Letters of Helena Roerich" I p. 411, 12 March 1935.]


The Agni Yoga teaching and the letters of Helena Roerich make frequent reference to the cultural activities undertaken by the Roerichs and their followers. The Roerichs were instrumental in the creation of several institutions, including: Cor Ardens ("Flaming Heart") International Art Society (1921); the Master School of United Arts, later the Master Institute (1921); the first Roerich Museum (1929), on Riverside Drive and 103rd in Manhattan; Corona Mundi (1921), a sister body supporting East-West artistic dialogue and exhibitions; Alatas (1930?), a publishing imprint; and the Urusvati Himalayan Research Institute in Kulu Valley, India (1929).

Knowledge about Vedanta and Buddhism was spreading throughout Europe in the first decade of the 20th century, and a Russian branch of the Theosophical Society was founded in 1908. [Decter, Jacqueline, "Nicholas Roerich: The Life and Art of a Russian Master", 108, Park Street Press, 1989.] It is unclear exactly when the Roerichs became members of the TS, but undoubtedly they were able to acquaint themselves with Theosophy and Asian thought in the 1910s if not earlier. During that decade, Nicholas's art took a decidedly visionary turn, and Helena had several powerful spiritual dreams and visions. [Roerich, Helena, "At the Threshold of the New World", p. 51 ff., White Mountain Education Association, Prescott, Arizona, 1998.] Again, there is no definite date given for their initial contact with Master Morya, but by 1920 they were receiving the messages that appear at the beginning of "Leaves of Morya's Garden (Call)". During that same year Frances Grant, and Sina and Maurice Lichtmann joined their circle, which included the Roerichs' two sons, George and Svetoslav. Nettie and Louis Horch joined the following year. Excepting the Roerichs, all of the members of this inner circle were Jewish. In each case, the new participants were carefully sounded out about their spiritual views, then given personal messages from Master Morya. While this "inner work" was open to very few people and carefully separated from the public, cultural projects, the latter were led by members of the inner group. Louis Horch, the major financial backer for the cultural work, became titular head of the Master Institute and later the Roerich Museum. Both Sina Lichtmann and Frances Grant worked on the English translations of the Agni Yoga teachings, and among other duties Sina headed the Agni Yoga Committee. [Drayer, Ruth Abrams, "Nicholas & Helena Roerich: The Spiritual Journey of Two Great Artists & Peacemakers", p. 309, Quest Books, 2005]

Ruth Abrams Drayer describes the revelatory process in America before the Roerichs left in 1923: "They would sit together and first Nicholas and then later Helena would transmit questions that the students were allowed to ask of Master Morya.... The answers from the Master were written out by Nicholas Roerich on big scrolls of sketching paper." [Ibid., p. 71.] The mode of communication between Master Morya and Helena Roerich was clairaudience, not telepathy, ["Letters of Helena Roerich" II, p. 86, 7 December 1935] and indications from the Master were recorded in notebooks. Some guidance was intended for the Roerichs alone; this was compiled into separate notebooks by Helena Roerich. Author’s copies of the notebooks kept by Madam Roerich from 1920 to February 1935 are housed in the Roerich Archive of the Amherst Center for Russian Culture at Amherst College in Massachusetts. []

While Nicholas, Helena, and George Roerich were traveling on a lengthy expedition to India, Central Asia, and Russia (1924-1928), fissures began developing among their close coworkers in New York. The Horches, influenced by Esther Lichtmann (Maurice's sister), came to believe that the Roerichs' spiritual claims were overblown. A legal battle began in 1935, and in 1937 the Horches won legal control of the Roerich Museum. Along with the collection of Roerich paintings housed there, the notebooks of Helena Roerich passed into their hands. [About the controversy over possession of the notebooks see Drayer, op. cit., pp. 316-317, 341.] The students loyal to the Roerichs managed to regroup, and under the guidance of Helena Roerich they incorporated the Agni Yoga Society as a nonprofit educational institution in 1946 and established the Nicholas Roerich Museum at its present site in 1949. [Decter, op. cit., 136-137.] Until her death in 1983, Sina Lichtmann (later Fosdick) headed the operations of the Society and the Museum, although the work of these two institutions continued to be kept separate. Presently, Edgar Lansbury is the President of both institutions, and Daniel Entin is the Executive Director of the Museum.

The political thaw in Russia during the 1980s allowed the Roerich movement, which had long existed underground, to surface. With support from Mikhail and Raisa Gorbachev, a Roerich Centre was created and provided with a palatial headquarters in Moscow. [Drayer, op. cit., 339-340.] Just as George Roerich had donated paintings to museums in Novosibirsk and St. Petersburg, Svetoslav Roerich and his wife, Devika Rani, did the same for the Roerich Centre in Moscow. The Centre is a major force in the movement to spread Agni Yoga and the Roerich's work, but in the former Soviet Union as elsewhere, that movement has tended to be loosely organized. Past and present leaders of independent groups in the USA include Torkom Saraydarian, Ralph Harris Houston ("Guru RHH"), and Joleen Du Bois, founder of Arizona's White Mountain Education Association.

See also

* Helena Roerich
* Nicholas Roerich
* Svetoslav Roerich
* George de Roerich

* Theosophy
* Morya
* Madame Blavatsky

External links

* [ International Centre of the Roerichs]
* [ Agni Yoga Society] (USA)
* [ Roerich-movement in Internet] (Russian language)
* [ Nicholas Roerich Museum] (New York)
* [ International Roerich Memory Trust] (India)


* [ International Scientific and Public Conference «The Living Ethics and Science»] , Moscow, 2007
* [ International Scientific and Public Conference «Cosmic World Outlook – New Mentality of the ХХI Century»] , Moscow, 2003


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Поможем написать курсовую

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Agni Yoga — Nicholas Roerich L Agni Yoga, appelé aussi « Enseignement de l Éthique de Vie » ou, en Russe, la Zhivaya Etica, est une doctrine ésotérique fondée par le peintre russe Nicholas Roerich et sa femme initiée, Helena Roerich. Inspirés par… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Agni Yoga — (für den westlichen Kulturkreis als Lebendige Ethik bezeichnet) ist eine Schrift tibetischer Mahatmas (Bruderschaft der Meister der Weisheit). Sie wurde in der ersten Hälfte des vorigen Jahrhunderts angeblich der Russin Helena Roerich übergeben,… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Agni yoga — «Agni Yoga» Nicholas Roerich L’Ethique Vivante (anglais Living Ethics, allemand Lebendige Ethik, russe  Живая Этика) a également une deuxième dénomination identique mais moins utilisée  Agni Yoga  étude éthico philosophique, se… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Agni Yoga Society — Agni Yoga Agni Yoga Nicholas Roerich L Agni Yoga, appelé aussi « Enseignement de l Éthique de Vie » ou, en Russe, la Zhivaya Etica, est une doctrine ésotérique fondée par le peintre russe Nicholas Roerich et sa femme initiée, Helena… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Agni Yoga Society — (est. 1920)    The Agni Yoga Society was founded in New York in 1920 by the Russian artist Nicholas Roerich (October 9, 1874–December 13, 1947) and his wife, Helena (February 12, 1879–October 5, 1955), and was incorporated in New York City as a… …   Encyclopedia of Hinduism

  • Agni (Begriffsklärung) — Agni bezeichnet: eine hinduistische Gottheit, siehe Agni der Künstlername des Esoterikers Frank Eickermann eine indische Mittelstreckenrakete, siehe Agni (Rakete) (Agni I, Agni II, Agni III) eine Technik des Yoga, siehe Agni (Yoga) eine Rebsorte …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Yoga (disambiguation) — Yoga (Devanagari: योग) is a group of ancient spiritual practices originating in India and is an unrelated word in Japanese language. Classic yogas* Bhakti yoga * Karma Yoga * Jnana Yoga * Raja Yoga (the term as used in Hindu philosophy)Other… …   Wikipedia

  • Yoga Kripalu — Origines religieuses : Hindouisme Origines géographiques : Inde États Unis (Massachusetts) Fondateur : Amrit Desai (Gurudev) …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Yoga — Un yogi est celui qui pratique le yoga. En Inde, le titre est parfois indifféremment attribué à des sadhus, des swamis, des gurus pour indiquer la pratique ascétique et mystique, ancienne ou actuelle, de la personnalité en question. Ici, un sadhu …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Yoga nidra — Le yoga nidra est une technique visant à améliorer sa qualité de sommeil. Se basant sur des exercices de respiration et de visualisation, il induit un état de relaxation profond. C est Swami Satyananda qui dès 1940 développa cette technique. En… …   Wikipédia en Français

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”