As with all the chakras, the third chakra, or fire element, contains an inner and an outer side—positive and negative aspects—dependent upon which way the energy is flowing through the chakra. Rightly directed, that is, offered up into higher consciousness, this fiery energy is absolutely necessary for liberation. Wrongly directed however, it is a cause of human bondage.
Don’t be swayed from your goal
The positive side of the fire element, that element of fiery self-control, allows us to burn away all obstacles that keep us from the truth. An example of this is a story that Ramakrishna, a yoga master of India, used to tell.
In some of the regions in India where water is scarce, there are certain hours of the day when irrigation water is allowed to flow into each of the farmers’ fields; then it is shut off and channeled into other areas. On a particular day, two neighboring farmers were taking advantage of the flowing water, opening up passages for it to water their crops. Both farmers were working very hard and becoming very tired. At that point, each of their wives came out to the field and told them to please come in as lunch was ready— it was time to eat.
One of them said: "Well, I know I shouldn’t, but what can I do? She wants me." So he went. The second farmer said very forcibly to his wife: "What do you mean by asking me to stop for lunch? Don’t you see I’ve got work to do? Leave me now, and let me finish!" He worked very hard for many hours and made sure that the water reached all his crops. But the other farmer’s crops failed for lack of sufficient water, and he and his family starved.
The meaning of Ramakrishna’s story is that if you are truly devoted to your spiritual path, you don’t say: "Well, I did want to meditate, but inasmuch as you’ve asked me to go to the movies with you, what can I do but go?" If you really mean business, you’re going to have that fiery determination which won’t allow other people’s opinions or suggestions to sway you or stand in your way.
Gain control over your own energy
On the spiritual path we need fiery self-control. In everything that you do, do it with fire! Do it with energy! Do it with everything you’ve got! Many people think, "Oh, I don’t want to be attached to anything, and therefore, I’ll do everything half-heartedly." But then they meditate half-heartedly, too.
It is important to remember that this fiery control means gaining control over our own energy. It’s not imposing our will on other people, or abusing or trying to force them in any way. The negative side of the third chakra can manifest as harshness, intolerance, cruelty, anger, and lack of consideration for anyone else. Those caught in this aspect of the fire element may become dictators, ruthless bosses, or just manipulators.
This world is intended to be a battlefield. We don’t want to do battle in such a way as to hurt people, but we must be very strong in order to accomplish our spiritual goals. Many people don’t see that point. They defer to others all the time, hoping to let other people do their spiritual work for them. During the Great Depression, Yogananda often spoke of the importance of having this warrior-like quality, saying, "If I needed a job and didn’t have one, I would shake the world until it had to give me one!" This warrior quality was one of the main attitudes Yogananda expressed in his life—he was a man of enormous will power. Yet he was also a man of non-violence, a man of peace.
The secret of success
The real secret of success in this world is twofold: concentration and energy. The two really go together; they’re parts of the same thing. We concentrate our energy. But first we need to be able to have energy! Yogananda’s "Energization Exercises" are extremely helpful in this. When we consciously direct energy to the muscles while tensing them, we become aware of the enormous amount of energy that is available to us. Then, with that greater awareness, we learn also how to withdraw that energy from the body and "relax and feel." Relaxation is a key aspect of deep meditation—but relaxation while still being very aware, focused, and in no way passive, dreamy, or sleepy.
Geniuses or people of power and success are always people of great energy. They’re often very inconvenient to be around because they’ve got so much energy. But a genius will never whine, "Well, I don’t know, I think maybe, sort of…" Imagine Michaelangelo saying lackadaisically, "Well, gee, Pope, maybe I’d like to paint the Last Judgment, but (sigh), I don’t know. But, well, OK, I’ve got nothing better to do next Saturday. So…I guess maybe I might try." It’s impossible to imagine him that way! It was a huge project! When he put his mind to it, he put his whole mind to it, and he nearly killed himself in the process. Perhaps he was a bit fanatical, but to do a thing well, it must be done with a huge outpouring of energy.
Swami Kriyananda tells of this needed level of energy: "I’ve found in writing something, I probably have to go through it at least fifty times before I’m satisfied. I remember that in writing my autobiography, The Path, I experienced one of the best tests I have ever had to go through—because it was so difficult. Difficult, because I felt a great burden of responsibility in representing what I understood of my guru, Paramhansa Yogananda. To misrepresent him was my constant fear. I kept trying to do everything I possibly could to make it better. "Many times I felt tempted to throw in the towel. I drove myself to the point that, literally, I would stagger when I walked. It was a tremendous test, but in fact that is the way to do a job well. "When I completed The Path I went away to India and spent time in seclusion. Once you finish a big project, then try to withdraw from it. Try to feel the source of the energy you were using; then offer it back up to God, the universal, creative source of all energy.â€
Become a warrior of self-discipline
On the spiritual path we need fiery self-control, because we’re putting a halt to habits that we’ve developed over countless incarnations. We’ve got to be determined to discipline ourselves like soldiers, to learn to hold the body still and to rise above body consciousness. One of Yogananda’s disciples tells the story of how they were sitting out on the beach meditating. She was being eaten alive by little sand fleas, but she realized that she couldn’t sit next to Yogananda, who was sitting so absolutely rock-firm, and not be rock-firm too. So she willed herself to sit still. She said later that the experience gave her a great deal of will power from that time forward. You’ve got to be a warrior in the name of self-discipline. In our work, in our play, in everything we do, we can bring into practice this inner fire quality.