The 1000-year old Hindu sect that challenges traditional religious beliefs and follows an unconventional, radical path to enlightenment, the Aghoris. Death, their spiritual teacher; the cremation grounds their home and Shiva, their God, the destroyer and the embodiment of death.
Aghoris believe that Shiva induced the best and worst of the world and nothing is profane, everything is sacred for them. Hence, what other Hindu sects regard as unacceptable or taboo, the Aghoris embrace it – the ‘dark forces’ or ‘impurities’ – leads them to a level of higher consciousness. Let’s delve more into their world…
They clothe themselves with the shroud of a corpse or clothes left by family of the dead, smear themselves with the ashes of corpses as a protection from diseases, meditate on a dead body and consume everything from human or animal flesh to excreta, urine, alcohol – all part of the Aghora ritual, which literally means non-terrifying, and Aghoris are its practitioners.
The Path of Non-duality
The aghoris have to eliminate thoughts of duality between pure and impure, good and bad; denying perfection of anything would be like disrespecting sacredness of life in its full manifestation.
Robert Svoboda, an American author and ayurvedic doctor in his book – Aghora II: Kundalini, explained – “The Aghori sets out to overcome human limitations by shattering internally every restraint, no matter how ancient or powerful the taboo, and also by creating a body/mind that is able to contain emotional, sensory and other experiences which would consume anyone not properly prepared.”
The use of Human Skulls and Tantra
Once initiated, the Aghori goes in search of a human skull or ‘kapala’, which is a real sign of an Aghori, to be used as a bowl. It is believed that after death, the prana or life force of the deceased clings in the top of the skull.
Using mantras and certain offerings, especially alcohol, an aghori sadhna summons the spirit to return to the body, and gaining control over it, harnesses its services. Aghori sadhana includes tantric practice, various forms of Yoga and meditation.
Svoboda explained in his book, Aghora: At the Left Hand of God: “Aghora is the apotheosis of Tantra…whose supreme deity is the mother goddess….Tantra has thus far been glimpsed in the West only in its most vulgar and debased forms, promulgated by unscrupulous scoundrels who equate sex with super consciousness. Sex is indeed central to Tantra, the cosmic sexual union of universal dualities. The aim of Tantra is Laya, return of the seeker to the state of undifferentiated existence.”
The 48-mins documentary ‘Living with the dead’ shows the life of Aghori Ramnath, who is initiated by tantric master, and lives in the cremation grounds and follows the path of Aghora to be one with Shiva, an insightful video on this sect.
Each Aghori follows different practices depending on his capability; the only common factor is their degree of intensity and determination.
Eating human flesh
For 12 years he meditates in the name of Lord Shiva in cremation grounds, considered an ideal place to worship Shiva. They eat human flesh, which serves as a reminder to the Aghori that there exists no distinction between good or bad, human or animal flesh.
Such distinctions are only delusive, and seldom serve any purpose in the spiritual development of the human soul. It symbolises the transcendence of his lower self and a realisation of the greater.
The documentary below talks about aghoris and their rituals and powers which are beyond human imagination.
Another video shows an aghori eating human flesh, I’m posting a link, watch the video at your own discretion.
Meditating on a corpse
Aghoris perform a ritual known as Shava (fresh corpse) sadhana which means to meditate on top of a corpse, chant mantras to invoke the Smashan Tara (goddess of the cremation grounds), who will bless the Aghori with supernatural powers if the ritual is done in the right manner.
Aghoris do not fear death, they use intoxicants like alcohol or ganja, before performing a ritual that helps them to overcome their fears and go beyond their body.
The mentor of author Svoboda, Aghori Vimalananda, whose spiritual practices awakened his Kundalini and Svoboda’s Aghora trilogy is based on him, said, “Meat, fish, wine, parched grain and sex are all intoxicants, and the purpose of intoxicants is to stimulate your nerves to be able to withstand the force of the Kundalini Shakti. You can use alcohol and the rest to make fast spiritual progress only if you know how to use them properly, otherwise you just bind yourself down more tightly to the wheel of existence.”
Aghoris were a powerful group among the sadhus in India, today a handful remain who lead this unusual life. The ultimate motive for an Aghori is to seek liberation from this endless cycle of reincarnation and achieve salvation.
While in an urban setting, people see Aghoris as sadist who engage in black magic or are mentally ill, but they actually have a mystical way to transform the mind into one that connects with the universal soul, its a path not meant for all! Would you be able to take an Aghori’s path to enlightenment?
History of Aghoris
Benares is the home and birth place of the Aghoris. This sect is an offshoot of the famous Kapaliks of Kashmir Saivism who carried human skull as a symbol of sect. In its present form the origins of the sect can be traced to Baba Kinaram, an Aghori ascetic who lived for 150 years, and believed to be the incarnation of lord Shiva. There is a Kinaram temple in Varanasi, where he was buried, which is the most sacred for Aghoris. Dattatreya who is believed to be the initiator of Aghor tradition.