By Damien Black
The Aghori are a sect of Hindu sadhus that follow Aghora, a left hand path tradition. They live in harsh places such as deserts, caves,and the Himalayan Mountains. They largely populate the banks of The Ganges River in Varanasi India and Nepal. They live in huts and temporary settlements near cremation mounds and cemetaries. The Aghori choose to live in these places to separate themselves from society and to make use of the corpses for their post mortem rituals. Their origins can be traced back to a 17th century ascetic named Baba Keenaram and some sources say they have existed since the 5th century BCE. Although Aghora means non-fearful or non-terrifying their unconventional rituals and taboo practices have placed a stigma on them by the general population.
While the vast majority of Hindus worship the inumerable deities in their pantheon the Aghori believe that Shiva is everything and everything is Shiva. They also worship Kali and Bhairava, a form of Shiva associated with death. The Aghori believe that Dattatreya, an antinomian form of Shiva appeared to Baba Keenarum atop Girnar Mountain in Gujarat and offered his own flesh to Baba Keenarum as a kind of blessing. Aghoris believe Dattatreya was the incarnation of Brahma,Vishnu and Shiva all in one. The Aghori believe that by shrouding themselves in darkness it will help them attain liberation and self-realisation. By surrounding themselves with death and performing taboo practices they will get past dualistic thinking and not see things as good/bad, disgustinging/delightful they will just see it as an aspect of Shiva.
Rituals and practices of the Aghori are rubbing ashes from the remains of the dead all over their body, meditating on corpses, necrophilia, cannibalism, and having sex with menstuating women in cemetaries, all performed at night. They use humans skulls to drink from and also for rituals as well as other human bones. Aghori rituals are mostly chanting mantras and offering alcohol and cannabis to the fire, as Shiva is believed to have done. These rituals are performed with two main purposes, to embrace what society sees as “dirty” or “disgusting” and use it to transcend and become like Shiva and to attain supernatural powers.
Although the Aghori are feared by society they live pretty simple and straightforward lives. These Sadhus practice medicine and people go to them for help when mainstream medicine has failed them. The Aghori healing process consists of purification and their patients believe the Sadhu can treat them by transferring health into their bodies. The Aghori help the people that fear them. They see beauty and light in everything. They don’t fear, hate and are non-violent. If these feelings arise they meditate to let go of it.
So what can we learn from the Aghori? I think to understand this we have see past the extreme rituals and practices and see the intention and purpose behind them. We have to understand their mentality and apply it to our western way of life. Instead of seeing the beauty in a corpse we can learn to see the lesson in mistakes or a new opportunity from a failed attempt at something else. We can learn to see that mistakes in life can lead to victories in life if we use patience and persistence.