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An Introduction to Aghoris and their way of life by an Aghori

Monday mornings are being turned into miserable bouts of Hinduphobia, through episodes of Believer, no thanks to Reza Aslan’s promos and episodeson a religion he knows nothing about.Even worse is the fact that the supposedly principled channel CNN,who shout hoarse about anti-immigrant politics, are the one telecasting it.“The text in these promos spew total errors and lies as “facts,” misstating the meaning of the word “Ghats” (“a flight of stairs leading down to the river”) as “pyres,” depicting the whole city as a “giant crematorium,” and callously describing the poignant ceremony of loved ones immersing the ashes of those who have passed on into the sacred river as “dumping.” What sort of journalism is CNN doing? And to whom on earth is the most sacred city of Hindus known as ‘city of the dead’?”

Referring to India’s most holy place Varanasi as the “City of the Dead” not only made a mockery of the culture of piety and respect that surrounds funeral rites in general but also indicates how poorly Reza understood anything about Hindu sentiments and culture, even as he professed to bring to the world’s notice about its hoary traditions.

Even worse than the callous misrepresentation and dehumanization of Hindu funeral ritesis the episode’s focus on the tradition of extreme ascetics known as the Aghoris. American viewers were treated to a spectacle about bizarre, painted, ash-smeared, bearded men eating half-burnt corpses without giving a full understanding and context of the tradition of the Aghoris.

Here, we are clearing the air on the hoary and extraordinary tradition of the Aghori, by putting their ritual and practices into the context of the purity and fearlessness of their practices. Aghoris are an easy target simply because Hindus themselves have no understanding of the breadth and depth of the great Aghori traditionsand hence are held in awe and yet reviled by Hindus themselves.

In reality, Aghoris are the most non violent and innocent beings. His Holiness Paramahamsa Nithyananda defines Aghori as “simple”! Read on for more about these amazing ascetics – the walking, practicing embodiments of Shiva on earth, that survive in the hustle and bustle of high-speed internet and modernization that is hurtling humanity to doom and destruction.

Who are Aghoris?

Aghoris are simple beings or beings who live with complete simplicity. Religion today had been complicated to a very great extent. Rituals, ceremonies and traditions are practiced without understanding their proper context, to achieve health, wealth (also notoriety and fame), at any cost! But religion is not meant for health and wealth alone. Its main purpose is to help break negative mental patterns, to achieve the ultimate, in the process of which health and wealth are just a couple of the by-products. Unlike normal human being who use these round about ways to work on their patterns, Aghoris directly work on breaking these patterns and simplifying religion.

Aghoris are not dream sellers. Anybody who sells you a technique and asks you to go on practicing it, assuring you that one-day God will give you enlightenment, is a dream seller. If you tell an Aghori that God is all powerful and if you pray to him he will come and bless you, he will simply laugh at you.

The Attitude of an Aghori

An Aghori will directly work on his patterns. If an Aghori carries hatred towards something, he will eat what he hates. If he has any violence in him, he will learn to love that violence in order to let go of it. If he loves something and thinks it’s binding him, he will immediately throw it away. They don’t believe in gradual liberation by letting go of an object mentally but keeping it with them physically. They let go of everything they like and expose all their five senses to what they hate.

When an Aghori can’t wake up in the morning, he simply stops sleeping. If an Aghori has a blockage in his heart then he will open his heart, clear the blockage, and then stitch it back. They don’t even bother taking anesthesia. And yet, they know exactly how to treat the blockage. They go into the depths of fear and face it, to the depths of hatred and let go of it, to the depths of suffering and come out of it, to the depths of pain and go beyond it. They do not postpone things. This is the attitude of an Aghori.

The Nature of Aghoris

In reality, Aghoris are embodiments of Lord Shiva walking on the planet, trying to wake people up. But for a common man, the sight of Aghoris can often seem like a nightmare. If one is too attached to life, then even the very sight of an Aghori will frighten you. Everything will be seen with perversion. Aghoris are a tradition who are straightforward and simple. They are the embodiment of simplicity. Their way of thinking is beautiful, simple, innocent and straightforward. People have lost connection with their kind of simplicity and hence have difficulty understanding the Aghoris.

Aghoris as Seen by the World

No other sampradaya (tradition) express as many extraordinary experiences and strong enlightenment experiences as Aghoris do. Aghoris are often projected as India’s wrong side by many people, or the side that needs to be covered up. His Holiness Paramahamsa Nithyananda, as the only Aghori who is in the world’s most influential 100 Gurus, who is courageously associating himself with the Aghori sampradaya, tells boldly that the Aghoris are the pride of India, and the pride of Vedic tradition.

Humans are hypnotized by the concept of conscious, subconscious spread by so called secular gurus, which is all nonsense. Human civilization has already made you believe something before you actually tried it. When you have so much dirt inside, how can anyone evensit down peacefully, let alone do anything else?

Aghori sampradaya (Aghori tradition) can flourish only in a civilization where this nonsense of unconscious and subconscious is not taught. You are an integrated individual. What you want, you achieve, that’s all. This is the basis of the Aghori sampradaya. Unfortunately, humanity is not at this zone. The Maha Vaakya (great declaration) of the Aghori sampradaya is much like the famous Nike one liner – “Simply do it”. If you go to an Aghori and tell him how much you fear death, he will simply ask you to go through the death experience itself. Go and sit in a cremation ghat and experience the whole process yourself!

Aghoris never ever interfere in others’ life, never cherish enmity or hatred towards anybody. They are compassionate people, like Shiva. The basic requirement for the Aghori Sampradaya is the clarity that you are an individual integrated being – what you want, your body does. What you want your mind does, what you want you do! Meditate on this three words and do it!

The Connection of Aghoris with Cremation Grounds

As the living embodiment of the Aghori Sampradaya His Holiness Paramahamsa Nithyananda says that cremation grounds are the most peaceful and happiest places to live. Reason – dead people never disturb us, only the living do! He describes his ashram at Bidadi, off the Mysore Road in Bengaluru as the Maha Smashaana (ultimate cremation grounds), where thousands of egos are killed and burnt. In every program He does, thousands of patterns and egos are cremated here.

In Buddhist tradition, whenever a person wants to become a sadhu (monk) the first thing he is asked to do is to go and sit in the cremation ground and meditate for three months. Be witness to the constant stream or dead bodies being burnt. By constantly seeing it, big shifts happen to the person – he too realizes that he will be burnt, just like that. The person will realize the impermanence of the world. Continuously taking decisions based on the understandings of the impermanence of the world is Living Enlightenment.

Similarly, with Aghoris – the first thingthey do is ask their followers to go and sit in cremation ground where they will be constantly remindedabout the impermanence of the world. Where they can constantly see kings and queens, priests andbeggars ending their life in the same way! Death is the only thing which happens to everybody equally. Sit in the cremation ground, watch dead bodies burning andunderstand the emotions you go through and accept that death is going to happen to you also in the sameway. When you see a dead body burning the cholesterol, the stomach dripping every muscle burning,you will literally feel your body is disappearing!

When you are young, lot of your feeling, thinking, cognition ispenetrated by the concept of your health, handsomeness, beauty, heat in the blood, and so on. If living among the dead is taken up as a spiritual practice by a sincere seeker, for at least for 21 days, it will makeone’s inner space understand the impermanence of the body and the world.

The Meaning Behind Eating Dead Bodies

This is an element of the Aghori tradition which baffles, shocks and revolts Hindus and lay people alike – the Aghori sadhu eating flesh of burning bodies in the cremation ghats. If we don’t understand it, atleast don’t condemn it. Instead, have a little sympathy and look at this tradition with an open mind. Afterall the Aghoris are not killing anybodyby eating flesh. In fact, it is the non-vegetarians/so called civilized humans who are resorting to cannibalism, because they kill a living being to consume their flesh. In fact, human beings kill for various reasons – for the sake of land,money, jewels, for property, for wealth. Is it not killing for eating? It is! We so called civilized human beings kill for eating.

On the other hand, Aghoris do not kill for eating.In fact, they are doing the job of scavengers. They are onlycleaning and reducing the cost of cremation! But beyond this, their act of eating the human flesh has a more mystical and deeper meaning.

Aghoris stomach can digest anything. By digesting the flesh, they are digesting the cremated being’s bio memory, and liberating them from their karmas. The karmasare not carried further to the next janmaas (births). This is something beyond the understanding of ordinary human beings. Just because the Aghoris do something we never do, we abuse them…anything we don’t understand, the onlyway we escape is to abuse the people who practice them. Which is why, the Aghoris are abused, just like Reza Aslan has done in his episode on Believer.

In reality, the Aghoris are the most civilized group of people on planet earth. Aghoris don’t have any recorded history of killing people. Allcivilizations, including the Vedic civilization, have recorded history of killing people for land, wealth, loot, jewels, others’ women (Helen of Troy, Cleopatra, need we say more). Which is why a mystic such as Paramahamsa Nithyananda, who understands all this very well, encourages his followers to give food to sadhus, a large number of whom are Aghoris.

In the End …

Aghoris don’t have a separate temple. They bathe anywhere and then spontaneously make their own deity by keeping a stone or a mud shivalinga. Their worship is Vedantic, meaning being in the samadhi of Shivoham, resting in the ultimate spiritual space of Shivoham. That is their samadhi, that is their ritual.They don’t do any other ritual. It is more like being in there mentally. That is their life style.


Aghoris are more non-violent, more blissful, happier and morespiritual than anyone else on this planet. They are not cannibals. They don’t kill to eat. Aghori sampradaya is not cannibalism. They onlydisperse the dead ones.Aghoris live a highly evolved life. They respect every woman.

We are requesting the western people not to abuse the Aghoris – their rituals and traditions may seem alien to you but it does not give you the permission to make a mockery of it and poison the minds of unaware people in so blatant a manner as on a TV channel which has a worldwide viewership such as the CNN. Allow the Aghoris to live their tradition and religion. All that the Aghori Sadhus were doing for the voyeuristic Reza Aslan was sharing their truths just the way they know it best – by simply doing it.

In modern daythe Aghori Sampradyaa is dying.  Only institutionalized Sanyas orders are alive like the RamakrishnaMission, Swaminatha mission, Chinmaya mission, and so on. It is time both traditions are kept alive – the Sanayas Orders along with traditional Sampradayas like the Aghoris and Naga Sadhus too.


Taken from Nithyananda’s Esoteric Evening talks in March – April 2012, delivered at the Bidadi Ashram, Bangalore, India

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