Eastern religions, like Hinduism and Buddhism, do not really qualify for the classification of an “organized religion” like the monotheistic beliefs in the west; they are more like a “way of life.” Aghora, for simplicity’s sake, can be considered as one form or branch of Hinduism. A practitioner of this way of life is referred to as an ahogri.
Aghora is extreme. On the surface it seems vile, even demonic. To the uninformed, these strange people would seem absolutely mad. Yes, they live in cremation grounds, they consume putrid things (like dead human flesh), they even look very frightening with their matted hair and ash covered bodies which are often naked.
But looks can be deceiving. Underneath the extreme appearance, behind the curtains so to speak, it is very simple. Aghora, at its very base, can be boiled down to these basic axioms which can be found, in some form or the other, in most Eastern philosophies:
- Everything is One. The entire Universe, all the living and non-living things, 3-dimensional or otherwise (meaning human, non-human, or spirit) all originate ultimately from the Absolute. Aghoris call this Shiva, whereas Buddhists might call it “the Buddha mind,” and other things in other faiths. The concept is the same, even if the word is different.
- You must accept the good with the bad. The Universe is yin and yang, dark and light. There is death and decay in the Universe, but you must not have an aversion to it. You must accept it as very much a part of you. From life comes death, from death comes life, and so on, ad infinitum. Do not fear it, or be reviled at it; right on the other side of putrid decay is the celestial majesty of the heavens. This is why aghoris live in cremation grounds, and deal with foul things- they believe the entire world is a cremation ground, and that we are all already dead. They worship that aspect of the Universe, because that is just as holy and beautiful as the majestic, heavenly aspect of the Universe (which is the only part that most people think of worshipping).
- The only way to live is with love for everything and in service of everyone. Recognize the preciousness of all life, and do your best to reduce the suffering of others. Aghoris are essentially shamans, and one way to think of a shaman is one who lives a hard life so that others don’t have to.
You certainly don’t have to adhere to all of their practices. It certainly isn’t practical in our high-tech modern lives, and no one is asking anyone to do that. But there are things to be learnt from everyone, things that we can actually implement in our lives simply to make ourselves happier.
Life is actually a lot simpler than it seems. The way we live makes us neurotic. The following is a simple mental practice to do at the beginning and end of each day to remind you of what is important, and what is truly worth your mind space. This is taken from the biographical account of an aghori named Vimalananda, called “Aghora: At the Left Hand of God” by one of his disciples, Robert E. Svoboda. While the book talks about a lot of far out things, there is a lot of down-to-earth advice we can use too. You just have to be able to separate the two. The practice simply involves thinking:
Every morning when you wake up, think about three things:
- Remember that you are going to die. This may not seem like a pleasant thought, but it is the truth, and one we often don’t think about. This will give urgency to the way you will live that day, and you will do the things you want to with more dedication instead of being worried about nonsense. A lot of our anxiety arises because we know we are going to die, and we want to have/experience everything possible in the short time we are given. To delve into death is not to become depressed, but rather to recognize (eventually) the continuity of existence. If you can understand that your essence actually is immortal, even if your ego is not, then you become incredibly relived of so much unnecessary tension.
- Give thanks to Nature for being permitted to live, to have this chance to experience, to learn, and to achieve. Recall that everything comes from Nature, even you.
- Resolve not to cheat your consciousness. Hence, for example, if you’ve set out to quit cigarettes, don’t cheat yourself and smoke one in the lunch break. In other words, if you’ve decided something is wrong, don’t do that thing.
Every night before you go to sleep, ask yourself three questions:
- Have I lived? Have I made the best use of the time provided to me during that day to grow, to learn, to develop?
- Have I loved? Have I reached out to everyone I met and made them aware of the love in my heart and eased their burdens of self-mistrust and self-doubt?
- Have I laughed? Have I seem the humorous side of even the most painful incident?
This simple practice, done sincerely, has the potential to cultivate a pattern of thinking where you can be content and confident even amongst the dark aspects of the Universe. At the end of the day, you are alone with your thoughts, so you might as well be chilled out.
And now, to help you chill out (and because we always like to end with a video) here’s a sweet downtempo dub mix to play while you think about what you just read.