I had met an very old tantrik (nearing his death, with failing health) along with some western women and while scratching his bald head, he started talking about one of the woman’s breasts, its shape and hair growth near her breasts. The women were shocked and quickly ran away from him. I wondered why would a highly erudite and knowledgeable person speak like this in front of strangers? What was his motive? It couldn’t be sexual, as we were in a public space, he was surrounded by many, the women were strangers and he was frail and in poor health. That started my search to find the meaning of his startling talk and led me to Aghoris – or left handed tantra practitioners. What are Aghoris and why do they live and behave in the shocking manner they do?
The more I read about Aghoris and their lifestyle – living in cemetery – performing strange rites on dead corpses in the middle of the night, drinking from human skulls, eating anything – I mean anything – anything like rotten food, food from the dumps, the animal faeces, animal urine, putrid human flesh to attain enlightenment – I was hooked. I needed to find out the logic and philosophy of this left-handed tantra.
Tantra is a transformational tool for gaining energy (Shakti). Sufficient energy can lead to siddhis or extra-ordinary powers. While the right handed path uses purity as the base, the left hand path does not believe in external and bodily purity. “There is no evil, everything is emanated from ‘Brahman’, so how could anything in this universe be impure”? According to them anything in this universe is the manifestation of god itself, so everything is as pure as god. They follow the simple rule that the universe resides in them and they try to attain enlightenment by self realization.
Aghoris are indifferent to everything, and their lifestyle is created to keep people away from them. Hence they utter obscenities, may take liquor, eat dead human flesh and do other things which might appear to be ‘uncivilised’ to us. For them there is nothing good, ideal or bad, there is NOTHING in this world that is dirty, scary or terrifying- only human perception makes it so. Everything that exists in this world is essentially made up of same thing. They have no interest in belief or superstition or faith, they are only interested in knowledge which can lead to self realization. Aghoris do not fear death, once embarked upon a journey – it is either success or death, there is no going back.
Unfortunately, the left handed path is also filled with seekers who do not have the knowledge, but are seeking quick and easy spiritual gratification without any preparation. This has damaged the left-hand path’s reputation. Actually, in this path, it is most important to have extreme discipline, strict training and severe renunciation to purify the aspirant completely. Only, when the purity is perfected, are practices allowed to attain spiritual energy, which could lead to fast and quick siddhis. Aghora is not mere extreme indulgence, but transformational practices to reach the state of unity with the highest energy.
When a human dies, he immediately loses his annamaya (physical) energy and takes around 13 days before the pranamaya (bio-energy) body energy is also lost. So, when a corpse is brought to the cemetery, the pranamaya energy is still present. An aghori in his quest for quick energy, then sits on the corpse at night and using some mantras and rituals tries to capture this pranamaya energy for himself and thus gets large dose of energy from the corpse.
The energy that is thus captured, also contain the past karmas of the person and therefore the Aghori runs the risk of getting the bad karmas of the dead person. Therefore, it prefers to capture the energy of young, virgin girls, as they may not have accumulated a lot of bad karma. This entire process is fraught with lot of danger as it could also pull in many bad energies and spirits moving around in the cemetery. It is like walking on the edge of a sword and is not for the faint hearted. But, it can bring in large doses of energy and can create siddhis. These siddhis are then used to get more energy or for ill-intent people – to get material wealth and power.
Another ritual that is done in Cemeteries is the capturing of spirits that roam in these places. Rituals and practices are done to capture these spirits (will explain about spirits in another blog) and then make them do things. But this is very dangerous and in most cases, unless extremely well trained, the spirit can enter you and make you insane.
Because this is an extremely powerful tool, it is taught very judiciously and is kept a secret. The key to a good Aghori is his fearlessness and his deep understanding that there is no difference between any part of existence. When a student can eat his own feces, he understands that there is no difference between what went into him and what came out. When he can eat anything that he can find – dog’s flesh, gutter water, human flesh, he has overcome the limitations of discrimination and is able to see the One in All and All in One.
There are many other practices that an Aghori indulges in, like Vajroli (sucking in shakti of the female) during copulation, eating fresh brain as soon as the corpse starts burning etc. Each of these practices may sound repulsive and abhorrent to a normal person, but is part of the Aghori’s craving for energy.
In conclusion, if one wants to get into the left hand tantra, a proper teacher (Guru) is necessary. It is one of the most dangerous practice for gaining quick energy and a mistake here and there and one would lose their life or sanity. A real Aghori would treat the shakti that it gets by these practices, not as an indulgence but as a grace from God and use it for the betterment of the world and try and achieve moksha (liberation).