Aghora and Tantra
On Aghora and Aghoris
Aghora represents a form of Tantric sadhana where the sadhak strips bear of all personal identity and comes into the confidence of Bhairava. To do this, the sadhak puts everything on the line, and faces directly into the raw aspects of power. This path represents a homa, whereby the sadhak casts himself into the flames, and becomes that fire. There can be no half stepping in this path or this fire will burn. The Aghori disposition is one of intensity and ferocity, and all works on this path must be seen through to completion. In that regard the Aghora sadhak must be a true Hatha Yogi, with the meaning of Hatha being “forceful”. In the mad sincerity, the Aghori imposes himself upon Reality and the subtle forces that move in That. Since nobody likes to be imposed upon, it is likely that there will be obstacles thrown up and that one will face forces that intend to scare and dissuade. Since everybody cannot help but like one who perseveres with a true heart of sincerity, the Aghori comes through into Victory. Most of what are commonly called Aghora sadhanas are of the Vamamarga and many take place within the Shamshana; so Aghoris are often called Shamshan Sadhaks. Aghoris are not only uncompromising in sadhana, but are often uncompromising in various interactions. The later quality makes it difficult to “deal” with the Aghori unless one is coming from a very sincere and crisp awareness. Because these sadhaks often do not care about anything but the fundamental, they are often disinclined to act the conventional “spiritual” role. Moreover, they may play on others notions of holiness and “what spirituality should look and sound like”.
The term Aghora and interest in Aghoris seems to have become more popular in recent times. The was some fascination during the British colonial period in India by English “scholars”, and the accounts that they provide are very amusing. There is the classical pompousness and superiority mixed with Christian holy disgust. Many of the mistaken notions brought by these British scholars have become conventional wisdom, not only for other anthropologists, but by the people who have some interest in the path. This happened mainly because the people who told the public about the various practices were outsiders, so they could only use their own frames of reference in determining why a certain practice was done. Without the knowledge of the subtle inner dynamics of the Tantrics, the observer could only make assessments that conformed to the “values” which were understood in their consensus reality approach. So instead of the understanding the subtle process, the public is given the only explanations which make any sense for wild and taboo breaking behaviors. This explanation is that the main purpose for certain acts Is to break taboos and transgress societal norms. This would qualify as a rather trivial interpretation from the perspective of the initiate. Yet, it is this kind of triviality which seems to hold sway over those that are interested in the works of Aghora. It should be said that the Aghoris themselves often play into some of these wrong notions with their mischievousness and/or utter disregard of how they are perceived by others.
Without the real works of Tantra, any “Aghora-like” endeavor would only be to serve the notions of transgression etc. and would not have the depth of the actual path. I’ve nothing against someone who has some hangups transcending them, but to place this sort of psychological approach at the level of Tantra seems to diminish the profundity of the work. One should also not take the “wildness” associated with the Aghori as a model of contrived behavior, as any wildness would be more effect(than premeditated “cause”) and would be a spontaneous expression of the assimilated energies of the Ishta. From the true Aghoris that I’ve had contact, this “wild” quality is more at the subtle level, and is not ALWAYS indicative of behavior. This means that many Kaulas are rational and are quite capable of “normal” exchange. Some of the people who call themselves Aghoris and show themselves off, are a lower form of sadhak. They are not Khepas(divinely mad), they are simply pagalas(conventionally crazy). Some of these people just take on the associate behaviors and garb of Aghoris, and act like idiots while extorting money from people who they scare. Many have not transcended disgust in the realization of One Taste, but are just disgusting.
There are different paths where the Tantric may take on the term Aghori. Of the lineage that is particular to the title, there is the Shri Kina Ram Aghori lineage that has its main Ashram(Krim Kund) in Varanasi. Otherwise, the sadhak would most likely come out of the Vamamarga(Kaulamarga) Shakta tradition or possibly the Nath tradition. There are also those of the Naga tradition(and some other renounciate traditions) who may be called Aghoris. Presently, the term Aghori seems more to indicate the types of sadhana that the Tantric does and/or an acknowledgement of some measure of success in those sadhanas. The Aghora sadhak is most closely associated with wearing the black cloth(sometimes those of Shakta origin would keep the red cloth) or in the case of some no cloth(digambara/sky clad). The forehead marks and/or the greeting the Tantric uses can help in distinguishing the origins. The greeting from a Sanyasa may be “Om namo Narayanaya”, while from a Shakta it would be “Jai Ma”; Nath’s have their greetings(Alak), and some Aghoris just use the mantra “Bom” as greeting. Within the Kaula marga, there are also mudras which would be particular to a certain Kaula(family/lineage stream).
Many peoples modern knowledge of Aghora seems to stem from the books published by Robert Svoboda. While the books are of good quality, they hardy qualify as the “Aghori bible” that some make them out to be. The third book(Karma) is more likely to create an Agoraphobic than an Aghori, and all the books are actually quite conservative. Certain aspects(of Aghora) are discussed but it seems that the message always comes back to “but that’s not for you” and that it is better/safer to just “worship” as apparently a Bhakta. It seems that there is also the potential to create fear and doubt in a sadhak within those books. This attitude is oft expressed by revealing that if the sadhak makes some error than “they are finished”. One must perform certain works with confidence and should not be worried that one slip of decorum ruin them. I have another problem with the book, which I find hard to express. It has to do with creating a “perspective” of relating with the subtle in a way that seems not only overly materially concrete but in many ways overly dualistic. I view aspects of subtlety concretely, but it really depends upon areas of “perception” when relating to these things(and informing perspective). So there is either a different “space” or a profoundly different(than normal) perception if some Deity is engaged. Both the energy and information are highly “internal” and there is a tacit understanding of a high frequency. Regarding some Deity standing in front of you and chatting with you, without the understanding of this creates a false promise/expectation, and the sadhak may “miss” a “specialized” presence if they are waiting to have tea with their Ishta. There is also the obvious problem with the books from the academic perspective, and that is that there is no certainty of identity for our Aghori. The teacher is said to be deceased, real name(either given name or initiated name) is not provided, nor any photo “evidence”. So maybe it is Castanadas “Don Juan” who was speaking for all we know. My intuition says that it was a real person, with whom the author had intimate contact. The author admits to the propensity for exaggeration(both in India and for teachers), and I would take him at his word on this. One is given the view of “supermen”, and it would be unrealistic to expect to shoot fire from your ass or live 1,000 years.