When people are still trying to find the meaning of asceticism, Joey L, a Brooklyn-based photographer, gets us face to face with religious ascetics in Varanasi who have dedicated their lives to the pursuit of spiritual liberation.
A sadhu standing over a sunken temple in Varanasi, India.
They stay away from all the worldly pleasures.
Left: The Aghoris have a profound connection with the dead. Death is not a fearsome concept, but a passing from the world of illusion.
Right: When he was young, Lal Baba’s parents arranged a marriage for him. Uncertain about his future, he ran away from home in Bihar Siwan and took up the lifelong task of becoming a sadhu.
They cover themselves with human ash, which is a product of the cremation of a material body.
To sadhus, dreadlocks are a sign of renunciation and a life dedicated to spirituality.
Lal Baba has dreadlocks (jatas) several meters long, which have been growing for over 40 years.
River Ganges, is most sacred to them.
This is the holiest river where they perform their rituals
They start learning the rituals and devoting their life at a very early age.
Batuk students in Varanasi, India
Aghori puja being performed by sadhus.
Baba Vijay Nund on the steps of Chet Singh Ghat on the banks of the Ganges River.
They leave behind all the temptations of life.
Right: Magesh left a well paid job as a computer consultant to pursue to the path of Aghora. After years of practice, he finds no temptation to return to his old life.
Setting examples to live life in the simplest way possible.
Ram Das stands beside a boat wreckage.
Their life don’t have any materialistic pleasures.
Not even clothes! Left: Baba Mooni conducting Aghori Puja.
Each one of them have their own stories to tell.
Aba Yohannis monastery: A 74 years old sadhu, “I came from my village, from the countryside to learn. I didn’t go home. I preferred to stay here. I’ve been here for 43 years.”
Right: “Perhaps I will live even longer than 101, maybe 101 years more. I know a monk who is 80 years old, but he acts very old. He is not like me.”
River Ganges, Varanasi is their holy home.
This is where they get the strength to live such a religious life away from the worldly pleasures.