The literal meaning of Aghor (=A + ghor; A meaning not and ghor meaning terrible) is non-terrible, i.e., one which is simple. What is alludes to is that spirituality is very straightforward indeed. It does not require any special knowledge, faith, worship or ritual. All it requires is an inspiration, determination, perseverance, and patience. Contrary to the widespread belief among religious scholars and philosophers, Aghor is not a ‘tantric’ tradition. Aghor ‘sadhna’ does not depend on tantric activities. In fact, Aghor is a state of “Shivattva” and an “Aughar” is an embodiment of “Shiva” who himself is the originator of ‘tantra’. In other words, an Aughar could be a source of tantra but he does not depend on it. Here, we are highlighting the top ten key characteristics of the Aghor tradition.
1. Aghor tradition believes in the highest state of spiritual austerity.
An Aghor aspirant performs a “ghor tapasya” (very severe penance or self-mortification). During this period, he lives a shelter less and means less life in total isolation, completely detached from the worldly affairs. He does care at all about his own physical conditions. His only mission during this period is to experience and realize that divine power, the “Shakti”. This kind of severe “Tapasya” is known only in Aghor tradition. This is how an Aughar attains a spiritual elevation. Aughar is actually a high stage in seekers life when all rules are finished. It is the highest discipline, without any worldly discipline. Contrary to accepted practice for religious sects, Aughars have no rules for eating, sleeping, cleanliness or wearing particular robes. For them, there is no difference between the water in the gutter and the sacred water from the Ganges river. For them, there is no difference between a diet of pure fruit and vegetables and the decayed flesh of dead animals. They are above good and bad.
2. They don’t want to depend on society for anything.
Aughars have traditionally lived in isolation, in mountain caves, jungles and on cremation grounds. They visited households only occasionally. They neither had a need nor desire to live in the society and hence they stayed away from it. That is why they adopted a living style that distracted general public. To avoid people, they behaved as though they were imbalanced. For instance, some of them threw pebbles on people when approached, called names, etc. Some consumed filthy stuff like dead bodies, human waste etc. When interrogating an Aughar who lived in a Himalayan cave in Kashmir, “Why do you live like this, eating the flesh of dead bodies?” The Aughar replied, “Why do you call it a dead body? It’s no longer human. It’s just matter that is not being used. You are associating it with human beings. No one else will use that body, so I will. I am a scientist doing experiments, trying to discover the underlying principles of matter and energy. I am changing one form of matter to another form. My teacher is Mother Nature; She makes many forms and I am only following her law to change the forms around.”
3. The threat to the livelihood of Brahmins and Vaishnava leaders.
Although Aughars stayed away from society, people started visiting them to seek their blessings and to benefit from their spiritual power. This became a threat to the livelihood of Brahmins and Vaishnava leaders, whose job was to keep people entangled in superstitions and complex rituals in order to maintain their own domination in people’s lives. And therefore they launched an organized campaign against the Aghor tradition to portray it as an unruly, erratic and undesirable cult. The result was that people started to dread and boycott Aghor and Aghoris. Even today most people have the same misconception about this tradition. But Aughars don’t want publicity and popularity for themselves. Fame and wealth make them very uncomfortable. That is why an Aughar does not publicize his healing activities. He heels up in such a way that even his own people are unable to figure it out. On the other hand, when he notices some virtue in a fellow being, he tries to promote it as much as possible.
4. Aughars don’t want to interfere with nature.
They are totally against performing miracles. They want mantra and tantra to become a convention in society. They are concerned that people would not understand the subtle things and would start to talk about or do things that will not be good for the society. And therefore, Aughars deal with or attend to everything is such a simple and natural way that people can understand. For instance, Aughar recognizes that Medical Science too is the great gift of the Divine Mother. One should make full use of it. Aughars themselves practice it. They believe in the fusion of science and spiritual discipline. An Aughar teaches his people two things: conform to the social provisions and at the same time, developmental stability. An Aughar is not interested in spreading the name or expanding the influence of his tradition. His interest is to serve the humanity and to bring harmony in society, nation, and the world. He is against the polarization of the human, caused by faith, religion, race, culture or geography.
5. Aughars are totally against organized religions.
They encourage complete freedom in spiritual practice. Man is born free and should remain free. They believe that spiritual capacity should indeed be used to provide relief to the worldly people. However, it should be done in confidence, not with a great pomp and show. Their primary goal is the upliftment of the common humanity and in particular, support and care for the neglected and destitute people. Aughars themselves don’t want to be in the limelight. Aughars believe in complete freedom: freedom from hypocrisy, freedom from hatred, envy, and pettiness, freedom from desire, freedom from ego, freedom even from scriptures. They prefer character to brilliance, action to inaction, justice to mercy. They have no patience for saffron-clad sadhus sitting in sham contemplation.
6. An Aughar never utters his Guru’s name in his conversations.
He believes that is behavior and conduct, not his talk, should represent his Guru. For this, he draws an analogy with the culture of an Indian wife who never utters her beloved husband’s name. He encourages everyone to avoid using Guru’s or Master’s name in general conversations. This is vital for bringing harmony in the spiritual world. An Aughar has two forms of behavior: one is external or social that people can see but can’t understand. And another one is his personal treatment which is very sweet. He has no such thing like hatred for anything or anybody. He is in such a mental state that he is capable of giving equal treatment to everyone.
7. Aghor is just a state of mind that can happen to anyone.
Aghor is not a philosophy, cult or a religion. In words of renowned “Aughar Bhagwan Ram”(founder of Sri Sarveshwari Samooh), “Aghor is an intuition that has been emanating from every human heart ever since the life dawned”. It is a spiritual trail that takes a sincere follower away from the feelings of scarcity and abundance, poverty and opulence. It is a practice that leads one to noble deeds, spiritual thoughts, and mental peace. It is a Sadhna whose goal is self-realization and service to all. It takes the aspirant beyond the illusion of the world and desire for liberation both. Irrespective of nationality and faith, when a person is mentally elevated to a point such that hatred, greed, jealousy, and attachment disappear from his heart, then he attains the Aghor or “Awadhoot” state. It is an absolutely carefree state. In this state, the aspirant gets totally detached from the external world. He doesn’t need, desire or demands anything. He doesn’t care for or complain about anything. He has no worries, no constraints, no bondage and no obligations whatsoever.
8. Aghor is a Guru-based tradition.
The details of an Aghor Sadhna are known only to the Guru (an Aughar) who transfers his knowledge to is a disciple(s) if and when he chooses to do so. It is not open to everyone. The external activities of an Aughar are no clues at all for what goes on within. And that is why this chain is survived since ancient times despite numerous upheavals and turmoil in society and in the country. After becoming an Aughar, aspirant’s heart becomes very pure and no evil can touch him. His mind resides in a vacuum (a state of mind with no thoughts) all the time. He attains a state of indifference; for him, all living beings are Godly creatures and therefore they are equal. Actually, there are people in this state of mind all over the world, however, they may not be known as Awadhoots, Aghoris or Aughars.
9. An Aughar acquires spiritual power within himself.
Unlike other traditions, where people become disciples to live in a monastery or an “Ashram” and live a traditional life of a devotee, Aghor tradition really believes in active Sadhna and Tapasya (penance, self-mortification). An Aughar wants to acquire spiritual power within himself and in order to do so he goes through a very difficult period of “Tapasya”. During this period, he lives a shelterless, meal less, clothless and mean less life; he does not care whatever happens to his own body; the only motivation that drives him is his desire to see or feel the power, the Almighty. The primary difference between Aghor and other traditions is that in other traditions, in general, a devotee makes a complete surrender to God and follows a path of devotion which brings him mental peace. An Aughar, on the other hand, goes a step beyond that. He not only makes a complete surrender to God, he actually goes out to search for him and in so doing he achieves some spiritual powers, he gains some additional capabilities to be able to do something. And that is the difference.
10. Aghor is a composition of Shiva and Kali.
It is generally believed that an Aghor aspirant is the worshiper of Lord Shiva because that is what reflects from an Aughar’s attire: ashes on the body, trishool in hand, beard on face and garland around the neck. Although his attire is starting to disappear, the name Aughar instantly creates that picture in mind because that is the mode Aughars have lived in since ancient times. However, in reality, the word Aghor has a broader meaning which covers not only “Shaiva” but also includes “Shakta”. Many of the Indian epics provide a description of Kali or “Chandee” as the one who roams at cremation grounds. Since Aughars spend a lot of time at cremation grounds, that identifies an Aughar as the one who has the attire of Shiva and activities of Kali (power). Thus Aghor Sadhna, Aghor behavior and Aghor brain represent a blend of “Shaivism” and “Shaktism”.