Throughout human history there have been a myriad of cults and religious sects that have to varying degrees inspired curiosity, wonder, bafflement, and even fear or disgust. Whether it is from their bizarre practices, disturbing rituals, or extreme fringe beliefs, some of these groups have long exuded an inscrutable sense of mystery and menace to outsiders. One mysterious group that commands a good amount of fear, loathing, and often horror, is a bizarre tribe of cannibal mystics in India known as the Aghori, or Aghori sadhus.
The Aghori sadhus are an ascetic sect of Hinduism, specifically they are Shaivites, meaning they are devoted to Shiva, a powerful Hindu god of death and destruction often ominously referred to as “The Destroyer” and “The Transformer.”. The Aghori are monists who deviate from traditional Hindu beliefs in that they do not make a distinction between purity and impurity. They basically believe that the universe is non-dualistic, meaning that the pure, the impure, and indeed all opposites are indistinguishable from one another, and that they are all a part of the same thing. To the Aghori, nothing in the universe is “good” or “bad,” but rather all a manifestation of their god and thus everything is god-like and perfect. To deny anything is to deny their Supreme Being. They believe all other humans, including other Hindus and Hindu sects, are living in a world of illusion
The Aghori seek to free themselves from the cycle of reincarnation by realizing their own place within the absolute. They believe that they are a part of Shiva, and ultimately wish to transcend from their body, or shava, to an incarnation of Shiva himself. To do this, they must become indifferent to everything. They must embrace death, push through disgust and traditional fears, and deny physical pleasures such as sexuality as well as emotions such as hatred, greed, or shame. Likewise, they do not want to leave any physical mark upon the world and as such shun the idea of having families and domestication. Through total denial of oneself, transcending taboos, and embracing everything equally, the Aghori believe they will inevitably remove earthly bonds and attain enlightenment in the form of breaking the cycle of reincarnation and becoming a part of Shiva. The Aghori also believe that the fastest way of acheiving the light of enlightenment is to travel into the deepest darkness first, through seeking purity in death and what most consider to be evil or filthy.
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