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In Hindu tradition, there is a path to enlightenment known as “Aghor Yoga.”
The practitioners of this form of spirituality, the aghori, maintain a complex belief system- the full exploration of which is beyond the scope of this article.
Their practice takes them not just into the established and accepted forms of “normal” Hinduism, but into the dark and fearsome places of the world:
Graveyards, haunted houses, cremation grounds, and other traditional places of death, dying, and unrest.
They associate with the homeless, the insane, the drug-addicted, and the criminal.
A rejection of duality, of the standard ideas of “good and evil” lends itself to a worldview that is contained within the name for their belief: Aghora, or, “fearless, without terror.”
They exist in darkness to better know light.
Using a corpse as an altar for their ritual, drinking from human skulls, and eating the flesh of the dead, they dwell on the impermanence of life, but also on the lack of death’s power over them.
This likely seems very extreme to some- but we can learn a great deal from the aghori’s understanding of the world as filled with a variety of things, some light and some dark, but all valuable in their own way.
For many religions, worship occurs in places set aside, “made holy,” and specially prepared for spiritual practice, often replete with many trappings, tools, and symbols of the sect or cult.
How necessary all this is depends on the individual’s mindset toward what is sacred and what is profane- if our worldview sees certain things or actions as being more “pure” or holy than others.
If experience itself is the great guru, then the world entire is our holy temple, the house of the one true sacred fire.
We, that is our fleshly bodies and spirits, are then a living and moving shrine in which the same fire burns- a tiny representation of the whole.
We move through the massive temple of the world, performing actions and rituals, undergoing trials and ordeals, engaging with gods and devils and men and women…
Each one of these experiences teaching us something of ourselves, of the nature of this existence- suffering and joy two sides of the same coin and both valuable instructions.
Our meditation, our great spiritual practice is to gain understanding, to become “awakened,” and exist in a state of total awareness and focus- everything performed with a clarity and mindfulness to make it a worthy prayer.
Even the darkest hours are understood as necessary, as mandatory to experience and endure, and to learn from- not meaningless hardships, but steps leading us ever closer to the inner sanctum.
Here, there are no middle men or spiritual languages to be learned- one is as good as another, for words fail as surely as the men and women who speak them.
Some truths can be gained by listening to the wise, but in order to have attained that wisdom, the wise one has found it through being and doing- listening can only lead us to the fountain of bitterness and sweetness, but it is we who must drink.
One’s tantra, that is, the web and weave of their system, of their Great Work, is their own.
We may borrow maps and inquire about far-off places, but to look at a map, to see a picture, this is not the same as being in that place.
Nowhere is off-limits or relegated to the unknown in this practice, no action more or less important- we are all monks, walking through this dark and shadowy house of prayer, sometimes in darkness, sometimes in light.
This world is our temple, and we, steadfast and righteous disciples to the greatest of teachers.
If we walk with heart, and keep our flame burning and fed with Truth, we will learn to become “aghora”-
to exist, to endure, to awaken- fearlessly.