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Chamundi Hill, Part 2.

It is one year ago this weekend, whilst in the cave on a full moon night, Jamanagiri, my friend the Swami on the Hill, let go of his ageing body.

In the Hindu tradition, there are 4 stages of life. There is the period from birth to twenty when you’re a student, when you’re learning. Then there is the time from twenty to forty, when you’re a householder; you make the money that supports the whole system. Next is the stage from forty to sixty, when you do your religious studies. And from sixty onwards you become a renunciate, a Sannyasi, you let go of everything and turn your attitude to God.

There are those that choose to skip the beginning and middle bits and go straight to the 4th stage and become a “servant to God” these guys are also known as a Sannyasi, the girls are known as Sannyasini.

Usually, these women take their vows after the death of their husband. There are said to be over 5 million Sannyasis living in the caves and forests of India. Then you have the Aghoris, these are the Sannyasis that live by “the left hand of God” breaking all the rules, these guys you will find hanging out at graveyards and are particularly difficult to find, as they are elusive, shy and do their best not be seen.

I was walking home one late afternoon in Mysore, my house was at the end of an unsealed road with open fields on the left and a cremation ground on the right. I would often wander through the cremation site out of the curiosity of my western mind, trying to discover a bit more about life and death. This particular day I saw a moving object, first thinking it was a stray dog, there are many stray dogs waiting on the edges of cremation grounds in India, I looked again and there he was an Aghora, a mass of dreadlocks wrapped high on his head like a crown of weaving serpents, he was covered in a chalky ash, they smear their bodies with cremation ash, it’s said to hasten the spiritual process, I reached into my bag for my camera, no sooner then, he’d gone.

My interest in these renunciants of India has always intrigued me, the ability to give it all up, I mean everything, in the lifelong pursuit of finding answers, diving deeper into self.

I think we all, at some stage of our lives are just like the Sadhus of India; we are at times asked to give it up, our homes, our jobs, relationships and one day our bodies, it’s sometimes painful as we let go of our attachments because they are attached to our identities. The more we practice letting go the easier it seems to become. Letting something go allows something new to enter. Therein lies the joy.

I practice yoga for this inward journey towards the core of my being. The fulfilment of being in the world with all its temptations and still working on maintaining balance as a householder can certainly be a challenge, sometimes more so than a Sannyasi who has no-one depending on them.

To act out of Dharma and not desire is a lifelong pursuit, yoga offers me the tools of awareness, to expand, to change and develop in order to live a useful life.

Om Namah Shivaya


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