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Aghor Medicine: Pollution, Death, and Healing in Northern by Ronald L. Barrett, Jonathan P. Parry

By Ronald L. Barrett, Jonathan P. Parry

For centuries, the Aghori were often called the main radical ascetics in India: residing bare at the cremation grounds, meditating on corpses, undertaking cannibalism and coprophagy, and eating intoxicants out of human skulls. in recent times, notwithstanding, they've got shifted their practices from the embody of ritually polluted components to the therapeutic of stigmatized ailments. within the strategy, they've got develop into a wide, socially mainstream, and politically strong association. according to broad fieldwork, this lucidly written e-book explores the dynamics of pollutants, dying, and therapeutic in Aghor medication. Ron Barrett examines a variety of Aghor cures from ritual bathing to converted Ayurveda and biomedicines and clarifies many misconceptions approximately this little-studied staff and its hugely unorthodox, robust rules approximately ailment and healing.

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Additional resources for Aghor Medicine: Pollution, Death, and Healing in Northern India

Example text

A and ja mti systems of caste, in which endogamous groups are ranked according to their degree of ritual purity. It can be transmitted from lower to upper castes through the exchange of coded substances, such as the previously mentioned foodstuffs, as well as through transactions involving money or gifts (Raheja 1988; Parry 1986). Pollution can also be acquired through association with bodily decay and disease, with infertility, skin diseases, and death being the most polluting conditions. The Aghori are famously associated with all three.

Until that time, I had made most of my contacts while riding the coattails of a holy man. Upon his departure, those initial relationships changed to some degree, reminding me that access is not the same as rapport. The latter took more time and effort. My attributed status as a member of the Sonoma Ashram evoked ambivalent feelings about the West that were common among many Indians. Although the Aghori describe their tradition as universal and nondiscriminatory—so much so that even Americans can become full-fledged disciples—many were distrustful of Americans because of our reputation for decadent living and our fickleness in relationships, qualities they considered incompatible with spiritual commitment.

Furthermore, the overall tone of Vimalananda’s narratives is far more egocentric than that of any of the Aghoracharyas (spiritual teachers of Aghor) that I knew. The latter spoke only of the supernatural abilities (siddhis) of their gurus, never of themselves. Unfortunately, we have no way to cross-check Vimalananda’s version of Aghor. 3 Svoboda also recounts that his guru never belonged to an organized lineage (1998). So in comparing Vimalananda with the multitude of Indian father figures who eagerly assume the role of expert mentor in a given topic of interest, the only feature that distinguishes the former is his biographer.

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