When we started the podcast journey, we did a few episodes on Aghori and Aghora. At that time, my mentor Kiran sir suggested I talk to Dr. Robert Svoboda.
Dr. Robert Svoboda is the first Westerner ever to graduate from a college of Ayurveda and be licensed to practice Ayurveda in India. During and after his formal Ayurvedic training, he was tutored in Ayurveda, Yoga, Jyotish, Tantra, and other forms of classical Indian lore by his mentor, the Aghori Vimalananda. He is the author of twelve books including Prakriti: Your Ayurvedic Constitution and the Aghora series, which discusses his experiences with his mentor during 1975 – 1983.
About His Guru
“I don’t think of myself as an authority. All the knowledge I have is from my guru Vimalananda. He wasn’t a standard agora who stayed on the cremation ground or eat uncooked food. He did that sadhana, but his opinion was Aghora was not limited to attitude or behavior. His belief was the essential thing about Aghora is to have awareness of death 24 hours a day.”
“I first met Vimalananda when I was 22, and he left the earth when I was 30. In my 20s, I lived in India and spent time with him. The book I wrote is heavy because of the things described in the sadhna and working with spirits and intoxicants. Sadhna means to perform to achieve something. Sadhana in Ayurveda means curing someone unwell and helping them to become healthy. In the spiritual sense, it means to acknowledge that we are here because of our Karma. The idea of Sadhna is to get rid of this karma.”
What Is Aghora
“I study Aghora. It means not Gora. Gora means to be frightened with a loud cry. Originally it had nothing to do with the cemetery. Originally it meant someone who would make you feel in awe. Agora meant taking any intense situation like disease or death and acknowledging its nature but not allowing it to cause a feeling of disgust or being scared.”
Meeting His Guru
“I was studying Ayurveda. I didn’t want to take money from my parents, so I decided to apply for a grant from the US government because the US government wanted to send students to Pune to learn about Ayurveda and bring it to the US. While studying in Pune, one day, I heard of someone who came from Mumbai and knew tantra. I thought of tantra as a dangerous thing. But I had to meet him, so I went. He seemed to be normal, and over the next few days, I kept visiting him, and he answered a few questions of mine without me asking. That is how I met my guru.”
“Vimalanandaji’s father moved to Mumbai from Gujrat, and they were wealthy. When he was young, he visited Darbanga in Mithila. His parents were a devotee of a Bengali saint and belonged to the sect developed by Wallabacharya. His family was satvik. Vimalananda was never interested in doing sadhna. A Jain saint saw his horoscope and predicted he would succeed in a particular sadhna by praying to a goddess. So the saint asked Vimalananda to follow him to Darbanga. He took him to a cremation ground and asked him to chant a mantra. Vimalananda ji denied it. But the sadhu said he will be killed by the other agoras there.”
“The Jain sadhu gave him a country liquor, and Vimalanandaji drank it. Then he sat on the corpse and repeated the mantra. Suddenly a jackal came and bit him and drew a drop of blood. And Goddess appeared. The Goddess asked him to ask for a boon. He says I never asked for this, so I want to be back home. The goddess asked him to ask for something else, but he was adamant about being back in Mumbai. So he was instantly sent back and had a mala in his hand. He didn’t understand what happened. But he started chanting, and the goddess appeared again. The goddess told him to go back to a cremation ground and continue the mantra chanting then I will tell you what next.”
“He went to the cremation ground and started chanting and establishing a relationship with the goddess. It took him a while to get used to the idea that he was establishing a relationship with blood drinking goddess. He still had to live a normal life in front of his parents.”
Paths To God
“There are four paths to God, as per the Indian tradition. The first path is the path of the ant. You will walk and reach your path. If you fall, you will get back on the path. Then there is the fish path, where you swim upstream. It is a little work. The third path is the monkey path. You will move faster toward god when you are on this path. But you would break bones if you fell. The last one is the bird path, where you could fly or crash and die.”
“I grew up as a Christian. I am still connected to Jesus as he is my Kulla Devata. For many people, it is one devata. But many would even worship a lot of Gods. It is all about believing in what you feel is genuine. I have faith in Ganapati. The form of worship is different, but they are different externally. They are still the manifestation of the supreme.”