An Ode to Augarh

A phantom
In the garb of a human,
Manifesting and multiplying at will.
Eyes bright as rubies,
An intoxicating swagger,
He appears wherever he pleases still.

Another figure who finds a recurring mention in stories of Gurudev (and some others) is his mysterious disciple, Augarh. Augarh is the head of the Aghori sect who is believed to have held dominion over Haridwar, Uttarakhand, and its adjoining areas.

Aghor is a state of consciousness devoid of contradiction or discrimination. Aghori vidya (knowledge) practiced by the followers of Augarh has come to be recognised as a lower-form of tantric worship called the ‘left hand’. This is a misnomer, accentuated due to some tantric practices followed by the Aghoris which include eating dead bodies and excreta, maintaining poor hygiene, and meditating in charnel grounds among others. As the philosophy of Aghori vidya is aimed at achieving a state of non-duality, these strange practices allow Aghoris to reach states where stench and other sensory stimuli do not disgust them. The goal is to find purity even in filth. To this end, they do not discriminate between vegetarianism and non-vegetarianism, and eat corpses and drink alcohol out of human skulls. Even though their practices are considered a dirty business, the truth is that the Aghori philosophy is highly evolved beyond the seemingly messy optics. By practicing non-duality, Aghoris can catapult out of the tantalizing tentacles of maya (delusion). However, while Augarh was a disciple of Gurudev, his followers are not.

Augarh was a realized manifestation of the singular form of Shiv minus Shakti. He has the power to manifest at will in different human forms at multiple locations, and can also be communicated with telepathically.

According to Gurudev’s disciple Ravi Trehan ji, Gurudev would refer to Augarh as an ‘elder brother’ of his disciples and someone they could invoke for help in spiritual matters. Many of Gurudev’s disciples received help from their guru-bhai (spiritual associate) when he was invoked, while some like Shobha ji, the wife of a disciple named Surender Taneja, used Augarh as a personal genie for the fulfillment of mundane requests. However, most others were unable to connect with the abstractness of his unmanifested form and hence could not take advantage of Augarh’s spiritual might.

Gurudev would meet Augarh on his visits to Hardiwar, Uttarakhand. One evening as Gurudev and his disciples stood in a gathering crowd at Har ki Pauri at the time of the aarti (prayer), he instructed them to go and stand a fair distance away. He then requested Mataji to move closer to the river bank to have a better vantage point to watch the prayer ceremony. Mataji sensed that her husband wanted to get rid of her to set the stage for a possible meeting with Augarh. Curious to see who the mysterious disciple was, Mataji insisted on staying put. However, as soon as the aarti began, she was distracted by the cacophony of conch shells, gongs, and chants.

When Mataji turned towards Gurudev a few minutes later, she saw a man in a white cotton kurta-pyjama and turban, bend to touch Gurudev’s feet. Before she could register what was going on, the man turned and walked away with Gurudev following suit. Within seconds, they disappeared into the crowd.

On noticing Gurudev’s absence, the disciples rushed towards Mataji and inquired about his whereabouts. She informed them of what had happened. Despite a frantic search, the disciples were unable to locate their guru. When Gurudev returned after some time, he confirmed that the man he left with was Augarh. Gurudev also informed his wife that Augarh had touched her feet as a mark of respect, yet Mataji had no recollection of it.

Mataji recalled another encounter with Augarh when she accompanied Gurudev to Rishikesh in Uttarakhand, many years later. Many disciples and their families also joined them on this trip. As the group crossed the Laxman Jhoola (a bridge across the Ganges) on a hot summer’s day, they paused their journey at a spot in the shade near the ghat (series of steps leading to a water body). Among the people resting there was a group of sadhus and a man covered in a white sheet lying on a long bench. Gurudev sat down on the bench near the sheet-clad man’s feet. He then instructed the ladies in the group, including Mataji, to head to the bathing area designated for women to freshen up. The men were instructed to take a dip in the cool water of the Ganges.

As the women were leaving, Shobha ji sought Gurudev’s permission to lay her young son down on the bench next to him. Gurudev asked her to place the child next to the sheet-clad man’s head. When Shobha ji put her son down, she saw a pair of big, red eyes staring back at her from a narrow opening in the sheet. Frightened, she let out a scream. Gurudev immediately instructed her to leave her son under his care and join the other ladies.

A few minutes later, her husband Surender ji, who was in the middle of taking a dip in the Ganges, saw an elderly man bend to touch Gurudev’s feet. When he emerged out of the river a second or two later, he could see Gurudev but the elderly man was no longer within view. It quickly dawned on him and the other disciples that the person who was touching Gurudev’s feet was their mysterious guru-bhai, Augarh. They rushed towards Gurudev and asked him, “Guruji, kya woh Augarh the? (Guruji, was that man, Augarh?)”. He nodded in the affirmative.

I have met Augarh on multiple occasions and the first encounter took place sometime in the 1980s in Ludhiana, Punjab.

Gurudev instructed Subbhash Sabharwal and me to accompany Mataji to her hometown. Post our arrival at Mataji’s family home in Ludhiana, Subbhash and I walked to a paan (betel leaves) shop nearby to purchase tobacco. As we made our way towards the corner store, we noticed a drunk and disheveled man pulling a cycle along, headed our way. When we turned back towards the house after making the purchase, the man stood in our path, blocking it. He looked at us with a set of piercing eyes and started reciting a mantra gleefully. I was shocked when I heard him saying the same mantra that I was reciting mentally at the time!

I sensed this man was not to be trifled with. So, Subbhash and I beat a hasty retreat. All through the night, I saw him encircle the house riding his cycle. He left when dawn broke. As close to forty years have passed, I don’t remember if it was Gurudev who confirmed the man’s identity as Augarh or if instinct drove me to reach that conclusion, but what I know for certain is that Augarh spent the entire night protecting the place that housed his guru’s wife.

My next encounter with Augarh was a few years ago when I decided to start seva at Asthal, a picturesque village in Dehradun, Uttarakhand. As the area came under Augarh’s domain, I extended a mental invitation to him to pay a visit to the place. In the first few days of seva, I noticed a man with a confident albeit drunk swagger walk in and stand outside the room where I was tending to the people who had come for healing. He looked at me with a set of piercing eyes and gave me a knowing smile. The exchange of glances told a story we both understood.

When a sevadaar (a person helping with seva) asked him to partake in the refreshments that were being served to the visitors, he remarked that he was there to honour an invitation that had been extended to him. As there was only one being whom I had invited to Asthal till then, it reconfirmed what I already knew – the man in our midst was Gurudev’s mysterious disciple, Augarh.

Interestingly, my guru-bhai (spiritual associate) came to my aid in a matter that wasn’t exactly spiritual in nature and that too in his unmanifested form.

When Raji Sharma, one of Gurudev’s beloved disciples, arrived at Gurgaon late one night to meet Gurudev, I was tasked with preparing tea for him. Definitely a tall ask of a man who had never brewed a cup of tea in his life!

I ran to the room where the fierce foursome of the sthan – Gaggu, Bittu, Pappu, and Nikku – were fast asleep in the hope of recruiting their help. As I couldn’t stir a single member of the quartet out of his slumber, I was forced to make the tea all on my own.

I lit the stove and placed a pot of water, with ground tea leaves, on it. I then made a humble request to my elder brother, Augarh, to help me brew the perfect cup of tea. Strangely enough, as soon as I did, I received the first instruction as a thought-wave, which was that I should empty half the pot and refill it with fresh water. I then received another thought indicating where the chai masala (tea spices) was kept and it was exactly where indicated. I received further instructions on how much sugar and milk to add, and how many boils to give the brewing beverage.

When the tea was ready, I poured the piping hot liquid into two cups and made my way to Gurudev’s room with trepidation. After serving tea, I left the room so that Gurudev and Raji ji could continue their conversation. After a minute or two, I heard Gurudev say, “Oy, chai bahut badiya banayi hai (You’ve made lovely tea).” I asked him if he would like another cup and Gurudev said he would. I guarantee you, the reader, that I can now make better tea than most, thanks to the recipe passed on to me telepathically by my elusive guru-bhai!