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 frequent mention in the stories of Gurudev is his mysterious disciple, Augarh. Augarh is the head of the Aghor sect, and his spiritual domain spans Haridwar and its adjoining areas.

Aghor is a state of mind that is free of contradiction and discrimination. Aghor vidya practised by Augarh’s followers has come to be recognised as lower-level tantric worship. However, this is a misunderstanding that is exacerbated by the Aghoris’ practices, including eating dead bodies and excreta, maintaining poor hygiene, and meditating in charnel grounds. Since the Aghor philosophy seeks non-duality, these unusual practises allow Aghoris to achieve states in which stench and other sensory stimuli do not disgust them. To that end, they eat corpses, drink alcohol from human skulls and make no distinction between vegetarianism and non-vegetarianism. Even though their practices are considered dirty, the truth is that Aghor philosophy is highly evolved beyond the seemingly messy optics. By practising non-duality, Aghoris work to break free from the tantalising tentacles of maya or worldly illusion.

Augarh is a realised manifestation of the singular form of Shiv minus Shakti. He can, at will, manifest in various human forms in multiple locations and communicate telepathically. While Augarh was a disciple of Gurudev, his followers are not.

According to Ravi Trehan ji, Gurudev referred to Augarh as his disciples’ elder brother, to whom they could turn for help in spiritual matters. Many of Gurudev’s disciples received his support when they requested him. Shobha Taneja, the wife of a disciple named Surender ji, used Augarh as a personal genie to grant mundane wishes. However, most others could not connect with the abstractness of his unmanifested form and thus were unable to benefit from his spiritual might.

When Augarh was in human form, Gurudev would meet him on his visits to Hardiwar. One evening as Gurudev and his disciples stood in a gathering crowd at Har ki Pauri at the time of aarti, he instructed them to go and stand a fair distance away. He then asked Mataji to move closer to the river bank to watch the prayer ceremony from a better vantage point. She 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, she insisted on staying put. However, the cacophony of conch shells, gongs, and chants distracted her as soon as the aarti began. A few minutes later, she turned to face Gurudev and noticed a man in a white cotton kurta-pyjama and turban bending to touch his feet. Before she could register what was happening, the man turned and walked away, followed by her husband. Within seconds, they disappeared into the crowd.

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

Mataji recalled another encounter with Augarh many years later when she accompanied Gurudev to Rishikesh in Uttarakhand. Many disciples and their families also joined them on that trip. On a hot summer day, the group crossed Laxman Jhoola and paused their journey near a ghat. Resting there, were a group of sadhus. A man covered in a white sheet lay on a long bench. Gurudev took a seat near that man’s feet on the bench. He then instructed the men in his group to take a dip in the Ganges while the ladies, including his wife, were directed to the women’s bathing area to freshen up.

As the women were leaving, Shobha ji sought her guru’s permission to place her young son next to him on the bench. Gurudev told her to place her child next to the sheet-clad man’s head. When Shobha ji laid her son down, she noticed a pair of large red eyes peering back at her through a narrow opening in the sheet. Frightened, she let out a scream. Gurudev immediately told her to leave her son in his care and join the other ladies. A few minutes later, Surender ji, who was in the middle of taking a dip in the Ganges, noticed an older man bend to touch Gurudev’s feet. When he emerged from the river a second or two later, he could see Gurudev but not the older man. It quickly dawned on him and the other disciples that the person touching their guru’s feet was their mysterious gurubhai, Augarh. They approached Gurudev and asked him, “Guruji, kya woh Augarh the?” (Guruji, was that man, Augarh?). Their guru nodded in the affirmative.

One of my first encounters with Augarh happened when Gurudev instructed Subbhash Sabharwal and me to accompany Mataji to her hometown. Post our arrival at Mataji’s family home, we walked to a corner shop nearby to buy tobacco. As we made our way towards it, we noticed a drunk and dishevelled man headed in our direction. He was pulling along his bicycle as he walked towards us. When we turned to go back to the house, he stood in our path, blocking it. He looked at us with a set of piercing eyes and started reciting a mantra. 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.

I noticed him riding his bicycle around the house all night. He left when dawn broke. I don’t remember if Gurudev confirmed the man’s identity as Augarh or if instinct led me to that conclusion, but what I do remember is that Augarh spent the entire night guarding the house where his guru’s wife was staying.

My subsequent encounter with Augarh occurred a few years ago when I began seva in Asthal, a picturesque village in Dehradun. Since the area fell under Augarh’s jurisdiction, I extended a mental invitation to him to pay a visit. In the first few days of seva, I noticed a man with a confident, albeit drunken, swagger walk in and stand outside the room where I was tending to the people who had come for healing. He gave me a knowing smile as he looked at me with piercing eyes. The exchange of glances spoke volumes. When a sevadaar asked him to partake in the refreshments served to the visitors, he remarked that he was there to honour an invitation 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.

On another occasion, 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 them. A tall ask of a man who had never brewed a cup of tea in his life! In the hope of enlisting help, I ran to the room where the fierce foursome of the sthan – Nikku, Pappu, Bittu, and Gaggu – were fast asleep. As I couldn’t stir a single member of the quartet out of his slumber, I had no choice but to make the tea on my own.

I lit the stove and placed a pot of water with tea leaves on it. I then asked my older brother, Augarh, to help me make the perfect cup of tea. Surprisingly, the first instruction came to me as a thought wave: empty half the pot and refill it with fresh water. I then had another thought that directed me to the location of chai masala, which was exactly where indicated. I was given additional instructions on how much sugar and milk to use and how many boils to brew the beverage. When the tea was ready, I poured it into two cups and made my way with trepidation to Gurudev’s room. I left the room after serving tea so that Gurudev and Raji ji could continue their conversation. After a few moments, I overheard Gurudev say, “Oy, chai bahut badiya banayi hai” (You’ve made lovely tea). I asked him if he wanted another cup, and he said yes. I guarantee you, the reader, that I can now make better tea than most, thanks to the telepathic recipe passed down to me by my elusive gurubhai, Augarh!