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by Robert E. Svoboda

Part 1 of the Aghora trilogy. As great as the cover implies.

"An Aghori is a man who lives his life closest to death. brushing his skin with the power of death every day. Always on the verge to explode into ecstasy. The left-hand path to God, where one immerses himself into all things dark and profane to gain mastery over them and begin to Realize the dual nature of thought and the non-dual nature of consciousness. 

The book talks about a lot of interesting stuff; bhakti (devotion), sadhana, thought projection, ethereal beings, asceticism, the play of Shiva-Shakti and a big chapter on sex. 

The book expounds specifically on Smashan Tara, a fierce and terrifying Goddess, who is the Vimalananda's ishta devata (favourite deity). She is a blood-thirsty and death-bearing Goddess who makes the charnel grounds her place of abode. Although she might be a terrifying entity she is a mother and pours out her love and care for the selfless seeker. Worshipping the Divine as a mother is the highest form of worship.

But when you try to draw some sought of rationality into this near fantasy world of an Aghori, you have to go a little beyond reason. The world of the dead is expansive and cannot be contained into theories and formulas. Vimalananda narrates how the world of the dead might aid the living and ways one can benefit from it. 

The book makes me conclude that thought is an exceptional tool. Every story narrated in this book is a projection of thought, which manifest in space-time through the sheer will and unwavering faith in the fruits of the action performed. "

"Written by one of today's Western experts in all things Vedic, Dr. Svoboda is highly respected. He spent eight years with an Aghora yogi and writes about the man's life experiences and thoughts on the Aghora's tantric practices. The Preface and Introduction gives a lot of crucial information about Vedic thought and Dr. Svoboda's reasoning and approach to writing this book, as well as the nature of his relationship with the aghori, Vimalananda.

People who are a little familiar with Vedic philosophy, either Ayurveda, Joyotish or Yoga, will get the most out of this book as familiar terms will be expanded upon in a different light. Dr. Svoboda writes about Vimalanda's experiences as if the reader was experiencing Vimalanda as he did, a student and friend so you get this kind of personal storytelling experience where you have to decide how much to "believe" or not in terms of bending reality. I mean some of the ways Vimalananda lived his life are what I imagine a schizophrenic experiences and yet the man had a firm grip on reality as well. The book gives tremendous insight into a practice Westerners can't really imagine or at least for me (a middle-aged Midwestern woman). The thrust with Tantra is embracing and working with all the ideas and practices most people shun on their journey to enlightenment; the Aghori almost exploits them to reach the same outcome."

"Honestly speaking, I don't know how to rate this book. While I read it with an open mind, certain things are almost impossible to believe. But then, that was expected. While this book is primarily on the dark side of spirituality, if you try and not take everything literally, it might make sense.Certain arguments were compelling.And surprisingly, it talks about the same concepts as you would find in various literature on the right side of spiritual attainments. Read, at your own risk!"