Holy Hobos: The Everyday Life of India's Sadhus
India's Sadhus lead a life of austerity, self discipline and detachment but are they just being selfish and irresponsible?
Presenter Mark Tully travels for Heart and Soul to the religious towns of Vrindavan and Haridwar on the river Ganges and into the foothills of the Himalayas to meet unusual Hindu holy men and women. He finds out from these sadhus and sadhvis what their everyday life is like. He meets a saint who tends 4000 cows, and in the jungle he hears from a woman priest who has adopted stray dogs that she has rescued from leopards. Other sadhus undertake seva or service which is more akin to social work: one runs an orphanage and another listens to the problems of villagers and settles disputes.
Although they avow the traditional austerity, self discipline, and detachment of a sadhu, the lifestyle some of them sounds relaxing – one interviewee describes himself as a Holy Hobo. Could they perhaps be regarded as selfish even irresponsible? Cutting themselves off from all family ties, and depending on others for food and shelter, they perform solitary spiritual practices in pursuit of their own moksha, their liberation from the cycle of birth, death and rebirth.
But one interviewee Rome Baba firmly rebutted that charge saying “We meditate for the entire world. We do everything for the world and for ourselves, nothing.” That it seems IS the ultimate aim of a sadhu or sadhavi’s life – to do nothing for yourself, to achieve such a radical personal transformation that, as Swami Tatva Vidananda said so eloquently, "The self is gone, the personality is burnt."
(Photo: Digamber Shiv Narayanji aka Rome Baba)