Why don't Jain sadhus wear clothes

HinduismSadhus: India's holy men

Hundreds of believers come to Varanasi every day to take a ritual bath in the Ganges and then take some water from the holy river home with them. There are always some sadhus among the newcomers to the pilgrimage city in northern India. Some of these Hindu wandering monks have walked for weeks. To then set up camp here, on the banks of the Ganges or near one of the many small temples.

The followers of the god Shiva can be recognized by the three horizontal stripes on their foreheads. Other sadhus have rubbed ashes from head to toe and are, as the scriptures say, "clothed with the infinite" - that is, naked. Some of these holy men remain motionless on the floor in barely comprehensible yoga positions. And still other sadhus dig themselves into self-shoveled holes on the river bank, so that only their heads can look out.

Neither doctrine nor followers

The Australian religious scholar Prof. John Powers:

"In India, a sadhu is one who has renounced everything worldly and seeks to free himself from the fetters of rebirth. But some of these ascetics are nothing more than shrewd beggars. They take advantage of the fact that Hindus, the one Support ascetics with a donation, acquire religious merit. "

There are said to be around four to five million sadhus in India today, around ten percent of whom are allegedly women, called sadhvis. Sometimes sadhus are also called gurus. But unlike a guru, ascetics do not aim to spread a teaching and to gather as many followers as possible.

"Ascetics have a very long tradition in India. The first sadhus already existed in the country over three thousand years ago. Even then, these sadhus neither wanted to start a family nor participate in social life. Wealth, reputation and material goods were not desirable for them. Their goal was to obtain divine salvation. "

Says the Indologist Prof. Tripathi from New Delhi.

Different styles of life

The renunciation of material possessions, celibacy and abandonment of the world are essential for the existence of a sadhus or a sadhvi.

Apart from these similarities, ascetics in India lead very different lives. Some sadhus live in communities, like the Nagas for example, others are hermits and meditate in seclusion in the mountains of the Himalayas. And still other ascetics wander from place to place.

"Jain ascetics lead a much more difficult life than Hindu ascetics. Jain monks have to wander eight months of the year and during this time they are not allowed to stay in one place for more than three days. While some of our monks still have a simple one Are clothed, the others live naked. However, our ascetics do not stay away from society, but through their presence they promote the cohesion of our religious community. "

Says Anil Kumar Jain, head of a Jain organization in New Delhi.

With spears and swords

The holy cities on the Ganges have always attracted ascetics, for example Haridwar. The Kumbh Mela is celebrated here every few years. Sadhus and millions of devotees come to this Hindu festival to take a ritual bath in the river at a particularly favorable time. This immersion in the Ganges is said to wash away the sins of the believers. Sadhus of all stripes are present at the Kumbh Mela. Among the holy men are the nagas, naked and armed.

"This militant group arose when the Hindu temples and statues of gods were destroyed under the rule of the Muslims in India. The members of the Nagas came from all walks of life at that time, they fought the Muslims with spears and swords. The Nagas still wear them today the same weapons as before and practice fighting with them. "

As different as an ascetic life may be, whether on the Ganges or as a hermit in the icy heights of the Himalayas - they all have the same goal. Professor Tripathi:

"Through their lifestyle, ascetics try to accumulate as little karma as possible, the result of past deeds, and ultimately to free themselves from all karma through absolutely strict asceticism. If this succeeds, they are one with God and free from death and rebirth."

Different practices for one goal

To achieve this goal, ascetics perform very different practices. A sadhu who inflicts physical torture on himself is held in high regard among his own kind.

So some ascetics remain in the same position for years, some only stand on one leg for years. Others sit constantly in a thick thorn thicket or under a dripping bucket of water.

And some sadhus have taken a vow of silence and do not speak a single word for years. Internal communication is also taboo for them.

"Every sadhu enjoys the greatest respect among the believers. Nobody asks about his origin or caste. The mere sight of an ascetic creates a feeling of veneration in every Hindu. It doesn't matter which group or school he belongs to - all ascetics experience the highest Danger."

John Powers:

"Sadhus still play an important role in India. Many Indians go to an ascetic to seek his blessing. Sadhus are particularly respected because they vehemently try to achieve the highest goal of religion. They embody the ideal that everyone." Hindu should aspire to at some point in his life. "

Exceptional properties

In the yoga texts the supernatural abilities of the ascetics are described.

It is said in these scriptures that anyone who is very advanced spiritually will acquire these extraordinary qualities on their own.

Prof. Tripathi:

"The texts also state that an ascetic should not be confused by these supernatural abilities. He should not boast that, for example, he can start a fire out of nothing. This would only deviate from his spiritual path and miss its real goal, unity with God. "

Some of the ascetics are particularly noticeable. This also includes the long-haired "aghoris". They stand out for their extreme behavior. "Aghoris" are usually found in places where the dead are burned on pyres. The ascetics rub their bodies with the remaining ashes, while the aghoris use a human skull as a drinking vessel and alms bowl.

"For Aghoris no food is taboo, nothing is considered unclean for them. The food serves them only to maintain their body. Aghoris consume every dead animal and it is claimed that even the meat of a deceased person is not taboo for them. Many practices are kept secret by the Aghoris or are hardly known because they live completely withdrawn. "