BBC2- Extreme Pilgrim P2

January 12, 2008


Pete Owen-Jones excelled himself last night. The second part of “Extreme Pilgrim” was aired on BBC 2 at 9.00 pm. He was exploring Hinduism by looking at the spiritual life and path of a sadhu.

sadhu is a common term for an ascetic or practitioner of yoga (yogi) who has given up pursuit of the first three Hindu goals of life: kama (enjoyment), artha (practical objectives) and even dharma (duty). The sadhu is solely dedicated to achieving moksha (liberation) through meditation and contemplation of God. Sadhus often wear ochre-colored clothing, symbolizing renunciation. Pete Lataer in the programme becomes a sadhu.

Pete attended the Kumbh Mela, a mass gathering of sadhus from all parts of India, takes place every six years at one of four points along sacred rivers in India, including the holy River Ganges. Sadhus of all sects join in this reunion. 7 Million of non-sadhu pilgrims also attend the festival, and the Kumbh Mela is said to be the largest gathering of human beings for a single purpose on the planet.

Sadhus occupy a unique and important place in Hindu society, particularly in villages and small towns more closely tied to tradition. (We see this when Pete spends sometime in one such village as the new holy man.) In addition to bestowing religious instruction and blessings to lay people, sadhus are often called upon to adjudicate disputes between individuals or to intervene in conflicts within families. Sadhus are also living embodiments of the divine, images of what human life, in the Hindu view, is truly about – religious illumination and liberation from the cycle of birth and death.

The greatest point in the programme last night for me personally was when Pete has time on his hands and for three days he meditates outside the Sadhu’s cave which is just out side the village. He makes a series of profound statements one of which struck me powerfully – “In the last twenty years I have had no time to sit back”

It seems to me that it’s exactly this “sitting back” which is almost absent from the idea of spirituality in the west. Waiting, meditating, reflecting, absorbing, listening, seem to be foreign terms in a driven society and in a driven church where both are seeking some form of success.

I took my hat off to Pete last night, I enjoyed the programme, I’m not saying that we should all go out and become Sadhu’s but at the very least we too can learn to become an extreme pilgrim.