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8. Sufi-tantric-vaishnava syncretists
Aula, Baula, Sani and Daravesa
These four apasampradayas are closely related. They are actually different divisions of one group, commonly called "the Bauls of Bengal." Heavily tantric sahajiyas with Sufi leanings, they do not necessarily present themselves as vaishnavas, though they claim to embody the real spirit of Lord Caitanya's movement.
The word aula has different meanings, either of Arabic or Bengali origin. The Persian word aul (which comes from the Arabic wallia) means "very important person," signifying the supposed exalted status of a member of the cult of auls. There is also from the Islamic world the word auttal, which means "the first phase". This indicates that of the four sects, the auls are on the first stage of advancement, because they are married householders. They practice tantric sex-yoga with their own wives as well as the wives of other auls. Another meaning of aul is au (woman) and ula (come down); this points to their close connection to woman, through whom they think descends deeper wisdom of the universe. In Bengali, the word aul is related to kulata ("afflicted"), in the sense of being afflicted with love. They think they have attained the state described in Caitanya-caritamrta, Antya 17.46:
yeba venu-kala-dhvani, eka-bara taha suni,
nivi-bandha pade khasi, vina-mule haya dasi,
bauli hana krsna-pase dhaya
"The transcendental vibration of Krishna's flute disturbs the hearts of women all over the world, even if they hear it only once. Thus their fastened belts become loose, and these women become the unpaid maidservants of Krishna. Indeed, they run toward Krishna exactly like madwomen."
The word baula comes from the Sanskrit word vatula, or mad. In the previous verse, the word bauli was used in this sense. It may also be related to the word vyakula, which means "impatiently eager". The bauls are wandering minstrels who play instruments like the ektar, dugi (a drum like the larger drum in a tabla set) and bamboo flute. They do hari-nama-kirtan and sing enchanting songs to express their philosophy, the words of which are very enigmatic (like Bob Dylan songs, but in Bengali). Some bauls are world famous, like Purna Das Baul, who has done concerts in Albert Hall in London.
The word sani comes from svami. This group is more commonly known as the sain. They are mendicants who wander about without following any rigid path, having supposedly renounced all external designations. Shirdi Sai Baba is a rather well-known example of this type; followers of the famous Satya Sai Baba of Puttaparthi in Andra Pradesh claim that he is the same Shirdi Sai reincarnated.
The daravesa (Darbesh) are the gurus of the auls, bauls and sains. They are supposed to have reached the highest realization through the tantric sadhana that is practiced by these cults. In Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya 20.70, Srila Prabhupada translates the word daravesa as "hippie," which gives some idea of how the vaishnavas view these exalted personalities. Darbesh is a Sufi term; it comes from the Persian dar (door) and bhitan (to beg), meaning "one who begs from door to door."
The auls, bauls, sains and darbesh share the same philosophy, which directly descends from the Sahajayana tradition. They view all existence as being formed from the combination of the mundane male and female principles (purusa and prakrti). They believe they can harmonize these two principles within themselves through so-called love, which is generated by a kind of bodily union between man and woman according to tantric yoga. When purusa and prakrti are perfectly harmonized, then one realizes the inner ecstacy they call jiyante mara or "death while living", which is signified by complete stoppage of all physical and mental activity. They identify this state with the mahabhava ecstasy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. When this state of "death while living" is attained, one can know the maner manush -- the "man in the heart", who is also known as sahaja manush -- "natural man"; bhaber manush -- "man of devotion"; raser manush -- "man of rasa"; and sonar manush -- "man of gold." Though this maner manush is never specifically identified with Gauranga Mahaprabhu, obviously the concept is stolen from the Gaudiya Vaishnavas.
Typical symptoms of the four cults
There are certain practices of these apasampradayas (like the caricandrabhed or "ritual of the four moons") that are too disgusting to be described here. It is enough to say that they are absorbed in the darkest regions of ignorance. They believe that all exalted states of transcendence, like the realization of Vaikuntha and Krishnaloka, rest in the gross physical body. Their motto is "what cannot be found in the body cannot be found anywhere." Their philosophy encourages a person to engage in all sorts of degraded acts of lust and depravity in order that the inner bliss (svarup) stored in the material form (rupa) may be released.
These apasampradayas share the same syncretism (the artificial combination of aspects of different religions, i.e. tantric, mayavada and Islamic mysticism with some vaishnava overtones) and iconoclasm (they all reject Deity worship).
The auls, who are said to be on the beginning stage of sadhana, practice what is termed "bodily meditation." This means that the men of this sect take themselves to be purusa and the women are called prakrti. Their sadhana is illicit sex. Husbands and wives of this community freely switch partners. Their idea is to excite lust to a fever pitch so that they can attain divine love. They claim that Lord Caitanya, Lord Nityananda and the six Goswamis were all "auliya", and use citations from Sri Caitanya-caritamrta in which the word aula appears to try to substantiate their claim sastrically.
The influence of mayavada philosophy on the aul sect is very marked. They claim to be purusa, though Krishna is actually the only purusa. They base their claim solely on the body -- if one happens to have a male form, he is purusa, and may imitate Krishna's activities with impunity.
Lord Caitanya's teachings clearly distinguish between love and lust -- atmendriya-priti-vanca tare bali kama (Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi 4.165). The practices of the auls are simply lust, and have no connection with authorized scriptures.
The bauls, being folk musicians, exert an extraordinary influence upon Bengali culture. They were patronized by no less than Rabindranath Tagore, Bengal's nobel-prize-winning poet. Bengali intellectuals are fascinated with them and have written many books to their glory. In recent years, interest in the bauls has spread to the West.
They often keep long hair in a bun on top of their heads and wear the gown of a Muslim fakir with Shaivite rudraksa beads, the glass worry-beads of a Muslim, and the tilak and japa-mala of a vaishnava, all simultaneously. They are usually bearded, and carry a shoulder bag, a bamboo walking cane and a fisti (pot made from a big coconut). They use hashish liberally for "self-control."
The bauls typically flock to festivals they call mahotsavas, many of which coincide with important Gaudiya Vaishnava functions. The Jayadeva-Kenduli Mela during winter is the largest such mahotsava; the bauls have an akhra (their word for ashrama) there, and thousands of them converge at that spot for the three-day festival. At other places across Bengal and Bangladesh they hold are mahotsavas throughout the year. The bauls move from one to the next, perform music, smoke hemp and look for women. Often a baul picks up a woman (or sadhika) at one mahotsava and drops her at the next to take on a new one. His former sadhika will be picked up by another baul.
Some bauls are literate, and use their talents to write books presenting perverted accounts of the lives of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His associates. These need not be mentioned here, as they are too offensive. Because of their talents, the bauls cast an extremely inauspicious spell over the minds of the innocent but foolish populace.
The sains are the freebooters of this tradition. They are supposedly liberated from all material conceptions, and thus may appear in any kind of dress (Hindu sannyasi or Muslim fakir) or no dress at all. They are so much beyond the grip of illusion that they may drink wine or eat human flesh as expressions of their high awareness. The common people superstitiously think sains to be powerful healers, for many Sains maintain themselves by distributing mysterious medicines and cures. Some sain "saints" of the past were Nanak Sain, Alek Sain, Ksirodha Sain and Garbha Sain. One Tapan Das Sain supervises the yearly baul three-day mahotsava at the Darbesh Ashrama at Dubrajpur. Now over 80 years old, he and his young female consort are highly honored in baul society.
The Darbesh Ashrama was founded by Atal Behari Darbesh, known as Darbeshji. By mystic influence he brought a king under his control; that king gave him the land on which the ashrama is situated. Darbeshji is thus venerated by the auls, bauls and sains as a spiritual giant. The followers of Darbeshji dress as Sanatana Gosvami was dressed when he escaped the jail of Nawab Hussain Shah to join Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in Prayaga. Sanatana told the jailer whom he'd bribed, daravesa hana ami makkake yaiba: "I shall go to Mecca as a Darbesh." The darbesh cult take this as Srila Sanatana Gosvami's most profound instruction. The daravesa-apasampradaya is degraded in every way, for its adherents fully embrace Muslim habits (meat-eating, smoking, etc). They are feared by the common folk for their mysterious powers. Once some workers tried to cut down a tree on the Darbesh Ashrama land, a tree that Darbeshji himself used to rest under. But when they struck that tree, so the legend goes, they all fell down to the ground, vomiting blood.