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Yogis and Sadhus in Nepal

Yogis and sadhus in Nepal

yogis and sadhus
Fake sadhu at a closed temple in Kathmandu Dubar Square

Yogis and sadhus in Nepal are not all that they pretend to be. A great many of them pretend to have renounced all earthly possessions and claim to be devotees or followers of a Hindu god such as Shiva or Vishnu. This could not be further from the truth. The truth is that many of the yogis and sadhus are bums and beggars.

Did you notice I didn’t say “homeless”? That is because a lot of them have wives and homes. The ones that do not own a home live collectively in ashrams. They pay rent or provide services to the leader of the ashram, who is generally the oldest member of their collective.

Even the Nepali government advises Nepal’s visitors not to give money to beggars. Though this article identifies kids as the issue, the problem does extend into yogis and Sadhus who operate under false pretenses.

Firsthand accounts

I have seen yogis fight over a bottle of water at Muktinath temple. Muktinath temple is known as the temple of 1,000 water faucets, because water naturally pours through faucets built into retaining walls. To see self-described holy men fight over an abundant resource seems absurd to me.

It was absurd because half the water they were fighting over spilled on the ground. Then when I started to walk by they asked for money, and immediately after resumed fighting. This group of sadhus were not the only sadhus at the temple. There had to be over 50 men and women, no exaggeration. They were lining the walk way asking for cigarettes and money.

A few of them will even curse and violently yell at you, if you pass them without giving any money. I saw one young man take a picture of a sadhu without paying for it. Lord Shiva couldn’t help him. It was as close to a mugging as you can get without any real punches or kicks being thrown.

Secondhand accounts

I came across an interesting fellow while trekking around the Annapurna circuit. We met at a tea house in Upper Pisang. He had an insightful story that he openly and freely shared with me. He went to the Pashupatinath Temple and met a sadhu there. He gave the sadhu $10 and they spent the day together. That night the sadhu invited the young man to join his ashram, which he accepted.

That night the sadhu made chicken for dinner, which most of the other sadhus also ate. After dinner they started smoking cannabis and playing music and singing. The young man had a flute that he began playing. One of the other sadhus at the temple became envious of the flute and tried first to ask for it, but then when the gift was not given, the sadhu tried to take it from him. Fortunately, another sadhu stopped the theft.

The young man left the next morning, but as he was leaving the sadhus made him give $10 to each of them or they wouldn’t let him leave. He gave all the money he had and left for Pokhara.

Good Sadhus

Don’t let this article convince you that all yogis and sadhus are terrible people. I have met a few that are good people that are honest and diligent on their quest for enlightenment.

The take away message from this article is if you go to Nepal, be aware that all the yogis and sadhus are not who they are pretending to be. Yes it can be fun to sit with them and take a few pictures, but please be safe.