Naked in Ashes

nakedinashes posterAnother good film shown at the Naro last weekend was Naked in Ashes, Paula Fouce’s documentary on the sadhus (holy men) of India, and their extreme aesceticism. The documentary focuses on three small groups of yogis (each with two or three practitioners) and follows them for several weeks.

As I suspect many are, I’ve generally found extreme aecesticism, especially of the Eastern kind, very off-putting. I can understand St. Francis and his love of having nothing but God, but wasn’t able to make the same connection to these ash-covered guys in India.

Naked in Ashes sheds some much-needed light on the sadhus. Some are true bodhisattvas, dedicating their austerities to taking away the sins of the world. One guru said, “The world is suffering. That is my problem. I take on myself the sins of all, and wash them away in Mother Ganges.” I came to realize the answer why these holy men live in caves with nothing is not that far from why Jesus went to the Cross. The spirit of all-consuming Love is behind it.

Yet some cautions are necessary with Fouce’s film. She consistently refers to these practices as “yoga” and the ascetics as “yogis.” It would be more accurate to call them sadhus, as there are many kinds of yoga, most of which do not involve austerity at all. Also, Fouce concentrates almost exclusively upon male yogis which is odd considering she is a woman, and that there are large numbers of female yoginis and holy women.

Still, it was an educational experience, greatly enhanced by an marvelous, enthusiastic discussion afterwards.

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5 thoughts on “Naked in Ashes

  1. This seems like a really interesting movie (they both do, actually). No chance it will ever be playing near me. Wonder where I could rent it?

    Bewildering (in a good way) how some will ‘take on the sins and suffering of the world” while others will observe with a compassionate heart and not attach.

  2. Tommy, Neither of these are on DVD yet, but you can probably watch imdb.com (or the movies’ official sites) for when they do. After that, you should be able to get them thru netflix.

    I feel really blessed, though in living two blocks away from a great arthouse cinema and its video store… with everything you can think of, and some things you can’t.

    (Not very ascetic, am I? :-)

  3. The Naro (www.narocinema.com) is a beautiful thing. Not to brag about our city or anything. Maybe you (Isaiah) should move down here. :)

    I missed that one, but I’ll definitely have to watch for it when it comes out!

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