By looking into the eyes of eight-six-year-old Vaishnava, Hanuman Das, the social function of the sadhu as a charismatic guru, compassionate transmitter of spiritual energy and earthly representative of the divine is plainly evident. Like other magnetic sadhus, Hanuman Das likely receives offerings, which he either keeps, sacrifices to his deity, or returns to the devotees as blessed prasad, “food from the gods.” Just as viewing a consecrated image of a Hindu deity is referred to as darshan, or a returned divine gaze, so too do sadhus allow themselves to be looked at as a means of transmitting their spiritual energy to admiring devotees. As a renunciant, the sadhu is the exemplar of religious practice and closest to the divine, therefore he is capable of giving blessings and spiritual instructions. Darshan may even be given through the photograph of a sadhu.
Hanuman Das sits atop a spotted deerskin—now a substitute for endangered tigers and lions—which is not only a symbol of power, but also is thought to prevent the energy accumulated during meditation from escaping into the earth.