In what may be one of the greatest magic tricks ever pulled, or one of the shabbiest attempts ever to deny obvious reality, there is currently a very involved legal debate about whether or not an Indian guru is dead…or if he’s meditating. It’s been going on since January 29, 2014. Luckily for all involved, until it can be determined, the meditating/possibly dead guru is being kept in a refrigerator.
According to his followers, His Holiness Shri Ashutosh Maharaj, the founder of the Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan religious order, is a very powerful spiritual leader, and for him, none of this behavior is the least bit odd. They insist he has a long history of this sort of behavior. There are some of his supporters that their leader will come back to life from his half-dead state.
As reported by The Telegraph: According to one of his aides, who asked not to be named, “Maharaj has been in deep meditation. He has spent many years meditating in sub-zero temperatures in the Himalayas, there is nothing unusual in it. He will return to life as soon as he feels and we will ensure his body is preserved until then,” he said.
As you might imagine, there are many interested parties that wish to decide if the guru is dead or experiencing a very, very deep form of meditation. The fact his followers keep their leader in an industrial strength freezer doesn’t seem to end the debate. On the official website of his religious order, his followers issued this statement:
“His Holiness Shri Ashutosh Maharaj ji has been in deep meditative state (Samadhi) since 29th January 2014.”
I’v e known some yoga instructors and they’ve told me all about the wonders of meditation — but no one ever told me you could be dead for a few months. (Perhaps, it’s time to re-think meditation.) The important point about his followers stated belief that their guru is in the freezer meditating is a legal tactic. Their words are not just a statement of his earthly condition; it’s not just a description of his ontological existence; their statement is, first and foremost, a legal posting. It’s like staking a claim on a mine. As long as their leader is “alive,” nothing changes.
I don’t wish to mock The Hindu Houdini and his death-defying magic trick, nor should we mock the faith of his followers. We shan’t take a superior cultural position and look down our noses and view theirs as a silly backwards faith. Just down the road from me people gather every Sunday and they eat the body and drink the blood of their fallen leader. So, let’s be clear, human religious beliefs generally sound silly to an outsider. We’re not casting his followers as simple-minded believers. We’re not mocking the people of the Punjab. Their spiritual beliefs aren’t the laughable part. The true comic gold is how once again, like a magnifying glass, a pile of money shows how quickly humans will act like the silliest of all the animals. You could find a man who will hump a walrus carcass for a hundred bucks. (Or because he thinks it will make his god happy.)
What absolutely kills me about “the meditating master in the freezer” is how quickly his followers use his spiritual beliefs to protect his fiscal empire. Oh yeah, that’s right! His Holiness Shri Ashutosh Maharaj was a very rich man. His religious order controls property worth an estimated £100 million sterling.
Today the group has thousands of followers around the world and owns dozens of large properties throughout India, the United States, South America, Australia, the Middle East and Europe, including its British headquarters in Hayes, Middlesex.
This seems to be why the leader is being kept “alive” in the frozen foods section of his secret retreat. Originally, he was declared dead of a heart attack. But his followers insisted he’s not dead. This is all part of his grand plans of self-realization.
That’s when the case of the meditating master entered slippery legal ground. Although, the Punjab police declared the guru dead, the Punjab High Court ruled that, much like Westley in The Princess Bride, the guru is not deceased, he’s only “mostly dead.” The Punjab High Court’s official legal ruling is that the followers can not be legally persuaded to believe their guru is dead. They have the right to believe whatever they’d like. The fact that the guru’s been on ice in the freezer since January seems to be of little interest to the court. The man’s spiritual life seems to be of primary importance.
This rather flexible definition of what it means “to be alive” is more than a legal luxury it’s also problematic because it provides no answer to that essential question we ask when someone dies: What do we do with the money?
You may be wondering: Doesn’t the guru have any family or next of kin?
Why, yes. Yes, he does. He has both. They are the sticky wicket in this cricket match of life and death. His widowed wife and grieving son are fighting against the guru’s followers. They have filed court papers requesting an investigation to determine if the guru is indeed dead or, in fact, meditating in the freezer.
His son, Dilip Jha, 40, has issued public claims that his father is clearly dead, and the reports of his meditation are greatly exaggerated. The son asserts that his father’s followers are using his father’s dead body to retain control of the sizable fortune and real estate empire that’s controlled by the religious order. (I once heard a rumor that the Memphis Mafia, the inner circle of yes-men that hung around Elvis, attempted to do the same thing with the King’s dead body but no one was willing to go into the bathroom and pull out his bloated corpse so they could stick it in the freezer. Remember Elvis was a black belt, I’m sure he could meditate, too. Eventually, though, due to the smell, Priscilla called the coroner. Although, tbh, no one knows if that rumor is true.)
Since His Holiness Shri Ashutosh Maharaj was a master of self-realization, let’s close on a few of his words, perhaps, they will shed some light on his state of being:
“Every particle of this existence comes and fades away, what makes you think you’re not next?”
I don’t know about you, but after all this talk of meditation and self-realization, there’s one realization that this self just made: the next time someone in my family or one of my friends wants to ask me how my dating/sex life is, I’m gonna tell them, “Well, the best I can put it — my sex life’s not dead … it’s just meditating.”