Swami Ashutosh Maharaj, a religious cult leader in India, was pronounced clinically dead, after doctors confirmed he died of heart disease. However, his followers are unwilling to accept the verdict. Instead, they claim that he’s simply meditating. They’ve put him in a freezer for now, and they say he’ll be returning to them soon.
Ashutosh Maharaj, over 70 years of age, was the founder of the Divya Jyoti Jagriti Sansthan (DJJS) in Jalandhar city, Punjab. On January 29, he complained of severe chest pain, and is believed to have suffered a heart attack. Dr. Harpal, who examined Ashutosh along with a team of doctors on February 3, said: “After several check-ups, including an ECG test, the team concluded that Ashutosh is clinically dead.”
But his disciples have yet to be convinced. They insist that he is in a deep state of meditation, called ‘samadhi’. So he has been kept ‘spiritually alive’ on the sprawling, 100-acre DJJS premises, in a commercial freezer. “Maharaj has been in deep meditation,” said one of his followers. “He has spent many years meditating in subzero temperatures in the Himalayas, there is nothing unusual about it. He will return to life as soon as he feels, and we will ensure that his body is preserved until then.
Several politicians in the state of Punjab did send their messages of condolence in January, when Ashutosh’s death was confirmed. Thousands of followers thronged the DJJS premises back then, mourning their guru’s death. But his close associates quickly retracted the statement about his death and instead claimed that he was meditating. Even the official DJJS website declared: “Shri Ashutosh Maharaj ji has been in deep meditative state since 29th January 2014.” Although the district police confirmed his death initially, the report was dismissed by the Punjab High Court, because they couldn’t intervene in spiritual matters.
The curious case of Ashutosh Maharaj, who is considered to be one of India’s wealthiest gurus, has caused a widespread debate in the nation. Many people say that since the man has no pulse or heartbeat, he has to be dead. But his disciples insist that these are classic signs of ‘samadhi’ or deep meditation.
Interestingly, the guru left behind properties worth over $150 million, spanning India, the US, South America, Australia, Europe and the Middle East. Many believe that this massive wealth is actually fuelling the controversy surrounding his death.
His disciples have been accused of denying the guru’s death, because he died before he could choose a successor. Without a successor, all his wealth would go to a charitable trust, which the DJJS obviously do not want. So people say they’re stalling things until a suitable successor can be appointed. “Only Mahararj ji will announce his successor after coming out of his samadhi,” declared the media department of the DJJS.
Surprisingly, even Ashutosh Maharaj’s wife and son have accepted his death – they want his body released for cremation. But they aren’t even being acknowledged by followers. “Ashutosh has no family and was an unmarried ‘sanyasi’ as a matter of principle and tradition,” said a DJJS official. Dalip Jha, Ashutosh’s son, says he’s prepared to go through a DNA test to prove he is Maharaj’s son.
According to some media reports, Ashutosh Maharaj was born as Mahesh Jha in the state of Bihar. He left his home, his wife and his one-month-old baby boy in 1970, arriving in Punjab to spread his spiritual message. He founded the DJJS in 1983, and his spiritual centers spread all over the world. For now, his body has been placed in a heavily guarded freezer, that only his close associates and doctors are allowed to enter.