An Indian guru who has been pronounced clinically dead has been frozen by his followers, who believe him to be in a deep meditative state.
Ashutosh Maharaj is leader of the Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan (Divine Light Awakening Mission) in Nurmahal, a small town in Punjab’s Jalandhar district. The guru, reportedly in his 70’s, was declared “clinically dead” by doctors after complaining of chest pain late last January. However, his devotees are convinced that he has reached "samadhi", the highest plane of consciousness within their spiritual tradition, and that he will soon return to lead them. His followers in Nurmahal watched over his body for six days before moving him to the freezer, where he has now been for over a month.
Despite Maharaj having no pulse and his ECG showing a straight line, his spokesperson Swami Vishalanand told the BBC: "He is not dead. Medical science does not understand things like yogic science. We will wait and watch. We are confident that he will come back."
Maharaj's followers claim that the decision to freeze his body was taken in order to support his samadhi. The freezing temperature is thought to simulate the Himalayan environment, which yogis seek out to experience this particular level of meditation.
According to The Indian Express, a dispute over succession may be behind the organisation's reluctance to announce the death of their leader. Maharaj’s former driver sought the release of his body, claiming that specific devotees were holding on to it in order to get their hands on the leader’s properties. The court ruled against his plea, stating that it is up to the guru’s followers to decide what they do with the body.
The Divine Light Awakening Mission claims over 30 million followers. On its website it calls on those members to ignore outside news on their spiritual leader and to “practice as much meditation as possible to partake in the positive energy being created by His Holiness Shri Ashutosh Maharaj Ji.”