Ashutosh Maharaj was the leader of a religious commune in a small town in Punjab, India, one of the many gurus who infest that part of the world and concoct mystical theories about life and the universe. In January of this year the guru, who was supposedly in his seventies, experienced chest pains and was declared by doctors to be clinically dead.
But his followers were not buying it. They said that what had happened was that he had reached the highest plane of spiritual consciousness, known as the ‘samadhi’, and that he would return to ordinary life soon.
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.”
Vishalanand is right, of course. Medical science does not understand things like yogic science. That is because there is no such thing as yogic science.
The problem the followers faced was what to do in the interim while waiting for their leader’s return. After watching over the body for six days, they decided it might be better to freeze him and he has been in the freezer for over a month.
Why freeze him?
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.
Of course, that makes perfect sense within the framework of ‘yogic science’. But one problem is that if the frozen guru feels too comfortable in that Himalayan temperature, he may not want to return to the heat and may wish to stay frozen forever.
What I found surprising is that the sect claims to have 30 million followers, though these groups are prone to exaggeration in their numbers.