Those following this story, which in this country probably includes (1) me and (2) some percentage of you, will recall that His Holiness Shri Ashutosh Maharaj Ji has for some time now been either dead or meditating, depending on who you ask. If you ask members of his biological family (or those who claim to be), he died of a heart attack. But if you ask members of the religious order he founded and/or people who would like to be in charge of his extensive assets, he is just in deep meditation.
So deep they’ve been keeping him in a freezer since January 2014. See “Court to Decide Whether Guru Is Dead or Just ‘In Deep Meditation‘” (May 29, 2014).
The lawsuits surrounding Ashutosh Maharaj aren’t moving much faster than he is. A judge ruled in December 2014 that he was, in fact, dead, and should be cremated within 15 days. But the appeals from that order are still pending, and the court in which they’re pending has continually put off the hearing and decision dates either for its own reasons or because the parties have asked it to. See “Frozen Guru Update” (Jan. 5, 2015); “Frozen Guru Update II” (June 18, 2015); and “Frozen Guru Update III” (Sept. 7, 2016). The most recent action, on March 17, was another postponement.
This article published by the Indian Express in November (“A dead sadhu, a live issue“) is a pretty good overview and status update. It notes that Ashutosh Maharaj is currently residing in a building at this ashram in a rural area of Punjab, protected by extensive security including metal detectors and more than 50 police officers. “Ask why a man who [was] declared dead two years ago requires security,” the Express reporter notes, and one will be escorted to the office of the senior disciple, who will not give the answer one expected:
“Ashutosh Maharaj has taken Nirvikalpa Samadhi [deep meditation] for the cause of ending global terrorism and global warming,” says [the disciple]. But express puzzlement as to how the two modern-day evils can be fought from a deep freezer whose carbon footprint can only be guessed at, and he says spiritual matters cannot be understood by a layman until he attains “Brahm Gyan” (divine knowledge) or sees “Divya Jyoti” (eternal light).
Emphasis added. This reporter, Sanjeev Verma, appears to cover legal issues for the Express; I’d suggest he start a legal-humor blog but I don’t need the competition. This is good stuff, though.
As the article goes on to point out, the competing lawsuits have been filed against the state of Punjab—not that it did anything wrong, just because both parties need it to take action. The state, maybe understandably, is reluctant to take sides in what is—arguably—a religious dispute. The judge who held Ashutosh should be cremated held that the “deep meditation” belief was not integral to Hinduism and so not entitled to protection, or at least that (as Sanjeev the wiseass put it) “preserving his body in a refrigerator appeared not to be in consonance with any Hindu ritual or tradition.” The High Court and/or the state has been putting off a final decision for years now.
According to the article, at the most recent hearing in those appeals—which at the time was the 15th—the state said it had asked for a medical opinion as to whether it was even possible to preserve a clinically dead body by freezing, and had only recently received that opinion. The court accordingly adjourned the matter until November. And then until December. And then. And then.
Sanjeev ends by noting that Ashutosh’s notoriety in the area goes back decades:
Jalandhar-based senior journalist Jatinder Pannu remembers Ashutosh Maharaj as being famous in the Nurmahal area by the name of “Lightan Wala Baba” (Saint with divine light) in the 1980s. He had a moped and he would ask people to see into his eyes through a lamp.