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Weekend at Sri Ashutosh's
June 2, 2014 9:18 AM   Subscribe

Indian court asked to rule on whether Hindu guru dead or meditating: Since January 29 of this year, Sri Ashutosh Maharaj, founder of the Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan religious sect, has been residing in a freezer in his ashram in Punjab. His followers claim he is in a "deep meditative state (samadhi)." Doctors, however, have declared Maharaj clinically dead and his family have sued to have his death be investigated and to have his body released for cremation. The guru's son also alleges that Maharaj was murdered and that his followers are trying to gain control of his estate, said to be worth $170 million. While traditional yogis have claimed extraordinary powers, including the power to stop one's heart, the evidence for these claims has been lacking.
posted by Cash4Lead (37 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Related: Guru Meditation.
posted by Dr Dracator at 9:23 AM on June 2 [2 favorites]


He'll die of old age before the courts decide.
posted by stbalbach at 9:24 AM on June 2 [2 favorites]


Don't ruin it with your observations, rare are those who have achieved superposition.
posted by Free word order! at 9:38 AM on June 2 [13 favorites]


Religion is a hell of a drug.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 9:42 AM on June 2 [3 favorites]


At the risk of stating the incredibly obvious, if you have to keep the body in a freezer or else it will turn green and decay, then it's dead.

There are none so blind as those who will not see. The most deluded people are those who choose to ignore what they already know.
posted by zarq at 9:43 AM on June 2 [5 favorites]


And given that his supporters claim that this is a spiritual matter ... who wants to take bets that supporters will not agree with the court decision that goes against them.

After all, how can a judge decide whether the guy is in samadhi or not ... its not as if the judge happens to have a connection with heaven or hell (where the guy would go if he was dead).
posted by TheLittlePrince at 9:44 AM on June 2 [2 favorites]


Also, bravo on the post title.
posted by zarq at 9:44 AM on June 2 [5 favorites]


[Folks, maybe not with the immediate jokes? Thanks. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 9:46 AM on June 2 [1 favorite]


zarq: "turn green and decay, then it's dead. "

:) ... you know the counter argument right?

well, we have to preserve the body for the guru to come back ... the body can decay ... but guru is just travelling around in his hyperconscious state or something .. and he will be back whenever he feels like it.

I think these guys left behind their rational thought processes a long time back. :)
posted by TheLittlePrince at 9:47 AM on June 2


estate, said to be worth $170 million

He's just spending a year dead for tax reasons.
posted by Quack at 9:49 AM on June 2 [33 favorites]


At the risk of stating the incredibly obvious, if you have to keep the body in a freezer or else it will turn green and decay, then it's dead.

Sloths are covered with green algae though they are very much alive. Also, I think the color he turns is more of a Norweigian blue is it not?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:50 AM on June 2 [4 favorites]


TheLittlePrince: " I think these guys left behind their rational thought processes a long time back. :)"

This is true.
posted by zarq at 10:00 AM on June 2 [2 favorites]


This reminds me, in a perverse way, of the people who bring their stillborn pre-term children home from the hospital and take pictures.

OTOH, $170MM is nothing to be sneezed at. Perhaps the show of religious devotion is trying to avoid a very long and complicated court battle?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:09 AM on June 2


Surely you mean $17 crore?
posted by indubitable at 10:24 AM on June 2


There was a dollar sign in front of "170 million" so I'm assuming it's dollars, not (apologies for ignorance) the symbol for Indian money.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:27 AM on June 2


Crore is a mathematical unit equal to 10 million (of anything). $17 crore means $170 million...
posted by Walleye at 10:32 AM on June 2


Ah. My bad.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:33 AM on June 2


This reminds me, in a perverse way, of the people who bring their stillborn pre-term children home from the hospital and take pictures.

Parents who do that are grieving the death of their children. They are not denying that the children are dead. Really not the same thing at all.
posted by Dojie at 10:41 AM on June 2 [9 favorites]


That would be why I said "in a perverse way." And it's highly arguable that such people don't want to accept that their child is (tragically) dead.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:43 AM on June 2


He could just be pining for the fjords.

I find this an interesting parallel with the ongoing story of the last Lubavitcher Rebbe -- when what's at stake is money, adherents, and power and control over both, it almost makes sense to find a religious loophole that lets you keep it all. And when faith is the price of entry, anyone who tries fighting the idea of "he's not really dead" is putting themselves outside the fold and therefore has already lost.
posted by Mchelly at 10:50 AM on June 2 [4 favorites]


> ...heaven or hell (where the guy would go if he was dead).

That's how Christianity works, not Hinduism.
posted by ardgedee at 10:54 AM on June 2 [2 favorites]


Rather than the stillborn baby analogy, what leaped to my mind are things like the Terri Schiavo case; a dogged insistence that there was a there in there despite her brain basically being dead puree. Just keep hooked up to life support/stuck in the freezer, and you'll see!

It's a mix of people having rational thought flown the coop--plus a smaller number who are undoubtedly very coldly (rimshot, etc) rational indeed, what with the the fingers in the extent of the estate and wealth involved, for whom some of the true believers are useful to keep going.

And completely tangentially: there's a horror movie script treatment or two to be had from this. Imagine a world where you actually could meditate so hard that your body began to rot and had to be stuck in a freezer. The world would truly be filled with the essence of suffering, not least because what if the power went out while you were communing with the secrets of reality via intense deaditation practice?
posted by Drastic at 11:46 AM on June 2 [2 favorites]


Religion is a hell of a drug.

This is all about money, only tangentially about religion.
posted by tommasz at 11:51 AM on June 2 [4 favorites]


...heaven or hell (where the guy would go if he was dead).

That's how Christianity works, not Hinduism.


No, that's partially how some sects of hinduism works too (just like some sects of christianity), they just use sanscrit words to describe svarga and naraka.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:00 PM on June 2


Dojie: " Parents who do that are grieving the death of their children. They are not denying that the children are dead. Really not the same thing at all."

I think the analogy sort of fits insofar as they're both having difficulty letting go, which is part of the grieving process. Losing one's guru to death might be quite emotionally difficult for a devotee, who has presumably focused their entire life towards him.
posted by zarq at 12:05 PM on June 2


Mchelly: " And when faith is the price of entry, anyone who tries fighting the idea of "he's not really dead" is putting themselves outside the fold and therefore has already lost."

Well put.

It's circular reasoning.
posted by zarq at 12:13 PM on June 2


Came in for the deadication joke, was not disappointed.

Initially I thought maybe there was a chance that the guy really was just meditating; it's kinda plausible that slowing your metabolic rate down + low temperatures could let someone meditate for a long period of time without normal biological functions... but no, this sounds more like your typical Weekend At Bernie's type situation.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:18 PM on June 2 [1 favorite]


tommasz: Religion is a hell of a drug.

This is all about money, only tangentially about religion.

You've described most religion.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:26 PM on June 2 [5 favorites]


There's a huge financial incentive for his followers for this guy not to be dead, so he's not dead. Simple as that.
posted by edheil at 12:43 PM on June 2 [1 favorite]


There's a huge financial incentive for his followers for this guy not to be dead, so he's not dead. Simple as that.

I wonder how much the Vatican has made just with the premise that Jesus is coming back, not to mention the whole "saints as active advocates in heaven" program they got working over there.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:48 PM on June 2 [1 favorite]


The 10th Regiment of Foot: " I wonder how much the Vatican has made just with the premise that Jesus is coming back, not to mention the whole "saints as active advocates in heaven" program they got working over there."

Incalculable. A large portion of Catholicism is built on it. And Messiah/Resurrection/Dispensationalism/End Times etc., is a huge part of evangelical theology.

One could argue that Messianism (and more generally, absolution for one's sins) is why Christianity has been so popular in the first place.
posted by zarq at 12:53 PM on June 2 [1 favorite]


Oh my God. He's Schrödinger's Guru.
posted by Omnomnom at 1:37 PM on June 2 [6 favorites]


Initially I thought maybe there was a chance that the guy really was just meditating; it's kinda plausible that slowing your metabolic rate down + low temperatures could let someone meditate for a long period of time without normal biological functions

If he's discovered some sort of deep hibernation state for humans- if he comes back that could revolutionize cryonics, make interstellar travel a reality. There's money in the science aspect, too!
posted by Apocryphon at 1:48 PM on June 2 [1 favorite]


No, that's partially how some sects of hinduism works too (just like some sects of christianity), they just use sanscrit words to describe svarga and naraka.

For some sects heaven or hell, for others meditating for eternity in a freezer.
posted by Hoopo at 3:01 PM on June 2


You ain't dead until you're warm and dead.

...well, maybe not in this case.
posted by ymgve at 3:27 PM on June 2


Why the hell are people so culty anyway? It's creepy.
posted by saulgoodman at 5:13 PM on June 2 [1 favorite]


Why the hell are people so culty anyway?

Excellent question. It's so widespread across history and culture that it must be evolutionarily adaptive somehow, but exactly why it's adaptive is very much an open question.

Dr. Barbara King tackles the question in Evolving God, but I found her answer to be circular and unsatisfying. It boils down to "people are religious because it gives them a sense of meaning", which just kicks the can down the road: why have people evolved to need a "sense of meaning"? Wouldn't an organism that just gets on with the business of eating and reproducing fare better than one that spends time and resources chasing after an emotional state that has no obvious connection to fitness?

Daniel C. Dennett examines the question in Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, and I remember finding his ideas interesting, but sometimes a bit slippery and opaque to my non-philosophically-inclined brain. Well worth a read, though.

You can skip Michael Shermer's Why People Believe Weird Things—despite the title, it's more of a catalog of the weird things that people believe, without any real attempt to explain why they believe them.

Richard Dawkins touches on the question in chapters 5 and 6 of The God Delusion, and I believe Sam Harris explores it in some of his books, as well.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 7:05 PM on June 2 [2 favorites]


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