Bioethics Blogs

Ashutosh Maharaj – Is He Dead or Samadhi?

Indian spiritual leader Ashutosh Maharaj was declared dead on January 29, 2014.  

But his followers as well as the ashram leadership swear that he is alive, having attained “samadhi,” a high state of consciousness reserved for the holiest of men, beings so evolved they can control their heartbeat, a state indistinguishable to the unenlightened from death.  (NY Times)  

This state of transcendent bliss is a central tenet of traditional yoga in which a yogi becomes one with the universe. Upon moving all of your prana (currents of energy) up your spine and into your head, according to the seminal yoga manual Hatha Yoga Pradipika, a yogi can become “as if dead.”  (The Atlantic)

On December 1, the High Court of Punjab and Haryana issued a 129-page order ordering the cremation of Maharaj’s body (now being preserved in a freezer) within 15 days.  But on December 15, the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Monday stayed the order of the single judge.  Maharaj’s body will continue to remain in the deep freezer until February 9, 2015.

The dispute may not be a “pure” conflict between medicine and religion.  The Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan religious order has a property estate worth an estimated $150 million.  The determination of death will likely impact the disposition. 

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.