A story on the BBC News web site reports that a group of devotees in India have frozen the body of their guru after his death from a heart attack. According to them, he did not die but moved into a state of Samadhi, the highest form of meditation. So they froze his body and will “wait and watch” confident that “he will come back,” apparently because the guru said he would.
I guess my question in this case would be – if the guru wasn’t actually dead, as his followers believe, when his body was put on ice, won’t the freezer finish the job? Not being much good at meditation myself, I also have to wonder whether such cold temperatures might disrupt the guru’s state of Samadhi and bring him back to some other state of consciousness. Namely, death. Hopefully they packed a good cold weather parka in with the guru.
Ashutosh Maharaj, leader of the Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan (Divine Light Awakening Mission), has been in cold storage now for some six weeks. Reading the BBC story, I was reminded of the old running joke on Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update when Chevy Chase would announce as his top story, “Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead” or the occasional variation "Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still valiantly holding on in his fight to remain dead."
The Divine Light guru reportedly led 30 million followers around the world. No word as to how many of them were consulted or agreed with the decision to serve up their spiritual leader “on the rocks.” I also have to wonder whether the divine light remains on when the freezer lid is closed.
At some level, I suppose this story also points up the need most of us have to believe in or hold onto something larger than life, bigger than ourselves. Me, I believe in a divine or higher power, but I don’t believe any faith or religion has a monopoly or even a clear understanding of that divine power or the higher truth it represents.
I certainly don’t think guru Ashutosh Maharaj is or was that divine power. To an outsider, his followers seem to have elevated him close to that level. Thinking more about this story, I am led to wonder whether the same sort of elevation might have happened in the case of Jesus. Perhaps he too began as a simple holy man and was elevated to divine status after his crucifixion by his followers, desperate to have something larger than life to hang their beliefs on.
I know Christians would say no and point to the Bible as evidence. I, on the other hand, have to wonder why so many accept the Bible and not some other holy text, such as the Upanishads or the Koran (or even The Book of Mormon). All were written or at least transcribed by men. Is it really inconceivable that, because of the politics or prejudices of the time, those authors/transcribers might have allowed their own hopes, biases, and opinions to color and influence what was actually set down upon the page? And which Bible? The Catholic version, with its Apocrypha? The King James? The New King James? The New International Version? (Was there an old International Version?) It’s all so confusing.
But back to guru Ashutosh Maharaj, he of the Divine Light. His spokesman (apparently, public relations is important, even after death – excuse me Samadhi) said the guru’s body did not decompose before being put into the freezer, even after remaining out for a week. That qualified as a “spiritual experience,” according to Swami Vishalanand. Actually, though, for those of faith, death itself would be considered a “spiritual experience.”
I don’t really begrudge the guru’s followers their belief that their leader will return. Perhaps that will illustrate the “awakening” aspect of the name of their sect. Until that happens, “Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead.”