Court to decide if Indian guru is dead or meditating

His Holiness Shri Ashutosh Maharaj was determined to be clinically dead by physicians in January 2014, but his followers insist he is in a state of deep meditation. The Punjab High Court is set to decide his state and therefore what will happen to his $170 million estate.

According to his wife and son, Maharaj died Jan. 29 of a heart attack. His death was confirmed by physicians and the Punjab police. His followers in the Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan sect say he has achieved a transcendent state called “samadhi” where he is at one with the universe. They are keeping him “alive” in a commercial freezer in his ashram.

Maharaj’s family say that the sect’s elders are insisting he is alive so they can control his finances. Maharaj is one of India’s wealthiest religious leaders with an estate worth an estimated $170 million. Maharaj had no named successor so his fortune would remain in a charitable trust if declared dead by the courts.

The Punjab High Court has dismissed the police report, saying Maharaj’s death is a “spiritual matter.” It will hear an application from his wife and son to investigate his death and return his body.