Shri Ashutosh Maharaj Ji: The Disciple Surpasses the Master
Shri Ashutosh, born as Mahesh Kumar Jha and also known as Ashutosh Maharaj, was an Indian spiritual leader, godman, satguru, and founder head of Divya Jyoti Jagriti Sansthan, a non-profit spiritual organisation. Despite its non-profit status it amassed valuable land and capital. On 29 January 2014, he was declared clinically dead by a team of doctors. He found international fame after his death (or not as the case may be) because his ashram devotees refrigerated his body because if he was dead the $US170 million estate would pass to his family. As of the writing of this article (mid 2014) the Indian legal system has not yet determined whether he is dead or in deep meditative samadhi. His body was still in deep freeze in 2020.
Mahesh Kumar (whose passport bore the words aka Vedapravaktanand and Profession: Religious Preaching) was born in 6th August 1946 and in 1974 found himself living and preaching for Divine Light Mission in the Palace of Peace as Mahatma ("Great Soul") Vedapravaktanand. For reasons unknown he went back to India. Other "mahatmas" such as Trebinanand, Tejeshwaranand, Jagdeo, etc indulged in secret, illicit, even illegal, sexual acts during this time.
He was lauded in an article prematurely titled "Utopia UK" in the official DLM publication, the Golden Age, Number 7, Saturday, June 8, 1974. Actually the magazine was also named a little prematurely.
The Palace is the nightly meeting place for all premies in London. They come between 7.30 and ten o'clock though it usually stretches to eleven), to hear satsang, interspersed with devotional music from the band, which is about twelve strong, most of the members having played with Blue Aquarius. Somewhere around nine o'clock, one, two or three Mahatmas come on to the stage, and give Satsang, explaining lucidly just what Divine Light Mission is all about and why Guru Maharaj Ji's Knowledge is so important today. Mahatma Ashokanand who is Manager of DLM in the U.K. and Mahatma Ved Praktanand* who always tells stories to illustrate his satsang are permanent residents of the Palace of Peace ashram, and are at the meetings every night. After the Mahatmas' Satsang, Arti, a traditional devotional song, is sung, sometimes accompanied by the entire band, or else by a quiet guitar. Up to a thousand people attend, some of whom are from France, Switzerland, Ireland, and other European countries, hoping either to receive Knowledge or to see Maharaj Ji or one of his family. (* Spelling of Indian mahatmas' names was always a little iffy as was western pronunciation of Hindi terms like satsang which became "socks on" in an American accent.)
After gaining his bachelor's degree in English, he was married to Anandi Devi and had a one month old baby boy when he left his village, Lakhnaur in Madhubani district of Bihar in 1970 after a minor tiff with his wife. When he was kicked back to India his only work experience was parroting the Divine Light Mission shtick so he had little choice but to join Rawat's eldest brother, Satpal Maharaj who was formerly Prem's right hand man known as Bal Bhagwan Ji. As Satpal and Prem's mother had control of the Indian Divine Light Mission (Divya Sandesh Parishad) they were happy enough to use him as a mahatma as long as he kept his saffron robe buttoned up although it didn't actually have buttons being Indian and all. But even in sexually unpermissive India his habits were hard to break.
How can we be sure that the banished Divine Light Mission mahatma is the famous Ashutosh Maharaj who found international fame after his death (or not as the case may be). As of the writing of this article (mid 2014) the Indian legal system has not yet determined whether he is dead or in deep meditative samadhi and as the disposition of 170 million dollars depends upon the judges' verdict his body is being kept refrigerated by devotees in his ashram just to be on the safe side. In a bizarre case of history repeating itself, Rawat's mother had supposedly done the same with his father's body:
"She ordered Shri Maharaji's body to be packed in ice, a customary practice in the heat of India to preserve a body until the cremation. However, the truth was, she believed that maybe her husband was not really dead, but rather was in a deep meditation and eventually could be revived." - page 80, Peace Is Possible.
This is a story henchmen of Prem Rawat told Andrea Cagan, official biographer of Prem Rawat, and was repeated (along with some of Prem's stories) to denigrate his mother as she had deposed and disinherited him. Of course, if this is true then Mata Ji obviously believed her husband was a divine Satguru and Divine Light Mission was not just a money-grubbing family business but a sacred trust thereby disproving the scurrilous claims Prem Rawat made about his mother and elder brothers. A different version of those events is given in the book, Shri Hans Ji Maharaj: Life And Teachings.
I think the nose is quite enough evidence that Mahatma Vedapraktavanand and Ashutosh Maharaj are one and the same, dead or alive but the documentary evidence also seems incontrovertible.
Of course there's always investigative reporting to uncover the truth. Satpal was interviewed by phone by the Times of India. He confirmed that Mahesh Jha had been his disciple and was named Ved Parvakta Nand before he was "sacked" from the MUSS. "He took diksha (initiation) from me and we even sent him abroad for preaching". Asked about his parting of ways with the MUSS, Satpal Maharaj, who is also a Congress MP from Uttrakhand, said, "Unko nishkasit kiya gaia tha (He was sacked)," but did not dwell into the reasons. "It is against science and yoga to keep the body in a freezer after death. Everybody has to die and we can't negate the rules of nature," he said. Going by their (DJJS) claims that he was in samadhi, Satpal Maharaj argued, "why his body has been kept in freezer and how could he get alive after the body remains at subzero temperature."
Ashutosh launched Divya Jyoti Jagriti Sansthan at Nurmahal in the Punjab in India in 1983 using the same teachings and meditation techniques he had preached for both Prem and Satpal but now he proclaimed himself as the Godman Satguru. The dera is 3km from the town and Ashutosh has been a controversial figure and attracted the anger of some Sikhs especially during the Khalistan movement demand for a Sikh state in the Punjab who consider him part of a Hindu majority attacks on Sikhs. While it's highly likely that Ashutosh continued to flout conventional morality as he gained power and money many of the accusations against him are unlikey to be true. The publicity attendant on his death appears to have resulted from a dispute over succession.
The success of his movement in attracting such a large number of followers from scratch in 30 years using identical methods as Prem Rawat demonstrates the relative lack of success of Rawat and his Raj Vidya Kender despite the large number of followers and infrastructure he inherited from his father and the financial support he has from his Western followers. Attracting huge crowds in India for a religious gathering is not that difficult though it is something Rawat needs to do to provide validation in the eyes of his Western followers who themselves provide some glamour and status in the eyes of his Indian followers. This description of a DJJS "Knowledge Session" from a very prejudiced Sikh source still sounds a lot like a 1970's Knowledge session in the West.
First the devotees are asked to sit down and keep their eyes closed. They sit crossed legged crossing their hands and raising their arms perpendicular to the body. They are given one word "Sohan(g)" and taught how to recite it. After a while, eyes of a devotee are pressed hard by an agent and after few seconds he is told to open them. When the light suddenly enters their eyes, it seems very bright. The devotee testifies that he has seen a bright light which he is told is the 'diveya jyoti' or light of God. Then an agent presses his hands on devotee's ears and keeps them closed for few seconds. Then he is asked if he has heard any sound. It is very common to hear a buzzing sound after pressing your ears closed. This sound is what they call "Anhad Shabad" and quote Gurbani to justify it. Those who say they did not see or hear anything the same procedure is repeated until they say yes. Many say yes just to get over with the process so that they can get something to eat and drink. Some say yes to keep themselves from being branded as "sinful" people.
That sounds just like the techniques taught by Prem Rawat that were discussed in the TVTV documentary "Lord of the Universe":
India Today, February 5, 2014
Times of India, February 9, 2014
- No visible change in Ashutosh Maharaj's body, says dera
Hindustani Times: Jan 27, 2016l
- Two years on: 'Baba' Ashutosh Maharaj still in freezer, no sign of thaw
Hindustani Times: Jan 27, 2016
- No visible change in Ashutosh Maharaj's body, says dera
Hindustani Times: Jan 27, 2016