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Last updateTue, 17 Mar 2015 2pm

#DeadOrAlive?: Punjab High Court to rule whether wealthy spiritual guru is dead or just MEDITATING

A court in the Punjab has been asked to decide whether an extremely rich Hindu spiritual leader is dead or, as his disciples say, is merely meditating.

According to a report in the Daily Telegraph, His Holiness Shri Ashutosh Maharaj, founder of the Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan in Jalandher and who has followers around the world, died in January, his family say.

However, the disciples of Sri Ashutosh - who is said to be worth a staggering $150 million - have refused to let the family claim his body saying that he is very much alive and merely "meditating".

According to reports, the guru was declared "clinically dead" by doctors - medically trained ones - on 29 January after he complained of severe chest pain.

One of the doctors who carried out the examination said the guru had "no heartbeat, no pulse" and that the ECG had a "straight line".

His disciples however, maintain that their guru may be clinically dead but was "spiritually" alive. 

They insist that the Maharaj was in "Samadhi", something he had done in the past too. To that end they have also placed him inside a commercial freezer which would replicate conditions in the Himalayas, a destination historically popular with spiritual gurus.

Although Punjab Police initially confirmed his death, the Punjab High Court later dismissed its status report and local governmental officials said it was a spiritual matter and that the guru's followers cannot be forced to believe he is dead.

Now his wife and son have filed a court application calling for an investigation into the circumstances of his death and for his body to be released for cremation.

The Maharaj is thought to have established up his sect in 1983 to promote "self-awakening to global peace" after fleeing his home in rural Punjab following an argument with his wife. 

The movement aims to create a world "wherein every individual becomes an embodiment of truth, fraternity and justice through the eternal science of self-realisation".

Since then, the organization has grown into a global behemoth with thousands of followers in the UK, North America, the Middle East and across Asia.  It also owns a valuable property portfolio, including a building in Hayes, West London, where the group's European headquarters is located.

The guru's son Dilip Jha, 40, claims his late father's followers are refusing to release his body as a means of retaining control of his vast financial empire. 

Some media reports in India say that the guru's disciples are unwilling to hand over his remains because of a row over who will succeed the Maharaj as the leader of the sect, and doubtless take control of its property millions.

Four of the guru's disciples are said to be battling it out for the leadership position.

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