This report of a follow up of the Psychic Yoga Challenge reported here on Nirmukta.
May 31st 2009, Bangalore: For those who do not have the time or inclination to go through the details, here’s a one line summary. The challenge did not happen — Narendra Nayak was ready with his envelopes but no one from Dhyan foundation took up the challenge.
It was disappointing. I had invited my friends (both believers and non-believers) to witness something that had the potential of conclusively proving me wrong and shut my trap forever.
Coming to the details, around five or six representatives from Dhyan foundation came to the venue. All of them were relatively modern and educated young folks — maybe in their 20s and 30s; three or four men and two women. They came across as a pretty agreeable group, the kind I can connect with and easily hang out comfortably at a middle class bar in Bangalore. I’ve exchanged phone numbers with them and will be visiting Dhyan foundation in Bangalore. Maybe, they can convert me to a believer. So far I have not seen evidence of supernatural powers, maybe this will be it.
It appeared to me that the challenge was completely secondary to them. They were talking more about the article on Nirmukta than the challenge itself. They were deeply upset about how someone could be so blasphemous as to call Ashwini a conman, and accuse the Dhyan foundation of ‘peddling superstition’, when Dhyan foundation is a non-commercial venture and they do a lot of charitable activities and is all for improvement of mankind and “spiritual evolution” (they do provide you a ‘Donation Opportunity’ on their website).
From their arguments, I gathered that Ashwini (and his disciples who have reached the level of the said prediction powers) are pretty busy folks and don’t have to prove themselves to every Tom, Dick and Harrry who challenges them. Apparently, they have proved themselves in the past to several distinguished people (I think they mentioned Laloo Prasad Yadav as one of them). However, Ashwini and his disciple (Ms. Aarti, if my memory serves right) were kind enough to do the challenge over postal mail. I tried to communicate to them that doing it remotely is not the same as doing real time in front of TV cameras, but they were not convinced. However, they were OK with someone going to Delhi and trying the real-time challenge with Ashwini there. Maybe there is a small chance of this challenge happening in the future.
Unfortunately, none of the six members of the Dhyan foundatation had still acquired the powers of prediction, so they could not take up the challenge today. As one of them put it, they were mere first graders compared to graduates.
They did not seem to be aware that the challenge was initiated by Ashwini himself. Maybe it was their emotions running high as someone had called names to their “Yogiji”, but their anger did not seem commensurate with the peaceful, mankind-loving, charitable organization they were representing. It’s odd how peace-loving religious leaders (even those as high as the Pope and Ayatollah Khomeni) are insecure about their religions that they cannot ignore barking dogs like Dan Brown and Salman Rushdie. My prediction (ha, ha!) is that the Dhyan foundation will launch a fatwa against Nirmukta.
What was most depressing to me was the bitterness in the air. The folks from Dhyan foundation who came today seemed very respectable law-abiding citizens with intentions of improving the state of mankind and doing their bit for charity. Where we differ is probably only with respect to belief in the para-normal. While we might consider them deluded to believe in the spiritual powers, they might consider us irrational for dismissing their beliefs without having gone through their experiences. I hope this can be resolved by non-violent debates.
But my main reason for going to the venue today is still unanswered — is Ashwini a con-man? Or a well-meaning human being, but deluded that he has special powers? Or one who really has special super-natural powers, but was not in position to demonstrate his powers today?