Ashwini or “Yogi Ashwini”, as he prefers to call himself, came into contact with me by, what I should say, an accident. I had issued a challenge to the astrologers of India to predict the results of the 2009 Lok Sabha elections within a margin of error prescribed by me and win a sum of one million Rupees. There were more than four hundred entries and a reaction from one who called himself as Yogi Ashwini, who sent me an email like this:
Astrology is a perfect science but if tied wid maya (charges, power etc.) then it loses its power so people who sell dis art in no way go beyond probability…….Ther r forces which run creation and also u n me n also this so called rationalist” these forces in do form of an energy field r visible around an individual or his pic its possible to tell his emotional and physicall state. I invite this Mr.rationalist to give us at Dhyan Foundation ten pics ofhis choice of seriously ill n healthy people as a mix n we will tell how many of them r seriously ill n how many r healthy. if he wants to give pic of lok sabha candidates then its possible to tell if we have date n time of d election results, wether he is winning or losing all dis wid 90% accuracy.” He also said: ” u wrote an interesting article, normally I don respond mself but this being a serious issue n u being a serious journo I thought dat I should bring some things to your notice” (sic).
Since by then the Lok Sabha elections were over, and because he had also claimed that they could perform the prediction of whether people were ill or not, I decided to test the powers of any of the members of the Dhyan foundation at Bangalore by giving them ten photographs of people for diagnosing their disease. Since, I was to be at Bangalore on the 31st of May to attend a meeting of Bengaluru freethinkers, I gave them the option of coming over there to perform this exercise. But, on that day a group of young people turned up and tried to explain to us about the charitable work that the Dhyan foundation was doing rather than taking up the test. Since we were not interested in that, we told them to come only when they could take up the challenge of identifying the ‘ill’ and ‘well’ ones from the photographs. They got angry and threatened us with legal action for having been disrespectful to their guru Ashwini. I told them to go ahead and am still waiting for it!
That apart, there was an invitation from a channel called as TV 9 from Bangalore to be part of a panel discussion with Ashwini. Since I could not go as I was in some other corner of the country, I requested Pankaj Kulkarni to go on my behalf. I am told that Aswini and the Dhyan Foundation are crowing over the footage of this discussion which I am yet to see!
A few months ago, I came across a letter from the website of the Dhyan Foundation which is also on their book ‘The Ageless Dimension’. This letter is from the Indian Medical Association, Mumbai West branch and states that
“It appeared that you were able to identify the symptoms from the photographs”and also that “the pulse of one of the volunteers Mr.Rishabh Kale drop down by 15 counts during the course of doing strenuous asanas at the end of 50 minutes” (sic). It also goes on to say that “The pulse rate was taken before and after by Dr.Pawar eliminating any scope of doubt”.
When I contacted the office bearers, they wrote to the Dhyan Foundation and the letter has now been taken off the web site. However, I do wonder as to how a body like the Indian Medical Association could certify things like the drop of pulse rate etc. without any controlled trials or double blind studies.
That is not the only instance of this foundation making tall claims. Recently, there was a shoot for a program called ‘We the people’ by NDTV at Delhi. There were a number of guests and I too was one, along with P.C.Sorcar, Raghu Rai, Nakul Shenoy and some others. “Yogi Ashwini” of the Dhyan Foundation was also one of the guests. The program had the topic of magic, miracles and healing. There were lively discussions and during the course of that, we, the rationalists were the subjects of attack. The Dhyan Foundation was particularly very active in this regard. Some of their gems are reproduced here.
One Natasha claimed that she had some pain in the stomach and doctors were not able to do anything, though her father himself was a doctor. She claimed that it was cured by Ashwini who diagnosed it as due to black magic. This, despite the statement of Ashwini that he does not treat anyone, but sends them to doctors for treatment.
Another claim was that he was taken to many hospitals and shown photographs of patients, and he had diagnosed their diseases. I reminded him of my challenge and since I had not come from home and was not aware that I would meet him, had not brought the photographs which I had kept for him. However, I promised him that by prior appointment I could always check on his powers of diagnosing disease by seeing the photographs of people!
One of his supporters was very vehemently arguing that one of their activists had stopped his heart from beating for more than two hours under the supervision of a doctor who has retired from the Armed Forces. She was insistent that the same feat could be reproduced by them but, of course, we would not be allowed to examine the person. Here is a feat which can be said to be unprecedented in world history- that of stopping the heart from beating for two hours and then surviving!
Even in the case of diagnosing disease by seeing photographs no one was prepared to perform it with the photos provided by us. All the time they were quoting names of leading hospitals where these feats have supposedly been accomplished!
The entire discussion was recorded and the recording is available with NDTV. Since we are always ready to investigate paranormal phenomena and are eager to check such claims under controlled conditions (and not go by unverified claims), we would like to challenge Ashwini and/or his Dhyan Foundation to demonstrate these powers under controlled fraud proof conditions. These conditions could be either one or both of the following:
We will provide ten photographs serially numbered on the back and the information about the persons in sealed envelopes. The photographs may be recent or old. Ashwini or his representatives have to just mention whether the person is dead or alive, any disease he or she may be suffering from or the cause of death. Vague answers like suffering from hormonal disease or tumors will not do. We want very specific answers.
Ashwini or any of his nominees will demonstrate the stopping of heart beat by causing the EKG to come to the baseline, after which the test will be repeated by echocardiography which should show that the heart has completely stopped. The original claim is that the heart was stopped for two hours. But, we will be content if it can be done for half the claimed time; one hour. The blood pressure also will be continuously recorded and the systolic and diastolic readings (if the same can be measured with the heart not beating) should be the same. This shall be done in an area open to the public and with the electrodes of the EKG machine connected to the subject’s bare body visible. It is suggested that this be done only by a male (as already claimed) as it would be embarrassing to perform such on a female in public and I would enforce this clause to prevent any hanky-panky.
These are the outlines of the investigations needed to prove the alleged powers of the claims. The detailed conditions will have to be worked out and an agreement signed at least 24 hours before the trials are to take place. Unless the event is going to be sponsored by any media group, the access shall be open to all.
If any financial stakes are involved, the amounts placed should be equal from both the sides, but subject to an upper limit of 10 lakh Rupees, as I am not a very rich person.