It's 2006, and Emily, a 21 year old American, is at a retreat center in India, immersed in a week long silent meditation.
She climbs up to the roof of the retreat center and it's at 4:00 in the morning or so and wraps a scarf around her face and jumps off the building to her death.
I was shocked and confused when I heard this story. How can a spiritual practice like meditation make you do that? Some would argue that through this meditation, Emily reached some sort of enlightenment. But if that's the case, then what's the cost of enlightenment? Death? I'm Caroline Slaughter, the host of a new podcast called Astray. And I'm also a seeker. It's just about living in the light, meaning the truth of who you are.
A lot of people that will hear this podcast will be seekers. I don't go to India because this is a Venus flytrap for your vulnerability.
After Emily's tragic death, the media linked her to a phenomenon called India Syndrome, a psychosis that befalls Westerners in India on a spiritual quest. She's not alone in this diagnosis. In the podcast, I investigate the disappearances and deaths of other Westerners who have gone astray and what's been called the spiritual Bermuda Triangle. You don't know whether it's a permanent loss or a part time loss or whether you've lost them forever or you haven't. Or, you know, like it's just or what is the loss?
There's no evidence of the loss.
If we got a call today, he's not going be the same person that left. So, like, what does that even look like? And to be honest, maybe maybe he's better off if you don't get that call in.
My own quest to investigate their disappearances has led me to some unexpected places, identifying drowned bodies in the holy river Ganges, befriending a cannibal hunter and re-examining my own relationship to this idea of enlightenment.
Were you offended by it at all? I am a little annoyed by it, by the dumb India syndrome to believe that that is a general definition of a place I feel is reckless and irresponsible.
Astray examines the cost of a spiritual awakening and asks How far would you go for enlightenment astray as a production of School of Humans and I heart radio. Listen to Astray launching a March 3rd on the I Heart radio app, Apple podcast or every bit your podcasts.