In 1963, one Dr. Abraham T. Kovoor of Colombo, Sri Lanka, president of the Sri Lanka branch of the Rationalist Association, an organization especially dedicated to disproving the existence of God and the soul, publicly offered an award of Rs. 100,000/- (Sri Lankan Rupees) for anyone who could demonstrate supernatural or miraculous powers under fool-proof and fraud-proof conditions. (The Challenge)
I, Abraham T. Kovoor of “Tiruvalla”, Pamankada Lane, Colombo-6 do hereby state that l am prepared to pay an award of 100, 000 Sri Lankan rupees to any one from any part of the world who can demonstrate supernatural or miraculous powers under fool-proof and fraud-proof conditions. This offer will remain open till my death or till I find the first winner.
Godmen, saints, yogis, and siddhas who claim that they acquired miraculous powers through spiritual exercises and divine boons win this award if they can perform any of the following “miracles”
- Read the serial number of a sealed up currency note.
- Produce an exact replica of a currency note.
- Stand stationary on burning cinders for half a minute without blistering the feet.
- Materialise from nothing an object I ask.
- Move or bend a solid object using psychokinetic power.
- Read the thought of another person using telepathic powers.
- Make an amputated limb grow even one inch by prayer, spiritual or faith healing powers, Lourdes water, holy ash, blessing etc.
- Levitate in the air by yogic power.
- Stop the heart-beat for five minutes by yogi power.
- Stop breathing for thirty minutes by yogi power.
- Walk on water.
- Leave the body in one place and reappear in another place.
- Predict a future event.
- Develop creative intelligence or get enlightened through transcendental or yogic meditation.
- Speak or understand an unknown language as a result of rebirth or by being possessed by a spirit, holy or evil.
- Produce a spirit or ghost to be photographed.
- Disappear from the negative when photographed.
- Get out of a locked room by spiritual power.
- Increase the quantity by weight of a substance by divine power.
- Detect a hidden object.
- Convert water into petrol or wine.
- Convert wine into blood.
Astrologers and palmists, who hoodwink the gullible by saying that astrology and palmistry are perfectly “Scientific”, can win my award if they can pick out correctly—within a margin of five percent error—those of males, females, and living and the dead from a set of ten palm prints or astrological charts giving the exact time of birth correct to the minute, and places of birth with their latitudes and longitudes.
I invite miracle performers like Satya Sai Baba, Pandrimalai Swamigal, Neelakanta Tathaji, Nirmala Devi Srivastava, Pujya Dadaji, Dattabal, Triprayar Yogini, Gtirudev Anandamurthi, Kamubhai, Chinmayanand, Acharya Rajneesh, Muktanand, Swami Rama, Swami Haridas, Sivabalayogi, Bhagavan Gnanananda, Gurumaharaj-ji, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Hazarath Ali, Dr. Vadlaimudi, C. S. Teerthangar, R.P.Tiwari, Uri Geller, Ne1iya Michailova, Jeane Dixon, Sybil Leek and the numerous “professors” of astrology and palmistry, in India and numerous other gurus, swamijis, mahants, acharyas, andas, babas and bhagavans who have found fresh pastures and wealthier gullibles in Western Countries, to take up my challenge and prove to skeptics like me that they are not hoaxers.
From 1966, when His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada established the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, the Hare Krishna movement expanded rapidly in the western countries, and even to far-flung parts of the world. So it was that in 1977, Hansadutta das pushed into Sri Lanka, and there he met a number of locals who responded favorably and assisted to arrange speaking engagements. He reported back to Srila Prabhupada that the reception was very encouraging, and that he needed books in Tamil language. On one occasion, Hansadutta was invited to speak at the Columbo Rama Krishna Mission, and the event generated considerable public interest. The ever vigilant and skeptical Dr. Kovoor took notice, and on August 14, 1977, the Colombo (Sri Lanka) Sunday Times published “Is There Life After Death?” by Dr. Abraham T. Kovoor. Dr. Kovoor maintained that life is merely a complex chemical activity and that the soul cannot survive death, since there is actually no such thing as the soul. This article led to a heated debate, both in the Sunday Times and in correspondence between Dr. Kovoor and Hansadutta, who was residing in Sri Lanka at that time. Hansadutta das countered with a challenge to Kovoor, offering Rs. 500,000 award, to create a living organism like a mosquito or a bedbug from chemicals. The Sunday Times and a portion of the correspondence are reproduced here.
- Sunday Times August 21, 1977:
“It’s Beyond Kovoor’s Power of Observation” Page 2
by Hansadutta das and Mahakanta das
- Sunday Times August 28, 1977:
“It’s Not Beyond Kovoor’s Power of Observation” Page 3
by Dr. Abraham Kovoor
- Sunday Times September 4, 1977:
“The Challenge Still Stands” Page 4
by Hansadutta das
- Letter to Dr. Abraham T. Kovoor September 6, 1977 Page 5
from Hansadutta das
- Letter to Hansadutta September 10, 1977 Page 6
from Dr. Kovoor
- Letter to Dr. Abraham T. Kovoor September 15, 1977 Page 7
- Letter to Dr. Abraham T. Kovoor September 21, 1977 Page 8
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, requested that the following exchange be included in his own book, Life Comes from Life, which he was preparing for publication in his last months. Life Comes from Life was first published in the year 1979, with “The Challenge” appearing in the Appendices.