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Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

Photo: From https://www.nbcnews.com/id/wbna23018484 - Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, in London, England, in this Aug. 24, 1967 file photo.

Last updated on April 15, 2023

From Wikipedia:

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (born Mahesh Prasad Varma, 12 January 1918 – 5 February 2008) was an Indian yoga guru known for developing and popularizing Transcendental Meditation (TM) and for being the leader and guru of a worldwide organization that has been characterized in multiple ways, including as a new religious movement and as non-religious. He became known as Maharishi (meaning “great seer”) and Yogi as an adult.

After earning a degree in physics at Allahabad University in 1942, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi became an assistant and disciple of Swami Brahmananda Saraswati (also known as Guru Dev), the Shankaracharya (spiritual leader) of the Jyotir Math in the Indian Himalayas. The Maharishi credits Brahmananda Saraswati with inspiring his teachings. In 1955, the Maharishi began to introduce his Transcendental Deep Meditation (later renamed Transcendental Meditation) to India and the world. His first global tour began in 1958. His devotees referred to him as His Holiness, and because he laughed more frequently in early TV interviews, he was sometimes referred to as the “giggling guru.”

The Maharishi trained more than 40,000 TM teachers, taught the Transcendental Meditation technique to “more than five million people” and founded thousands of teaching centres and hundreds of colleges, universities and schools, while TM websites report that tens of thousands have learned the TM-Sidhi programme. His initiatives include schools and universities with campuses in several countries, including India, Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Switzerland. The Maharishi, his family and close associates created charitable organisations and for-profit businesses, including health clinics, mail-order health supplements and organic farms. The reported value of the Maharishi’s organization has ranged from the millions to billions of U.S. dollars; in 2008, the organization placed the value of their United States assets at about $300 million.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Maharishi achieved fame as the guru to the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and other celebrities. In the late 1970s, he started the TM-Sidhi programme, which proposed to improve the mind-body relationship of practitioners through techniques such as Yogic flying. The Maharishi’s Natural Law Party was founded in 1992 and ran campaigns in dozens of countries. He moved to near Vlodrop, the Netherlands, in the same year. In 2000, he created the Global Country of World Peace, a non-profit organization, and appointed its leaders. In 2008, the Maharishi announced his retirement from all administrative activities and went into silence until his death three weeks later. […]

Tour in India (1955–1957)

In 1955, Brahmachari Mahesh left Uttarkashi and began publicly teaching what he stated was a traditional meditation technique learned from his master Brahmananda Saraswati, and that he called Transcendental Deep Meditation. Later the technique was renamed Transcendental Meditation. It was also then that he was first publicly known with the name “Maharishi”, an honorific title meaning “great sage”, after the title was given to him according to some sources from “Indian Pundits”; according to another source the honorific was given along with Yogi by followers in India. Later in the west, the title was retained as a name.

He traveled around India for two years interacting with his “Hindu audiences” in an “Indian context”. At that time, he called his movement the Spiritual Development Movement, but renamed it the Spiritual Regeneration Movement in 1957, in Madras, India, on the concluding day of the Seminar of Spiritual Luminaries. According to Coplin, in his visits to southern India, the Maharishi spoke English rather than the Hindi spoken in his home area to avoid provoking resistance among those seeking linguistic self-determination, and to appeal to the “learned classes”. […]

Association with the Beatles

In 1967, the Maharishi’s fame increased and his movement gained greater prominence when he became the “spiritual advisor to the Beatles”, though he was already well known among young people in the UK and had already had numerous public appearances that brought him to the band’s attention. Following the Beatles’ endorsement of TM, during 1967 and 1968 the Maharishi appeared on American magazine covers such as Life, Newsweek, Time and many others. He gave lectures to capacity crowds at the Felt Forum in New York City and Harvard’s Sanders Hall. He also appeared on The Tonight Show and the Today TV shows.

He and the Beatles met in London in August 1967, when George Harrison and his wife Pattie Boyd urged their friends to attend the Maharishi’s lecture at the Hilton on Park Lane. The band members went to study with the Maharishi in Bangor, Wales, before travelling to Rishikesh, India, in February 1968 to “devote themselves fully to his instruction”. Ringo Starr and his wife Maureen left after ten days, Paul McCartney and Jane Asher left after five weeks; the group’s most dedicated students, Harrison and John Lennon, departed with their wives sixteen days later.

During their stay, the Beatles heard that the Maharishi had allegedly made sexual advances towards Mia Farrow. On 15 June 1968, in London, the Beatles formally renounced their association with the Maharishi as a “public mistake”. “Sexy Sadie” is the title of a song Lennon wrote in response to the episode. Lennon originally wanted to title the song “Maharishi”, but changed the title at Harrison’s request. Harrison commented years later, “Now, historically, there’s the story that something went on that shouldn’t have done – but nothing did.” In 1992, Harrison gave a benefit concert for the Maharishi-associated Natural Law Party and later apologised for the way the Maharishi had been treated, by saying, “We were very young” and “It’s probably in the history books that Maharishi ‘tried to attack Mia Farrow’ – but it’s bullshit, total bullshit.” Cynthia Lennon wrote in 2006 that she “hated leaving on a note of discord and mistrust, when we had enjoyed so much kindness from the Maharishi”. Asked if he forgave the Beatles, the Maharishi replied, “I could never be upset with angels.” McCartney took his daughter, Stella, to visit the Maharishi in the Netherlands in 2007, which renewed their friendship.

The New York Times and The Independent reported that the influence of the Maharishi, and the journey to Rishikesh to meditate, steered the Beatles away from LSD and inspired them to write many new songs. In 2009, McCartney commented that Transcendental Meditation was a gift the Beatles had received from the Maharishi at a time when they were looking for something to stabilise them. The Beatles’ visit to the Maharishi’s ashram coincided with a thirty-participant Transcendental Meditation teacher training course that was ongoing when they arrived. Graduates of the course included Prudence Farrow and Mike Love.

Although the Rishikesh ashram had thrived in its early days, it was eventually abandoned in 2001. By 2016, some of it had been reclaimed with building repairs, cleared paths, a small photo museum, murals, a cafe and charges for visitors, although the site remains essentially a ruin. […]

I was asked for my thoughts on the passing yesterday of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and I can only say that whilst I am deeply saddened by his passing, my memories of him will only be joyful ones. He was a great man who worked tirelessly for the people of the world and the cause of unity. I will never forget the dedication that he wrote inside a book he once gave me, which read; ‘radiate, bliss, consciousness’ and that to me says it all. I will miss him but will always think of him with a smile.

Paul McCartney – From paulmccartney.com, February 7, 2008

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was thought by some to be The Beatles’ spiritual advisor. And I think it’s fair to say he was. […] In a strange way, it’s precisely because people had ‘got’ us, that we were no longer able to be quite ourselves, which then left The Beatles so open to the possibilities the Maharishi offered. We needed to recentre ourselves. To get back to basics. We were introduced to the Maharishi in 1967 by George Harrison, who had gone to see him talk at the Hilton on Park Lane in London. Shortly after, we all went to study with him in Bangor in Wales. Then, in early 1968, we went to Rishikesh, in India, for what was meant to be an extended period. Ringo and his wife Maureen left after ten days. Jane Asher and I left after five weeks. George and John and their wives left about a fortnight after that. But the Maharishi had made a mark on all of us.

Paul McCartney – From “The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present, 2021

Paul McCartney wrote “The Fool On The Hill” with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in mind.

I know some people think that my description of the Maharishi as a ‘fool’ is disparaging. That’s not the case at all. I often get ‘The Fool’ card during a tarot reading, for example. Maybe it’s from my tendency to try and see the positive side of things, or keeping an eye out for new ideas and adventures. In the song, I’m simply describing how the Maharishi was perceived by so many people – as the ‘giggling guru’. That was not my own perception. I’m fascinated by how much trouble people have in recognising irony.

So, all in all, I think ‘The Fool on the Hill’ is a very complimentary portrait and represents the Maharishi as having the capacity to keep perfectly still in the midst of the hurly-burly. He’s admirably self-contained and doesn’t pay much attention to popular opinion. He’s a person who is open to ridicule because of his beliefs, but his beliefs may well be right. I think he may be related somehow to the truth-telling Fool in King Lear.

Paul McCartney – From “The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present, 2021
Paul McCartney writing

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