Did Maharishi Yogi Save the Beatles?
“Maharishi — what have you done? You made a fool of everyone.” Those were the opening lines of a sarcastic song about Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who died on February 5th, 2008, which John Lennon wrote in 1968, not long after the Beatles abruptly left the Maharishi’s ashram in Rishikesh, India, and disassociated themselves from being his spiritual disciples. In the end Lennon had to rename the song as “Sexy Sadie” after other Beatles, particularly George Harrison, objected that leaving aside whatever disagreements they had with the Maharishi, his work demanded respect, and it was unfair and also libelous to be so blunt.
Newspapers around the world wrote about his death and moreover on his elite list of disciples, which included the legendary Beatles, Mick Jagger, Mike Love, of the Beach Boys, Donovan and Mia Farrow, and Deepak Chopra, a new age preacher.
Known for introducing Transcendental Meditation outside India, Maharishi cashed on his growing popularity during the 1960s and mid-70s to start an international movement on Transcendental Meditation with a university in Iowa and headquarters in Amsterdam.
Indian gurus have become a common export to the West, but Maharishi, popularly called the Flying Yogi (monk) because he could levitate, was one its kind; he inspired a cult-like following during the hippie era in 60s and mid-70s. In fact the hippies loved him. He first made Hinduism seem synonymous with hippies, and that can be attributed to the similar ideology shared by Maharishi and the hippies. It is was all about Peace (besides Mary Jane) for the hippies, and Maharishi claimed that he could guarantee inner peace with just 30 minutes of meditation a day.
What is Transcendental Meditation? Transcendental Meditation grew out of Hindu practice of ‘naam japa’ or ‘yoga japa’ during the 1960’s. This technique, which is very simple to learn, should be practiced for twenty minutes twice a day while sitting with one’s eyes closed and reciting a single sound, or mantra. It requires no effort or concentration, no special skills or change of lifestyle.
According to their official site: “During the practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique, the mind and body settle down to experience a unique state of restful alertness. As the mind becomes more silent, the body becomes deeply relaxed. At the most settled state of awareness, the mind transcends all mental activity to experience the simplest form of awareness, Transcendental Consciousness.”
Sounds like something which everyone needs considering the kind of lifestyle we lead. apparently, it develops the brain’s total potential, relieves from stress and completely relaxes the mind.
Maharishi: A Controversial Figure
The Beatles’ interest in meditation began at a time when all had been experimenting with drugs and it helped them discover a way to explore altered states without using chemicals to do it. This took them first to Wales in 1967 for a retreat with the Maharishi and then to Rishikesh, when the fallout took place.
The Beatles recorded “The White Album” immediately after their much-publicized trip and many of the songs on the album refer to their experiences there, good and bad.
“Mother Nature’s Son” was written by both John and Paul in India after listening to a lecture on the unity of man and nature given by the Maharishi. The band parted ways with the guru after he made an apparent pass at Mia Farrow, a fellow pilgrim, when they were alone in the yogi’s cave-like meditation room.
Whether his advance was sexually motivated is disputed. Farrow was ambiguous, later writing: “I was blinking at his beard when suddenly I became aware of two surprisingly male, hairy arms going around me. I panicked, and shot up the stairs, apologizing all the way.” It was enough to prompt the Beatles to pack their bags.
Asked why he was leaving, Lennon replied: “If you’re so cosmic, you’ll know why!” Thats how the song “Sexy Sadie,” was written by Lennon, describing his total dissatisfaction with the Maharishi.
From teaching Meditation to forming a business empire:
I think he commercially exploited his profile. Thats what everyone does, once their teaching attracts Westerners or they get popular. They have a huge following, and they make money in the bargain. Just like Osho (in Pune, Maharashtra) or any other Commercial Guru. No questioning their transcendental meditation knowledge and skills, but why make money out it?
Maharishi founded the Maharishi University of Management in Iowa. He wrote 16 books and with a fortune reputed to be US $2bn. Then he got the trademark for Transcendental Meditation and then he sold the ancient Vedic tradition to stressed-out corporate executives in 130 countries across the world.
However, Maharishi deserves credit for introducing a spiritual element into psychedelia.