Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1978
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (1914-2008) was the was the founder of Transcendental Meditation (TM), a "Neo-Hindu" new religious movement. He served briefly as the yoga and meditation teacher for the Beatles and taught people to “fly” in his Transcendental Meditation centers across the United States and Europe. Describing how transcendental meditation works, one of the Maharishi's followers told the Independent: "Think of it like this: instead of being a torch powered by a battery, you are hooked to main power generating center, to the universal consciousness."

Lily Koppel wrote in the New York Times, “Maharishi Mahesh Yogi... introduced transcendental meditation to the West and gained fame in the 1960s as the spiritual guru to the Beatles... In Hindi, “maha” means great, and “rishi” means seer. “Maharishi” is a title traditionally bestowed on Brahmins. Critics of the yogi say he presented himself with the name, which is Hindi for “great seer.” [Source: Lily Koppel, New York Times, February 6, 2008 ==]

“The Maharishi was both an entrepreneur and a monk, a spiritual man who sought a world stage from which to espouse the joys of inner happiness. His critics called his organization a cult business enterprise. And in the press, in the 1960s and ’70s, he was often dismissed as a hippie mystic, the “Giggling Guru,” recognizable in the familiar image of him laughing, sitting cross-legged in a lotus position on a deerskin, wearing a white silk dhoti with a garland of flowers around his neck beneath an oily, scraggly beard.” ==

Websites and Resources: Gurus
Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Why so many Indians flock to gurus - BBC News ; The Guru in Hindu Tradition, J Mlecko (1982), Numen (journal) ; Spiritual Gurus and Saints of Hinduism, India and the World ; Great Saints of India ; Gurus Gone Bad in India ; Guru choice and spiritual seeking in contemporary India, M Warrier (2003), International Journal of Hindu Studies ; Hindu Concepts of Teacher, Sanskrit Guru and Ācārya, Minoru Hara (1980), Sanskrit and Indian Studies ; Sanal Edamaruku's home page

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Life

The Maharishi was born Mahesh Prasad Varma. Mahesh is his given name while Maharishi and Yogi are honorifics. He was born near the central Indian town of Jabalpur, into a scribe caste family. Called Mahesh, he studied physics at Allahabad University and after that for 13 years was a student and secretary to a holy man, Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, who the young disciple Mahesh called Guru Dev.

Swami Brahmananda Saraswati was the Shankaracharya (spiritual leader) of Jyotirmath in the Indian Himalayas. The Maharishi credits the Swami with inspiring his teachings. “Right from the beginning the whole purpose was to breathe in his breath,” the Maharishi wrote in his “Thirty Years Around the World: Dawn of the Age of Enlightenment,” published in 1986. “This was my ideal. The whole purpose was just to assume myself with Guru Dev.”

Maharish Mahesh Yogi in Amsterdam in 1967

After the death of his master in 1953, Mahesh went into seclusion in the Himalayan foothills. He emerged two years later and began teaching a system of belief, which grew into the worldwide TM movement. “It would appear that Maharishi cobbled together his teaching after his master died, when he found himself unemployed and out-of-grace with the ashram,” said Paul Mason, a critic of the Maharishi and the author of a biography, “The Maharishi: The Biography of the Man Who Gave Transcendental Meditation to the World.” “He reinvented himself and became a ‘maharishi’ and wanted to be seen as a messiah.” [Source: Lily Koppel, New York Times, February 6, 2008 ==]

Beginning in 1955, the Maharishi began to introduce TM techniques to the world. His first global tour began in 1958. He began to be known as "Maharishi Mahesh Yogi" around the year 1960. His devotees referred to him as "His Holiness", and he became known as the "giggling guru".

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Maharishi achieved fame as the guru to The Beatles and other celebrities. In the mid-1970s, he started the TM-Sidhi program, which claimed to offer practitioners the ability to levitate and to create world peace. In 2000, he created the Global Country of World Peace, a country without borders, and appointed its leaders.

The Maharishi spent most of his later years in the Netherlands, where the headquarters for his institute is located. He often communicates with his followers via satellite hook ups. Transcendental meditation flying looks like crossed-legged hopping. One practitioner of said, "It looks like hopping but it feels like flying."

From 1990 on, the Maharishi had lived in Vlodrop with about 50 of his adherents, including his “minister of science and technology,” John Hagelin, a Harvard-educated physicist, who is expected to oversee the organization in the United States. In the last years of his life he rarely met with anyone, even his ministers, face-to-face, preferring to speak with followers almost exclusively by closed-circuit television. In January 2008, the Maharishi announced that his public work was finished and that he would use his remaining time to complete a long-running series of published commentaries on the Veda, the oldest sacred Hindu text. He died in February 2008 at the age of 91. Steven Yellin, a spokesman for the TM organization, confirmed the Maharishi’s death but did not give a cause. ==

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and Transcendental Meditation

in the Beatles era
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi pioneered Transcendental Mediation, or TM, whch was one of the most celebrated spirituality techniques in the 1950s, 60s and 70s and was introduced to the U.S. in 1959 TM is the practice of exploring consciousness through mediation and chanting This form of mantra meditation, specifically the TM technique, was first established as a religion in the 1950s and then took on a more quasi spiritual, scientific approach that many say was an effort to make TM more appealing to The West.

Lily Koppel wrote in the New York Times, “The Maharishi originated the transcendental meditation movement in 1957 and brought it to the United States in 1959. Known as TM, a trademark, the technique consists of closing one’s eyes twice a day for 20 minutes while silently repeating a mantra to gain deep relaxation, eliminate stress, promote good health and attain clear thinking and inner fulfillment. Classes now cost $2,500 for a five-day session. The TM movement was a founding influence on what has grown into a multibillion-dollar self-help industry, and many people practice similar forms of meditation that have no connection to the Maharishi’s movement. [Source: Lily Koppel, New York Times, February 6, 2008 ==]

“The visibility and popularity of the organization can largely be attributed to the Beatles... Over the years since TM became popular, many scientists have found physical and mental benefits from mediation in general and transcendental meditation in particular, especially in reducing stress-related ailments. Since the technique’s inception in 1955, the organization says, it has been used to train more than 40,000 teachers, taught more than five million people, opened thousands of teaching centers and founded hundreds of schools, colleges and universities. In the United States, the organization values its assets at about $300 million, with its base in Fairfield, Iowa, where it operates a university, the Maharishi University of Management. In 2001, disciples of the movement incorporated their own town, Maharishi Vedic City, a few miles north of Fairfield.” In March 2007, “a branch of the organization, Global Financial Capital of New York, moved into new headquarters it bought in Lower Manhattan. ==

“The Maharishi’s movement began losing followers the late 1970s, as people were put off by the organization’s promotion of a more advanced form of TM called Yogic Flying, in which practitioners try to summon a surge of energy to physically lift themselves off the ground. They have never gone beyond the initial stage of flying, described as “frog hops.” ==

“The Maharishi also sought to rebuild the world according to Vedic principals. He called for the demolition of all toxic buildings and unhealthy urban environments, even the demolition of historic landmarks if they were not built according to “Vedic architecture in harmony with Natural Law.” The Maharishi contended that the White House was wrongly situated. He said that a more suitable location for the capital of the United States was the small town of Smith Center, Kan.” ==

Maharishi Empire

in 2007
According to news reports, "more than 5 million people studied his methods." Estimates of the value of the Maharishi's empire ranged from the multi-millions to the billions of dollars. The Maharishi, his family and close associates created charitable organisations and for-profit businesses that include nearly 1,000 TM centres, schools, universities, clinics, health supplements and organic farms.

In 1997, Maharasi Town was opened on the edge of the new town of Noida, about 15 miles outside of Delhi. Built on land whose ownership is disputed, the 500-acre complex includes afive-story, bright-yellow cement building set in mandela formation, pink fountains, the Maharishi Institute of Technology.

The Maharishi built a huge meditation center with golden domes, and called it Vedic City, among the cornfields near Fairfield, Iowa. All the build face east towards the sun. Inside people hop around “flying.” Nearby is the Maharishi International University, founded in the 1970s.

Maharishi town was part of a 1988 "master plan to Create on Earth for the reconstruction of whole world, inner and outer" and a "global administration through natural law." The Maharishi once said he wanted to build the world’s highest building.

Koppel wrote in the New York Times, “Late in life, the Maharishi tried to breathe new life into TM, establishing in 2000 his “Global Country of World Peace,” with the goals of preventing war, eradicating poverty and promoting environmental sustainability. One effort tried to reach young people across the United States with the support of celebrities like Donovan and the filmmaker David Lynch, who went on a speaking tour of colleges to promote the cause. [Source: Lily Koppel, New York Times, February 6, 2008]

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and the Beatles in India

John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison met the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Wales in 1967. Under the urging of George, the Beatles as a group went to India in early 1968 to study transcendental meditation in Rishikesh in the Himalayan foothills with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The Beatle’s wives, Mia Farrow, her sister Prudence, and singer Donovan and Mike Love of the Beach Boys accompanied them. Ringo brought along an entire suitcase filled with beans because he was worried about the food.

Emily Wax wrote in the Washington Post, “With their iconic long hair and necklaces of Indian marigolds, the Beatles journeyed to this city in the foothills of the Himalayas in the late 1960s. They were at the height of their fame, but they came to escape material wealth and the pressures of celebrity...The Beatles' time in Rishikesh is often described as one of their happiest and most creative periods. They ate communally and relaxed, free from the constant watch of the media. They learned the maharishi's philosophy that repeating a word, or mantra, helps the body relax.” [Source: Emily Wax, Washington Post, December 19, 2007 [Source: Emily Wax, Washington Post, December 19, 2007]

Many of the songs on the White Album and Abbey Road were written in India. John wrote the song Dear Prudence about a girl who attended a "meditation course in Rishikesh, India...Who we knew sooner or later would go completely berserk under the care of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi?" As many as 48 songs, including "Revolution," "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and "Blackbird" were written while The Beatles were in India. The Rolling Stones also explored the use of transcendental meditation.

Michael Cooper, Mick Jagger, a pregnant Marianne Faithfull, Al Vandenberg and Brian Jones with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1967

MERU (Maharishi European Research University)

'Why?' Hee-hee, all that shit. And I said, 'Well if you're so cosmic, you'll know why. He was always intimating, and there were all his right hand men intimating that he did miracles. He said, 'I don't know why, you must tell me.' And I just kept saying, 'You know why' - and he gave me a look like, 'I'll kill you, bastard.' He gave me such a look, and I knew then when he looked at me, because I'd called his bluff. And I was a bit rough to him. ^

As they waited to leave, Lennon began writing the song that would become Sexy Sadie. Lennon said: “That was written just as we were leaving, waiting for our bags to be packed in the taxi that never seemed to come. We thought: 'They're deliberately keeping the taxi back so as we can't escape from this madman's camp.' And we had the mad Greek with us who was paranoid as hell. He kept saying, 'It's black magic, black magic. They're gonna keep you here forever.' I must have got away because I'm here. [Source: John Lennon, 1974, Anthology ^]

Lennon began singing the song as he and George Harrison travelled to Delhi. George Harrison said: “John had a song he had started to write which he was singing: 'Maharishi, what have you done?' and I said, 'You can't say that, it's ridiculous.' I came up with the title of Sexy Sadie and John changed 'Maharishi' to 'Sexy Sadie'. John flew back to Yoko in England and I went to Madras and the south of India and spent another few weeks there. [Source: George Harrison, Anthology ^]

Celebrities Who Practice Transcendental Meditation

Ranker list of celebrities who practice Transcendental Meditation (with rank listed after the name: Paul McCartney (1); John Lennon (2); Stevie Wonder (3); Clint Eastwood (4); Howard Stern (5); Sheryl Crow (6); Hugh Jackman (7); George Harrison (8); Mick Jagger (9); Ringo Starr (10); Eddie Vedder (11); Naomi Watts (12); Jerry Seinfeld (13); Ben Harper (14); Jane Fonda (15); Burt Reynolds (16); Heather Graham (17); David Lynch (18); Goldie Hawn (19); Jeff Bridges (20); Russell Simmons (21); Shirley MacLaine (22); Brian Wilson (23); Deepak Chopra (24); Mary Tyler Moore (25); Mia Farrow (26); Donovan (27); Mike Oldfield (28); Peggy Lee (29); Bill Hicks (30); Judd Apatow (31); Joe Namath (32); Jeff Goldblum (33); [Source: Ranker. ▪ Ranker List Rules: Includes dead celebs as well as celebs who practiced TM at one point but don't any longer]

Howard Stern practices or practiced Transcendental Meditation

Merv Griffin (34); Ben Foster (35); Charles Bukowski (36); Vidal Sassoon (37); Andrew Sullivan (38); John Gray (39); Laura Dern (40); Kurt Vonnegut (41); Andy Kaufman (42); Louise Hay (43); Arthur Ashe (44); George Hamilton (45); Billy Gibbons (46); Lena Dunham (47); Russell Brand (48); Jeff Garlin (49); Moby (50); Mike Love (51); Dennis Wilson (52); Gary Player (53); Ray Manzarek (54); Jane Asher (55); Dilma Rousseff (56); Bettye LaVette (57); John Densmore (58); Bill Duke (59); Al Jardine (60); Courtney Brown (61); Nick Clegg (62); Sharon Isbin (63); William Gibson (64); Richard Beymer (65)

Bill Walton (66); Rodrigo Santoro (67); Ellen Corby (68); William Hague (69); Buckminster Fuller (70); Marshall McLuhan (71); Candy Crowley (72); Mike Tompkins 73); Ravi Shankar (74); James Wolcott (75); Tom Miller (76); Angelo Badalamenti (77); Robby Krieger (78); Stephen Collins (79); Charles Lloyd (80); Pattie Boyd (81); Ray Dalio (82); Paul Horn (83); Larry Bowa (84); Willie Stargell (85); Peter Russell (86); Matt Skiba (87); Cynthia Lennon (88); Tony Schwartz (89); Peter McWilliams (90); Meital Dohan (91); Lionel Bart (92); Barbara De Angelisage 93); Ali Stephens (94); John Hagelin (95); Mehmet Öz (96); Doug Henning (97); Joaquim Chissanoage (98); Mal Evans (99); Ron Parker (100);

David Lynch, Director and Transcendental Meditation Guru

Claire Hoffman wrote in New York Times: “Inside David Lynch’s bunker of a studio in Los Angeles, a small crowd of happy people gathered on a late summer morning to meditate and learn about the nature of consciousness. The dozen or so young actors and musicians and others were recent initiates of Transcendental Meditation, a trademarked form of relaxation that involves sitting quietly and saying a mantra to yourself for 20 minutes twice a day. T.M. initiation — a multiday instruction program that includes the bestowing of a secret personalized mantra — costs, on average, $1,000. But those gathered had been initiated as a gift of the David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace. Through its work, Lynch, who has been practicing T.M. for 40 years, hopes to teach meditation to the world and, as a result, create world peace. [Source: Claire Hoffman, New York Times, February 22, 2013 /=/

David Lynch in 2001

“Near a window that looked out onto the Hollywood Hills, a large, framed, pastel poster was set up. Standing beside it was Lynn Kaplan, a dark-haired, energetic woman who works for Lynch’s foundation, which is based in Manhattan. Kaplan had assembled this group of young talent and personally initiated each one with their own mantra. “This is where the mantra comes from,” Kaplan explained, gesturing toward the evolutionary pictogram of Indian men radiating light. At the base stood a small man in a white robe, his hands clasped. This was Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, she said, the late founder of the T.M. movement and Lynch’s guru. Beneath him floated a pastel world, glowing. /=/

“Word came that Lynch was on his way down, and the crowd shuffled over to his in-house recording studio and screening room, settling into built-in, modern easy chairs. Lynch slunk in through a side door, casting a leery eye up at his audience. He took a seat near the wall, looking uncomfortable. Everyone fell silent. Lynch was stylishly rumpled. His frame was lean and his hair was pomaded loosely into a mature faux-hawk. He wore faded khaki pants that bloused over a worn leather belt. In the breast pocket of his white dress shirt, a pack of American Spirit cigarettes was at the ready. Lynch is a notorious creature of habit: he spent seven years drinking the same chocolate milkshake at the same time every day from Bob’s Big Boy in L.A., because he thought it affected his creative process; and part of his persona is his uniform approach to dress. That day, a yellow watch gave a flash of color. /=/

“Lynch, 67, has the plain-spoken demeanor of an old cowboy actor, a posture that masks a lifelong fear of public speaking. When his quietness got uncomfortable, Kaplan announced the start of a short meditation. For 10 minutes, the soundproofed room was dead silent. When it was over, Lynch stood up, refreshed. “So, do you guys have any questions?” he asked. /=/ “Kat Dennings’s boyfriend raised his hand and asked how he started meditation. Lynch made a funny face — he has answered this question a hundred times, all over the world. “I started here in Los Angeles on July 1, around 11 o’clock in the morning, a beautiful Saturday sunny day in 1973.” The group laughed at his exactness. “It was just yesterday,” he said softly. He continued: “I always tell the same story. The Beatles were over with Maharishi in India and lots of people were getting hip to Transcendental Meditation and different kinds of meditation, and I thought it was real baloney.” There was a knowing murmur — those in the audience had once had their doubts, too. “I thought I would become a raisin-and-nut eater, and I just wanted to work. And then all of a sudden, I heard this phrase, ‘True happiness is not out there, true happiness lies within.’ And this phrase had a ring of truth.”“ /=/

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Internet Indian History Sourcebook “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “Encyclopedia of the World's Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); “Encyclopedia of the World Cultures: Volume 3 South Asia” edited by David Levinson (G.K. Hall & Company, New York, 1994); “The Creators” by Daniel Boorstin; “A Guide to Angkor: an Introduction to the Temples” by Dawn Rooney (Asia Book) for Information on temples and architecture. National Geographic, the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018

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