Maharishi and the Beatles

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The Vedic Worldview in Popular Culture - Part 2

He was known for his brevity. Guru Dev was the spiritual leader of India from 1941-1953. When he was ready to drop his body, he assembled his disciples, and one by one, gave each of them a brief directive. When he got to Brahmachari Mahesh, he said, "You. Speak English."

Mahesh, later known as Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, was unclear what his master wanted him to do. Later, he interpreted this command as "Take my teachings to the West." Maharishi began visiting England, teaching the ancient "Householder's Technique" he learned from Guru Dev to interested Westerners.

The future members of The Beatles, growing up in Liverpool, were exposed to Maharishi through television. The common storyline is that their paths converged by total happenstance. Paul McCartney describes below that they knew of him much earlier.

"We'd seen Maharishi up north when we were kids. He was on the telly every few years on Granada's People And Places programme, the local current affairs show. We'd all say, 'Hey, did you see that crazy guy last night?' So we knew all about him: he was the giggly little guy going round the globe seven times to heal the world."
Paul McCartney, Anthology

After years of stardom, Beatle George Harrison attended a lecture in London given by Maharishi. Already an admirer of Indian music, George was ready to transcend the prison that his waking consciousness had become. The band members were exhausted after maintaining six solid years of nonstop touring, recording, acting, posing, and living under a microscope. They had become targets of unprecedented adulation. George wanted out. His first meditation gave him just that. He found himself able to transcend, albeit for twenty minutes at a time. He told the others.

It was a perfect fit. Maharishi, the "giggly little guy" from their childhood imparted to them their own personal mantras, words they could repeat silently, privately, and use to go within. The Beatles were ecstatic, and they enthusiastically endorsed Maharishi's ancient technique.

Maharishi invited them to be his guests at his Ashram in Rishikesh, Northern India. They all went. During this period John and Paul were composing prolifically. The songs from this trip dominated The Beatles White Album.

Although John Lennon became disillusioned with Maharishi himself (due to undeserved gossip and innuendo), he admitted the technique that Maharishi taught him had changed him for the better. George Harrison was an ardent meditator throughout his lifetime until he passed in 2001. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr are still daily meditators.

In one of Lennon's songs from the Rishikesh journey, Across the Universe, he directly references Maharishi's teacher, Guru Dev.

"Images of broken light which dance before me like a million eyes
They call me on and on across the universe
Thoughts meander like a restless wind
Inside a letter box they
Stumble blindly as they make their way
Across the universe
Jai Guru Deva, Om -
Nothings gonna change my world"

 

 

"Without going out of my door, 
I can know all things of earth
Without looking out of my window
I could know the ways of heaven
The farther one travels, the less one knows"
The Inner Light, George Harrison
 

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