Memorial pays tribute to Indian guru Maharishi Yogi
Thu Feb 7, 2008
By Catherine Hornby
VLODROP, Netherlands (Reuters) - Followers gathered at the Dutch home
of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on Thursday to remember the late guru to the
Beatles who brought transcendental meditation to the West.
In a tent decorated with pots of roses, daffodils and orchids, the
main leaders of the Maharishi's movement addressed an audience of
hundreds, praising the life and works of the Indian mystic, who died
overnight on Wednesday aged 91.
"His holiness brought meditation to the world," said Bevan Morris,
prime minister of the Maharishi's Global Country of World Peace movement.
His funeral will be held in the Indian city of Allahabad on Monday, a
spokesman for the group said.
Paul McCartney and his fellow Beatles went to India in 1968 to see
the guru and much of their music after the trip reflected their
experiences -- good and bad -- there.
"I can only say that whilst I am deeply saddened by his passing, my
memories of him will only be joyful ones," McCartney said in a
statement on Thursday. "He was a great man who worked tirelessly for
the people of the world and the cause of unity."
Dressed in white robes and adorned with golden crowns and pendants,
the main leaders or Rajas of the movement sat on red velvet seats on
a podium, sometimes listening to the speakers, sometimes drifting off
into deep contemplation.
After a five-minute group meditation, prominent members of the
movement recounted the contributions the Maharishi's practices had
made to society, education, science, health, agriculture and defence.
The Maharishi set up universities and schools all over the world and
his Natural Law Party -- which promotes yogic flying, a practice that
involves sitting in the lotus position and bouncing into the air --
has campaigned in dozens of countries.
INFLUENCE OF PEACE
Transcendental meditation, known as TM by its followers, involves
reciting a mantra that practitioners say helps the mind stay calm
even under pressure. It gradually gained medical respect over the
decades as the Maharishi challenged Western scientists to investigate
its health benefits.
The Indian mystic moved his headquarters to the small southern Dutch
village of Vlodrop in 1990, occupying the site around a former
Many practitioners came to lay flowers at the gates of his residence
on Thursday, a golden-yellow wooden building surrounded by gardens
dotted with animal figurines and facing a circle of flags from all
around the world.
"It's like a meditation-based United Nations," said a spokesman.
In the audience, many women were dressed in traditional Indian saris,
while most men wore light grey and cream suits. Indian music was
played in between speeches as people drank herbal tea and watched
slides of the Maharishi's life.
Leaders said that though there was a deep sense of loss, there was
also a feeling that the Maharishi had been able to achieve what he
wanted in his life.
"Five million meditating in the world produces an influence of peace.
The Maharishi felt he could relax and inevitably the influence of
peace would grow," said John Hagelin, head of the U.S. branch of the movement.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi dies a recluse
February 7, 2008
by Jeremy Page in Delhi and Ben Hoyle
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the guru to the Beatles who introduced the
West to Transcendental Meditation and yogic flying and became a
counterculture icon, has died at his Dutch retreat. He was thought to be 91.
Born in central India, the Maharishi began studying meditation after
completing a degree in physics in 1942 and started to teach his
techniques around the world in 1959, starting with the United States.
It was his relationship with the Beatles that propelled him to fame
and, later, notoriety. George Harrison's wife, Patti, heard about the
Maharishi while her husband was studying the sitar with Ravi Shankar
in Bombay in 1966.
The following year, when the guru arrived in Britain to teach, the
Beatles, who had been overwhelmed by the scale of their success, were
ready for his message. Dressed in the flowing Eastern robes of the
flower power movement and sporting moustaches, they joined him in a
first-class train carriage travelling from London to Bangor. Mick
Jagger and Marianne Faithfull were also there.
The Maharishi was hosting a meditation course at the Normal College,
now part of the University of North Wales. The Beatles intended to
stay for a week but cut short their visit when news broke that Brian
Epstein, their visionary manager, had died.
The following year the group visited the Maharishi at his fortified
ashram in Rishikesh in the foothills of the Himalayas. They were
filmed, sitting cross-legged and wearing garlands of flowers,
learning his Transcendental Meditation techniques. They were followed
by other celebrities including Mike Love, of the Beach Boys, Donovan
and Mia Farrow.
Ringo Starr was the first to leave, complaining that he missed egg
and chips. The Maharishi "great sage" in Hindi fell out with many
of the rock stars after rumours emerged that he had made
inappropriate advances towards Ms Farrow, inspiring John Lennon to
write the song Sexy Sadie, about a charlatan who "made a fool of everyone".
By the 1970s the Maharishi was said to have more than five million
people practising Transcendental Meditation, or TM. Practitioners
spend 20 minutes every morning and evening reciting a single sound,
or mantra, to help them to reduce stress and improve concentration.
The Maharishi also taught "yogic flying" or bouncing in the air in
the lotus position.
By the 1980s he had set up schools across the world, founded the
Natural Law Party and built a multimillion-pound business empire
including a property dealership and a company selling Ayurvedic
medicine and cosmetics. Most were financed by donations and a $2,500
fee to learn TM.
In 1990 he moved his headquarters to a former Franciscan monastery in
the southern Dutch village of Vlodrop, from where he controlled his
Global Country of World Peace movement. There he lived as a recluse
in a pavilion and communicated by video link.
The Maharishi was widely ridiculed in 2002 when he announced that he
could combat terrorism and war if he could raise $1 billion to train
40,000 expert meditators. Sceptics also scoffed at his plan to raise
$10 trillion to end poverty by sponsoring organic farming in the
A spokesman said that a memorial service would be held in Vlodrop
today before his body was flown back to India for a funeral by the Ganges.
"Maharishi's work is complete," his movement said in a statement. "He
has done what he set out to do in 1957 to lay the foundation for a
peaceful world. Now Maharishi is being welcomed with open arms into heaven."