Widgets Magazine

The Pop Guru who had Beatles and Eastwood in his fold

Author Bhavdeep Kang
He was the guru of gurus. The trailblazer who effortlessly swayed the West towards and spiritual practices, suitably chymified for mass consumption. He was the mascot of Sixties’ “flower- Power” counter culture. He added the word “mantra” to the English vocabulary and mesmerized Hollywood, inspiring that tiny fount of wisdom, Jedi Master Yoda of “Star Wars”.

As Spiritual preceptor to the Beatles, he inspired a string of titles, from “Across the Universe” to “Sexy Sadie”. He was also guru to the Beach Boys, singers and Donovan, actors Mia farrow, Shirley MacLaine, Burt Reynolds, Faye Dunaway and Clint Eastwood, scientist/architect Buckminster Fuller and director/producer George Lucas.

Not Content to be just a spiritual healer-dealer, he launched a transnational political party, established a town in the US and floated his own currency, Raam-Mudra. And as an unintended spin off, he gifted to the world two remarkable entrepreneurs in the field of wellness. Sri Sri “Art of Living” Ravi Shankar and Deepak “Perfect Health” Chopra.

Maharishi conquered the occident with promises of heavenly bliss and gravity-defying, meditation-induced levitation. (TM) was touted as the ultimate free lunch: dramatic and palpable mental and physical benefits, sans sacrifice, austerities, change in lifestyle or abstinence. Lasting peace and happiness in exchange for just one week’s salary and twenty minutes a day, morning and evening. Early advertisements for made extravagant claims of practitioners developing “supernormal powers”, including invisibility and the art of aerostatics.

Hollywood, caught up in the gritty innovation of the American New Wave, was primed for radical experiences, was craving some direction - simply put, it was ripe for meditation, mystic concepts and alternative medicine. All of which was touted as an extension of pure science, the better to appeal to the rational a Western mind. The yogi, himself a physicist by training, had no trouble borrowing terms like “unified field” from and describing himself as “the world’s foremost scientist in the field of consciousness”. The “unified field - the eternal, self-sustained, unmanifest reality” was the “Maharishi’s theory of the absolute and a fulfillment of Einstein’s theory of relativity”. Embrace TM and the Force would be with you.

Long before Fritjof Capra enchanted the world with “The Tao of Physics” – his 1975 treatise on parallels between eastern philosophy and quantum theory – the Maharishi was explaining the properties of Sub-atomic particles in Vedic terms : “Electrons and Protons of modern science, seen through the Indian system of analysis of the universe, are manifestations of Agni Tatwa (energy) and Vayu Tatwa (motion).

What is TM anyway? An ancient secret, a miraculous DIY technique of boosting consciousness… so said the Maharishi, claiming it had been imparted to him by his guru, Brahmananda Saraswati, the Shankaracharya of Jyotir Peeth, in Joshimath (the state of Uttarakhand).

[ Excerpted with permission from “Gurus : Stories of India's Leading Babas” by Bhavdeep Kang,
Westland Books, June 2016. Views expressed are writer’s personal ]
Widgets Magazine
Widgets Magazine
Widgets Magazine