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The Ashram Where the Beatles Sought Enlightenment | Travel | Smithsonian

The Ashram Where the Beatles Sought Enlightenment | Travel | Smithsonian

The Ashram Where the Beatles Sought Enlightenment | Travel | Smithsonian
January 04
09:21 2018

In January 1968, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi invited me to a Transcendental Meditation course in Rishikesh, a city in the foothills of the Himalayas in Northern India. Back then, a lot of Americans still thought meditation was pretty far out. But in California, where I came from, it wasn’t such a stretch, particularly among musicians.

Maharishi had taught me how to meditate in Paris, after my band, the Beach Boys, performed in a Unicef benefit show there. My cousins Dennis and Carl Wilson and our bandmate Al Jardine all learned together, along with our wives. That first meditation was the most powerful thing I’d ever experienced. I used the mantra Maharishi had given me, and my mind immediately settled down into a silent, expanded state. I was more deeply relaxed than I’d ever been in my whole life. I said to myself, “Wow, this is so simple that anyone could do it. And if everyone did, it would be an entirely different world!”

So when Maharishi invited me to Rishikesh a few weeks later, I canceled everything on my calendar for the next couple of months. I had some really nice shirts and pants made in Beverly Hills. I figured if I was going to India, I should have some silk. Then I packed up a suitcase and flew on Pan Am—from Los Angeles to Hawaii, Hawaii to Japan, Japan to Bangkok, and Bangkok to Delhi. When I walked off the plane in Delhi, the sun was just rising and it was a beautiful, mystical morning.

On the road to Rishikesh, I was prepared to see cows and elephants. When a camel crossed in front of my taxi, that really surprised me. On the banks of the Ganges, someone showed up in a little scow, not even really a boat, and loaded me up with my luggage. Then I arrived at the ashram—or the International Academy of Meditation, as Maharishi called it.

Of course, once I got there and saw the Beatles, Donovan, Mia Farrow and the others, none of them were wearing silk outfits. They were all wearing plain little cotton pajama-type clothes they’d had made by the local tailors. So I had some of those simpler clothes made, too.

The area around us was called the Valley of the Saints, with the Himalayas rising up around it. In the epic The Ramayana, Lord Rama went there to do penance for killing the demon Ravana. Adi Shankara, the founder of the philosophy of non-dualism called Advaita Vedanta, built temples there in the eighth century. You could feel that this was a place where people had been coming to meditate since ancient times. When we went down to the Ganges before dawn, we saw yogis. It was February, and there were ice floes coming down the river. These yogis were doing their ablutions in the freezing cold water. That was truly impressive.

Read more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/beatles-ashram-sought-enlightenment-180967494/#r5qGLals3o6zpp5W.99
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Source: The Ashram Where the Beatles Sought Enlightenment | Travel | Smithsonian

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Martin Nethercutt

Martin Nethercutt

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