Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (12 January 1918 – 5 February 2008) was born Mahesh Prasad Varma and became known as Maharishi (meaning “great seer”) and Yogi as an adult. He developed the Transcendental Meditation technique and was the leader and guru of a worldwide organization that has been characterized in multiple ways including as a new religious movement and as non-religious.
Association with the Beatles
In 1967, the Maharishi’s fame increased and his movement gained greater prominence when he became the “spiritual advisor to the Beatles“, though he was already well-known among young people in the UK and had already had numerous public appearances that brought him to the Beatles’ attention. They met in London in August 1967 and the Beatles went to study with the Maharishi in Bangor, Wales, before travelling to Rishikesh, India, in February 1968 to “devote themselves fully to his instruction”. Starr and his wife Maureen left after ten days, McCartney and Jane Asher left after five weeks, and Lennon and Harrison departed sixteen days later. During their stay, the Beatles heard that the Maharishi had made sexual advances towards Mia Farrow. On June 15, 1968, in London, the Beatles formally renounced their association with the Maharishi as a “public mistake”. “Sexy Sadie” is the name of a song by the Beatles, written by John Lennon in India and credited to Lennon–McCartney. Lennon originally wanted to title the song “Maharishi”, but changed the title at George Harrison‘s request. Harrison commented years later, “Now, historically, there’s the story that something went on that shouldn’t have done – but nothing did.” In 1992, Harrison gave a benefit concert for the Maharishi-associated Natural Law Party, and later apologised for the way the Maharishi had been treated by saying, “We were very young” and “It’s probably in the history books that Maharishi ‘tried to attack Mia Farrow’ – but it’s bullshit, total bullshit.” Cynthia Lennon wrote in 2006 that she “hated leaving on a note of discord and mistrust, when we had enjoyed so much kindness from the Maharishi”. Asked if he forgave the Beatles, the Maharishi replied, “I could never be upset with angels.” McCartney took his daughter, Stella, to visit the Maharishi in the Netherlands in 2007, which renewed their friendship. The New York Times and The Independent reported that the influence of the Maharishi, and the journey to Rishikesh to meditate, weaned the Beatles from LSD and inspired them to write many new songs. In 2009, McCartney commented that Transcendental Meditation was a gift the Beatles had received from the Maharishi at a time when they were looking for something to stabilise them. The Beatles’ visit to the Maharishi’s ashram coincided with a thirty-participant Transcendental Meditation teacher training course that was ongoing when they arrived. Graduates of the course included Prudence Farrow and Mike Love.
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