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MAHARISHI MAHESH YOGI
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (January 12, 1918 – February 5, 2008)introduced the Transcendental Meditation technique (alsoknown as TM) and related programs and initiatives, including schools anduniversities with campuses in several countries including India, the United States, Mexico,the United Kingdom and China.
In approximately 1939, the Maharishi became an assistant of Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, who was the Shankaracharya(spiritual leader) of Jyotir Math, located in the Indian Himalayasfrom 1941 to 1953. The Maharishi credits the Shankaracharya (Guru Dev) withinspiring his teachings.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's first global tour began in 1958, from which time histechniques and programs have been taught worldwide. He became known in the Westernworld in part due to his interactions with The Beatlesand other celebrities.
By 1990, the Maharishi had begun to coordinate his global activities fromhis new residence in Vlodrop, the Netherlands.On January 11, 2008, he announced his retirement from all administrativeactivities and went into Mauna (spiritual silence). He declared: "It has been mypleasure at the feet of Guru Dev, to take the light of Guru Dev and pass it onin my environment. Now today, I am closing my designed duty to Guru Dev. And Ican only say, 'Live long the world in peace, happiness, prosperity, and freedomfrom suffering.'”
Early lifeMaharishi Mahesh Yogi was born Mahesh Prasad Varma, in the Pandukaarea of Raipur, India, into a Kayastha castefamily living in the Central Provinces of BritishIndia (although the Allahabad University list of distinguished alumni callshim "M.C. Shrivastava"). He earned a degree in physics at Allahabad University. The place of birth givenin hispassport is "Pounalulla", India. The name of his father isgiven as Sri Ram Prasad.
According to Jay Randolph Coplin, who did a sociological study ofTranscendental Meditation for his dissertation at the University of California (San Diego), the name "Mahesh"indicated that the Maharishi came from a Hindu family that worshipped Shiva. Cynthia AnnHumes writes that his family was of the Kayastha (scribal) caste. Contrary tosome reports, caste rules allow the honorific terms "yogi" or"maharishi" to be applied to those of the Kayastha caste.
In 1941, he became a secretary to the Shankaracharya of Jyotir Math, Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, who gave him the nameBal Brahmachari Mahesh. Besides indicating his family faith, Coplin says theconferred title "identified him as a dedicated student of spiritualknowledge and life-long celibate ascetic". Maharishi remained with SwamiBrahmananda Saraswati until the latter died in 1953. Although the Maharishi wasa close disciple, he could not be the Shankaracharya's spiritual successorbecause he was not of the Brahmin caste.
In 1953, the Maharishi moved to Uttarkashiin the Valley of the Saints in the Himalayas,where Swami Brahmananda Saraswati had lived in previous decades with hisspiritual master, Swami Krishanand Saraswati. In 1955,the Maharishi leftUttarkashi and began publicly teaching what hestated was a traditional meditation technique that he learned from his master,which he called Transcendental Deep Meditation and later renamed TranscendentalMeditation. The Maharishi traveled around India for two years. At that time hecalled his movement the "Spiritual Development Movement", but renamedit The Spiritual Regeneration Movementin 1957, in Madras,India, on the concluding dayof the Seminar of Spiritual Luminaries. According to J. Lynwood King in hisbook Fundamentals of Maharishi Vedic Science, the feedback Maharishireceived from the diverse population that learned his technique suggested tohim that it could be of wide benefit.
CareerWorld toursIn 1958, the Maharishi began the first of a number of worldwide tours. Hisfirst world tour began in Rangoon, Burma (now Myanmar) and included the countries of Thailand, Malaya, Singapore, Hong Kongand Hawaii. TheMaharishi remained in the Far East for aboutsix months teaching Transcendental Meditation. On December 31, 1958, the Honolulu Star Bulletin published anarticle about him saying: "He has no money, he asks for nothing. Hisworldly possessions can be carried in one hand. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi is on aworld odyssey. He carries a message that he says will rid the world of allunhappiness and discontent.”
In 1959, the Maharishi lectured and taught the Transcendental Meditation technique in Honolulu, SanFrancisco, Los Angeles, Boston, New York and London. While inLos Angeles, Maharishi became a guest at the home of Roland and Helena Olsonand their daughter Theresa, who wrote several books about their experiences. Hecontinued to visit the Olsons' home over the next few years.
In 1960, the Maharishi traveled to many cities in the countries of India, France, Switzerland,England, Scotland, Norway, Sweden, Germany, TheNetherlands, Italy,Singapore,Australia,NewZealand and Africa.He lectured, taught the Transcendental Meditation technique, and establishedadministrative centers where practitioners could gather for meetings in hisabsence. During his visit to England,the Maharishi gave a lecture at Caxton Hall in London and met LeonMacLaren, the founder and leader of the School of Economic Science (SES). Whilein Manchester,England, the Maharishi gave a television interview and was featured in manyEnglish newspapers such as the BirminghamPost, the Oxford Mail and the Cambridge Daily News. This was also the yearin which the Maharishi trained his first Transcendental Meditation teacher,Henry Nyburg.
In 1961, the Maharishi continued his travels by visiting the countries of Austria, Sweden, France,Italy, Greece, India, Kenya, England, USAand Canada.While in England, theMaharishi appeared on BBCtelevision and gave a lecture to 5,000 people at the RoyalAlbert Hall in London.In April 1961, the Maharishi conducted his first Transcendental MeditationTeacher Training Course in Rishikesh, India with 60 participants. Over 60 meditatorsfrom India, Canada, Denmark,Germany, Britain, Malaya, Norway, the United States, Australia,Greece, Italy and the West Indiesattended. Teachers continued to be trained as time progressed. In this sameyear, the Maharishi began to introduce additional knowledge regarding thedevelopment of human potential, and began writing his translation andcommentary on the first six chapters of the ancient Vedic text, the BhagavadGita. His 1962 world tour included visits to Europe, India,Australia and New Zealand. The year concluded in Californiawhere the Maharishi dictated his book The Science of Being and Art of Living.
In 1963, the Maharishi addressed ministers of the IndianParliament during his tour of cities in Europe, Asia, NorthAmerica and India.Twenty one members of the Indian Parliament then issued a public statementendorsing the Maharishi's goals and meditation technique. His Canadian tourgenerated news articles in the magazine Enjoy and in the Daily Colonist, CalgaryHerald and The Albertan.
The Maharishi's fifth world tour in 1964 consisted of visits to many citiesin North America, Europe andIndia.During his visit to Englandhe appeared with the Abbot of Downside, Abbot Butler, on a BBC television showcalled "The Viewpoint". In October of this year, in California, theMaharishi began teaching the first Advanced Technique of TranscendentalMeditation to some experienced meditators. While traveling in America, theMaharishi met with Dr. Robert Maynard Hutchins, the head of the Centre forDemocratic Studies and Mr. U. Thant, the Secretary General of the UnitedNations.
ReceptionDuring the 60's and 70's a number of celebrities such as The Beatles,TheBeach Boys, The Rolling Stones, DeepakChopra, JaneFonda, MiaFarrow, Shirley MacLaine, Joe Namath,StevieWonder, and Howard Stern, as well as author KurtVonnegut and Major-General Franklin M. Davis, Jr reported using thetechnique. Singer-songwriter Donovan (whobefriended the Maharishi and put his picture on the back cover of his A Gift from a Flower to a Gardenalbum) also learned the technique. Comedian AndyKaufman and magician Doug Henning were also students of the Maharishi. HowardStern interviewed the Maharishi twice and credits Transcendental Meditationwith saving his mother from depression.ClintEastwood and David Lynchare two notable film directors who practicethe Transcendental Meditation technique. Republican Party politician William Scranton, another student of theMaharishi, lost his 1986 bid for the Pennsylvania governorship when politicalconsultant James Carville ran a television spot about Mr.Scranton's affiliation with the "guru".In October 1975, the Maharishiwas pictured on the front cover of the Timemagazine.
In the book, Paul McCartney; Many Years From Now, Barry Miles saysthat for the media, the Maharishi was well cast with "liquid eyes,twinkling but inscrutable with the wisdom from the East" and that R. Crumblampooned the Maharishi in his most famous character, Mr. Natural, the bearded, robed, and sybariticguru. Miles goes on to say that in spite of the media's skepticism for theMaharishi's spiritual message, they seized upon him because young people seemedto listen to his pro-establishment, anti-drug message.The Maharishi was alsoparodied by comedians Bill Dana and Joey Formanin the 1968 comedy album "The Mashuganisi Yogi", and by comedian Mike Myersin the movie The Love Guruand in the character "GuruMaharishi Yogi" featured in the BBC sketch Goodness Gracious Me.
According to a November 2009 article in DNA,film director David Lynch is planning a documentary consisting ofinterviews with people who knew the Maharishi.
BooksThe Maharishi has written more than twenty books on the TranscendentalMeditation technique and Maharishi Vedic Science.
In 1955, the organizers of The Great Spiritual Development Conference ofKerala, published The Beacon Light of the Himalayas, a transcribed, 170page, "souvenir" of the conference. Authors Chryssides, Humes andForsthoefel, Miller, and Russel cite this as the Maharishi's first publishedbook on Transcendental Meditation. Transcendental Meditation is not mentionedin the text of the book.The book is dedicated to Maharshi Bala BrahmanchariMahesh Yogi Rajaram by his devotees of Kerala and contains photos, letters andlectures by numerous authors which appear in various languages such as English,Hindi and Sanskrit.
In his 1963 publication Bhagavad-Gita: A New Translation and Commentary,the Maharishi describes the Bhagavad Gita as "the Scripture of Yoga."He says that "its purpose is to explain in theory and practice all that isneeded to raise the consciousness of man to the highest possible level."In 1964, the Maharishi attended the All-India Yogic Conference held in Calcutta, India, where he said that the teachingscontained in the Bhagavad Gita was misunderstood in the current age, "thepractice of yoga was misunderstood, misinterpreted, and misapplied,"resulting in "weakness in the fields of thought and action".TheMaharishi said that the source of his commentary was his master: "We arejust an innocent means for the spontaneous flow of that knowledge – that's all."[
While working on his translation and commentary of the Bhagavad Gita, theMaharishi began audio taping the text of Science of Being and Art of Living,which was later transcribed and published in 1963
Advanced programsOver a 30-year period the Maharishi held many advanced, in-residence coursesand assemblies in North America, Indiaand Europe for practitioners of theTranscendental Meditation technique. These courses consisted of long meditationsessions, lectures by Maharishi, discussions based on personal experiences ofmeditation, questions from course participants, and organizational meetings.This type of in-residence course style continues to this day.
In the mid 1970s, the Maharishi began the TM-Sidhiprogram, including Yogic Flying, as an additional option for those who hadbeen practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique for some time.According to Coplin, this new aspect of knowledge emphasized not only theindividual, but also the collective benefits created by group practice of thisadvanced program. This new program gave rise to a new principle called the MaharishiEffect. The Maharishi believed that this group practice of thetechnique benefited the environment.
IdeasMaharishi Vedic Science, or MVS, is based on Maharishi Mahesh Yogi'sinterpretation of the ancient Vedic texts. MVS includes two aspects, thepractical aspect of the Transcendental Meditation technique and the TM-SidhiProgram, as well as the theoretical aspect of how MVS is applied to day to dayliving.
These applications include programs in: Maharishi Vedic Approach to Health(MVAH);Maharishi Sthapatya Veda, a mathematicalsystem for the design and construction of buildings; Maharishi Gandharva Veda,aform of classical Indian music; Maharishi Jyotish (also known as MaharishiVedic Astrology),a system claiming the evaluation of life tendencies of anindividual; Maharishi Vedic Agriculture, a trademarked process for producingfresh, organic food; and, Consciousness-Based Education.
According to educator, James Grant, a former Maharishi University of ManagementAssociate Professor of Education and the former Dean of the College of Artsand Sciences, Maharishi brought out a "full revival of the Vedic traditionof knowledge from India"and demonstrated its relevance in many areas including education, business,medicine and government.
Other initiatives, projects and programsMaharishi InternationalUniversity (renamed Maharishi University of Management(MUM) in 1995), the first university Maharishi founded, began classes in Santa Barbara, California, in 1973. Thenin 1974, the university moved to Fairfield,Iowa, where it remains today. The universityhouses a library of the Maharishi's taped lectures and writings including the33-lesson, Science of Creative Intelligence course, originally a series oflectures given by the Maharishi in Fiuggi, Italy,in 1972. Described in the MUM university catalogue as combining modern science,and Vedic science, the course also describes certain higher states ofconsciousness, and guidance on how to attain these states.
The Maharishi also introduced theories of management, defense, andgovernment,programs said to alleviate poverty, and introduced a new economicdevelopment currency called the Raam.In 2000, the Maharishi began building administrative andteaching centers called "Peace Palaces" around the world, and by 2008at least eight had been constructed in the US alone.
Brahmananda Saraswati TrustMaharishi Mahesh Yogi, in his farewell message on January 11, 2008,announced the establishment of the Brahmananda Saraswati Trust (BST), named inhonor of his teacher, to support large groups totaling more than 30,000peace-creating Vedic Pandits in perpetuity across India.According to Bevan Morris,the Prime Minsister of the Global Country for World Peace, the BST is anendowment fund to "support the Vedic Pandits to perform Yagyas and GrahaShanti for all 192 countries of the world generation after generation".
The BeatlesTheBeatles met Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in August 1967, studying with him in Bangor,Wales, and in early 1968,flew to Rishikesh, India to "devote themselvesfully to his instruction". Starr and McCartney left after a few weeksbecause of food and other personal reasons.Lennon and Harrisondeparted two weeks later after hearing a rumor that the Maharishi had madesexual advances towards Mia Farrow and a few other women.
Later, Lennon classified the incident as "an error in judgment".Accordingto a New York times article, after Lennon’s death, in 1980, Harrisonand McCartney reconsidered the accusations. McCartney said that the rumors ofsexual impropriety were raised by Alexis Mardas who "had agendas of hisown, and may have fabricated (or at least exaggerated) the story". Harrison commented, "Now, historically, there's thestory that something went on that shouldn't have done — but nothing did".
Farrow's autobiography is ambiguous about the incident: she describes"panicking" and fleeing after the Maharishi put his arms around herin a dark cave, immediately after a private meditation session, and that"at my level of consciousness, if Jesus Christ Himself had embraced me, Iwould have misinterpreted it."
According to a New York Times article the influence of the Maharishi andgoing to Rishikesh to meditate, weaned The Beatles from LSD and inspired themto write many new songs which later were recorded on the White Album.After theMaharishi's death on February 5, 2008, Sir Paul McCartney released a statementsaying, "Whilst I am deeply saddened by his passing, my memories of himwill only be joyful ones. He was a great man who worked tirelessly for thepeople of the world...." Ringo Starr released a statement saying,"One of the wise men I met in my life was the Maharishi. I always wasimpressed by his joy and I truly believe he knows where he is going."
In a press conference on April 3, 2009, prior to his performance at the David Lynch Foundation benefit concert”Change Begins Within”, Paul McCartney commented that Transcendental Meditationwas a gift the Beatles had received from Maharishi at a time when they werelooking for something to stabilize them. The concert, headlined by McCartney onApril 4, 2009, was created to raise funds to support teaching TM to one millionchildren around the world.
DeathOn 5 February 2008 at Vlodrop, Netherlands,Maharishi Mahesh Yogi died peacefully in hissleep of natural causes. The Agni Samadhi Vedic rites were conducted on a highplateau on the grounds of a temple the Maharishi had been in the process ofbuilding in homage to his Master, overlooking the confluence of the Ganges in Allahabad,India. The funeral was carried by Sadhana TV station and was presided over byone of the claimants to the seat of Shankaracharya of the North, SwamiVasudevananda Saraswati Maharaj. During the military salute, the soldiersreversed arms but did not fire a salute, in honor of the Maharishi's life-longdedication to the creation of world peace.(As reported by Sadhana TV station,11 February 2008.)
Awards and citationsAccording to a publication by Maharishi European Research University, MaharishiMahesh Yogi was the recipient of awards and citations during his lifetime. Someof these are: Man of Hope award, 1970, City of Hope, California;Golden Medal ofthe City of Delphi, Greece; Key to the City of Houston, Texas,USA;Key to the City of Los Angeles, California, USA;and, honorary citizenshipto the City of Winnipeg,Canada.Proclamations given by governing bodies include ones given by GovernorDan Walker of Illinois,andby Members of the Parliament of India.