Maharishi Mahesh Yogi with members of the Beatles | Keystone Features/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
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In 1968, the Beatles visited Maharishi Mahesh Yogi at Rishikesh for spiritual learning. They were mobbed by the Indian media when they arrived.

‘I promised The Beatles they would not be molested by the press or anyone else. They are enjoying being away from the world of activity do you see how rested their faces appear?’ He (the Maharishi) smiled as he added, ‘No, the world can get along for a few more weeks without their Beatles.’

Having kept his celebrity guests out of bounds for the media, the Maharishi was enjoying the limelight.

‘For Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the Beatles’ spiritual guru, this is his finest hour. While he walks the wooded ashram paths near the Lakshman Jhula he is sure in his knowledge that he, transcendental meditation and the Beatles are being talked about in many parts of the world. Reporters, cameramen and TV crews promising wide publicity haunt the ashram and even the common man wants to know about the meditation that has turned so many celebrities into disciples of a religious man comparatively unknown till recently,’ said a Hindustan Times report.

The correspondent who seemed to have been briefed by the Indian guru went on to explain why he seemed more interested in Westerners than his own people.

‘The Maharishi says that Indians are hardly the people to be interested in his kind of meditation. Why? Because he has found that only men of the world who can combine intelligence, rewarding activity and high income can appreciate transcendental
meditation. As a nation, he feels, we have yet to reach the stage when an appreciable part of people can boast of such qualifications…

The Maharishi also boasted to the media about turning the Beatles very soon into proponents of his Transcendental Meditation message to the world:

‘Within three months, I promise to turn Harrison, Lennon, McCartney and Starr into fully qualified teachers or semi-Gurus of Hindu meditation. George and John have progressed fantastically in the few days since they arrived here. I am not pushing them too hard
at first, only a few hours of meditation a day. I am feeding them highlevel philosophy in simple words.’

But the Maharishi’s own press conferences and interviews to the media did not satisfy them. They wanted the Beatles.

‘The press really tried kicking down the gates into the Ashram, the Indian people in the ashram called me half way through, but as soon as an Indian reporter told me, “No bloody foreigner is going to stop me in my own country”, I cooled it. While the Maharishi kept the media away from his famous students, he himself gave interviews to the press,’ recalled

As excited crowds of Beatles fans and a large media contingent gathered at the gates of the ashram and rumours abounded on strange goings-on inside, officials of the Central Intelligence Department (CID) forced their way inside.

A visibly upset Maharishi told the media that he ‘might be compelled to remove his ashram to Europe’ if these police intrusions for intelligence purposes persisted.

Barred from meeting the Beatles and reporting first-hand about what they were doing in the ashram, the media started writing colourful accounts based on rumours floating around at the locked gates. On a trip to Delhi to bring Scottish folk singer Donovan to the ashram,
Nancy, accompanying Avi, was shocked to hear the kind of salacious stories doing the rounds in the Indian capital.

As they drove through Connaught Place, they saw news posters pasted on the columns of the buildings. They were headlines of the daily papers-‘ Wild Orgies at Ashram’ and ‘Beatles Wife Raped at the Ashram’, were two that caught their eye.

They bought copies of three or four papers, and read them aloud to each other as they left Delhi. One said: ‘Cartons of whisky were seen delivered to Maharishi’s guests at the
ashram. Evidently the guru doesn’t want his disciples deprived of their pleasures while learning about the spiritual world. Maharishi teaches that all desires must be satisfied.’

Another claimed, ‘Sources close to the Academy of Meditation located in the Himalayas above Rishikesh report that attempts are being made to suppress the fact that one of The
Beatles’ wives was raped two days ago. It has not been determined as yet which wife was the victim.’…

‘There was no way Maharishi could protect the ashram from such blatant lies. The best thing was to laugh and forget it,’ said Pattie.

This is an excerpt from Ajoy Bose’s book ‘Across the Universe’ published by Penguin India.

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