So the Maharishi is gone.
The Maharishi was both an entrepreneur and a monk, a spiritual man who sought a world stage from which to espouse the joys of inner happiness. His critics called his organization a cult business enterprise. And in the press, in the 1960s and ’70s, he was often dismissed as a hippie mystic, the “Giggling Guru,” recognizable in the familiar image of him laughing, sitting cross-legged in a lotus position on a deerskin, wearing a white silk dhoti with a garland of flowers around his neck beneath an oily, scraggly beard.
The visibility and popularity of the organization can largely be attributed to the Beatles. In 1968, the band, with great publicity, began studying with the Maharishi at his Himalayan retreat, or ashram, in Rishikesh, in northern India. They went with their wives, the folk singer Donovan, the singer Mike Love, of the Beach Boys, the actress Mia Farrow and Ms. Farrow’s sister Prudence.
They left in the wake of rumors of sexual improprieties by the Maharishi, an avowed celibate, though no sexual-misconduct suits were filed and some of the participants later denied that anything untoward had occurred.
Nevertheless, public interest in the movement had been aroused in the West, and it continued to grow in the 1970s as the Maharishi took his movement around the world and as its techniques gained respectability in the medical world.
I have to admit, I never knew what to think of the the whole celebrity TM movement: I guess I can see that people in empty worlds reach for meaning, but then it also seems like dabbling in someone else's mysticism, which strikes me as potentially pretty cynical. But then I'm feeling pretty cynical these days. Still, I hear it's 1968 all over again, so who's to say?
Anyway, an important person and a valuable inspiration.