Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a guru to the Beatles who introduced the West to transcendental meditation, died Tuesday at his home in the Dutch...
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a guru to the Beatles who introduced the West to transcendental meditation, died Tuesday at his home in the Dutch town of Vlodrop, a spokesman said. He was thought to be 91 years old.
“He died peacefully at about 7 p.m.,” said Bob Roth, a spokesman for the Transcendental Meditation movement that the Maharishi founded. He said his death appeared to be due to “natural causes, his age.”
Once dismissed as hippie mysticism, the Hindu practice of mind control that Maharishi taught, called transcendental meditation, gradually gained medical respectability as effective stress therapy.
He began teaching TM in 1955 and brought the technique to the United States in 1959. But the movement really took off after the Beatles visited his ashram in India in 1968, although he had a famous falling out with the rock stars when he discovered them using drugs at his Himalayan retreat.
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With the help of celebrity endorsements, Maharishi — a Hindi-language title for Great Seer — parlayed his interpretations of ancient scripture into a multimillion-dollar global empire.
After 50 years of teaching, Maharishi turned to larger themes, with grand designs to harness the power of group meditation to create world peace and to mobilize his devotees to banish poverty from the Earth.
In 1971, Maharishi founded a university in Fairfield, Iowa, that taught meditation alongside the arts and sciences to 700 students and served organic vegetarian food in its cafeterias.
Supporters pointed to hundreds of scientific studies showing that meditation reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, improves concentration and raises results for students and businessmen.
In 1986, two groups founded by his organization were sued in the U.S. by former disciples who accused it of fraud, negligence and intentionally inflicting emotional damage. A jury, however, refused to award punitive damages.
Over the years, Maharishi also was accused of fraud by former pupils who claim he failed to teach them to fly. “Yogic flying,” showcased as the ultimate level of transcendence, was never witnessed as anything more than TM followers sitting in the cross-legged lotus position and bouncing across spongy mats.
Maharishi was born Mahesh Srivastava in central India, reportedly on Jan. 12, 1917 — though he refused to confirm the date or discuss his early life. He studied physics at Allahabad University before becoming secretary to a well-known Hindu holy man. After the death of his teacher, Maharishi went into a nomadic two-year retreat of silence in the Himalayan foothills of northern India.
Aides say Maharishi became disillusioned that TM had become identified with the counterculture, and he spent more time at his ashram in Rishikesh in the Himalayan foothills to run his affairs.
In 1990 he moved onto the wooded grounds of a historic Franciscan monastery in the southern Dutch village of Vlodrop, about 125 miles southeast of Amsterdam.