My tryst with Mahesh Prasad Varma a.k.a the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi started — and pretty much stopped — when I came across a scene in a documentary on the Beatles. It showed a scraggly looking sadhu holding a bunch of flowers surrounded by the Sgt Pepper-era Beatles. I took note of two things: one, that a place called Bangor in Wales exists (which is the station in which the Fab Four met the Fab One); two, that the Beatles had an Indian connection apart from Ravi Shankar.
The fact that George Harrison was responsible for introducing the rest of the Beatles to the inventor of Transcendental Meditation™ — practised for 20 minutes a day with the eyes closed — was something I found dodgy about the Quiet Beatle despite having a special fondness for him. The other fact that Harrison and the rest of his bandmates and their wives/girlfriends — not to mention a few members of the Rolling Stones — grew quickly weary of the Maharishi, made me curious about the scraggly bearded fellow. It turns out that in 1968 when the Beatles and their friends visited Rishikesh to attend an extended TM™ session, the Maharishi reportedly jumped on Mia Farrow. Subsequently Lennon wrote his White Album track, Sexy Sadie, asking the ‘camouflaged’ guru, “Sexy Sadie what have you done/ You made a fool of everyone.”
It was later found out that ‘Magic Alex’, a Beatles hanger-on, had apparently concocted the bit about the Maharishi jumping on Beatles’ ladyfriends. Mia Farrow herself, in her autobiography, What Falls Away, denied any mystical physicality — or physical mysticality — from the Yogi.
Apart from the Beatles connection — and some news about TM™ allowing one to float on air — the Maharishi happily eluded me. I passed his ashram in Rishikesh once, only to hear that he lived in Holland now. Today, I hear he has died in a Dutch town called Vlodrop. So thanks to the Maharishi I now know of Bangor as well as Vlodrop. Jai Guru Deva, um....