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On the Liverpool-Rishikesh connection

'Desmond has a barrow in the marketplace . . .' went a toe-thumping John Lennon-Paul McCartney chartbuster entitled Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da. In real life, the far-famed pop group chanced upon a Desmond with a difference: a self-styled Maharishi called Mahesh Yogi hailing from that `marketplace of spiritualism' Rishikesh (definition: the Maharishi himself) and perfectly willing to peddle the product. By the barrowful.

Their meeting was perhaps inevitable. The Liverpool boys were in search of a high headier than anything mere marijuana or LSD could impart. Mahesh Yogi was preaching the philosophy of transcendental meditation in Bangor, North Wales. The two parties hit it off instantly and the Beatles, fully convinced that TM alone could set them on the high road to nirvana, hot-footed it to the Maharishi's ashram.

Their landing on Indian soil -- in the second week of February '68 -- created a furore. The day they arrived at the Dhyan Vidya Peeth the press was waiting.

Whatever little information trickled through the formidable iron gates initially was courtesy the group's road manager, Malcolm Evans. Helpfully, he revealed what was on the cards for his boys: 'Peace -- lots of it -- taped Indian music, vegetarian food and a dip in the cool, blue Ganga waters. Yes. they know it will purify them.'

In their conscious effort to melt into the crowd. the Liverpool folk valiantly turned plebeian. George Harrison shaved off his distinguishing `buccaneer' moustache and side- burns. His comrades discarded their glad rags for simple kurtas and trousers; the women often wore saris, foreheads smeared with kum kum. Collectively, they freaked out on the joys of TM, particularly kicked about the convenience of the Maharishi's method which in no way interrupted their schedule.

After this two-way flow of admiration and more admiration, nobody reckoned the Maharishi-Beatles honeymoon would end the way it did. Nevertheless, it happened--in the last week of February 1968, Ringo Starr and his wife, Paul McCartney and Jane Asher abruptly quit the ashram and flew back to London. Shortly after, the rest followed.

The public statements that emanated from both sides were initially guarded. Apart from a thinly veiled attack on the Maharishi in a song entitled Sexy Sadie, the Beatles announced at a New York press conference in May '68 that they had 'made a mistake about him'. The latter went on record about the split with a terse 'It's Beatle-like, it's child-like', adding later, 'I always work on hope. If they should come back to me tomorrow, I would gladly take them in again.'

No such reconciliation was in store, however, and the break remained final. And in the process, both sides gave up the biggest high to have hit them in a long time -- the Beatles, transcendental meditation, and the Maharishi, the Beatles.

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Creation has two sides: intelligence, which is the cause of everything, and the manifestations of intelligence, which are the physical and psychological features of the everyday world. Because Transcendental Meditation directly approaches intelligence, rather than the manifestations of intelligence, it solves problems by introducing harmony and well-being at the most basic level, and not by dealing with problems themselves. That's why it is so effective.

Consider this example: The gardener supplies water to the root of a tree. That water, that nourishment, then reaches all parts of the tree - leaves, branches, flowers, fruit - through the sap. We can think of the sap as analogous to intelligence and the green leaves or yellow flowers as analogous to the manifestations of the intelligence. The leaves and flowers are the intelligence of the sap, after it has been transformed. So intelligence - like the leaves and flowers of a tree - appears as the many different forms of manifest life. Those manifestations include every aspect of existence, from the material and physiological, through the psychological, intellectual, and spiritual. All of those features of life come from transformations of intelligence. In meditation, we directly meet this essential intelligence. Therefore, we have the possibility of nourishing all of its other levels, and thus all levels of manifestation, in a way that is harmoniously related to the whole universe.

How is Transcendental Meditation different from the various other forms of meditation?

Maharishi: The basic difference is that Transcendental Meditation, in addition to its simplicity, concerns itself only with the mind. Other systems often involve some additional aspects with which the mind is associated, such as breathing or physical exercises. They can be a little complicated because they deal with so many things. But with Transcendental Meditation there is no possibility of any interference. So we say this is the all-simple program, enabling the conscious mind to fathom the whole range of its existence.

Transcendental Meditation ranges from active mind - or performing mind - to quiet mind - or resting mind. In this resting mind, one has purity and simplicity, uninvolved with anything other than the mind, uninvolved with any other practice. In Transcendental Meditation, because we deal only with the mind, we nourish all expressions of intelligence.

The mind meditates, gains Transcendental Consciousness and brings about transformation in different fields of manifestation. All fields of life, which are the expression of intelligence, are nourished or transformed and made better through experiencing Transcendental Consciousness.

The mind, of course, is always concerned with other aspects, such as the physiology of the body, the environment, and the whole universe for that matter. But since Transcendental Meditation deals only with the performance of the mind, from its active states to its settled state, it remains unconcerned with those other aspects, though it deals with them all, because intelligence deals with them all. -- Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, unknown interview, copyright presumablyheld by Maharishi Vedic University, The Maharishi Foundation, or another group within the TM family.

Cults come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Categories of cults that are recruiting successfully today include:

Eastern meditation: characterized by belief in God-consciousness, becoming one with God. The leader usually distorts and Eastern-based philosophy or religion. Members sometimes learn to disregard worldly possessions and may take on an ascetic lifestyle. Techniques used: meditation, repeated mantras, altered states of consciousness, trance states.

Religious: marked by belief in salvation, afterlife, sometimes combined with an apocalyptic view. The leader reinterprets the Scriptures and often claims to be a prophet if not the messiah. Often the group is strict, sometimes using physical punishments such as paddling and birching, especially on children. Members are encouraged to spend a great deal of time proselytizing. (Note: included here are Bible-based neo-Christian and other religious cults, many considered syncretic since they combine beliefs and practices). Techniques used: speaking in tongues, chanting, praying, isolation, lengthy study sessions, many hours spent evangelizing, "struggle" (or criticism) and confession sessions.

Political, racist, terrorist: fueled by belief in changing society, revolution, overthrowing the "enemy" or getting rid of evil forces. The leader professes to be all-knowing and all-powerful. Often the group is armed and meets in secret with coded language, handshakes, and other ritualized practices. Members consider themselves an elite cadre ready to go to battle. Techniques used: paramilitary training, reporting on one another, guilt, fear, struggle sessions, instilled paranoia, long hours of indoctrination. -- Captive Hearts, Captive Minds, Lalich and Tobias, Hunter House, 1993.