MIDNIGHT IN THE OASIS
After months of insularity with no one entering and few leaving Shankaracharya Nagar, the Butlins of Bliss as John Lennon called it referring to Butlins, the world war two army barracks that were converted into holiday camps for the British working class the listless hot days of the Indian spring brought an influx of outsiders. Business types from Apple Neil Aspinall and Denis O'Dell accompanied by a personal friend of both John and George, Alex Mardas, Magic Alex was head of the newly formed Apple Electronics.
Magic Alex, who we were led to believe he had the genius of both Marconi and Edison combined, he told us so himself. George had once confided that Alex was designing a solar powered electric guitar, which, I assumed would be groovy for afternoon concerts. He had been summoned to India by John And George and was to build an electronic device that he promised to be not much bigger than a trash can lid. It was to be made out of humdrum electronic parts available at the local equivalent to Radio Shack and he modestly claimed that when assembled the device would not only supply the power for the gigantic radio station, that was to beam out to the far corners of the world, Maharishi's message of Meditation,Peace and Love but would have enough of a surplus to light up the entire region. Amazingly all that had to be done was for the device to be assembled and then placed at a strategic point in the Ganges. A little far fetched, maybe but whether it was the long meditations or the mind bending hallucinates we had all only recently given up I'm only a little embarrassed to say that it seemed like a great idea at the time .
The TTC [TM Teacher Training Course], that was now winding down had gone swimmingly well. There had been one shock earlier in the course when Mia Farrow's sister Prudence a classic aphasic acid casualty, had had what seemed to be a total nervous breakdown but now, miraculously it seemed, she had been made whole again, Prudence was as the course neared its completion a glowing beautiful woman, self confident and alert, a tribute to the restorative powers of TM. Soon she would go out into the world with the rest of us, the Meditation Jihad spreading the gospel of peace love and meditation.
Mia herself was due to return to the Ashram soon, to be featured in a movie that the Beatles were to put together featuring at length the bliss of meditation. She had left in Rishikesh happily a month before, with a rich Indian gentleman their plan was to visit the hippie colonies of Goa and Kathmandu returning at the end of the course. It was reported widely that the Beatles left Rishikesh because of some alleged dalliance that Maharishi had with Mia but this is patently incorrect and never surfaced until at least a year after the course ended when Mia, manipulative diva that she is, coyly batted her false eye lashes when ever asked about the alleged incident. Insuring that the falsehood would be kept on the back burner to be brought up and demurely put aside to be used again whenever a film was about to be released or a book published.
My next door neighbor in the Ashram was a feisty New Yorker in her late twenties who I will call RB. She was perkily attractive,very funny and at times combative. She would interrupt Maharishi with pointedly uncosmic questions during his lectures. She was as a lot of people on that course a recent meditator, one of the sudden influx of Beatle fans. It seemed to hit her all of a sudden that this technique was more a part of a greater Hindu Tradition than she expected. She was having trouble as the lectures delved more and more Hindu Philosophy. I believe she felt deceived by the movement.
She was still friendly but she became very negative toward meditation in general.She wanted so badly to just go home but her plane ticket was dated for the TTC end so she was forced to stay at the Ashram for weeks until the course ended. RB soon found a friend in Magic Alex,she had stopped attending the lectures weeks before,she stayed in her room with Alex as he made his plans for the revolutionary power pack. I could hear them through the thin wall huffing and puffing as they practiced their asanas late at night. It behooved both RB and Alex to get out of Rishikesh but he couldn't leave without losing face. Magic Alex was under some pressure from his friend/bosses to actually produce something. If he was to stay in Rishikesh he would be exposed as a fraud. The familiar smell of very happy herb would sometimes waft out of the open door, and their behavior was becoming notorious especially with the older establishment meditators like Walter Koch, Nancy Cooke and the newly arrived president of the SRM Charles Lutes.
Charles Lutes had flown to India when Nancy Cooke told him of the plans Maharishi was making with Apple to make a movie with Maharishi as a co-star. Charlie had already a prior arrangement with Maharishi to make his own Maharishi movie with a film company put together by long time meditator Paul Horn. In Charlie's mind the Beatles would take second billing to the Maharishi and he would decide who made the film it was to be Bliss Productions.
The Beatles of course were the biggest thing since the parting of the Red Sea so this perhaps not the smartest business decision ever made but it certainly put all of those damned hippies in there place. While he was at it he'd clear up the mess with the openly pot smoking whore RB. It mattered not a whit that The Beatles were under contract to make a movie at the time and couldn't appear in Charlie's movie or that RB was kept a captive of circumstance. Charlie had spent to much time with his nose pressed up against Maharishi's window waiting for an audience as the Yogi spent all of his time with the Beatles. A cynical person might think that Charlie was jealous! Charlie was asserting himself running the show again,it was after all his organization.
John and George the only Beatles left in Rishikesh were more than a little pissed when the advance crew from Bliss Productions arrived suddenly at Shankaracharya Nagar. Charlie could be a buffoon at times but he had chutzpah. How could he expect the worlds biggest act ever to roll over and be bit players in a movie which profits would only serve to enrich not the movement which they loved but simply whoever owned the production company. John and George stayed in their rooms much those last few days craftily avoiding the film cameras.
It was getting stiflingly humid both day and night, we could no longer rely on the respite of the cool evenings breeze that came down from the Himalayas along the Ganges gorge. The cool air would bring out the meditators and Shankaracharya Nagar usually silent in the day would fairly bustle from twilight through to Maharishi's seven o'clock Puja and lecture. This particular night was sickeningly hot, the power had gone off toward the end of Maharishi's lecture,perhaps an omen for what was to follow.
I stayed up late with my friend Sarah and Brahmacharya Rhaghwendra chatting about this and that and watching the reflections of the stars shimmer in the Ganges below us. We both loved Rhaghwendra he was one of Maharishi's top aides and was the liaison between the impatient Westerners and the more dilatory Indians. He was our friend and soul mate, tremendously spiritual yet absolutely outlandish. He was a little saddened because he knew of the move that was going to be made to oust RB from the ashram. He didn't condone her behavior but RB was one of our group of friends, he knew she was having a hard time adjusting, he respected her feelings on was essentially a religious/social issue.
It started to rain. I walked back to our bungalow with Sarah. It was pitch black but RB's door was open I could see RB and Alex in the room their shadows dancing elastic in the candle light. One of the Indian kitchen boys was arriving at the same time. I knew he was coming for RB but I couldn't bring myself to tell her. I went to sleep.
I was woke by Rhaghwendra it was still dark in the very early dawn, I was to go down to the dining area and find the cooks to make tea for some guests who were leaving. It was a little startling to see Cynthia, Patty, Jennny (Patty's sister) and RB standing around in the cool morning air.
Sitting in the open dining area in deep conversation were John, George, Magic Alex and Rhaghwendra, Tom a B-movie cowboy actor and RB's ex-boyfriend sat to the side. It wouldn't have been unusual except that the simple Indian clothes were nowhere to be seen all instead all were dressed in stylish pop star clothes.
I noticed Cynthia had been crying. nobody looked happy. Patty and Jenny smiled meekly. Rhaghwendra the lovely man wore the gray ashen mask of the defeated. I noticed Maharishi sitting alone on a rock just outside of his garden the rain the night before threw up a light mist giving the scene a theatrical effect.
Rhaghwendra told me that something had happened, there had been meetings all through the night, that John and George were upset and that Magic Alex was insisting that they all leave. Which of cause they did. Rhaghwendra was given the job of transporting them all to New Delhi, they were very upset when they got into the several taxis the girls were sobbing still trying to persuade them to reconsider, they were fighting back tears as they drove away. They started filming the Maharishi Movie that morning
I have read only two accounts of this incident one by Nancy Cooke Herera who manages to place herself as usual in the center of this incident. She has the Beatles leaving in the afternoon and places all of the blame on Alex and RB. Deftly skirting the issue that it was she herself that persuaded Lutes to intervene with his movie. The other was written by Cynthia Lennon were she described accurately most of the events but doesn't mention the Movie machinations which were equally important. It is interesting to note that both think it unlikely that any type of [sexual] assault took place.
I obviously can only speculate on what actually happened between RB and Maharishi. It did seem that there was a convergence needs that conspired to manipulate what appeared to happen. I am very aware that especially back in 1968 there was a knee jerk reaction to disbelieve the woman, to stab her with her own sexuality. Lutes wanted the Beatles out he wanted his movement back and as important he wanted his own movie made, did he have an interest more than an aesthetic one in Bliss Productions. Did Nancy have an interest? I know she wasn't above letting her son Rick (the original Bungalow Bill) profit from taking exclusive photos around the Ashram.
RB was deeply frustrated by not being able to go home. She was also under the influence of the Svengali-like Magic Alex would she have made something up if it assured her her plane ride home? She did get her plane ride home.
Were John and George upset about an alleged flirtation or was it the movie business that really upset them with Alex providing the coup de grace? Would it be in Magic Alex's best interest to have the Beatles leave Rishikesh? Why does Mia Farrow knowing that most people think that she was the mystery lady who caused the Beatles to give up meditation continue to this day to confuse the issue by lying by omission she had left Rishikesh months before this incident took place.
I did not see Rhaghwendra for three days only then did he tell me the story, nobody else in the ashram knew until the course moved to Kashmir when I believe RB's ex-boyfriend Tom phoned a few people and told them. Rhaghwendra who knew all was forced out of Maharishi's inner circle which broke his heart he cried for days.
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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
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
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
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.