Despite his quirks and naivety of the modern world, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi helped The Beatles during a pivotal time in their lives. The group first heard the guru speak at a lecture in London in 1967. After the Maharishi spoke to his disciples, he invited The Beatles on a ten-day course in North Wales, where they could learn Transcendental Meditation.
However, the retreat was cut short because of their manager, Brian Epstein’s untimely death. With no one to guide them anymore, The Beatles turned to the Maharishi for guidance.
The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi gave The Beatles a password to the other world and helped them grieve their manager
In Here Comes The Sun: The Spiritual And Musical Journey Of George Harrison, Joshua M. Greene wrote that the Maharishi founded the Spiritual Regeneration Movement, which taught “fundamentals of yoga, breathing, and mantra meditation.”
George had already begun his spiritual journey in 1965. By the time The Beatles got involved with the guru, they too wanted to learn more about spirituality. The Maharishi claimed that if everyone meditated with their personal mantra, wars and destruction would cease to exist.
In Wales, he gave The Beatles a word or syllable. “Over time, he added more words or syllables until the pieces fit together to form one of India’s traditional mantras,” Greene wrote. “He took George aside, then his mates, and whispered a mantra in their ears.”
The Maharishi believed something good would happen to the band if they meditated with the mantras. Then, Epstein died. The Beatles turned to their new guru for guidance. Greene wrote, “You are a powerful force, he told them. If you hold on to Brian it will stop his soul from going to its next evolution. ‘You know you have to grieve for him and love him. Now you send him on his way.'”
Shortly after Epstein’s death, the Maharishi announced another retreat at his ashram in Rishikesh, India. The Beatles signed up.
A rumor about the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi made The Beatles flee India
The Beatles’ time in India didn’t exactly go to plan. The Maharishi naively believed that the group was invested in his teachings. However, only George and partially John Lennon were the most interested.
The Maharishi was hopeful, though. If The Beatles’ music improved because they were using his meditation techniques, he’d become even more internationally famous. It would spread his word like never before. The guru believed Transcendental Meditation would “bring out the depths in their talents that even they haven’t reached yet.”
However, things at the ashram turned sour when they heard a rumor that the Maharishi had been inappropriate to some female guests. John Lennon was outraged and promptly fled. The others followed shortly after.
Rolling Stone wrote that George swore the gossip about Maharishi’s sexual misconduct was false. He said, “This whole piece of bulls*** was invented… There were a lot of flakes there; the whole place was full of flaky people. Some of them were us.”
In 1977, he told Crawdaddy, “All Maharishi ever gave me was good advice and he gave me the technique of meditation which is really wonderful. Well you know, John went through a negative thing moreso than I did with the Maharishi.
“I can see now much clearer what happened, and there was still just a lot of ignorance that went down. Maharishi was fantastic and I admire him for being able in spite of all the ridicule to just keep going.”
The guru called the group ‘angels in disguise’
In 1992, George performed at a benefit concert for the Natural Law Party, a political group formed by the Maharishi’s followers. George released a statement, “I will vote for the Natural Law Party because I
want a total change and not just a choice between left and right. The system we have now is obsolete and is not fulfilling the needs of the people.”
Shortly after the benefit concert, according to a report by journalist David Quantick (per Greene), George visited the Maharishi and “asked that he forgive him and his friends for how they had behaved in Rishikesh.”
“We were very young,” George said. The Maharishi replied that The Beatles were “angels in disguise” and that there was nothing to forgive. “I could never be upset with angels,” he said.
The guru’s relationship with The Beatles wasn’t always the best, but it had a cultural impact. “The relationship between the Beatles and the Maharishi brought about an enormous interest in the West in Indian clothing, meditation, yoga and the playing of the sitar,” wrote Paul Oliver in Hinduism and the 1960s (per Rolling Stone).
“Although the Beatles had apparently left Rishikesh with varying degrees of negative feelings towards the Maharishi, in later life they tended to feel more benign towards him, and to say publicly what a positive effect he had on their lives.”