Washington — Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, whose devotees to Transcendental Meditation once included the Beatles, still grins slyly, as if he had captured the Meaning of Life in a jug and had his thumb firmly on the cork.

The old guru said he had come to Washington which he has designated ‘‘the Continental Capital of the Age of Enlightenment for North America’? To achieve no less than world peace.

Toward that end, he had just inaugurated the Maharishi Vedic University in the movement’s Washington headquarters, housed in the old Annapolis Hotel six blocks from the White House.

The plan, the Maharishi explained is for his followers to meditate simultaneously in a single group in the U.S. capital, creating a “‘unified field of enlightenment” which will solve all the world’s problems.

The guru, sitting on a raised divan surrounded by a dozen devotees, said he could get the job done with just 7,000 meditators, a number he arrived at by working out the square root of 1 percent of the world’s population.

“This would be a permanent solution for all the ills of the world,”’ said the Maharishi, bearded, balding and dressed in the simple white dhoti of his native India. “It would be heaven on Earth.”

The guru business is not what it used to be, but the name of the Maharishi (which translates from the Hindi to “‘sacred one’’) would be right up there at the top in a current listing of Who’s Who in Gurus.

The Maharishi’s claims of the benefits that will accrue to those who practice his brand of meditation have become more extravagant than they were in the 1960s, when he attracted a following of white upper middleclass college students.


After the Beatles sought enlightenment at his ashram in India, the accompanying publicity made the Maharishi the world’s quintessential guru. His meditation technique swept across America and much of the world.

But TM promised more than it delivered to many who tried it. The movement failed to hold those who were only mildly curious in their search for improved health and relief from stress.

Some of the dropouts from the simple, twice daily, 20minute meditation sessions are today’s fitness buffs, men and women who run and work out on exercise machines. As if to compete with such single-minded dedication, the TM movement now makes increasingly grandiose promises. ;

The Maharishi claims his simultaneous meditation technique practiced at his Maharishi International University at Fairfield, Iowa, and elsewhere around the world already has eased world strife, decreased traffic fatalities and improved the stock market.

If all that is not enough, practitioners in advanced stages of TM still claim to be able to levitate off the floor they meditate on, rising and floating in the air.

 They describe the levitation phenomenon as “hopping,” or even ‘“‘flying likes Peter Pan,” but they do not provide demonstrations, contending that skeptics interfere with the meditation process and create a “‘circuslike atmosphere.”

Anyone who wants to learn to levitate must ante up $400 for TM lessons. There is a $200 rate for college students.

The Maharishi claims 3 million meditators worldwide, more than 1 million of them in the United States, about 800 of whom attend his university in the Iowa cornbelt.

The university and the movement’s activities have received a cool and sometimes hostile reception in heartland America, but TM boosters now claim relations with the 9,000 Fairfield townsfolk ‘‘are good and getting better.”

“When they first came in 1974, we had lost Parsons College and had an empty campus, so the community was pretty receptive to somebody buying the campus and coming in,” said Fairfield Ledger Editor Dean Grabbert.

“Then some of the fundamentalist churches got concerned about whether TM was a religion there was some, well, feelings within the community, always has been. But it’s certainly gotten better over the years.

“There’s a gulf certainly. The townspeople don’t understand why they want to go to the (Golden) Dome twice a day and ‘fly.’ But the best relations are one to one and everyone from town has met someone from MIU they can relate to.”

The movement also ran into opposition when it recently expanded its operations in the predominantly Roman Catholic Philippines. But not from President Ferdinand Marcos, who accepted the Maharishi’s appointment as “Founding Father of the Age of Enlightenment in the Philippines.”

Asked why he chose the Philippines, which is still ruled under a form of martial law, to expand his movement, the Maharishi said, ‘Because of the greatness of its leader, President Marcos is a great statesman.”

Asked about opposition to his movement led by Cardinal Jaime Sin, leader of Filipino Catholics, the Maharishi grinned and said, “Cardinal Sin? His name suggests what he is.”

The devotees sitting in on the interview chuckled appreciatively.


Skeptics, the Maharishi added, “find it hard to believe life can be free from suffering.”

Article extracted from this publication >> February 8, 1985