The guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and US colleges
Just about 42 years ago, this issue of LOOK magazine was hitting American mailboxes and newstands. *On the cover was one of the more unusual stories of our transformative year: *the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and the impact of his "transcendental meditation" on the American college scene.
Beatles, Mia, and a Beach Boy in India
Actually, the Maharishi (only "Mahesh" is part of his given name; maharishi and yogi are honorifics) had been making international news since the 1950s, teaching his meditation techniques and spiritual beliefs on an incredible series of round-the-world tours, including the United States (his first tour here was in 1959) and cities on nearly every continent. *But it was only when the Beatles (along with Mia Farrow and her sister Prudence; singer/songwriter Donovan; and Beach Boy Mike Love) made a pilgrimage to India in early 1968 to study with the Maharishi that his fame exploded. *The Beatles, of course, were "more popular than Jesus," in John Lennon's famous line from 1966; and Mia Farrow had been an American tabloid fixture since her marriage to Frank Sinatra in 1966. (Her breakout movie, Rosemary's Baby, wasn't released until months after she returned from India.) *Suddenly, in early 1968, the beatific image and inscrutable pronouncements of the Maharishi seemed to be everywhere.
"The Non-Drug Turn-On Hits Campus"
Not surprisingly, the guru and his teachings had their greatest impact--in the United States, at least--on young people. *"TM" followers were mostly white, college-educated baby boomers, rejecting the conventions (like traditional Western religions) of their parents' generation and seeking distinct new identities and "heightened consciousness." *The author of the article here in LOOK goes to a lecture by Jerry Jarvis, head of the Student International Meditation Society, the principal vehicle by which American college students connected with transcendental meditation. *(The preppy kids on the magazine cover are at Yale, but the event described here is at Berkeley.)
"The students had heard of the Maharishi . . . There wasn't one who didn't realize that he was the same jet-age guru who had guided the Beatles off the psychedelic drug scene by way of a new, nonchemical turn-on. *The motives of the Berkeley crowd were typical: some came to hear about what had gotten the Beatles so excited; some had a vague interest in all things Eastern and alien; many were acid heads or pot devotees in search of 'mind-expanding' ecstasy without the ill-effects of psychedelics (the chief of which being jail). *But more than anything else, the majority of the crowd knew individual meditators who were noticeably Better People as a result, and who must therefore be on to something super-groovy."
The article concludes by quoting a "Los Angeles meditator": *"The student's life is so tense today. *You go to school and get involved in the peace movement and the Sexual Freedom League and everything, and, gee, by that time you're too uptight to have to think about studying too! *We're really fortunate in this generation to have the Maharishi."