by Wilma Pettygrew: Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a spiritual guru hailing from India, is the founder and leader of the renowned spiritual movement of Transcendental Meditation (TM).
Born as Mahesh Prasad Varma in a small village in India in the year 1917, he was deeply drawn to spirituality from a very young age and had often engaged in thought and contemplation about spiritual matters.
So, after completing his degree in Physics and Mathematics in 1940 he became a disciple of a well-known spiritual leader of those times, Swami Brahmananda Saraswati (1869–1953), and studied meditation for 13 long years along the guidelines adopted from the teachings of the thinker Adi Shankaracharya (ca. 788–820). Thereafter, in 1953, he retreated to the Himalayas for further deliberation and rumination of all that he had learned from his guru.
In 1955, he came out of his Himalayan retreat and decided to spread his spiritual knowledge to the whole of humanity. It is then he started being referred to as Maharishi Mahesh Yogi – Maharishi meaning the great sage and Yogi, a practitioner of Yoga. Soon, he started his journey to the West as a missionary of Hindu thought and philosophy.
He brought into the western consciousness the ancient Hindu philosophy of Vedanta – a philosophy that advocates the thought that “God is to be found in every creature and object, that the purpose of human life is to realize the godliness in oneself and that religious truths are universal”. In 1957, he founded his first spiritual organization, the Spiritual Regeneration Movement, in London, and then came to the US in 1959.
The aim of the Spiritual Regeneration Movement, in Maharishi’s words, was “to provide a simple and easy method of meditation and infuse this system of meditation in the daily life of everybody everywhere on earth”. This meditation technique, known as Transcendental Meditation, has been practiced by millions of people ever since its inception in 1955.
According to the Maharishi, “Transcendental Meditation is something that can be defined as a means to do what one wants to do in a better way, in the right way, for maximum results. It is a program where the mind begins to experience its own finer impressions, finer thoughts, and then finally transcends the finest thought and gets to the level of what they call self-referral pure consciousness, which is the ultimate reality of life, the source of all intelligence, pure intelligence from where the creation emerges, from where the administration of life is maintained, from where physical expression of the universe has its basis.”
The popularity of the Maharishi – who had also become a strong anti-drug advocate – reached its peak in the 1960s and 1970s. To some extent perhaps, the long list of his high-profile celebrity disciples contributed to his popularity – this list included the music groups Beatles and Beach Boys, Hollywood actors Mia Farrow, Shirley Maclaine, Clint Eastwood and David Lynch, and magician Doug Henning, to name a few.
According to the practitioners of TM, it is the single most effective meditation technique available for self-development, for stress elimination and inducing deep relaxation, for promoting good health, increasing creativity and intelligence, and for attaining inner happiness and fulfillment not only on a personal level but also on the global level.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi has authored some 16 books, the most popular ones being “The Science of Being and The Art of Living: Transcendental Meditation” and “Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on the Bhagavad-Gita”. His teachings are made available at the many Maharishi Vedic universities and schools he has established all over the world.