Who is Maharishi Mahesh Yogi?
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was an Indian philosopher and teacher born in India. He developed Transcendental Meditation, which combines mantra meditation and spiritual techniques. The Maharishi has been called the guru of this technique, which has more recently been termed a spiritual movement.
The Maharishi earned a degree in physics from Allahabad University in 1942. Around this same time, he became a disciple and helper to Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, a notable spiritual leader in India and the Maharishi’s inspiration. Around 1955, the Maharishi began to promote Transcendental Meditation and related techniques that are aimed at holistic well-being.
The Maharishi gained particular popularity in the 1960s and 1970s both because of his worldwide tours to promote his teachings and because of his association with various celebrities, including members of the band The Beatles. He later detailed his travel experiences in the book Thirty Years Around the World (1986). He founded the International Meditation Society in 1959, the same year his movement was renamed Transcendental Meditation, and in 1966 he founded the Students’ International Meditation Society. He soon began promoting regular yoga in combination with meditation, practices that are in line with the modern teachings that stemmed from his original approach.
The Maharishi later mentored Deepak Chopra, a popular Indian American physician, writer, and public speaker, during the early 1990s. The two parted ways around 1994, when Chopra left the movement, reportedly because of a disagreement about Chopra’s decision to expand his own teaching and writing career.
An estimated several million people have studied the Maharishi’s techniques, and his work has been recognized by many academic and clinical institutions, including universities and holistic practices. According to various media sources (including Time and Newsweek), the Maharishi has been criticized by other Indian scholars and sages for presenting an overly simplified program that supposedly contradicts traditional Hindu beliefs and practices. Furthermore, others criticized the Maharishi and his affiliates for lavish spending and for gaining popularity for his business acumen, rather than for his spiritual and holistic teachings. The Maharishi stepped down from his active leadership and administrative roles in 2008, and he observed a period of spiritual silence (mauna), until his death a few weeks later.
Humes, Cynthia A. “Maharishi Mahesh Yogi: Beyond the T. M. Technique.” In Gurus in America, edited by Thomas A. Forsthoefel and Cynthia A. Humes. Gurus in America. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2005.
Mason, Paul. The Maharishi: The Biography of the Man Who Gave Transcendental Meditation to the World. Shaftsbury, Dorset, England: Element Books, 1994.