1968_05_04--023_SP - Page 1

1968_05_04--023_SP_Guru from Rishikesh

THERE ONCE WAS A GURU FROM RISHIKESH PART I In which our reporter learns about Transcendental Meditation, makes a voyage to India and meets the Maharishi, the Beatles, a Beach Boy and other notables in search of something. Now when I try to remember what it was like, or when people stop me and demand a reasonable explanation, I think first of the sweet madness that was as much a part of the place as the incessant squalling of the crows. Nearly always there was bright sun, but now when I remember, I think of the one afternoon when there was mist rising from the Ganges, and it is through that mist that I still see them, moving serenely among the sheshum trees with flowers in their hands. I see them smiling at me, as if from an immense distance, and it is their gentleness and the Maharishi's laughter that make nonsense of all the reasonable explanations. Geoffrey, of course, foresaw the difficulties, just as he foresaw everything else, and so did Anneliese, who told fortunes and liked to listen to the Beatles playing music on the roof of their bungalow. That last morning they gave me oranges and a necklace of marigolds, also a coin for the ferryman who would transfer me to the other side of the Ganges. "They won't believe you," Geoffrey said. "Surely you must understand that ?" I said I did, and Anneliese smiled and pressed my hands, as if I'd said something especially wise. Whatever anybody said there seemed especially wise, and nobody could make any serious mistakes. Even Mia Farrow's abrupt departure from the ashram could be explained, as could her wanderings in the south of India. They wanted me to stay, partly because they thought I'd begun to attain God-consciousness and Partly because, later that afternoon on the shore of the river, Donovan had promised to sing. At the time both reasons seemed entirely plausible. I can remember thinking how pleasant it would have been to follow the others into the garden, where the Maharishi sometimes would speak to us in a voice that was both high and musical, like the piping of a flute. A month earlier, in New York, my reluctance would have seemed absurd. The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi I then knew only as a name in the newspapers, presumably another in the succession of Indian magi who have promised the riches of the spirit to generations grown bored with the clumsier profits of the dehumanized West. The first news of his message had reached me a year before, through the witness of a disillusioned theatrical agent named Leon Auerbach. We had been smoking cigarettes in his office on the West Side, exchanging the customary polite cliches about the low-grade sensibilities of all producers, the hollow opportunism of most politicians and the suffocating anxiety so prevalent upon the local scene. "The facade," Leon had said. "The sickness and despair." Every few minutes he interrupted the conversation to take calls from big-time show-business personalities on both coasts, smiling wanly across By Lewis H. Lapham


1968_05_04--023_SP_Guru from Rishikesh
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