1968_05_18--031_SP - Page 1

1968_05_04--023_SP_Guru from Rishikesh

The Maharishi laughed. 'In hospitals they call it fainting,' he said. 'We call it transcending.' questions he found awkward the Maharishi answered with flights of charmingly evasive laughter. The restrictions against reporters remained in force, and in the evenings they departed in bitter- ness to file stories about the congregation of "actors, divorcees and reformed drug addicts." When the more sarcastic accounts reached the ashram, the monks took pains to hide them from the Maharishi. For people with cameras, however, the restrictions sometimes could be waived. Permission to film within the ashram was given to Canadian and Italian television crews, also to a French photographer from Vogue magazine. The photog- rapher stayed for several days, wearing a series of costumes designed by Pierre Cardin and explaining he'd been diverted from an assignment to take pictures of the milk-white tigers in the Delhi zoo. The Maharishi posed for long hours, obviously delighting in cameras with the innocent enthu- siasm of a child. He even considered himself something of a director, and this assumption was never more apparent than at the times he organized his group photographs. First he supervised the building of a tier of bleachers, directing two monks where to place the flowers, the potted plants and the painting of the Guru Dev. (His uncle, an old man who lived next to the inquiry office, did nothing but paint portraits of the Guru Dev and ranked as a leading authority on the subject.) Next the Maharishi drew a diagram indicating where everybody was to sit, and as the meditators appeared (everybody in their best Indian clothes), he hurried them into their places. While we waited for the last of the stragglers one morning, an American television actor named Tom Simcox explained about Mia Farrow. He had known her in California, he said, and they had come up to the ashram in the group with the others. But the Maharishi had made such a fuss over her, placing paper crowns on her head and insisting on so many photographs, that she had gone off after five days on a tiger hunt. "Stuff like this," he said. "It reminded her of studio calls on the coast." When everything had been arranged to the Maharishi's satisfaction, the Beatles next to him in the center of the set, he said to the photographer, " You must shout one, two, three before you snap. . . . Any snap, you must shout." The photographer, a man from Rishikesh who worked with an old-fashioned camera under a black cloth, planned an angle the Maharishi thought too low. "Up higher." he said. " You don't get good scenes from there." The photographer dragged his camera several feet up the hill, and the Maharishi, turning to the assembled meditators, smiled and said, "Now come on, cosmic smiles . . . and all into the lens." More even than cameras, the Maharishi loved the helicopters. The morning they arrived, I waited for them on the shore of the Ganges with Nancy Jackson and Larry Kurland, who also loved the helicopters, but for different reasons. A chic, blond woman in her 40's, Nancy always dressed as if for a late lunch around one of her neighbors' pools in Beverly Hills. She had a brisk way of talking that suggested she was accustomed to managing things, and her conversation invariably contained references to the important Mia Farrow called her pilgrimage "a romp," but had left the ashram for a few weeks to go tiger hunting. people she knew. Larry conceived of himself as the archetypal hippie, a traveler returned from trips beyond any destinations dreamed of in John O'Shea's philosophy. He'd let his hair and his beard grow; he wore beads and sandals and Indian cloaks of many colors. He too had been through the drug scene and found it insufficient, and the Maharishi he recognized as "a cat right on top of the action." He'd heard of people who said the $500 for the course on the ashram amounted to a lot of money, but their objections he thought niggling. " Where can you buy nirvana for less?" he said. While we waited for the helicopters, Nancy made the kind of nervous talk characteristic of women filling in the silences between arrivals of the famous guests. The light had not yet reached across the river, and it was still cold. On the far shore I could see the smoke of cooking fires in a mud compound inhabited by mendicant monks. She'd discovered the Maharishi several years before, Nancy said, on her way through Rishikesh to see the Dalai Lama. She didn't pay much attention to the Maharishi that year, but she remembered that when she and her companions got to Lhasa, the Dalai Lama peeked at them through a rhododendron bush, and she'd been uncertain about what to say. There had been talk of the Abominable Snowman, in search of which her friends had wanted to arrange an expedition. She called it "the yeti," introducing the term in a casual aside, and with a stick she drew the yeti's footprint in the sand.


1968_05_04--023_SP_Guru from Rishikesh
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