1968_05_18--032_SP - Page 1

1968_05_04--023_SP_Guru from Rishikesh

Nancy Jackson and Beach Boy Mike Love, two of the Maharishi's disciples from California, meditate for the camera. The Dalai Lama hadn't granted them permission, she said, but had offered instead to loan them three miracle-working lamas. The idea was to take the lamas on tour in the United States, raising money for future expeditions. Among other wonders, the lamas could perform levitation and materialization, and they could drag the combined weight of seven deranged elephants. "Fantastic," Larry said. The conversation lapsed, and then, still in a nervous, gossipy way, Nancy said that if I really wanted to write about something interesting, I ought to get in touch with her husband, the television news analyst. Several years ago, she said, he'd been contacted by people from outer space. and a friend of theirs had gone off forever in a flying saucer. " Wild," Larry said. We were still in the midst of this conversation when two helicopters appeared, circling once over the river and then settling onto the beach in a loud swirl of sand. Out of the first of them stepped an obviously American couple, later identified as Fred and Susie Smithline from Scarsdale, N.Y. Susie wore white boots and a basic black dress; her husband, in dark glasses, a blue blazer and tennis sneakers. got out of the plane already filming with his home-movie camera. Seeing Larry in his beads and taking him for a more authentic figure than either Nancy or myself. Susie said to him, "Hi. What time does the meditation start?" "Fantastic," Larry said again. Walking up the hill to the ashram, Susie explained that Fred, her husband, was the American lawyer for Kersi Cambata, a businessman from Bombay who owned the helicopters and had arrived in the other one. She was terribly excited about the whole thing, she said. because she and Fred had been traveling in India for a vacation. and then Kersi had asked them to come along. and she couldn't believe it really. She'd heard so much about the Maharish (she pronounced it to rhyme with hashish, omitting the final vowel), and her friends in Scarsdale had said, just before she left, kiddingly, that she ought to forget about the Taj or any of that, and just go and see the Maharish, and well, here she was. On the path she looked suspiciously around her, as if fearful of snakes or dead things. "Ten days in India and you're not supposed to be afraid of anything," she said. In the Maharishi's house we sat on yellow cushions, and Nancy introduced the Smithlines and the helicopter pilots. The Maharishi already knew Cambata, a follower who had come to advise him about possible sites for his airstrip. The movement had bought the Maharishi a twin-engine Beechcraft, but he needed a place to land it. "Nothing but the best. Maharishi," Nancy said. The talk concerned itself entirely with arrangements for the Maharishi's flight that afternoon, first to see his ashram from the air and then to survey construction sites. The aviation gas to refuel the helicopters had not yet arrived from Delhi by truck, a delay for which Cambata apologized, and so Nancy suggested that the rest of us go up the hill to lunch. The assembled meditators looked doubtfully at the Smithlines. Susie refused the food and asked only for a cup of boiled water, into which she emptied a package of powdered Sanka. Fred continued filming, walking around the table and getting shots at artistic angles. While winding his camera he occasionally attempted breezy and encouraging remarks. "You go to a cocktail party in New York," he said at one point, "and all you hear is Indian music." " It's very in to be Indian," Susie said. The others at the table. resplendent in their saris and beads, looked at her with vague uneasiness. Thinking they didn't believe her. Susie per- sisted, and enthusiastically said, "No kidding, it really is. A lot of people are doing yoga." Nobody said anything, and Nancy, conscious of the awkward silence, told an anecdote about a Tibetan friend of hers who'd sold his yak and left his native country a few years ago to marry an American girl. The girl had met him on a world tour, but when the Tibetan arrived at the Los Angeles airport, she thought he looked strange and so abandoned him. " What's a Tibetan supposed to look like, for God's sake?" Nancy said. "Nobody looks more like a Tibetan than a Tibetan . . . if you know what I mean." After lunch, when the aviation gas had arrived. the Maharishi walked solemnly down the hill in front of a straggling procession of monks, Hindu porters, kitchen boys, meditators and frightened animals. John Lennon took movies of the crowd of Indians on the beach; the Indians with box cameras took pictures of John Lennon, and Fred Smithline kept shooting great stuff of everybody. The Maharishi gazed lovingly at the helicopter, like a child looking at an enormous, complicated toy. He absently clutched a bouquet of flowers, which, when the engines started, dissolved in shreds. He hardly noticed, still smiling and never turning away from the noise and the blowing sand. A monk placed his antelope skin on the copilot's seat, and somebody else handed him a single dahlia as he adjusted his seat belt. Nodding and smiling and waving in mild benediction with his flower, he cast his blessings from higher and higher up as the helicopter lifted into the clear air. The racket of the helicopters circling overhead interrupted many meditations that afternoon, and more than the usual number of people showed up for early tea. The ensuing conversation veered off in the customary oblique directions. Simcox and two or three of the other young Americans raised mild objections to the Maharishi's involvement with modern technology. Like O'Shea, they had expected romantic asceticism. of the kind they'd read about in books, and they'd been prepared to live on roots and berries. Their dissent was never harsh, reflecting instead a wistful disillusionment. "In the beginning," Simcox said. "everybody was paranoid about expressing one little harmless doubt." Since the first week, however. they'd gone back to smoking cigarettes and wondering if they would finish the course. The meditation they still thought helpful, but they found themselves spending less time alone in their rooms. and they talked more frequently of the salads and other pleasures they remembered in California. Mike Love, the lead singer of the Beach Boys. confessed that stray sexual images sometimes intruded upon his meditations. "On a very gross level, man." he said. Among the many others who came that afternoon for tea, Geoffrey reported a meditation the night before in which he'd seen landscapes such as those painted by Hieronymus Bosch, and Anneliese said she'd been without sleep for many nights, healing people with unaccountable pain. A hearty, blond Englishwoman named Edna. who'd been an opera singer in her youth, appeared in leopard pajamas, breathing deeply and swinging her arms in a bracing, athletic way. For some days she'd complained of her meditations as "a ghastly bore," but the new light in her face suggested sudden improvements. "Two hours of perfection. darlings," she said to us. "Absolute perfection. And then you know all the rest is illusion, isn't it so. darlings?" 32


1968_05_04--023_SP_Guru from Rishikesh
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