1968_05_04--028_SP - Page 1

1968_05_04--023_SP_Guru from Rishikesh

Things were unsettled, but the Maharishi knew about me and was considering my vibrations. the Maharishi's presence, but now when I try to reconstruct my first impression of the man I'd heard so much about and come so far to see, I can think of nothing startling or exceptional. No doubt I expected signs and wonders, and probably the expectation clouded my sight. I saw only a small, frail man, sitting cross-legged among cushions. His long hair, with streaks of gray in it, fell to his shoulders, and although he smiled and nodded at me, I noticed a vaguely troubled expression in his eyes. He had delicate hands and wore cheap, wooden sandals. Next to him, also cross-legged among cushions, sat Walter Koch, a physicist from Santa Barbara, and Mike Love, the lead singer of the Beach Boys. Koch had gathered a plaid blanket around his shoulders, and Love wore an astrakhan hat. The Maharishi welcomed me as a representative of the United States and said that if everybody in our two countries could be persuaded to meditate, then there would be peace in the world for 1,000 generations. His voice had a soft resonance in it, and he ended his sentences on a rising inflection. Koch questioned me as to my intentions, and when he had assured himself that they were honorable, he said to the Maharishi, " We'll hit 'em all at once, Maharishi. TV . . . magazines . . . lectures . . . saturation." "Groovy," said Mike Love. We all laughed, for no apparent reason, and then, listening to the wind, the Maharishi said, also for no apparent reason, " When Ringo comes, the storm clears the passage . . . in the clear. Ringo comes." Again he laughed, and his laughter contained within it a quality of maniacal innocence. The conversation ended with the Maharishi expressing the polite hope that I could stay for a few days. Koch led me back down the hill in the rain, explaining that things were somewhat unsettled at the moment and that I mustn't misinterpret the Maharishi's courtesy. A naive and worried man, Koch clearly had appointed himself liaison officer between the Maharishi and the great world. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr were expected that evening, and he hoped to avoid a repetition of the events associated with the arrival of the other Beatles. " It's supposed to be a secluded course," he said, "but it's getting like Grand Central Station around here." That was Tuesday, and for the next three days I remained in a state of ambiguous probation. Although denied admission to the upper reaches of the ashram, I was allowed to stay in the stone house below the gates. Suresh sent oranges and occasional messages, and every now and then Koch stopped by to make sure I hadn't become dangerously cynical. He assured me that the Maharishi knew about me and was considering my vibrations and that pretty soon I'd be allowed up the hill. "This is the hub of the universe," he said. "The world looks to Rishikesh." Wednesday afternoon the Maharishi convened a press conference on the open ground below the gate. In the morning Hindu boys set up his low dais and his antelope skin, and for the reporters they spread rugs on the ground. The reporters climbed the hill at noon, and as many as 50 of them had assembled when the Maharishi appeared an hour later. Walking in a slow and stately way, followed by two Hindu monks in white robes, he descended the hill carrying a bouquet of marigolds. The taller monk held an umbrella over his head, shading him from the sun. The reporters, speaking in English and obviously shocked by the size and luxury of his ashram. questioned him about the difference between his teaching and the traditional Vedic principle of renunciation. Answering with a distant calm The arrival of the Beatles (here with their wives, Mike Love and the Maharishi I caused unpleasant incidents with the press. and plucking the petals from his flowers, the Maharishi explained that Vedanta and Yoga had been grossly misinterpreted for many years. Throughout the proceedings, which lasted over an hour, the taller monk continued to hold the umbrella aloft, raising and lowering it as the photographers stood up to take pictures. The smaller monk squatted at the Maharishi's feet, holding out the microphone of a tape recorder. At the end a man who'd come from somewhere in south India asked if he could read a poem of homage that had occurred to him on the train. He had not intended it, he said, but a spirit moved him. The Maharishi nodded and smiled encouragingly, and the man, who was close to tears, read in a lyrical voice in the Tamil language. When he finished, he kissed the Maharishi's foot, saying, in English, that he hoped to sit at the Maharishi's feet in heaven. The Maharishi acknowledged the compliment with a modest gesture of benediction and then asked the company at large if any of them had seen the article about him in that week's issue of Life magazine. Nobody had seen it. "Too bad," he said, ". . . huge picture." With that he rose and walked back up the hill, followed by the monk with the umbrella, still carrying the remains of his flowers. Walter Koch stayed below, explaining to the reporters that none of them could go within the gate. The Beatles, who had arrived the previous night, insisted upon privacy, he said, and besides there was nothing to see except a lot of people meditating, which wasn't very interesting. "This is not," he said, "a guru situation." That evening I began to meet a number of the meditators, some of whom strayed down the hill for a subtle change of scene and others who came to consult with the tailor. The tailor lived in a tent opposite the enquiry office, and during the nine days that I was there, he never seemed to sleep. He made saris for the women and kurtas for the men; the demand was steady, and at night he sewed by the light of a kerosene lamp. From the meditators I heard the gossip of the place and picked up miscellaneous bits of information. The Maharishi. for instance, disliked the color black. He preferred to see women in saris, most particularly gold and white ones. When he scratched, it meant he sensed negative vibrations in the atmosphere. The Beatles appeared to be "straight kids," but so far they had kept pretty much to themselves. Mia Farrow had left after a week to go on a tiger hunt, but maybe she would be back. The menu consisted of rice and vegetables, all of it boiled for twenty minutes, and a lot of people were getting pretty sick of it. The majority of those present were either British or American, but the Swedes were the best at the prolonged meditation, and one of them held the current record of 21 hours. On the basis of the early returns, the meditators appeared to divide into the same factions I'd noticed in California. The older ones, those of Lutes's generation. generally believed in reincarnation and assumed the Maharishi could work miracles if he so chose. In answer to the obvious question, a lady from Los Angeles looked at me with a flat, indignant stare and said, "Why should he? They crucified Christ, didn't they?" The younger generation not only didn't accept the religious extensions of the meditation, but some of them had begun to entertain even more serious doubts. A television actor named Tom Simcox. a humorous and intelligent man with a blond beard, conceded that although the meditation still seemed useful and straightforward, some of the people on the ashram disturbed him. Too


1968_05_04--023_SP_Guru from Rishikesh
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