1968_05_04--029_SP - Page 1

1968_05_04--023_SP_Guru from Rishikesh

John O'Shea (foreground) was one of a group of Americans Tiring near the ashram, searclu many of them, he thought, inclined to come on with alarming fantasies. " You're sitting up there at lunch," he said, " and you think you're talking to a real person . . . then suddenly you know you're talking to the white rabbit." On Friday I began to see what he meant. That morning Walter Koch granted me access to the whole of the ashram, and at noon I entered into a series of conversations I now remember as a single lunatic dialogue that lasted for six days. The narrow dining table stood in a grove of trees a few hundred yards beyond the Maharishi's house and commanded the same fine view of the river. There everybody assembled between meditations, coming and going at random, changing places like the figures in a dance. Hindu boys served the same bland and tasteless meals at almost any hour of the day; in the lower branches of the trees the crows and monkeys watched for chances to grab off a turnip or a crust of toast. At first sight the guests at the table seemed to resemble the company on a bizarre winter cruise. The women wore saris and shawls, and the men, many of whom had let their beards grow, sat with brightly colored blankets around their shoulders. Mike Love I noticed in a white coat, a blue satin tunic and a pith helmet. At the table, which was covered in oilcloth, they passed each other things with careful politeness, and their talk, which had about it a feeling of tenuous speculation, veered off in oblique directions. No sooner did I arrive than I heard two ladies arguing a subtle point in the doctrine of reincarnation. They both agreed that if a person's last thought happens to be of a cat, then the person must return as a cat. The discussion had to do with what kind of a cat. One of the ladies believed that if a person's spiritual attainment had been sufficiently high, then he would return as a happy and well-loved cat. The other lady dismissed this interpretation as being overly sentimental. The Beatles appeared toward the end of lunch and the beginning of tea. Dressed in romantic combinations of mod and Indian costumes, they came as a group, accompanied by their wives, also in vivid and trailing silks. They moved slowly, their heavy gold chains and pendants swinging solemnly against their chests, and the girls. all of whom had long, blonde hair, evoked images of maidens rescued from castles. Collectively they looked like characters from a strange and wonderful movie as yet unseen. They sat in a row on one side of the table, and Paul McCartney said he'd had a dream. To Anneliese Braun, an elfin woman to whom everyone applied on such matters, he explained that in his dream he'd been trapped in a leaking submarine of indeterminate color. When all appeared lost, however, the submarine surfaced in a crowded London street. Anneliese clapped her hands in the enthusiastic way she had, like a child seeing his first snowfall. How very nice, she said, wondering if McCartney understood. He smiled and said he didn't think he quite got all of it. " Why," she said, ". . . it's the perfect meditation dream." The voyage in the submarine she interpreted as the descent toward pure consciousness through the vehicle of the mantra; the leaks represented anxiety, and the emergence in the street indicated a return to normal life, which was the purpose of all good meditation. The other people present applauded, and in the ensuing silence at the far end of the table, I heard somebody say, ' I'm sure it's Wednesday, but they're trying to tell me it's Saturday." TO BE CONTINUED 29


1968_05_04--023_SP_Guru from Rishikesh
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