Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (ca. 1911– )
A modern Hindu guru who began a worldwide Spiritual Regeneration
Movement in the late 1950s. The movement, now
led by the World Plan Executive Council, is best known for promoting
the technique of Transcendental Meditation (TM).
Maharishi was born Mahesh Brasad Warma, around the
year 1911. Originally a physics graduate of Allahabad University,
India, he worked for a time in a factory, then studied spiritual
science for some years under Swami Brahmananda Saraswati
Shankaracharya of Jyotir Math, a teacher of traditional Hindu
transcendentalism. After the death of his teacher in 1953, the
Maharishi spent some time trying to develop his own simplified
version of traditional Hindu meditation.
In 1958 he designed the Science of Creative Intelligence for
‘‘the regeneration of the whole world through meditation,’’
known widely as Transcendental Meditation. In a simple initiation
ceremony, the guru bestowed a mantra (or word of power),
which the pupil repeated during a meditation period each day.
In this easy technique, the pupil could, it has been claimed, bypass
normal intellectual activity and tap a limitless reservoir of
energy and creative intelligence.
The system spread around the world through the 1960s but
was given a boost in 1967, when the rock music group the
Beatles showed interest in the movement. Publicity concerning
their relation to the Maharishi made TM seem a viable alternative
to psychedelic drugs. The Beatles defected some months
later, but by then other celebrities were traveling to the Maharishi’s
ashram at Rishikesh, in the foothills of the Himalayas.
The Students’ International Meditation Society, which was
founded in Los Angeles, California, in 1966, received many of
the young adults attracted to TM by its celebrity followers.
Since the 1970s, the movement has been boosted by the wellpublicized
scientific findings that TM produces beneficial results.
Various studies, most flawed by the lack of investigation
of similar mediative techniques, suggest that TM aids individuals
in various manners. The sociological studies, suggesting
that a representative number of TM meditators in an area can
change its social climate (lower the crime rate, promote peace,
etc.), are less conclusive.
The movement adopted a ‘‘world plan’’ to develop the full
potential of the individual, to improve governmental achievements,
to realize the highest ideal of education, to solve the
problems of crime and all behavior that brings unhappiness to
the human family, to maximize the intelligent use of the environment,
to bring fulfillment to the economic aspirations of individuals
and society, and to achieve the spiritual goals of the
human race in this generation. The World Plan Executive
Council has founded in many countries its own political party,
the Natural Law Party, and it runs candidates for public office
in order to achieve the goals of the world plan.
In the 1970s, as the number of new people coming into TM
dropped, the movement unveiled a ‘‘Siddhi’’ program (siddhis
are special paranormal powers) based on the claims of the ancient
yoga treatise The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The program
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
claimed that students of this special course have successfully
achieved the paranormal feat of levitation. Photographs of students
show them hovering a few feet in the air, but critics (and
former students) have stated that the ‘‘levitators’’ merely
bounce in the air cross-legged and do not float. To date, no irrefutable
evidence of levitation by the Maharishi’s students has
yet been produced, and several ex-students of the Siddhi program
have successfully sued the organization.
In 1968, the council moved its headquarters to Seelisberg,
Switzerland, and in 1979 established Maharishi International
University in Fairfield, Iowa, where they mix courses in TM
and academic curriculum. They plan to open an eastern campus
in Antrim, New Hampshire. The Maharish was worth $3.5
billion in 1998 and oversaw nearly 1,000 TM centers around
the world.
Bainbridge, William Sims, and Daniel H. Jackson. ‘‘The Rise
and Fall of Transcendental Meditation.’’ In The Future of Religion.
Edited by Rodney Stark and William Sims Bainbridge.
Berkeley University of California Press, 1985.
Jefferson, William. The Story of Maharishi. New York Pocket
Books, 1976.
Mahesh Yogi, Maharishi. The Science of Being and Art of Living.
London International SRM Publications, 1966.
Mason, Paul. The Maharishi The Biography of the Man Who
Gave Transendental Meditation to the West. Shaftesbury, Dorset,
UK Element Books, 1994.
Orme-Johnson, David W., and John T. Farrows, eds. Scientific
Research on the Transcendental Meditation Program Collected
Papers, I. Seelisberg, Switzerland Maharishi European Research
University Press, 1977.
White, John. Everything You Want to Know about TM, Including
How to Do It. New York Pocket Books, 1976.