February 7th, 2008

The Maharishi

Can a saint have friends?

I ask because I've been googling the Maharishi and all I'm getting is received wisdom- an outline biography- heavy on his relationship with the Beatles- and an assessment of his achievement which always comes out the same- 50% of this and 50% of the other.  There's nothing personal. Deepak Chopra comes closest- he says the man could be grouchy and childlike but great souls are unknowable because their personalities are all but wiped out by the divine presence within. But I don't trust Chopra- he's in the same line of business and it's in his interests to big up a fellow guru.

You chose this way of life and- on the principle that no man is a hero to his valet- you can't allow anyone too close. The Beatles lost it with Maharishi when they were told he'd been cuddling up to Mia Farrow in a cave- but did that really happen? The story was put about by Beatles courtier "Magic" Alex Mardas- a man not noted for reliability-  and has never been confirmed by Farrow herself. Maybe she- ahem- got hold of the wrong end of the stick. As with that other incident in a cave in Forster's Passage To India it seems like we'll never know the truth.

What we do know is that Maharishi made a lot of money.  Jiddhu Krishnamurti, travelling on the same plane as the him, grumbled to his companion that he'd like to see "that chap's bank balance". Which was rather rich seeing how Krishnamurti ran a parallel operation and was similarly dependent on "the parish of rich women".  Maybe the Maharishi spent his money on world peace and stuff like that and lived in monkish austerity himself. Maybe.

Todays most famous TMers are David Lynch and Clint Eastwood. What does that tell us? That the technique appeals to rich, powerful, self-willed Californians- and a better class of rich, powerful, self-willed Californians than the ones that fall for Scientology.  Meditation is a good thing in itself- no problems there- but the Maharishi's special little add-ons- like yogic flying (bouncing up and down on a bed in the lotus position)- are just silly and deluded, right?

These people happen. Maybe it's because I was brought up as a Christian, but I feel instinctively that they ought to wind up on a cross instead of at the head of a business empire. Get close and you usually find there's stuff going on that's hard to equate with the image of sanctity. Krishnamurti, for instance- while preaching chastity- was actually conducting a long and arguably abusive relationship with his best friend's wife. Like I said at the beginning, saints are better off without friends. 

A jolly, little man, charismatic (obviously), giggly, authoritarian, fond of the limelight- who was he really? 

God knows.