Maharishi and Me

By Susan Shumsky

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From ‘The Beatles Invade India’:

Paul McCartney told Donovan that in India the Beatles hoped to get answers for per¬sonal and world peace. However, their towering expectations included the secret of life, astral magic, supernormal powers, and global peace—all in one month.
George Harrison said, “I believe that I have already extended my life by twenty years. I believe there are bods up here in the Himalayas who have lived for centuries. There is one somewhere around who was born before Jesus Christ and is still living now.”122
Paul asked Maharishi about the Indian rope trick, “Did they do that? Was that just a magic trick? Do they really levitate, Maharishi?”
Maharishi replied, “Yes it is. There are people who do it.”
Assuming some local fakir could pop over and demonstrate, Paul answered, “Great. Give me one photograph and I’ll have you on the News at Ten tonight, and you’ll be a major source of interest to the world and your organization will swell its ranks.”
John Lennon believed there was some secret to get—then he could just go home. He suspected Maharishi’s disciples knew the secret but were holding out. When indus¬trialist K. S. Cambata loaned Maharishi a helicopter, John volunteered for a ride. He figured, “Maybe if I go up with him in the helicopter, he may slip me the answer on me own.”124
Donovan took a more sensible approach: “I wasn’t really looking for any answer to a problem. Other people used to ask him for secrets like ‘Can men really fly?’ I asked him if I could have some more mango juice. Meditation doesn’t mean you are going to get rid of all your pain so that you’ll only feel joy all the time. It’s just a way back to God.”
The outgoing, vivacious Mia became the center of attention. Maharishi catered to her every whim. Students resented her preferential treatment. When warned his coddling might backfire, Maharishi insisted, “An international star like Mia can bring good pub¬licity. We must treat her special.”86
Maharishi often invited Mia to his cottage for an afternoon talk and mango snack. He singled her out and asked her questions during lectures, making her feel awkward. Maharishi appeared oblivious and continued to pile it on.
Mia’s impression of the ashram: “It was a strange and colorless place. We moved as if in a dream and spoke only where necessary, in the respectful, hushed tones of visitors to a graveyard.”87
Mia had just learned TM and wasn’t practicing hours of meditation. She often wandered off to read by the Ganges. When Mia went shopping in Rishikesh, Mahari¬shi, concerned for her safety, sent a brahmacharya after her. Mia was simply “bored out of her skull,” trying to occupy herself.88 Maharishi’s concern amused and annoyed her.
Mia brought back an emaciated, floppy-eared black puppy from one outing. Ma¬harishi named it Arjuna. When Mia played hooky, Arjuna, with free reign, nipped and yapped at students as they meditated in the lecture hall.
Maharishi acted starstruck over Mia, who seemed to play him with her baby voice and wide-eyed look. The operative expression is “acted.” It’s hard to imagine him star¬struck over anyone. However, the more Maharishi showered favor on Mia, the more condescending and hostile she became.
Disgusted with Maharishi’s apparent sycophancy, Mia dictated a cable for ex- hus¬band Frank Sinatra (who deemed meditation “pagan”) in Miami: “Fed up with med¬itation. Am leaving ashram. Will phone from Delhi.”89 The cable wasn’t sent, because Mia was persuaded to take a safari with course participant Nancy Cooke (assigned by Maharishi to look after Mia) and return for her birthday.

On Mia’s birthday, February 9, lavish flowers, balloons, pennants, candles, and incense festooned the hall. Maharishi placed a silver paper crown on her head. Students pre¬sented fifty gifts provided by Maharishi, which Mia accepted with smiles and variations on “Wow, just look at that!” A decorated carrot sheet cake was served. The celebration ended with an inept fireworks display of misfired rockets, bloodcurdling explosions, alarming cries, close calls, and students ducking for cover. Maharishi laughed uproari¬ously and Mia seemed entertained. When a rocket hit a German’s foot, festivities ended abruptly. The doctor was summoned.
Afterward at a private party, in an abrasive tone, Mia vented uncensored feelings: “I’m so fucking mad! Have you ever seen anything like it? I felt like an idiot up on that stage, with everyone bowing down to me!”
She forcefully demanded a ride from an Indian guest leaving the following day and raised a glass of champagne: “To the last night in this holy place. Hah. That’s a laugh. Maharishi’s no saint. He made a pass at me when I was over at his house before dinner.”91
Stunned, Nancy Cooke asked how she could say such a thing. Mia insisted, “Look, I’m no fucking dumbbell. I know a pass when I see one.”
Mia described to incredulous onlookers how Maharishi made her kneel on a small carpet before an altar. He performed puja to Guru Dev and placed a garland around her neck. Then he made the “pass.” When asked what he did, Mia replied, “He started to stroke my hair.”
Observers tried to convince her this was an honor, Maharishi was blessing her, and she misconstrued his intentions. She insisted, “Listen, I know a pass from a puja.”93
Next morning, Maharishi placed Mia front and center in a group photograph, wearing her silver crown. She feigned a happy face (she was an award-winning actress) and promised to return after visiting Kathmandu and Goa, where drugged-out Euro¬pean hippies (and her brother John) camped out.
Was Maharishi oblivious to Mia’s feelings? My guess is he was keenly aware. Everything he did was with intention. I believe, as a mirror to her, he parodied the kind of adulation she expected. That pressed her buttons and pushed her to react.

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