Beatles in India: Transcendental Meditation

To celebrate World Meditation Day, discover Transcendental Meditation and the impact it had on The Beatles.

4 min read

Today’s World Meditation Day may be a reminder to many of us to put aside some time to iron out the stresses of modern life, connect to a spiritual or religious faith, or simply gain a moment of peace and tranquillity – all through the ancient practice of meditation. Meditation first entered written history around 1500 BCE in India, and formed part of Hindu traditions. Over the centuries, meditation has taken on many forms and played prominent roles in the practices of religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism. More recently, certain forms of meditation have been adopted by those not belonging to a religion or spirituality – who instead partake in the practice to clear the mind and reduce stress.

It was in India, the birthplace of meditation, that The Beatles studied Transcendental Meditation, with its founder Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, during their visit to Shankaracharya Nagar (now called The Beatles Ashram) in Rishikesh in 1968. The word ashram refers to a place of religious or spiritual retreat. The Beatles’ visit came at a pivotal time following the death of their beloved manager Brian Epstein and their denunciation of drugs – and the ashram provided them with a safe, peaceful environment in which to escape the pressures of celebrity life.

 

Jenny Boyd, Pattie Boyd and Paul Saltzman at the opening of The Beatles Story's 'Beatles in India' exhibition.

 [Left to right] Jenny Boyd, Pattie Boyd and Paul Saltzman at the opening of The Beatles Story’s ‘Beatles in India’ exhibition in 2018.

 

 

“The boys from Liverpool were practicing Transcendental Meditation for long hours in Rishikesh. After morning and afternoon meditation sessions, they used to interact with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the late evening.”  – Raju Gusain, Journalist and Beatles Ashram tour guide. 

 

 

The founder of Transcendental Meditation, was Indian yoga guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who was born in Rajim, India in 1917. This meditation technique has no religious significance, and can be performed by anyone, no matter their spiritual beliefs – the official website refers to it as “the technique for inner peace and wellness.” Labelled as “an effortless technique,” Transcendental Meditation is revered for its simplicity – requiring little-to-no concentration. For more information, and to learn how to meditate, click here.

 

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

 

Transcendental Meditation is said to have scientifically proven benefits to those who practice, but how did it effect The Beatles? The TM Official website claims that this style of meditation leads to “clarity of mind and creativity,” and the Fab Four were no exception. In fact, it was during their stay at the ashram that The Beatles wrote the White Album. An album which many fans consider to be their masterpiece, the 1968 self-titled album unquestionably oozes creativity.

Paul and Ringo still meditate to this day, and even reunited to play at the David Lynch Foundation’s 2009 ‘Change Begins Within’ benefit concert, which was organised to raise funds to fulfil the foundation’s aim of teaching 1 million kids to meditate.

George, in an interview shortly after learning to meditate, spoke of feeling more energetic and refreshed when practicing Transcendental Meditation, which includes chanting a mantra for 20 minutes twice a day. In the same interview, John explained that meditation helps us to realise the deeper levels of consciousness.

 

The Beatles Ashram today, by Raju Gusain: 

 

International media chased the Beatles to Rishikesh. The sleepy pilgrimage town witnessed a big media circus in 1968. Rishikesh was in the international media limelight during the entire stay of the Beatles in India. The positive media coverage helped Rishikesh boost its image as an international tourism destination and, following The Beatles’ tour, India registered an all-time high 30% arrival in foreign tourists in 1969 (Ministry of Tourism, Government of India.)

Since 1999, the spiritual campus of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi has been under the control of the Rajaji Tiger Reserve (Uttarakhand Forest Department). After remaining closed for visitors for over 15 years, the Erstwhile camp of Maharishi was reopened for tourists on 8 December 2015. The decision was welcomed by tourists, and a large number of guests visit the Chaurasi Kutiya everyday to experience its magic.

The popular tourist attraction today features a photo gallery of The Beatles in Rishikesh taken by two-time Emmy Award winning filmmaker Paul Saltzman, the bungalow in which The Beatles and their friends had stayed, the auditorium where the birthday of George Harrison was celebrated, and the house of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Modern mural paintings of daily life in Rishikesh and The Beatles have become a hot destination among the younger generation. Chaurasi Kutiya (The Beatles Ashram) remains one of the favourite destinations among the tourists visiting Rishikesh. Read more

 

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi house at The Beatles Ashram.

 

The bungalow in which The Beatles stayed during their 1968 visit.

 

A modern mural at the ashram, depicting The Beatles and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

A modern mural at the ashram, depicting The Beatles and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream... Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream... Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream... Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream... Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream...