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Page 3: Freakstories - The Beatles in India

The legends, myths, mysteries from Hippies till nowadays will be published here to introduce you the history of establishment of World's Psychedelic Culture: 

Forty seven years ago, on April 7, 1967 four white young people came down from the plain that delivered them from cold London to hot India. No one of them was known there. But all the rest World watched at them and the inspiration that this journey gave to these visitors became a huge stimulation for thousands of hippies to follow the way of Fantastic Four- come in India, go into meditation and different spiritual practices and love the culture of this great country


It would have been easy at the time to dismiss the media frenzy as just another pop culture craze. But reporters knew this was different. Why would four young, bright, fun-loving youngsters, wealthy beyond imagining, able to go anywhere and do anything, choose to hunker down in an austere, vegetarian, non-air-conditioned compound in the Himalayan foothills and spend large chunks of time each day with their eyes closed? What is this meditation thing? What could a backward, impoverished country, only two decades removed from imperial rule, have to offer people who seemed to have everything a human being could want?

In retrospect, the meeting of the Fab Four and the teacher who will probably always be known as "The Beatles' Guru" seems as karmically destined as that of Bill and Hillary or Lewis and Clark. Like many in the counterculture of which they had become de facto leaders, the band members had come to see that psychedelic drugs like LSD could open the door to higher consciousness but they did not let you stay there, and, in the bargain, came with serious risks. The search was on for safe, natural ways to expand the mind and attain inner peace and unified awareness. The East seemed to have answers, and all signs pointed to something called meditation. George Harrison, having spent time in India studying sitar with Ravi Shankar and reading spiritual literature, was among the ripest candidates.

For his part, Maharishi had been circling the globe for nearly a decade, slowly attracting students, mostly among respectable middle-aged people with a metaphysical bent. His laser-like focus on meditation, and his skill in presenting a systematic, universal practice that was suitable for both secular self-improvement and spiritual enlightenment, were ideally suited for the rational, pragmatic West. When, in 1965, college students began to take up TM, word spread quickly and meditation clubs popped up on campuses. By August of 1967, when Maharishi lectured at the London Hilton, it was only natural that Pattie Boyd Harrison would hear about it and lead her husband and his mates to the jam-packed hotel ballroom.

The Beatles took to meditation like they had taken to Chuck Berry and Little Richard. John and George were especially enthusiastic (hear David Frost's interview with them). Young people everywhere, always eager to emulate their musical heroes, flooded TM centers. The press coverage was remarkable for its shortage of cynicism. It featured parents and respected cultural leaders who were impressed by the life changes they observed in the meditating youth. As a result, scientists, prodded by Maharishi, who had majored in physics, started doing rigorous research on the effects of the practice.

Before long, physicians and therapists were recommending meditation to stressed-out grownups. To meet the burgeoning demand, Maharishi trained a cadre of teachers, essentially democratizing what had long been an esoteric practice available only to an elite few, much as Henry Ford had democratized automobiles. Now, hundreds of studies later, meditation and yoga are as mainstream as aerobics and vitamins.

Would this have happened if the Beatles had never gone to India? Maybe, maybe not, but certainly not as quickly. That's not just my assessment. Life magazine at the time dubbed 1968 "The Year of the Guru," and when Newsweek commemorated that seminal year four decades later, one article was titled "What the Beatles Gave Science." The author, Sharon Begley, chose the topic because the lads' trip to India "popularized the notion that the spiritual East has something to teach the rational West.

That's reason enough to remember that eventful journey. If you need another one, go listen to The White Album. Almost all the songs on that double record were written or conceived in the ashram on the Ganges.


We’d been into drugs, the next step is, you’ve got to try and find a meaning then,” said Paul McCartney in the Beatles ‘Anthology’ documentary. It was George Harrison, already an avid fan and casual student of Eastern ways, who got the ball rolling. He, McCartney and John Lennon went to see a lecture given by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in London in the summer of 1967. “That’s where I really went for the meditation,” said Harrison in Anthology. “There’s this thing called a mantra. Through the mantra you can follow a technique that helps you to transcend, that is, to go beyond the waking sleeping dreaming state.”

Following the lecture, the three met Maharishi. “I said to him, got any mantras?” said George. The band were enamoured with the mystic one, and the feeling appeared to be mutual. “They are the ideal of energy and intelligence in the younger generation,” the Maharishi told a reporter after the lecture.

In February 1968, the Beatles took their interest a large step forward by traveling to the Maharishi’s home base in northern India. Lennon and wife Cynthia, and Harrison and Pattie Boyd arrived first (Ringo Starr and Paul would soon join them) along with other notable friends such as Beach Boy Mike Love, Donovan and actress Mia Farrow.

During their stay, they would learn more about meditation and would also find time to write many of the songs that would ultimately end up on ‘The Beatles’ (aka ‘The White Album’). ‘Back In The USSR,’ ‘Dear Prudence’ (written about Farrow’s sister, also in attendance), ‘Mother Nature’s Son,’ and ‘Sexy Sadie’ were just a few of the songs born out of their experiences there.

I was really impressed with the Maharishi. I was impressed because he was laughing all the time,” said Ringo. “It was another point of view. It was the first time we’re sort of getting into Eastern philosophies.” McCartney described the stay in India as “very much like a summer camp,” with Starr adding, “It was pretty far out.”

Both McCartney and Starr cut their stay short, while others hung out for close to two months. The harmonious vibes of the trip, however, would soon come to an end when allegations arose about the more earthly interests of the Maharishi in one or more of the females in attendance as well as questions surrounding the Maharishi seeking financial involvement from the Beatles. Upon their return, a reporter asked Lennon if the Maharishi was “on the level.” Lennon quipped, “I don’t know what level he’s on, but we had a nice holiday in India and came back rested.”

Read 1561 times Last modified on Wednesday, 11 June 2014 18:45


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