Idol Chatter

080207_lede_maharishi.jpgApparently retirement does equal death, even for world famous gurus who once tirelessly toured the world like a rock star, spreading his message and hobnobbing with celebrity seekers. Less than a month after announcing his retirement from handling the daily business of his global Transcendental Meditation empire, said to have 5 million adherents and be worth $4 billion, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi died on Tuesday.
Perhaps better known for being the controversial, “counter-culture” spiritual revolutionary who hung out with the Beatles and introduced the world to yogic flying than for his devotion to the Vedas (Hindu holy books), the yogi has had a more far-reaching influence on pop-culture than many know.
Not only did he influence the work of the Fab Four (who later fell out with the guru; see Lennon’s “Sexy Sadie”), but inspired artists as varied as The Beach Boy’s Mike Love, actress Mia Farrow, magician Doug Henning (maybe all the meditation can explain those wacky rainbow-adorned jump suits), and even everyone’s favorite patriarch and pastor, “7th Heaven’s” Stephen Collins, with his message of inner and world peace.

Recently, Oscar-nominated director David Lynch, a Transcendental Meditation devotee for over 25 years, formed the David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-based Education and World Peace which encourages TM in schools. And the meditation technique was even featured in the recent documentary “The King of Kong,” in which classic video game fanatics compete to break World Records.
In a 2006 Associated Press article, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was described as having “no interest in dwelling on the halcyon days of the 1960s and 1970s when he was guru to Beatles and Beach Boys and his Transcendental Meditation movement was the new buzz on college campuses.”
But, I think it can safely be said that those “halcyon” days have had an incalculable effect on the mingling of pop culture and religion. It was the yogi’s association with the Beatles that launched him and his belief system to superstar status and attracted a globe of adherents, both Hollywood heavyweights and average Joes. While Scientology has reportedly been actively recruiting celebrities since the mid-1950s, it would seem that TM was the first movement to truly monopolize on the association with celebrity, an effort that bequeathed unto the world Scientologist Tom Cruise and Kabbalist Madonna.

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