How The Beatles Went On A Failed Spiritual Quest And 'Saved' The Fab Four

By Sarah Norman | May 23, 2023

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The Beatles and their wives at the Rishikesh in India with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, March 1968. Seated in front of the Maharishi are Jane Asher, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Pattie Boyd. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

There’s a handful of people who were able to shape the sound of The Beatles and one of them was the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi - the founder of the Transcendental Meditation (TM) movement. The Maharishi, like The Beatles, came from humble beginnings. He was born Mahesh Prasad Varma in the Central Provinces of India and went on to study physics before throwing himself into a life of meditation as Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The Beatles, Mia Farrow, Donovan, Mike Love of the Beach Boys, Mick Jagger, and other celebrities searching for meaning or answers were drawn to TM.

The Yogi traveled for over a decade before The Beatles came to him looking for a spiritual leader after they fell into the doldrums of success. So how did a spiritual guru play such a large part in the musical process of the most influential rock band in history? The songs that ended up as the "White Album," their self-titled follow-up to Sgt. Pepper, were conceived in India, while they were studying the teachings of the Maharishi and some Beatles, more than others, were talking about staying there permanently.

Before He Met The Beatles The Maharishi Was Already A Rock Star

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Source: wikimedia

After receiving a degree in physics the Maharishi, then known simply as Mahesh, took a job as a secretary for Swami Brahmananda Saraswati. Saraswati taught meditation and helped his followers go within themselves, Manesh soon became Saraswati’s most trusted pupil, and when the guru passed away he told Mahesh to travel the world to teach TM to new people.

In 1955 Mahesh changed his name to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and toured India teaching devotees about Transcendental Meditation, and in 1959 he left the country for the first time to go on tour. It’s during this time that Maharishi appeared on the British TV show People and Places. Even if it took a few more years for The Beatles to make a pilgrimage to the guru they knew he was out there.