Sunday, February 10, 2008

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

Not Just A Beatles Guru

India's Income Tax Department Drove Mahesh Yogi out of India!

By Manuwant Choudhary

I don't believe in Godmen or Gurus and as a journalist I have rather gone after the corrupt and the violent, yet the passing away of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi brought back memories of some ten years ago when I was still a cub reporter with the Afternoon Despatch & Courier. I got a call from my friend Nitai Mehta, son of the late Madhu Mehta, that an American friend of theirs had just entered India without an Indian Visa!
So I took a double decker bus to Bombay's Nepeansea Road to meet a Nancy Cook De Herrera. I asked her what she did and she replied, "I teach Transcendental Meditation (TM). And gave me a book to read `Beyond Gurus'. My knowledge of the Maharishi is through Nancy.
Nancy had visited India some 34 times in the past 30 years and she even forgot that one needed a visa to enter India. So in Bombay a policeman with a belly sat with us as she spoke to me. She asked the cop, "Do you meditate?"
Beyond Gurus has a chapter on `Selling of a Guru'! Plus how the Beatles landed up at Rishikesh and how the international media camped at the gates to get a glimpse of the Beatles Guru! And how the Indian media reported crates to beer entering the ashram for the Beatles.
Nancy says in her book that Mahesh Yogi was a shy person and did not really care for the media or how the publicity would benefit him. He just wanted to teach meditation. It took them some time to convince him that the international media deserved a glimpse of the Beatles Guru and then they would return.
So Nancy borrowed a helicopter from a Parsi freind in New Delhi and the Guru and the Beatles posed for the media in front of the helicopter. That photo made it to the cover of Time Magazine and made Mahesh Yogi famous!
But Nancy also tells us of the helicopter ride over the mountains of Rishikesh where dozens of naked sadhus came out from their caves on hearing the roar of the helicipter.
Nancy's book Beyond Guru has a photo of a naked Sadhu on the Cover taken by her son Richard who worked for the National Geographic. The story went that the sadhu was immortal and that he would never die. One follower believed that to such an extent that he took a pistol and shot the Sadhu. The Sadhu died instantly.
I asked Nancy why Mahesh Yogi left India and she replied, "Its the Income Tax department. They hounded him. I told the Indian government that for a few crores you are going to lose millions of tourists."
In fact Nancy never supported Mahesh Yogi's decision to leave India. Although she supported him in other ways when he was abroad like introducing him to Hollywood and walking across America selling an Indian Guru!
Mahesh Yogi passed away in the Netherlands at 91 so I remembered Nancy.
Nancy herself is quite a story. She was an Ambassador-at-large of the United States of America expected to promote American culture in the world. That took her to almost every country in the world and she met all the top leaders.
An event that changed all that was when she along with her husband drove across the Nevada unaware that a nuclear test was taking place nearby. Solidiers later stopped their vehicle and checked for radiation on their car. It was high. Her husband died of that a few months later.
Nancy became America's biggest campaigners against nuclear tests.
When I met Nancy ten years ago she said she was 81. I asked her where she would be going next and she replied, "Rishikesh for river rafting on the Ganga!"
I called Nitai today and asked him where is Nancy and he replied, "Going strong at 91!"
I remember when my article appeared in the Afternoon Despatch & Courier, I got a postcard from New Delhi, "Thanks, Do visit Beverly Hills!"

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