Early lifeMaharishi (Great Sage or Great Seer) was born to a Hindu family living in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh, India. Born Mahesh Prasad Varma, he earned the equivalent of a master's degree in physics at Allahabad University.
In 1941, having completed his studies, Maharishi became a secretary to the Hindu Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, the Shankaracharya of Jyotirmath, who gave him the name Bal Brahmacharya Mahesh. He remained with Brahmananda Saraswati until the latter passed away in 1953. Describing his first meeting with his Master, Maharishi said: "As a thirsty man arrives at a well, so I arrived at the feet of my Master. The quest of a perfect Master was there. The first sight of his personality was enough to make me surrender at his feet." In 1953, Maharishi retired into silence for approximately two years in Uttarkashi, a valley in the Himalayas known as the Valley of the Saints, where his own Master had lived in previous decades with his Master, Swami Krishanand Saraswati. In 1955, Maharishi left Uttarkashi, possessed of the knowledge of life bestowed on him by his Master. Maharishi later recalled his deep concern about the two apparent divergent realities of life. He noted the exalted quality of Indian Vedic Literature that depicts all life as bliss, and compared that reality to the suffering humanity endures. He felt that “there was no reason why there should be a gap, because it's so simple for the individual to be on that level of universality and immortality…. This was the natural feeling that was deep in my mind, that something should be done so that people don't suffer."
In 1955, Maharishi began publicly teaching what he states is a traditional meditation technique that he later renamed Transcendental Meditation. The Spiritual Regeneration Movement, the first of many organizations he founded, began in 1957, in Madras, India, on the concluding day of the Seminar of Spiritiual Luminaries. By 1958, Maharishi had begun the first of many worldwide tours.
Transcendental Meditation techniqueAccording to the official Transcendental Meditation website, Maharishi's Transcendental Meditation program has been taught worldwide to over 5 million people. Practising Transcendental Meditation involves the use of a mantra, or sound, and the proper technique of how to use it. Some TM practitioners report that during the practice their mind becomes very alert but their body receives deep rest, and these effects continue afterward. Maharishi calls this state "Transcendental Consciousness" or restful alertness. He says that mantras come from the age-old Vedic Tradition, and are sounds designed as vehicles for the mind to settle down to the quieter states of awareness at its finer levels. It is practised for 20 minutes, twice a day, while sitting in a relaxed but upright posture with eyes closed. Certain studies have shown that Transcendental Meditation and other meditation techniques can lower blood pressure, heart rate, and other physiological measures. (Psychosomatic Medicine 46: 267–276, 1984; American Psychologist 42: 879–881, 1987; Hypertension 26: 820–827, 1995; Journal of Human Stress 5: 24-27, 1979.)
World Tours and expansion of teachings
World tours beginThe first stop of the first world tour was in Rangoon, Burma, now Myanmar, on the Bodhipurnima day. The following day Maharishi was met by an aged Buddhist monk along with his disciples, who had all come to seek his blessings. For over a year the monk had been predicting the arrival of a great yogi from the Himalayas on the Bodhipurnima day. Maharishi remained for about six months in countries of the Far East, teaching Transcendental Meditation to all areas of society.
On the last day of 1958, the Honolulu Star Bulletin published an article about Maharishi saying: "He has no money, he asks for nothing. His worldly possessions can be carried in one hand. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi is on a world odyssey. He carries a message that he says will rid the world of all unhappiness and discontent."
In 1959, Maharishi gave his first instructions in the Transcendental Meditation technique on U.S. soil on the islands of Hawaii. During the 1960s and early 1970s practitioners of the technique became seen as part of the then current "counter-culture" phenomenon, at which time a number of celebrities learned the technique. Celebrity students at that time included The Beatles, the Beach Boys, (including singer Mike Love, who became a TM teacher) and singer-songwriter Donovan, who befriended Maharishi and put his picture on the back cover of his A Gift from a Flower to a Garden album. Comedian Andy Kaufman and magician Doug Henning were also students of Maharishi, while Clint Eastwood and David Lynch are two notable directors who have practiced the Transcendental Meditation technique. Lynch is currently involved in an effort to raise $7 billion to teach the technique to all students in the USA, via his David Lynch Foundation.