Sunday, March 5, 2006

NEW DELHI — The spat between the Beatles and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1968 became an instant pop legend as perhaps the most bitter breakup in the era of free love.

Now, after almost four decades of rumor and counter-rumor, a confidant of both sides has gone public with revelations that could upset many of the band’s fans.

Spiritualist and author Deepak Chopra, a former maharishi disciple and a friend of the late George Harrison, has said that contrary to popular myth, the row had nothing to do with charges that the maharishi made sexual advances toward Mia Farrow, the actress and friend of the band.

Instead, he said, the maharishi had objected to the group’s drug use at his home in Rishikesh, northern India. Dr. Chopra told the Sunday Telegraph: “What isn’t generally known is that the maharishi had got fed up with the Beatles taking drugs while they were at his ashram [spiritual home]. They were smoking ganja [cannabis, or “pot”] and taking LSD. He hadn’t come across anything like that before, and he took a strong view.”

The group had gone to the ashram in search of spiritual enlightenment, meditating during the day and writing songs in the evening. According to reports, they consumed no alcohol or drugs when they first arrived and kept to a strict vegetarian diet.

A few weeks into their much-publicized sojourn, however, relations soured between the guru and the band’s entourage. In a subsequent television interview, John Lennon and Paul McCartney said they had lost interest in the maharishi’s teachings.

Dr. Chopra said of the rumor that the guru had misbehaved with Miss Farrow, who was part of the entourage: “There was never any truth to stories about the maharishi’s womanizing. When he was sick in the U.K., he wouldn’t even allow any female nurses near him.

“As for the stuff about Mia Farrow, that was complete nonsense. I met her years later, and she asked me to tell the maharishi that she still loved him,” he said.

Dr. Chopra said Mr. Harrison later apologized to the maharishi during a visit to his meditation center at Vlodrop in the Netherlands, where he now lives as a recluse. Nobody at the center was available for comment.

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