- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 6, 2008

THE HAGUE (AP) — Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a guru to the Beatles who introduced the West to Transcendental Meditation, died yesterday at his home in the Dutch town of Vlodrop, a spokesman said. He was thought to be 91.

“He died peacefully at about 7 p.m.,” said Bob Roth, a spokesman for the Transcendental Meditation movement that the guru founded. He said his death appeared to be a result of “natural causes, his age.”

Once dismissed as hippie mysticism, the Hindu practice of mind control that the guru taught, called Transcendental Meditation, gradually gained medical respectability.

He began teaching Transcendental Meditation in 1955 and brought the technique to the United States in 1959. But the movement really took off after the Beatles visited his ashram in India in 1968, although he had a famous falling-out with the rock stars when he discovered them using drugs at his Himalayan retreat.

With the help of celebrity endorsements, the maharishi — a Hindi-language title for great seer — parlayed his interpretations of ancient scripture into a multimillion-dollar global empire.

After 50 years of teaching, the guru turned to larger themes, with grand designs to harness the power of group meditation to create world peace and to mobilize his devotees to banish poverty from the earth.

About 5 million people devoted 20 minutes every morning and evening reciting a simple sound, or mantra, and delving into their consciousness.

Donations and the $2,500 fee to learn Transcendental Meditation financed the construction of Peace Palaces, or meditation centers, in dozens of cities around the world. It paid for hundreds of new schools in India.

In 1971, the guru founded a university in Fairfield, Iowa, that taught meditation alongside the arts and sciences to 700 students and served organic vegetarian food in its cafeterias.

He was born Mahesh Srivastava in central India, reportedly on Jan. 12, 1917, though he refused to confirm the date or discuss his early life.

Aides said he became disillusioned that Transcendental Meditation had become identified with the counterculture, and he spent more time at his ashram in Rishikesh in the Himalayan foothills to run his global affairs.

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