A Remembrance of Maharishi by James Powell

May 4, 2017 | Santa Barbara Independent | Opinion | In Memoriam
His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (photo by Al Bourdet)

His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi 1911*-2008
Thursday, March 13, 2008
By James Powell

The first time I met Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was in Malibu, on the beach.

It was a typical summer day in Southern California. Not much was happening. There was a south swell. From time to time a sun worshiper atop a towel would flip over, a seagull would sail off into the fog, or a large set of waves would come crashing in.

As I recall, I stood on the beach with some of my surfing buddies. We were probably dressed in the surfer’s uniform of the era: corduroy pants and white Penney’s T-shirts covered by Pendeltons, not tucked in. Unlike most surfers on most beaches that day, however, we each held in our hands a bouquet of flowers.

Suddenly cars arrived. Doors were flung open. A cameraman emerged, and next some guys in suits. A brown, sandaled foot from within the car could be seen feeling for the ground, and then—bearded and wearing a long, flowing, white dhoti—an Indian man stepped out onto the dirt road. He seemed enveloped in a nimbus of such serenity and light that, seeing him, the effect was similar to what one feels deep in a canyon before dawn, when suddenly the sun bursts over the rim.

With the camera now trained on us—the surfer-boy extras in a documentary film—Maharishi approached, clearly enjoying the eternity in each step as he floated across the sand. As he drew near, something happened that I was not at all prepared for. My soul began to swoon. In place of the crashing of the waves, which now seemed far in the distance, was an immensely beautiful sea of silent consciousness. It was, to put it mildly, simply adorable. Lost in it, I could neither speak nor move. When Maharishi tugged on my flowers, I was unable to release my grip. He looked into my eyes, touched my hand, and my fingers opened.

It would be impossible to forget the blithe beauty of those eyes. He looked into each of ours, playfully. After accepting our flowers he looked out to sea, and then, regarding us again and smiling like the happiest man on earth, he asked, “Are you enjoying the ocean?”

Thus began my transcendental studies—lessons such as I had never known. The classroom was the Heart; the assignment was to locate the point within where the soul loses its boundaries and becomes absorbed in something infinite.

Typically, by the time Maharishi arrived at his seat in any of the countless lecture halls he spoke in around the world, he would be hugging to his chest hundreds of flowers accepted from students greeting him on his way in. And in each one of those exchanges was a moment as spiritually transforming as the one I had known on the beach. Yet, Maharishi’s aim was not to establish a personality cult. Each and every flower he accepted in each and every lecture hall he would place reverently before the image of his beloved teacher, Guru Dev, to whom he dedicated every instant of his life. And he tirelessly encouraged each of us to dive into the ocean of consciousness his Guru Dev embodied, by diving deep within our hearts during meditation.

Maharishi, in speaking of his teacher, always emphasized that the events in a spiritually illumined life are not so important. What is important is the state of his or her enlightenment. So I will not list all Maharishi’s many accomplishments throughout the world. Perhaps something of his level of presence can be felt through these few words.

Maharishi visited Santa Barbara on several occasions because some of his dearest friends lived here: Walter and Rae Koch, the family of Tom and Susan Headley, and Arthur and Christina Granville. Over the past few decades, teachers at Santa Barbara’s Transcendental Meditation center instructed more than 10,000 Santa Barbarans in meditation. In addition, Santa Barbara was at one time the home of the fledgling Maharishi International University, now located in Fairfield, Iowa.

“Are you enjoying the ocean?” Although those were the first words I had ever heard him speak, through the years I realized that they contained his entire teaching. For Maharishi was absolutely certain of one fact: His soul was forever floating within an ocean of unbounded bliss. He was well aware that the state of life he was living was adorable, and that anyone could begin to live it.

* The year of Maharishi’s birth is unknown but is believed to have been between 1911 and 1918. (See my note below on this point.)**


Personal note: I remember reading this beautifully written remembrance of Maharishi when it first appeared, March 13, 2008, in the Santa Barbara Independent. The film being made about Maharishi at the time was never completed. But Alan Waite, who brought out the film crew, would later go on to make, at Maharishi’s request, a film about him called, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi—Sage for a New Generation (1968). It won an award in 1969 for best documentary film at the first Hollywood Film Festival. The judges said they liked the “patchwork style of film-making” when they gave Alan the award. Segments of the film were later included in the International History Channel documentary on Maharishi Mahesh Yogi that I helped produce.

I had attended Maharishi International University, MIU, in Goleta, California, in 1974, and moved to the Fairfield, Iowa campus to complete my last course before returning to Montreal, Canada. MIU would later change its name to Maharishi University of Management, MUM, www.mum.edu.

Oct 2018, Steve Van Damme wrote a comprehensive personal answer to a question on Quora: What do TMers think about Maharishi’s character?

**According to Maharishi’s passport, he was born January 12, 1917, so 2018 is being recognized as his centenary year. See Rememberances of #TranscendentalMeditation and #MaharishiU founder Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.


Comments (a selection posted on the Santa Barbara Independent website)

Of all the articles commemorating Maharishi’s passing, which have appeared recently in the world press, this one is the very best. James Powell has captured the true experience of being in Maharishi’s presence, and the pure delight we as TM teachers experienced in Santa Barbara in those early days. Thank you for this joyful walk down memory lane.

~Natalie Neal
Challis, Idaho

March 13, 2008 at 10:37 a.m.

To the author –

What a lovely experience you wrote about. Thank you for putting these sweet words to our feelings.

It is a beautiful article about a beautiful being.

Thank you again.

March 13, 2008 at 12:46 p.m.

James, thank you for the great article on Maharishi. No matter what the surface craziness of the TM movement, there was always that transcendent infinity of silence that radiated from Maharishi. My soul swooned too and was never the same again.

March 14, 2008 at 5:48 a.m.

A flower to Jim Powell and the Independent for artfully conveying to us the impact of one of those intimate and repeated moments in history that connect the deepest part of us to the trends of the collective. One such precious oceanic moment occurred for me in the seventies while meditating in Maharishi’s presence in Mike Love’s tiny cliff house overlooking the Mesa Lane surf break while the Sama Veda pundits chanted. Maharishi is a potent symbol of the infinite potential for human and collective fulfillment who had huge impact on many of us individually and culturally. When he synchronistically appeared on the scene in the sixties, our worldview was cracking open to new possibilities that we are still striving to realize. Thank you for that inspiring moment of heart-fullness.
Ron Iverson

March 14, 2008 at 7:12 p.m.

A beautiful story. As a meditator I have Maharishi to thank for the profound bliss that permeates my life. As a medical writer, I am in awe at Maharishi’s genius in explaining that the pure consciousness at the basis of our waking, dreaming, and sleep states is one and the same as the unified field of physics at the basis of all existence. It is by repeatedly aligning individual awareness with this field of consciousness/cosmic intelligence through a uniquely simple technique that we purify our nervous system and heal ourselves. I am even more in awe at Maharishi’s genius for showing the potential, through repeated paradigm-breaking studies, how consciousness-based solutions may cure the greater ills and conflicts of society.

March 16, 2008 at 10:18 p.m.

This is such a beautiful article; thanks so much for writing and for your sensitivity to the depth of Maharishi’s teaching. I have been meditating and doing the sidhis for many years and am delighted to be coming to Santa Barbara for two weeks starting April 6, to teach songwriting in elementary schools. None of my creative work would be possible without the underpinning of the knowledge I have gotten from my practice and knowledge of TM. Would love to talk with you about this. All best wishes, Donald Sosin dsosin at comcast dot net

April 1, 2008 at 1:57 p.m.

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2 Responses to “A Remembrance of Maharishi by James Powell”

  1. Rememberances of #TranscendentalMeditation and #MaharishiU founder Maharishi Mahesh Yogi | The Uncarved Blog Says:

    […] very beautiful article is A Remembrance of Maharishi by James Powell. Many articles came out after Maharishi’s passing 10 years ago. See A Tribute to Maharishi […]


  2. David Frawley Remembers the Global Guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in India Today Insight | The Uncarved Blog Says:

    […] A Remembrance of Maharishi by James Powell and Remembrances of Transcendental Meditation and Maharishi International University founder Maharishi Mahesh Yogi with links to more articles and videos. […]


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