“The Beatles arrived in Rishikesh in February 1968 and settled down in the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram to learn Transcendental Meditation.” Ajoy Bose, in his book, Across the Universe traces the path the Beatles took to India and the dramatic denouement of their sojourn at the Himalayan ashram. From the book, we extract quotes from the four Beatles and the author about the Beatles’ time meditating in Rishikesh.
The Maharishi (Mahesh Yogi) had effectively cocooned them from the hysteria and hype of their fans and the media. This was the first real opportunity the four had to escape their identity as the most famous rock band in the world. They grabbed the prospect of just enjoying themselves as ordinary folk in a remote, obscure location, far from the relentless daily rush and the fame and fortune that had overwhelmed them.
Of them all, George had the best time from his stay in India. Within a few days in the ashram, George said he was already feeling fabulous.
His great experience was linked to the breakthrough he had in his practice of transcendental meditation.
Paul, who was not all that enthusiastic about Transcendental Meditation when he came to India, was pleasantly surprised at what it could do with his mind. He recalled one particular session that he described as the best he had:
Even Ringo, who had faced a series of harrowing experiences after landing in India, from a pain in his arm to his driver losing his way and from having trouble with an officious doctor at the hospital to his car heating up on the road. To his credit, he did try to take them in his stride and, in the beginning, was actually starting to enjoy the laid-back atmosphere at the ashram.
He and his wife, Maureen however, had been the least enthusiastic about coming to Rishikesh leaving their two young children back in London. And despite him finding his “spiritual home” here, after nine days at the ashram, Ringo and his wife called it quits.
John’s experience was a breakthrough in terms of his song-writing without using drugs or other substances albeit only momentary. John would later recall with some amusement,
The songs did reflect the mess inside John’s mind at that time. They underlined the conflict between his lack of enthusiasm to continue as a Beatle and his fears of not knowing what to do if he wasn’t one.
His song ‘I’m So Tired’, for instance, is a lament over not being able to sleep for three weeks since he came to the ashram, tossing and turning in his bed, smoking like a chimney, as his inner demons tormented him. It revealed his tired mental frame and he would later praise it as one of his better songs from Rishikesh.
True, the boys may have snapped old personal bonds and sown the seeds of the unravelling of the and itself, yet Rishikesh only provided the breathing space for the Beatles to realize their own selves and move on from their past lives and identity as a band. With the Himalayas looming above and the Ganga flowing below, they had gained paradise and then lost it as the modern fairy tale of the four lads from Liverpool reached its closing stages.