Transcendent in America: Hindu-Inspired Meditation Movements as New Religion

By Lola Williamson | Go to book overview

4

Transcendental Meditation

On February 5, 2008, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi passed away at his home and headquarters in Vlodrop, the Netherlands, where he had lived since the late 1980s. He was believed to have been ninety-one years old. In the last years of his life he rarely met with anyone face-to-face, preferring to speak with followers by closed-circuit television. Maharishi’s body was shipped to Allahabad, about six hundred kilometers southwest of New Delhi. His relatives and disciples carried his body, propped up in a yogic posture, to a specially erected platform near the Sangam, the confluence of the Ganges and the Yamuna rivers. Thousands of Maharishi’s followers filed past the platform, bowing as the sound of Hindu chanting filled the air and a helicopter showered rose petals from above. He was accorded a full state funeral by the president of India. The army held their rifles in a neutral position for the military salute in honor of Maharishi’s lifelong dedication to the creation of world peace. In traditional Hindu style, only men were allowed to attend during the cremation itself. His nephew lit the funeral pyre made of sandalwood logs, and Swami Vasudevananda Saraswati, Shankaracharya of the North, presided over the funeral.

Meanwhile, at a TM enclave on Heavenly Mountain, near Boone, North Carolina, devotees watched the funeral pyre via satellite. One told me later, “I would watch and sob my heart out, doze a little, wake up, and start crying all over again.”

Thus ended a fifty-year career begun in 1958, when Maharishi inaugurated the Spiritual Regeneration Movement. This was the first of many inaugurations with sonorous epithets during Maharishi’s long endeavor to bring peace and prosperity to the world. The tools he used in this venture changed over time, but his basic message remained the same: individuals, pursuing spiritual practices, will change the world. Shortly before his death, he declared that his work was done and nothing could stop the Golden Age from its full efflorescence. Maharishi passed his inexhaustible idealism to his followers who continue the work that he began.

-80-

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