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Yogi, Maharishi Mahesh - Timeline Biography

Time Period

01-12-1918 - 02-05-2008


Maharishi Mahesh Yogi first introduced his Hindu-based techniques of quiet meditation, which he called Transcendental Meditation (TM), in the United States in the late 1950s. But it wasn’t until the next decade that he was catapulted into the public consciousness, when he became a guru to The Beatles. Mahesh soon amassed other high-profile followers, including actress Mia Farrow and The Rolling Stones. The TM movement launched a network of education centers, training individuals to use words or phrases, called a mantra, to help them in meditative concentration. Though the popularity of TM waned after the 1970s, its influence still can be seen in such popular contemporary figures as self-help author Deepak Chopra. Mahesh died in 2008 in the Netherlands, where he had been living with about 50 adherents.

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Although the roots of American interest in Asian religious traditions including Hinduism and Buddhism can be traced to the 19th century, especially among the Transcendentalists and at the World’s Parliament of Religions at the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, it did not become truly widespread until the 1960s. At the forefront of these religious trends in the mid-20th century was Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the Indian founder of the popular Transcendental Meditation (TM) movement, which had Hindu origins.

Mahesh’s entry into American popular culture was marked by a larger atmosphere of cultural upheaval, questioning of established authorities, and spiritual experimentation. Alongside the popularity of TM also can be found the rising popularity of other Hindu-influenced religious movements of this period, such as Krishna Consciousness, as well as interest in Indian fashions and such musicians as Ravi Shankar. Mahesh first introduced TM to the United States in 1959. However, it did not attain widespread notice until the late 1960s and early 1970s following highly publicized meetings between Mahesh and the musical group The Beatles, for whom he served as a guru. Along with other celebrities, such as actress Mia Farrow and rock group The Rolling Stones, the influence of The Beatles helped encourage numerous individuals to learn more about TM. Mahesh’s Students’ International Meditation Society in the United States, along with a large, international network of education centers provided thousands of individuals with training for TM and developing their own mantras to be chanted while meditating.

At the height of Mahesh’s popularity, TM was being taught in public schools, and Maharishi University became an accredited institution in Iowa. Although Mahesh returned to India in 1968 due to an initial waning of interest in the United States to his teachings, TM experienced a renewal in the 1970s, and Mahesh was once again back in the public spotlight, appearing frequently on television and in magazines. Mahesh died in 2008, but his influence on contemporary figures such as self-help author Deepak Chopra has been noted by scholars.

Religious Groups

Timeline Entries for the same religious group: Hindu
Hindu: Other ARDA Links
Hindu: Religious Family Tree

Related Dictionary Terms

Guru, Hinduism, Meditation, Renewal Group, Yogi, Maharishi Mahesh (1918-2008)


Maharishi Yogi portrait 2- photo by Keithbob at English Wikipedia
Maharishi Yogi portrait 2- photo by Keithbob at English Wikipedia

Maharishi Yogi portrait 3- Wikimedia Commons- photo by Harald Bischoff (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Maharishi Yogi portrait 3- Wikimedia Commons- photo by Harald Bischoff (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Book/Journal Source(s)

Iwamura, Jane Naomi, 2011. Virtual Orientalism: Asian Religions and American Popular Culture New York: Oxford University Press.
Marty, Martin E., 1985. Pilgrims in Their Own Land: 500 Years of Religion in America New York: Penguin Books. (Notes: Originally published in 1984 by Little, Brown and Company.).
Williams, Peter W., 1998. America's Religions: Traditions and Cultures Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Web Source(s)
His obituary in the New York Times

Web Page Contributor

William S. Cossen
Affliated with: Pennsylvania State University, Ph.D. in History

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