THE HAGUE, Netherlands – It was 1967 and the Indian meditation guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, dressed in white with long flowing black hair and a gray beard, beamed as he stood surrounded by four smiling young Beatles at the peak of their popularity.
George Harrison, clutching a sitar, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr were on their way to a retreat in Wales led by the Maharishi, and the Hindu holy man was on his way to worldwide fame.
It has been more than 50 years since the Maharishi began teaching a technique known as Transcendental Meditation. He is now believed to be 91, and on Tuesday, a close adviser said he has retreated into near silence and turned over the day-to-day running of his global network to aides.
“He is not as young as he once was,” adviser John Hagelin, an American physicist, said by telephone from the Dutch village of Vlodrop where the TM movement is now headquartered. “I think he probably has a more limited reserve of physical energy to draw upon. He was working … 20 hours a day for years.”
The Maharishi told senior aides at a Jan. 8 meeting in the Netherlands of his plan to withdraw from administrative duties and spend his time absorbed in the ancient Indian texts that underpin his movement. The announcement caught many followers off guard.
There is no one designated successor but many people have been trained for years to carry on the Maharishi’s various tasks, Hagelin said.
The Maharishi – a Hindi-language title for Great Seer – now spends his days in silence contemplating and preparing a commentary on the Vedas, a vast Sanskrit canon compiled some 3,500 years ago, from which he evolves solutions for today’s troubled world.