Helter Skelter

The way to the former ashram of Maharesh Maharishi Yogi, teacher of Transcendental Meditation to the Beatles, is past the Ram Joola Bridge, lined first by throngs of vendors hawking coconuts, lime-water, beads, then becoming a dusty path populated by wandering cows, mangy dogs, a few ashrams, temples, and modest houses, and several packs of sadhus with orange and white wraps draped around their withered, hardened frames; their beards hang to their navels and they look at you with curious but weary eyes–you, bright and special and well-intentioned as you may be, bring little to these sadhus lives but noise, pollution, real estate development; furthermore you come nowhere close to the Fab Four’s charisma, authenticity, and magic.

Passing the sadhus, craning upward at the families of monkeys nestled in the verdant trees, ignoring the “No Entry” sign, you creep over a vine-covered stone wall to enter the Maharishi’s ashram. The forest, old and solemn, shades you as you proceed along past dome-shaped stone huts, about fifteen-feet-tall, suitable for meditation. You enter into one of these crumbling concrete caves, sit, holds hands meditate feel the energy vibrations from years ago when those bright young British boys came here searching for . . . what? Something new? Something to bring them back to their hearts, after perhaps losing the way while growing famous, rich? You chant, breathe. Sing: anything from the White Album, written in this very place, though in your head the citar of Magical Mystery Tour creeps in and visions of blue meanies dance in your head, and you wonder what the Beatles’ last decade of music-making would have been like without this now-quiet place, home only to monkeys and sadhus.

You inhale, exhale, stand, wander through the complex of meditation huts, the various monuments and murals dedicated to the musicians who stormed this place with their entourage and played their role in the ever-growing dialogue between the West and the East that tells seekers, over and over, that everything they need is already right there, within. But for some reason you had to go here, to Maharishi’s ashram, to Rishikesh, to India, to locate that everything.

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