Maharishi Mahesh Yogi steps down as head of meditation empire

AMSTERDAM Mon Jan 28, 2008 10:37pm IST

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AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who became a guru to the Beatles, stepped down this month as the head of the organisation that brought transcendental meditation to the West, an aide said on Monday.

"His work is done and now he'll be concentrating on the field of silence and dedicating himself more to pure knowledge rather than administrative matters," Benjamin Feldman, finance minister for the Global Country of World Peace, told Reuters.

After teaching the Beatles and other 1960s and 70s icons to meditate, the Indian mystic gained a worldwide following with six million people taking his courses. He moved his headquarters to the small southern Dutch village of Vlodrop in 1990.

Transcendental meditation, known as TM by its followers, involves reciting a mantra that practitioners say helps the mind stay calm even under pressure.

The reclusive guru with a flowing white beard has periodically reemerged to appeal for funds to promote world peace, building a business empire ranging from real estate dealing to a company selling ayurvedic medicine and cosmetics.

YOGIC FLYING

He has set up universities and schools all over the world and his Natural Law Party -- which promotes yogic flying, a practice that involves sitting in the lotus position and bouncing into the air -- has campaigned in dozens of countries.

Reported to be 91, the Maharishi is "fairly well", Feldman said and plans to stay in the Netherlands for the time being. Maharaja Nader Raam, a Lebanese doctor who has studied with the Maharishi for 25 years, will take over the organisation.

Feldman said the Maharishi's work would live on because he has trained tens of thousands of teachers over the years.

His followers broke the ground in Vlodrop on Monday for a "tower of invincibility" memorial to the Maharishi that will be replicated in 48 countries, Feldman said.

He said the Maharishi was not disappointed that his promotion of group meditation had not yet achieved its aim of creating universal peace and prosperity.

"Sometimes it takes time for the world to catch up. The Maharishi is very, very satisfied that the influence has been created and it will only expand and become stronger and better known and more widely applied," Feldman said.

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