Book Tour – Maharishi & Me by Susan Shumsky

Book Tour – Maharishi & Me by Susan Shumsky

An extract from Maharishi & Me by Susan Shumsky


I’m very pleased to share an extract from a new book by Susan Shumsky, Maharishi & Me: Seeking enlightenment with The Beatles Spiritual Guru. In it, Susan reveals all sorts of fascinating insights into the Indian ashram where The Beatles wrote The White Album and the hidden meaning behind the songs. Here is an intriguing extract:


The Beatles wrote forty songs in Rishikesh, India, while studying with their guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (founder of Transcendental Meditation, a.k.a. TM) in 1968. One was about actress Mia Farrow’s sister, Prudence, who said, “I would always rush straight back to my room after lectures and meals so I could meditate.” John said Prudence went slightly “barmy” locked in her room for three weeks, and the Beatles were bidden to nudge her out. Prudence remembered them bursting into her room, singing to her. She was grateful, but she just wanted them to disappear so she could return to meditation. Just before leaving Rishikesh, George Harrison sent Prudence a message that John had written a song for her—”Dear Prudence.”

Prudence wasn’t the only “barmy” course participant. John wrote “I’m So Tired” three weeks after arriving. The song described his insomnia and avalanches of thoughts continually cycling through his mind, driving him bonkers. He described: “In ‘Yer Blues’ when I wrote, ‘I’m so lonely I want to die,’ I’m not kidding. That’s how I felt. Up there trying to reach God and feeling suicidal.” “I did write some of my best songs while I was there. It was a nice scene. Nice and secure and everyone was always smiling.”

One of Maharishi’s lectures about the unity of nature and mankind touched John and Paul deeply, inspiring “Mother Nature’s Son” by Paul, and “Child of Nature” by John. “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey” consisted of Maharishi’s favorite expressions and portrayed meditation experiences. John said the “monkey” was Yoko Ono. “Revolution” originated from Maharishi’s philosophy that the only way to attain world peace is for individuals to achieve peace through meditation—not political revolutions.

Six feet tall, with crew cut hair and dressed in white, Richard A. Cooke III (Rik) was the textbook Ivy League American jock. On a jungle safari, Rik and his mom Nancy Cooke rode an elephant that drove tigers into a kill zone, where Rik shot it in the head. The Beatles happened to be in Maharishi’s bungalow when the hunters described their tiger kill.

John Lennon piped in. “Don’t you call that slightly life-destructive?” Nancy said, in defense, “Well, John, it was either the tiger or us.” Maharishi said coldly, “Life destruction is life destruction. End of story!” John described “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill”: “about a guy in Maharishi’s meditation camp who took a short break to shoot a few poor tigers, and then came back to commune with God.”

Terry Gustafson, originally from Tucson, AZ, was a Ranger in Sequoia National Park. A bitter divorce drove him to LSD, which he took weekly for six months—enough to realize drugs weren’t the answer. Terry came across John Lennon outside the lecture hall in Rishikesh. Terry was dressed in short hair and khakis. John wore a flowing paisley cape, Indian shirt, red sash, white bell-bottom pants, and green Egyptian slippers with curled-up toes. His hair was dyed five different colors. Strobe lights built into his eyeglasses flashed on and off.

“Look at you!” “Look at me!” John exclaimed. “One of us don’t belong ‘ere. Get back to the forest! Get back to Tucson Arizona! Get back where you belong!” After that, John often told Terry to “Get back!” when their paths crossed. This was how “Get Back” was conceived.

When Paul heard loud crowing in the early morning, he wrote “Blackbird.” Years later he ascribed the song greater significance, claiming it was about a female African American in the Civil Rights Movement. Paul wrote “Why Don’t We Do it in the Road?” after he saw two monkeys copulating. It occurred to Paul that people’s sexuality should be natural, simple, and free as animals.

One day at breakfast, Beach Boy Mike Love helped Paul with “Back in the USSR,” with its Beach Boys sound. Mike suggested the mention of girls from Moscow, Ukraine, and Georgia.

Paul said about “Fool on the Hill,” “I think I was writing about someone like Maharishi. His detractors called him a fool. Because of his giggle he wasn’t taken too seriously.”

In “My Sweet Lord,” George Harrison sang Sanskrit words from the puja ceremony chanted during every TM initiation. Here’s the translation: “The guru is Brahma, Vishnu, and the great Lord Shiva. The guru is the eternal Brahman, the transcendental absolute. I bow to the supreme guru, adorned with glory.”

George’s “Long, Long, Long” was about tears shed in losing and finding God. His “Sour Milk Sea,” written in ten minutes one evening in Rishikesh, promoted the simple process of TM as the way to overcome dissatisfaction and limitation.

The fiftieth anniversary of the release of the album The Beatles (a.k.a the “White Album”), which the Beatles wrote in Rishikesh, is on November 22, 2018.



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