The first time I met Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was in Malibu, on the beach.
It was a typical summer day in Southern California. Not much was happening. There was a south swell. From time to time a sun worshipper atop a towel would flip over, a seagull would sail off into the fog, or a large set of waves would come crashing in.
As I recall, I stood on the beach with some of my surfing buddies. We were probably dressed in the surfer’s uniform of the era: corduroy pants and white Penney’s T-shirts covered by Pendeltons, not tucked in. Unlike most surfers on most beaches that day, however, we each held in our hands a bouquet of flowers.
Suddenly cars arrived. Doors were flung open. A cameraman emerged, and next some guys in suits. A brown, sandaled foot from within the car could be seen feeling for the ground, and then—bearded and wearing a long, flowing, white dhoti—an Indian man stepped out onto the dirt road. He seemed enveloped in a nimbus of such serenity and light that, seeing him, the effect was similar to what one feels deep in a canyon before dawn, when suddenly the sun bursts over the rim.
With the camera now trained on us-the surfer-boy extras in a documentary film—Maharishi approached, clearly enjoying the eternity in each step as he floated across the sand. As he drew near, something happened that I was not at all prepared for. My soul began to swoon. In place of the crashing of the waves, which now seemed far in the distance, was an immensely beautiful sea of silent consciousness. It was, to put it mildly, simply adorable. Lost in it, I could neither speak nor move. When Maharishi tugged on my flowers, I was unable to release my grip. He looked into my eyes, touched my hand, and my fingers opened.
It would be impossible to forget the blithe beauty of those eyes. He looked into each of ours, playfully. After accepting our flowers he looked out to sea, and then, regarding us again and smiling like the happiest man on earth, he asked, “Are you enjoying the ocean?”
Thus began my transcendental studies—lessons such as I had never known. The classroom was the heart; the assignment was to locate the point within where the soul loses its boundaries and becomes absorbed in something infinite.
Typically, by the time Maharishi arrived at his seat in any of the countless lecture halls he spoke in around the world, he would be hugging to his chest hundreds of flowers accepted from students greeting him on his way in. And in each one of those exchanges was a moment as spiritually transforming as the one I had known on the beach. Yet Maharishi’s aim was not to establish a personality cult. Each and every flower he accepted in each and every lecture hall he would place reverently before the image of his beloved teacher, Guru Dev, to whom he dedicated every instant of his life. And he tirelessly encouraged each of us to dive into the ocean of consciousness his Guru Dev embodied, by diving deep within our hearts during meditation.
Maharishi, in speaking of his teacher, always emphasized that the events in a spiritually illumined life are not so important. What is important is the state of his or her enlightenment. So I will not list all Maharishi’s many accomplishments throughout the world. Perhaps something of his level of presence can be felt through these few words.
Maharishi visited Santa Barbara on several occasions because some of his dearest friends lived here: Walter and Rae Koch, the family of Tom and Susan Headley, and Arthur and Christina Granville. Over the past few decades, teachers at Santa Barbara’s Transcendental Meditation center instructed more than 10,000 Santa Barbarans in meditation. In addition, Santa Barbara was at one time the home of the fledgling Maharishi International University, now located in Fairfield, Iowa.
“Are you enjoying the ocean?” Although those were the first words I had ever heard him speak, through the years I realized that they contained his entire teaching. For Maharishi was absolutely certain of one fact: His soul was forever floating within an ocean of unbounded bliss. He was well aware that the state of life he was living was adorable, and that anyone could begin to live it.
(The year of Maharishi’s birth is unknown but is believed to have been between 1911 and 1918.)