Somewhere in here, Ringo and Maureen decided it was time to go home. They’d left their children (including Jason, barely 6 months old) behind in London, Ringo had a sensitive stomach that couldn’t tolerate spicy food, and Maureen was horrified by India’s giant insects. The exact date of their departure is variously given as March 1, 3, and 6, but on balance today seems most likely.

Losing Ringo did not sit well with the Maharishi, who was enjoying the fact that the presence of all four Beatles made Rishikesh more or less the center of the known universe. (The value of a Beatle increases exponentially according to how many you have, not unlike railroads in Monopoly.) He put pressure on the Starkeys to stay and encouraged the other three Beatles to do the same, but Ringo and Maureen held fast; they might have dealt with the food and the bugs, but the kids were a deal-breaker.

And here we see again that the Maharishi’s focus on spiritual matters was not exactly laser-sharp. He was also intensely aware of public relations, marketing, and finance. According to Philip Norman’s book Shout!,

Neil [Aspinall] was… making arrangements for Apple Films to finance a production in which the Maharishi himself would star. “We had a meeting about it in his bungalow,” Neil says. “Suddenly, this little guy in a robe who’s meant to be a holy man starts talking about his two-and-a-half percent. ‘Wait a minute,’ I thought, ‘he knows more about making deals than I do. He’s really into scoring, the Maharishi.’ ”

This of course raises the question of the Maharishi’s relationships with women, which is a whole other subject that we will broach at a later date. Suffice it to say that, however groovy his message, he was a classic cult leader who manipulated and controlled those around him. His was emphatically a top-down organization that brooked no opposition to its leader’s commands.

It’s never been clear to me why, if meditation is essentially a matter of seeking within, you would need some messiah to guide you. Of course it’s good to have a teacher, but the Maharishi had set himself up as the sole gateway to enlightenment for his students. There are inherent problems in such a cult of personality, and these would become more and more clear to The Beatles the longer they stayed in Rishikesh. But I’m getting a little beyond the scope of my mission here, so that will be all for today.

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