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Maharishi Mahesh Yogi; Was Meditation Guru to the Beatles

The Maharishi had overcome similar provincial fears in 1974, when he founded a university in Fairfield, Iowa. His followers later founded Maharishi Vedic City nearby. There are thousands of his transcendental meditation teaching centers around the world. His organization's $3.5 billion in assets include a chain of hotels, a health food distribution network and a veritable library of instructional books and videotapes, in addition to real estate holdings that include a five-story, 20,000-square-foot building near the New York Stock Exchange.

The Maharishi recently vowed to raise $10 trillion to end poverty by sponsoring organic farming in the world's poorest countries.

He was born Mahesh Prasad Varma in Uttar Pradesh, India. Much of his early life, including his birthdate, is in dispute, and the Maharishi declined to discuss his youth. Some sources say he was born in 1911, which would have made him 96 or 97, but a spokesman for the transcendental meditation movement said he was 91.

The Maharishi studied physics at Allahabad University, then became a secretary and follower of a prominent Hindu sage Swami Brahmananda Saraswati Shankaracharya of Jyotir Math, also known as Guru Dev.

After his teacher died in 1953, the young man retreated into the Himalayas for two years of meditation. When he emerged, he devoted himself to popularizing his master's form of meditation, which was derived from the Hindu belief of Vedanta. The belief holds that God is to be found in every creature and object, that the purpose of human life is to realize the godliness in oneself and that religious truths are universal.

In 1963, he finished his first major book, "The Science of Being and Art of Living," and in 1965 he completed his commentary on the Bhagavad-Gita, a sacred Sanskrit text.

He encouraged scientific investigation of his claims, and a number of studies found beneficial physical and mental effects for people who regularly practiced transcendental meditation.

The Maharishi moved to the Netherlands in 1990, drawn to the tolerant nature of its people. Few saw him, as he emerged only a few times each year for fresh air on a chauffeured drive, the New York Times reported in 2006.

His introduction of "yogic flying" as an advanced meditation technique, which he had described as levitation, brought scorn from critics who said it was nothing more than cross-legged hopping. They called him a fraud. But when it is performed by a critical mass of people, the Maharishi said, it would lead to peace.

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