Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (January 12, 1918 – February 5, 2008) was born Mahesh Prasad Varma and obtained the honorific Maharishi (meaning “Great Seer”) and Yogi as an adult.
He developed the Transcendental Meditation technique and was the leader and guru of a worldwide organization that has been characterized in multiple ways including as a new religious movement and as non-religious.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Maharishi achieved fame as the guru to the Beatles, The Beach Boys and other celebrities. In the late 1970s, he started the TM-Sidhi programme that claimed to offer practitioners the ability to levitate and to create world peace. The Maharishi’s Natural Law Party was founded in 1992, and ran campaigns in dozens of countries. He moved to near Vlodrop, the Netherlands, in the same year. In 2000, he created the Global Country of World Peace, a non-profit organization, and appointed its leaders. In 2008, the Maharishi announced his retirement from all administrative activities and went into silence until his death three weeks later.
The Maharishi is reported to have trained more than 40,000 TM teachers, taught the Transcendental Meditation technique to “more than five million people” and founded thousands of teaching centers and hundreds of colleges, universities and schools, while TM websites report tens of thousands learned the TM-Sidhi programme. His initiatives include schools and universities with campuses in several countries including India, Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Switzerland. The Maharishi, his family and close associates created charitable organisations and for-profit businesses including health clinics, mail-order health supplements and organic farms. The reported value of the Maharishi’s organization has ranged from the millions to billions of U.S. dollars and in 2008, the organization placed the value of their United States assets at about $300 million.