Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and Switzerland

On February 5th, 2008 Maharishi Mahesh Yogi died at his international headquarters in The Netherlands at the age of 91. He was the founder of the Transcendental Meditation Movement, and probably best known as the spiritual teacher of the Beatles and other celebrities back in the 1960’s and 70’s.

What has been forgotten over the years is Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s close connection with Switzerland. One of my assignments as a young journalist with the international service of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation back in 1978 was to prepare a feature on Transcendental Meditation, which had chosen Seelisberg above the Lake of Lucerne as its world headquarters. The Movement had taken over the “Sonnenberg”, a former grand hotel in need of repair – at one time, the home away from home of the traveling rich and famous from all over the world, who went there for so-called “mountain cures” or just to enjoy the beautiful scenery. At the bottom of the cliffs in front of the Sonnenberg is the Rütli Meadow, the birthplace of the Swiss Confederation in 1291.

Maharishi often declared his happiness in being in Seelisberg, calling it a place of peace and the most creative place in Central Europe. In the heyday of the TM Movement in Seelisberg, the tiny village was filled with Swiss and foreign outsiders, who had flocked there to attend lectures given by Maharishi, or to become teachers of the Transcendental Meditation technique. At the same time, Seelisberg became the headquarters of MERU, the Maharishi European Research University, which conducted scientific research into the beneficial effects of TM, which was later recognized by the World Health Organization.

But the influx of so many hundreds of extra people into the small village – many looking out-of-place because of their exotic dress – led to suspicion and irritation among the locals – so much so that the authorities decided that the TM headquarters could stay, but Maharishi would have to limit his entourage to a small handful of people during each period of residence. This was not acceptable, so Maharishi quietly left for The Netherlands, which became his new home and center of operations until his death.

Today, the TM facility at Seelisberg remains and is still a busy place, albeit on a much smaller scale than in the 1970’s and early 80’s. MERU is nominally still there, although the main thrust of activity now involves the training and development of the so-called “Mothers Divine”, a group of advanced female TM practitioners. In addition, there is the nearby Maharishi Medical Centre, a separately-run, public clinic devoted to the practice of the traditional Indian medical system called Ayurveda, which was heavily promoted by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

There is no question that Seelisberg witnessed some of the greatest moments in the history of the Transcendental Meditation Movement, and it will be remembered by many as the geographical center of the Movement’s golden age.

Through the courtesy of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation we can feature the accompanying audio file, which is the recording of an exclusive interview I had with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Seelisberg in 1978. In it we discussed the origin and benefits of TM, the Movement, and now most appropriately, what would happen after his death.

Bob Zanotti

More under Vintage Archive (Transcendental Meditation), Where to Go (Seelisberg) and Features (Ayurveda)