Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the guru who introduced the Beatles to transcendental meditation, has died at his home in Vlodrop, in the Netherlands. He was believed to be around 91 years old.

By Martin Hodgson

Feb 6, The Guardian

A spokesman for the Transcendental Meditation (TM) movement said he had died peacefully, apparently from "natural causes, his age".

Although the maharishi never abandoned his claim to be leading humanity towards a new era of peace and harmony, he transformed his interpretations of ancient scripture into a multimillion-dollar global empire with more than 5m followers worldwide seeking his higher state of consciousness.

He first bought his teachings to the United States in 1959, but the movement gained popularity when the Beatles visited his ashram in India in 1968. The band announced they had abandoned LSD after being exposed to his messages of universal love and peace, but disillusionment set in - a line in John Lennon's song Sexy Sadie, "You made a fool of everyone" is said to refer to the maharishi - and they fell out when the band were discovered using drugs at his Himalayan retreat.

Last year, the folk singer Donovan and the film director David Lynch announced plans to open a university in Scotland teaching TM as a means of reducing violence, crime and stress.

Over the years, the maharishi was accused of fraud over his 'yogic flying'. Supporters showed followers apparently hovering in the lotus position. Closer inspection of the footage, however, showed they were hopping, not flying.

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photo: The Beatles join the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi for a weekend of meditation in Wales in 1967 (AP)