So many global problems, so few meditators

Obituary writing is a dead beat in the Indian media. Unlike in Britain and the United States, where writing with grace and style about the newly dead has become an art-form at the hands of specialists, Indian obituaries are largely updated CVs in prose form rustled up by some intern. So even to read about good Indians who are dead, you need to turn West.

The Economist obituary of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi:

“Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who had studied maths and physics at Allahabad University, had calculated that one person practising the transcendental meditation he promoted could induce virtuous behaviour among 99 non-meditators. He had already, in 1944, helped to get 2,000 Vedic pandits, learned followers of one of the four holy books of the Hindus, to chant mantras in an effort to bring the second world war to an end. He had again assembled meditators in 1963 to solve the Cuban missile crisis. But his ambitions were bigger—world peace, no less—and by the 1980s he had come to realise that to bring harmony to a world of 5 billion people, he would need 50m meditators.

“Undaunted, he did the arithmetic again, this time factoring in meditation of deep purity and concentration (including yogic flying), and happily found he needed a number no greater than the square root of 1%—a mere 7,000 or so. Accordingly, 7,000 flyers were assembled during the Taste of Utopia conference in Fairfield, Iowa, in 1984. Annoyingly, though, the “wide range of positive effects worldwide” ended with the conference. Something similar happened after 7,000 students gathered for yogic flying and Vedic chanting near Delhi in 1988. The Berlin Wall came down all right and the cold war ended, but the money needed to keep the group airborne ran out and, dammit, “new tensions” started to arise in the world.”

Read the full obituary: Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

Also read: Dead people, deadly prose

In the end, a long life becomes a one-liner