My Maharishi – David Frost

“Maharishi came across as being one of those people who was absolutely impossible to offend. A man of knowledge who knew what he was about, someone who couldn’t be offended, and who’s just there innocently to bring knowledge to the world, to whomever it was that wished to learn it.”

Thom Knoles

Episode Summary

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was a popular interview subject for media icons throughout the world for many decades, often appearing more than once as a guest on high-profile shows.

In this episode, Thom gives a first-hand, behind-the-scenes account of an interview Maharishi did with David Frost on the BBC in the 1970s.

He describes the warm relationship Maharishi had with Frost, and his delightful response to a potentially difficult question Frost put to him. As Maharishi often did, he brought a more correct perspective to the situation, one that revealed his true character and his true mission in life.

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Episode Highlights


A Great Seer



The Status of a Maharishi



Maharishi in Great Britain



The Green Room



Maharishi at His Best



A Cuban Cigar and a Deer Skin






Acerbic Questions






“Come Out of this Weakness”



Who am I Trying to Protect?



“Only a Million Pounds?”





Jai Guru Deva


My Maharishi – David Frost

Jai Guru Deva. Welcome to my podcast, The Vedic Worldview. I’m Thom Knoles.

[00:00:54] A Great Seer

From time to time, I like to tell stories which we’ve put under the heading of My Maharishi. Maharishi means Maha, great, Rishi, a seer, someone who can see the reality, see the reality of their own status as the Knower. That is to say, one is not diluted by identity being offered up by the relative world, the ever-changing relative world, someone who is steadfast in their inner sense of what I am, who I am, that my identity is the one indivisible, whole consciousness field, The Absolute.

Knower, and then Knowing. The Knowing, the means of gaining knowledge, the processes through which observation occurs. Then this being refined and refined to the point that sensory experience is at its most acute, hearing and taste and touch and smell and sight and sound.

One’s ability to actually have an accurate experience of one’s surroundings, and then being able to use the intellect, that Knower intellect, to know that all reports being made by others are reports on the state of consciousness of those reporters, so the people can only ever speak their own state of consciousness.

[00:02:38] The Status of a Maharishi

Having that within the realm of the Knowing, we have Knower, we have Knowing, and then the Known, that which is the object of all of this, can be known in its totality.

Once the Knower is known, once the process of gaining knowledge and processes of gaining knowledge, are all streamlined and made frictionless and unsullied, then we have the Known which can be experienced in its totality as to what it actually is. This is the status of a Maharishi.

In the west, we say Maharishi, and that will do. That’s quite all right to say it that way— Great seer, Maharishi. In India, it’s pronounced a little differently. Maha-rishi, Maharishi, Maharishi, when they put it all together with a bit of speed, Maha-rishi turns into Maharshi.

[00:03:39] Maharishi in Great Britain

So, let me tell you a story of being with Maharishi once in Great Britain, and some of you who are somewhere near my age, up in the eighth decade kind of arena, might remember the name David Frost.

David Frost was a celebrated interviewer who had a variety of shows from radio on the BBC, the British broadcasting system to the BBC television, and other commercial stations, which gave him a very respected name in broadcasting, both in interviewing, and also presentation of current events to the world, and was really quite a skilled interviewer, a very intelligent man with a laser-sharp focus, and who was really rather fearless about asking almost any kind of question, even if it appeared to be unfriendly to his interviewee to do so.

And David was, as an individual, quite an imposing character, relatively tall, and very self-assured, had a lot of confidence.

He had requested to interview Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, my teacher, for a second time, having once before interviewed him in the late 1960s, during a period of time when the Liverpool singing group, The Beatles, had gained some world fame and also had been proclaiming their own practice of Maharishi’s meditation technique, that had brought a lot of attention onto Maharishi, and in the 1960s, David had interviewed Maharishi once before. And I think had actually met him on two or three other occasions, incidentally, not necessarily part of an interview.

[00:05:48] The Green Room

But the story I’m going to recount was in the BBC studios in London, on the second television interview that David was going to present to his audience.

In many broadcasting situations today, as in those days of decades and decades ago, this is going back into the 1970s now, there was a room that was referred to as “the green room,” where people who were about to go on the air or about to come out were able to be made comfortable, where the last touches of television makeup went on because your face tends to glisten a little bit with its own natural oils and things under the lights.

And so very often, people’s faces are given a little bit of brushing to make them be not quite so shiny under the TV lights, the bright television lights. And their beverages and comfortable chairs, and all that. This is to make the guests who were about to go in front of potentially, and as in the case of Frost’s show, millions of viewers to make the guests a little bit more at ease and comfortable, perhaps.

[00:07:09] Maharishi at His Best

And Maharishi, a number of people who looked after him who could have sat in the green room with him, and I can’t remember exactly how it happened or why, I was relatively a newcomer to Maharshi’s entourage, but I ended up being the person who was to mind Maharishi in those last minutes before his going on air.

And as I was sitting there with him and I was feeling a little nervous because, frankly, it was Maharishi, and there’d been so many people who had said to me, people who were close to Maharishi, who had said, “Oh, you know, it’s terrible the way the media treat him, the way interviewers treat him, that they don’t show him respect. They ask him all of these irrelevant questions about trivial matters and petty things, and they need to give him an opportunity to say what it is he’s in the world teaching.”

I, on the other hand, had witnessed a number of interviews, just videotapes of previous interviews, and heard some recordings of these. And from my level of experience, I thought Maharishi was always at his best when confronted with the ignorance of, that was being represented through the interviewer, not that the interviewer was always ignorant, but that the interviewer had to represent the lack of informedness, the lack of knowledge or education of his audience, his or her.

[00:08:45] A Cuban Cigar and a Deer Skin

And that I thought Maharishi always performed at his best when confronted with the darkness of lack of knowledge. But it was exciting because millions would be viewing this.

And as we were sitting there in the green room, suddenly there was a noise at the other end, it was a rather long rectangular room, and it was a door opening and in came Mr. Frost. David Frost, who was smoking a big Cuban cigar, and he had on, as I remember it, a double-breasted green suit. He was always a very natty dresser.

And he came walking across the room with his cigar in one hand, and his right hand extended, and walked up smiling to where Maharishi was seated on his deer skin. Maharishi was, when he went somewhere, didn’t matter where he went, wherever he was, he always sat on a traditional deer skin, which was the traditional thing for yogis to do from the Himalayas, so that you always had your own seat with its own vibrations, and you weren’t sitting just anywhere that everybody else had sat. It isolated you from the vibrations of the seat that had been sat on by many prior geo.

So, I had placed his deerskin out on the chair, and he’d sat down on that. And Frost came walking up to him, and Maharishi was seated in, his legs in lotus position, which was his want, with all, he always carried flowers with him, with a big bunch of flowers in his lap.

And as Frost approached, extending his right hand, kind of marching toward Maharishi with a big genuine smile on his face, and followed, scurrying behind him, followed by a group of sub producers and so on.

[00:10:48] Maaharishi

“Maaharishi,” he said, “Maaharishi,” the great cloud of Cuban cigar smoke all around him, swirling about him.

Maharishi stood, and generally, Maharishi wouldn’t stand when somebody came up to him, he kind of expected people to just come up to him, but he stood on this occasion, and then he pressed his palms together in the classic Pranam that Indians do, and he smiled at David Frost and said, “We shake hands like this,” meaning press your palms together.

Which David promptly did, stopped, put his two feet together and, like he was going to click his heels, though he didn’t click his heels, but pressed his palms together with a cigar sticking out between two of the fingers, and said, “And I believe the words are Jaya Guru Deva.”

He was trying to say Jai Guru Deva.

And Maharishi said, “Yes, yes. Very good, very good. Ha ha ha,” laughing and all of that.

And David gestured back to Maharishi’s seat and said, “Please, please sit.” And a little chair was brought up for David and he sat near Maharishi. Took a great big long drag on his cigar and squinted his eyes in a classic David Frost fashion, blew the smoke out into the air, and then said, “Now Maharishi. We’ve met before. Such a great delight to have you back on my show. Thank you. Thank you for coming. Thank you.”

[00:12:28] Acerbic Questions

That beautiful British accent of his “Tonight, I’m sad to tell you, I’m going to have to ask you some questions that are not from me. They’re not from me, Maharishi. But there are questions of the type that my viewers are going to want to have answered by you. And I hope you’ll forgive me in advance for asking you such acerbic questions.

“And I would appreciate very much if you would do your best to answer them as if the questions that you’re being asked are not for me but from people who don’t know as much as I know about you. I consider you to be a good man. I’m on your side,” he says to Maharishi taking another big puff on his cigar.

And then he says, “Well, in a few moments.”

And to all this, Maharishi was just smiling and saying, “Yes, yes, yes. Of course. Of course. No, it’s not a problem. No, we’re not bringing knowledge to those who already have knowledge. That’s why we’re here. We’re bringing knowledge to those who don’t yet have knowledge. Very good. Very good. Very good,” he says.

And Frost says, “Well, Maaharishi, I’ll go and do what I have to do. And in a few moments, my sub producers here will come and bring you onstage.”

[00:13:51] Marker

And so then everybody scurried away. We had silence for a few moments. The air was filled with the grayish-blue smoke of the Cuban cigar. And I looked up at Maharishi, and I said, “Maharishi, I’m really sorry.”

[00:14:08] “Come Out of this Weakness”

And Maharishi came out of his little reverie, and he looked at me, and he said, “What? What is it?”

I said, “Oh, I’m, I’m really sorry. I’m sorry.”

He said, “What, what is it?”

I said, “Well, someone coming in here and smoking a cigar in your presence and all of that.” I was still becoming familiar with my teacher at that point. “Smoking a cigar in your presence, and it’s the smell of that and everything.”

Maharishi said to me, “Are you feeling a little weak?”

I said, “Oh no. I just, you know, felt as though I should somehow have protected you from that.”

Maharishi said, “No, no. What is it?” He said, “If you’re feeling a little weak, you could meditate for a few minutes. They’ll come in a few moments and I’ll be on the air.” He said, “Let’s close our eyes. You can meditate. And come out of this weakness.”

[00:15:05] Who am I Trying to Protect?

And I was sitting there realizing, “Who, who am I trying to protect? This is somebody who’s consciousness is established in Unified Field. Who am I trying to protect here?”

In fact, he was absolutely right. It wasn’t him that I was worried about. I hadn’t smelled cigar smoke up close like that for years, and living an ashram life, living in the life of the communes, where you’re learning to meditate and being trained as a teacher by Maharishi, it’s extremely rare for you ever to smell any kind of cigarette smoke or cigar smoke, indeed.

So, probably it was more me than him. Anyway, it certainly didn’t seem to bother him the least.

[00:15:48] “Only a Million Pounds?”

During that show, one particularly pivotal event occurred. I was over in the wings, and Maharishi was sitting in the chair being interviewed, and the interviewer says to him, “Maharishi, you have your organization here, in the United Kingdom, registered as a charity, The Spiritual Regeneration Movement, SRM Foundation Charity, is that right?”

Maharishi said, “Yes. Yes, that’s right. Yes. It’s a charity. It’s registered as a charity. Very good.”

And he said, “Well, I have here a letter from the Exchequer,” the Exchequer is the name given in Britain to the Treasurer, the, like the taxation department, “saying that your organization has in the last year, turned over 1 million pounds Sterling.”

Maharishi looked at him, and he said, “What is it? What’s the number?”

And he said, “1 million pounds Sterling.”

Maharishi looked at him, and he said, “It can’t be.”

And the interviewer said, “Maharishi, I have it here officially on the letterhead. Would you like to see it?”

He goes, “No, no, you hold the paper. 1 million?”

And he says, “Yes, it’s right here.” And Maharishi looks at him, and he says, “It’s not enough, only a million.” He said, “I’m expected to bring peace to the whole world with only a million pounds sterling? How can it be done?”

And then he cast a look in the direction of the wings of the studio, where I was standing, and he said out loud, “We have to do better than this. Only a million?”

[00:17:43] Unoffendable

I think the interviewer had been hoping that people would think a million was a lot and that Maharishi would be embarrassed by the fact that his organization had raised as much as a million.

From his perspective, thinking on a world scale, there’s no way that you could get around the world and bring this level of knowledge to the whole world with merely a million pounds Sterling.

So, he rather turned that surprise back onto the interviewer very, very well. And then he would just laugh and laugh.

His ability to laugh his way through interviewers trying to create uncomfortable moment was absolutely genius and amazing. It was a very natural laugh. It came from down deep in the heart.

And Maharishi came across as being one of those people who absolutely, as he was indeed unoffendable, impossible to offend him. A man of knowledge who knew what he was about, someone who couldn’t be offended, and who’s just there innocently to bring knowledge to the world to whomever it was that wished to learn it.

This was a beautiful day. Jai Guru Deva.

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