Maharishi Mahesh Yogi – fraud or a real Brand Guru?

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

I’ve never been one for activities that involved so much sitting still, but there’s no doubt there are people around who believe that transcendental meditation is where its at.  However, with the death of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who I guess has been its greatest promoter, we are back to the old debate of whether he was a money-grabbing fraud or the genuine article.

There is definitely a rich vein of “hard line realists” whose scepticism is fueled by their secret resentment of anybody who could build such a viable business, and apparently achieve total fulfillment, simply by sitting and talking (over simplification, but you get my idea), while they are killing themselves for the same result.  So, I’m immediately dismissive of these sceptics.

I’ve also yet to come across anybody who has met the Maharishi or participated in any of his ashrams and now falls into the sceptic camp.  Given the circles that I tend to find myself in (mainly hard-line realists) the fact that I have come across more people who are enthusiastic about the man than who are critical I guess points to a strong vote in his favour.

I have no axe to grind on the spiritual aspects of this debate – whatever floats your boat and  I think if someone can make a bucketful of money with a flawed proposition, then its fine by me, although in my experience its a business approach that isn’t sustainable.  What I like about this whole transcendental meditation thing though, is that it represents a really neat brand model. 

The way I see it is that the brand community that the Mahareshi created ticked all the boxes.  It was/is remarkable in the true sense of the word and completely fulfilled all the requisites of a lighthouse brand, which indeed it was, compared to its competitive brands/communities/beliefs in the sixties. 

His target market has always been vividly defined and the brand promise has evolved, but has remained uncompromising throughout.  As a result he achieved either complete buy-in or outright rejection, which, in a world where wishy-washiness just doesn’t cut it any more is exactly how every brand should be.  Because of this his community was extremely evangelistic and he is unlikely to have had hostages, as many brands do.  The evidence suggests that while on first glance you might view the dialogue within this community as rather one-way, in fact, given that the product was teaching, the community members (disciples) were extremely influential in its development and evolution.

The truly great thing about the promise though is that it was relevant, realistic and achievable and as far as I can see from the customer feedback he’s getting in the obituaries and threads today he delivered.  So, while I may not have been at the front of the queue to get into an ashram he would definitely get my vote for the “Brand Guru Hall of Fame”.

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