(Soundbite of song, "All You Need is Love")
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
That Beatle's song inspired by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the smiling guru who brought the world Transcendental Meditation.
Mr. MAHARISHI MAHESH YOGI: During the practice of transcendental mediation, your breathing becomes slow and the metabolic rate becomes slow and...
(Soundbite of music)
BRAND: The mystical other worldliness of the Maharishi was very attractive in the hippie era. But it turns out that the guru, who died last month, amassed a personal fortune that his spokesman told one reporter may exceed $1 billion. He established universities, housing developments and businesses, selling everything from books to organic food products.
(Soundbite of commercial)
Mr. JEFF GILPIN (Author, "The Maharishi Effect): He has a product basically for every aspect of human life.
BRAND: Jeff Gilpin is a former disciple who's written about his TM experience in a book called "The Maharishi Effect." He says the guru's organization is vast, complex, and probably worth billions.
Mr. GILPIN: The total worth of Maharishi and the movement is a very closely held secret and the various goods and services, real estate and so forth. One spreadsheet that I saw that added all of this up did come out to around two to three billion dollars. So I don't think that that's a fantastic claim at all.
BRAND: When transcendental meditation hit college campuses in the late 1960s, students were charged a small fee of around $35. That soon grew to $2,500 for a five day course.
Writer Jeff Gilpin, who still meditates every day, says that emphasis on money led him and millions of others to abandon the Maharishi. Gilpin believes his legacy is positive in the sense that the Maharishi almost single-handedly introduced Eastern spiritualism to the West.
Mr. GILPIN: On the other hand, it is a very troubling legacy that raises disturbing questions about the nature of unquestioned power and authority in a religious movement.
BRAND: Jeff Gilpin, author of "The Maharishi Effect," commenting on reports that the guru apparently died a billionaire.
(Soundbite of song, "You Never Give Me Your Money")
THE BEATLES (Rock Band): (Singing) You never give me your money, you only give me your funny papers, and in the middle of negotiations you break down; I never give you my number, I only give you...