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Virtual OrientalismAsian Religions and American Popular Culture$
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Jane Iwamura

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199738601

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199738601.001.0001

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Hyperreal Samadhi

Hyperreal Samadhi

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

(p.63) 3 Hyperreal Samadhi
Virtual Orientalism

Jane Naomi Iwamura

Oxford University Press

Celebrity defines a new authorial framework, as the Maharishi Mahesh and his Transcendental Meditation movement gain legitimacy through the guru’s association with well-known entertainment stars in the 1960s. The spectacle of celebrity spiritual seekers lend a hyperreal dimension to American’s understanding of Asian religions as these media engagements surreptitiously offer the sense of a more direct encounter. This chapter offers close readings of the cover stories that appeared in American popular magazines and pays close attention to the high-impact images that accompanied the text. Representations of Mahesh could easily be divided into two camps, critical or reverent, and were informed by the generational perspective of both reporter and magazine. Despite an apparent cultural shift in attitudes toward Asian religious alternatives and celebrity endorsement, both youthful enthusiasts and their reluctant predecessors drew on Orientalist notions to make their case. The representation of India in press reports and Mahesh’s modern-day incarnation, Deepak Chopra, are also discussed.

Keywords:   Maharishi Mahesh, Transcendental Meditation, Hinduism, the Beatles, Mia Farrow, Deepak Chopra, India, celebrity, irony, visual rhetoric

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