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The Gurus of Sergeant Pepper

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The Gurus of Sergeant Pepper

The Beatles' "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"

In June of 1967, the Beatles released what many claim to have been the greatest rock/pop album of all time. "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" took the world by storm with its creative imagery and innovative orchestration. And though the Fab Four later denied the claim, numerous rock historians dubbed Sgt. Pepper as the first in a long line of "concept albums."

On the front cover, scattered among the matinee idols, writers, comedians, and the Beatles themselves, were four faces that had music fans scratching their heads. Who were these exotic individuals and what were they doing on a Beatles album?

Those who searched the album casing discovered the word "guru" applied to the four men. Nine months later, when the Liverpool lads began to arrive at the Maharishi ashram in Rishikesh, India, the words "Beatles" and "guru" would be closely joined, but at this time the appearance of four "mahatmas" came as a surprise.

In time, diehard fans would hear the whole story. How George Harrison came to India in September 1966 to take sitar lessons from master musician Ravi Shankar. How Shankar gave Harrison a copy of Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda. And how that book impressed George so much that he borrowed the images of its four principal gurus, including Yogananda himself, for the Sgt. Pepper cover.

The Gurus Revealed
The stories of these great masters of yoga are told in Yogananda's autobiography in poetic detail. Their lives were intertwined with one another, and together they comprised some of the brightest stars in the celestial firmament of Indian saints - recharging the sacred soil of Mother India with their teachings, their presence, and their uplifting influence.

Paramhansa Yogananda
Situated on the Sgt. Pepper cover in the upper right corner below Bob Dylan is the author of Autobiography of a Yogi. This great saint was given the title of "Paramhansa" (highest swan) by his guru, and called "premavatar" (incarnation of divine love) by his most advanced disciple… (Read Full Bio)

Swami Sri Yukteswar
In the upper left corner of the Sgt. Pepper group photo we see the serene face of Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri. This great sage was the guru of Yogananda, and the disciple of Lahiri Mahasaya. His penetrating mind and the depths of his spiritual perceptions earned him the title of "gyanavatar" (incarnation of wisdom). … (Read Full Bio)

Lahiri Mahasaya
If we look closely we can spot this advanced yogi on the Beatles album cover, his half-closed eyes peeking out at us to the left of Lewis Carroll, in the third row from the top … (Read Full Bio)

Babaji
The guru of Lahiri Mahasaya can be found in the second row to the right of writer William S. Burroughs. Like Lahiri, Babaji's image is partly hidden on the cover. This is perhaps appropriate, for Babaji's powerful, sublime influence wafts over an unknowing world without fanfare - secret and sacred, like the reclusive master himself … (Read Full Bio)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Richard Salva is the author of Soul Journey from Lincoln to Lindbergh.
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