By Margot Winick
I have always been curious about the people immortalized in Beatles songs. One of my favorites is the romantic “Dear Prudence.” The song, with its simple but endearing lyrics “the sun is up / the sky is blue / it’s beautiful / and so are you,” praises nature and beauty and this mysterious woman with a decidedly old-school name. But, was “Dear Prudence” a love letter from John to a woman who I understood to be the sister of actress Mia Farrow? Was there a love connection there? Apparently not.
The subject of the song is Prudence Farrow Bruns, who is indeed the younger sister of actress Mia Farrow. In February of 1968, she was among a group who went to Rishekesh, in the remote wilderness of north India, to undertake a course with the guru of Transcendental Meditation, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. There, The Beatles, along with several acquaintances (John and wife Cynthia, George and wife Pattie, Paul and girlfriend Jane Asher, Ringo and wife Maureen, Pattie’s sister Jenny Boyd, Donovan, Beatles road manager Mal Evans, Beach Boy Mike Love, jazz flautist Paul Horn, Mia Farrow, her brother John and sister Prudence) lived in an ashram with the goal of mastering the techniques of TM.
Against the Maharishi’s advice, Prudence Farrow quickly delved into deep meditation with such intensity that she was becoming a recluse from the group. When she wasn’t seen for weeks at a time, John wrote a song, urging her to socialize with the rest. “Open up your eyes” and “see the sunny skies,” he wrote, reminding her that “you are part of everything.” Lennon later claimed that she had been “locked in for three weeks and was trying to reach God quicker than anyone else.”
According to Bruns, who had already begun studying meditation years before, and seized this opportunity to perfect her techniques so she could become a teacher herself, “I knew that I must have stuck out because I would always rush straight back to my room after lectures and meals so I could meditate. It was all so fascinating to me. John, George and Paul would all want to sit around jamming and having a good time, and I’d be flying into my room. They were all serious about what they were doing, but they just weren’t as fanatical as me. The song that John wrote was just saying, ‘Come out and play with us. Come out and have fun.’ ”
This she eventually did, and came to know the Beatles better when the Maharishi put her in the after-lecture discussion group with John and George. “We were questioning reality,” she said, “asking questions about who we were and what was going on. I liked them and I think they liked me.”
At the end of the three-month course, as the Beatles were departing, George mentioned the song John had written to Prudence, but she didn’t hear it until it was released later that year on The White Album. “I was flattered. It was a beautiful thing to have done,” she said.
Bruns went on to study South and Southeast Asian studies at UC Berkeley. She returned for further instruction from the Maharishi in 1986, and has taught TM for several decades, now based in Northwest Florida. She has written articles on healthy living, ayurveda and Asian studies. Just last year, she established the nonprofit Dear Prudence Foundation to raise funds for educational initiatives of the Maharishi.
The Beatles were very inspired to write during that period. Another beautiful song written during that trip was “Jennifer Juniper” by Donovan for Pattie Boyd’s sister Jennifer.