Dear Prudence—The Story Behind the Song

By Prudence Farrow Bruns

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The sheet music for The Beatles’ song “Dear Prudence”

“Dear Prudence” refers to a Beatles song written about me in 1968 in India and recorded for The White Album. For many years I preferred to stay out of the limelight and let others speculate as to why John Lennon wrote that song. Several years ago, my grandson invited me to his high school to meet his friends. My initial reaction was to ask why his friends would want to meet his grandmother. He told me to just come.

When I arrived, I was treated like a superstar as a large group gathered around me. To my surprise, all of them knew and listened to The Beatles’ music. I later informally visited the lower and middle schools and, again, was met by similar crowds of children who all wanted to hear about The Beatles.

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Beatles fans greet the band’s arrival at an airport in 1964

Watch it: Beatlemania

The Beatles’ music spoke to many in my generation. It was our voice, a collective voice, one of hope and change. Seeing the strong reactions at the schools showed me that this voice is still resonating and being heard. I suddenly felt a responsibility to help keep that voice alive, and because the Beatles’ song is about me, I now feel almost duty-bound.

These encounters with kids of today’s generation woke me up. As I looked around, I realized what were once revolutionary ideas and dreams are now mainstream, be it yoga, meditation, alternative medicine, environmental awareness, sustainability, eating local and organic food, or concepts such as “you are what you eat,” “happiness comes from within,” and “change the world by changing yourself.”

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Meditation can be done anywhere…anytime

My generation is passing the mantle. Take it further, and be the solution. Practice meditation. Deepen your awareness by transcending within and anchoring your mind in serenity. Create a better, peaceful world starting with yourself. When people ask me why The Beatles wrote the song about me, I tell them it is because I wanted to meditate more than anything else. Yes, perhaps I wanted to gain spiritual enlightenment before anyone else, as John Lennon has said, but really it was so much more.

My life would have been different—I would have been a different person—had I not been named Prudence. Because of the meaning behind this name, I felt a sense of responsibility or destiny I had to live up to, influencing everything I would do in my life. It was my father who insisted on giving me the name. Many of my parents’ Hollywood friends advised them against stigmatizing their child with such a name. I would never really know why this name meant so much to my father.

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Prudence as a child, second from right, with her siblings and famous parents

Because of the name Prudence and the sense of destiny that comes with it, I always felt I had to live up to the highest expectations. People would notice me and ask if I was prudent. Did I even know what prudence means? Or they would tell me I was anything but prudent, so how did I get the name Prudence? I was in second-grade religion class when I first became aware of my name’s significance. The class was told that prudence is a cardinal virtue. I felt so proud. Prudence is the sister of wisdom. Prudence is the knowledge of the most Holy of Holies.

Dear Prudence, like a little child
The clouds will be a daisy chain
So let me see you smile again
—The Beatles

Although I was born in Los Angeles, my life, as I know it, really began in Rishikesh, India, in 1968. Arriving in New Delhi in mid-January, I traveled to Rishikesh by car with my sister Mia Farrow and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. My path would then cross with John Lennon and George Harrison, of The Beatles, as they joined the meditation course also searching inward for their own personal answers.

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Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

My new environment was alien to anything I had ever experienced. Maharishi’s academy was perched high on a cliff overlooking the Ganges River at the end of an enormous wild jungle sanctuary. Surrounded by the exotic sounds of the jungle nightlife and feeling particularly vulnerable, I reflected on my life’s journey and how it had brought me to this point. The great roar of the river could be heard gently thundering in the background below. I felt the gravity of hundreds of years of great souls who braved the harsh elements of a rugged life to pursue deep meditation alone in the jungles along the Ganges River as it first issues forth from the base of the Himalayan Mountain Range.

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Meditation chambers, now in ruins, at Maharishi’s former ashram in Rishikesh

My first night in Rishikesh as I lay shivering in my bed beneath layers of blankets, I felt a mixture of elation and apprehension. I had dreamed of coming here to meditate, and finally it was happening. Yet there was the realization that I would be cloistered thousands of miles away from home for three months of intensive self-reflection and deep meditation. I told myself that I had asked for this. Driven by a relentless passion to reach deep inside, I had prayed day and night that I be brought to India to experience the profound wisdom of its ancient sages. Now I was finally here and the reality was both glorious and very frightening.

My life up to this point, however misguided, was ultimately a quest for the truth. What does that mean? I was looking to make sense of my existence. This did not necessarily mean intellectual sense but sense to my soul, my core. I needed to find peace, true peace inside myself. My spiritual quest began in the most unlikely of places—in Beverly Hills with Hollywood film parents. In the end, I found my salvation in Rishikesh.

Watch it: The Beatles–Dear Prudence

Excerpted with permission from Dear Prudence: The Story Behind the Song, available at amazon.com. Learn more about the author at prudencefbruns.com. All images from wikipedia.org.

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