The Story Behind 'Dear Prudence'

Dec 23, 2018

Prudence Farrow Bruns, left, with Ringo Starr, the Beatles and their wives at the Rishikesh in India with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1968.
Credit Colin Harrison/Avico

It was 1968 when 19-year-old Prudence Farrow Bruns was traveling to India to take a course on transcendental meditation with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

Studying in India was a dream Prudence had since she was first introduced to traditional yoga meditation just a few years earlier. But the course was a life-changing experience for Farrow in more ways than one.

“It was the fulfillment of everything I wanted,” she said recently sitting in her meditation studio in Seagrove Beach. “I really feel that I was transformed by it completely. I still had a lot to learn…but I felt whole.”

It was during this trip that Prudence found a deeper appreciation for transcendental meditation — or TM — and it was also when she met the Beatles. John Lennon would later write the song “Dear Prudence” about her, which was the second track on the band's self-titled album, otherwise known as The White Album. 

Listen to the song

‘You must be Prudence’

Prudence grew up around celebrities — her father, John Farrow, was a film director and her mother, Maureen O’ Sullivan was an actress. And while she was a fan of the Fab Four, Prudence said she was cautious about meeting them.

“I was raised in Hollywood, what I learned was that fame can be very corrupting…it goes to their heads,” she explained. “I really didn’t want to meet the Beatles because I actually admired them. I didn’t want to be disappointed.”  

Mia and Prudence Farrow get off the plane in India in 1968 to study transcendental meditation with the Maharishi.

The foursome arrived in some fanfare with their significant others. Prudence's sister, the actress Mia Farrow, had gone to meet the band at the airport, but Prudence stayed behind.

She remembers seeing an entire separate car for their luggage. It was later that evening after they settled in that Prudence went to get her dinner when she was approached by Lennon.

“You must be Prudence,” he said.

“He was really friendly, I was taken aback,” Prudence remembered. “Here was someone who was genuine. I felt that way about all of them. They were regular people.”

There were about 60 people taking Maharishi's course at that time including Prudence, Lennon and George Harrison. After lessons, the three of them would go over the material they learned together.

"George was on the same spiritual journey," Prudence said. "He had some beautiful experiences and was there to grow in that."

At the ashram, Prudence remembers George regularly visiting a woman who was grieving her dead son, he wanted to give back through his music, she said. When Prudence became so wrapped up in her meditation studies that she rarely left her room, John and George sang to her to "come out and play." Which led to the song, "Dear Prudence."

She didn't hear the song until she returned home from India.

"I'm so grateful it was a positive song," she said with a laugh. "They told me they wrote it and they were always very sweet to me, but I didn't know what (the song) would say."

Prudence Farrow Bruns

A quiet life

Years later when she would start a family, her kids didn't seem too impressed with their mother's connection to the band. 

"My children weren't into The Beatles," she said. "My daughter would say, 'Oh mom, get over it.' But to her son's generation, it was a big deal.”

Now, Prudence said she uses that link to pop culture as a way to introduce more young people to meditation. In 2015, she wrote, "Dear Prudence: The Story Behind the Song" to share her experience with transcendental meditation, the Beatles, and the culture of the late 1960s.

"(In 1968) Young people, shaped by music, drugs, and opposition to the Vietnam War, are increasingly embracing eastern mysticism and philosophies — including the Beatles," it reads on the back cover of the book.

Prudence continued to teach transcendental meditation as she worked as a movie producer.  She returned to school and earned a Ph.D. in South Asian studies, Sanskrit, from the University of California, Berkeley in 2007. Now, in retirement, she still teaches TM in Seagrove Beach where she lives with her husband, Albert. She prefers the quiet life surrounded by nature and found that balance in Florida.

“One of the first things my husband said to me was ‘You know there’s such a place as paradise on Earth,’” Prudence said. “His family would spend summers here (in Seagrove Beach). We came here for our honeymoon, came here for summers before we retired here.”

It’s been 50 years since that visit to India and the release of the White Album. The song, while iconic, is not what defines Prudence. Instead, it’s her work in meditation.

"I feel very privileged in two ways," Prudence said. "One, instead of building cars or even making movies, I'm dealing with the essence of what we are. I also meet people intimately. And I see people who are transformed by (meditation). It’s a great, satisfying privilege. It's my service...all of us need to do service for each other and for our world." 

Learn more about Prudence and meditation on her website at prudencefbruns.com