By Gina Catena

The TM Organization focuses upon FUNDRAISING for Pandits, while promising magic. Despite TM’s assertion, there is no evidence that Pandits’ impact global harmony. After years of fundraising for world peace through chanting Pandits, neither Maharishi’s Global Country of World Peace nor other TM nonprofits disclose finances related to these captive Indians.

orig_00036.jpgIn a recent TM Organization announcement, Raja (Dr.) John Hagelin encourages donations to support an 11-day national Yagya (prayer ceremony) to begin on September 19, 2012. The final date for payment for this particular yagya was to be September 13. For of a mere $1,250, a donor could designate someone to be named during the performance.

The message flatters donors for TM Pandits’ prayer ceremonies, “As a direct result of the generosity and vision of our donors, the Maharishi National Yagya program has grown into a powerful force for America.”

Hagelin credits the Pandits’ Yagyas with Iowa’s summer rains, and for redirecting this summer’s Hurricane Isaac :

“A few people have asked about Isaac. Originally forecast to be a Category 3 or 4 hurricane, it only reached Category 1. While the storm produced flooding in some of the most vulnerable areas, the City of New Orleans was largely spared.”

“The rain’s subsequent northward march provided welcome relief to some of the most drought-stricken areas of the country. When national invincibility is more firmly established, we can anticipate even greater protection against national disasters.”

Some True Believers continue to donate to these campaigns, otherwise why would the TM Movement continue to send such messages?

Deemed-scientific correlation between the Pandits and selective good news is as logical as Laurie’s (of TMFree) correlation that 99% of murderers begin their life drinking milk; thus milk leads to murdering.

Hagelin’s message continues, “We are on the verge of realizing Maharishi’s desire of 30 years. The generosity of our donors has brought us to this place. With your support, we will soon have the Super Radiance community we have worked so hard to build.”

Hagelin updates about plans to grow Pandit population  :

“  * 556 Pandits now have passports, and 541 have completed their visa applications.
   * The first phase of the kitchen expansion to accommodate the new Pandits has been completed, and the next phase is well underway.
   * More than 1/3 of the funds needed to bring all 556 Pandits to the U.S. has been raised.
   * The arrival of these Pandits will secure the daily Super Radiance numbers in Fairfield and Maharishi Vedic City at more than 2,000. Closing in on the Goal”

Another recent fundraising email from Stan Crowe earlier this summer declared,“a special 11-day National Yagya performance beginning on Guru Purnima, July 3. We chose this date to honor our beloved Maharishi on this most auspicious day, the day of the Guru. The Yagya will also coincide with America’s Independence Day, July 4.”

Having failed to create a permanent community of 2000 people practicing Maharishi’s TM-Sidhi program twice daily in MUM’s golden domes, In 2001 Maharishi decided to offer donors the opportunity to sponsor others to meditate for them. The sponsorship concept already existed on a smaller scale in the TM Movement. It used to be common practice for those with less funds to seek sponsorships, often arranged as tax deductible donations, to attend advanced TM courses. Wealthy TMers also often sponsored the celibate participants on the Purusha  or Mother Divine programs for tax deductions, personal glory, and good karma.

Since 1979′s first “World Peace Assembly” in Amherst Massachusetts, Maharishi and the TM Movement promoted the idea that a small percentage of the population could influence world peace, weather, crime and the economy through group meditation. This would create “The Maharishi Effect” to bring heaven on earth, or so Maharishi and the organization’s retroactive selective studies claimed.

As Sudarsha suggested in a private message, this goal is as scientific as shooting a blank wall, then drawing a target circle around the spot you hit.

The goal of changing the world was and is used to inspire, or pressure, TM-Sidhi practitioners to devote their lives and funds to Maharishi’s plans. This also feeds the narcissism of people who would believe their thoughts alone are powerful enough to influence government decisions and weather patterns.

Since that course in 1979 (Yes, I was there) Maharishi and his minions such as Bevan Morris, John Hagelin and others have long  threatened Maharishi’s followers with global warfare and other calamities unless a core group of at least 2000 people practiced Maharishi’s TM-Sidhi Program together twice daily.

For example, in 1979 Bevan Morris pulled me aside for a private audience in a small dark room, saying someone had reported me to him for not attending Program as prescribed. Bevan said that I personally would be responsible for bringing WWIII or economic collapse to the world because I did not fully participate in “Program” many hours daily. In response I said that motherhood and supporting my family took precedence over group meditations, that my family is my Program. I told Bevan that Maharishi did not have children, so he didn’t understand families. Bevan excused me, seemingly without officially black-listing me. Others tell similar stories of intimidation and threats for their non-participation in program, or if they requested permission to leave.

In the early 1980′s Maharishi claimed that donations to support participants on the celibate Purusha and Mother Divine programs would bring financial prosperity, health and speed enlightenment for donors. In fact, my (then)husband wanted us to tithe 10% of our income to support his former girlfriend on the Mother Divine course. They had attended and graduated together in 1981 from Maharishi International University. She was a sweet young woman, who vigilantly ‘put her attention’ on my husband’s business daily and wrote us newsy letters about Maharishi’s latest inspirations. The young woman’s prolonged meditations did not enhance our economic status. My (then) husband often blamed his business problems on the bad karma that I brought to his business because I did not attend “Program” (6-8 hours) daily. This was a prevalent community attitude at that time.


Per their own counts, the TM Movement repeatedly fails to realize the mystical 2000 meditator/Sidhas for twice-daily Program attendance. Other TMers must be making similar choices about responsibilities,  personal and family needs, thereby decreasing Program attendance.


To solve this problem, Maharishi came up with the  brilliant idea of raising funds to import professional meditators from India. This idea was proposed as early as November 2001.

Note : Maharishi’s idea is FUNDRAISING for Pandits, not to really improve the world through mystical practices.

In January 2002, after coming out of his annual silent retreat to begin the new year, Maharishi proposed that for a mere $250 Million, the world’s problems could be solved by establishing a permanent community with 10,000 Pandits. 

Maharishi’s fundraising scheme to support a group of meditating Pandits provided, then and now, a means for TM’s wealthy donors to assure spiritual good karma, enlightenment or entry to heaven by donating large sums of money for others meditate in their stead.

This is remarkably similar to the Medieval Catholicism when noblemen paid servants to make spiritual pilgrimages for them, thereby gleaning heavenly accolades for both the nobleman and the pauper who made the pilgrimage.

I doubt the Movement will attain the 2000 which they claim necessary for a Super Radiance effect. This dream is an eternal carrot-on-a-stick, never to be achieved. After all, the Movement would lose credibility with its followers if 2000 Pandits meditate twice daily, and the world inevitably continues with political travails, natural disasters, environmental carcinogens and economic vicissitudes.

Being a practical Guru, Maharishi established nonprofit corporations so that donors could receive tax deductions while profiting their Guru. Despite public perception, a “nonprofit” organization does not have to meet any ethical qualifications. The primary difference between a nonprofit corporation vs a for-profit is the stated purpose of the organization, how funds are dispersed and taxed. Nonprofits are allowed to generate revenue surpluses (er, that would be synonymous with profit’).

Using threats of global collapse to fear-monger for Pandit donations in October, 2003, a national conference call quoted (still living) Maharishi “‘The world would not completely end, there will be a few people left…You don’t know how fast the destruction is approaching. Do it, go fast… ‘Don’t wait until tomorrow when the whole thing collapses. If you don’t prevent this, don’t blame us.’”

In 2003, the Program “8000 Now” was created to fundraise for a Pandit program. Their website cleverly does not initially reveal their true intentions, until one clicks about on various links.

TMFree readers may enjoy videos on the  “National Yagya Program” website. Among highlights, see Raja Dr. John Hagelin explain how important it is to “engage the power of natural law at a very deep level” through the performance of Yagyas to help Japan after their tsunami and nuclear crisis. Japan’s Raja also reads aloud a letter of gratitude for Pandits he credits with helping Japan.. 

In his documentary film David Wants to FlyDavid Seiveking interviews Earl Kaplan. Earl admits that he is not proud of his former TM-alliance and donations exceeding $150million to Maharishi. Earl also says he asked Maharishi about the promised Pandits; despite Earl’s large donation for this purpose, none had been gathered together. Earl says that Maharishi told him “I don’t know if it will work.” In his former brainwashed state, Earl was shocked that his Guru had been recruiting for a cause that he was not sure would work. Earl, his twin brother David, and their wives then left the Movement.

5panditsupporters.jpegIn late October 2006, shortly after Howard Settle granted $600 per person monthly scholarship to hire pandits, up to one million dollars monthly, an initial group of Pandits arrived from India.  The Movement announced “A permanent group of 1,000 Maharishi Pandits has been established in America”. Photos here show TM Movement dignitaries  (note their requisite beige/gold themed suits) greeting Pandits at the airport, and chatting at the Pandits’ welcome dinner.

Ostensibly, there are plans to bring enough Pandits for a permanent group creating a global Maharishi Effect of world peace, balanced economy, wealth, good weather, lush agriculture, and enlightenment for all!4panditdinner.jpeg

The Pandits are hired to save the world by meditating en masse.

For obscure reasons, the Movement still fails to have the requisite number of Pandits together. Looks like stalling tactics to me, to keep donations flowing.

For those with special needs and the ability to make tax deductible donations, the Organization states Pandits can customize mystical Yagya ceremonies for special purposes. Even my late-father had purchased several custom Yagyas for himself.

Lacking foresight, when the first Pandits arrived to Iowa in autumn of 2006, they lacked proper clothing for Iowa’s subzero winters. Local meditators in Fairfield and Vedic City created a coat drive to garner winter wear so these thin Indian men could survive their first subzero winter. Many Pandits had arrived from India to the United States with only simple kurtas and shawls.

One year after their arrival, Maharishi approved the provision of winter coats in October 2007, for the Pandits. Separate fundraising efforts were conducted to purchase these coats, 

Interestingly, Vedic City has an identity crisis about their Pandits.

Official Vedic City maps, provided by The Raj Spa’s receptionist, do not identify the location of this fenced, guarded compound. Still, it’s easy enough to find. Just drive north in front of The Raj along Jasmine Ave., turn left, west, at 170th street at toward their touted luxury Rukmapura Park Hotel. The fenced Pandit compound is almost directly across 170th street from the hotel’s gravel driveway, conveniently outside the   official grid of Vedic City’s Master Plan, at the intersection of 170th Street and  “Invincible America Ave.” 

While not listed among Vedic City’s attractions, a small image of meditating Pandits appears in the upper banner of Vedic City’s website.

Vedic City wants tax benefits for the Pandits, according to a February 2011 story from Iowa’s Heartland Connection, channel 3 KTVO posted on February 17th “Can Census Make 1000 Iowans Disappear? ” 

Vedic City officials claim the US Census miscounted their residents, neglecting to include over one thousand residents of the pandit compound at 1675 Invincible America Drive. According to the 2001 Boundary and Annexation Survey file, the Pandit compound lies within Vedic City’s boundaries.
  
Are the Pandits actually Iowans as claimed by KTVO news? Are they legal residents of Vedic City, Iowa and the USA? Are they guests, or students? Only their US State Department Visas know for sure. 

As expected by anyone familiar with the TM Movement, Vedic City claims or disavows the Pandit presence according to what is most advantageous at any given moment. 

“Funnily enough” (one of Maharishi’s phrases), 2010 tax returns for only one fundraising arm for the pandit and yagya donations can be viewed here – 2010 Exempt Organization Tax Return “Brahmananda Saraswati Foundation”. And an overview of the financial status of Maharishi’s Global Country of World Peace can be viewed here.

Transcendental Meditation Organizations keep separate legal and financial structures. Readers can glean a glimmer of this global organization by clicking on a few links and drop down menus on this site for Maharishi’s Global Country or here for Peace Initiative Projects.

On a human note – One wonders if the fenced Pandits know their rights as foreign nationals within the United States. Human rights agencies queried in Chicago and elsewhere require a complaint filed by one of the Pandits themselves to initiate an investigation about unlawful restraint, confinement, or anything else. 

How would an imprisoned person, with neither English language fluency nor outside access, inquire for assistance or file a complaint?

Note: Gina Catena co-moderates a blog about TM Movement and TM recovery : TMFree.blogspot.com
Gina’s personal blog : comingtolifestories.com

By Gina Catena

Oprah Winfrey’s televised visit to Maharishi Vedic City’s [Transcendental Meditation (TM)] pandit compound provided an opportune excuse for a drive to the pandit compound during my recent visit to Fairfield, Iowa.

Oprah’s pandit visit is summarized in this short video clip.

As I drive north of Fairfield on Highway One, in less than one mile I follow the highway’s directional arrow left on Airport Rd toward Maharishi Vedic City.

dscn0605.JPGFollowing the arrow due west 2 miles on Airport Rd / 180th Street, I drive through open farmland and pass a few vedic houses, identifiable by uniform east facing entrances with strange roof ornaments, and Fairfield’s small airport where Fairfield’s TM-wealthy house private airplanes and a leer jet or two. Two miles west of Highway One’s turn off, I arrive at an empty country intersection for Jasmine Ave, the beginning of Vedic City.

Turning right, or north, onto Jasmine Ave I pass the turn to a few residences and the flagged Capital building for the Global Country of World Peace whose annual revenue, as a registered non profit agency, is in the range of $19 million,

And the entry sign for Maharishi Vedic Observatory, enhanced with bullet holes to document the sign’s dual purpose for both vedic marker and target practice.

I stop briefly at Vedic City’s central information desk in The Raj spa which features costly Maharishi Ayurvedic treatments (more about visiting the “Observatory” and “The Raj” in another essay).

Exiting the Raj’s tree-lined entry drive,I return to two-lane Jasmine Ave heading north as I pass farmland to my right and a few “Vedic” buildings on the left.

I turn left, or west, onto 170th Avenue’s country road along Vedic City’s perimeter. After passing a few Vedic housing developments that are evidently slow on sales, I arrive to the lauded luxury Rukmapura Park Hotel‘s gravel entry.

Almost directly across from the most elegant hotel of Fairfield or Vedic City lies the fenced “Invincible America Campus”, or pandit compound, with rows of white prefabricated buildings capped with golden ornaments, called kalashes, to maximize each building’s spiritual energy.

dscn0600.JPGAn uniformed visitor could possibly mistake the pandit compound for an agri-business, but not for long.

“Women are not allowed past that fence. Actually, no one is allowed unless they have special permission and an escort. You can stand at the edge of this fence to take photos.” The friendly guard informs me from the simple wooden guardshack at the entrance to Vedic City’s pandit compound only a few miles north of Jefferson County’s courthouse in Fairfield, Iowa.

The guard sits alone or with one other at the fenced compound’s gate, surrounded by otherwise open farmland and a large torquoise sky. Maybe the job is boring or perhaps he enjoys sitting in the quiet countryside and reading.

I’m relieved that the friendly guard in khakis, a light plaid shirt and clip-on security badge is happy to chat. I hope this essay does not jeopardize his employment.  

“Since I can’t enter, may I walk along that road between the fences, still outside the pandit compound?” I ask while pointing to the moat-like dirt road separating the compound from the parking lot where we stand. 

“Nope.” he responds. “Private property. You can take pictures from this parking lot fence.” He extends his arm indicating the fence encircling the small gravel parking area.

I retort with a smile, “But Oprah filmed inside.”

The guard laughs, “But you’re not Oprah.”

“True enough.” I wink and continue, “Maharishi always gave extra benies to the wealthy. It’s about public relations and donations. Too bad I don’t have a zoom lens.”

The guard observes from his small shack while I walk freely in the fenced gravel parking lot, clicking photos with my red point-and-shoot camera across double fences to the pandits.

Pandits play baseball on a seemingly unmarked grass field. 

Three Indians in white gauze kurtas notice me. They walk closer to sit under a tree near the fence, watching the guard talk with me. They remind me of captive animals in a zoo who had watched my children and me from behind fences. I wave. The pandits wave back.

Two beige former school buses parked beside the drive marked “Residents Only Private Drive” remind me of childrens’ summer camp transportation. The guard informs me that buses transport pandits for occasional special performances at Maharishi University’s Golden Domes or elsewhere, to return the same day.

Between snapping photos and chatting about the weather, I introduce myself.

“I just saw Oprah’s show and found this fascinating since I used to live here. I graduated from Fairfield High School 1975 as the first ‘Ru to graduate from Fairfield High, before MIU began their high school here.

(‘Ru is slang term awarded by Fairfield residents to the meditators who invaded their town in 1974, shortened from Iowa-accented GuRUuuu. MIU, Maharishi International University, later became MUM, or Maharishi University of Management)

Seeking commonality, the guard names some high school classmates from his graduating class a few years before mine.

After thinking a moment, I respond. “No, I don’t remember them. I only attended FHS for my senior year; that’s when we moved here. You and your friends were out of school by then, so I didn’t meet them. I remember Myron Gookin who is now Iowa’s local District Court judge. Myron was either our senior class president or the student body president. I think his family lived on North Main Street at the time, in a meticulous yellow house if I remember correctly. They moved to the other side of town after the ‘Rus took over that end of town. I arrived with the first group that came here with MIU from California. My mother was an MIU Student. I fell in love with Iowa, but the old Parsons campus was such a mess!”

“I remember.” he smiles and nods.

We laugh together while sharing memories of 1974′s awkward campus BBQ welcoming MIU’s arrival to Fairfield, when skinny vegetarian MIU students refused to eat barbequed pork donated by local farmers.

I add, “I always loved Iowa. My children were born here. My daughter attended Pence elementary school on the south side of town,” thereby implying that I was not a die-hard ‘Ru, since my own children attended a local public school rather than MSAE, Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment. “Eventually I couldn’t take it and moved away.”

The guard nods, then begins to open up. “There are 850 pandits here now. The Movement plans to have 1200 to keep the numbers here up for when dome numbers drop. They keep saying more will arrive soon,” referring to Maharishi’s plan for a specified number of (TM-Sidhi) Program participants for the ever-promised “Super Radiance effect”  that would magically create World Peace.

“There are 88 buildings now and expanding.” He points to one building with an orange and purple entry, “That’s their Durga, or temple. The white entrance by a larger building is the administrative building. The large gymnasium is in back. Another building is the meditation building. All their needs are provided for.”

He suddenly sounds scripted, “They meditate, have food, study and exercise time. They study Sanskrit and Vedic scriptures. You can see they’re playing baseball now.” He nods to the ball game before us, speaking as though this is normal. “A clinic will be coming to take care of their medical needs.” he adds.

“They visit local doctors and the hospital now?” I ask.

“Usually. But there’s a doctor who comes to see them out here sometimes.”

“Have there been cases of tuberculosis or other infectious diseases?”

“I wouldn’t know.” He shrugs.

“I’m in the medical field. It’s good they provide medical care. This is impressive.”

I wonder if the TM Organization is building a private clinic to avoid alerting public health authoritites, or if the clinic merely provides a cost-saving convenience.

We stand quietly looking at the compound and pandit baseball game for a few minutes in the Iowa sun. Not sure what to say next, “Where does the money come for all this?” I ask.

The guard shrugs, shaking his head,  “I’m not part of the Movement.”

He points to his left, behind the guard shack, past open fields to a few rows of distant rectangular yellow buildings.

“American pandit-types live there. I forgot what they’re called.”

“Purusha?” I ask,

“Yes. Purusha. Some Mother Divine women live near them. But most of the women are in New York or North Carolina.  Purusha men are sometimes allowed to attend pandit ceremonies. They once allowed a couple of Mother Divine women to attend a pandit ceremony, but apparently it became a scene. Women are too distracting for the pandits. So no more females.” After a moment, guard adds, “There’s no problem with Purusha men and Mother Divine woman living nearby. ”

“I wonder how the pandits controlled themselves when Oprah visited.” I say.

The guard laughs.

After taking my few photos, I thank the guard and drive away, wishing I had better planned my questions.

Stopping briefly along the side the compound to photograph the street sign for “Vedic America Drive”, one pandit approaches me.

A moat-like ditch filled with knee-high prickly weeds deters me from getting close enough to the fence to talk comfortably. I wish I wore different shoes.

I wave “Hello” to the lone pandit.

He returns my greeting.

“It’s a beautiful day!” I call to him from the roadside, standing beside my car.

“Yes” he agrees.

“How are you today?”

“Fine.”

“How long have you lived here?” 

“One hour,” he reponds while wobbling his head side to side, Indian style.

 I realize he does not understand. I speak more slowly.

“How many years you here?”

“Two years.”

“Are you happy?”

“Yes.” He wobbles his head.

“May I please take your photo?” I hold up my camera.

“No.” he turns to walk away from the fence, then quickly returns. “OK.”

I snap his photo while the guard watches us from his perch.

“I have to go now.” We wave good bye.

Note: Gina Catena co-moderates a blog about TM Movement and TM recovery : TMFree.blogspot.com
Gina’s personal blog : comingtolifestories.com

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”  — Edmund Burke (1729-1797)

By Gina Catena

Young families and greying baby boomers chat outside popular restaurants on Fairfield’s town square, accustomed to ignoring the fact that 850 innocents are trapped in a gated, barb-wired compound outside their town.

vediccityhwy1.jpgTurning to my friend I said “Everything is calm and peaceful. Folks chat and bask in sunshine. Fairfield’s [Transcendental Meditation (TM)] community is more integrated and tolerant than in the past. But doesn’t anyone question the pandit compound? This reminds me of small town Nazi Germany, when citizens colluded to ignore prison camps only a few miles away.”

She responded with parroted remarks that I had heard elsewhere, “I don’t feel badly for the pandits. They’ve been paid. They’re sending money home to their families in India – as poor immigrants have done from time immemorial. In Indian culture it’s common for one member of a family to sacrifice their entire life to benefit the larger family.”

Her verbatim response echoed one of Maharishi’s favorite indoctrination methods – multiple repetitions of nonsense would eventually be accepted as truth.

She continued, “The Movement hired a private guard. The local sheriff didn’t feel comfortable recapturing escapees any more.” Her calm manner shocked me.

“They have a guard? Some escape? Where do they go?” I asked.

“Of course some escape!” She continued, “Some of those Indians came to see America. They are poor people who took this job. They’re not trained as holy men. They have a work contract to meditate and chant for a couple of years. Their families are supported in India while they are here. The escapees usually show up at a nearby farmhouse asking for help.”

“This is 21st century North America, not ancient India’s indentured servitude.” I responded. ”Everyone in town knows that a few miles away there are people locked inside a guarded compound surrounded by corn fields. In this country, only prisoners are so constrained. Can this be legal?”

“They have visas.” My friend shrugged.

“Who holds their passports? Do they know their rights?” I asked.

After brief hesitation, my friend responded “It’s not my business. I just quietly conduct my life here. I have my own problems.”

I let the conversation drop. My friend has her reasons. So does everyone else.

On Highway One, only two miles north of the entry to Maharishi University of Management, a highway sign points west, towards an otherwise innocuous side road directing to the TM Movement’s incorporated Vedic City, which is governed by mayor Raja Bob Wynne.

The highway sign fails to name the fenced compound, around the back side of Vedic City, that encloses over 800 Indian men. Yet, everyone in Fairfield, Iowa knows about the secluded pandit compound.

The Spiral of Silence Theory may explain why citizens of Jefferson County Iowa, including local attorneys, government and law enforcement officials, avoid public discussion of questionable legalities surrounding the forced containment and minimal compensation for these indentured “Pandits” from India.

How the Hidden has Power” and “Out of Sight Out of Mind – Making Silence Easy” provide further insight to the social milieu of such silent complacency.

Note: Gina Catena co-moderates a blog about TM Movement and TM recovery : TMFree.blogspot.com
Gina’s personal blog : comingtolifestories.com