By Gina Catena

ABC’s KTVO-TV in Iowa March 11, 2014 reported on a “Pandit Riot” that took place at the gate to Vedic City’s pandit compound after TM officials arrived with sheriff support at 0600. They planned to remove one of the compound’s leaders for unspecified disciplinary action and possible return to India.

According to the televised report, dozens of the Indian men who receive $50 monthly stipend (with $150 presumably sent to families in India) surrounded the sheriff’s vehicle, threw rocks and broke a squad car light. The sheriff called for other law reinforcements from Wapello County for support.

The Global Country of World Peace or Vedic City authorities must have suspected some unrest to justify requesting sheriff support to escort this pandit leader away.

The pandits protested their leader’s departure. Law enforcement officials could not understand words that were shouted in Hindi. News reports do not mention any attempt by law enforcement to understand the pandits.

News reports do not address (lack of) a Hindi interpreter. There is no mention if the shouting men were later provided an objective interpreter or offered impartial legal representation.

Credit goes to the sheriff who avoided escalating an altercation by successfully backing his vehicle away through the unarmed crowd. The sheriff’s office did not press charges since no one knows who assaulted the vehicle. Vedic City agreed to cover costs for the sheriff’s auto repairs.

The sheriff expressed incredulity that these men “held no respect for the law” when they mobbed his vehicle.

The pandits were escorted back inside their square mile of fenced compound.

TMFree previously posted concerns about the pandits’ captivity in a previous three part series that can be read by clicking here.

The recent “riot” might be a desperate attempt by these caged men to communicate to the outside world.

One woman interviewed for the televised report stated that these pandits WANT to stay impounded together, rather than return to their family squalor in India. However, if the pandits want to stay impounded, why did 163 of them escape within the last year? Their absence was not reported by the sponsoring TM organization that holds their passports.

Al Jazeera’s review of January 27, 2104 “Indian Vedic students go ‘missing’ in the US” can be read by clicking here.

Vedi City’s pandit situation resembles this animated United Nations’ video about modern human slavery.

These young pandits receive slave wages of room and board plus $50 / month. $150 per pandit is supposedly sent to their families in India. They may spend their $50 at small store in their compound. They rarely leave the compound. Their “job” is to inspire donations from TM True Believers for mystical chants that TM leaders promise will assure good weather, economic prosperity and world peace. For video clips, click here.

If these men want greater rights, they could be desperate enough to vie for attention from law enforcement.

Raja John Hagelin, Maharishi’s Raja of North America (aka Dr. John Hagelin in the films “What the Bleep Do We Know” and “The Secret”) Bill Goldstein, spokesman of The Global Country of World Peace, and John Revolinski, an administrator for the pandit campus, said the majority of these pandits began living in TM’s pandit compounds as children. This sounds suspiciously like child trafficking.  See “Students inquire about pandits during forum” by clicking here.

Revolinski referred to the pandits’ group dynamics. He did not discuss the group dynamics of the larger community which colluded to keep these men inside a fenced compound.

Some reports state the pandits have R-1 Visas. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Web Site defines R-1 visas here.  A key excerpt below:

“An R-1 is a foreign national who is coming to the United States temporarily to be employed at least part time (average of at least 20 hours per week) by a non-profit religious organization in the United States (or an organization which is affiliated with the religious denomination in the United States) to work as a minister or in a religious vocation or occupation…To qualify, the foreign national must have been a member of a religious denomination having a bona fide non-profit religious organization in the United States for at least 2 years immediately before the filing of the petition.”

Forgive our confusion. For decades the TM Movement stated they are a non-religious organization. The TM Movement used this non-religious argument to infiltrate public schools and the American Veteran’s administration through the David Lynch Foundation.

Yet, the pandits received visas to work for an “organization which is affiliated with the religious denomination in the United States.”

TMFree addressed religious aspects of TM many times, for example “Is it a religion, or a dessert topping?”  and “Still “not a religion”: Video of puja, the religious ritual central to TM Initiation”.

Vedic City issued a TM-speak statement on March 11, 2014 which can be read here, and stated that :

“A very harmonious meeting was held with the entire Pandit group immediately after the incident to discuss what transpired. An internal review of the situation is being conducted with an aim to avoid any such repeat incidents in the future.”

No investigator had contact with the pandits. Will an outsider speak directly to these men?

How can law enforcement assist the containment of voiceless innocents inside an isolated compound?

Some reports said these men were promised an education and job training. Does chanting for a net of $50 monthly equal a career?

Pandits are human beings whose concerns should be heard. These are not the mute Orca whales whose captivity in San Diego SeaWorld garners press attention through animal activists.

An objective legal investigation into this should be initiated by people outside of Jefferson County, Iowa. Authorities of southeast Iowa already demonstrated both lack of objectivity and collusion with Vedic City through seven years of silence about these men confined to one square mile in a cornfield.

The pandits may have learned that drama attracts attention after fire fighters responded to a small fire in a pandit mobile home on November 8 2013, as reported here.

Another fire on March 3, 2014 was reported here.

If these men are desperately calling for help, they might be succeeding.

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 :
Gina’s personal blog :

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?”


“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 :
Gina’s personal blog :

“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 :
Gina’s personal blog :

What do Paul McCartney, Donavan, Eddie Veder, Sheryl Crow and maybe Moby have in common?

Well, besides being celebrity rockers it seems that they can all be seen as supporters of a “cult” recruitment scheme that targets kids.

That’s right, these recording artists not only hope you listen to their music, they want to promote religious beliefs, or at least help to fund programs that are thinly disguised proselytizing aimed at schoolchildren.

Is this yet another example of stars trading on their celebrity status to preach, not unlike Tom Cruise and his endless ramblings about Scientology?

On April 4th McCartney, Veder, Crow and Moby will “Come Together” at the iconic Radio City Music Hall in New York City, to raise money for the David Lynch Foundation.

davidlynch.jpegDavid Lynch (photo left), the director of “Blue Velvet” isn’t just a “cult” filmmaker; he is also a “cult” follower.

The director is a longtime devotee of the recently deceased Indian guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, founder of the Transcendental Meditation (TM) movement, which has often been called a “cult.”

Apparently Lynch managed to persuade McCartney and others in the music industry to help him fund pet programs “used to teach Transcendental Meditation to a million kids” reports

This is nothing new for the eccentric filmmaker, who seems to be more concerned about pitching his old guru’s teachings, than coming up with new movie projects.

And it wasn’t difficult for Lynch to get 1960s singer Donavan on board, since he is also a longtime TM devotee.

Sir Paul reportedly will be joined by his old band mate Ringo Starr at the NYC benefit event, who is the only other remaining Beatle.

There is a certain symmetry to all this since it was the Beatles that launched Maharishi (photo below) and his “meditation” techniques into the mainstream of popular culture during the psychedelic sixties, though John Lennon eventually became disenchanted and denounced the guru.

06maharishi6001.jpgLennon later said in interviews that the Beatles song “Sexy Sadie,” which includes the lyrics “Sexy Sadie, what have you done, you made a fool of everyone” was originally called “Maharishi.”

But Maharishi was no fool when it came to making money. The guru amassed a global spiritual empire that included assets valued in the billions.

TMers often make ridiculous claims, such as that their mass meditation somehow helped to bring down Berlin Wall and end of the Cold War.

However, TM critics see the group’s practices as little more than self-hypnosis or trance induction.

The Middle European Journal of Medicine found that out of 700 studies on TM spanning 40 years, only 10 were conducted in the clinical tradition of using strict control groups, randomization and placebos. Of those 10, four of the studies recruited subjects that had already shown an interest in TM.

Peter Canter a researcher from the Peninsula Medical School of the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth in the United Kingdom concluded, “there is a strong placebo effect going on which probably works through the expectations being set up.”

TMers have nevertheless continued to make preposterous claims, for example that their “technologies” can create an “all-powerful field of invincibility” that will “make any nation invincible.”

These claims certainly contradict what happened at Maharishi University in Iowa, where a  student went berserk, viciously attacking and ultimately murdering another pupil.

Whatever supposed mystical benefits occur from TM helped neither of them avoid this tragedy.

In 2004 lawsuits were filed against Maharishi U alleging the school was “negligent” and failed to protect its students properly from the murderer, who was known to be violent reported the Associated Press.

Just this month the University quietly settled one lawsuit for an undisclosed amount.

The one time TMer turned murderer who was found not guilty by reason of insanity.

maharishitoday.jpegA former 17-year TMer wrote in an article featured at CultNews, that Maharishi (more recent photo left) was a “diverter of seekers, seducer of minds’ and “stealer of souls.”

Not exactly the kind of person you would expect Sir Paul McCartney to support.

Perhaps this knighted Brit is a bit more gullible than the average chap.

After all he was taken in by an alleged “gold digger” and went through a rather expensive divorce after a brief marriage.

In fairness though it seems the list of those taken in by David Lynch and/or TM is growing.

Ben Harper, Mike Love of the Beach Boys and Erykah Badu may be playing along with McCartney at the NYC fundraiser according to recent reports.

So Sir Paul won’t be the only “Fool on the Hill.”

However, David Lynch didn’t fool concerned parents in California.

When the movie director tried to unload his TM program in Marin County, a bastion of liberalism, it was soundly rejected.

Amidst allegations that TM was nothing more than a “cult,” Lynch’s proposed program was ultimately dumped reported NBC News 11.

The funding source for the program was none other than the David Lynch Foundation, that same entity that Paul McCartney and company seem so anxious to help through the coming New York fundraiser.

And the Lynch failure in California wasn’t the first time that TM devotees have targeted schoolchildren.

According to a report filed by Associated Press TMers have made similar attempts to promote their beliefs at public schools before in “New York, California, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and other places.”

Barry Markovsky, a University of South Carolina sociologist labeled such efforts “stealth religion.” And almost 30 years ago in 1977, U.S. District Judge H. Curtis Meanor ruled against TM being taught at public schools.

These efforts were done through something called the “National Committee for Stress-Free Schools.”

Just when you thought that Madonna was the one to watch out for when it came to a music icon peddling religion, along comes a former Beatle and his virtual tag team of celebrity rockers.

Postscript: An interesting comment came in subsequent to this article appearing at CultNews. According to one TMer, “The one thing all the above mentioned outstanding musicians have in common is that they all practice Transcendental Meditation.” Shades of Tom Cruise indeed.

By Bronte Baxter

The climate of the 60s: America was to question everything, challenge “the system” and the established world view.

rapture.jpgExperimenting with sex and drugs, toying with every new or forbidden philosophy. A better world was around the corner “ we were sure of it. Soon we’d be, as Arlo sang, “walking hand in hand with every man, sleeping in the sun with everyone.”

What happened?


Where have all the flower children gone?

Some became followers of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of Transcendental Meditation (TM) and the Students International Meditation Society (SIMS), an organization that descended on US campuses, recruited kids and cleaned them up, turning them into “upstanding members of society.”

TM gave them a mantra and taught them to meditate.

Hippies turned TM converts, trading in swear words for mantras, tie-dyed shirts for three-piece suits.

Many kids were recruited to become teachers, pulling in still more people.

m-1970a.jpgIn 1975, Merv Griffin featured Maharishi (1975 photo right) on his prime-time TV show then started TM himself. First promoted by the Beatles, the giggling guru’s meditation program went mainstream, with courses taught in corporations and schools so that executives could relax and students could focus.

A virtual army of TM teachers covered the globe, with centers in every major city, talks in every suburb. Maharishi said that world peace would happen “ better yet, an ideal world “ when enough people globally found inner peace by practicing TM.

I was among that army, personally instructing 350 people in the course of six years.

I fell in love with a starry-eyed boy, and we were going to create utopia together.

We preached the message of transcendence: taking the mind inward to bask in its Source, the state of pure awareness, from which all good things spring. We drank of those waters daily. Refreshed from contact with the supreme, we’d return to the world energized for more lectures and teaching.

It was a glorious time. Hope was everywhere. Gone was the contentiousness of our generation. We were avant-garde leaders now, shouting a new message, a new answer, to the world.

Challenging authority became a thing of the past. (Maharishi taught that people should respect it..) Working within the system, we were told we would bring about change, and change would happen by raising people’s consciousness.

Get them all to meditate, and problems would vanish from this earth.

We truly believed it. The idea was radical, new, and to our young minds it made sense.

TM opened a brand-new vista on the future, where troubles, all supposedly born of man’s separation from his pure infinite nature, would spontaneously disappear.

The ex-hippie TM army was passionate: our full love and energy went into achieving Maharishi’s dream for the world.

Recruits who didn’t feel called to become teachers found their way in businesses and vocations, becoming productive members of society. Those from wealthy families supported the movement with gargantuan donations, and received places of influence directly under Maharishi. It was only a matter of time until the world would be transformed and mankind would enter a New Age. Maharishi called it The Age of Enlightenment.

But something happened on the way to paradise.

groupmed140.jpgSlowly and subtly, the tone of the guru’s teachings changed.

What used to be 20 minutes twice a day became hour-long, then 90-minute, meditations. The mantras were reshaped into “advanced techniques,” and chanting and Vedic readings (hymns to the gods) began.

In a bold move, Maharishi began teaching courses in TM-Siddhis, a slew of paranormal abilities which he said humans could develop. Turning invisible was one of the siddhis; levitation was another.

People that took the siddhi training, were told that it would elevate their consciousness. But instead of flying, people were bouncing around cross-legged on foam rubber mats on their posteriors.

Flying is coming, Maharishi promised “ keep practicing: frog-hopping is only the beginning stage.

No one turned invisible, and no one demonstrated any of the other special abilities the several-thousand-dollar siddhi course was supposed to teach.

At the time of this writing, 30 years after the inception of the TM-siddhis, no one in Maharishi’s organization has yet demonstrated any levitation beyond frog-hopping.

yogicfly1.jpegMeanwhile the movement snapped photos of smiling butt-bouncers (photo right) caught in mid-air and plastered the pictures on posters and fliers as advertisements: “Come learn yogic flying.”

TM teachers who completed siddhi training were called “Governors of the Age of Enlightenment,” because Maharishi said our elevated consciousness would regulate negative tendencies in the world. Governors were told not to reveal to TM teachers or meditators that butt-bouncing was all that was being achieved on the siddhi courses to date.. That would spoil the innocence of the new initiates, interfering with their ability to learn.

For the first time, more than a few disciples started questioning. Why was TM deceitful in its advertising, pretending that people were flying?

Why were we asked to pay thousands of dollars for something that didn’t work?

And how had a simple meditation technique, that was supposed to be all we needed for cosmic consciousness, gotten so complicated?

Originally, we signed on for a non-religious “relaxation technique,” practiced a few minutes twice daily as an adjunct to dynamic activity.

TM had its roots in Hinduism, but we had ignored that.

As teachers or “initiators,” we had to perform a “puja,” a ritual of offerings performed on an altar before a picture of Guru Dev, Maharishi’s master. We were ordered to do this in the presence of every new initiate before dispensing their mantra. We were to kneel down and bow before the picture, making a hand gesture to indicate that the student was expected to kneel down, too.

At the time we teachers convinced ourselves that we weren’t being deceptive. Maharishi said the initiates would understand in time, after their consciousness was raised through meditation. He repeatedly told us that TM was not a religion. As if saying it enough would make it so!

But when the TM-Siddhis started, things got even more religious.

We were instructed to read prayers to the gods after every meditation and to listen to audiotapes of chants to Hindu deities as we fell asleep at night. Maharishi reassured us: the gods are not actual personal entities but “impulses of creative intelligence” that exist within ourselves. The fact that Hinduism anthropomorphizes deities, just signals immature consciousness he said, and that of course was something the movement was far too sophisticated to be guilty of.

The changes in the movement were so gradual that I hardly blinked an eye the day I got my own advanced technique, which consisted of adding the Sanskrit word “namah” to my original mantra. I didn’t quite understand, as I was told the mantras were meaningless sounds that have a beneficial effect on the nervous system. I didn’t know any translation for my mantra “Eima,” but I did know, from the puja, what “namah” meant in English. It means, “I bow down.” Who was I bowing down to, I wondered? Well, it must be a god. “Eima” must be a name for her, and she must be my escort on the path to higher consciousness. Another hidden teaching, obvious only to an advanced spiritual aspirant. I felt privileged and superior to be let in on the secret.

Around this time in the movement, many people started to complain of physical problems, as well as irritability and/or depression..

Once I was assigned to spend the night guarding one meditator who was being sent home from a siddhi course because she was “unstable.” She was being shipped out the following day, and course leaders were concerned that she might harm herself or create an embarrassing scene in the meantime, hence her need for a “guard.”

In 1978, an article appeared in Psychology Today reporting that “a substantial number” of individuals develop “anxiety, depression, physical and mental tension and other adverse effects” from meditating. (San Francisco Examiner, September 10, 1989) The scientific criticism was just starting.

While over a hundred studies had been done by TM scientists showing outstanding benefits from TM for mind and body, new studies by independent researchers failed to corroborate such claims.

Some new studies even suggested adverse mental and physical effects resulting from meditation (depersonalization, the onset of mental difficulties, psychological disorders).

TM was accused of failing to conduct double-blind experiments, and of influencing test results with the prejudice of the tester.

One insider, a friend of mine who was exceptionally devoted to Maharishi and who worked with TM psychologists as their research assistant, became shaken and left the movement when she found the scientists she worked with doctoring test results to make them better conform to Maharishi’s desired outcomes. (See the following site for more about independent studies done on meditators:

Around this time, people started leaving the movement, but most of us held strong.

campus.jpgA meditating community had sprung up in Fairfield, Iowa within and on the borders of Maharishi International University (photo above). The town became home to a thousand meditators, teachers and TM “governors,” many of whom had a hard time fitting into normal jobs and living situations in the world. We were told to meditate and “fly” together daily. That was the new strategy to create world peace as well as success in our lives.

Maharishi began mens’ and women’s monastic groups (the Purusha and Mother Divine programs) and encouraged people to join them as “the most rapid lifestyle for unfolding enlightenment.”

People gave up dreams of love and a family to follow their guru’s advice, believing they were serving their enlightenment and the highest social good.

2.jpgMy best friend, intensely in love with her husband, was divorced by him when the monastic programs started. He became a celibate, while my friend tried to live as a nun with her broken heart. Within months she developed cancer, dying a couple years later. She forewent Western treatment to pursue an alternative healing system: Ayurveda, India’s ancient “world medicine” which then was being revived by Maharishi. Her physician was Deepak Chopra (photo above), at the time TM’s poster boy and its leading Ayurvedic physician. My friend Sharon withered away and died, but Ayurveda grew in popularity.

What troubled me most about the movement in the 80s was a growing sense of subterfuge and surveillance amidst an atmosphere of increasingly artificial “positivity.” Movement leaders instructed the rank and file to “never entertain negativity,” which meant never criticize and always wear a happy face.

There was a sense that we were being watched, that unknown people within the organization had been assigned as spies for the rest of us.

Any person suspected of entertaining doubts about Maharishi and the movement or visiting other spiritual teachers would find themselves refused admittance to new courses or group meditations in the central “flying” hall. The outcasts were never told what they had done to merit excommunication. “You know,” was the cryptic reply, or “Reapply in a few months” whenever the rejects asked, “But what did I do?”

The significance of being tossed out by the TM movement was devastating to those it happened to. The depth of their turmoil can only be fathomed by understanding that Maharishi was teaching then that two twenty-minute meditations a day no longer would cut it. Regular expensive advanced courses and meditating with the group in the flying hall had become pre-requisites not just for world peace but also for personal salvation. Unless you wanted condemned to many future lifetimes of ignorance and suffering, it was vital to keep up with the program.

Our goal was liberation, enlightenment: an egoless state where blissful “pure consciousness” suffuses the awareness at all times, trivializing everything that used to seem important. In enlightenment, nothing touches you, success and loss don’t affect you.

Because liberation in this lifetime required staying on the good side of the TM “gestapo,” people became artificial and prone to quoting movement slogans in front of each other. Everyone wanted to appear “kosher,” so they could stay on the campus and evolve.

akaufman1.jpgThe movie Man on the Moon depicts what happened to Andy Kaufman (photo left), a Hollywood comedian and TM governor who after years of movement involvement was found to be mysteriously wanting. There is a scene where a smiling TM-Siddhi administrator informs him he is not welcome on Maharishi’s campus anymore, no reason given. For an earnest meditator, that was like telling a cancer patient the drug he needs to live is being withdrawn.

In 1987, when I left TM and Fairfield, I had lived 17 years within the movement’s parameters. I’d seen so many of my generation go from “flower power” to “mantra power.” My friends had changed from buoyant folks delighting in free expression to paranoid people with phony smiles and legislated attitudes. It took me two years to break free of the thinking that kept me in Maharishi’s orbit. It felt traumatic, like a failed marriage. I didn’t know what was happening, but I knew I could no longer be part of it.

In the 20 years since I left the Transcendental Meditation movement, Maharishi raised the price for learning to meditate into the thousands. Disciples able and willing to kick in a million dollars (apiece) were offered (in the last years of the guru’s life) proximity to him, a golden crown to wear, and the title of “raja” or “king”. Maharishi had created a “world government” he called “The Global Country of World Peace,” and his rajas are the rulers.

I’ve come to personally know two women who confide they were sexually propositioned by the “lifelong monk.”

One of Maharishi’s closest disciples from the 70s, a Swedish man named Conny Larson, published an autobiography in which he says he left the TM movement when he realized the girls who came into Maharishi’s room in the wee hours, leaving disheveled, weren’t really in there “reading him his mail.”

Since Maharishi’s death last February, one of his former girlfriends, Linda Pearce, is expected to come forward with her full story (first covered in a newspaper article in 1981, some years after John Lennon announced in a Rolling Stone interview that the Beatles believed Maharishi had tried to rape Mia Farrow).

In the years since I left the movement, the truth about the mantras has also come out.

The mantras (which Maharishi gave to the teachers to give in turn to the lower initiates) turn out not to be “meaningless sounds with life-supporting qualities” as he said. They are, rather, names of Hindu gods, a fact made public with the advent of the Internet.

Wikipedia, in its section on mantras, lists three of the mantras Maharishi gave me and other teachers to dispense: Eim, Hrim, and Shreem. Eim, says Wikipedia, is the Hindu goddess Saraswati, Hrim is the goddess Durga, and Shreem is the goddess Kali. (Wikipedia quotes these facts from “The Shakti Mantras,” by Thomas Ashley Farrand, Ballantine Books, 2003, pages 43, 124 and 138, but you can find the same information appearing dozens of places in a simple Google search.)

This intentional deception by Maharishi, perpetrated on his teachers and through them on the public, is to me the worst thing this “man of God” did to society. Through this lie, telling us that the mantras were “meaningless sounds,” Maharishi got unsuspecting Westerners to worship his gods under the guise of teaching them a “simple relaxation technique.” This is even more reprehensible than sex seduction of young disciples.

He seduced the minds of 6 million people, or should we call it rape?

I’ve written elsewhere about the hidden agenda of mantra meditation, and why it was important to Maharishi.

The power of recitation of the name of a god in meditation is very real power indeed. As individual identity disintegrates, the meditator continues his practice, because, he’s told, this implosion is a good thing. Oneness consciousness is taking the place of his formerly “limited” self. He is nearing his goal: universal awareness, the death of ego, and annihilation of “the illusion of I.”

This is why many of the 1960s flower children disappeared.

m-2002a.jpgMaharishi (2002 photo right) transformed them from a generation of dissenters, the hippie generation, into pimps for the gods.

He turned their spiritual yearnings into spiritual servitude.

The ambition of so many 60s/70s youth, to make a better world, was undermined first by drugs and then by mantras. Often those converted by TM became grateeful thralls to boot, who would always remember that they had been “rescued” and how much they owed to their guru.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi: diverter of seekers, seducer of minds, stealer of souls.

Any of those would be an appropriate epitaph. The mainstreaming of meditation in Western culture is this man’s questionable legacy.

Note: Read more of Bronte Baxter’s reflections at her blog “Splinter in the Mind.

Copyright © Bronte Baxter 2008


Mahesh Prasad Varma, better known as “Maharishi Mahesh Yogi,” was born near the Indian town of Jabalpur, into a scribe caste family. He died last night at the age of 91.

At times referred to as a “cult leader,” one BBC website called him a “Rasputinesque” figure.

The Indian guru promoted “Transcendental meditation,” known as TM to its fans and followers. This practice involves reciting a mantra over and over again to still the mind.

However, TM critics saw the technique as little more than self-hypnosis or trance induction.

Classes to learn TM don’t come cheap. The current list price is $2,500 for a five-day session.06maharishi6001.jpg

Mahrishi launched his public career as the “Beatles guru.” In 1968 the British group journeyed to his Himalayan ashram to study.

But it wasn’t long before the popular band dumped their would-be teacher.

John Lennon felt that Maharishi’s claim to celibacy was a lie. Lennon said in interviews that the Beatles song “Sexy Sadie,” which includes the lyrics “Sexy Sadie, what have you done, you made a fool of everyone” was originally called “Maharishi.”

This year on January 11th the guru announced his retirement, but apparently he was already quite ill and died in less than a month.

Maharishi and his followers often made ridiculous claims regarding the power of TM, such as a mass meditation session of 7,000 followers somehow being linked to the fall of the Berlin wall and the end of the Cold War.

Maharishi’s mantra almost always included money.

The TM Web site states, “When the group cannot be maintained financially, new tensions arise in the world.” Such statements almost seem like spiritual blackmail.

Perhaps Maharishi will be most remembered for his shrewd business sense. He leaves behind the legacy of a multi-billion dollar spiritual empire.

Britain’s Daily Telegraph reported that TM has been marketed “with all the zeal of a multinational corporation — which is, effectively, what it became.”

In 1990 Maharishi moved to the Netherlands where he turned a historic former Catholic retreat into his home. The guru created considerable controversy when he attempted to demolish the landmark to suit his own taste.

One of Maharishi’s last fund raising pitches took place in 2002. The guru claimed he wanted to combat world terrorism and war through meditation.

The price tag this time was $1 billion dollars to train 40,000 TMers.

In the United States alone TM accumulated assets of about $300 million, including Maharishi University in Iowa.

Many of the guru’s remaining devotees live in Maharishi Vedic City, which is located a few miles from Fairfield, Iowa.

Maharishi may have been one of world’s most successful “cult leaders.”

That is, if measured by money, rather than mantras.

It seems that Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the old guru that briefly provided spiritual guidance to the “Beatles” during the 1960s, wants to influence American kids through public schools.

Maharishi Mahesh YogiHowever, concerned parents upset this plan, in California’s bastion of liberalism Marin County and were unwilling to put out the welcome mat for Maharishi.

Amidst allegations that “Transcendental Meditation” (TM) taught by the guru was a “religion” and a “cult,” the program proposed by Terra Linda High School principal Carole Ramsey was ultimately withdrawn reported Associated Press. 

The funding source for this proposed program was eccentric film director David Lynch, who was willing to pay $175,000 through his foundation for 250 students and 25 staffers to practice Maharishi’s meditation.

A long-time devotee of the guru Lynch seems to spend more time traveling to promote TM lately than making movies.

One Marin parent said at an open public meeting that TM was “the beginning of a whole new philosophy of life.” And that it works “by putting people in trances, and when you’re in a trance you’re more suggestible” reported NBC 11.

David LynchPrincipal Ramsey insisted instead that the practice is “about quieting your mind” and “actually very good for your brain,” she said.

The principal allowed an open discussion last week, but it blew up in her face.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that it’s religious,” pronounced yet another parent and opponent of the proposed program.

This is not the first time Maharishi’s followers have attempted to get their guru’s mantras into public schools within the United States.

During 2004 there were several attempts reported across the country.

According to one report filed by Associated Press TM fans were pitching their beliefs at public schools in “New York, California, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and other places.”

Barry Markovsky, a University of South Carolina sociologist labeled such efforts “stealth religion.” And almost 30 years ago in 1977, U.S. District Judge H. Curtis Meanor ruled against TM being taught at public schools. 

However, that didn’t discourage the faithful who kept plugging away at a number of venues through often through front organizations.

Working through the “National Committee for Stress-Free Schools” Maharishi’s disciples were “aggressively promoting…in major cities, including New York City,” according to The Journal News. 

And in North Carolina a charter school garnered controversy when it announced a TM and “Natural Law Curriculum.” However, it was deemed inappropriate for public funds to support what is essentially seen as a religious practice. Ultimately the school board voted down TM as part of its educational program.

TM supporters also tried to enter schools within Lexington, Kentucky.

In all of these attempts, much like the recently proposed Marin “wellness” program, Maharishi’s followers pitched a program they claimed would somehow lead to a decrease in blood pressure and discipline problems, improvement in grades and the lowering of stress levels.

But critics repeatedly questioned the research regarding TM, which has been characterized as “skewed toward positive results.”

The Middle European Journal of Medicine found that out of 700 studies on TM spanning 40 years, only 10 were conducted in the clinical tradition of using strict control groups, randomization and placebos. Of those 10, four of the studies recruited subjects that had already shown an interest in TM.

Peter Canter a researcher from the Peninsula Medical School of the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth in the United Kingdom concluded, “there is a strong placebo effect going on which probably works through the expectations being set up.”

It seems David Lynch hoped to avoid controversy with the recently proposed school program in California, by putting up the funding himself.

However, despite this demonstration of devotion to his guru, Mr. Lynch will not be gaining any new disciples for Maharishi and his teachings in Marin.

Attention President Bush and world leaders concerned about recent developments in the Middle East, someone has a way to “prevent the impending danger,” which can become “the basis of indomitable peace.”

Maharishi has a planWho has this fantastic peace plan?

None other than Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, former guru to the Beatles.  

John Hagelin, Maharishi’s point man and a past presidential candidate, wants to “mobilize the entire country” to “pull together in this hour of need,” according to an urgent message he sent to key leaders within the guru’s Transcendental Meditation (TM) network this week.

CultNews received a copy of Hagelin’s communication, which amounts to “marching orders” or rather flying orders, for what TM calls its “yogic flyers.”

Yogic flyers” are something like Maharishi’s spiritual air force.

However, these pilots have an unconventional takeoff that consists of essentially going into a trance and then hopping around within various buildings controlled by the guru.

This is what TM devotees mean when they claim to be airborne doing “yogic flying.”

Figuratively they are “flying high” through their guru’s meditation techniques, which can produce dissociated states of altered consciousness through something, more commonly called hypnosis.

Just like a stage hypnotist can get a subject to cluck like a chicken, Maharishi’s methods make them think they can fly and feel the sensation.

Hagelin reports, “I am returning to America today to rally…1,500 Yogic Flyers from Fairfield [Iowa]…and to mobilize another 1,000 from across the nation to fly together in the Domes. [Other TM devotees] will immediately mobilize 1,000 for Washington, DC…Only we can save the nation and bring peace at this critical time.”

And to think world governments rely upon diplomacy and at times military defenses.

Why bother when Maharishi has this magical solution?

David Lynch fundraiserBut there might be some cost for the faithful to participate in the old guru’s peace plan, at least “$30.00 per day” for “room and board” according to Hagelin.

The official name for the plan is the “Invincible America Course” and it’s all part of the Maharishi pitch that includes “Peace Palaces.”

Those palaces have price tags, and Maharishi devotees like film director David Lynch travels around engaged in seemingly perpetual fund raising.

Despite Maharishi’s advanced age the guru wants to keep building his global spiritual empire that reportedly is now worth between $6 and $9 billion dollars.

At thirty bucks a day the guru’s billions could fund a virtual wave of “yogic flyers” to cover the earth, but something tells me that if Maharishi had to personally pay for his peace plan the guru’s spiritual air force would be grounded. 

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi wants the world to know that he has a system for “invincible defense,” but the guru’s plan somehow doesn’t work at his own school in Iowa.

89-year-old Maharishi  The former spiritual mentor to the Beatles says his plan “calls for establishing in each nation a small group of Yogic Flyers who will enliven Total Natural Law”the light of God”and create a high level of integrated collective consciousness” This will then become “the basis [for]…permanent peace on earth,” according to a recent press release from the “Global Country of World Peace.”

The guru also claims that his “technologies” create an “all-powerful field of invincibility” that will “make any nation invincible.”

So why didn’t this supposedly technological achievement work at Maharishi University of Management (MUM) in Fairfield, Iowa?

One former MUM enrollee and the family of another who was killed in a stabbing on the school campus in 2004 have filed seperate lawsuits in U.S. District Court. The plaintiff’s allege that MUM was “negligent” and failed to protect its pupils from the rampage of a student known to be violent reports the Des Moines Register.

Maharishi claims that if governments will just support and subsidize his proposed “all-powerful field” no nation need “sacrifice its youth” in war.

However, according to the recently filed federal lawsuits a youth at MUM was sacrificed needlessly and no “all-powerful field” protected him from a crazed killer.

And what about that murderer, who was once a deeply devoted disciple of Maharishi? Why didn’t the guru’s teachings help him?

MUM student Shuvender Sem, 26, was found not guilty of murder by reason of insanity and has since been committed to an Iowa institution for the mentally ill.272-acre MUM campus

This is hardly a ringing endorsement for Maharishi’s “unified field,” which somehow must have short-circuited when it came to making Sem peaceful.

Maybe before preaching peace plans to the world Maharishi should test them out first at his own schools and see if they work, before hoping to sell them to others.

Or doesn’t his much-touted “Transcendental Meditation” bring about inner peace to the guru’s own devoted followers?

And if it doesn’t work for them why should it work for anyone else?

Instead of the guru’s “Yogic Flyers” attempting to “enliven Total Natural Law” worldwide, perhaps they should try calming down a couple of hundred acres at MUM first, or at least circle its campus periodically to provide better security for the students