Feb 14, 2008

Obituary: Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, guru and tycoon, died on February 5th, aged 91 (probably)

The Economist
February 14, 2008

VISITORS entering the World Bank in Washington one sweaty day in 1987 might have been surprised to come upon a team of smiling young men, legs neatly folded into the lotus position, hopping like frogs. In fact, most visitors were probably not surprised at all. Like many happenings connected with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, this display of “yogic flying” had been well advertised. The only surprise was that the bank, usually cast as a bastion of hard-headed rationality, should provide such a ready audience for an event whose aim was not physical fitness but world peace.

Thirty years earlier the maharishi, who had studied maths and physics at Allahabad University, had calculated that one person practising the transcendental meditation he promoted could induce virtuous behaviour among 99 non-meditators. He had already, in 1944, helped to get 2,000 Vedic pandits, learned followers of one of the four holy books of the Hindus, to chant mantras in an effort to bring the second world war to an end. He had again assembled meditators in 1963 to solve the Cuban missile crisis. But his ambitions were bigger—world peace, no less—and by the 1980s he had come to realise that to bring harmony to a world of 5 billion people, he would need 50m meditators.
Undaunted, he did the arithmetic again, this time factoring in meditation of deep purity and concentration (including yogic flying), and happily found he needed a number no greater than the square root of 1%—a mere 7,000 or so. Accordingly, 7,000 flyers were assembled during the Taste of Utopia conference in Fairfield, Iowa, in 1984. Annoyingly, though, the “wide range of positive effects worldwide” ended with the conference. Something similar happened after 7,000 students gathered for yogic flying and Vedic chanting near Delhi in 1988. The Berlin Wall came down all right and the cold war ended, but the money needed to keep the group airborne ran out and, dammit, “new tensions” started to arise in the world.

If only the maharishi had had the necessary funds. Actually, he had. He may not have known how to make peace, but he certainly knew how to make money. After years studying under a Hindu divine in the late 1950s, he had pronounced himself a maharishi (great seer) and set up the Spiritual Regeneration Movement. This took transcendental meditation, which he had trademarked, to the world, with Hollywood one of the first stops. Disciples paid $2,500 for a five-day course, learning how to reach a “deeper level” of consciousness by inwardly repeating a mantra twice a day for 20 minutes.

Real fame came when the Beatles beat a path to his door, seeking enlightenment and spirituality through good vibrations. George Harrison had already fallen under the spell of the sitar and the maharishi's message appealed to John Lennon's angry pacifism. Before long the Fab Four were ensconced in the maharishi's ashram in the foothills of the Himalayas. Their stay was only a modified success, though, with Lennon and Ringo Starr complaining about the food, and all of them, perhaps, beginning to resent their host's transcendental interest in using them for publicity, if not an outright percentage of their earnings.

No matter. Plenty of others were ready to step forward for a dose of spiritual bliss, and not all were celebrities. In America meditation was judged to be just the tonic for a variety of people ranging from underperforming executives to recidivist prisoners. An army general even joined the board of Maharishi International University, set up in Fairfield in 1974. All in all, some 5m people are said to have been taught the maharishi's techniques since 1955.
His other ventures blossomed, too. A property empire was valued at over $3 billion ten years ago. A television station offered meditation courses to subscribers in 144 countries. Companies sold unguents, books, videos and Ayurvedic treatment. His political movement, the Natural Law Party, which in the 1990s pursued the goal of world government by fighting elections in America, Britain and several other countries, was less successful, and eventually folded. This, however, did not stop the maharishi then launching the raam, a global currency intended to foster development.

Imagine (all the things he didn't do)

Crank? Crackpot? Charlatan? Maybe all three. Yet the maharishi was generally benign. He did not use his money for sinister ends. He neither drank, nor smoked, nor took drugs. Indeed, he is credited with weaning the Beatles off dope (for a while). He did not accumulate scores of Rolls-Royces, like Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh; his biggest self-indulgence was a helicopter. Nor was he ever accused of molesting choirboys; his greatest sexual impropriety, it was said, was to make a pass at Mia Farrow. He giggled a lot, and plainly had no lack of self-esteem. But his egotism did not mean he was always wringing his hands at pop concerts or blethering at Davos; after the 1960s he seldom appeared in public.
Moreover, his message was entirely laudable. He did not promote a cult or even a mainstream religion preaching original sin, purgatory and the likelihood of eternal damnation. He just wanted to end poverty, teach people how to achieve personal fulfilment and help them to discover “Heaven on Earth in this generation”. And yogic flying, of course.

This article appeared in the Obituary section of the print edition


Feb 8, 2008

A School Case To Watch

New York Sun
February 8, 2008


Oh, ye of little faith — and here we are speaking of those who doubt that some day a solution will be found to the problem of school choice — we say behold what is happening among the judges who ride the 9th circuit of the United States Court of Appeals. There, our Josh Gerstein reports from the Coast, three judges are hearing a case that could force the Internal Revenue Service to explain why it has secretly allowed members of the Church of Scientology to take a tax deduction for religious education.

The case was brought by a Jewish couple, Michael and Marla Sklar, who had taken deductions for part of the costs of the tuition for the education of their children for afterschool classes in Judaism. They are seeking to view an agreement the Internal Revenue Service reached with the Church of Scientology in 1993 as part of a settlement in a long-running dispute. The church, Mr. Gerstein reports, paid $12.5 million, while the IRS, as Mr. Gerstein characterizes it in his story on page one, "agreed to drop arguments that Scientology was not a bona fide religion." And the IRS agreed to allow Scientologists to deduct at least 80% of fees paid for "religious training and services."

A memo memorializing the agreement, which was secret, was later published by the Wall Street Journal, igniting a tumult. The Sklars, Mr. Gerstein reports, took similar deductions for religious education on their returns for the early 1990s, without challenge by the IRS, until 1994, when the IRS began rejecting their deductions. One of the questions being battled over in federal court now is whether the IRS has to disclose its secret agreement with the Scientologists and whether it sets a precedent in respect of others who wish to deduct tuition and other payments for religious education.

It's always dangerous for a newspaper to predict the outcome of a court case, but at one point, Mr. Gerstein reports, Judge KimWardlaw put it this way: "The view of the IRS is it can unconstitutionally violate the Constitution by establishing religion, by treating one religion more favorably than other religions in terms of what is allowed as deductions, and there can never be any judicial review of that?" A hapless lawyer for the IRS tried to argue that's not what she was saying. Snapped two judges from the bench: "That's the bottom line." Added Judge Wardlaw: "This does intrude into the Establishment Clause."

At one point, the IRS lawyer actually warned the court that the tax collector would have difficulty resolving tax disputes if the IRS were forced to disclose its secret agreement with the Scientologists. "Every person who can find out about it from any other religious group is going to come in and want the same thing and that would really tie the IRS's hands," she said. She went on to argue that the idea that the IRS can't settle and keep the settlement confidential could lead to members of racial minorities trying to claim that taxpayers of other races got better deals. This prompted the lawyer for the Sklars to ask: "If the IRS were saying white people were entitled to a certain deduction and black people were not, why would it be such a parade of horrors for the courts to come in and say the government may not act that way?"

* * *
Our own view on school vouchers and the like is that the right place to work out a solution is in the legislatures. But one of the things the courts are made for is abuses of the state power, and it certainly is starting to look like there has been an enormous one if the Internal Revenue Service is denying Jews, or Christians, or any other religion, the right to make deductions for religious education it is permitting to another group on the grounds that it is a religion. So there is at least the possibility here that the riders of the 9th United States Circuit could simply order the IRS to grant the Sklars — and others similarly situationed — deductions for certain costs of religious education similar to what the government is secretly allowing the Scientologists. Or in other words, one could make a giant leap forward in parental choice in the education of children, all in one judicial fell swoop.



A School Case To Watch+

New York Sun - Editorial+




2/8/2008 8:00:00 AM +





A religion for the 21st century: Scientology

Ruth Marvin Webster, Staff Writer
North County Times (CA)
February 8, 2008

Questions of faith and religion aren't usual topics of Hollywood buzz. Drug use, infidelity, weight and cosmetic surgical procedures are.

But any tidbit about the Church of Scientology or its high-profile celebrity believers seem to be the exception, attracting attention at every turn.

First there was the controversy in Germany, which in December declared Scientology unconstitutional and banned it. Then there was the release of Andrew Morton's unauthorized biography of actor Tom Cruise, which coincided with the broadcast of a nine-minute video of Cruise extolling the virtues of the faith, viewed by millions of people around the world before it was pulled from YouTube.

But more than material for late-night talk hosts, the Church of Scientology is the belief system of more than 3.5 million Americans, including more than 18,000 people in the San Diego area, according to Dave Meyer, president of the Church of Scientology of San Diego.

Scientology has been called by some the only major new religion to emerge in the 20th century with no heritage from any mainstream Judeo-Christian faiths. Nor is it connected with the churches of Christian Science or Religious Science. Others, however, say Scientology is not a religion because of its methods, including the practice of charging for some of its services.

'We so respect him'

Scientology grew out of a best-selling book called "Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health," published in 1950. The book includes a concept of God expressed as the urge toward existence as infinity or the supreme being.

The author of "Dianetics" was L. Ron Hubbard, a filmmaker, aviator, adventurer, photographer, philosopher and expert mariner. The founder of the Church of Scientology, he is considered a genius by his followers.

Among those followers are Kathy and Ed Marsh of Escondido. The library in their guesthouse is home to thousands of first edition and signed volumes, many written by Hubbard. The room also contains pieces of Hubbard memorabilia that Ed Marsh, a Scientologist since 1969, has collected over the years, such as a package of Hubbard's favorite Kool cigarettes and his early aviator helmet.

But Scientology is not about worshipping Hubbard, said Meyer, who has been the president of the Church of Scientology of San Diego for the last two years.

"We so respect him (Hubbard) for his deeds and accomplishments ... and for his caring factor," said Meyer.

A new religion

Born in Tilden, Neb., in March 1911, Hubbard was a prolific author of fiction and science fiction, including his best-known science-fiction novel, "Battlefield Earth." Guinness World Records lists him as the world's most published and most translated author, with 1,084 fiction and nonfiction works translated into 71 languages. Hubbard died on Jan. 24, 1986, at age 74.

But "Dianetics" remains his most enduring work. On The New York Times best-seller list for 26 consecutive weeks the year it was published, followers contend that this book, with Hubbard's other writings and recordings on Scientology, collectively constitutes their scripture.

"Hubbard took a scientific approach as to 'what is man,'" said Marsh. "He untangled the web of knowledge and came down with the things that work and the technology for doing that."

Reading and studying the book, followers believe, is the first step in resolving the problems of the human mind, which include unwanted sensations and emotions, irrational impulses, and psychosomatic (mind-caused) ills.

'A state of Clear' 

At the core of such problems of human existence is what Hubbard calls the reactive mind, defined as that portion of the mind that works on a totally stimulus-response basis. Stored there are so-called engrams ---- mental records of times of physical pain and unconsciousness. These engrams are "the source of all human failings."

Using his techniques, Hubbard writes, a "state of Clear" and spiritual peace can be accomplished, and the whole of the reactive mind is erased.

"The cases are legion, documented and startling: a homicidal maniac returned to normality in a matter of a few dozen hours; an arthritically paralyzed welder returned to full mobility in roughly the same; a legally blind professor whose vision was restored in under a week; and an hysterically crippled housewife returned to perfect health in a single three-hour session," write the "Friends of Ron" in the book "L. Ron Hubbard, a Profile" (1995, published by the Church of Scientology).

Marsh said he was a troubled 17-year-old when he stumbled into the Scientology office on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. "It said they had a free personality test, and the test that I took later confirmed what I already knew, that I was a mess. It was crushing."

Marsh said he took that personality test in San Diego after being hospitalized with hepatitis. "I was in convalescence. A friend came in with two 'Dianetics' books and a bottle of cheap Cold Duck."

Marsh said Hubbard's message spoke to him. "There's no belief involved," he said. "He says to look and evaluate for yourself to become more of you. Don't just believe because I said it."

Meyer, the San Diego Scientology Church president, explained: "He (Hubbard) doesn't give answers. He says to look, understand and decide what that means for you."

Meyer added that Scientology is a religion, not a method of self-help, because it focuses on the spirit, not just the body.

Auditing and e-meters

Auditing is the term given to the spiritual counseling that is the central practice of Scientology.

A trained auditor uses a set of questions to help a person examine otherwise unknown and unwanted sources of difficulties. "The procedure is predicated on the fact that if the true source of what troubles us is fully viewed and understood, then the trouble would no longer be," explain Scientology materials.

Part of the auditing process involves the electro-psychometer, or e-meter, which is said to help the auditor and the subject locate areas of spiritual distress existing below the person's current awareness. The subject holds a metal cylinder in each hand, which are hooked up to the electronic components of the meter as the auditor reads the dial. The meter is said to send a small electrical current (approximately .5 volts) through the body, about the same as the average battery-powered wristwatch.

Marsh has collected dozens of vintage e-meters that are displayed in his Escondido study. He and Meyer are both trainer auditors. That is, they are trained in certain techniques and governed by an Auditor's Code that demand they show kindness, affinity and patience while confronting areas of upset or difficulty in the subject.

Each follower's goal of spiritual advancement is delineated by the Scientology Bridge, which charts the levels and certificates showing auditing classes from zero to 12 as well as training steps. The "Clear" stage is the goal and end result of Dianetics, which requires hours of auditing to attain.

Taking the training, as outlined in Scientology materials, is the way to learn the spiritual technology of Scientology. Study programs range from introductory to advanced, and programs exist at Scientology centers throughout the world as well as books, materials and video presentations.

According to Scientology materials, it is through this study that followers can learn to hone their ability to control each of what are called the eight dynamics, eight distinct divisions of every individual's drive for survival.

'New answers needed'

"Scientology has never been more relevant than today," said David Miscavige, an important leader in the church, in an introductory address given at a celebrity event in Los Angeles a few years ago that was videotaped for the public.

"Man lives in a world increasingly interested in science, and yet even with all that science, there is an abyss, a chasm of humanity ... the answer cannot be found in chemicals or science ... we think new answers are needed. People need real solutions to real problems, and Scientology offers that help ... and inherent in that is that each of us takes responsibility for themselves and the world."

Scientologists estimated that there are 3,000 Scientology churches, missions, related organizations and group ministries in more than 133 countries.

According to the Religion Newswriters Association, a nonprofit trade association founded in 1949 to advance the professional standards of religion reporting, Scientology has been investigated in the past by certain governmental agencies around the world, in part because of its practice of charging fees to members in order for them to receive auditing. Costs for auditing vary, and according to the Scientology materials, for those who cannot afford a donation, every church has a center where they can receive auditing from ministers in training.

Meyer said Scientologists have made a positive impact on the local community with numerous social programs, including helping at an evacuation center at MiraCosta College for victims of last year's wildfires.

Among the organization's community projects are programs such as Criminon, run in more than 300 prisons and penal institutions in 39 states, and Narconon, a drug rehabilitation program in 70 nations and which is said by Scientologists to have "successfully freed more than 100,000 individuals from drug dependence."

"There are a plethora of ways to contribute," Meyer said. "We encourage people to read and watch the materials, see if it makes sense to them and participate. The truth is usually very simple."

Commonly asked questions about the basics of Scientology

Thetan: According to Scientologists, man consists of three parts: thetan, mind and body. The thetan is the spiritual being or soul. One of the basic tenets of Scientology is that man is an immortal spiritual being whose experience extends beyond a single lifetime and whose capabilities are unlimited.

Auditing: Term given to the spiritual counseling delivered by an auditor who is trained in the techniques of Dianetics and Scientology. No use of hypnosis or drugs is said to be used. During the auditing session, the auditor asks questions that are meant to help the individual examine his own existence and
find a higher level of spiritual awareness and well-being.

Engram: The stored mental images of the Reactive Mind, or that part of a person's mind that works completely on a stimulus-response basis.

State of Clear: The goal and end result of Dianetics is the state of Clear when the reactive mind is wiped clean.

Operating Thetan or OT: The spiritual state of being above Clear. An OT is able to control matter, energy, space and time rather than being controlled by such things. This state is said to be attained in a series of steps and classes.

E-meter or electropsychometer: Used in the auditing process, the e-meter is called a religious artifact. It is said to measure and change the mental state of the individual being audited. Movement of the needle on the dial is said to indicate an area of upset or trauma and help the individual uncover truth.

Source: Reference Guide to the Scientology Religion: Answer to Questions Most Commonly Asked by Media. Pamphlet is presented by the Church of Scientology International (2000).

Contact staff writer Ruth Marvin Webster at (760) 740-3527 or rwebster@nctimes.com.

Feb 7, 2008

Maharishi inspired Beatles but died leaving £2b and rape rumours

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
February 7, 2008

He was the Sixth Beatle, a spiritual force with the potential to create world peace and end famine.

Or he was an avaricious old man with a penchant for young girls who ruined the greatest pop group in history...

It rather depends on your point of view, but one thing is certain about the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who died this week aged somewhere between 91 and 97 - he was one of the richest religious leaders in history.

The 'giggling guru' - so called because of his high-pitched laugh - lived in an opulent 200-room mansion, with helicopters and dozens of cars at his disposal, and was worth an estimated £2billion.

He was the head of a movement with five million followers worldwide, all seeking a higher consciousness through transcendental meditation.

But while the Maharishi promised world peace, and cynics laughed at his wacky teachings and yogic flying, sinister stories of sex, debauchery, and even murder cast dark shadows over his life.

All but one of the Beatles cut their ties with their apparently celibate guru after it emerged he'd made a pass at Mia Farrow. The Maharishi's people, on the other hand, insist they simply fell out when he discovered the band were using LSD.

Later another British disciple, Linda Pearce claimed the Maharishi had seduced her when he was in his 60s.

"He was a brilliant manipulator," said Mrs Pearce. "I just couldn't see that he was a dirty old man. We made love regularly. At one stage I even thought I was pregnant by him. And I don't think I was the only girl. There was a lot of talk that he'd tried to rape Mia Farrow."

And there was worse scandal to come. In 1987, when the Maharishi was living in a high security complex on the outskirts of Delhi, India, the Telegraph newspaper of Calcutta alleged five boys had died after being used as guinea pigs in the ashram's "medical institute" searching for cures for cancer, heart ailments and Aids. Nothing was ever proved.

At the same time the fabulously wealthy guru's employees went on strike to increase their £10-a-month wages. The Maharishi simply moved into a five-star hotel in New Delhi until it was over.

Mahesh Prasad Varma (or Mahesh Srivastava, depending on your source) was born in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, sometime between 1911 and 1918.

The son of a government tax inspector, he initially studied physics but then trained with a Vedic spiritual mentor, undertaking two years of silence in the Himalayas where he developed his ideas on transcendental meditation.

The movement the Maharishi leaves behind, after his death at his luxurious retreat in Vlodrop in the Netherlands, has been called the world's richest cult. Yet when he began his first world tour as a spiritual leader in Burma in 1958, the Maharishi was praised for his austerity.

One commentator wrote: "He asks for nothing. His worldly possessions can be carried in one hand."

Meeting the Beatles a decade later changed all that. The band had been encouraged to attend a lecture by George Harrison's wife Patti, and were impressed enough by what they heard to accompany him to a weekend retreat in to North Wales.

Along with Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull, they took the train to Bangor - where the Maharishi assumed the mob of screaming fans were there for him.

Only a day into the retreat the news broke that the Beatles influential manager Brian Epstein had died from a suspected drugs overdose.

Rather than let them grieve for their friend and first mentor, the Maharishi told them their tears would cause "vibrations" which could trap Epstein's spiriton this spiritual plane rather than let it travel to the next. And he instructed them to be joyful and laugh.

Months later all four Beatles, their partners and 60s stars Donovan, Mike Love of the Beach Boys, and Mia Farrow and her sister Prudence headed off for a three-month retreat to the Maharishi's centre on the banks of the Ganges.

Funded by a tithe of one week's wages from each of its students, the bank balance of the ashram received a massive boost from the world's biggest pop stars.

They expected to find spiritual enlightenment, but what they actually found was what Ringo called "a bit like Butlins." He and his then wife Maureen left after a fortnight, desperate for "egg and chips." Paul McCartney and his girlfriend Jane Asher quit too.

Then came the stories of the Maharishi's attempt to have sex with Mia Farrow. John Lennon said later: "There was a hullabaloo about him trying to rape Mia and a few other women. The whole gang charged down to his hut and I said: 'We're leaving!' He asked why and I said: 'If you're so cosmic, you'll know why.' The Maharishi gave me a look that said: 'I'll kill you, you bastard!'"

But none of this dented the Maharishi's growing global popularity. Travelling the world in a pink aeroplane, his fame and his movement grew and he featured on the front cover of Time magazine in 1975. His transcendental meditation technique involved silently repeating a Sanskrit mantra for 20 minutes twice a day. And since scientific studies have now concluded it has some real health benefits, it is never short of new adherents

And at £1,300 per person for a standard introduction course, it's easy to see where the Maharishi's cash came from. But there were times when the guru's ego got the better of him... He once told an audience in New York that if just one per cent of the world's population adopted his teaching it would "neutralise the power of war for thousands of years".

Consequently, he claimed credit for peace in the Lebanon and Mozambique, and forreducing crime in Washington and Merseyside.

And after the terrorist outrages of September 11, 2001 the Maharishi claimed ifany government gave him a billion dollars he could end terrorism and create peace.

His claims were ridiculed - as were his 40,000yogic fliers who, as the Natural Law Party, promised that levitating while in the Lotusposition would bring peace and enlightenment.In the end it brought just 0.4 per cent of the votes in the election.

Last month the guru, who lately communicated through a videolink, announced his retirement. His spokesman Bob Roth says:"He'd done what he set out to do."

Apart from world peace.


Feb 2, 2008

Attack on Dera cavalcade, chief Ram Rahim unhurt

Times of India

February 2, 2008

KARNAL (HARYANA): The cavalcade of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh on Saturday came under attack when a tyrestuffed with explosives was hurled triggering a blast that injured 11 persons, two of them seriously.

The sect chief, who has been provided the Z-plus category security, however, was unharmed as he was travelling in a vehicle at a distance from the one that went up in flames.

Unidentified persons from a truck parked on a highway on which the Dera chief's cavalcade was passing, threw a tyre at one of the cars which burst into flames, Additional Director General of Police V B Singh said in Chandigarh quoting the injured.

The incident occurred near Nilokheri in Karnal district when the sect head was returning to the Dera headquarters in Sirsa after appearing in a court.

Singh said that the Haryana Police rounded up two persons, including the driver of the truck.

The ADGP said forensic experts from Haryana reached the attack site and collected evidence.