Mar 31, 2014

Court questions discriminatory practice in Arab and Druze schools

Patrick Ryan

March 14, 2014

Education Ministry rules forbid dismissal of teachers during school year, but not for Arabs and Druze.

By Yarden Skop and Eli Ashkenazi

Education Ministry regulations allowing Arab or Druze teachers to be fired in the middle of the school year have been criticized by the Haifa Labor Court as “raising serious questions, to say the least.”

The court was hearing a suit brought by Rawda Shakour, a Druze teacher who was dismissed during the school year, and the Teachers Union.

Shakour had worked for four years as a teacher for children with special needs at a school in the Kisra-Samia regional council. She argued that her dismissal was the result of a discriminatory practice used only in the Arab and Druze sectors, which allows teachers to be fired during the first month of the school year, based on “placement errors."

Mar 30, 2014

New Kadampa Tradition NKT Documentary BBC - An Unholy Row 1998

 This is a documentary about the New Kadampa Tradition / NKT from BBC from 1998. With interviews of H.H. the Dalai Lama, Stephen Batchelor, Gesh Kelsang Gyatso and ex-members of the NKT / New Kadampa Tradition.

In the Name of Enlightenment - Sex Scandal in Religion- About Sogyal Rinpoche
Danielle Rossingh 
BBC News Online business reporter
February 5, 2003

A new "currency" issued by a group founded by Beatles guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi may be used and has not violated Dutch law, the Dutch central bank has said.

The Global Country of World Peace, set up by the Indian mystic, issued the brightly coloured notes of one, five and 10 "raam" last October.
Since then, more than 100 Dutch shops, some of them part of big department store chains, in 30 villages and cities have accepted the notes.

A spokesman for the Dutch Central Bank told BBC News Online the bank was keeping a close eye on the raam, although he added that the Maharishi movement had done everything according to the law.

"The raam can be used as long as the notes are not used as legal tender and it stays within a closed-off circuit of users," he said.

A bit on the virtual currency

Hindu Businessline, Investment World
September 07, 2013

The first time I heard of a currency issued by an institution, apart from the Government or the Central Bank of a nation, was way back in 2002. A relative, devotee of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, told us about “Raam”. Raam is a currency in circulation in Holland and parts of United States, issued by the Stichting Maharishi Global Financing Research (SMDFR), a charitable foundation based in Holland. Two questions came to my mind: First, who guarantees the payment to the bearer? Second, if many more institutions start to issue currencies, wouldn't it lead to a lot of chaos?
Similar, and more, questions were raised in our minds when we heard of Bitcoin for the first time.

Raam a Global development currency at Holland ( राम एक वैश्विक विकास मुद्रा )

March 19, 2013
Vishal Shesth

Raam is a Bearer Bond or local currency (note-its not a Currency of Holland) issued by  Stichting Maharishi Global Financing Research (SMDFR), a charitable foundation based in Holland The Raam was launched on October 26 2001, The Global Country of World Peace, set up by the Indian mystic, issued the brightly coloured notes of one, five and 10 “Raam.”

Maharishi Mahesh known first as a guru of Beatles in the 1960s, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi has 4 million followers worldwide who believe that a diet of meditation and organic foods is the path to personal enlightenment and world peace.

In India, Dow Jones Meets Dharma

Nandini Lakshman
Bloomberg BusinessWeek
February 08, 2008

A new set of indices measuring such characteristics as good governance and eco-friendliness is winning favor with investors and gurus alike
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the Indian sage who taught transcendental meditation to the Beatles, died in the Netherlands on Feb. 5. Back in India, a new generation of gurus is promoting the latest thing to hit the Indian stock market: values investing. Not to be confused with Warren Buffett-style value investing, values-based investing draws on the principles of Indian religions such as Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, and Buddhism. Last month Dow Jones (DJ) launched the faith-based Dow Jones Dharma indices, which measure the performance of 254 companies that have characteristics like good governance and environmental friendliness in common.

A Guru Teaches Techies How to Breathe

September 21, 2003
Bloomberg Business Week

As Arun Nandal prepared to start a new job as a software engineer, the good son touched his parents' feet to seek their blessing. Then he boarded a train and traveled 40 hours from his home in northern India to the country's tech capital, Bangalore, to share his joy with someone almost as important.

That person was Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, well known in India and, increasingly, around the world as guru to the technology class. Nandal, 22, credits Sri Sri and his Art of Living courses on breathing and spiritual development with helping him land his first job, at Lucent Technologies Inc., in Bombay. He says Sri Sri's techniques taught him to concentrate better and helped boost his university grades. "We are very energetic at our age, so we need to focus," says Nandal. "Art of Living helps with that."

THE BUSINESS WORLD; Another Entry for King of the Sky

By Simon Romero
July 18, 1999
NY Times

FROM Mario Garnero's penthouse office in a skyscraper he built here, the view invokes the way Mario de Andrade, Brazil's modernist writer, once described this city -- ''a great mouth with a thousand teeth.'' In almost every direction, crops of steep structures jut out of the concrete in a show of the magnitude of Sao Paulo, the third-largest metropolis in the world, after Tokyo and Mexico City.
But Mr. Garnero, 61, a business tycoon with interests ranging from waste treatment to telecommunications, plans his newest and grandest venture for a spot eclipsed by this jagged skyline, in the decrepit, neglected downtown district where the city's first high-rises were built in the 1920's. There he hopes to build the world's tallest skyscraper, 1,622 feet high. Modeled on the Vedic temples of India, it would surpass the 1,483-foot Petronas Twin Towers of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Peace Palace built by Sunway Homes

I am a big fan of the Beatles. The first time I heard about Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was back in the 60s. Those were big time news: ..."the Beatles interrupted their successful career to join the teaching of an Indian Guru". His name remained in my mind, and in the year 2004, when I was contacted by Dr. Benjamin Feldman, Minister of Finance and Planning of the Global Country of World Peace, an entity of the Maharishi organization, I remembered immediately to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
The Maharishi organization was planning to build a large number of buildings named "Peace Palaces" in several places in the USA, Brazil, Mexico and other countries, and they were looking for a manufacturer of steel structures and builder to assign this contract.

Due to the importance of the project, many conference calls were held by me with Dr. Feldman and representatives of the organization from several countries.

TMO Finances

February 4, 2009

I noticed that had the 06 tax filing for Maharishi Global Development Fund, which the latest available. MGDF is one ofinnumerable tmo orgs in the US, but appears to be the most significantfinancially. It's interesting to me primarily because of how muchmoney it's been transferring to offshore accts the past decade via"grants". In 06 it transferred about $38 million offshore, continuingthe trend. 

I also noticed though that it gave almost $12 million to Maharishi Vedic Education Development Corp, located on MUM campus, whose purpose is to teach TM according to the filing. I was curious about this org. so I looked up its filing.

Actually this seems to be a pretty big org, taking in over $23 million in grants and revenues in that same year it got the big grant from MGDF. It's difficult to know exactly how it spent that money, but it does itemize: over $9 million in salaries and wages though not listed by individual, $3m for "occupancy" which I guess means rent but that seems extraordinarily high for such an org., $2.3m in PR, $900,000 for conferences, $600,000 for travel, $360,000 for bookkeeping, $415,000 for telephone, and various other stuff. It also gives some grants to other tmo orgs.

I thought the $9 million in salaries/wages might include wages to laborers for building the world peace centers, but the balance sheet doesn't list anything like that, so it's not going into hard assets like real estate. Bevan is president, feldman treasurer, though norin isquith appears to do the books. Would love to know who's getting the big salary dollars.

Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-being

JAMA Intern Med. 2014;174(3):357-368

A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Importance  Many people meditate to reduce psychological stress and stress-related health problems. To counsel people appropriately, clinicians need to know what the evidence says about the health benefits of meditation.
Objective  To determine the efficacy of meditation programs in improving stress-related outcomes (anxiety, depression, stress/distress, positive mood, mental health–related quality of life, attention, substance use, eating habits, sleep, pain, and weight) in diverse adult clinical populations.
Evidence Review  We identified randomized clinical trials with active controls for placebo effects through November 2012 from MEDLINE, PsycINFO, EMBASE, PsycArticles, Scopus, CINAHL, AMED, the Cochrane Library, and hand searches. Two independent reviewers screened citations and extracted data. We graded the strength of evidence using 4 domains (risk of bias, precision, directness, and consistency) and determined the magnitude and direction of effect by calculating the relative difference between groups in change from baseline. When possible, we conducted meta-analyses using standardized mean differences to obtain aggregate estimates of effect size with 95% confidence intervals.

Diwakari Devi of Radha Madhav Dham gives Invocation at Hays County Court

Austin, November 2nd, 2013: For the second time this year, Diwakari Devi of Radha Madhav Dham was invited to give the invocation for the Hays County Commissioner’s Court in San Marcos, TX. As with her first invocation in March, she was warmly welcomed to the November 5 session by Judge Bert Cobb, Commissioner Ray Whisenant, and other dignitaries.

Beginning her morning presentation to the Court by singing Tvameva Mata, a well-known Sanskrit verse from the Hindu Scriptures, Diwakari Devi concluded with a heart-touching Invocation:
“My Dear Lord, You alone are my mother, You alone are my father, You alone are my friend, relation, knowledge and wealth. Oh my beloved Lord, You alone are my everything.  My Lord, You are the ocean of infinite grace and kindness. You liberally bestow Your grace and kindness on all the souls. Today, here in our community, those who have chosen to follow a higher calling to serve their fellow man have assembled, and with the collective goal to work together, seek to uplift the people of this county. Together, we look to You, dear Lord, for inner guidance, strength and divine grace. We dedicate our actions to You and endeavor to single-mindedly do our duty for the benefit of all.”
Diwakari Devi

Jagadguru Kripalu denies link with wanted godman

October 14, 2012   

New Delhi: Jagadguru Kripalu Ji Maharaj and organisations functioning under his guidance have denied any connection with Swami Prakashanand Saraswati who has been declared a criminal in America, his trust said in a statement here. 

Reacting to some media reports, the Jagadguru Kripalu Parishat-Shyama Shyam Dham said the guru is strictly against the practice of making disciples. 

"Maharaj Ji has never ever made disciples and has never given initiation to anyone," it added. 

"It is to be noted that Prakashanand Saraswati is a disciple of Jagadguru Shankaracharya Brahmanand Saraswati (a sanyasi). Jagadguru Kripalu Ji Maharaj is a family man and is a Vaishnava," the statement added. 

"The above statement is stated by Jagadguru Kripalu Ji Maharaj's trust in reaction to news published in a newspaper which says that Swami Prakashanand Saraswati, wanted in a case in America, is related to Jagadguru Kripalu Ji Maharaj," it said. 

According to the trust, several people in India and abroad claim to be their guru's disciples, impressed by his actions and his "irrefutable devotion towards god". 

"Under such circumstances, creating a misconception and thereby deluding the public by saying that a wanted criminal is his disciple or associated with any of the trusts functioning under his guidance, is definitely a condemnable action," the trust said. 

CBS Austin reports from the Barsana Dham Hindu Temple in Austin

Attorneys for Swami Prakashanand Saraswati, founder of Barsana Dham, are urging a Hays County judge to consider new evidence they say clears their client of false charges against him.

Billy Graham, Mitt Romney, Cults & the Politicizing of Faith

October 23, 2012
by Paul Louis Metzger
Christianity Today posted the following statement the other day: “The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) recently removed an article from its website that listed Mormonism as a ‘cult.’ The change followed Mitt Romney’s home visit to Billy Graham last week, where the evangelist pledged ‘help’ to the Mormon presidential candidate’s campaign. The BGEA later explained, ‘We removed the information from the website because we do not wish to participate in a theological debate about something that has become politicized during this campaign.’” (Authored by Ruth Moon on October 19th under the title “Should the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association have Removed Mormons from ‘Cult’ List?” and followed by “A Roundup of Expert Views”). The opinions by the experts vary, as one can imagine. This media controversy provides Evangelicals an opportunity to rethink the issues and labels. It also provides the BGEA and other Christian organizations an opportunity to reassess issues related to our approaches to evangelism in a multi-faith, post-Christendom environment.

Mar 29, 2014

AUM splinter group likely to depart from cult in July

Mainichi Shimbun, May 27, 2006

A group in the AUM Shinrikyo cult supported by senior member Fumihiro Joyu will likely splinter from the organization in July, sources close the cult said.

The new group will cut itself off from the cult's "offerings" from members and from accounting for income and expenses such as those involved in operating the cult's training halls.

Public security authorities are focusing on the Joyu faction's movements, believing it is possible that a new religious organization could be formed.

"This is intended to evade application of the Group Control Law and survive as a new religious organization," a public security official said.

Sources close to AUM said a split of finances had been resolved following several discussions between the Joyu group and an opposing anti-Joyu group. In line with the decision, "segregation" is expected to proceed at the cult's facilities across Japan, which number over 20.

Archbishop Installs 4 Married Bishops

New York Times, September 24, 2006
WASHINGTON (AP) -- An African archbishop who wants to make celibacy optional for priests installed four married men Sunday as Roman Catholic bishops.

The Archdiocese of Washington did not recognize the installations. ''This means nothing within the church,'' spokeswoman Susan Gibbs said.

Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo -- whose marriage to a woman chosen by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon scandalized the Roman Catholic Church -- performed the ceremonies at a Capitol Hill church.

Installed were the Rev. George Augustus Stallings, Jr., of Washington, Peter Paul Brennan, of New York, Patrick Trujillo, of Newark, N.J., and Joseph Gouthro, of Las Vegas.
The four men claim affiliation to the breakaway Synod of Old Catholic Churches.

''We are not only validly ordained Catholic bishops, but we are ordained Roman Catholic bishops,'' Stallings said.

Alcohol, drugs, trendy clothes: Can this be Amish country

By Richard Horan
During 'Rumspringa,' Amish youth are encouraged to sample life in the mainstream.
Driving through Wisconsin's Amish country in search of a rocking chair, my wife, two young daughters, and I came upon a neat little farmhouse with a sign out front advertising handmade furniture. We pulled in. Two young girls, by the looks of them the same ages as our daughters, were out playing in the yard dressed in the Old Order style - bonnets, long dresses, aprons. While my wife and I went to tour the shop, our girls accosted the two sisters. Later, carrying the rocker to the car, we found the four girls had bonded. There were tears as we left. Since that day, we have idealized the Amish in our household.

So you can imagine my shock upon reading the following in Tom Shachtman's fascinating documentary-style book Rumspringa: To Be or Not to Be Amish
: "As the party gets into full swing, and beer and pot are making the participants feel no pain, a few Amish girls huddle and make plans to jointly rent an apartment in a nearby town when they turn eighteen.... Others shout in Pennsylvania Dutch and in English about ... having a navel pierced or hair cut buzz short. One bunch of teens dances to music videos shown on a portable computer; a small group of guys, near a barn, distributes condoms."

However, jolts to my psyche aside, I fully expect to see this book short-listed next year come literary awards time.

Shachtman is like a maestro, masterfully conducting an orchestra of history, anthropology, psychology, sociology, and journalism together in a harmonious and evocative symphony of all things Amish. He follows the lives of numerous young Amish in the midst of the tumultuous "Rumspringa" years.

Amway China staff on the way

Taipei Times
Shelley Shan
Amway Taiwan president Martin Liou  said that only those who had generated annual sales of 1.2 million yuan (US$175,000) would be visiting. Seven groups will arrive on cruise ships from next month through May. Each group will consist of about 1,600 employees.

Liou said the ships would disembark at Keelung Harbor. The employees will attend a two-day seminar before visiting tourist attractions in Taipei, Taichung and Hualien. Meanwhile, facilities at the old Taichung Airport in Shuinan , which is no longer in use, will be renovated and turned into a venue for evening banquets and events.

Amway China has set a budget of NT$500 million (US$14 million) for the visits to cover employee expenses on food, lodging, transportation and gift purchases. Employees are expected to spend about NT$120 million during the visits.

Tourism Bureau Director General Janice Lai  said the tour group would be the largest this year. Given its size, the bureau would handle their application as a special case. 

Methodist Church Concerned with Benny Hinn Crusade

Figi Village, December 8, 2005

Fiji's largest church denomination has raised concerns over the crusade planned by renowned evangelist Benny Hinn.

Speaking to Village News, Methodist Church General Secretary Reverend Ame Tugawe said while they welcome Benny Hinn's visit, it raises questions about the various new methods of worship being introduced in Fiji.

Rev Tugawe said he has advised members of their congregation that while they support the evangelistic crusade, people should not get swept away in the event.

Benny Hinn is expected in the country next month, to hold a number crusades around the country.

Born into abusive grip of a cult

Toronto Globe and Mail, September 4, 2007Michael Valpy

Community of Jesus parents abandoned their teen daughter at now-shuttered school

Ruth Buddington was 13 when she was brought to Grenville Christian College in Brockville, Ont., as a prisoner of her cult-member parents.

Ordered by a Massachusetts child probation officer to let their daughter see a therapist and to take therapy with her, her parents instead fled the probation officer's jurisdiction and drove Ms. Buddington across the Canadian border to the elite Anglican private school, left her there and didn't see her again for a long time.
Ms. Buddington's account of the next four years of her life at the school - including a story of having her face pushed against a window into the school boiler and being told that the flames she saw inside were the flames of hell she was destined for - echoes the stories told by many former students who have been posting on a website organized by Ms. Buddington and have been interviewed by The Globe and Mail.

Scientologist defends faith

BBC News, May 14, 2007

Reporter: Good afternoon to you. You must be delighted by all the publicity this is generating for you.

Mike Rinder: Oh, we're certainly not delighted by all the publicity.

What we are delighted by is the fact that we are able to now show what really goes on behind the scenes in a programme like this.

We're not the first people that have experienced the exploding tomato.

This is something that has been going on for some time. I'm sure that there are others who have had similar experiences. And now we are able to show what really happened.

We documented everything that occurred, everything that occurred with John Sweeney, and just to correct a couple of things that Sandy Smith said in your earlier report: First of all, we offered very broad, open access to John Sweeney and Panorama. He refused it. He refused to come in to our churches. He refused our offers to accept broad access.

Maharishi Vedic City: Inside the compound with Rekha Basu

March 22, 2014
DesMoines Register

The first time most of us learned hundreds of Hindu Indian priests have been living in Iowa for seven years to advance world peace was after up to 80 of them shook, vandalized and threw rocks at a sheriff’s truck. The media called the March 11 incident a riot. The sheriff calls it a “flash mob.” Some might call it the meaning of irony.

The American devotees of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Fairfield, who brought the priests here for stints of two to three years, call the incident an unprecedented blip. A letter writer to this newspaper called them “uncivilized Third World miscreants,” and some people who have parted ways with the meditators associated with the Maharishi University of Management call the Indian priests victims of human trafficking.

Whatever you call what happened, it was an unfortunate introduction to the community of 350 Indian “pandits” and their purpose here.

Find out 'who is who' in the Vatican's Commission for the Protection of Minors

March 24, 2014

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors is starting to take shape.  The Vatican has announced the names of its governing body, which includes priests, theologians, psychiatrists, lawyers and a sex abuse victim. 

Among the members is Marie Collins. She is a native of Ireland, and she helped the Archdiocese of Dublin in setting up its Child Protection Services. Her presence in the commission will be key, since she herself was abused by a priest as a minor. 

European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) looks into Russia’s treatment of Jehovah’s Witnesses

MOSCOW, March 25 (RAPSI) - The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) communicated a vast collection of complaints this month to Russia in connection with the treatment of Jehovah’s Witnesses throughout the country.
Russia and the applicants were asked earlier this month to consider a plethora of questions related to treatment of Jehovah’s Witnesses and their congregations in light of the European Convention on Human Rights’ (Convention) guarantees of religious freedom and free expression, as well as its prohibition of discrimination.
According to court documents, in 2007, a Russian Deputy Prosecutor General notified the country’s prosecutors’ offices that the Jehovah’s Witnesses and other foreign religious and charitable organizations may have constituted a public threat.

Anti-gay pastor seen as unlikely LGBT ally

John Hanna, David Crary
March 22, 2014

Fred Phelps Sr. led his small Topeka church for more than two decades in a bellicose crusade against gays and lesbians, saying they were worthy of death and openly declaring - often at military funerals - that the U.S. was doomed because of its tolerance of homosexuality.

But in targeting grieving families of troops killed overseas, taunting people entering other churches and carrying signs with anti-gay slurs and vulgar language or symbols, Phelps and his Westboro Baptist congregation created public circuses that may have helped the gay-rights movement.

Following Phelps's death Wednesday at age 84, some gay-rights advocates suggested that he and his church created sympathy for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders. Religious leaders who oppose gay marriage also said the pastor's tactics clouded the debate over such issues and put them on the defensive in discussing both policy and faith.

Mar 28, 2014

Trial begins in FLDS custody case

Spectrum, March 25, 2014
By Kevin Jenkins

ST. GEORGE — A child custody battle between an exiled member of a Southern Utah polygamous church and his church-faithful wives took a turn during the first day of a trial Tuesday when the father was allowed to introduce testimony about alleged sexual abuse by the church’s prophet.

Colorado City resident Lorin Holm filed the civil action in September 2011, eight months after he was informed he had been judged unfaithful by the leadership of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and would have to leave his home and family, which included three wives and more than a dozen children.

Holm is seeking sole custody of his underage children out of concern that his estranged “spiritual wives” could be influenced by religious leaders to allow the children to experience sexual abuse, forced labor or forced exile.
His ex-wives have stated they would not allow harm to come to their children. Court proceedings during the past two years have focused on whether Holm and the women could cooperate in raising Holm’s minor children despite the perception by the FLDS ex-wives that Holm had become a bad influence as an apostate.

The battle for a nation’s soul: How the cult of Santa Muerte has infested Mexico’s drug cartels with gruesome consequences

Herald Sun (Australia), March 28, 2014
By Josh Whittington

SHE’S a Grim Reaper goddess with an unquenchable thirst for blood.

She specialises in protecting you from your enemies and will help smite those you wish to harm.

She is a jealous and vengeful deity who demands you conduct rituals and sacrifices with proper care to avoid her divine wrath.

And while she will deliver you safely to the afterlife, most important of all, she will never, ever judge you.

She is the skeleton saint, the saint for sinners and the saint of last resort.

She is Santa Muerte — the personification of death gathering a growing following among the infamous drug cartels of Mexico and sparking a modern-day battle between good and evil for the very soul of a nation.

Was Jesus divine? Publisher hedges bets with Bart Ehrman’s new book

John Murawski 
Mar 25, 2014

(RNS) Set side by side, the book jackets look almost like matching woodblock prints of a bearded, haloed figure. The titles mirror each other, too, featuring the same trio of names: Jesus, God, Bart Ehrman.

On one of the volumes, “How Jesus Became God,” Ehrman is clearly the author; but in the reversed “How God Became Jesus,” Ehrman is the nemesis of a concerted rebuttal.

So what gives?

The two books are an unusual publishing experiment, in which HarperCollins subsidiaries arranged to have a team of evangelical scholars write a counterargument to the hot-selling superstar writer. Ehrman and the evangelical team exchanged manuscripts and signed nondisclosure agreements so as not to pre-empt each other, but otherwise worked independently for their own HarperCollins imprints, HarperOne and Zondervan.

“I’ve never heard of anything quite like this,” said one of the evangelical authors, Craig Evans, a New Testament scholar at Acadia Divinity College in Nova Scotia. “The usual scenario is that a dubious or extreme book comes out, then a ‘correction’ appears one to two years later.”

Mar 21, 2014

My Brief Rendez-vous with the Guru

It was one week after actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died of a heroin overdose and Michael Roach, the leader of his own off-shoot of Tibetan Buddhism, was going to be speaking about addiction to a group of followers in Manhattan’s quirky East Village neighborhood.
“Peel-off your addiction with ancient Tibetan wisdom,” the flyer read. “Secrets from the Wheel of Life” was the name of the talk.
It was a frigid February evening when I headed down to Asher Levy elementary school to hear Roach speak. I had been trying to interview him for months. The subject: a strange story of guru devotion, delusion, diamonds, tantric sex, and a mysterious, grizzly death in the Arizona desert.
The truth is, I had met Roach once in 2006 when a friend brought me to one of his lectures, called “teachings,” in New York. He sat cross-legged up on a stage alongside Christie McNally, his then “tantric partner,” who was also, in his eyes and in the eyes of many of their followers, the reincarnation of a Tibetan Buddhist goddess.

Mar 20, 2014

Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps dead

March 20, 2014
Nick Dutton and CNN Wire
TOPEKA, Kans. (WTVR/CNN) —  Fred Phelps, the founder of the controversial Westboro Baptist Church, died late Wednesday, according to family members.
Timothy Phelps told WIBW that his 84-year-old father passed away just before midnight.The Topeka Capital-Journal reported Shirley Phelps-Roper, Fred’s daughter, told them her father died at Midland Care Hospice.
Phelps founded the Kansas-based church best known for picketing funerals with anti-gay signs.
The church called earlier reports that its founder was near death “speculative.”
“Fred Phelps has health issues,” the church said in a statement Sunday, “but the idea that someone would suggest that he is near death, is not only highly speculative, but foolish considering that all such matters are the sole prerogative of God.”

Mar 19, 2014

Six Pandits Sent Back to India, More Expected


Mar 18, 2014

A UFO Pleasure Cult is Fixing Vaginas in Africa

 VICE United States
If you’re the kind of person who keeps up with UFO spiritualists, you’ll know Raëlians as the group who believe that Earth was created by a vastly superior alien civilization. According to its French founder, a racecar driver and singer-songwriter named Raël, the aliens (called Elohim) created humans in their own image and have been guiding us throughout history with the help of messengers—humans they’ve had special contact with. If you guessed these messengers include people with names like Jesus and Buddha, you guessed right.
But while that might sound far-fetched to some, they also believe in the importance of pleasure—sexual or otherwise—in the pursuit of spiritual growth. And that sounds pretty reasonable. This stance has led them to create a nonprofit called Clitoraid, which champions reconstructive surgery for victims of female circumcision in the developing world. This month they opened their first “Pleasure Hospital” in Burkina Faso, where world-class surgeons will treat women for free, rebuilding their clitorises to give them the ability to orgasm. After speaking to Clitoraid’s smoky-voiced French communications director, Nadine Gary, it’s hard to deny that this sexy group of UFO enthusiasts are the best dudes in Africa.

Mar 17, 2014

Dr Girish Varma speaking on the Maharishi Vedic Pandit program

Is Meditation Good for Your Health?

Meditation is often listed as an "alternative" medical treatment, part of a healthy lifestyle, and is often recommended by those who market themselves as practicing integrative or complementary medicine. Recently, researchers at Johns Hopkins University reviewed thousands of reports on meditation and found 47 studies that were sufficiently well-designed to be included in a meta-analysis. The researchers wanted to examine the scientific evidence for meditation programs: does meditation reduce anxiety or depression; does meditation enhance mood and mental health-related qualities of life; does meditation increase focus and attention; what effect does meditation have on substance abuse, eating habits, sleep, pain, and weight in adults? [Goyal M and others. Meditation programs for psychological stress and well-being: A systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Internal Medicine, 2014.]
The authors concluded:
  • Mindfulness meditation programs showed (a) moderate evidence of reduction of anxiety, depression, and pain, (b) low evidence of improved stress/distress and mental health-related quality of life, and (c) low evidence of no effect or insufficient evidence of any effect of meditation programs on positive mood, attention, substance use, eating habits, sleep, and weight.
  • Mantra-based programs, such as transcendental meditation, demonstrated no benefit.
  • There was no evidence that meditation programs were better than drugs, exercise, or other behavioral therapies.

According to Consumer Health Digest: "The published report did not consider the extent to which meditation is inappropriately recommended to people who would benefit much more from counseling or psychotherapy that helps them identify and deal with the causes of stress responsible for their symptoms."

Estate fight continues between Yogi Bhajan's widow, female assistants

New Mexican
Tom Sharpe
Less than a year before his death in 2004, Yogi Bhajan, founder of a religious community near Española, signed a codicil to his 1987 will that called for a portion of his estate to go to a living trust to support 15 of his assistants.
His widow, Inderjit Kaur Puri, also known as Bibiji, did not immediately move to open a probate on his estate or to challenge the codicil assigning at least $4 million to the trust.

But in October 2007, the three trustees of the living trust sued Puri, claiming she was delaying distribution of funds to the trust by claiming she knew nothing about it.

In a counterclaim, Puri asked that the trustees be removed because, as three of the 15 assistants benefiting from the trust, they are in breach of their fiduciary duties.

Riot of Indian meditators causes concerns for Fairfield area residents

12 March 2014

Member that triggered riot returned to campus, situation to be 'reviewed'

FAIRFIELD – A riot Tuesday morning near Fairfield has raised concerns about a program that has brought thousands of Indian men to Iowa for meditation.

More than 300 men, mostly from India, live in a fenced-off campus adjacent to Vedic City, north of Fairfield. The pandits, pronounced “pundits”, are religious men trained in meditating for peace.

But when program leaders removed one of their members early Tuesday for undisclosed disciplinary reasons, more than 60 men swarmed a law enforcement truck, threw rocks at the sheriff and started a march down a public street.

“I’ve never seen them this incensed before,” said Jefferson County Sheriff Greg Morton, who had been called to the campus to assist with removal of the member. He retreated to his truck when pandits started throwing rocks and witnessed the group break off his side mirrors, rock the truck and throw a rock through the back window.

Pandits treated as employees, some have issues with pay

‘We get less money than we need’
FAIRFIELD – A compound of religious men near Fairfield is similar to a military base with men living in barracks, eating in a mess hall and playing sports when they aren’t working.

But instead of waging war in a foreign land, these pandits, pronounced “pundits,” are paid to meditate for peace.

The Transcendental Meditation (TM) community of Fairfield, home to the Maharishi University of Management (MUM), started bringing pandits from India to southeast Iowa in 2007 to reach a meditation quota the group believes will generate maximum peace and cohesion in the United States.

“If we were able to garner enough people from within our own group, we wouldn’t need this program,” said Bill Goldstein, general counsel for MUM and for the Global Country for World Peace, which runs the pandit program.

Mar 16, 2014

28E Agreement between Jefferson County and Vedic City at standstill

Tess Hedrick

VEDIC CITY, IOWA -- The Jefferson County Supervisors are at a standstill with Vedic City currently.

Because Vedic City’s population has changed, the city’s financial arrangement is different today than what it used to be. That being said, a new 28E must be drawn up.

Jefferson County used to receive all of the federal and state dollars and would then send Vedic City about 92% of it. Now, Vedic City receives all of the federal and state dollars with the county having to invoice them for the potion the county needs.

The new 28E agreement cannot be signed until the street signs that were put up without the proper engineering study by the city of Vedic City come down.

“In particular, Jefferson County controls and maintains the perimeter roads around Vedic City. Some of those perimeter roads are actually city on both sides of the road for short distances. And so there in lies some of the confusion for Vedic City,” said Lee Dimmitt, Jefferson County Supervisor.

Dimmitt said whether the county signs the 28E agreement or not does not make it an agreement until Vedic City signs it as well.

Sheriff tells his side of Vedic City unrest

VEDIC CITY, IOWA -- On Thursday afternoon, KTVO received a news release from Jefferson County Sheriff Gregg Morton.
Sheriff Morton addresses community questions and concerns regarding the incident at Vedic City, Iowa on Tuesday morning.

----------------------------------------I would like to address some of the issues that I have heard from the public in reference to the incident at the Pandit property on Tuesday. One of the biggest concerns that I have heard is why was no one charged with a crime. Imagine yourself in a vehicle, in this case a crew cab ½ ton pickup and being in the middle of a crowd that is irate and focused on you. I had made a choice to try to re direct the Pandits back onto their property and off of 170th Street. There were anywhere from 70 to 80 Pandits in this group. When I realized that they were still coming on strong, I got back into my truck and had the driver’s side window down and the truck was unlocked. They surrounded the truck and were hitting the body of the truck, were on the running boards rocking the truck, trying to rip the mirrors off the truck and so on. I was not scared of these actions because they never attempted to enter the truck or try to pull me from the truck. There were pieces of gravel coming into the open driver’s window and I finally heard popping noises at the back of my truck. I had no idea that they were throwing rocks at the rear window of my truck. The only indication I had that this was happening was when a rock finally went through the window shattering it. This happened in a time frame of about a minute or so. I could not tell you who did what when during this time as there is such a sensory overload. I decided that my presence was not helping the situation and backed up and away from the crowd. I backed far enough away that as they were picking up asphalt, rocks and whatever else and were throwing these things at my truck, none of it came close. When they were around my vehicle, they were 4-5 thick all the way around the truck. I believe that the training and experience we receive in so many years in law enforcement helped in my decision making and kept things from getting out of control. My main focus was first and foremost for the safety of the public as this crowd was becoming more and more agitated.

Law Enforcement Respond to Vedic City Unrest

Daughters of the Goddess: The Women Saints of India

Linda Johnsen. Yes International, St. Paul, MN, 1994, 128 pages.

The myths of India are rife with female goddesses both terrifying and placid. From the blood-filled mouth of Durga to the generous beneficence of Lakshmi, the varieties of religious experience are conveyed through graphic images. In Linda Johnsen's naïve treatise on women "saints" in India, we get a true believer's take on a few individuals who have become well known in today's spiritual marketplace. Goddess worship is embraced by many "New Age" Westerners as the cutting edge of millennial spirituality; yet, it often ignores the ancient traditions of the East. Those Westerners, both male and female, who idealize their teacher's status as divine risk getting caught up in a culture they neither understand nor have fully explored. It is often the exotic or eccentric that gets mistaken for the Divine.

Much of what is laid out in the early part of the book are anecdotes and stories handed down by teachers to convey the difficulties that women have had to confront in a culture where roles were, and to a great extent still are, defined by men. Where those individuals triumphed over the disapproval of the society around them, it is a testament to their courage and determination to realize their spiritual goals at all cost. Unfortunately, Johnsen gives credence to some individuals who represent a "tradition" with a controversial history. A case in point is the group led by Gurumayi Chidvilasanada, Sidha Yoga, founded by Swami Muktananda, who reportedly took advantage of young female disciples while acting as guru and spiritual teacher. Muktananda is revered to this day by Gurumayi and her many followers.