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It is a reflection of the Maharishi's acumen that he was able to survive the vicissitudes of the hippie movement, which finally died, to establish himself as a universal dispenser of spiritual panaceas especially popular with the very class, not to speak of the upper crust, for whom his credibility had earlier been suspect.

Just when he seemed to be cosily ensconced in the West, devising grandiose schemes of a 'world government of the age of enlightenment', even establishing the capital of the said government at Seelisburg in Switzerland, the Maharishi did an abrupt turnabout and decided to come back to India, permanently.

In late 1984, shortly after Indira Gandhi's assassination, the yogi moved into the ashram complex called Maharishinagar at the New Okhla Industrial Development Area (NOIDA) on Delhi's outskirts. Preparations for his homecoming had been going on since the late seventies, when his people had begun to purchase land and property at a frenetic pace in the country, particularly in his hometown, Jabalpur, and at NOIDA. His assets in India are cacluated at Rs 500 crores [$438 million] at least, consisting of TM centres, land holdings, factories, buildings, business corporations and industrial cum agricultural complexes. Precise details of these, however, are a closely guarded secret.

At that time, there was intense speculation over why the yogi had chosen to return and set up his headquarters at NOIDA. It was common knowledge that Indira Gandhi had been averse to his presence in India, with her insinuations that some godmen were foreign agents. In fact, Mahesh Yogi had, in the winter of 1980, hurriedly departed from the country with his 3500 European followers, after setting up camp in the Indian Express building in Delhi, when Mrs Gandhi expressed her displeasure.

With the shifting of the Maharishi's base of operations to India, the capital of the 'world government' was transferred to Maharishinagar. The Swiss government, according to some reports, had made things difficult for him, allegedly for not paying taxes in full and also for transferring large sums of his money in the accounts there to other countries. Valuable foreign exchange to the extent of Rs 15 crores [$13 million] is estimated to be coming into India alone each year for the upkeep of his many organizations.

Whether the Swiss government's displeasure was the reason for his return or not, the fact that he has indeed made India the new base of his operations for the past three years. The ashram complex at NOIDA has come up impressively with a Veda manir which also contains his residential quarters, a Veda Vigyan Vidya Peeth, a prayer hall, an ayurvedic hospital which is under construction, quarters for staff members and some other incomplete structures. It is spread over 600 acres of prime land, acquired at a cost of over Rs 162 crores [$141 million], according to sources. The four gates to the complex are heavily guarded and entry into the ashram is only by permission. According to ashram inmates, the stringent security is due to the Maharishi's presence in the ashram, as well as the various programmes under implementation inside.

A veritable Eden, one might think, but the forces of discord have already begun to hedge the Maharishi in. The government launched its first major offensive against the yogi when, in a surprise move, income tax officials raided the ashram at NOIDA and his other properties in the capital on December 22. Initial reports suggested that moveable assets worth Rs 4 lakhs [$35,000 US] only had been seized. The sudden timing of the raids made the government's motives suspect.

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Creation has two sides: intelligence, which is the cause of everything, and the manifestations of intelligence, which are the physical and psychological features of the everyday world. Because Transcendental Meditation directly approaches intelligence, rather than the manifestations of intelligence, it solves problems by introducing harmony and well-being at the most basic level, and not by dealing with problems themselves. That's why it is so effective.

Consider this example: The gardener supplies water to the root of a tree. That water, that nourishment, then reaches all parts of the tree - leaves, branches, flowers, fruit - through the sap. We can think of the sap as analogous to intelligence and the green leaves or yellow flowers as analogous to the manifestations of the intelligence. The leaves and flowers are the intelligence of the sap, after it has been transformed. So intelligence - like the leaves and flowers of a tree - appears as the many different forms of manifest life. Those manifestations include every aspect of existence, from the material and physiological, through the psychological, intellectual, and spiritual. All of those features of life come from transformations of intelligence. In meditation, we directly meet this essential intelligence. Therefore, we have the possibility of nourishing all of its other levels, and thus all levels of manifestation, in a way that is harmoniously related to the whole universe.

How is Transcendental Meditation different from the various other forms of meditation?

Maharishi: The basic difference is that Transcendental Meditation, in addition to its simplicity, concerns itself only with the mind. Other systems often involve some additional aspects with which the mind is associated, such as breathing or physical exercises. They can be a little complicated because they deal with so many things. But with Transcendental Meditation there is no possibility of any interference. So we say this is the all-simple program, enabling the conscious mind to fathom the whole range of its existence.

Transcendental Meditation ranges from active mind - or performing mind - to quiet mind - or resting mind. In this resting mind, one has purity and simplicity, uninvolved with anything other than the mind, uninvolved with any other practice. In Transcendental Meditation, because we deal only with the mind, we nourish all expressions of intelligence.

The mind meditates, gains Transcendental Consciousness and brings about transformation in different fields of manifestation. All fields of life, which are the expression of intelligence, are nourished or transformed and made better through experiencing Transcendental Consciousness.

The mind, of course, is always concerned with other aspects, such as the physiology of the body, the environment, and the whole universe for that matter. But since Transcendental Meditation deals only with the performance of the mind, from its active states to its settled state, it remains unconcerned with those other aspects, though it deals with them all, because intelligence deals with them all. -- Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, unknown interview, copyright presumablyheld by Maharishi Vedic University, The Maharishi Foundation, or another group within the TM family.

Cults come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Categories of cults that are recruiting successfully today include:

Eastern meditation: characterized by belief in God-consciousness, becoming one with God. The leader usually distorts and Eastern-based philosophy or religion. Members sometimes learn to disregard worldly possessions and may take on an ascetic lifestyle. Techniques used: meditation, repeated mantras, altered states of consciousness, trance states.

Religious: marked by belief in salvation, afterlife, sometimes combined with an apocalyptic view. The leader reinterprets the Scriptures and often claims to be a prophet if not the messiah. Often the group is strict, sometimes using physical punishments such as paddling and birching, especially on children. Members are encouraged to spend a great deal of time proselytizing. (Note: included here are Bible-based neo-Christian and other religious cults, many considered syncretic since they combine beliefs and practices). Techniques used: speaking in tongues, chanting, praying, isolation, lengthy study sessions, many hours spent evangelizing, "struggle" (or criticism) and confession sessions.

Political, racist, terrorist: fueled by belief in changing society, revolution, overthrowing the "enemy" or getting rid of evil forces. The leader professes to be all-knowing and all-powerful. Often the group is armed and meets in secret with coded language, handshakes, and other ritualized practices. Members consider themselves an elite cadre ready to go to battle. Techniques used: paramilitary training, reporting on one another, guilt, fear, struggle sessions, instilled paranoia, long hours of indoctrination. -- Captive Hearts, Captive Minds, Lalich and Tobias, Hunter House, 1993.