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"The state government has allowed Mahesh Yogi to function without restrictions because of the foreign exchange inflow," says Bhati. The Maharishi's spokesmen in turn deny the charge of illegal construction. According to them, the issue is sub judice at present as they have challenged the notice issued to them in March 1986 in this connection by NOIDA authorities. The matter is under consideration of the state government, which, after a lapse of two years, has yet to take a decision on it. Strangely enough, say ashram sources, the area has been shown as ashram land in the second master plan.

Brahmachari Nandkishore, the Maharishi's spokesman, furnishes a somewhat specious argument to justify the constructions: "The green belt keeps on changing, the conditions determining it keep on changing. What. is beneficial for the country should not be limited by a green belt. And they can shift the green belt as it is still in the planning stage."

Even if the Maharishi manages to extricate himself from these difficulties. he still faces the spectre of a scandal revolving around reports of the reported death of some young boys in the custody of the ashram. The Maharishi's plan is to train 10,000 brahmin boys in Vedic science at the Veda Vigyan Vidya Peeth for a period of 12 years, through a combined course of TM and scholarship in Vedic lore. He feels that concerted meditation by 10,000 brahmin boys will neutralise negative influences in the world.

Little was known about them until there appeared a spate of media reports in September last year on the ill-treatment meted out to the boys and how a few of them had died under research by vaids, at the ashram's clinic, Arogya Dham. The reports charged that at least five boys had died under mysterious circumstances and that about 8,000 of the 10,000 children admitted to the vidya peeth in the past five years had run away from the ashram, allegedly because of the "torture" they had been subjected to inside. Attention was focused on the stringently guarded environs of Maharishinagar, which seemed to have assumed a sinister air. The reports also said that the ashram had been abruptly closed after the staff union strike in June, in order to avoid a scandal.

To make matters more difficult for the ashram administration, Bhati and an ayurvedic physician, Dr Govind Sharma, formerly employed at the ashram, charged that some of the boys were also subjected to sexual abuse by the teachers. They produced a boy by the name of Bhagat Singh, a former ashram inmate, who now works at an electrician's shop in Dadri, to give testimony in this regard. The boy, who hails from Nayagaon. near Secunderabad tehsil, while recounting his stay at the Veda Vigyan Vidya Peeth, confirms that the reports of sexual abuse are indeed true. Homosexuality, in any case, is a common boarding school phenomenon. But he denies that the children were ever subjected to research of any kind. In his version of events, a boy by the name of Kush Kumar Chaubey had died after falling ill. There is some confusion over whether his name was Kush or Lav, as there were two brothers at the ashram by these two names, of whom one had died. He also says that living conditions in the ashram were poor.

Ashram officials in turn dismiss the reports as a fabrication of "anti-social" elements and union members with "vested interests". In their account of things, the ashram was closed simply because that particular academic session had ended and not in order to hush up a scandal.

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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.