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A brief description of Mahesh Yogi's futuristic Vedaland

"One time through, and you will never see the world the same again. Three times through and you will be enlightened," promises Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, of his 150 million dollar venture -- Vedaland.

Vedaland? Will it be a kingdom where men sport saffron robes and flowing white beards? Will it be a recreation of Rajneesh's Oregon township?

The Maharishi's plans are rather elaborate -- an entertainment park along the lines of Disneyland, the fantasy world that Walt Disney created in 1955 at Los Angeles. Disney's idea was to sell wholesome entertainment to the masses. Vedaland will be a Disneyland on a higher plain. A magic kingdom with diversions, which aims to exploit 'advanced illusion technology', in order to explore the secrets of the universe as expounded by the Yogi from the Vedas. In other words, a spiritual playground from which to sell his transcendental meditation (TM).

The opening of this 500-acre mystical and magical park, which can accommodate 75,000 visitors in a day, is slated for 1992. The plans envisage the park's centrepiece to be a pink pavilion that will levitate 15 or 20 feet above a lake, supported simply by water. The magic does not end here. Visitors to Vedaland are promised a ride on a celestial chariot. Perhaps modelled along the lines of Indra's fabled carriage, it will be drawn by 11 horses and have the capacity to carry 120 people at a time. 'Yogic powers' will cause the chariot to grow smaller and smaller as it flies through Vedaland, eventually landing on a rose petal and transporting its passengers `deeper and deeper into the finer levels of reality'. For the weak-hearted the island of fantasy will offer a golf course, a water park and a map of India the size of four football fields.

Vedaland is to be a joint venture. The yogi has, perhaps through his cosmic powers, convinced Canadian prestidigitator, Doug Henning, star of Broadway's long-running Magic Show, of the viability of the project. They are confident that their magic wand will wave aside hurdles like funds and approval from the Indian government.

Walt Disney's magic kingdom was a result of 15 years of planning. The founder of the TM movement obviously hopes to transcend Disney's dream world by mixing cosmic adventure with spiritual solace. Henning claims: 'Nothing in Vedaland has ever been done before. People will actually experience enlightenment.'

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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.