The giant ďWorld Capital of PeaceĒ that the guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi plans to build in Smith Center isnít the only sign of his groupís growing presence in Kansas.
Earlier this year, his nonprofit corporation set up a storefront ďMaharishi Enlightenment CenterĒ in Lawrence where customers can buy special herbs and organic cotton clothing, learn about transcendental meditation and undergo a stress-relieving treatment that involves having sesame oil poured on the forehead.
ďItís kind of like a franchise,Ē said Allen Reminick, manager of the store at 2121 Kasold Drive. ďItís all under the venue of an international corporate structure that ultimately is here to promote very high quality products for the benefit of peopleís health and longevity and well-being.Ē
The group opened a similar store last year on Metcalf Avenue in Overland Park, and itís negotiating to buy land near the Kansas Speedway to house an ornate ďPeace PalaceĒ that would serve as a larger, more-permanent location than the storefront shops.
In the past year, similar stores have opened in roughly 30 cities nationwide.
Reminick said eventually a ďPeace PalaceĒ could be built in Lawrence, but that no definite plans have been made. Advertisements for the Lawrence storeís opening proclaim the ďgrand offer of the Global Country of World Peace.Ē
– Is TM a religion?
As followers of the Maharishi prepare to build their ďWorld Capital of PeaceĒ in Smith Center, the ďMaharishi Enlightenment CenterĒ has opened in Lawrence. Above, employee April Chamberlin receives a stress-relieving treatment that involves having sesame oil poured on her forehead.
The Maharishi, who lives in the Netherlands, is perhaps best known as the founder of the transcendental meditation movement and a guru for celebrities including the Beatles and Mike Love of the Beach Boys.
Heís been in the headlines recently for his organizationís plans to build a $14 million, 480-acre complex in Smith Center intended to be a haven for meditation and organic farming. It also will be home to the Maharishi-affiliated U.S. Peace Government, led by John Hagelin, a quantum physicist and a fringe U.S. presidential candidate in 1996 and 2000.
Some people in Smith Center have expressed concern they might be landing a cult, but Laure Edwards Reminick, director of the Lawrence and Overland Park stores and Reminickís wife, said sheís not out to convert anyone. She practices and teaches transcendental meditation, she said, because it works to relieve stress and help her fulfill her human potential.
She likened it to a tool such as a can opener.
ďYou donít have to believe in the can opener. It works,Ē she said. ďI am not a proselytizer.Ē
So far, business has been somewhat slow at the Lawrence shop, Allen Reminick said. The store has hired a male and female massage therapist and offers roughly 53 products based on ayurvedic healing techniques, including a calming spice mix, rose petal spray, and an antioxidant paste made of ingredients such as gooseberry, gallnut, butterfly pea and white sandalwood.
ďItís all geared toward a lifestyle,Ē said Jesse Blevins, 28, a massage therapist at the Lawrence store.