Maharishi Mahesh Yogi plans to promote world harmony from a soon-to-be-built ‘palace’ in L.A. An affluent area is preferred.
Los Angeles Times, Aug. 2, 2003
By Gina Piccalo, Times Staff Writer
In this, the age of mass-marketed enlightenment, guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi has thrived, bringing his trademarked Transcendental Meditation movement to more than 50 nations and building a vast empire of universities, holistic clinics, meditation centers, a construction company, even a political party.
Now the Netherlands-based Indian monk has a new spin on an old goal: world peace. All it would take, according to his mathematical calculations, is a group of people meditating for 20 minutes twice a day inside a “peace palace” in each of the world’s 3,000 largest cities. The positive energy generated would prevent natural disasters, car accidents, violent crime, chronic illness, even terminally bad moods.
Fortunately for Los Angeles, we’re next in line for a palace.
“It sounds too good to be true when you tell people,” says filmmaker David Lynch, a 30-year TM practitioner who has lent his celebrity to the cause.
Yet, as he puts it, this is not “a doped-up world where everybody is kicking back.” These people are organized. Groundbreaking on the $4-million palace is expected this month, with a ribbon cutting by spring.
“There’s physics behind this,” says physicist John Hagelin, director of the Maharishi University of Management’s Institute of Science, Technology and Public Policy. “If you put three loudspeakers together they will produce nine times the sound of a single loudspeaker because the sound waves will add constructive interference when the speakers are close, provided they’re producing the same music/sound.” (Read: Loudspeakers = meditators. Music = peace.)
As further proof, TM advocates cite recent history. Thanks to a regular gathering of 1,600 meditators in Fairfield, Iowa, during the 1980s, Hagelin and others say, that decade celebrated a booming U.S. stock market and the fall of the Berlin Wall. A two-month assembly in Washington, D.C., during a July 1993 heat wave prompted a 23% drop in crime, according to a TM study, and mass meditation after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 delayed the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. In fact, actor Stephen Collins credits the current peace palace movement for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s promise to withdraw from the West Bank.
“What makes someone like Sharon willing to take on his own hawkish Cabinet and put himself in the position of possible assassination?” he asks.
Among certain celebrities in Los Angeles, namely Lynch, Collins, Laura Dern, Heather Graham and Laura Harring, there’s only one answer to that question: TM. And at a recent news conference, they all came out to support their local peace palace. Penny Hintz, co-director of L.A.’s Transcendental Meditation Program Center and a longtime friend of Lynch and Collins, was the brains behind this public relations coup.
“I think it’s always nice to have ladies instead of just men speaking,” says Hintz. “Laura Dern is very intellectual, Laura Harring is very much from the heart, and Heather is very blissful and lovely and wonderful, and I thought that they’d be a nice combination If I were to get up there, the public doesn’t know who I am. They wouldn’t be as ready to listen. It lends some credibility.”
There are many other TMers in Hollywood, says Collins, including some “massively big stars,” but few are willing to risk their image by going public. Indeed, after demonstrating Transcendental Meditation at the news conference and posing for the Aug. 4 cover of Time (“The Science of Meditation”), Graham refused through her publicist to be interviewed for this story, fearing overexposure. Lynch’s support, meanwhile, may bolster his reputation for out-of-the-box thinking.
The director learned about Transcendental Meditation through his sister in the late 1970s while shooting his film “Eraserhead.” These days, he and his staff meditate together in the soundproof screening room at his Hollywood Hills home. Lynch likens it to a refreshing dip in the “ocean of oneness.”
The maharishi has preached for nearly 25 years that large TM assemblies could bring about world peace. He has even devised an equation to determine the exact number of meditators required to heal the entire globe: the square root of 1% of the world’s population.
Late last year, he called for construction of peace palaces around the world, and thus far one has already been inaugurated — in Vedic City, Iowa, on June 28. Others are planned in St. Louis; Long Island, N.Y.; and Hamden, Conn.
In Los Angeles, Monty Guild, an early devotee, has committed funding for the palace. A 10-member board of TM-practicing executives and financiers has committed to a search for the perfect location. But there remain a few hitches in the plan.
First, there are the skyrocketing land prices. Four million dollars, after all, doesn’t go far here. Then there’s the maharishi’s mandate that the palaces be built according to the principles of Vedic architecture, an ancient Indian tradition akin to feng shui. This tradition dictates that bodies of water must lie to the north or east and the sun must be visible from the front door 12 minutes after it rises. Los Angeles, with its western coastline and mountainous skyline, is inauspiciously positioned.
Nevertheless, the board has identified some lucky spots between Robertson Boulevard and Vermont Avenue, as well as in the West San Fernando Valley, Agoura Hills and, strangely, near Los Angeles International Airport.
“The idea is if you’re having people meditate together, you want their positive influence to radiate,” says Guild, who met the maharishi as a grad student in the late 1960s and now owns Guild Investment Management.
This isn’t the first time the maharishi’s belief in Vedic architecture has complicated matters. Two years ago he ordered scores of Transcendental Meditation centers around the globe closed because they didn’t meet Vedic standards. That meant a dramatic change of venue for the Los Angeles TM center, from an 80-room complex with meeting and dining areas near the Pacific Palisades to a cramped office in a modest Beverly Hills-adjacent building overlooking the busy intersection of South La Cienega Boulevard and Gregory Way.
“It became very clear that our building faced exactly the wrong direction,” says Hintz. In the new building, traffic noise is audible and space is limited. But, she says, “it’s nicer to face east, I do have to admit that.”
Once the L.A. site is purchased, builders need only follow the prescribed blueprints available on the maharishi’s Global Country of World Peace Web site(www.globalcountry.org). The palaces are designed in three sizes: small, medium and large.
Los Angeles’ planned palace is 12,000 square feet, or medium, with two stories and space for a health spa offering massage, aromatherapy and diet consultations.
Like all other palaces, it will feature huge skylights in the atrium that allow the structure to “breathe,” the use of organic building materials and a man-made body of water to the east if none occurs in nature. The Web site adds: “Please note that for all these preferences, parking space should be added by the side of the building.”
The maharishi provides a detailed business plan on long-term maintenance of a palace. “Ten distinguished affluent members of the business community” should be appointed as “founders,” which essentially guarantees a steady stream of funding. The plan also recommends that the palace be located in an affluent community and that an organic farm be developed to raise money for staff and maintenance.
In Los Angeles, Guild estimates, “if we got 90 people meditating together, that would be enough to create very positive influences throughout the city. Or 30 in three different places would have a similar effect.”
“This is going to be a powerful thing for creating a beautiful life for people,” says Lynch. “I see it as: A guy could go to bed filled with hate and anger and wake up in the morning and wonder where it went.”