The man who, along with his twin brother, owns most of the land at Heavenly Mountain Resort, has disavowed the spiritual movement that helped establish the retreat.
David Kaplan, who owns the largest privately-owned land tract in Watauga County, publicly repudiated the Transcendental Meditation (TM) movement and its founder, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, in a letter released Tuesday to Heavenly Mountain residents and the public.
In the letter, Kaplan said he and his brother, Earl, investigated Maharishi and the TM movement closely, and subsequently could “no longer support or be associated with Maharishi, his ideas, his knowledge or any of his organizations in any way whatsoever.”
– Is TM a religion?
“I am not involved in the TM movement or in any of Maharishi organizations in any way and have nothing to do with his teaching,” he repeated in the letter.
Heavenly Mountain, located east of Boone overlooking the Triplett community, has been synonymous with Maharishi’s technique of meditation since its establishment in 1996.
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The tract, mostly owned by David Kaplan, is divided into two areas. The Heavenly Mountain Resort is a for-profit venture that develops and markets homesites. Currently, about 30 homes are located in the development as well as a community center and meditation hall. A landowner, who asked not to be identified, said most landowners are TM practitioners.
Amid the 7,000-acre tract sits the non-profit Spiritual Center of America.
According to its Web site, the center “was established to bring fulfillment to the spiritual and material aspirations of all Americans through Maharishi Vedic Science and Technology” and is said to be a study of consciousness, based on classical Indian Vedic literature.
Split into two campuses for men and women, the center has provided a place for TM adherents to live and practice the technique. Although the center is not owned by the Kaplans, Earl Kaplan is listed as its board chairman and president. Currently, the center still houses TM adherents and is presumably still teaching TM classes (the center’s Web site actively advocates TM classes and Maharishi’s teachings).
The center’s attempt to garner tax-exempt status as an educational institution failed before the N.C. Supreme Court in May 2003. The center had sought county tax exemption since 1997 on property valued at more than $6 million.
The Kaplan brothers initially bought 1,100 acres of forest and farm land, eventually buying a total of 7,000 acres. Developers later sold some of the land as homesites and several TM practitioners bought lots. Currently, 5,800 acres are undeveloped.
After reading Kaplan’s letter, a group of Heavenly Mountain homeowners issued an e-mail statement emphasizing their continued support and practice of the technique.
“It is important to remember that the benefits of the TM program have been published in hundreds of studies reported in major medical journals all over the world. What has brought people here is the opportunity to practice those programs and to participate in a development which is dedicated to peace, harmony, and personal development.”
“Each family has made a large investment in the community here and feels the promises made to them should be honored, namely, that this would be a permanent home for the TM programs and knowledge. We expect to get what we paid for,” the statement continued. Last fall, dozens of Heavenly Mountain residents sued David Kaplan, claiming the developer breached his fiduciary duty and required potential land buyers to donate to the TM movement “as a condition to building a home in Heavenly Mountain.”
The suit accuses Kaplan of “endangering the tax status of the center and thereby acting contrary to its well-being by causing it to engage in private benefit transactions,” in alleged violation of the federal tax code.
The property owners asked the court to appoint a receiver for the center and require an “accounting of all funds contributed directly or indirectly to the Spiritual Center, including loan guarantees and contributions that the individual defendants caused to be made.”
Superior Judge Ronald K. Payne heard a motion to dismiss the case in March and has taken the motion under advisement with no date set for a hearing.
Kaplan sees the development eventually moving away from its spiritual roots.
“I hope Heavenly Mountain becomes a normal development not a TM development,” Kaplan said in a phone interview Tuesday, adding he plans to develop a Scott Miller-designed championship golf course on his property.
What is TM?
Practitioners of Transcendental Meditation define TM as a technique that aids relaxation, relieves stress and provides physical and mental energy.
Indian mystic Maharishi Mahesh Yogi made headlines in the 1960s after teaching The Beatles meditation techniques.
His association with the group helped popularize TM. By the early 1970s, meditation centers had spread across the globe.
Bob Roth, a spokesman for the movement, said there are an estimated 5 million people who have practiced TM.