Idol Chatter

The Beatles are all now either dead, knighted or Ringo, but the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the group’s onetime spiritual guru and the inventor of Transcendental Meditation, is still making news. The Maharishi’s followers recently broke ground on a $14 million World Peace Capital, a campus of a dozen buildings now rising on 480 acres in extremely rural Smith County, Kansas. Your next question, kids, (after “Who’s The Beatles?”) is “Why Kansas?” Smith County, it turns out, is the geographic center of the United States, the perfect place to anchor a chain of Transcendental Meditation centers spreading across the country’s midsection. To local officials, such reasoning is beside the point. As Smith Center Mayor Randy Archer points out, “With a population of 1,800 and the oldest population in Kansas, we don’t have much going for us.”

The choice of Kansas does not seem akilter, either, to anyone who has followed the TM movement over the decades. True, TM began as a hot jetsetter spirituality—think Kabbalah, with OM—and some Hollywood types, like director David Lynch, still swear by it. But Maharishi’s chief stateside organization, U.S. Peace Government, has long been based in Iowa, and Americans in the heartland have taken to it as a nondenominational way to find peace, reduce stress—and prevent crime: Last week, a St. Louis, Mo., Judge and TM practitioner ordered a woman convicted of fraud to attend 180 hours of community service and learn TM.

Emboldened, perhaps, by his recent roll, the Maharishi may be trying to settle an old score with the Fab Four. Last month former, disciple Deepak Chopra floated a story that the band’s break with their guru came not because the Maharishi was hitting on women in their entourage at his Indian ashram, but because the yogi himself objected to said entourage’s intake of pot and LSD at the ashram.

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