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Hollywood role to raise Yogi billion

Calcutta, Dec. 11: Former Beatles guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi has attracted an unlikely new protégé.

Groundbreaking Hollywood filmmaker David Lynch, renowned for his dark and disturbing cinematic vision, is lending his name to a campaign to raise $1 billion to build a new “university of peace” for the self-styled mystic.

The director of internationally-acclaimed films such as Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive, Blue Velvet and Eraserhead has enlisted the support of influential friends Jeffrey Abramson, a Washington real estate developer, and former magazine executive Robert Brown in a bid to bankroll the construction of a “peace palace” large enough to hold 8,000 specialists in transcendental meditation. The overwhelming majority of the meditation experts would be Indian, said Lynch.

“When you do transcendental meditation, this level of unity can enliven world consciousness and produce peace in the atmosphere,” said Lynch. “When the sun comes up, the darkness goes away. I know that the Maharishi’s peace plan will work and I want to do what I can to help it.”

Lynch leading ladies and meditation enthusiasts Laura Harring (Mulholland Drive) and Laura Dern (Wild at Heart) are also thought to be involved in the project.

The Oscar-nominated director, newly returned from a tour of European film festivals, said that practising transcendental meditation for the past 34 years had greatly helped him curb a volatile temper that had led to the collapse of his first marriage.

“When I started meditating, I had an anger in me,” he said. “Two weeks after I started meditating, that anger disappeared. It doesn’t mean you can’t get angry. It just means you can’t hold on to it, it doesn’t poison you.”

He acknowledged the scepticism that greeted his decision to bankroll the billionaire Maharishi, who controls real estate empire worth over $3 billion in the US alone, along with meditation centres across the world, and commands a global following of six million.

“There’s a lot of sceptics out there,” said Lynch. “There’s a lot of fool’s gold in the world, but we all know that there’s real gold as well. On the surface there’s the giggle. I would just encourage people to look more deeply into this, and the giggles go away, unless it’s just a giggle of pure happiness at the beauty of this.”

Rising staunchly to the defence of the reclusive guru, widely derided as a charlatan, Lynch claimed that practising meditation had been proven to cut crime rates.

“Every time this plan has been tested, it’s reduced crime and violence. That’s why I say look into the teachings, look into what Maharishi’s been saying for 50 years and don’t go by the rumours. Read some of these books and attack it from any angle and it will hold up. It’s a real thing and it could be put in place this year and bring peace to Earth.”

Lynch’s campaign, which emphasises on targeting wealthy Americans listed on the Forbes 400 rich list, has already raised $88 million.

The Netherlands-based Maharishi’s existing US Vedic centre at Bethesda in Washington was mooted as a possible site for the expanded “palace”, but plans remain sketchy at this stage.

“We’re not sure if it will be built in Washington,” said Lynch. “We want it to be in a warm place, because the first people coming are from India.”

The Maharishi hopes his first “peace palace” will lead to the construction of a spate of new sites in cities worldwide.

Jai Guru Dev, of the Global Country organisation, said: “The peace palaces will contain beautiful exhibitions of knowledge and programmes for stress-free healthy lifestyle, to maintain a high level of harmony in the collective consciousness of society.”

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