Chicago Tribune Sunday, February 20, 1994 Guru says meditation is Mozambique's hope Promis

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Chicago Tribune Sunday, February 20, 1994 Guru says meditation is Mozambique's hope Promise of actual heaven on Earth NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE MAPUTO, Mozambique--Since war-battered Mozambique began to look like a land of promise, it has become Africa's newest destination for prospectors of all sorts. Only one, though, has promised heaven on Earth. He is the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, guru of transcendental meditation, former spiritual adviser to the Beatles, and-- according to the prospectus for his "Heaven on Earth Development Project in Mozambique"--the would-be proprietor of a spiritual and ecological Utopia. In its full glory, the project envisions 49 million acres of land one quarter of Mozambique, tilled by legions of Mozambicans whose inner harmonies have been recalibrated by meditation. One critic described the guru's audacious aspirations as "delirium tremens," but there is a factor that raises the proposal above the preposterous: one of the maharishi's most enthusiastic devotees is Mozambique's president, Joaquim Chissano. Chissano has credited meditation with ending his nation's 16-year civil war and the century's worst drought. He promotes the practice throughout his government and during trips to the countryside. "We are happy to notice that the behavior of our population is changing," Chissano told the maharishi when he and several of his ministers visited the movement's headquarters in the Netherlands last July. "Crime and accidents are down. We still have to do a thorough study, but we can feel the positive effects." Foreign Minister Pascoal Mocumbi, one of several Cabinet members who have taken up meditation, said the developers of the maharishi's Mozambican paradise would have to prove them selves on a small scale before the government would surrender vast tracts of land to them but that the idea should not be dismissed. "It is under consideration by the government," he said. "My approach is pragmatic. Let them try, and we assess what result they get." If ever there was a country that could use a bit of heaven on. Earth, it is Mozambique, which was almost continuously at war from 1964 until a peace accord in October 1992. The maharishi's advance on Mozambique began about two years ago with a team from Europe and India that trained 1,500 Mozambicans in meditation techniques. The government has allocated the instructors a house near the presidential villa where they conduct classes for military and civil service officials and their families. Chissano lectures anyone who will listen about the maharishi's promise that meditating can tap wellsprings of mental energy, and that if enough people meditate they can bring harmony and prosperity to society. Documents filed in Amsterdam by the maharishi's development corporation, based in the Nether lands, promise "a new and integrated concept of development, designed by the maharishi and described in his 'Master Plan to Create Heaven on Earth.'" The proposal, first reported in December by the Paris-based Indian Ocean Newsletter, calls for a first stage of three tracts, each 2 million acres, planted with cotton, timber, and fruit. The project would be financed mainly by credit from suppliers of farm equipment. The maharishi would collect a royalty and reap 80 percent of the profits for use in expanding his heavenly pursuits. Joao Rowra, the leader of the maharishi's team in Maputo, declined to discuss the organization's activities, and said he was certain the maharishi would also decline. "He would not want to speak on Mozambique" because the country is on the mend and needs less of his personal attention, Rowra said. "I'm sure he would speak to you about South Africa. He has big plans for South Africa."

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