Chicago Tribune Sunday, February 20, 1994 Guru says meditation is Mozambique's hope Promis
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
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 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."
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank