Guru's disciples find peace in crime-ridden estate

The Independent/August 3, 2002
By Paul Kelbie

Disciples of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the guru who taught the Beatles that all you need is love, have been searching for the perfect place to build a palace of peaceful meditation for 10 years.

Now they have found it in one of the most deprived housing estates in Scotland, next to a betting shop and opposite a boarded-up shopping centre where alcoholic loafers meet. Tillydrone in Aberdeen, which has been the subject of many regeneration projects, is a centre of burglaries, vandalism, and vehicle thefts.

Despite the backdrop of boarded-up windows and graffiti-covered buildings, representatives of the transcendental meditation (TM) organisation believe the site is ideal for their £150,000 centre, the first of its kind in the UK.

Although not known for its tranquillity, Tillydrone fulfils the criteria set by the Maharishi 10 years ago for establishment of his "lighthouses of coherence." Anna Edwards, the TM teacher behind the project, said: "If the land had been in the central Highlands, the Western Isles or the west end of Aberdeen, it would have been built there. But the land is here."

The reason Tillydrone is so "special" is that the slope of the land, the direction of the nearby river Don and the proximity to the North Sea fit in with the ancient spiritual principles followed by TM devotees. "It is the land which is important and this fits the criteria," Mrs Edwards said.

"Transcendental mediation brings peace and harmony and tranquillity to the individual and the surrounding environment so if Tillydrone is suffering from a lack of that, what better place to build than here?"

But whether the Maharishi Vedic Centre, which could be built in five months, will succeed in turning the area into a haven is debatable. "There is a bit of a drugs problem in the area," said Sergeant Alan Keith of Grampian Police, who is not convinced meditation is the answer. "I have no idea how it would work but any sort of initiative is worth a try and if it works that's fine," he said. Many locals, who know Tillydrone is regarded as a "wee island of badness", are equally sceptical. George Lennie, the chairman of the community council, said: "They could have picked a thousand places better. But I have no objection to anything that brings peace."

Transcendental meditation's most well-known practice is yogic flying, in which practitioners sit cross-legged and bounce up and down on a soft surface to levitate. "Maybe Tillydrone's not such a peculiar place for it after all," said one resident. "Anything not nailed down here usually flies off ... and vanishes without any trouble at all."

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