Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who came to fame in the 1960s as the Beatles' guru, has a new plan: He's going to produce world peace -- and make a profit doing it. And you -- yes, you! -- can get a cut of the action by purchasing the bonds issued by the maharishi's country, which is called the Global Country of World Peace.
The bonds will pay 6 to 7 percent interest -- plus world peace, which is a pretty good dividend in itself.
"Create world peace -- and earn money!" the maharishi urged yesterday at a news conference carried on closed-circuit TV from his home in Holland to various places around the world, including the Maharishi Vedic Center in Bethesda. But he didn't just tout his new "World Peace Raam Bonds." He also denounced democracy, lambasted Washington and mocked President Bush.
"He's rash," the maharishi said when asked about Bush. "He's a destroyer of the world. When we create higher consciousness, he'll be out."
Wearing white flowers, a loose-fitting white robe and a long white beard, the maharishi looked quite healthy for his age, which is . . . well, a bit hard to pin down. He claims he has "forgotten" when he was born. Sam Katz, director of the Bethesda center, estimates that the Indian-born monk is somewhere in his eighties. The maharishi's still active -- running his four-decade-old Transcendental Meditation empire, plus founding a new global nation and ending war and violence forever.
"We will soon create a very tangible program to create and maintain lasting world peace," he promised.
His plan goes like this: He will build 3,000 "Peace Palaces" around the world, including one somewhere near Washington. In each palace, hundreds of his followers will be engaged full time in "yogic flying" -- an advanced version of Transcendental Meditation in which the meditators sort of hop around the room while sitting cross-legged. This practice, he says, sends out powerful positive vibrations that reduce stress, crime and violence. With hundreds of people doing yogic flying in 3,000 different places, peace will break out all over.
Last fall, after the events of Sept. 11, the maharishi announced that if some government gave him a billion dollars, he would end terrorism and create peace by hiring 40,000 yogic fliers to start hopping full time. No government took him up on the offer, which clearly irks him.
"I'm not going to waste my time convincing governments," he said yesterday. "I'm going to create these groups that will create coherency in every country."
When government money failed to materialize, the maharishi decided to fund his project through bonds issued by the Global Country of World Peace, which he founded last year as a virtual nation without any actual land. The bonds are available in 33 states, including Virginia (but not Maryland), and in the District of Columbia. According to the Global Country's Web site (www.globalcountry.org ) the bonds will pay 6 to 7 percent, depending on the length of the loan.
"That is one generous offer from the treasury of the Global Country of World Peace," the maharishi said yesterday at the Bethesda center, sounding like a skilled salesman.
He was a bit vague about how Global Country would make a profit from yogic flying and world peace. "It's a program to buy -- ah, what do you call it?" He paused for a moment, and reporters could hear the bump, bump, bump of yogic fliers hopping in the room upstairs. Then the maharishi finished his thought: "Agricultural lands."
Later, Katz explained the plan: Each Peace Palace will be surrounded by an organic farm that will produce food that will generate the profits that will pay the bondholders.
During the news conference, which lasted more than an hour, the maharishi took questions from reporters around the world. He didn't always answer them, though, preferring to discourse at length on topics more to his liking. One recurring theme was his loathing of governments, particularly democracies.
"This democratic system is so cruel, so cruel," he said. "It divides the nation into many, many small, small groups and makes them fight. . . . Democracy -- I call it 'damn democracy.' "
Needless to say, the Global Country of World Peace is not a democracy. The maharishi has appointed its ruler -- an Indian doctor named Raja Nader Ram.
Asked by a reporter if he would try to persuade Bush to back his yogic flying plan, Maharishi went into a tirade. "I never try to convince him. He's beyond that. He's a backbencher. His brain is not functioning."
A moment later he was asked if Washington's Peace Palace would have a special role in his plan, and he launched into another tirade. The maharishi is no fan of our nation's capital. In 1991 he moved his American headquarters out of the city and urged his followers to leave, calling Washington a "pool of mud." Apparently the years have not dimmed his distaste for the city.
"Washington will rise to a more sensible level of intelligence when the Peace Palace is built by residents there," he said. "The Peace Palace will wash off the negativity in the country. It is for the people of Washington to wash off all the sin that they have committed and are committing constantly. The sin is to open the door of Hell."
He didn't explain how Washingtonians had opened Hell's gate. Katz says he isn't sure what the maharishi meant, but it might have something to do with the crime rate.