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HVK Archives: Want to be a high - flier in big business?

Want to be a high - flier in big business? - The Sunday Telegraph, London

Julia Llewellyn Smith ()
31 August 1997

Title: Want to be a high - flier in big business?
Author: Julia Llewellyn Smith
Publication: The Sunday Telegraph, London
Date: August 31, 1997

At a management-technology college in Kent, you can study for a degree in
economics, computing, information systems and English. You can also learn
the mysterious art of yogic flying.

The Maharishi College of Management and Technology in Tonbridge is the
first university in Europe to teach the principles of the Maharishi Mahesh
Yogi, guru of Transcendental Meditation (TM) and idol of long-haired,
dope-smoking, patchouli-scented hippies everywhere.

Yet according to the vice-chancellor. Geoffrey Clements, there is no room
for such layabouts on his campus. Instead, he says, his students are more
like such high-fliers as the Tory leader William Hague and the former ICI
chairman Sir John Harvey-Jones - both of whom practise TM to free their
minds of tension and fill their bodies with a sense of calm and well being.
At the highest level, practitioners learn to yogic fly - a kind of
cross-legged bouncing.

"The public has this idea that people who practise TM are hippies," says Dr
Clements, who is also leader of the Natural Law Party. "In fact nothing
could be further from the truth.

"People who are involved in drugs tend to give them up when they take up
TM. We are very eager to get away from that image and delighted to be
represented by people like Mr Hague."

Why anyone should want to attend the Maharishi College is not immediately
clear. Fees are =A38,000 a year. while accommodation costs an extra =A34,000.
In return, students are prepared for a small range of London University
degrees through the university's external programme. Yet Dr Clements
insists his courses are worth the expense. "Our students see creativity,
learning and comprehension develop together with an overall rounding of the
personality, developments in mental and physical health. Stress levels are
dispersed and the students have a high level of confidence. Drugs, smoking
and alcohol abuse are absent."

To demonstrate tangible results, he cites the several multi-million dollar
companies that have been founded by graduates of the American institution
devoted to TM the Maharishi International University (MIU) in Fairfield,
Iowa. "Our practices can help people compete in international business."

Dr Clements rejects the suggestion that such benefits could be reaped by
anyone who practises TM, without going to the trouble of attending a
special university. "Many students and lecturers do practise TM, but their
approach can be rather piecemeal. Students don't do so well at other
universities because the whole environment isn't geared towards them and
focusing on developing the students' consciousness. There is a crisis of
higher education in this country; standards seem to be unsatisfactory. I
think it is a tragedy that so much potential is being wasted."

So far students are being slow to heed Dr Clements's message. Last year,
only six students, aged between 20 and 25, enrolled at the college -
one-British, two Georgians and three Armenians. "That was, a pilot
scheme," says Dr Clements. Next term the college is relocating to
Skelmersdale in Lancashire, where the British Maharishi community is based,
and he is confident of attracting as many as 50 students.

Future William Hagues are already being educated at the Maharishi School of
Enlightenment (also in Skelmersdale) for four- to 16-year-olds. At the
moment its fees are more than =A31,200 a year, but it is bidding to become
grant-maintained. Its 100 pupils follow the normal GCSE curriculum, as
well as twice-daily TM sessions. "After this the whole nervous system is
more relaxed and functions more effectively," says the headmaster, Dereck
Cassells. "We have very few discipline problems; our children ' are
courteous and polite because their stress has been released."

The school boasts the best GCSE results in the county, with 100 per cent
gaining five passes at Grade C or higher although only seven pupils took
the exams last year.

A 5,000-year-old technique based on the principles of Hinduism, TM has come
a long way since it was first introduced to the West in the 1960s, when the
Beatles donned their headbands to follow the teachings of Maharishi Yogi.

Today TM is practised by 160,000 people in Britain and taken seriously by
the medical profession, with some doctors prescribing it for stress-related
symptoms such as migraine, insomnia and high blood pressure. Several large
companies, including Securitised Endowment Contracts plc, the largest
provider of endowment policies in Britain, pay for their employees to
meditate, on the basis that a tranquil staff will make more money.

Yet even those in favour of TM doubt the benefits of the Maharishi
educational establishments. "I am sure there are some people who could be
helped by the TM approach, but I don't think it is for everybody," says Dr
Mark Money, the head of the centre for health studies at Liverpool John
Moores University.

"You go to university to have your preconceptions challenged, not
confirmed, to discover your individuality, not to fit in to some kind of
pattern. "

Dr Sue Blackmore, a psychologist at the University of the West of England,
agrees. "Meditation is an extremely good way of calming the mind and
clearing away thoughts, but there are lots of methods which work from that
point of view as well as TM."

A report by the American National Academy of Sciences concluded that "no
evidence supports the notion either that meditation reduces arousal any
more than does simply resting quietly, or that meditation allows a person
to cope better with a stressor."

Prof Vincent Marks of Healthwatch, a body set up by doctors to monitor
alternative therapies and medicine, warns: "Ordinary relaxation is probably
a good thing, but once it gets cultified much of that goodness is undone."

He points out that not all MIU students have gone on to riches. In 1990
one was reportedly run over by a coal train that he was trying to stop
through the power of meditation. In 1987, another was reportedly awarded
$138,000 after a jury decided MIU was liable after he claimed he had
suffered psychological and emotional damage during his 11-year association
with TM. The student had wanted to learn to levitate but he never got off
the ground.

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