FAIRFIELD,IOWA, January 20,2013 (Washington Times): The followers of a meditation practice that has roots in ancient India say it's simple: Close your eyes, silently repeat a mantra and relax. But a dispute among rivals for control over its teaching is anything but peaceful, featuring personal attacks, aggressive lawyering and accusations of improper business practices.
The feud pits the Iowa nonprofit that has taught transcendental meditation for decades against Thom Knoles, a former associate who left and built his own group of followers. The outcome could decide whether the Fairfield, Iowa-based Maharishi Foundation will continue to control the teaching of U.S. transcendental meditation -- or whether rivals can market similar services and its benefits without obtaining a license from the group.
The sides are fighting for customers and to protect their reputations in a federal-court case over whether the foundation can enforce its trademark rights and claims of false advertising against Mr. Knoles and other teachers of his rival Vedic Meditation.
To the foundation, Mr. Knoles and his followers are using the credibility and positive image associated with its technique to promote themselves and mislead customers. To Mr. Knoles' backers, the foundation is unfairly seeking a monopoly on a technique that's existed thousands of years.
Supporters say the technique originated with the Vedas, sacred Hindu texts. Its modern incarnation was developed in India in the 1950s by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who later spread the technique worldwide. Maharishi founded a university that settled in Fairfield in the 1970s. His backers manage the foundation, which teaches classes to thousands of students annually and owns trademarks for Transcendental Meditation and its TM nickname.
Sojourns in tirthas, which are meritorious and which constitute one of the high mysteries of the rishis, are even superior to sacrifices.