Monte Mitchell, Winston-Salem Journal: A developer of the more than 7,000 acre Heavenly Mountain resort in southeastern Watauga County says he is severing ties with the Transcendental Meditation movement and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
The Maharishi Spiritual Center of America has separate campuses for men and women at Heavenly Mountain.
Hundreds of Transcendental Meditation practitioners meditate there in opulent surroundings.
David Kaplan used to be one of them, but he said in a letter dated last Friday and released this week that he was kicked out of the movement in 1999 after getting married.
That prompted him and his twin brother Earl Kaplan, the president of the Spiritual Center of America, to investigate the maharishi and the TM organization.
“Due to our findings, I can no longer support or be associated with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, his ideas, his knowledge, or any of this organizations, in any way whatsoever,” he wrote.
Kaplan sent out two almost-identical letters, one to business associates of Heavenly Mountain and one to TM practitioners.
To both groups, he said he is not writing to share what he has learned about the maharishi.
“But I will say what I have found out is shocking, and because of what I have learned I feel very sorry for you,” he wrote to the TM practitioners.
Kaplan said he has donated tens of millions of dollars and practiced a form of TM for hours a day for 25 years.
In 1999, he got so sick he nearly died, he said. When he recovered, he voluntarily left the Purusha TM program for single men and got married.
“For that I was kicked out of the movement,” he wrote.
A phone message left yesterday at the Spiritual Center of America was not returned.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a former Hindu monk, drew from ancient Eastern techniques of meditation as he began the TM movement in 1958. He gained worldwide fame in the 1960s when the Beatles visited with him and practiced TM.
David Kaplan owns the biggest chunk of private property in Watauga County. He started Heavenly Mountain in 1993, putting in $8 million of his own money, the head accountant at the Spiritual Center said in a 1998 Winston-Salem Journal story.
All told, the Heavenly Mountain developers spent $60 million buying the property and developing the resort and spiritual center up to that point, the accountant said.
In addition to the 500-acre nonprofit Spiritual Center of America, Heavenly Mountain includes 1,000 acres of for-profit development of private lots and houses. About 30 houses have been built there so far.
Sales of lots and houses have helped pay for the Spiritual Center of America.
Heavenly Mountain includes an additional 5,800 acres. A championship golf course designed by Scott Miller is being developed on part of that property.
A spokeswoman for David Kaplan said that he did not wish to comment further right now but that he sees the development moving away from its spiritual roots.
During the past year, property owners have filed lawsuits against the Kaplans, saying that the changes violate the reasons they came there in the first place.
The Web site of the Maharishi Spiritual Center of America says that the center is creating a reality of the age-old dream of a mythical Shangri-la and a Garden of Eden, where life is ideal and perfection reigns supreme.
Practitioners of TM seek bliss and peace through levitation, or yogic flying, and through repeating a mantra in meditation aimed at creating a state of deep relaxation. That feeling of bliss is an unconditional happiness and joy that wells up spontaneously from within and begins to pervade every moment of the day, according to the Web site.
In May 2003, the N.C. Supreme Court reversed the N.C. Court of Appeals, and upheld a ruling by Watauga County tax officials that denied the Maharishi Spiritual Center of America tax-exempt status as an educational, scientific or charitable organization.
County tax administrators said that, if the lower court’s decision had stood, Watauga County would have had to return more than $1 million in taxes and interest the center paid for the tax years 1999 through 2002.
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