Civil servant fired for claiming meditation course on expenses

A leading civil servant who was sacked after she claimed hundreds of pounds on expenses to pay for a meditation course is suing the Government for £1m.

Dr Angelika Hibbett said she endured ‘workplace stress and bullying’ from bosses while working at the Home Office in London after she suffered from mental health problems.

She was fired for gross misconduct after it emerged she had put in a claim for £390 to pay for a ‘relaxation and meditation’ training course to combat her depression.

The Government has refuted the allegations and claims that Dr Hibbett who earned a salary of £63,000 was ‘defensive …

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French tourists guilty in Sri Lanka over Buddha photos

Charles Haviland, BBC: A Sri Lankan court has given suspended jail terms to three French tourists for wounding the religious feelings of Buddhists by taking pictures deemed insulting.

Two women and one man were detained in the southern town of Galle after a photographic laboratory alerted police.

The pictures show the travellers posing with Buddha statues and pretending to kiss one of them.

Most of Sri Lanka’s majority ethnic Sinhalese are Theravada Buddhist.

Mistreatment of Buddhist images and artefacts is strictly taboo in the country. The incident is alleged to have taken place at a temple in central Sri Lanka.

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Police spokesman …

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Zoning board denies meditation chapel variance

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A borough man’s variance request, to use his garage as a meditation gathering room for friends, was shot down Wednesday.

Deena DiBacco, Wednesday night, Collingswood [New Jersey] Zoning Board members unanimously denied a borough man’s use variance application, aimed at using his detached garage as a gathering place for group meditation.

Applicant Stephen Tumolo, who owns the said property at the unit block of Coulter Ave., holds a master’s degree in Theology and currently teaches religion at Camden Catholic High School.

Tumolo has lived at the 2-and-a-half story Coulter Ave. property for the past two years, which features a detached garage.

Wednesday night, Tumolo testified that 10 months after purchasing his home, he began making improvements to the garage space without building permits.

“A few times each month, I gather (in the garage) with friends to host a silent meditation and support group,” said Tumolo, adding that meetings originated…

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Maharishi foundation: Competitor violates trademark

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Jeff Eckhoff: A nonprofit Iowa-based educational foundation tied to the calming meditation teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi has injected new stress into the life of a competitor.

Maharishi Foundation USA Inc. of Fairfield this week sued the Meditation House LLC, accusing it of infringing on the foundation’s trademark covering the teaching of “Transcendental Meditation.”

Paperwork filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Des Moines accuses The Meditation House of lying in its advertising about the benefits of “Vedic Meditation.” Claims about the studied health value of those techniques are “false on their face,” according to the lawsuit, and designed to confuse the public with research done on Transcendental Meditation, which has been actively taught in the U.S. for roughly 50 years.

“The Foundation has never had an affiliation or license with The Meditation House nor, on information and belief, has anyone connected with The Meditation House ever taken an authorized course on the TM technique, let alone acquired the skills and knowledge necessary or the authorization from the Foundation required to teach it,” the lawsuit says. “The Meditation House’s belief that the parties’ respective meditation services are equivalent is based on a self-serving desire to appropriate the valuable goodwill associated with the Foundation’s brand for its own commercial gain.”

A disclaimer on insists that the company and life coach Jules Green “expressly disclaim any association with Maharishi Foundation Ltd.,” its trademarks or its practices.

Green, a “holistic life coach” who offers workshops in San Diego, New York and Des Moines, on the website lauds the “5000-year-old tradition of Vedic Meditation” and describes how her own meditation “led her to India to study with world-renowned Vedic scholar Thom Knoles in an ashram in the foothills of the Himalayas.”

Green did not immediately return a phone call to the Iowa number listed on her website.

Iowa corporation records show The Meditation House, LLC was formed in May 2010 by Jules Green Zubradt. The corporate address listed in state records belongs to an Ankeny home owned by Marilyn Green.

The Maharishi Foundation’s lawsuit accuses Green’s company of false advertising, unfair competition, trademark infringement, trademark dilution, false representation, unfair competition and unjust enrichment. Court papers seek “all profits wrongfully derived by The Meditation House” from its allegedly improper activities, as well as multiple changes in the content of the Meditation House website.

The foundation also seeks a court order requiring that Green’s company notify “each and every customer who purchased services” from The Meditation House that “there is no evidence that the technique taught by the defendant reduces the risk of heart disease or normalizes blood pressure, and there is no published scientific study that demonstrates any health benefit from the technique taught by the defendant.”

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Marin planners contemplate Spirit Rock proposal

Marin County officials continued to wrestle with proposed plans for the Spirit Rock Meditation Center — even though the county staff says doing nothing would be worse for the environment than approving the Buddhist retreat’s newest plan.

County planning commissioners decided Monday they need more time to reflect on a new master plan for the complex and told planning staff to outline specifics of regulations limiting attendance at special events. Another session will be scheduled later.

“I’m wondering if we are moving ahead with this before we have the program written out,” said Commissioner Randy Greenberg of attendance regulations. “We don’t know the magnitude of the issue,” added colleague Wade Holland. “What if they get 25,000 people out there?”

A handful of special events over the past 20 years has attracted crowds of up to 1,600.

Although county staffers indicated that moving ahead with a proposal to relocate structures away from creeks and minimize grading would have less impact on the environment than proceeding with development plans approved in 1988, commissioners worried about how to handle crowds.

Jack Kornfield, one of the founders of the 410-acre Woodacre retreat…

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for those who seek Buddhist wisdom, said the center will limit daily attendance to 791 people, as long as it can hold two special events a year exceeding the limit.Commissioners seemed to agree that up to 1,500 will be permitted to attend two

special events at the facility each year, and asked staff to develop specific regulations regarding resource restrictions, traffic, parking, public safety and related permit issues. The panel said each special event would be subject to a use permit requiring a public hearing.
The center wants to relocate structures approved in 1988 but never built, eliminate temporary buildings and add about 6,000 square feet of new construction. The plan would reduce the number of residential retreat and staff units by 21 to a new maximum of 177. In all, the complex would include 142 retreat units, and another 35 for teachers and staff. Some 88 are already built.

Currently, an attendance cap of 315 people is in place, but the limit never has been enforced. Officials noted an environmental review indicated that even if 791 people were brought in to simultaneously jam every unit, meeting room, meditation and dining hall structure, stretching the septic system to capacity, there would be no significant impact.

Commissioner Katie Crecelius indicated planners were making a mountain out of a mole hill. “I actually think this isn’t such a big deal,” she said. “There is a very competent list of mitigation measures. … It’s an exceptional negative declaration (of environmental impact) for a project that is going to improve the environment at Spirit Rock.”

Several neighbors, citing traffic and related concerns, begged to differ, including Jean Berensmeier, head of the San Geronimo Valley Planning Group. She called the new plan “excessive” and contended the popular retreat is more than neighbors bargained for.

But Taylor Hamblett, head of the San Geronimo Valley Stewards, another valley group, called the plan a big improvment. “This is asking to do what already has been approved, better,” he said.

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Community planners hear more comments on Buddhist monastery expansion

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Gary Warth, North County Times, California: Proponents of a Buddhist meditation center proposed for Bonsall made one final pitch to a community advisory group Tuesday, but the project still seemed a tough sell to the board members.

“You want to work with the community?” Bonsall Community Sponsor Group member Mark Litner said to Frank Hoang, who represents the project. “I’m not feeling the love here of you trying to work with the community whatsoever.”

The meeting Tuesday was the second time in two weeks that the Sponsor Group, an advisory board to the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, listened to public comments about a proposed three-building meditation center planned by the Vietnamese Buddhist Meditation Congregation for the Dai Dang Monastery off of Camino del Rey.

The Sponsor Group did not vote on the project Tuesday, but comments from individual members will be submitted to a county-required mitigated negative declaration, a document that describes why a proposed project would not have a significant impact on the environment.

About 10 Buddhist monks live at the monastery, which has operated for 10 years at 6326 Camino del Rey in Bonsall. The congregation hopes to expand the property, increasing the number of monks living at the site to 30. The number of people attending services on Sundays is expected to increase from about 100 to 300, and the congregation could hold four events a year that would each attract up to 1,000 people.

Residents near the monastery have expressed concerns that the center will be too large for the site and will increase traffic through the rural community.

Neighbors on Wrightwood Road to the north of the monastery said they are concerned that their street will be used as a second entrance to the property and that construction trucks will roll past their homes while the center is being built.

Hoang told the Sponsor Group that Wrightwood Road would not be used as an entrance to the meditation center, but said construction crews would have an option to use the road if they are willing to put up a bond that would pay for any damages they cause.

“That’s not acceptable,” a resident in the audience responded.

“What about peoples’ lives?” another said.

Public comments to the mitigated negative declaration will be accepted by the county until Feb. 11. County staff members then have three weeks to prepare the report for a public hearing that will be scheduled before the county Planning Commission. Any decision by the commission can be appealed to the county Board of Supervisors.

Hoang said that if the project is approved by the county, construction could begin by the end of the year. Asked after the meeting if he thought the county would approve the plans, Hoang said, “Our project is spotless.”

The Sponsor Group and several residents at the past two Bonsall meetings, however, had several objections to the project, including buses, possible ground contamination and portable toilets that would be placed within view of neighbors during large events.

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“Brainwashed” ex-RAF officer wins back £800,000 house he gave to guru

A former RAF officer who was ‘brainwashed’ into signing over his £800,000 home to a religious guru has won his property back.

Military intelligence specialist Richard Curtis, 53, and his wife joined the controversial Self Realization Meditation Healing Centre after he retired from the services.

Mr Curtis and wife Fiananda, 48, also a former RAF officer, gave their luxury country home to the cult and self-styled guru leader Rena Denton.

But a court heard Mr Curtis left the Somerset-based religious group after discovering his wife was having an affair with another man.

He sued the healing centre to get his house back – claiming he was ‘brainwashed’ into handing over the £800,000 farmhouse in the Welsh countryside.

A judge yesterday ruled Mr Curtis had been ‘unduly influenced’ into giving his home away – and is entitle to his share of the converted farmhouse.

Mr Curtis will now enter a mediation process with the healing centre where his estranged wife is still a member.

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It is expected the property known as Edwinsford near Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire, will be sold with the proceeds shared between Mr Curtis and his wife.

Cardiff Civil Courts of Justice heard the couple had been members of the cult for 11 years when they decided to give their countryside converted farmhouse home away.

The religious healing centre, based in Queen Camel, near Yeovil, planned to use the house in Carmarthenshire, as a ‘sister centre’.

Guru Ms Denton – who prefers to be known as Mata Yogananda Mahasaya Dharma – gave the couple a book where she wrote: ‘There’s so much more to give. As you give you receive. Produce, land or money can be given to help or feed others.’

The healing centre spent over £40,000 renovating the farmhouse on the banks of the picturesque River Cothi.

The court heard mother-of-one Mrs Curtis wanted to concentrate on working for the religous group full time at their home.

Judge Milwyn Jarman QC said: ‘Mrs Curtis considered setting up special healing clinics and workshops at Edwinsford.

‘Rena Denton had given her blessing to it becoming a sister centre and everyone was very joyous and emotional about the news.

‘In April 2004 the declaration of trust was drawn up and signed by Mr and Mrs Curtis – they had not taken legal advice.’

The court heard the agreement meant the group had financial rights to the house and began using it for meditation groups and workshops.

But in 2008 the couple decided to divorce after Mrs Curtis had an affair with another man, not a member of the cult.

Mr Curtis later left the cult and began proceedings to win back his house claiming he was unduly influenced into signing it over.

Judge Jarman said: ‘Mr and Mrs Curtis were giving away all they had – in my opinion the agreement was manifested to be disadvantageous.

‘When he signed the declaration of trust in 2004, the group was in the position of spiritual adviser to Mr Curtis.

‘Mr Curtis claims there was an undue influence on the behalf of the centre and I accept this but on the evidence I have heard there’s no clear indication of brainwashing.’

Mr Curtis, a specialist in Arabic languages, declined to comment after the hearing.

A doctor who claimed he was brainwashed into handing over £750,000 to the Self Realization Meditation Healing Centre lost a £2m damages claim in the High Court last year.

Dr Yehu Azaz, 50, gave evidence that he was ‘unduly influenced’ by Rena Denton into signing away his entire estate to the healing centre in the early nineties.

He claimed he gave up his medical career to join her band of followers and the gifts were loans which he expected to be repaid when he left.

His Honour Judge Seymour QC dismissed the overwhelming majority of Dr Azaz’s claim on the basis that these claims had been brought many years too late.

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Buddhist temple project may begin in spring

A plan to build a Thai Buddhist temple in Columbus, Ohio, is far from dead. In fact, construction on the temple could begin in the spring.

Representatives of the Columbus Buddhism Center have submitted paperwork to the city requesting a lot split for property on Blacks Road.

They also have submitted new paperwork outlining possible plans for the temple.

John Tai, a representative from the Columbus Buddhism Center, could not be reached for comment on the temple project because he is out of the country, but Pataskala Planning Director Diane Harris said she has spoken to Tai and the project is moving forward.

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Qantas loses fight with Falun Gong flight attendant

Qantas has been ordered to reinstate a flight attendant banned from international duties over her practise of Falun Gong.

Sheridan Genrich, from Sydney’s Lane Cove, was demoted to a short-haul attendant after she was threatened by authorities during a 2008 stopover in Beijing and deported because of her spiritual beliefs.

In making his ruling, Fair Work Australia Commissioner Frank Raffaelli said he was unimpressed with the way Qantas had carried out its investigation into Ms Genrich’s case.

“The implication of Qantas’s action is that there is a restriction on the practice of her spiritual beliefs in private, which is contrary to both Australian and international law,” Commissioner Raffaelli said in his judgement, which was obtained by The Epoch Times.

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North Carolina Supreme Court rejects tax-exemption for meditation center

A spiritual center near Boone where patrons practice transcendental meditation is not exempt from taxes, despite claims that it’s an educational institution, the state Supreme Court ruled Friday.

The decision reversed the Court of Appeals’ opinion and upholds a ruling by the N.C. Property Tax Commission that the Maharishi Spiritual Center of America is not an educational, scientific or charitable institution that qualifies for a tax exemption.

The center is part of the 7,000-acre Heavenly Mountain resort established by followers of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the Beatles’ guru and founder of the Transcendental Meditation movement.

The resort also includes the campus of Maharishi Spiritual University of America, which is accredited by the University of North Carolina Board of Governors to issue bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in Vedic science. The sciences are the study of consciousness and are based on classical Indian Vedic literature.

The Supreme Court, in an unsigned opinion, said it sided with a dissenting opinion by Court of Appeals Judge John Tyson in August.

The appellate court was supposed to review the process used by the tax commission, but otherwise respect its conclusion, Tyson said.

In addition, the judges failed to consider that “the granting of exemption from taxation to some necessarily increases the tax burden on others,” Tyson wrote.

In his own review, Tyson said he concluded that providing some short- and long-term meditation courses, as well as Vedic science and Sanskrit courses, did not qualify the spiritual center for tax exemption.

“Thus, while the spiritual center does offer some educational activity that is not its primary purpose. The record clearly establishes that the primary purpose of the spiritual center is the practice of meditation” by adherents who have been a part of their group for 20 years, Tyson wrote.

The Spiritual Center of America had pursued its county tax exemption since 1997 on property valued at about $6 million.

Watauga County collected about $468,000 in fire and property taxes for the 1999 and 2000 tax years from the spiritual center site. Read an archive of the original article…

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