- Golden Domes
The Bagambhrini Golden Dome of Pure Knowledge and the Maharishi Tower of Invincibility
Alternative names The Maharishi Patanjali and the Bagambhrini Golden Domes of Pure Knowledge General information Type Domes Town or city Fairfield, Iowa Coordinates Construction started 1979 Completed 1981 Cost US$700,000 Height 35 ft (11 m) Technical details Diameter 200 ft (61 m) Floor area 25,000 sq ft (2,300 m2) Design and construction Owner Maharishi University of Management Architect H.O. Clark
The twin Golden Domes, also called the Maharishi Golden Domes, are used for the group practice of the TM-Sidhi program (Yogic Flying). Built by followers of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on the Maharishi University of Management (MUM) campus in Fairfield, Iowa, the domes are important centers of the Transcendental Meditation movement and are also local landmarks. The dome for men is formally known as the "Maharishi Patanjali Golden Dome of Pure Knowledge" and the dome for ladies is the "Bagambhrini Golden Dome of Pure Knowledge", but they are commonly called the "Men's Dome" and the "Ladies' Dome". Buildings used for Yogic Flying, such as the Golden Domes, are known generically as "flying halls". The Golden Domes were the first structures built specifically for Yogic Flying, and were completed in 1980 and 1981, respectively.
According to proponents, group practice of the TM-Sidhi program, such as done in the domes, creates the Maharishi Effect, which they describe as a coherence-producing field the effects of which depend on the number of people practicing in one place. The domes have a capacity of 3,000 practitioners. The Transcendental Meditation movement has conducted a number of assemblies bringing together thousands of Yogic Flyers in the hope of positively influencing the United States and the world. The largest assembly brought together 7,000 Yogic Flyers for several weeks starting in December 1983.
MUM researchers have conducted numerous studies on Yogic Flying practiced in the domes as well as at other locations. Proponents assert that lower crime rates, increases in stock market indices, the reunification of Germany, fewer air traffic fatalities, and other quantifiable changes are the result of lowering tension in the world by practicing TM-Sidhi.
Practitioners who attend twice-daily sessions typically spend from three to eight hours there. Thousands have moved to Fairfield to practice in the domes, but admission to the flying halls is strictly controlled. Since 2006, a foundation has provided stipends to cover the living expenses of some participants.
- 1 Background
- 2 Building
- 3 Use and significance
- 4 Other
- 5 Footnotes
- 6 References
- 7 Other resources
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi introduced the TM-Sidhi program as an advanced form of meditation in 1975. It has been described as a natural extension of the Transcendental Meditation technique (TM), based on the teachings of Patanjali, in which the practice of Samyama leads to the achievement of Siddhis. The most important Siddhi in the TM-Sidhi program is Yogic Flying, a mental-physical exercise of hopping while cross-legged. Practitioners are called "Sidhas" or "Yogic Flyers". The TM-Sidhi program is said to accelerate the benefits gained from the TM technique by training the mind to think from the level of what is called Transcendental Consciousness. A TM website says that "research has shown a dramatic and immediate reduction in societal stress, crime, violence, and conflict—and an increase in coherence, positivity, and peace in society as a whole" when the TM-Sidhi program is practiced in groups. This is termed the "Maharishi Effect" or "super radiance", and is believed by proponents to occur when the group size exceeds the square root of one percent of the population of an area. Nations with sufficient Yogic Flyers are said by practitioners to have achieved invincibility. While empirical studies supporting these assertions have been published in peer-reviewed academic journals, the assertions have been disputed by most of those in the scientific and skeptic community who have written about them. Skeptics have called Yogic Flying or its associated theories and technologies a "pseudoscience".
Maharishi International University (later Maharishi University of Management) opened in Santa Barbara in 1973 and moved to the empty campus of bankrupted Parsons College in Fairfield, Iowa, in 1974. In the summer of 1979, during a "World Peace Assembly" in Amherst, Massachusetts, the Maharishi invited TM and TM-Sidhi practitioners to come together for group practice in Fairfield. Eight hundred did so right away, and thousands came later. The Maharishi ordered the construction of two huge domes for their use. Bevan Morris, who had just been named president and chairman of MIU at age 33, oversaw the effort. The domes were the first structures built for the purpose of group practice of the Maharishi's program. Prior to construction of the domes, Yogic Flying was done in the university's field house or in other campus facilities.
Construction of the first dome began in the fall of 1979. The Maharishi inaugurated it that December, appearing in the still-roofless building in his customary dhoti and light shawl, bare-headed, while his audience wore heavy coats. Ravi Shankar (later known as "Sri Sri Ravi Shankar") and two other Indian pandits sat near an electric heater and chanted Vedic hymns during the inaugural ceremony. The Men's Dome was completed early in 1980.
The university published a paper in 1981 which concluded that nature supported the construction of the dome by moderating the winter temperatures on six out of the eight days when concrete was being poured and cured. The day before each pour, Yogic Flyers were instructed to desire favorable conditions. An author in the Skeptical Inquirer magazine wrote that the concrete supply company had checked the National Weather Service forecast before deciding which days to work. A research methodology textbook used the issue as an example of the importance of controlling for a variable.
The Ladies' Dome is a couple of hundred yards (meters) to the northeast, on the site of a former baseball field. It was completed in 1981. The genders are separated to avoid distraction. In 1983, the Maharishi named them "The Maharishi Patanjali and the Bagambhrini Golden Domes of Pure Knowledge."
Location and appearance
The Golden Domes are located on Golden Dome Way near Highway 1 (North 4th Street), one mile (1.6 km) north of Fairfield and two miles (3.2 km) south of Maharishi Vedic City. The domes are built on hills beside the location of the former Blum Stadium, a football stadium built by Parsons College hurriedly in 1966. Between 1994 and 2005, the bleachers and a press box were removed, and housing was built on one edge of the former stadium.
The roofs of the domes are covered with spray polyurethane foam. The top coat, which gives the domes their characteristic metallic gold color, was developed specially for the university and is called "Maharishi gold". Photographs show flagpoles outside the domes flying the flags of the United States and of the Global Country of World Peace, a border-less nation declared by the Maharishi in 2000. Between the two domes is the 45-foot (14 m) marble-paneled Maharishi Tower of Invincibility, completed in 2007.
The domes are tourist attractions mentioned in a number of travel guides and listed as a "don't miss" landmark in Fairfield. A local bank offered checks printed with an image of the Maharishi Patanjali Golden Dome. Writers have described one or both domes as: "a huge rotunda", "flying saucers", "extraterrestrial-looking", "gilded breasts", "Mallomar-cookie-shaped golden domes", "giant mushrooms in a field of green grass", and "sprawling structures sitting astride gently rolling hills".
Alterations and renovations
In the late 1990s, the Maharishi developed Maharishi Sthapatya Veda (MSV), his version of an ancient Indian architectural theory called Vastu Shastra which is said to bring good fortune. It was then realized that the west-facing entries and round shape of the domes were inauspicious.
The buildings were rectfiied by shifting their front doors to face east. A small dome which had been part of the western entrance to the Men's Dome was removed, and the new entrance was completed in 2001. A vestibule on the east side was added, which includes a large room for shoes and a space for doing asanas (Yoga positions). The eastern end of the Men's Dome was also squared-off, to more closely align it with MSV principles. The western side is expected to receive a similar treatment once funds are raised. The entry to the Ladies' Dome was moved in 2005 and bathrooms were added, replacing a temporary trailer which had been used for the purpose.
Maharishi Sthapatya Veda says that buildings should be located on level ground, so the surrounding areas and berms have been flattened with earth-moving equipment. Auspicious Vastu fences were built around each dome. In accordance with MSV, the domes were topped by kalashes, auspicious "sculpted urns". The sculptures, which are seven and a half feet (2.9 m) tall and five feet (1.5 m) wide, were cast in acrylic resin by MUM art professor Dale Divoky in 1997.
Use and significance
The Maharishi called the domes "particle accelerators of consciousness" in 1979. The first dome was described in the MUM 1981 yearbook as "the capital of world consciousness". MUM's Review newsletter said in 2001 that they are home to the "nation's largest coherence-creating group". An MUM alum wrote in 2006 that the Men's Dome is the movement's "holiest of holies".
Thousands of people have moved to Fairfield to participate in group practice in the domes. Hundreds, or over a thousand TM-Sidhi practitioners go to the Golden Domes every morning and evening, creating a "parade", a "stream", or a "flood" of attendees walking, pedaling, or driving to the domes. The resulting traffic jams and parking problems have irritated their non-meditating neighbors. Homes and accommodations within walking distance of the domes are desirable. An office building across the highway from the domes is said to be "just a few seconds from the Golden Domes by car". The campus shuts down during program sessions.
The executive vice president of the local Chamber of Commerce said in 1991 that TM practitioners, who make up from a quarter to a third of the town's population, "spend a great portion of their days in the Domes". The Men's Dome is typically occupied 14 hours a day. MUM President Bevan Morris said in 2009 that there have been "something like 30 million hours of transcending" in the domes.
The Golden Domes have a combined capacity of 3,000 Yogic Flyers. Tallies of people engaged in twice-daily group practice in the dome and nearby flying halls are published online, with archives going back several years. The evening count is generally higher than the morning attendance and is the number used for most research purposes. Increasing the number of regular attendees above the square root of one percent of the nation's population is a long term goal of the university and the movement. In 1999, the threshold figure was 1,650. In 2001, it was calculated at 1,700, and by 2006 it had risen to 1,730. A movement website estimated the threshold for the US in 2010 would be 1,756, based on a population of 308.2 million.
Attendees range from MUM faculty and students (who receive academic credit for meditating), to business owners and executives. For students at the Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment, many of whose parents came to Fairfield to practice in the domes, becoming a Sidha and doing Yogic Flying seems to be a rite of passage, according to headmaster Ashley Deans. Yogic Flyers living in Fairfield who are not part of the university are said to be members of the "Town Super Radiance" (TSR) community.
Admission to the Golden Domes for participation in the TM-Sidhi program is controlled. Meditators must have a "dome badge", also called a "Super Radiance Card", to participate in group practice. Badges are checked or scanned at the entry. Dome badges are issued by the university's Super Radiance Office or the Department for the Development of Consciousness. Fees for a couple were about US$150 per month in 2002. Only Sidhas and Governors of the Age of Enlightenment (Sidhas who are also TM teachers) may practice in the domes. Citizens with badges are allowed in the domes for special events, such as celebrations of the Maharishi's birthday. Outsiders are not allowed to attend TM-Sidhi sessions, and journalists have been refused opportunities to observe them. The mayor of Fairfield in 1984, Robert Rasmussen, said of people in the movement, "Their biggest thing is levitating twice a day and we're not even invited to that—that's a locked-door thing."
People have lost access to the domes for a number of reasons. A former member said he was excluded for expressing doubts. People who distributed literature for meditation seminars by Robin Carlsen, a critic of university leadership, reportedly had their dome badges revoked in 1983. A former member, who had given up a job and moved to Fairfield to meditate in the dome, said that he and some friends were expelled from the campus and dome without warning or discussion because they had become too boisterous. Cynthia Humes, a religion scholar, wrote that dome badges are revoked from people known to have aided other "saints", such as Ammachi. Religion scholar Scott Lowe wrote that hundreds of former dome attendees had been blacklisted by 2007, significantly reducing daily attendance figures. Those who have stopped practicing in the domes are said to be "off the program" (OTP). Being banned from the domes has been compared to excommunication and to the Amish practice of shunning.
Interior and program
External media Images Photograph of interior, facing west. Videos Twin Galaxies and the Golden Domes VBS.TV Interview with Walter Day. There is a description of TM-Sidhi with brief footage of the Golden Domes between time marks 8:40 to 11:00.
One writer said the Men's Dome "has the deep stillness of an old cathedral". The ceilings of the Golden Domes are lined with fir panels. Daylight shines through a 15 foot (4.6 m) central skylight, and more than 100 arched windows circle the base. Attendees remove their shoes before entering. Hundreds of socked feet give the Men's Dome the pleasant aroma of a gymnasium. The interiors are normally filled with foam mattresses covered with white sheets and different sections are coded by color. Some practitioners use folding backrests called "backjacks" while they sit cross-legged, facing east.
Behind them, on the western wall, is a stage or dais with a white sofa holding a portrait of the Maharishi surrounded by vases of fresh flowers, forming an altar or shrine venerating him. A painting of the Tradition of Vedic Masters is mounted in a 14 foot (4.2 m) frame crafted by MUM woodworker Doug Adams. The room is silent except for the quiet mechanical hum of fans, the rustling of flags hanging from the ceiling, or the occasional cough.
As of 2003, basic program is practiced for about 90 minutes, morning and night, seven days a week. The morning session starts at 7:00 am, and those doing long programs stay later. The evening session begins after 5:00 pm, with an earlier session for those doing long programs. In 1992, late admission was not permitted. Earlier reports state that once the doors have been closed and practitioners have settled into position a bell is rung to mark the beginning of the silent program.
In addition to the regular daily sessions at the Golden Domes attended by local residents, occasional assemblies have drawn thousands of additional TM-Sidhi practitioners. Smaller, more frequent assemblies are also scheduled for the domes, and assemblies have been conducted in other places as well.
The "Taste of Utopia" assembly took place from December 17, 1983, to January 6, 1984, and was the occasion for the Maharishi's second visit to the domes. A movement publication called it the "First Experiment to Create the Global Maharishi Effect". Participants came from over 50 countries and included members of the monastic Purusha and Mother Divine programs. The assembly aimed to bring together 7,000 Yogic Flyers. The target was first reached on December 26. Thousands of attendees were photographed on a slope below the Men's Dome, standing beside paintings of the Maharishi and Brahmananda Saraswati, also known as "Guru Dev". Participants stood for an hour in 10 inches (.25 m) of snow in freezing temperatures while three camera crews and a photographer on a scissor lift 50 feet (15 m) high recorded the assembly. Officials said that photographs would be sent to media outlets around the world to show the movement's popularity and given to attendees as mementos.
There was a "Taste of Heaven on Earth" assembly which spanned two weeks in October 1989 and a "Maharishi World Peace" assembly in 1992. One dome participant said "This is a global experiment. I'm doing it out of a sense of patriotism." An unplanned assembly took place following the September 11 attacks. The number of Yogic Flyers surged to more than 1,700 for seven days. The schedule was changed temporarily to allow Yogic Flying to be practiced continuously.
"Invincible America" is an ongoing assembly which started on July 23, 2006. Howard and Alice Settle, oil brokers, donated millions of dollars to pay the living expenses of hundreds of TM-Sidhi practitioners who commit to long-term practice in the domes for the assembly. Also in 2006, due to what was described as an urgent need to increase the number of Yogic Flyers because of the situation in the Middle East, the fees for learning the TM-Sidhi program, normally $5,000, were underwritten for any MUM or Maharishi School students who committed to participating in the group program in the domes for one year. At least 40 students accepted the offer that year. The Settles and other contributors helped to bring more than 1,000 Maharishi Vedic Pandits from India for the assembly. The Indian pandits stay on a fenced-in, purpose-built campus on the edge of Maharishi Vedic City, where they practice group program and Vedic rituals but have little direct interaction with the community.
Effects and studies
Practitioners assert that, when done with sufficient numbers in the Golden Domes and other flying halls, the TM-Sidhi program creates the "Maharishi Effect" which results in lowering the incidence of crime, illness, and conflict in the US and abroad. R. Keith Wallace, founding president and MUM professor, said of the domes' effect, "When Germany was unified, that was our doing." MUM Executive Vice President Craig Pearson said in 1999 that "Participating in large group programs in the Golden Domes is the single most important thing each of us can do. We have the power to create the coherence necessary to bring about a positive change to our nation's actions in Kosovo." Robert M. Oates Jr., director of public affairs at MUM, suggested that the US government should move to Iowa to be closer to the domes. In regard to campus emergency procedures, Tom Brooks, chief operating officer of the university, said "the coherence from our Golden Domes and meditation halls will help to keep us all safe."
A paper by Maharishi University researchers found correlations between the Taste of Utopia assembly and improvements in a number of indices, including air traffic fatalities, stock markets, crime rates, infectious diseases, and patent applications in localities as far away as Australia. Another paper said that a security plan in the Lebanese Civil War was agreed to during the assembly but that the deal fell apart when the assembly ended. Daily press releases during the assembly took credit for myriad improvements around the world but not for the unusually harsh weather conditions in Fairfield, including a wind chill of -83ºF (-64ºC). Michael Dillbeck, an MUM dean, reported that "world stocks went back down and infectious diseases went up" after the assembly ended. The assembly was seen as a success by Dillbeck, David Orme-Johnson, and other MUM experts.
A spokesman for MUM, John Revolinski, said in April 2001 that the nation had been on an upward trajectory since the first dome was inaugurated. "There is a greater orderliness, greater peace, greater friendliness among countries that has emerged since 1979." According to the University Report, the post-9/11 assembly led to feelings of euphoria on campus and unexpected moderation by President Bush but the US bombing of Afghanistan began when the number of practitioners fell below 1,200.
John Hagelin, three-time Natural Law Party candidate for US President, Raja of Invincible America, and an MUM professor, predicted in 2007 that when the number of Invincible America assembly participants reached 2,500 America would have a major drop in crime, and see the virtual elimination of all major social and political woes in the United States. Hagelin also said that the assembly was responsible for the Dow Jones Industrials stock index reaching a record high of 14,022 earlier that month, and predicted it would top 17,000 within a year.
Hagelin wrote in 2008 that a disappointing nomination for United States Secretary of Agriculture was the consequence of fewer Yogic Flyers in the domes. A study published by MUM Press found that the stress hormone levels of non-meditators in Fairfield was inversely proportional to the number of group practitioners in the domes. A doctoral dissertation for MUM found there was a direct relationship between the number of practitioners and the quality of life in Iowa, and concluded that every missing Yogic Flyer resulted in 3.6 fewer jobs in the state. Some Maharishi supporters blamed the on-campus killing of an MUM student in 2004 on declining numbers of dome attendees. One member wrote that hundreds died in an airplane crash when the group program had to be suspended for a day due to construction. Former MUM president Wallace said a shortage of Yogic Flyers was responsible for the 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
Magician Doug Henning, who lived part-time in Fairfield in order to join group practice in the Men's Dome, married Debbie Douillard in the unfinished Ladies' Golden Dome in 1981. The bride arrived in a pony cart and the groom performed two tricks. The ceremony was covered by news agencies and the Maharishi had been expected to attend.
Concerts have been held in the Men's Dome on rare occasions. A concert of Maharishi Gandharva Veda music was performed by MUM students there in 2000. In 2008, filmmaker David Lynch hosted a concert in the dome featuring Donovan. Jazz flutist Paul Horn gave a concert there in 2011.
World Yogic Flying competitions have been held in the domes in 1996 and 2003. The 2003 competition was reportedly covered by five television news crews, as well as other journalists. There were three divisions: high school students, college students, and adults. Each gender competed in their respective dome. Winners included a 65-inch (1.6 m) long jump and a 30-inch (.8 m) high jump. The MUM dean of students described the event as "a fun way to demonstrate Maharishi's technology for world peace".
Tony Nader, whom the Maharishi named Maharaja Adhiraj Rajaraam and appointed first ruler of the Global Country of World Peace, gave an address in the Men's Dome in 2009 and visited again in 2011.
Popular culture and namesakes
The domes have appeared in TV news shows, documentaries, and YouTube videos. A scene in the 2010 German documentary David Wants To Fly was filmed in the Men's Dome.
The Golden Dome Market and Cafe is adjacent to the Ladies' Dome. It sells organic produce from the MUM farm, gifts, and Maharishi Ayurveda products, and serves vegetarian meals in the evening. A 23-unit building for women, the Golden Domes Apartments, is planned for a site nearby. The Golden Domes Quarterly is a newsletter for the MUM community published by MUM Press.
Other golden domes and flying halls
A "renowned" Maharishi Golden Dome is the center of the largest TM community in Europe, Maharishi European Sidhaland in Skelmersdale, UK. A study published in 1996 by Maharishi-connected researchers found that the number of Yogic Flyers practicing in the dome there had a direct effect on the levels of crime in Liverpool, about 10 miles (16 km) away. The third and fifth annual European Yogic Flying competitions were held there in 1988 and 1990.
At 70 feet (21 m), the Maharishi Golden Dome is the largest structure in Radiance, Texas, a 35-home TM community founded in 1980 on the outskirts of Austin. Following the incorporation of Maharishi Vedic City, Iowa, in 2001 there was a proposal to build two "Super Domes" in the center of the city, each holding 10,000 Yogic Flyers. Square or octagonal flying halls have been built in Heavenly Mountain, Boone, North Carolina, and Sidhadorp, Lelystad, Netherlands. Forty flying halls have been built in India by the Maharishi's nephew, Girish Varma, in conjunction with the Maharishi Vidya Mandir Schools.
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