The Natural Law Party Preaches Meditation

While presidential candidates from better-heeled parties, such as Bill Clinton and Bob Dole, get all the media attention, and Perot's Reform Party considers wooing Green candidate Ralph Nader, a fifth party is in the rear but apparently closing in fast.The Natural Law Party shares traits with at least two other parties. Like Ross Perot's Reform Party, it is seen by many as a little kooky -- though it doesn't have the advantage of Perot's money. Like the Green Party, it gets little media attention -- though it doesn't have the Green Party's reputation for cutting-edge progressive philosophy. Like both, it's hard to chart on the traditional right-wing left-wing continuum.Yet it's already on the ballot in 21 states -- quite an accomplishment for a political party only four years old. And it has done this without the aid of an eccentric billionaire or even aid from the Transcendental Meditation organization, the group once headed by the late Maharishi Mahesh Yoga, the Beatles' guru in the late 1960s.Transcendental Meditation, or TM, is much like other forms of meditation that can be learned in a few minutes from a book -- except learning from the organization will cost you about as much as a Beatles concert and the organization boasts that it gives you a "personalized" mantra. A former instructor, Robert Kropinski, sued the movement for falsely promising he could learn to fly using self-levitation, and was awarded $138,000 by a Washington, D.C. jury in 1987.The Natural Law Party describes itself as "prevention-oriented" in its solutions to national problems. Its Web site analyzes and suggests them -- and for every problem, the solution, or part of it, is the use of Transcendental Meditation.-High crime and overcrowded prisons? The solution is to teach prisoners TM, which it says will greatly reduce recidivism and remove social stress.-Non-sustainable, polluting agribusiness? While teaching methods of sustainable, organic agriculture without pesticides is crucial, farmers can better learn to use such methods if their consciousness is raised-again, through the use of TM.-Skyrocketing health-care costs? Again, the solution is TM, because much disease is ultimately due to high stress and poor lifestyles, which can best be cured through the use of TM. This would improve Americans' health, thus reducing health-care costs.The founders of the Natural Law Party were practitioners of TM, according to Bobby Roth, the party's national director of communications. But while McManus meditates, both he and Roth said that approximately 99 percent of the people who signed petitions to put the party on state ballots do not use TM, and the TM movement does not control the party, even though it has its headquarters in the same town as the Maharishi International University -- Fairfield, Iowa.

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