Hindu principle guides community

Is this nirvana? No, it's Iowa

Atlanta Journal-Constitution/May 3, 2001
By David Pitt

Fairfield, Iowa --- Gravel roads near this southern Iowa town once led only to rows of corn and soybean fields. Now there are paved pathways to a sparkling community of gold-trimmed buildings.

A new high-tech city is rising --- and from an unlikely source. Iowa's latest development is being built by followers of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who brought Transcendental Meditation to the Beatles generation.

The community two miles north of Fairfield was carefully laid out on a grid conforming to Sthapatya Veda construction, an ancient Hindu principle that governs the relationship of the homeowner to the sun, moon, planets and stars.

Dubbed Vedic City by its developers, the community now is seeking to become Iowa's 950th incorporated city --- the first since 1982. Vedic City developers must hold a referendum by June 7, allowing local residents to vote on the incorporation. Within 45 days of the referendum, elections for a mayor and city council members must be held.

A hotel, private homes, businesses and condominiums have already sprung up in the new community of about 125 residents. Developers eventually envision a city of 5,000 radiating peace and positive thinking throughout the world.

Area farmers have expressed some concern about the new city gobbling up valuable farm land, and some Fairfield officials are worried developers will annex plots near city boundaries or be unable to provide basic services.

"The city doesn't take a position on the incorporation, but we have some concerns," City Administrator John Brown said. "Some of those concerns can't be determined until we see what their future plans are." Most Iowans don't seemed to mind. Known for its flat, pastoral beauty, agricultural history and as the launching pad for future presidents at its caucus, Iowa seems to have taken the new city in stride.

"It's a good, rich, nourishing environment in Iowa," said Lindsay Oliver, an employee at The Raj, a holistic health clinic and spa resort in Fairfield that has been featured in dozens of national magazines.

"There are shared values here," Oliver said. "We understand that you live in the country for a reason, even with more people moving here, we are sensitive to the quality of life. We want to see the stars at night, too."

Followers of the transcendental movement have made Fairfield a key spot since the 1970s when Maharishi University of Management opened. Some 1,000 acres were bought in 1991 as the basis for the new city.

Vedic City (pronounced VAY-dick) will be made up of a ring of 10 circles covering slightly more than one square mile. Plans call for an observatory and two golden domes in the center of town, one for women and one for men. There are now about 40 buildings, including a hotel, a few retail businesses and private homes. The town's name is derived from the Sanskrit word "veda," meaning "knowledge."

Building a home in Vedic City is not cheap. An acre of land may cost as much as $100,000, but the cost will likely come down if incorporation is approved, said Bob Wynne, a management consultant. The design of the city and its buildings all conform with the movement's principles, which maintain that buildings have east-facing entrances, all natural materials, abundant natural light and carefully placed rooms.

Kitchens, for example, should be located where digestion is most healthy. Followers say homeowners who implement the rules will be able to think more clearly and creatively, make better decisions, feel more alert and become happier and healthier.

Wynne is a believer. He came to Fairfield in 1978 to teach a course in transcendental meditation, and stayed. He and his wife, Maureen, are among the original developers of Vedic City.

Their home has an open floor plan with large windows flooding interior spaces with light from all directions. Each room is positioned to take advantage of the sun's varying energy as it moves across the sky. "Neurons fire in the brain differently depending on which direction you're facing," Wynne said. "If you're facing east and north, research has shown you have better brain activity."

Vedic City's movement toward incorporation began after developers spent their own money for a sewer plant and a $600,000 water tower. They also won a tax district classification allowing them to use property tax revenues to pave roads and make other improvements.

They soon realized they could benefit even more from becoming incorporated --- issuing bonds, applying for government grants and collecting taxes. "The idea of becoming a city came with the critical mass," Wynne said.

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