The Horse Capital of the World and the home of Jif peanut butter now has another claim to international fame.
The world's first Peace Palace, a $4 million facility for those who seek to spread peace through transcendental meditation, was inaugurated here yesterday.
"The basis of world peace is in the individual," said Tom Linner, administrator of the Peace Palace.
The facility, which sits on 11 acres at the University of Kentucky's Coldstream Research Campus, opened last summer.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, founder of the transcendental meditation movement, has plans for 191 more Peace Palaces in the United States and 3,000 around the world.
They would be financed by wealthy people in each city.
The Maharishi sent a short videotaped message to yesterday's inauguration explaining that the palaces will spread peace for generations to come.
The Maharishi and his followers believe meditation has the power to reduce violent crime; terrorism; warfare; and ethnic, political and religious tensions in individual communities and throughout the world.
For Lexington to get the most benefit from the peace that emanates from meditation, followers believe they need the square root of 1 percent of Lexington's population, or 56 people, to join in the group meditation.
About 15 to 20 people meet for about an hour a day to meditate at the Peace Palace.
Lexington businessman Howard Settle, who has practiced transcendental meditation since 1972, provided the money to build the facility.
"You can't prove what it does for you," Settle said of meditation, "but over time, the effects become more and more noticeable."
Practitioners say it helps them relieve stress, stay healthy, feel happy and become mentally alert.
Settle said he decided to build the Peace Palace because he wanted to share what he's learned with the rest of the community and have the center's services nearby for his own use.
Among the offerings at Lexington's Peace Palace, or Maharishi Vedic Center, are a spa that provides massages, facials and other treatments; a doctor who practices Maharishi Vedic medicine, a natural form of medicine; and consultations in Maharishi Vedic astrology.
Fifteen people work at the center.
The offices of Settle's oil and gas exploration business, Century Exploration Co., are on the second floor. He's having a Peace Palace built in Houston, where he also has offices.
Settle plans to build a second, 40,000-square-foot center next to the Lexington Peace Palace. That building will cost about $7 million and will house a residential medical treatment facility based on Maharishi Vedic medicine.
Both buildings will be constructed using the Maharishi Sthapatya Veda design, which is based on an ancient Indian architectural philosophy. Buildings that use those principles face east, have each room in a certain position, use elements of proportion and are constructed from non-toxic building materials.
Settle thinks the structure itself radiates peace to the community.
"It is as if you have a physical structure creating the effects of somebody that is meditating," he said. "That goes on 24 hours a day."