WE are all disconnected from our bodies, says Cork-born Angela Landers, from a chair in a tranquil room in Glasgow. "But if we settle our minds then our bodies will naturally follow." Landers teaches transcendental meditation (TM) here - at the west of Scotland headquarters - along with the odd bit of yogic flying. Both techniques will be on the curriculum at the proposed Invincible Donovan University in Edinburgh, which wants to propel Scotland and its people towards the beating heart of world meditation.

The plans are nothing if not ambitious: in addition to the standard university subjects, up to 1000 students will strive for "total knowledge" - a state of enlightenment so powerful that they will ultimately create world peace. The idea is to make Scotland, in particular, safer through a twice-daily diet of meditation and organic food. Behind it all is Scottish singer-songwriter Donovan - of Hurdy Gurdy Man fame - who has been recast as Dr Donovan Leitch (an honorary title awarded by the University of Hertfordshire in 2003 for his outstanding contribution to music). He has high hopes. "It will be like when John Knox banged his fist on the Bible and said every village in Scotland will have a school," he says. "It will bring a similar change, minus the religious connection."

Earlier this month, Donovan confirmed the probable site as being the Waterfront development in Edinburgh. Bankrolling the £5million institution in part is American filmmaker David Lynch, who is also listed as a doctor. The Twin Peaks director fronts the David Lynch Foundation, which funds the teaching of "consciousness-based education" in schools throughout the world. A long-term practitioner of TM, Lynch has in the past credited the technique with freeing him from the Suffocating Rubber Clown Suit Of Negativity - which sounds like a costume students of the proposed university might wear on Fresher's night.

"There are a lot of misconceptions about TM," says Landers. "It's not hypnosis or a trance and there's no manipulation of the mind. Basically, you just sit in a chair comfortably for 20 minutes a day. It doesn't involve concentration - it's just an effortless mental technique." She admits that the word "transcendental" can be confusing. "It just means to go beyond," she says. "What you're doing is allowing that very busy clattering chattermind to settle down in order to experience the part of you that never changes."

Landers came to TM after graduating as a nurse because she was looking "for a system that could deal with all aspects of life". In 2005, she gained a degree in consciousness-based healthcare at the Maharishi University of Management in Iowa, of which Donovan's Edinburgh university will initially be an outpost. "The experience of studying there was a huge leap forward for me," she says. "At the end of the course I felt more confident, more creative, more employable; whereas at the end of my previous degree I just felt shattered."

Meditation is the foundation, she says, for more than 40 "life aspects" of TM, designed to get one living in tune with natural law. Agriculture, mathematics and astrology feature heavily. The exact positioning of property is another important aspect, and the room we are in right now is no exception. "This house really mirrors the cosmic body so that you're not disconnected from your environment," she says. "The room is east-facing, to get the sunrise, because it offers the most nourishing rays of the sun. While you're cooking, the sun should be in the kitchen so that you are always in tune with the laws of nature."

On the wall behind Landers is a photograph of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who popularised TM in the 1950s and 1960s, essentially repackaging prehistoric Hindu teachings for a Western consumerist market. Landers still talks about him in the present tense. His death earlier this month came just three weeks after his decision to retire, and the announcement that his life's work was complete. He wasn't kidding. In the 50 years since he first travelled to America, he transformed TM from an unheard-of Eastern spiritual practice to a multi-million pound business empire with global headquarters in the Netherlands. At £1280 per individual for the initial seven-step course, the so-called "householder tradition" of meditation has always enjoyed a certain advantage: there is no need to renounce the world and live in seclusion, nor any conflict with a materialistic lifestyle.

Whether the Maharishi or his technique would have enjoyed the same fame without the endorsement of The Beatles - who first attended a retreat with the Maharishi in north Wales in 1967 and then submitted themselves, to varying degrees, at his ashram in India the following year - is a moot point. In the US alone, more than $22 million of government money has been pumped into quantifying the effects of TM in the last two decades, with consistently positive results: serenity and creative output go up; blood pressure and stress levels go down. Millions more cash has poured, unsolicited, into Lynch's TM foundation since it was established in 2005.

he technique's celebrity supporters have seldom wavered. The Beatles famously fell out with the Maharishi, yet Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr wrote public tributes to their former teacher earlier this month, suggesting regret for the long-standing rift. John Lennon was known to have been incensed by rumours of the Masharishi's "inappropriate advances" on fellow meditator Mia Farrow during their retreat in 1968. Donovan - who was on the same retreat - claims to have been harbouring plans for his Scottish university since those days. The story goes that the Maharishi asked him at the time to "build me a university in Edinburgh". Donovan joked it would be an "invisible" university. Nearly 40 years later, the Maharishi suggested changing the name to the "invincible" university. Speaking by phone shortly before his death, the Maharishi was reportedly delighted by his former student's plans to press ahead with the institution, and assured him that "everything you desire will come through". Why the Maharishi ever singled Scotland out as a meditation hub is intriguing, but not without historic precedent.

The Kagyu Samye Ling Monastery in Dumfriesshire was the first Tibetan Buddhist Centre in the West when it was founded in 1967. The non-related Friends of the Western Buddhist Order has had a presence in Scottish cities and towns since the early 1970s. Both were predated considerably by Saint Columba, one of the founders of Christianity in Scotland, who meditated with his monks in Iona in the sixth century. Established Scottish retreats now stretch from those at Holy Isle, off Scotland's southwest coast, to Findhorn in the northeast, with countless smaller meditation groups and classes in between. The Maharishi's own recollections of his first trip, by train, to Scotland in 1960 are instructive. "I began to feel so fresh. I said, What is here?' And somebody said We are crossing the border'."

When messrs Lynch and Donovan scouted locations for their university last year, they experienced a similar level of happiness. "The reception they got in Glasgow and Edinburgh was far better than any other city in the world," says vice president of the David Lynch Foundation, Bob Roth. "Scotland has a great tradition of enlightenment and knowledge and wisdom," he adds. "There's a new generation of students coming up that's looking for more from education than just cramming their heads full of facts. This university is unique, and the first of its kind outside America, but it's not an exception - we hope that all universities will be like this in the future."

If the institution has the desired effect - which is to make Scotland, as a whole, safer - he may have several takers. Just as violence begets violence, Roth argues, the calm felt by those at the university will begin to permeate the national consciousness. "Scientists call it the spinover effect," he says. "It's like turning on a light in a darkened room - if you have a few hundred students meditating together and enlivening the deepest level of life it will make Scotland more coherent and less likely to come to any sort of violence."

By contrast, until quite recently, we were unprotected by such peaceful meditative energy. The Maharishi suspended all teaching of the TM technique in the UK for almost two years in 2005, due to Britain's involvement in the arms trade and its ongoing presence in Iraq. "He felt he couldn't put any more influence into a country which was intent on spreading destruction," says David Rae, the national director for TM in Scotland. "He felt he might actually nourish that destructive tendency instead of the positive qualities of the country." And in America, where the TM movement is far stronger? "No, not there," says Rae. "Rather than close down the whole country he focused increasingly on bringing strength to certain key areas, like yogic flying." The ban on teaching TM in Scotland was lifted last year, six months before England and Wales. According to Rae, the Maharishi would have wanted Donovan's university to be up and running by "two thousand and yesterday" with rookie flyers working eagerly towards their wings.

Maths plays a significant part in this equation. Having just 1% of a country's population practising TM is enough to protect the masses, according to the theory. But with the advanced technique of yogic flying, the square root of 1% will be enough. There are three distinct stages to the technique. The first involves hopping spontaneously on the floor; the second entails flying through the air in fits and starts; the third, and most difficult, involves total mastery of the sky. Only the first stage has ever been captured on film, to the chagrin of many outspoken sceptics. One of the Maharishi's more ridiculed plans was his proposal to create permanent groups of 8000 yogic flyers to create a state of permanent world peace. Three-time US presidential candidate John Hagelin, of the Natural Law Party, incurred similar disdain in 1999 when he proposed sending 7000 yogic flyers to war-torn Kosovo to bring the violence and disharmony to an end.

"It's very blissful as an experience," says Landers, who teaches flying to her more advanced students. "In the past there have been yogic flying competitions, which give an idea, but it's impossible to generalise about the technique. The height or distance you can cover is dependent on your individual physiology."

ne of her current students, Kirsty Wellcoat, nods enthusiastically. She describes yogic flying as a kind of "supercharged meditation", which leaves her feeling physically renewed. "I've seen disabled people doing it in wheelchairs," she says. "Doing it in the lotus position would be great but you can fly in any posture, at any age." Wellcoat is a youthful 55. The image of her hovering crosslegged above her livingroom floor with her 23-year-old son, who also meditates, is funny and yet strangely moving.

Wellcoat has been a dedicated TM meditator since 1982, when she saw an advertisement for the technique in a community centre window, and thought it would help her kick an 80-a-day cigarette habit. It did, and she has meditated every day since, including the day her son was born. "It's a bit like brushing your teeth," she says. "You're not going to die if you don't do it but there's an extra spring in your step when you do."

It's impossible to know how her life would have been without meditation, but she points to certain things - the recent death of her mother, her past insecurities - and thinks she copes better than she would have in the past.

Her "inner reservoir of happiness", she claims, has led to a better bill of health than her peers. "Most of my friends are over 50 and by eight o'clock at night they're exhausted," she says. "I'm getting ready to go out because I've taken the time to go and do my meditation."

Like Landers, she supports the plans for the Donovan University. But it will be up to the Maharishi's successor - a Lebanese doctor by the name of Tony Abu Nader, now renamed Maharaja Dhiraj Raja Ram - to oversee proceedings. His attitudes on Scotland are still unknown, but Landers thinks he's on to a winner. "When a country's ancient culture and traditions are still alive it indicates that its people are in tune with natural law," she says. "People recognise truth and knowledge when it comes and they maybe recognise that this university will make Scotland even more Scotland."

It's hard to know what that statement means. It's the kind of postulation that would leave even the brainiest, most invincible students scratching their heads. After prompting for more specific reasons as to why Scotland, in particular, should be the site for this new university, Landers offers the most far-fetched speculation of all. "Could it be that people here just like Donovan?"