I already mentioned that it would have been stupid of me if I had, as someone suspected, always played a role of being religious and then decided to show my ‘real character’, a non-believer and atheist. The idea of this person was that this had financial benefits for me. Again, I would say with an Ashram in a pilgrimage town, it would financially have looked like a better idea to be religious, wouldn’t it?
Really, when turning away from religion, I gave up a well-established business which would have brought many people to our Ashram. I had many followers who would have come regularly and with this background and lineage, the Ashram could have been a place for pilgrims and other religiously interested people. The Ashram would have grown and run well with regular ceremonies, religious activities and so on.
I decided however to be honest with the change that came within me. We had anyway declared that we didn’t approve of people coming to us from sects. I publicly wrote about my way away from religion and god and so people anyway got to know that our Ashram was different. You know what? It actually turned out to be really good.
People now come here and enjoy a religion-free experience at the place where they stay. They experience Indian culture but without religious aspects which would ask them to do things they don’t want.
In our Ashram, you don’t need to get up at 4 am for a ceremony or prayer. We don’t have times of silence. Women don’t have to wear a special sign which would show they are menstruating, so that they get a separate place at meal times. There is no dress code. We don’t have any guru whose daily lectures have to be attended or whose picture has to be worshipped. In the consequence, our guests don’t try to convince others of a certain belief.
You can actually be free to just be you. People can come to our Ashram, go out to town and see all the temples, hear the chants and observe everything that is going on – and then return to a place where they can relax and think about what they have seen.
A place free of anything that reminds you of brainwashing. The only thing that we have is a contagiously positive attitude and love for life.
And yes, without having thought about this before, it is something that people like and which makes them like coming to us. This may of course be the reason that jealous people say strange things. For me however it is an example that you should not be afraid of changes in life! Live with honesty and do effort – it will be alright!