Can one justify a Belief that harms the Environment? – 16 Mar 16

We are extremely busy now with the restaurant on top of our other responsibilities and I can tell you, we are learning a lot of new things! Obviously, we also make many new experiences and meet even more people than before. One group of restaurant visitors came and before sitting down asked us if we could do one thing for them: could we serve all of their food on disposable plates? Of course also with disposable spoons and glasses.

After asking once in the kitchen, we could confirm that this would be possible. Out of curiosity, Ramona asked why they had this special need and they told her it was ‘out of spiritual reasons’. Another one elaborated a bit, explaining that they had a saint who had put up certain rules – and one of them was not to eat from pots that any other person had ever eaten from.

Of course we did our best to satisfy them, cooking in normal pots, bringing it in our serving pots to the table but serving on plastic plates and handing out plastic spoons which we somehow happened to have. They were more than happy with the food and told us that they would definitely come back again.

It is our effort, in our restaurant, to satisfy all customers. While we obviously catered for what was possible for us, we inwardly cringed at the result of the meal: there was a whole lot of waste! Plastic waste on top, a material that is not decomposable, which will linger and have negative effects for our environment for decades, if not centuries.

Why? I really don’t have any problem with people believing whatever they want to believe. At the same time however, I have the right to disagree with it. I think it is wrong to pollute our earth for coming generations just because a man, who is just human like you and I, thought he should tell his followers to do so. It is each person’s own decision – but in the end, I believe humanity suffers from such beliefs.

At the same time, there are of course situations when we cannot avoid plastic either. When people order food for take-away for example, it would be difficult to pack it in an environmental-friendly way. Whenever plastic is not necessary, however, we prefer avoiding it!

Well, after this group’s visit, we talked about what we could do and we said we would be able to change it for next time: we will serve them on plates and bowls made out of leaves – a more eco-friendly version! They will have their religious or spiritual restrictions respected and we our environmental-friendly ones! A good deal for all parties involved!

Why it is easier for Atheists to take Decisions and Responsibility – 30 Jul 15

Obviously, after having been together with so many non-believers at a time the past weekend, there are a few things that strike you when talking to them. One of them is that they seem, in general, more ready to take responsibility and take decisions, than the average religious person I have met here. And this seems very logical to me!

If you just take yesterday’s example, an accident after which atheists try to help the injured person but are hindered by a religious man who is afraid. There are non-believers who are ready to decide and take the responsibility for their actions in order to provide help.

I believe that atheists can take such steps more easily because they have already gone down a more difficult path. They have already taken a decision to believe only what they really feel, not what their family or tradition tells them. Going away from what everybody is doing around you is not an easy task. You need a firm decision, willpower and the readiness to face whatever comes. So an atheist in India will usually be a person who tends to have all of the above. Only like this, he or she can be an atheist!

This is how atheists in India have already faced challenges and know that they are alright in spite of the difficulties from around them. They are ready to use their mind and find a solution to a problem.

Religious people tend to use another approach: they give it into the hands of god. With their trust that everything happens as god wishes it to be, they are often reluctant, even lethargic, when it comes to decision-taking. Very often, believers don’t try to solve a problem because they believe it is made by god. It should be there, it should be difficult – because god made it! They don’t get out of their normal routine because they rely on this imaginary force.

Plus, they are afraid. Religion is based on the fear of people. Without fear, it wouldn’t work. Nobody would believe in heaven if there wasn’t the fear of hell! Your sins, punishment for it, repentance and everything around this. Instruments for creating fear. And once you are used to this fear, it is part of your life at all times. When you see an accident, you get afraid. You won’t think of helping the other one but saving yourself from any problem that could come from it!

Religious people also ask their god for a decision at difficult points of their lives. They believe he helps them with it – but I have seen so many people just remaining indecisive, unable to go forward because they are still waiting for divine guidance which never comes!

Of course there are exceptions everywhere but this is a general tendency which I have noticed. Have you noticed that as well?

Here you can see photos of our atheist meeting

Did I turn to Atheism because of Money? – 8 Feb 15

As it is Sunday, I want to tell you again something about my life, something a little bit more private and today definitely something that made me reflect on my friendships and the way I have gone in life.

I had a friend from my school time. He was actually a few years older and went to a higher class but we, and also my best friend and him, became friends. He moved to Europe and settled there. When I went to Europe, I visited him in his home.

You can say we were friends but we were not very close. As there were not many common points of interest, we slowly lost touch. From time to time, we still had communication but I felt that when I turned away from religion, the warmth of our relation disappeared. At a later point, when it was clear that my opinions absolutely didn't match his and when I even didn't believe in god anymore, we stopped even the last rest of contact we had had.

A close friend however remained friends with him and I sometimes got to hear when he had been in Vrindavan and had met my friend.

That’s how, quite a while ago already, I heard that they had talked about me as well. And that this man, who had been a former friend, had told my friend he thought I had always done everything only for business. My work as a preacher, my whole time in the cave, everything was, in his eyes, only for me to earn money. He told he had never believed that I was religious, that I had always been an atheist and that I only now announced it because I thought it would bring me more money.

I couldn't believe it and at the same time felt like laughing! To hear this from a person who should know better! In that time, when I went into the cave and before, I was one of the most religious and most devoted people! I honestly believed in all of this and only like that I could spend three years isolated only doing mantra meditation. If I had done this for money, I would have gone crazy a few months in! Only strong faith can make you do this kind of crazy things!

And what did I get from becoming atheist? To be honest, from a financial point of view I would have been an idiot to give up my belief in religion and God and with that a well-established business and many followers! Had I really thought of the money all the time, I would have gone on with what I was doing as a guru even though I didn't believe in it anymore.

In the end, I believe it shows what this former friend really thinks of religion: that people believe and are active in religion only for business, only as a drama. Maybe it also shows his own attitude towards religion – or does he want to say that everyone else is doing it wrong, only he is doing it correctly?

I will write more about this religious egoism tomorrow. For today, let only this be said: neither me being religious nor my turn to atheism had anything to do with money!

Do I support the Dowry System if I go to a traditional Indian Wedding? – 25 Dec 14

I yesterday described a few situations in which I would say one should be firm about a modern thought, if that means not following harmful and completely wrong traditions such as the untouchability due to caste or the dowry system. An Indian man asked me recently whether the situation he was in was one of those. His friend was getting married and he knew that there would be a dowry involved in this arrangement, something he was strongly against. Now he was wondering whether he should attend the wedding or if he would be supporting the dowry system by going.

I have heard some people call me very strict when it comes to such things. I really follow my words and act according to what I say and speak of. At the same time however I can see when it is not the point of me making a statement of my belief – or non-belief – but rather to be with someone as a friend, due to the love we share.

That’s what I think is the case here. If it is a good friend of yours, you probably have already expressed your views. If it is your close family member and you have something to say in the matter, I would say beforehand that you should do your best to stop the dowry from being arranged or included in this ‘marriage deal’.

You not going to the wedding due to the dowry, no matter how you are related to the groom or the bride, won't stop the wedding. If you are neither, not a relative or good friend, the involved people probably won’t even mind much that you were not there and your point will be lost. And if you are a good friend or relative, the newlywed couple and probably their family will be upset and hurt by your action.

It will bring an injury to your relation but it won't stop them from following their tradition. You telling them about your views didn't, anyway.

And here I would like to ask you what is worth more: your ego, which is hurt that they didn't follow your idea or your love? Your belief or your friendship?

I think going to that wedding is a matter of being with your friends on the most important, beautiful and hopefully happiest day of their lives! For the sake of sharing their love, you can, for one evening, just forget about the fact that they have another, outdated and wrong, view on this topic and just enjoy!

This doesn't mean that you have to be there and sit through the complete ritual, if you are against the religious components of such occasions! That is not necessary and if everyone knows your stand, nobody will be upset if you miss that part. But they would miss you in the party – and you would miss it, too!

So stop torturing you with such questions, do what you feel like and just be open with your friends and family! Enjoy life – don't make it overly complicated!

And in the same spirit, even though I have nothing to do with Christmas, its traditions or significance, can now wish all my readers and friends who celebrated yesterday, today and tomorrow, to have a wonderful time full of love and peace! Enjoy your holidays and festivities, hug your family and don't overeat on the delicious food!

Tolerance ends when your Family believes in Untouchability – 24 Dec 14

I yesterday described the situation many young Indians are in: they are advanced and have modern thoughts while their families are still in those traditions and rituals that they don’t like anymore. They get ashamed and try to void a get-together of friends and family. Yesterday I said you should be tolerant and find a way how to be together peacefully and in love. There are a few situations however, when I, too, believe that this is not possible. Situations, in which I would not have any tolerance anymore and would tell everybody to stand on their point of view and not waiver even a bit!

Problems like these are not only limited to young people. You can get into such difficult situations at every age, if your family and the people you love are very traditional and you are strongly opposing the most outdated and thus stupidest of their traditions. For example untouchability due to caste.

If you have friends from the lowest caste and a family that still sees them as ‘untouchable’, I can promise you that there will be problems when they meet. Your family will not approve of you bringing those friends to your home. They will serve them water in a separate glass and after your friends are gone, they will ‘cleanse’ everything your friends used with fire. They would avoid shaking their hand for welcoming – which could be alright, as it is not an Indian tradition – but they would also take care not to touch them accidentally either.

How would that make you feel? And worse, how would it make your friends feel?

Or if your family believes every girl who wears jeans or – God forbid! – skirts, is loose and has no morals but you just happen to have several such friends, you will have to face lessons in morality. Maybe your parents even tell you not to hang out with ‘such people’! They believe it is bad company for you – but what do you think?

Or your parents insist on arranging your marriage to a person of your caste and will even take or pay a dowry for that, a concept that you are all in all totally opposed to! Would you not feel that this is a step too far?

These are such cases and there are many more examples. When your family believes in traditions and cultural habits that you know are wrong and they actively influence your life in this way, you have to put the foot down. There is a limit of what is acceptable for you without living a hypocrite, double-faced life!

I know, the consequences are that they either accept what you are saying or that you create distance to your family members. There is no other way – because we should be tolerant but we should also not let others take over our lives with wrong values and harmful practices!

Friends with different Belief – how it works – 4 Nov 14

A Muslim, a Hindu, a Christian, a Jew and an atheist walk into a restaurant. They have fun, share a good talk and enjoy their evening before going home to sleep.

I read these lines somewhere and had to laugh. You would think that this combination of people, all from different beliefs, including one with no belief at all, is an explosive one. It is not true however – we can all live alongside each other well, as long as we don’t try to convince each other! That is actually what I prefer in my private life as well.

I really never want to convince anybody. Yes, in my blog or on social media, I write down my thoughts. Nobody however has to read anything he doesn’t want to read! I cannot and don’t want to force anybody to read my words or listen to what I am saying. If you are interested, open and would like to read or hear another point of view, you are welcome and we may have an interesting conversation. If not, fully fine, I don’t need to talk to you about religion or belief!

I have some friends who are religious. I can sit together with them and just spend a nice hour or two, talking about family, business and what is going on in our lives. I don’t even need to start the topic of religion. I would actually be annoyed if they did because we all know very exactly that this conversation won’t lead anywhere.

Yes, it is true, my talk cannot go very deep with someone who has very strong religious sentiments because we will have fully different opinions for so many topics that it would not be much fun going in detail. But if there is love and friendship, it can exist even with that difference in opinion.

In any case, I would never try to convince another one or even start a fight. If you ask me for my opinion, I can give it to you. If you want to know more, I can tell you why it is like this. If you are open, I will do this all with pleasure. If you are fixed on your point of view and just ask me because you want to oppose and start an argument, I am not interested. I will get quiet, maybe nod sometimes and in general just not be very happy to continue the conversation. I tell you my views only because you are interested and have asked me – please don’t tell me yours until I am interested and ask you.

Believe what you want to believe or don’t believe anything but do it without disturbing others. Don’t disturb yourself by reading my words if you don’t like them – and don’t disturb me with the wish to fight because of them!

Losing a loved one can shake your Belief at its Root – 12 Oct 14

I have told you about the death of my sister Para in September 2006 and how our entire family tried to cope with it. In Hinduism, there are certain rituals to be performed after the death of a family member. It is the issue of these rituals that shows me how much Para’s death influenced and changed my and my family’s own belief and inner world.

My family prepared to perform the rituals. We are all not into showing off and were struck with grief, so nothing big was arranged. They started some rituals however – and I didn’t like it. In fact, I got quite angry about it. Nothing would get my sister back! It didn’t matter how many prayers you would say, no matter how much you would offer to any god, she would not come back to life!

I got really angry when the priest came who was supposed to do the rituals and I just sent him away. Obviously, the priest was taken aback but he left, seeing that I was not going to let him or my family members do any ceremony in our home. In my outburst, I expressed very clearly that I thought this all to be just senseless drama.

You may wonder what my parents had to say about that and how they must have felt. This is one of the greatest proofs I have that my family is the best one I could have got on this earth: they accepted what I said. They didn’t argue, didn’t get angry. They understood what I had said – and were fine with it.

This incident is also proof for the fact that my religiosity and that of my family was shaken after the death of my sister. Had we all been still deep in faith, we would have worried about her soul and performed those rituals in the biggest and best way we would have been able to. Para’s death, however, had made a change.

My sister’s passing was a major reason for me losing my faith. It was such a great shock that it shook all pillars of what I had been believing in. You start questioning a lot of things, starting with the small ones: I had studied her astrological birth chart thoroughly. Nowhere was there any sign for her passing away before her time! How could this happen to us, a family that was deeply into religion, preaching it to others and telling them to believe, too? And to her, what had she done to deserve this treatment by the gods?

Of course, it is not a one-day story to lose your religion and belief. It is a longer process which I had started after coming out of the cave and which I went through in the years that followed. The death of my sister was a major point on this path. I had already left the role of a guru, I had started walking away from religion, even though I was still not conscious about this happening, and some day later I would even turn away from god.

Tolerance for Faith vs. Responsibility to save Children from Superstition – 9 Oct 13

I yesterday told you that I received quite some feedback when I told how our employees left their job because they had chicken pox. While I yesterday told how some superstitious people asked why we had sent them to the doctor, there were others who concentrated on another question: when they asked whether they could come back after getting cured from chicken pox without any medicine, we refused. Why?

I was, in connection with this decision, blamed that I took someone’s job because they didn’t believe what I believe in. First of all, I want to reply to this accusation. I really and honestly normally don’t care what my employees believe in. If they are Hindu, Christian, Muslim or atheists – it is absolutely their own matter and neither do I ask them about it nor do I interfere. Their way of seeing the world has nothing to do with the quality of their work. I keep a professional attitude about this and also expect the same from them.

Most, if not all, of our employees have a pretty clear idea of the fact that we are not religious people at all. They know that the only person in this family who keeps an altar and actually uses it for worship is my grandmother. They know that even on big religious festivals, we don’t perform any ceremonies, on fasting days we eat as usual and you won’t find any signs of a religion or caste on us. We don’t stop them from doing their own worship though.

It works well in our daily situations and there has never been such a problem but now we took this decision for one reason: while our employees’ faith is nothing that we want to take any influence on or judge about, we have several young boys at the Ashram for whom we do carry a certain responsibility. These children were given into our care not only so that we provide them with clothes, food and whatever else they need but also to teach them – in school and at home. Morals and ethics is something that a child learns in the culture of their home and these boys’ home is the Ashram.

We are open to the world and tolerant – these children will get to know about Hindu faith by the culture spread in their surrounding. When this religion turns into dangerous superstition however, there is a limit. That is the point where we have to show them by our words and actions that they should see things scientifically, that an illness gets cured because of medicine and the natural strength of your body – and never by a ceremony.

We are of the opinion that it would give a wrong impression to these children if our two employees leave because they don’t want to take their medicine and then come back. A medicine that these children had to take themselves. The employees would come back and teach their superstition, trying to prove the children wrong when these argue that they had medicine for the same problem. Those people who have seen the effect of medicine and nevertheless don’t want to take it but rather lose their job would be stubborn enough to actively talk against said medicine, influence the kids not to want to go to the doctor and plant all kinds of nonsense in their heads.

If superstition comes from ignorance, it is one thing but if it comes from a senseless stubbornness or blind faith, it is wrong. And we take our responsibility for our children serious – that’s how we want to keep them away from the influence of blind, superstitious faith!

No Difference in Faith and Superstition – Lose the Faith in your Faith! – 5 Jul 13

With topics like yesterday’s, there are always religious people telling me that I am mixing up two things: faith and superstition. I am told that I should not call the faith in god superstition and that I have to separate the two. In today’s entry I would like to make it very clear that I am not confused about the meaning of the word ‘superstition’ and that I also don’t confuse faith and superstition with each other. I know very well what you are trying to tell me but I have to tell you, I think all of your faith belongs into the same category as religion and superstition. Let me illustrate that to you.

Obviously it is religious people and people with faith in god who say such a thing. Why? They don’t want to be called superstitious! They don’t like it when I say religious acts are acts of superstition. For them, putting a flower at an altar is faith while hanging lemon and chili at the door, which is done against evil energies, is superstition. For me, there is not much difference in between the two – both is done with the belief that there is some supernatural force responding to this action. You are told to trust in that although there is no proof to it. You should pray to someone whose existence is still in question. You call that faith, I say it is fiction.

In the same context I was once asked whether it would thus be superstition to go to a temple. I said you can answer this question yourself! What is a temple? It is a house or a room, the walls adorned with silver and gold, in the middle an altar with a throne on which you can see a statue, often of stone, sometimes of silver or gold as well. You go there, put some food in front of it and ring a bell. You have been doing this your whole life long and you know very well that the plate with the food has never been touched by god. The food never got less. Nevertheless you still claim that god ate it and now it is holy prasad for you that you can eat and offer your guests – and eating it will be beneficial. If you didn’t offer it to god, the food would not be as good. Isn’t that superstitious?

The whole concept of going to a temple is superstitious! Your faith tells you god is omnipresent. If that is so, why do you have to go to a building made by people to meet him? Why does god need servants there who, at least in Hindu temples, feed him, clothe him, bathe him and take care of him? If they don’t take good care, if their hands are dirty or if they do a mistake in their service, they believe it is bad for them. Isn’t that superstitious as well?

All this is part of your ‘faith’ but I just showed you how you could call it superstition, too. I tell you one more thing: your faith tells you not to argue with people like me. Read your scriptures, it is written there! Why? Because you won’t be able to prove anything anyway. Believers however never learn this lesson. They argue and after two unsuccessful attempts, they have to retreat and say something like ‘God’s ways are mysterious’ or ‘It is about the love in the heart!’

No, they won’t learn and that again is a sign of superstition. There is no proof and that’s why you have to keep on believing, no matter how illogical it seems and how often you are proven wrong!

Faith and superstition don’t seem as different from each other now anymore, do they?

Complete Trust is too dangerous – just pretend believing in God – 4 Jul 13

The tragic story that I told you about yesterday sparked some discussions in the media and of course also online on social networking sites. Many people just dismissed the case saying that this man and his family were uneducated and foolish. Another person said ‘It is not good to be too superstitious’ and some religious people said you should not try and test god. I wanted to reply to these and similar statements and, believe it or not, defend this man a little bit.

Why would I, the non-religious non-believer, come to the defense of a man who killed himself and his family in order to see Shiva? Because I think they have been fooled by religion into believing that Shiva would actually come and save them! It was not his intention to die or kill his family, he honestly believed he would be saved.

Those people who said he was just stupid are obviously not aware of the fact that he was not uneducated at all! He was a freelance photographer, he sent his children to school and you cannot say he was like the illiterate villager who will believe anything you tell him. No, he was not illiterate and while you may call him superstitious, there are many educated people who call themselves religious and faithful who are also very superstitious because they believe all those stories of the scriptures.

I have to laugh if you say ‘It is not good to be too superstitious’ – a little bit superstitious is okay? You now call this man too superstitious because the holy food that he gave his family was poisoned and he thought it would not harm. The fact however that you think this food is ‘holy’ at all and has some good benefit is fully fine for you! Isn’t that superstition as well? You eat this food each time after going to the temple and think it will help you – he thought even poisoned food will be good. Isn’t it the same?

The root of superstition is religion and its stories, which you can see very clearly in this example. Scriptures insist that all their stories are true and this man was actually simply a very, very faithful believer! He had full trust in god and god’s power to save him. So much that he even made a video of the evening. He read all those scriptures in which devotees are saved and he followed their example. Many believe the stories are true but few dare to do the experiment. What killed him in the end? Superstition or just a very strong faith?

So shouldn’t you all religious people actually celebrate him as the one real believer? One who had so much faith that he even ate poison? You are scared and don’t believe enough in god to be confident that he would save you! If you cannot do what this man did, you don’t really have faith in god and the scriptures!

What can we learn from the whole story? Maybe that you should not trust god completely because if you do, you will die, waiting for him to come and help you! Fool god, tell him that you believe in him and have full faith while you would never actually trust him that much!

If this is the way that you take your religion, I am again surprised that you manage to lie to yourself or your god that much. If this is what you want to do, you are free to do so but I think it is not honest. If you call yourself religious, you should believe in it 100% with all its scriptures and full faith, like this man.

And if not, I think you should not oppose me if I say that those scriptures which spread such superstition and lead to the deaths of whole families should be destroyed and forgotten so that they can do no further harm!