Mahatma Gandhi – in between Respect and Criticism – 2 Oct 12

Today is Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday, a national holiday on which schools, banks and offices stay closed. The nation celebrates, newspapers print birthday greetings to the late ‘Father of the Nation’, articles describe his life in shorter or longer versions, people post pictures in social networks, TV channels show various documentaries on his life and government politicians offered flowers in his memory at the Raj Ghat in Delhi. Just like all these people I am also thinking of Mahatma Gandhi today and you see, I even dedicate a blog post to him.

I am not however going to write another summary of his life. I am not going to reiterate the dates and events that lead to India’s independence. I guess you have heard and read enough of this already. Maybe you have been fed up with all the Gandhi-praising lines, articles and shows and have then found some articles which were not as enthusiastic of this hero of India. Writers describing his faults, his mistakes, writing about discrepancies in what officials want us to believe and what historically happened and some even wondering about his sexual preferences, his idea of living a pure life and what exactly happened in between him and women.

I am also not going to write one of those articles. You can find enough of these if you just make an online search. No, I want to answer all those people who are currently creating a very negative image for Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, those who are upset by the worship and the honours that people give him and those who want to belittle his role in India’s way towards independence.

There are such people, at least in India, who write statements full of contempt and hate for Mahatma Gandhi. I sometimes can read how people curse him and use very bad words for this man who usually receives the highest honours.

I want to ask these people, who are you to create such feelings for this man? Who are you to even say bad words about him? What have you done in your life that you can put equal to what this man has done? A fight in which he pledged non-violence, a revolutionary way of resistance, an idol for thousands and millions people of his time and the times to follow! There is a reason why people hold him in high respect and I think you should understand those reasons and consider them!

Obviously there may be a justification for some of the points of criticism, too. After all, this man was just a human being and no human being is faultless. We cannot all agree about our points of view, that is normal. And I definitely cannot pass a judgment about his sexual life – for that I don’t know enough about the facts and then also I believe that it might have just been his private matter.

Of course there are always people who are interested in creating a national hero and for them this hero has to flawless, although no person can be that. Others, who are interested in destroying this image will present every mistake they can find. Any of those mistakes however does not take away even a tiny bit of the respect that I feel for this man. Following the concept of equality and non-violence in a time when discrimination and violence were a daily occurrence was and is still remarkable and demands our respect.

Happy Birthday.

Envying the shining Life of Celebrities? – See the Reality behind the Facade! – 14 Mar 12

Lately Ramona and I were talking about some celebrities who died, not only in the last year but in the past years. The most recent one was Whitney Houston. I had heard her name and maybe I had even heard her music before but as I don’t really listen much to western music, I did not know how much famous and successful she really was. When Amy Whinehouse died and Ramona played some of her songs, I had absolutely no idea who she had been, as well as I did not know Heath Ledger or any of his films. I did know about Michael Jackson and his music though and when I heard that he had died, I knew it would be news all around the world. When we talked about these celebrities we could not avoid but notice that they all and so many more late celebrities had some problems with alcohol or drugs.

It may not have been the cause of death for everyone that they were too drunk or that they had too many drugs but it strikes you when you see that so many celebrities died young and what they have in common is their extensive use of alcohol or drugs. Even if you see among celebrities who are still alive and very popular you will find that a big part of them has a history of drug abuse, rehabilitation, alcohol issues and very often even charges filed against them because of alcohol or drugs.

This realization stands in a very big contrast to the usual picture that people have of celebrities. What do we see of them, usually on TV or maybe in a live show? We see a bright and shining face, looking healthy and happy. They smile, they laugh, they look gorgeous. Female bodies are thin, they wear stunning dresses and they amaze their audience with their performance and appearance. Male bodies are muscular and their smile has the power to let women close-by faint. From time to time however you notice that there is a body too thin to be healthy, that there is a bit too much make-up that is covering something up and that a smile looks too forced and not natural anymore. You can glimpse tired eyes, the hint of something that is going on behind this shining façade.

And then there are reports of accidents in which stars were driving drunk. There are stories of celebrities getting into fights, obviously under the influence of drugs. You hear about court verdicts that they have to complete their rehabilitation and from time to time you hear about a case in which one of them died, young, alone, with drugs or alcohol fresh in their blood.

At this point there should be the realization that the life of a star is not as shiny as you imagine. At this stage you should see that your life is not as bad in comparison as you always thought. I hear people complaining that they would like to live like the big stars, that they would like to be famous like them and most of all that they would like to have money like them. What they don’t see however is the life that comes along with all of this. It is a life in public pressure, a life that may be full of parties and things that look ‘fun’ from the outside but which often feel very empty from the inside. Many stars are alone although they are always surrounded by a crowd. They pretend to be living a good life but often the reality is that they are not happy.

So before you compare yourself the next time to one of those celebrities and before you start complaining about your life, think how good you actually have it. You can go wherever you want, you can have friends without thinking they are only your friends because of your fame and you don’t need drugs and alcohol to cope with your life. Be happy, realize that you have a good life and live it!

Difficult Life of Celebrities – not as great as you might think – 25 Jan 12

I read the newspaper every day. I think it is important to know what is going on in your country and in the world. Every newspaper has also one part that does not tell you much about what is going on in your country but a lot about what is going on in the lives of other people – in the lives of celebrities. Recently Ramona and I talked about celebrities, how popular they are and how nice this can be on one hand but how stressful such a public life can be on the other hand.

For whom is someone a celebrity? Only for those people who recognize him or her. There are many Bollywood actors who are big celebrities in India but who could walk around in any Western town without being recognized. There are also a lot of big stars of the west who could come to India and nobody would notice them apart from seeing that they are tourists – because they have fair skin!

Of course most people say it is a dream to have a life like any superstar, be that a singer or actor. They admire their beauty, they admire their wealth and they admire their popularity. Wherever those celebrities go, there are people who recognize them, there is someone who wants their autographs, there are people who cheer at them and are excited to have seen them. Who wouldn’t want this kind of life?

To be honest, I wouldn’t. Think about the other side of this life: wherever you go, someone wants to take your picture. There are paparazzi everywhere and if you are not in full make-up one day or you were not in the mood to wear stylish clothes but went out in comfortable home-wear, your picture is in all magazines the next day and they cheerfully write that you actually just look like a normal person, ugly, with pimples in the face and cellulite at your thighs. You are obviously aware of all these things yourself but it is still not nice to have them pointed out. And even if there are no paparazzi, being greeted excitedly by completed strangers wherever you go can probably also be tiring someday.

Apart from the attention that you get however, there are several other reasons why I would always prefer not being a celebrity. They may be popular but once they are up there, at that level of popularity, there is always the fear of being forgotten and not being successful anymore. They have to keep on being interesting for everyone. They constantly have to seek the limelight. Can you imagine this constant struggle and the never-ending striving for fame in order not to fall into oblivion?

As a celebrity you are never doing it right. There may be some people who appreciate you but there are always people who criticize you, too. If you share your private life, you are accused of advertising with your private matters. If you keep your private life completely private, people are upset about you hiding yourself. It doesn’t matter what you do when you are a celebrity, there will always be people who are fully against you. There are fans who will cheer no matter what nonsense you do. And there will be those who attack you no matter how great work you do.

I was never a celebrity but I lived the life of a guru. People recognized me by my face or name and thousands of people gathered for my lectures. Of course they were not interested in my autographs but in blessings. When I had program in a town, there were posters with my face all around and obviously in that time it was difficult to go out because people were approaching me all the time. So I had a small glimpse of this kind of life. I really don’t want to lose my privacy and live like a celebrity.

Tribute to the Ghazal King Jagjit Singh

Yesterday we got the sad news that Jagjit Singh has left this world and is no more. Everybody has to go one day but I did not think he would go like this. Even though he had health problems he had still been fit. Only two days before he was admitted to the hospital, he had a concert and another one was planned on the next day. So he was active but when he reached the hospital, his situation was critical.

With this news many memories came up, because I knew him personally. The whole world knows how great an artist he was but he was also a nice human. He was here at the Ashram in Vrindavan several times and I met him and his wife at their home in Mumbai, too, he invited us to his program in Delhi and I even met him in Frankfurt once. When he was around, giving a concert in Agra or close-by, he phoned and came by or let us know that he was around, so that we could meet. So we had a nice relation.

He was the ‘Ghazal King’, that is what he is most known for but with his silky voice he recorded many Bhajans, too. While he recorded those religious songs, though, he only ever gave one Bhajan concert and that was here at the Ashram at my birthday celebration while I was in the cave. Otherwise he refused to do Bhajan concerts. We were once contacted by an organizer to ask him to sing Bhajans at their religious program but he clearly told that he would not do this. He would do Ghazal concerts but that was his one and only Bhajan concert, no matter how much money they would offer him. He was a great man with principles.

I honour him with this tribute.

 

See pictures of Jagjit Singh visiting the Ashram

See today’s newspaper article in Hindi

Tattoos, Piercings and Body Implants – Beautiful, ugly or strange? – 21 Jun 11

In different workshops and lectures I have often told people that they are beautiful as they are. I have talked and also written a lot about inner beauty and outer appearance. I have explained that especially women can have real psychological problems if they don’t get self-confidence to find themselves beautiful as they are. They use tons of make-up to present a person who they are not and they believe it makes them more beautiful.

Today I want to mention another fashion which makes people feel more beautiful but which in my eyes is not something that could enhance the natural beauty of a person: Tattoos and piercings.

I said it was a fashion but of course that has been a fashion for many years already and this is how there are so many people who can tell you of their experiences with ink-drawn pictures and holes in different parts of their bodies. Tattoos and piercings can be everywhere nowadays. People have tattoos on the complete body, including on the eyeballs. Piercings with rings, studs and some other designs decorate their body from top to toe and even their genitals are not safe.

I never understood the reason for this kind of body decoration. You actually ruin your body. You make holes into your skin that are not supposed to be there and you put ink under your skin where it does not belong. And it is permanent!

More and more young people have a tattoo done and realize after ten or twenty years that is simply doesn’t fit anymore to who you are. It is not any wonder, you may not like the cute little heart with the wings anymore when you are 35 although you loved it when you were 18 years old and had it done. But now it is on your neck, visible to everyone whenever you don’t wear a turtleneck pullover – and in summer this means always.

There is a scenario that is even worse but also quite common: you have the name of your partner or spouse tattooed onto your forearm, hip, back or shoulder and discover after some time that it won’t work out for you. You break up and still have this name inked onto your body, a constant reminder of a past that you might want to leave behind soon.

There are two solutions to this dilemma and it is mostly stars and celebrities who have showed the general public how to solve such problems: you can have it removed with a laser that practically bursts the colour particles under your skin. It takes several sessions and a lot of money and can leave nasty scars. Another possibility is to tattoo over it, so that it turns to another picture or another slogan. Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp and Britney Spears are only some examples of celebrities who have had and removed tattoos.

So these are the regular stories of tattoos but there are people who actually advertise that having certain symbols tattooed onto your body gives you more energy and can have certain effects from fertility to wealth. It is wrong to tell someone that a tattoo would heal or give particular energy. There was a time when people lived in tribes, were uneducated and really believed that a certain array of dots and stripes on your forehead gives you strength and power. We live in modern times however and are aware that this is not the truth. This strength comes from your believe that you are strong, not from the tattoo.

I am just surprised again and again when I see what people do to their body. Many people really have extremely many tattoos and piercings so that you cannot really see the person underneath anymore. Other extremes are tattoos on tongues, eyeballs and genitals. Another strange fashion that you really cannot call art anymore is to have body implants and modifications. People have devices inserted under their skin merely for decorative purpose and thus get horns on the head, stars on the arms or even coins and beads in any part of the body.

Don’t do this to your body, you are beautiful and fine as you are.

Celebrity Followers – Free Advertisement and Popularity for their Guru – 15 Jun 11

Celebrity Followers

In the series of different followers, I will today describe the last type of followers, celebrity followers. They are popular people, known for their skills in one area and they follow a certain guru. Through them, their gurus become popular, too, and they turn out to be celebrity gurus.

There are different levels of celebrity gurus and there are many different levels of celebrity followers. There are many gurus who are celebrities in their religion, culture, country or state and a few of them are known internationally. The followers can be local politicians and higher politicians, film stars known in one country and film stars known internationally, sportsmen and women, musicians and more. With all of these celebrities you need to realize that they, too, are only human.

A famous example of western followers are the Beatles. Especially George Harrison is known to have been a follower of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and TM, his meditation technique, the Transcendental Meditation. They are celebrities but I can tell you for sure that many people in India, who have nothing to do with western music, don’t even know their names.

In the same way there is Sachin Tendulkar, currently known as the best cricketer of the world. He is famous in India and in countries that play cricket and he was a follower of the recently passed-away guru Sathya Sai Baba. There are however many people who have never heard of this man.

I know of Sachin Tendulkar since he is playing cricket, 20 years ago but I heard of the Beatles for the first time when I came to the west.

I like Sachin Tendulkar, he is a great cricket player, has extraordinary talent in his sport and he could be a wonderful personality, too. If he however follows Sathya Sai Baba, he probably has the same reason to follow him as any other person who follows a guru. He is a great cricketer but in his heart he is just a normal person. He is not God and he is not perfect. He may be perfect in this one area, in this one sport, but he has weaknesses just like everybody else. He has a need for something that he thinks can be satisfied by following a guru. He, just as thousands of other people, obviously wants to believe that Sathya Sai Baba can materialize gold and ashes.

In the same way, George Harrison could have been a great musician but he had the same weakness that thousands of other people have and think that flying through meditation is a great thing that we should achieve. They may be celebrities but they can be superstitious at the same time!

Maybe Sachin Tendulkar could think that he played great cricket because of the blessings of his guru. Maybe the Beatles believed that they played great music because of the meditation techniques of their guru. They can all believe this, it is fine but it becomes a problem when people start following these celebrities as Gods, too. People then forget that they are only human and that they are like us, normal humans. If you follow their music, follow their career and follow their films, you don’t need to follow their gurus. You admire a celebrity because of his or her talent and that is fully fine. Don’t think however, if they follow someone or believe in something, it is the ultimate truth. It is not like this, they could be mistaken, too.

Celebrity followers are always liked by gurus because they make celebrity gurus out of them. They get popular through the fame of their followers. Celebrity followers advertise them very well, just by visiting their programs. Who would not like to get this benefit?

Mass Followers – Following Celebrity Gurus – 13 Jun 11

Mass Followers

Today I would like to write about a type of followers who like to be one among many, the mass followers. They like to be among thousands of other people when they go to their guru. They rarely or never see their guru up close because there are hundreds or thousands of other people sitting in between them and their guru. Nevertheless they are happy and satisfied.

These followers like to talk with other followers about their guru and like to tell how many people have come to his events, proud that they have been one of them. Their guru will seldom or never know their name and will never be aware that they are supporting him continuously with donations and by buying his products. These mass followers like it and the bigger the crowd around their guru, the happier and prouder they are.

They are even more proud if they see that celebrities go to these gurus, too. And celebrities mostly go to such gurus who have thousands of followers – they get publicity, too! So it is not rare that these gurus can call politicians, film stars and other popular members of society their followers. Mostly they and very rich business owners are the only ones who get close to this guru. A normal mass follower with an average income does not have a chance to really get close.

Rich followers however, who have a big name and palace-like houses, can even invite their guru. They have enough space to accommodate the guru and whoever is coming with him. It is very expensive to invite and organize the program of such a guru and the higher his standard, the prouder are the mass followers that he is their guru.

The regular and not-that-well-situated followers are very happy if they sometimes get a glance or a smile of the guru. They do every effort they can to get close to their guru and if they have only a small success, if they only get a small sign of recognition, they believe themselves to be very special. They think ‘Oh, I was in every lecture in this area, now he knows me, too.’ And of course, the more people there are, the more special such recognition is! They are a little bit like groupies for a rock star. They cannot really sit and have dinner with their star but they feel special among all followers.

Whenever you meet mass followers, they will talk about their guru because they think everybody should know this great person. If you don’t have any interest in their guru, they wonder very much why. They believe he is such a great personality, how can it be that you are not interested?

I also compare them with people who like to go shopping in big shopping malls. Mass followers like to be a part of that crowd. The more the better.

 

We have spent a very nice weekend with Jochen and Renate here in Wiesbaden. We even did some sightseeing in Wiesbaden and discovered yet another great ice-cream parlour.

Politicians Urged to make Statement about Exposed Gurus – 6 Mar 10

Today we got the news that media is calling out to all politicians who have ever been in one of the exposed gurus’ events, to confirm that they did not know anything of their sexual activities. The media is searching through old footage of discourses and more and finds many high politicians and popular celebrities who have come to see them. They urge them to give a statement soon. 

When I read comments from all over the world and see what people think, I can feel how bad of an image these stories have created not only for these so-called gurus but for the whole spiritual scene. In future people will be very careful. Who would like to go to a spiritual event, a discourse or a lecture, if he has to fear that in one week that Swami will be the center of a scandal and everyone asks about why he went to listen? You would think more than twice about sitting in the front row!

This whole episode has made the world, not only India, afraid and careful and maybe when you hear about a baba, Swami or guru in future, you will think of this sex scandal first. People have a certain idea about how a Swami or Guru, a spiritual leader, should be. But Swamis and Gurus are just normal people, they have normal feelings and society as well as they themselves should accept it in this way. They should not claim to be above others and others should not put them above themselves.

When listening to all these stories about Swamis and Gurus I feel that I don’t really want to listen to my name with the attribute ‘Swami’ anymore. Just call me Balendu, my birth name. I really never cared about this title, never even when I was living the life of a guru and never in the time after. Many of my friends call me Balendu, others say Swami ji and I don’t usually mind that either. People can call me how they want, if it is Swami ji, Swami Balendu or also just Balendu.

The word Swami is for me an expression for being the owner of the own senses and someone who can support you on your way. So if you feel like I can help you and you want to call me Swami, it is fine for me and I will be happy to help you in any way I can. But it will be just as fine if you call me Balendu, just as you would call your friend, someone to talk and laugh with, someone to share feelings with and someone to be close to your heart.