I yesterday told you religions that limit people’s freedom of opinion. Religion actually wants to tell people what to do and claims that it has a right to do so. All religions claim that they know how humans should behave. They even tell them to kill. And that is a problem!
When I was a guru, people actually expected me to tell them what to do. It was a part of my role as a religious preacher, someone whom people follow. People came to me with questions and I believed it was the right thing to tell them exactly what to do. I gave them my opinion and I knew at the same time that they would follow it. They gave me the complete responsibility of their decisions. A few of these were really big life decisions as well.
Then I changed. After my time in the cave I didn’t want exactly this anymore. I didn’t want to be higher but equal. This also meant that I didn’t want to take anybody else’s life decisions anymore! I just wanted to live my own life. If I could help someone with my experience and my opinion, I would be happy but I wanted them to take the decision themselves, to trust their feelings and learn how to follow them as well!
That’s how I have ended up as an atheist and am sitting here today, just writing down whatever I am thinking. Any reader is free to think about it and decide for themselves. In my counselling sessions it is always very clear: I can only offer you my viewpoint, you have to take the decision yourself!
Religion however exists in order to tell people what to think and what to do. Religion doesn’t believe in listening to different viewpoints. Religion doesn’t give you the freedom to choose for yourself. Religion tells you what to do.
Religious priests believe they have this right and in the case of Islamic fundamentalists, they teach people that it is right to kill those who don’t follow what they say! Religious leaders of Islam tell their followers that they should put a bomb around their waist and kill themselves along with hundreds of others.
Some people want to be told what to do. They don’t want to take responsibility and put it on religion, a priest, a guru, anybody who takes it and tells them what to do.
No sane person would decide to become a terrorist, a suicide bomber, a killer for religion. It is the manipulation of religion that brings them to this point. They start off as those who don’t want to decide themselves and end up doing what they would never have done on their own. Harming others, killing others, bringing grief and sorrow to the world.
I suggest you to think for yourself. Take responsibility for your life and don’t let religion manipulate you, making you do what you would never do if you decided for yourself.
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?
Last week I told you about the difficulties we have faced with our school due to corruption. I explained how education has become a complete business branch in India. Finally, I wrote a short summary of the concept of our school and for whom we are doing what we are doing: for the poor children of our area and their families. I had already announced that I would spill all my ideas and thoughts for the future and I believe it will take up the whole week! Today I will start with one of our basic issues: who is ‘poor enough’ for our school and who is too well off?
Whenever we have new admissions at our school, we personally go to each child’s home and see where they are living. That serves several purposes – for one, we get to know each child and their circumstances which brings us closer to our students. And then we of course also get to know whether they are really in need of a place at our school.
It is really not an easy task and we always see big differences in between the families whose children are at our school. There are some who have their own home, inherited from ancestors or bought with the help of a loan. Others live in a hut-like house, only on three sides walls of bricks, the roof a tin sheet which already has holes. Some have to go and search for work every day or have an illness that keeps them from working while others have a steady job, which just happens to not pay much. Some earn enough to feed a small family of four – but they have seven children! Others just have one child – but there is only one parent left who can earn money!
You see already, the differences are big and in most cases, when we come to a home, we know very soon what bad situation the family is in. There are rarely cases in which we tell the parents that we would not take their children. But they exist.
If we usually have children whose fathers earn about 4000 rupees per month and we come to a home where the father earns 10000 rupees while there is only one small child left to feed, raise and educate, we would tell the parents to find another school. The place that his child would take up in our school could support someone who really cannot afford another school! Someone who is more in need.
At the same time we know that this father is not rich either! We know that he will find enough schools but that it will be difficult for him to find a school of good quality that he can afford. It will be impossible to find one in our school’s level of education! What should we do however – we have our limitations! There is this vision to help the poor and as many of them as possible but there is a point where we have to say no, too.
I don’t actually want this situation anymore. The need of having to decide who is poor enough and who has too much money to come to our school. For now, we have to do it this way – but in future, there is an idea to do it differently – and more about that you will read in the next days.
While I yesterday wrote about parenting questions that refer mostly to dealing with toddlers and small children, I would today like to discuss an issue that comes up with elder children, those who are entering adulthood. It is a problem that I have seen quite a few times and which has been described to me in many consultation sessions: when a parent, especially if it is a single parent, depends so much on the son or daughter that they cannot let go – and make it difficult for their child to find his or her own way!
This sounds very abstract but with a concrete and detailed example, you will know what I mean.
One day, a 20-year-old woman came to a consultation. She told me that she wanted to have my opinion, as I might see things completely differently than the people around her. The emotional dilemma that she was in was the following:
She was living together with her mother. When she had been nine years old, her parents had divorced and after some ugly scenes and fights, neither she nor her mother kept any contact with her father anymore. Her mother raised her on her own and put her whole heart into this job. They had grown very close and the mother was the person whom the daughter trusted and loved most in the world.
Two years ago, this young woman had finished her high school education and had applied at several universities across the country for further studies. There were several letters of acceptance, among them one from a university close-by and also one of a university that she very much wanted to go to but which was further away.
She had had the urge to visit the latter, to get out of the caring home of the mother and to go and explore the world on her own. To start the adventure she imagined life to be and which she guiltily felt she had not really started yet – because she took care of her mother in the same way her mother took care of her. She was quick to explain that she loved her mother more than anything and vice versa. In any case she didn’t want to seem unthankful for everything the mother had done for her, with hard work and much love. In the end however, she had stayed. She had decided for the university close-by.
At the point we met, she was still in the same situation. And she had started resenting many actions of her mother, feeling guilty about it right away, too, unable to help this feeling of anger as if the mother kept her from really living her life. In this confusion, she had come to me.
I told her that her anger showed her what she really wanted: to live her own life. I encouraged her to do exactly that and without feeling guilty about it. If she didn’t, she could see already where it was going. Towards a life of bitterness and resentment! Feelings that would easily spoil the love that she and her mother had for each other.
She had ambitions, goals and dreams, so especially at this age, she should go for it and dive into the adventure! That didn’t mean that she would ‘abandon’ her mother! She could still take care – just from a little further away! And after some time would have passed and she would be independent and established, with more roots in life than now, they might as well find a future together again! The situation could come that she would then be able to take care of her mother more closely.
In my eyes, this was the way which would save their love while letting the daughter live her life – and I am sure her mother understood as well!
I have had individual counselling sessions with a lot of people in my life. We talk about problems, issues and important questions of life. Something that I have seen often is how people carry a high resentment against their parents around with them. And I have always told people that this was an unnecessary burden, a load that they wouldn’t need to bear on their shoulders!
It is very common to hear people say they would never treat their children the way their parents treated them. If you ask them, they can tell you several examples of behavior of their parents that they will avoid when being with their children because they think it was wrong and has harmed them or caused some kind of lasting damage.
Yes, some are less clear and others more when they tell how their complexes, fears and insecurities of today go back to the way their parents treated them. That it is practically their parents’ fault that they are not successful in their job or in their love life, emotionally unstable, unable to love or afraid of being loved.
Yes, of course, your childhood and their education has formed the person that you are today – but what about the years after you have left your parents’ home? Or the years after you have actually reached adulthood, have taken responsibility of your own life and taken decisions yourself?
You are an adult person! You are responsible for your own life!
Long-time conditioning has an effect but it can be changed as well! You obviously have already realized the problem and the base of it as well – now you can make a change! Who is the one taking decisions in your life today? You!
If you have a job in a field you don’t really like because it was what your parents thought would be the most secure or safe option but you actually hate it, make a change! Take evening classes for another field, cut down on hours to take another training, start working part-time in another field,… there are always so many possibilities to make a change in a direction that can make you happy!
You are the one who can make yourself happy! You cannot keep on blaming your parents for who you are your whole life long! At some point in puberty, you have started taking parts of your life into your own hands and this process should have continued until you, as an adult, take full responsibility yourself! If you still complain that you are not happy because of the actions of your parents, you are trying to leave a part of this responsibility with them! Do you really think this is a good idea?
Make a change and take your happiness into your own hands!
For those who may not have heard this term until today, this is those people who don’t see themselves as believers but also not as non-believers. They practically say that there is a chance that God exists. They are neither sure that there is nor that there is not something like a supreme power. They call themselves skeptical, doubting, not sure and some of them even categorize themselves further into ‘Agnostic Theists’ and ‘Agnostic Atheists’, depending on the side to which they are tending.
The argument of an agnostic is that there are things which are not explainable and while there is no prove that there is God, there is also no certainty that there is not. There is always doubt and that’s why they, too, remain in this doubt.
This doubt is based on a doubt in religion without wanting to leave the possible benefits of believing. If it happened to be true in the end, you could still have heaven, salvation or whatever you were promised for your belief. You won’t however be eligible for those benefits because you don’t really believe in it anyway! According to a believer, you are not faithful to god, if you have any doubt. No religion would call you a faithful believer if you expressed your doubt whether their god existed. So according to them, you are a non-believer. You however would like to have a special category called ‘agnostic’ with special conditions. You don’t believe in God but just in case he happens to exist in the end, you would like to reap the benefits.
For many fields in this material world you will hear that it is good to be in doubt. When you question the things that are accepted as truth around you, it will bring you further, just like doubts are the reason for more scientific research in so many areas. When it comes to the mind however, doubts are not good at all. I will actually not call it a doubt anymore, I would call it confusion. And the situation of people in this confusion is the worst because they are neither here nor there.
Those who are confirmed in their belief are clear in their mind. They know that there is god, they know what they have to do in order to be loved by him and they act accordingly. Those who are free of any belief are very clear, too. They know there is no god and they don’t have to do anything except what their morals and values tell them to. Those who are in confusion however have no guideline like believers and they are not free as non-believers!
I believe this situation will, in the end, create personality problems. They will have problems in taking decisions because they don’t know which way to go. Can I be free and decide on my own or should I consider religious rules because they might be important after all, even if they seem outdated? Who actually are you? Identity problems, indecisiveness and in the end even psychological issues can be the result.
Of course, the state of being agnostic may just be a stop on the journey from believer to non-believer and I was myself some day in the past standing at this point. It is a transition period in which you mix different ideas until you finally get clear. It is important to get clear however! One should not live in this confusion for a long time – otherwise mental problems are probably inevitable!
So if you are one of those people who would categorize themselves as ‘agnostic’, please consider deciding for one or the other side someday – for your own good!
I told you about my father’s reaction in 2005 when I explained why I didn’t want to be a guru anymore and why I was even not following a big part of those scriptures anymore which I had even been preaching in the past. He told me that the whole family was happy if just I was happy. I should actually not have been surprised about this!
I could have known that he would react in this way. I would not have needed to be in any way apprehensive and when he answered like this, I clearly remembered my parents’ support in the past as well.
When I was only 13 years old, I had already started working and was getting more and more busy. Sometimes I was still going on programs together with my father but I was also already travelling and working on my own in different parts of India. Obviously, such programs did not only take part in school holidays and so I was absent from school quite often.
After one of my programs in that year, I came back to school and a teacher asked me where I had been and why I had not come to school. I answered that I had been in another state, in Madhya Pradesh, giving a lecture. Of course it was nothing really new to my teacher but nevertheless he then asked ‘When you are anyway not coming to school so often, why do you still go to school at all?’ He practically told me that I had chosen my career and did not need to bother with school anymore but should rather focus on what I was doing.
I was baffled. I actually always took my school books along on my journeys and tried to keep up with the classes. In the result, I was not a bad student at all, in spite of all my days of absence! Now the teacher suggested not to come anymore. I was not sure what to say or do.
When I came home on that day, pondering about this, asking my parents what I should do, my father had the same answer for me: do what you feel is right.
You may say that this is a big burden for a 13-year-old, a decision that he should not need to take. I did not feel like this however. I felt great about the trust that my father had in me, the confidence he had that I could choose on my own and could thus follow my heart. I did. I chose my profession, not school.
It gave me freedom and responsibility at the same time. It empowered me to take care of my own happiness, something I learned then and for which I am forever thankful to my parents! About twenty years later, my father did the same again. He, who had built his life on religion and being a guru, whose life still existed of this, even though he was retired, told me to just follow my heart, even if it led me away from the path he had chosen for himself.
That’s how I will be forever grateful to my whole family for their support in whatever I was and am doing. We embarked on this journey of life together and I have never felt them leave my side. They were always there for me and in the same way, I will always support their wishes, whatever direction they may go. I believe only in this way we all can be happy!
Our dear friend Sylvia commented on one of the last days’ blog entries and mentioned another idea which is widely spread among the people who call themselves spiritual. It is also, like before, an idea which may cause you a headache when you are trying to follow it but which actually should not be followed without some limits or at least some further thought: You are the one that makes yourself happy.
Sylvia explained that while she saw some justification for this statement, she did not think that it was a remedy for every situation to just try and bear anything in the belief it was ‘upon you to manage your happiness’. I agree and would like to elaborate a bit on this.
The thought behind this advice is not wrong. You ARE the one who often has the conscious decision what you would like your mood to be. You are the one who decides how you would like to see things. You can decide whether you would like to approach a person with prejudice or openly. You take the decision whether you let the weather spoil your mood. It is up to you whether a comment of your mother-in-law can make you upset and angry or not.
Nevertheless however I have to agree that there are limits to this rule. It does not mean that you just have to decide to change your mind-set to be happy, no matter how bad the situation is that you are in! On the contrary, if you look at it this way, this can be quite a destructive attitude!
This would mean that you are in an unhealthy relationship for example and your partner constantly abuses you and you feel bad because he does not seem to care about your feelings at all – and instead of changing something, you believe that you are doing something wrong. You feel guilty because you feel bad and not happy. You think you have to get higher on your spiritual path, you are not enlightened enough yet to understand that these are just tests that bring you further. If you just find your happiness within this situation, you think, you will already be one step further.
No, no, no. This is absolutely not what this little sentence is about! I will still not call it wrong but you did not understand correctly what you are supposed to do here in order to make yourself happy! You have to get yourself out of this situation! Accept that it makes you unhappy when someone insults you whom you care about. It is fully right that it does! Accept that you get angry when you have worked for weeks and your colleague gets all the recognition for it! Accept that you have certain needs and get sad when they are not satisfied.
All these emotions are completely alright. They are there and not necessarily ‘negative’. They may indicate that you need a change but that change can mean distancing yourself from abusive people, giving someone a piece of your mind, taking some time just for yourself and more. Don’t force yourself to a fake happiness when you are not happy from inside out. Find the place where you are happy – and accept all those other feelings as well!
When unpleasant things happen in our lives, things that you never wanted to happen in this way and that you never thought to turn out that way, you try to analyze what went wrong. Was it a wrong decision, a wrong step? Have you ignored your inner voice, your intuition? Or have you ignored other people’s advice? Or maybe everything was completely fine and okay from your side and then this result comes – and now you feel that it was not in your hands. Then you would obviously feel that it was supposed to happen.
Whatever reason it is, when you have the trust that you were honest and had a good intention, don’t regret the result or taking the decisions you took. The good thing is that you learn with each experience. You have time to analyze and then to improve yourself and your actions. If you feel that a decision was wrong, never mind, you saw the result and in future you know not to take the same decision again.
Sometimes we feel from inside that things are turning a way that we don’t want. We have a kind of a gut feeling that it is not right, our intuition telling us that we should pull the break right now. Unfortunately we don’t listen to that voice often enough. Other people confuse this voice with their normal doubts and believe that it is only their negative thinking telling them it would not work. So you go on and now you are at this result – sometimes a gut feeling would be something to listen to!
There are situations though in which we feel none of our decisions was wrong. There may have been the feeling that it is not going the right way but we had no chance of acting in any other way. We feel what we did was the right thing even if the result is not the way we wanted it to be. Sometimes in life we have to accept this kind of situations, too. There are a lot of different factors that contribute to one situation and especially to the actions of different people. You said what you wanted to but maybe the other person got different input from another side. Maybe something happened that completely changed his mind. Maybe he was just not the right person for the result you wanted to achieve. In those cases, too, we just have to accept it.
Sometimes the outcome is simply not in our control, so there is no sense in regretting what we did. Just don’t get mentally stuck at that point, thinking about what could have happened if you had taken another decision. You will never know. Nobody will ever know. If you had said something different, if you had acted in another way or reacted in another way, if you had shown less emotions or more emotions, it just doesn’t matter. You did what you thought was right, you did it with your best intention and with full honesty. Learn something for the future but don’t get stuck in the past.
The reality is that a bad result always has some good aspects, too. Try to see those, laugh about the episode once it is over and go on with life. Life is great, it gives us so many experiences!