Help Monika – a 12-year-old with severe Burns! – 15 Dec 14

Today I will start a series of blog entries. I want to dedicate this entire week to a girl of our school: Monika.

In the picture above, you can see Monika. On the left, how she looked like before the 4th May 2014 and on the right, a photo of ten days ago, nearly 7 months after her accident.

When Monika did not come to school on 5th May, she was for us just one of several kids who started their summer holidays a few days early. It happens every year with several kids. Little did we know that at that point, Monika was in horrible pain, lying in a hospital bed.

She had been cooking at home on a kerosene stove on which you have to pump oil up for the flame to get bigger. Distracted or in thoughts somewhere else, she pumped too much and too sudden – the oil spurted up through the flame, catching fire and came onto her face, hands and chest, burning skin and flesh.

The family rushed her to a hospital but had to go from Vrindavan to Mathura to Agra and finally up to Delhi before they found doctors who would treat her severe burns! About this time, months in and out of the hospital, I will tell you more tomorrow.

Finally, they came back to Vrindavan. The new school year had started. Of course, teachers noticed that Monika was absent but she was not the only one – every year, some children don’t return to school because they have moved away or started learning in another school. When finally a friend of Monika’s told that she had had an accident, the principal of our school went to her home to find out why she had not come to school until now. He encouraged her to come back to school – and after some time, she finally did. Until the day that Monika was back at school, we had no idea about the extent of this accident!

Upon seeing her, we knew we had to take immediate action. You can see the burns on her face but what you don’t realize on the photo is that she cannot move her neck anymore! In the video below, you can see how much her movement is affected! The skin has tightened and she can only look right and left by moving her whole upper body. Her chin can neither move up nor down. Her arm is in a similar state, as some skin in the armpit was burnt as well. She can only lift her arm about 90 degrees up – no more. All these movements bring her pain!

Monika told us what had happened and that she still had pain in her eyes and on her skin. To soothe that pain, she regularly applies coconut oil. We called her mother to school to talk to her and visited her home to find out more about her living situation. Shaken by what we found out, I already wrote a blog post about her mother, without mentioning any names. We straight away made an appointment with a plastic surgeon in a big hospital close to Delhi – she had not gone to see a doctor for a few months, as her mother could not afford the trip to Delhi and additionally taking time off work. There was nobody else to take her!

On Wednesday last week, we took Monika to the hospital, the Artemis Hospital in Gurgaon. Why we chose this hospital, I will tell you tomorrow. We met the team of three plastic surgeons there and discussed in details what could be done for her.

Monika now needs five surgeries in order to reestablish the functionality of her body. One for each eye – because she cannot close the eyelids anymore, which causes the eyes to dry out and hurt. One for her neck, so that she can move it again. Another one for her mouth, which does not open very far at the moment – just far enough for eating small bites. Finally, the last one for her arm, so that she can move that freely again. For all this, the doctor explained, they would transplant skin of her thigh. Only after that, will they start with using a laser for the burnt skin in the face, on her chest and arms.

It will be a very long process. The doctors told that the surgeries could be combined, so that there would be only three. Still however, there has to be a gap of at least four to five months in between the surgeries so that she can recover! And that’s not it: when she will grow, in the next five to ten years, she will need repeated surgery because her burnt skin cannot grow along anymore! Without the surgeries, she will lose the possibility of several movements in future! On this page you can see the details of the surgery stages which the doctors laid out for Monika as well as the approximate cost of her treatment.

The moment we saw Monika back here at school, we knew that we would help her. The decision was actually taken before and now we just get into the details on how to help.

We have taken our decision to help Monika – and you can support us in doing exactly that! We want to start as soon as it is possible for us to fund her first surgery! Your donation can be an enourmous help!

Here you get more details and all ways to help!

How India’s private Schools turn Education into a corrupt Business – 26 Mar 14

I started telling you my thoughts about private schools in India these days and the elaborate admission process that they use. One aspect that I have only shortly mentioned but which is the biggest problem with the Indian school system is, as so often, the money. Education has become a big business. A big, corrupt business.

We see again and again how people from the west react surprised when they get to know about the cost of education here in India. When we tell that our school is for children who cannot go to schools where they have to pay money, they ask ‘What, you have to pay money to go to school?’

In many other western countries, education is free. You may have to buy your books and your stationary but there are no admission fees, no education or exam fees. In India, things are a bit different.

Yes, there are state schools and they are free as well – or at least supposed to be free. There are no school fees and the government makes big advertisement with the free lunch – but the sad truth is that there is mostly no value to the education they provide! Teachers often don’t come to school at all or just sit next to each other and chat, the classrooms are used for storage or even as stables. Many times, teacher even send a representative, a less educated, less qualified person whom they pay a part of their own, guaranteed salary which they get by the government. In the meantime, they are busy in their private business and thus earn money from two places. The education for children at the government school? Nobody cares.

It is so obvious that even the uneducated parents of very low financial means notice. They have never been to school but they see that their sons and daughters pass one class after the other but still cannot really write their names. Cannot read a short sentence, even in Hindi.

Some of these parents do know about the value of education and want their children to learn more than they themselves could ever learn – but they don’t have the money for sending them to a private school! A school where they would actually get taught! The uniforms and books are too expensive, the monthly fees are too high, about 30 to 50 US-Dollar per month. This is what the families of our school children sometimes earn in one month – how could they send their child to such a school?

Even higher is what is not written in the official pamphlet: the unofficial admission fee, a donation to the school, a bribe to ensure that your child clears the admission process and gets into the school. 700 to 850 US-Dollar is a normal amount to be asked for. And if you love your child and have the possibility, you probably decide to comply.

Without giving a significant ‘donation’ to the school, you stand no chance to get your child in any of the good schools. Every single person who wants to get a place has to give this donation – and the corrupt administration of the school will take good care that the donation reaches the right hands.

Books have to be bought only from the school – who make a little extra money with every book they sell. Cloth for their uniforms is only available at the school – more expensive than any other uniform you could easily buy in the market.

Corruption. Money. Business. That is what is happening with education in India.

Definitely not the way to go for a bright future of this country and the next generation!

A New Project: New Yoga Dresses and Yoga Mats for the Children! – 19 Aug 13

If you have subscribed to our Newsletter, you probably already have an idea what I am going to tell you today. We have a new project: we need new yoga mats and yoga dresses for the children of our school – and we would be happy about your support!

Throughout the year, visitors come to our Ashram. They visit the school, they enjoy playing with the children, they watch them having food and they are always happy to see their daily yoga class in the morning. Whether they have come for a yoga retreat, for sightseeing in the area or just for relaxing, they are welcome to join them. We love the yoga classes of the school and are proud that our children do yoga – but unfortunately their yoga dresses and yoga mats are not anymore very beautiful to look at!

We started the yoga classes in 2010. It was a logical choice to make – we don’t have a gym to give sports classes in but some kind of movement should be in the curriculum of a school. Obviously, yoga is not only the kind of movement we know most about but is also something that does not require a whole lot of space. Just enough to spread out mats for all children. That’s what we did – and it has been a big success. The children enjoy it, our guests love watching and a lot of people have had fun joining in.

Apart from the movement, yoga also supports the children mentally. Yoga is not only physical exercise but also helps concentration, memory and the ability to focus your thoughts. And while a lot of other sports create a competition in which the children have to constantly watch others and their progress, comparing it to their own and trying to keep up, yoga requires them to focus on themselves. They will have lots of competition to face in later life – they don’t need it in their ‘sports’ class in school!

The children kept on doing yoga every day they came to school, whenever it was not raining. They wore their dresses and washed them on the weekends. They rolled their mats out and together again, day by day. It has been three years now that they have done this with the same yoga dresses and the same yoga mats. Obviously, the children have grown. Some pants now look more like Capri pants because the children have grown tall, the colour of the print of most shirts has faded or washed out. The yoga mats are nearly rubbed through on the spots where the hands and the feet are most often. Some mats tore completely and were thrown away.

I think you get the picture and if I now tell you that we have a lot new students this year, so that the youngest students don’t do yoga because the mats are not enough for everyone anymore, you will probably understand that the project of buying new dresses and new mats has become a point of priority! Until now we always postponed the purchase because there were more urgent expenses – coming along with feeding and educating all these children – but today we want to ask you for your support in helping our children get back on the mat in nice new dresses!

The estimate for the costs for all yoga mats and yoga dresses is 1500 Euro. A lot for one person and a lot for us in one amount – but if you all support us with just a small contribution, I am sure we will soon reach our goal.

Here you can get the details and make your contribution

Help us! Not only your donation is much appreciated, also your support in spreading this project in the yoga community or to anybody who knows of the benefit of yoga and would like to help children! Yogis, yoga teachers, yoga students and everyone with a heart for children – we will be more than happy about your contribution!

I thank all of you in advance and am looking forward to showing you the new dresses and yoga mats once we have completed the project!

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Transcendental Meditation and Yogic Flying – 17 Jun 11

I recently gave a chakra workshop for the first chakra, the root chakra. I talked about knowing one’s roots, told how important it is to be connected with mother earth and explained the necessity of being grounded.

I mentioned a few examples for people who are definitely not grounded and told the group that there are many yogis who are actually trying to fly. They believe this would in some strange way bring peace to this earth. The movement that created and spreads this theory was founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. He developed a meditation technique called ‘TM’, Transcendental Meditation, which is supposed to make you fly.

On my journeys in the west I have heard of Transcendental Meditation and have met many people who teach or practice it. They are all fascinated about flying but when you ask them whether they have had success in flying, you always get the answer that they have seen pictures or know someone who has seen someone else fly. I never met anybody who could fly himself or had even seen it himself.

Whenever I heard about this idea, I had to smile and thought about how many ways there are to fool people.

Recently friends recommended a documentary about this movement and we watched it together. It is called ‘David wants to fly’. I would really recommend this film to anybody who would like to understand more about Transcendental Meditation by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

In this movie, there is a young student who searches inspiration for his first movie and finds out that one of his idols, the Hollywood film producer David Lynch, is a follower and big fan of TM. He gets in touch with him and with his interest manages to get close into the group, travels to meetings of the organization in the US, to India for the guru’s funeral and to see what is happening there. He slowly discovers that there are many aspects of this organization that are not really as nice as it sounded in the beginning and his interest in meditation shifts towards an interest to find out more about these dubious parts of the organization.

The movie shows the two former Beatles members who are still alive, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, at a program organized by David Lynch. I mentioned two days ago already that they were connected with this movement and helped it to become popular. Hundreds or thousands of people went to the Ashram that they had been to and this was Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Ashram.

The student directing the movie, David Sieveking, has interviews with many different people and this makes the documentary really very interesting. The organization has a hierarchy and everybody who pays 1 Million Dollar is eligible for a course to become the ‘Raja’, which means king, of a country. In the movie you get to see several of them and I really had to laugh, seeing that they have a special getup, with a crown on their head and playing to be kings. The king of Switzerland was asked in an interview why Maharishi Mahesh Yogi never demonstrated publicly that he could fly. The answer was that he was too humble.

The training for learning to fly is to sit in Padmasana, the Lotus Seat and jump. At this point of the movie we all could not stop ourselves from laughing. It looks very funny how those students jump as high as they can, as if they were frogs, and also as fast as they can and get honoured for being the best although nobody manages to actually fly.

Another interview showed a more serious aspect. They talked to a man who had donated more than 150 Million Dollar to this movement and was disappointed that nothing actually happened with this money. He expected a big center to be built where the 10000 yogic flyers would meet and create world peace. I did not quite understand how this should happen anyway but this is what the basic idea had been: defying gravity and floating in the air for world peace.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi himself said he had renounced the material world and lived in abstinence in order to be a real spiritual man and yogi. He was however not always very strict with this idea. The documentary shows the interview with a woman who had sex with him and talked freely about it. For her it was as if she met Jesus until he started to be interested in others at the same time. According to her, when she asked what would happen if she got pregnant, he answered ‘Get married to someone, quick!’

After watching this movie I wondered about who would give money to this nonsense? Who would like to become a king of a democratic country, who would be interested to learn flying? There obviously are people who do! They told they needed 400 Million Dollar for building a TM center in India and 200 Million were already collected. This center was never built but they had made the money.

I just and only want to recommend everyone to stand with both feet on the ground of this earth. Why do you want to fly? God gave this job to the birds, let them fly around while you use your legs! Work on peace in your own heart and you will do a much better contribution to world peace than by jumping in the Lotus seat, waiting to actually levitate someday.

Dowry should not be Supported by Charity and Donations – 1 Apr 11

I have been writing a lot about dowry in the last days. Lately someone sent us an email and asked the following question: ‘I have read much about different great projects which all support girls in India. Why don’t you do more for girls? There are many charities that help poor families collect the dowry for their girls. And if you did more advertising, saying ‘Save the Girl-Child’, I am sure many more people would help!’

While I am sure that the person who wrote this email meant well for girls in India, I would never follow this suggestion. I know that there are many charity organizations that collect for girls so that they will be able to have a dowry. Every of those donors who contribute surely wants to help but I think they are not aware of the consequences of what they are supporting! I don’t approve of such projects simply because they indirectly encourage a system which is fully wrong!

I know that there are organizations, some of which even support education, too, which each year save money for their female students for their dowry, so that each of the girls will have a good sum for her dowry when she is adult and ready to marry. Their argument is that there are families who cannot afford to pay their daughter a dowry and thus have difficulties marrying them to successful boys. They say these girls don’t get respect in their future family or even any husband at all. But don’t you support this tradition? It is wrong that these girls ‘have to have’ a dowry. By giving them one, you make the rest of the society feel that this is how it should be and the next generation will ask you to help them with the dowry, too.

Instead you should support those girls to get a good school education so that they can earn money themselves, be independent and marry whenever they want, not when their parents want them to be cared for by a husband. With a good education, a girl has far better chances of a good future than with a good dowry. And nobody can take her education away from her. Of course it will take a complete change of mind in the society but education is the first step. So please support projects and organizations that help girls to stand on their own two feet instead of organizations that collect for their dowry which would keep that tradition alive for many more years.

Doing Business for Charity rather than Doing Charity as a Business – 4 Mar 11

When I yesterday talked about what a businessman does and that I like to see myself as one, I did not yet speak about another aspect which is often associated with businessmen. They tend to be seen as greedy and tricky when their business is concerned. Of course I believe the only way for me to do business is in an honest way.

It is actually obvious. If your firsts priority is business and only business, your goal is to make deals and grow your company’s profit. With this priority and goal, all other principles may be only of secondary importance. You become more flexible and compromise with other principles in order to achieve your goal. This includes values such an honesty and dignity. People who become greedy in business sometimes become dishonest and when they see money do things that their pride usually would not let them do.

I like to do business but it will never be my first principle. My first principle will always be to act with love and to be clear, honest and direct. You will never see me lying in order to improve my business.

Another point which is very important for me is that I do not like to ask anybody for money. It is my nature which I have noticed in my childhood already and it does not allow me to beg. Even if I ask someone for a donation for these children, I cannot only walk around and hold a donation box. I would not feel good just to sit there and do nothing. I want to do business. I am working and from that I earn money. With this money I support children. This is the businessman that I want to be. I will bring money to these children, not by begging for them but by working for them. This I see as real charity.

Unfortunately most of the gurus that I was always talking about became pure businessmen. They forgot about other principles and often even forget about doing charity when they see their own profit. They use charity only as a store sign, getting people to give them donations and then make very big money. They actually are big corporations. They are however hidden corporations and in the front there is a guru asking people for donations.

I rather earn money in an honest way and then give it to charity than begging for charity money or cheating people into giving donations and then keeping it for myself.

Our Philosophy of Charity – 2 Mar 11

Yesterday someone asked, in response to my diary entry, in which way we and our charity organization are different from those gurus or organizations that collect money for themselves, showing off a little bit of charity to make people believe they are charitable while they have millions in their own pocket. I thought answering this question would be worth a diary entry today.

I actually see my idea of charity closer to Bill Gates’ idea than to any guru’s idea. Unfortunately I don’t have Bill Gates’ funds to help us run the school but whatever we have and whatever we do is for these children.

You all know that I left every religion and tradition behind and that I don’t go to preach the scriptures anywhere. When I left religion, I decided that only love should be my God and that one of the best ways to serve this God would be to help children. I had been doing charity for a long time already and I decided to give more to these children.

We, my family and I started sponsoring more and more children in schools in Vrindavan and a dream started to grow in my mind. I had the wish to open a school myself. In this school all children should be equal and none should be able to tease any other child because they did not have the money to pay for school themselves.

Most importantly, no child should be beaten or in any other way physically punished.
In 2006 my sister died in a car accident. Obviously this was a blow to my family. In the following year we decided together to use the money that she had saved for buying another property, one on which we would start our school. In 2007 we opened a Kindergarten and in 2008 could extend it to a Primary School and both were free of any cost for poor children of the neighbourhood. By now we have two Kindergarten classes and four school classes.

Of course we started asking people to donate and support our projects. One can sponsor a child, sponsor the food or simply make a donation to our charity organization, here in India or the one we founded in Germany. I am very thankful to everyone who helped us in this way. All the support that we get however would by itself not be enough to run the whole school. It needs my support and the support of my family.

This is what we are working for. When I travel anywhere and give meditations or workshops, when my youngest brother Yashendu teaches yoga and Ayurvedic cooking and my wife Ramona translates what we say or writes it down for the website, we do it also for these children. My second brother Purnendu is even more directly involved, managing the teachers, all employees in India and taking care of the Ashram, the food, the school supplies and more. My parents and even my grandmother do what they can to support these projects. I am truly happy and very proud that my whole family is working for this goal and that all find their happiness in the aim of helping children.

Every activity at the Ashram also serves this purpose. We are happy that people come here and can relax and enjoy. They spend weeks here in this beautiful place on Ayurveda Yoga Holidays and Yoga Teacher Trainings and thus have a benefit for themselves as well as they support our projects. They can directly see where they help: the children are just here!

You see, we started the business because we want to do charity. Those rich gurus who I was talking about started charity because they had to present a reason to the public why they need more money. We work to provide as much as we can to these children.

If anybody has a doubt, just have a look into my life, my home and my heart. It is an open book for everyone. Even if someone would like to have a look into my bank account, he could because there are no millions to hide.

Maybe now you can understand that I see myself closer to Bill Gates’ thinking than to the thinking of any of those gurus. I like to work and earn more money so that I can support these children and we, my complete family and I, do this with our whole hearts.

Who is close to God – Superrich Gurus or Superrich Businessmen? – 1 Mar 11

I was very happy to see a piece of news in one of the last weeks’ newspaper. Two of the richest men of the world, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, are making plans to visit India this year. Actually the fact that they will come is not so much what made me happy but rather the reason why they will come. They want to encourage Indian’s millionaires and billionaires to donate more money to charity!

Warren Buffet, Bill Gates and his wife Melinda have started this campaign, the ‘Giving Pledge’, urging rich people to donate 50% or more of their money to charities. They themselves have pledged that they will give away freely and they have already convinced many rich people that this would be the right thing to do. They don’t talk about giving to a certain organization or for a certain cause, they just talk about philanthropy, about charity, about giving and sharing with those who need it. I love this idea of a campaign and wish them the best of success!

Especially here in India there are many people who could give a lot and could see their donation used in front of their own eyes, in their own country, if they had the compassion for others to do it. This campaign is urging anybody who has gathered wealth to do good with it and it particularly addresses businessmen. In my eyes, some of the biggest businessmen in India are those who do the business of spirituality and religions.

Most Gurus and religious leaders would never like being called businessmen but they are among the most successful ones in India. It is the ‘Business of Gods’, as nicely stated in this article. I don’t even want to start listing religious people who are rich because the list could get very long. In the article they only mention a few and the figures are already four years old, today they would be much higher already.

There are just so many people who receive donations by claiming they build temples or are some kind of Gods. They even live like Gods, building multiple Ashrams and enourmous temples in India and around the world.

Do they forget that there are not only people who want to hear lectures or perform spiritual rituals but people who need food and struggle to survive? They don’t need temples, they need a roof over their head! They don’t need your blessing, they need your money!

Some people will tell me now that many of these gurus also build hospitals and schools or give in another way to charity. This however is such a minimal part of their wealth, a tiny part of what they could give that they should feel ashamed to advertise their charitable attitude in this way. Ideally they should be able to leave 100% of their wealth because they show themselves as sanyasi, only devoted to God and having renounced from material belongings. Instead they take what they can get and distribute it most generously among their family members. They preach detachment but seem much more attached to their Rupees than Bill Gates to his Dollars!

All these people are businessmen, the gurus as well as the founders of this campaign. But now there seems to be a switching of roles – the spiritual people become more and more involved in and obsessed with business while the business people become more and more spiritual, giving away to helping others. Who do you think is closer to God, those who sell God and make this their business or those who make real business and then donate what they have so that others have a better life?

I don’t want to say much about money in the spiritual business these days but if all those rich super-gurus with all their wealth could also donate 50% or more of what they have, they could make a significant change in this society and make this world a better place to live in for so many.

Will God forgive your Sins if you pay Him some Money? – 8 Feb 11

Yesterday I mentioned that people seem to bribe God for the fulfillment of their wishes. This is however not the only reason why they donate to temples and other religious institutions. Another reason for many people to give money to such a place is that they feel guilty and want to be forgiven for something they did. If they do this, it seems as if they want to pay God to forgive them.

In this case, too, they give only a few coins for smaller misdeeds but open their purse widely and pull out big notes if they have committed a bigger crime or sin. It is only logical thinking: you have to show bigger remorse for bigger sins, so give some more money.

Again there is the question: do you really think God values you according to how much money you give him? No, God does not take money. The money that you donate actually benefits the place that you went to and the people who established it and work there. It can be also a guru or a master whom you donated to. And in this way, with donations, gurus, religious leaders, temples, churches and other institutions make millions and billions. They get richer and richer because people believe they can pay God.

Don’t forget that God has other values than money. He can see in your heart and reads your wishes as well as your regret for what you did. He knows exactly who you are, with every bit of your heart, every feeling and every emotion. And if you don’t regret, not any money in the world can make God think you do.

I anyway don’t think that God judges and sorts people into good people and bad people. God loves us as we are and is not angry about our mistakes. If we regret one of our actions, He knows it before we even do. It is simply our own feelings of guilt that make us want to donate. You have to forgive yourself first. Doing something good, helping someone and loving someone can help you lessening this feeling of guilt but in the end, you have to forgive yourself.

Is it Possible to Bribe God? – 7 Feb 11

After writing about the problems with the Karmapa Lama, I had some more thoughts about why people give donations to religious institutions like temples and churches or also to gurus and masters. Sometimes I wonder whether they think they can bribe God.

The ideal scenario would be this: a believer goes into a religious building, be it a church, a temple or any other such place. He or she has a problem and goes there to do prayers or ceremonies. This person finds inner peace, can calm the mind and maybe in this way find a solution for the problem. This makes him thankful that there is such a place and he wishes this place to remain so that he can always go there to pray. He thus supports the place with his donation.

What actually happens in the minds of people is not really this! People give donations not out of thankfulness and the wish to support, but rather in the belief that they can buy blessings. They think they can buy their luck or good destiny just like rice on the market.

They want to get something, they have a wish and they want to have it fulfilled. For this wish they go, offer some money and say ‘God, here you are, this is how much I give for you to fulfill my wish’. Even if they don’t formulate it clearly like this, they think that for big wishes you should give a big donation, for smaller wishes, some coins may be enough.

People thus try to buy fulfillment of their wishes from God. God however does not want or need any money. People have this thought that they give for God, or that God would love them more if they gave more but actually God does not really care for this. Otherwise what could a poor person give if he had a big wish?