Your Time is too important to spend it on mindless TV Shows – 17 Sep 14

We are about to start for our flight back to India after this intense and beautiful week in Germany. Unfortunately Apra has caught a cold and is coughing and sneezing with a little fever as well. Nevertheless we are confident that we will make it to India smoothly. Last time, she was asleep nearly the whole flight long – and me with her. In the meantime, Ramona considered using the TV on the flight but finally didn’t feel like it. When I woke up, we talked a bit about TVs, how much of a habit it can become and why I normally see it as a rather bad thing. Now here is my list of five reasons why you should not watch TV:

1. Watching TV wastes a lot of your time!

It is just logical: you could use the time that you sit in front of that machine for so many other things: work, clean, tidy up or – if you actually sit there because you had enough of all these activities – get social with friends, be creative, paint, play, take a bath or spoil yourself in any other way. Sitting in front of the TV doesn’t bring you anything. It just makes time go by. Two or three hours is nothing, once you get involved mentally with what you are watching! If you really have too much time, go for it. If not, just keep that thing off!

2. You could use it for learning something – but you don’t!

Let’s be honest about this one: yes, TV is a great thing to see the world. You have the possibility to watch documentaries, to get to know more about this world. You can watch programs to get an insight in other cultures, follow debates on important topics or find out how the things work that you use every day. You could but usually, maybe in 90% of all cases, you don’t.

You use the TV for mindless entertainment. That’s it. So don’t tell me, when you are watching the latest soap opera or a reality TV show, that you are broadening your horizon! You just want to let television wash over you without any challenge for your brain!

3. It can make you aggressive, and your kids even more!

This point is nothing new and I know many people don’t believe in it. I do however, especially when it is about your kids! You show them that you watch TV, they do it, too. And today’s shows, even those made for children, are nearly always so full of violence that I would never want my girl to watch it! They believe what they see is how it should be, that people are hitting each other, fighting and just being full of violence! Combined with the lack of movement and exercise which is a normal consequence of too much TV, this stirs the same aggressive behavior in children – and in yourself!

I have some more ideas – but more about that tomorrow!

Life is a Struggle – but TV is a must! – 8 Apr 14

I yesterday started writing down the experiences that Purnendu and Ramona have when visiting the school children’s homes. It is nothing about particularly one child but rather observations in several homes. Things that startle us because they are common in all these houses. For example the omnipresent television set.

Yes, nearly every single home that we have visited, of children who already study in our school and those who are newly admitting their children, has a TV. I have to put a ‘nearly’ there, because one home did not but you can see clearly that this is an exception!

These people have nothing. They live in homes that only exist of bricks without plaster and one tin shade as a roof. There are days when they don’t know what to eat. But they have a TV. They tie plastic sheets on top of their homes when it rains, so that the water doesn’t drip in. But on top of all, there is the satellite dish so that they can receive a good signal.

They even don’t have electricity for the complete day! In some parts of Vrindavan, throughout the day, electricity comes and goes. They won’t have a refrigerator to keep their food longer or the milk cold. They won’t buy a cooler with which they could get some cool air into their home when the temperatures reach 48 degree Celsius in summer. We have even seen that after buying the TV, they somehow arrange a battery to have electricity backup. For what? To watch TV when there is not electricity.

It is a pity. A shame that this is seen as a necessary item for entertainment even by poor people. What will be the effect of putting this box into every home? It will replace the natural social behavior of people who were previously sitting outside together, sharing, talking, enjoying and thus not only raising their level of happiness but also helping each other emotionally! Instead, people are now sitting in their homes, staring at a screen.

I also know what kind of things they tend to watch and let me tell you, it is not Discovery Channel and not current news! Poorly made soap operas that increase prejudice and drama, that make people enjoy intrigues and in the end increases a certain resignation about their personal situation. Additionally, there is a whole lot of violence in those shows and movies. For the innocent minds of children, this is a terrible influence! We try to save the children who are living with us at the Ashram from this effect. In the poor homes of our school children however, it is normal.

Unfortunately, this is something you won’t be able to change. A development that has already happened. We can just hope that the broadcasting channels gain some sense and try educating people rather than dumbly wasting their time.

Millions spent for Formula 1 Car Race in India where Millions don’t get proper Food – 31 Oct 11

It is Monday morning after a weekend on which India’s media had only one focus: the first Formula 1 car race in India on the newly built Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida, close to Delhi. It was very big in newspapers and TV channels. The media was full with news about the opening of the track, the race, the international drivers and celebrities like Sachin Tendulkar or Michael Schumacher and the concert of Lady Gaga at the after-party. While Bollywood stars were busy advertising this big event, I and many others were wondering.

It is a big question to me why India agreed on hosting this event. They spent 400 million Dollars on building this race track, the first one in India. They have extended the roads to the track they have made a nice and neat area around it so that drivers, international media and visitors feel good during their stay in India and can get to see greenery, clean roads and a working infrastructure. At the same time however there are people struggling to survive only a few kilometers away. Poverty and a display of luxury and wealth just next to each other. I am not the only one who criticized that. International media wrote about it, Ramona saw it on German TV news online and a friend from Luneburg wrote me that his local newspaper also published articles about this topic. So even though the German driver Sebastian Vettel won the race, German media is not very happy with the race taking place in the middle of India’s poverty.

Now tell me honestly, why did we need to have a race track here in India, in our state Uttar Pradesh, one of the poorest states in India? Do we really need to have a circular road on which race cars drive up to 330 kilometers per hour while you cannot even drive 100 on most Indian roads because they are in such a poor state? Do we need such an expensive race track in a country in which 65% of people don’t have a toilet? Do we have to spend billions of Dollars for some days of entertainment for the rich while every minute five poor Indians die of hunger? About half of Indian’s children below five are malnourished. What will this event give them, those who are hungry and in need?

They don’t get anything. On the contrary, farmers of the area, who were forced to sell their land so that the race track could get built, now complain that they were cheated about the price! They got a minimal amount so that rich people could have fun on this weekend.

It is of course something for the rich! The average Indian would not spend the 2500 Rupees, approximately 50 Dollars, for the cheapest ticket to watch cars drive around in circles and pollute the air and in their whole life they won’t earn the $200000 which are being asked and paid for the corporate boxes. I wrote my opinion about car races already some time ago in my diary. Apart from the pollution, there are more reasons to question the sense of such a race in India. Indian people have no connection to this car race. The Indian team called ‘Force India’ has no Indian driver and no Indian mechanic! And those Indians who went to see the race were mostly there because in their circle it is a status symbol to go to such events!

The media, the celebrities, they all express their pride about this event in India, saying that it is a great achievement and that we are now on international level and it would boost the economy. In reality however it only increases the gap in between the rich and the poor. The rich will get richer while the poor don’t have anything from the income that is made.

If you object now and say that our state government will earn with taxes, I have to reply that I doubt the common population will see anything of that money. The chief minister of our state, Mayawati, even granted an exemption of the entertainment tax to the organizers. This exemption was now questioned by the Supreme Court. The Central Government refused an exemption for another 1 Billion Rupees, about 20.5 Million Dollars. The sports minister said he knew he would not get an invitation after this refusal.

Even if they get a bigger amount of money due to taxes however, the money will not help those who are needy. Just recently the U.P. government built a huge park, spending 8 Billion Rupees, about 164.5 Million Dollars. Of course a park is a nice place for picnics and hanging out in beautiful greenery but shouldn’t we first take care of the basic needs of our population? What will this park help those who are hungry? They will stand around the park, begging for someone to help them!

When asked about the controversies of Indian’s poverty and the expenses for the race, the co-owner of the Indian team and billionaire Vijay Mallya answered: “The government is doing all it can to address the need of the poor or the underprivileged people, but India must move on.” Brilliant, don’t you think?

In interviews the international drivers already told how appalled they were from the contrast. Stepping out of their hotel they only had to look 100 meters to the left or to the right to see the poverty of India. They told they had never seen such a contrast of rich and poor.

We all can be sure however that there was none of those poor people at the after-party. I don’t know what the entry to that cost but they published the price for Lady Gaga’s concert. The number of entry tickets was limited to 1000 and each of these 1000 people paid 40000 Rupees, about 800 Dollars.

Everybody enjoys entertainment and wants to have fun. It is fully fine and everybody should enjoy his life. There is however a limit when the amount of money spent for this entertainment looks outrageous next to the hungry and poor lying on the street. Fun is over when you see money wasted while there are no schools, sanitary facilities or hospitals. The billionaires involved in this event should rather think about how they can improve the life of the needy. I would expect them to think of the sake of the children of their own country.


India's inaugural F1 race: speeding past the poor
Formula 1 galas and Lady Gaga: against a backdrop of poverty

Image: Red Bull Racing

Modern preaching is comparable to modern Entertainment Industry – 2 Oct 11

There has always been a mixed public at my programs and lectures. Of course there are always those who are there for devotional purpose and for experiencing the holiness of such an event, meeting a guru and listening to the scriptures. Others, as I told you before, are there to look for a possible partner. And then there are again others who are only there for entertainment.

You have to understand that for many people these religious programs are really the best entertainment they can imagine. It has always been like that. These are people who have a lot of time. They may be old and retired or maybe women whose husbands work and provide for the family. They have time to go to programs that go the whole morning and then start again in the afternoon.

They would of course have other possibilities to entertain themselves, too, but maybe they don’t really like going to theater halls or cinemas. Maybe they don’t enjoy other concerts but enjoy more to be in a crowd to listen a lecture with some music in between. The audiences became smaller when more and more people started having TVs in their homes. In India there were very soon TV channels that broadcasted religious programs, too, and thus people could get the same entertainment at home.

A live show is always better though and this is how people still today come to listen to preachers and gurus, also only to get entertained, not because of their devotion to god or the guru. They get carried away there and often get very emotional. Maybe you ask how they start dancing, singing and crying during the program if they are not there full of devotion. I have seen this behavior many times and it is just as if you are watching a movie that moves you and you start crying. Many people get very involved when they watch TV and emotions are obviously and naturally triggered. So if there is anything that stirs the emotions in a live program, it is just natural to let them out. If there is music, why not sing and dance along?

With time the programs had more and more of such entertaining elements. In the time of my grandfather, when the tradition of telling about scriptures started getting popular, the guru was just sitting on a stage and talking and people loved it. It was great and enough for them if he just sat there and spoke. New thinkers, inventers and artists joined the profession and they started developing the shows. They realized that the audience loves it if they don’t only get dry lectures but some music in between, too.

When I started giving lectures, it was only me on the stage and I gave lectures of two hours. Later you can say I changed with the competition of the market and integrated musicians into my program. There was more music, thus more dance and a whole new charm to the event. There were always ideas to make it even nicer and this is how, when we had the possibility, we started installing screens in the back of the tents so that people in the back could also see the show. It was not anymore only about hearing, you wanted to see, too!

Nowadays those programs often resemble a complete musical. The organizers or the performers find someone to dress up like Krishna and some more people for other roles, who then dance and perform along with the main ‘artist’, the guru. People get something to see and get full entertainment.

In Vrindavan there are however many people who are still against those nice little additions to the preaching lectures. They believe by adding music and dance into the program, the preachers destroy the traditional way of preaching. Conservative, orthodox believers don’t want to see colourful costumes and don’t want to hear people sing. They only want the lecture and are often angry about the enhancement, saying that it loses its value. I did it because I saw that I made people happier and enjoy more and I still don’t see anything wrong in this.

This is how I usually had a group of musicians with me. In 2002 in London, I had only two musicians with me, one from India and one who had Indian ancestors but lived in London.

We had very good program and enjoyed it very much.

Why do you have wild Animals and Reptiles as Pets? – 5 Jul 11

Yesterday I wrote about breeding of pets and said that it was a matter of the keeper’s and the breeder’s ego. People are proud if they have a pet that is in any way special – if it wins contests and competitions, if it looks better, greater, and cuter or also, if it is not common in your country, an animal that is rarely seen in people’s living rooms. There are all kinds of exotic pets that people decide to keep in their home.

Some people have snakes and other reptiles such as iguanas or chameleons. We have taken the picture that you see above with a hidden camera in a pet shop where these animals were for sale. Someone is obviously interested in buying such reptiles. Others like it wilder and have foxes or even big cages with dangerous animals like tigers and lions.

In these cases I can tell you for sure, that these animals are not kept in an appropriate way. It is practically impossible to do that! You cannot provide a snake its jungle and you cannot give a tiger hundreds of miles to run daily. There is no way to keep these animals really well, because they don’t belong in your house. They often don’t even belong to your climate and you have to keep the reptiles in a heated terrarium! Why do people want to have a wild snake for a pet? In my opinion, if you really love them, you don’t put them into a tiny box for your entertainment or for you to show them off!

Another reason can be the wish to tame a wild animal. To feel the power over an animal, to have it at your command and to know how to deal with nature’s biggest forces. This is the fascination of people when they go to see wild animal shows in a circus. They like to see how one small human person can make six or eight tigers or lions do what he orders them to do.

It doesn’t matter however in which way you tame a tiger, it will remain a wild animal and it will remain a tiger while you are human. I was told of a pair of magicians, Germans by origin but living in America, Siegfried and Roy. They had tamed white tigers and in 2003, during one of their magic shows, which included the tigers, Roy fell and the tiger, in a wish to protect his friend, took him by the neck to drag him away. The tiger severely injured the man and he is still recovering, learning to walk again but suffering from the long-term consequences.

What we learn from this all is that even if you tamed a tiger and became its friend, there is still a chance that it kills you some day. There have been so many cases in circuses in which people were seriously injured or even died. The animals travelling with a circus are anyway the most restrained in their freedom and are the best example for animals made for human entertainment. I think I don’t need to repeat how much I pity these animals.

Wild animals are not meant to live together with humans, in their house or in a cage. They are not made for our entertainment.

Animals as Substitutes for Children or Partner to fill emotional Gap – 30 Jun 11

I think I have made clear that I am against producing animals only for eating them. In the same way however I am against producing animals for other selfish purposes: for your own entertainment or for your ego.

What is the reason for you to have a pet? Many times it is really only your entertainment and often even a substitute for missing social contact in life. I have met so many people who use their pets because they don’t have another outlet for their feelings.

Many of them need someone whom they can command. They enjoy the feeling that they say something and it is done. As they cannot do this with other people, they get themselves a dog and teach him what he should do. This makes them feel in power and makes them feel good about themselves. But is this the right reason for keeping a dog, just to have a slave-like being that obeys?

Others don’t have anybody in their lives whom they can hug, who gives them warmth and love. Many of these people are simply not able to make friends. They are not able to make contact with people in a normal way and this is how they feel lonely. The solution is to buy a pet. A cat that can lie in their lap, whom they can stroke and who comes to them because it is also just lonely and needs someone. They can talk to the cat and it never answers anything that they don’t want to hear. But shouldn’t you rather go out and learn how to get along with human persons, face the real life instead?

Sometimes cats and dogs even have to serve as substitutes for precisely a certain role: children. People who cannot have children or who are too busy to really have children, sometimes get a pet or two and behave as if they are their children. They call themselves mum and dad and have the feeling that they really have a little family in this way. There is however the fact that a cat or a dog does not have such a high life expectancy as a real child would have. So whenever the pet has to face its death, the ‘parents’ are devastated. After all, this dog was like their son to them! They try everything to save it, bring it to the vet and spend lots of money but in the end the dog will die before them. I have even met people who then, naturally after an appropriate time for mourning, went and bought another dog that looked just exactly like the old one, the same race, the same colour and the same height. They call it by the same name and become its parents again. Don’t you think you are cheating your own feelings? Buying children and when they die, you replace them again?

And of course cats or dogs are not as care-intensive as are children! You don’t need to be pregnant and give birth to them, you can simply go and buy them! It is pretty easy, they even give you a complete pack of accessories along with the pet when you buy it. For a child, you will be responsible at least for the next 18 years. You will have to send it to school, you have to take care of it when it has its own friends and when it makes its own experiences. A cat or a dog is not that difficult! For people who are lonely, pets are also easier than partners. They don’t argue, they don’t cheat on you, you don’t need to date them and convince them that you are the one – you just buy them and there you are! It is just so much easier. But again, is that really how you should live your life and how the animal should live its life?

Reconsider why you want to have a pet. If it is because of your ego and the wish to command or if it is as a substitute for human companionship or if it is only for your own entertainment, don’t do it. I love animals and for their sake I want to ask you to give them their freedom. Tomorrow I will write a bit about the cases in which I believe it is fine to have a pet opposed to those which I described today.

Making Pets of Animals takes away their natural Freedom – 29 Jun 11

Yesterday I wrote about the cruel way that animals, which are only there to be eaten, are kept, stuffed into cages or buildings for livestock where they only have a tiny bit of space for themselves. I sometimes think that having a pet is in many cases not a lot better than this. It goes against nature, too, and although it may not be as cruel, the lives of many pets are miserable.

I don’t agree with the idea of having pets. People have dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, rats and mice but also reptiles like snakes in all sizes or certain kinds of lizards.

One of my main concerns is that this is not the natural way of life for any animal. We are forcing them to live in a way that they are not meant to live. In nature, rabbits could run around, they could jump and dig and they could find their own food. You take them, place them in a small cage of a square meter or maybe two and there it is going to spend its whole life, because you want to have a rabbit for your entertainment.

In the same way, a cat is a free animal, strolling around and exploring its area, hunting mice, birds and other animals, living freely. You come and take such a cat and make it live in a three-room apartment or even on less space for the rest of its life. The apartment is in a big city, on the tenth floor and has no garden. This cat will never leave the flat and never get to see the real world. Do you really think that this is a nice life for a cat?

I once had a conversation with a woman about this topic. She herself kept a cat in her very small apartment. When I asked her about it she said that this cat never got to know anything else. It was born in an apartment, was sold or given to her, moved into her apartment and thus cannot miss the real life. It never saw a garden so it doesn’t matter that it will never see one. It doesn’t care that it lives on less than 50 square meters because it never had more than that. But imagine doing the same to a human person! Keep a boy in a flat from the moment he is born and never let him out. Wouldn’t you say it is inhumane and like a prison? He would not know anything else either! You would never to this to a person but you think you are allowed to do this to a cat. It is against the nature of the cat!

We create an animal for our entertainment and give it pain for the rest of its life. This is not taking care of nature, this is not how we should live. We should think more of the animal than of us. Would the animal like living like this? Can I give the animal everything that it would have in free nature, too?

There are many related thoughts on my mind and I will write them down in the next days.

Violent Sports – Aggression only for Entertainment – 13 Mar 09

Yesterday I talked about this horrible incident at a German school and today there was a big article in our newspaper about this topic. I talked about this with my friends and our guests at the Ashram and some questions and topics came up. There was the question why nobody realized that this boy was so upset or aggressive. There must have been some indication that he needed support. Why was there nobody who could help him before this happened?

We read that the boy’s father was in a club where shooting is a kind of sport. But why is there a club where shooting is a sport? There are some ‘sports’ which are so violent that I do not understand why anybody likes doing that. Boxing for example. Where is the fun in hurting someone and why do people enjoy watching this violence and aggression? And how much money is in this sport! This modern wrestling which some people like to watch is even worse. WWF, it is all set up and a big drama of violence and aggression. And again, how much money goes to this, if you only see how many people pay for watching that! Why do people create a game, a sport, which is so destructive?

This is called a sport and it is entertainment shown in TV. With this you are planting the seed in a young mind that violence is fun, is entertaining. These sports and the way how people act remind of the time when mankind needed to fight for survival and only the strongest could survive. People are acting like animals, but even worse, because animals fight in order to have food and to survive. They protect their area and their children and this is how they fight but we don’t need this violence anymore. Why, otherwise, do we call ourselves civilized?

I want to invite you to share your thoughts on this topic. You can write an article on our author’s page or you can send an email to

Today’s food was sponsored by Celina, our friend from Germany. It is her birthday and the whole Ashram family wishes her all the best for a new year in her life.

Click here to see pictures of the lunch