Experience of Life brought our Ashram Boys back – 2 Sep 16

Today I would like to write about a bunch of boys, three to be exact, who have been in our lives and hearts for a long time – and two of them have recently come back to our Ashram as well! Anybody who has been here in the past six or seven years knows whom I am talking about: Pawan, Mohit and Jaysingh!

I wrote to you about Jaysingh nearly two years ago. In that time, we were a bit shaken about his decision to leave the Ashram but accepted it as what it was: the wish of a 16-year-old to explore the world. Following his example, even if a bit less drastically, our second boy, Mohit, did the same about half a year later, announcing that he would now rather stay with his family in their village and go to school there.

Pawan remained with us and had his own adventures, changing schools here and finding his place again as the oldest of the ‘Ashram boys’. Life went on, we kept ourselves busy and opened Ammaji’s Ayurvedic Restaurant.

About three months into operations, my father told me of a phone call he had received: Jaysingh was asking whether he could come by to visit. Of course, we replied! It would be nice to see him after so long and catch up on what he had been doing! He arrived and we found out that he had really had a taste of the ‘real world’ out there in the meantime: he had travelled to his various brothers and cousins living across the country and had worked in a few places to earn his money: as a daily labourer carrying sand and bricks for example and also in a saree factory.

It was this experience that made him ask me one thing: ‘Could I come and work here?’ He had seen how things really are in factories in India! Long working hours and cruel working conditions. His employer and supervisors didn’t scare away from hitting their employees for their mistakes. The machines were dangerous – if you didn’t take care, you could get your fingers cut off. Older workers complained about breathing problems, bad coughing and the like, all caused by the chemicals used for dying the sarees. With the long working hours, Jaysingh was always tired – once he had fallen asleep while working at the machine, ruining 80 sarees by this! Of course his employer was angry and hit him. Another time, a fire erupted and he as well as his coworkers had to climb up to a window to jump out from there and save themselves!

Briefly said, he has made his experiences and decided that he would rather come here and ask whether we would take him back, offering him work. He had been sending money home and would like to keep that up, too! Of course, for one of our boys we definitely have a place and he can even learn something as well! As a helper in the kitchen he will soon have gained some knowledge and experience which can go a long way for his life!

News travel fast, even in India and that’s how soon after Jaysingh joined us here, we got another boy returning to his second home: Mohit, too, rejoined us here. Both boys now learn how to make pizza, pasta and more! And what is great, too, is that they agreed to do some private schooling by the side, too – to finish their high school!

It is great to have them back – and they are happy, too!

Never experienced God? Don’t worry, you are not alone! – 6 Jun 13

We are in Luneburg now and staying with Michael, Andrea and Ravael. I have been here so often, have spent so much beautiful time here that I was very happy to reach Luneburg again. Just like always, this time, too, Michael and I work together with his patients. One aspect that we talked about with one of them yesterday is quite interesting.

After a short introduction of who I am, Michael’s patient asked me: ‘Do you believe in God?’ I answered ‘No, not anymore.’ Of course the next question was ‘Why not?’ and my straight-forward reply was: ‘Because I don’t experience God.’

It is true, I don’t have any experience of God and the experience of others cannot help me. It does not make me believe in God if I read that Jesus talked to God, Mohammed experienced God or Tulsi or Surdas felt God. It even does not help me if my best friend tells me he has lots of experiences with God – as long as I have not had any, I cannot say that I believe in God! If you experience fear, it doesn’t make me afraid. If you eat something, it does not fill my stomach. In the same way, I don’t believe in God just because you do!

We are not actually talking here about the question whether God exists or not but we are talking about the experience of God. Even if God exists, I have not made the experience that he does and until I make that experience, I will also claim that whatever you experienced and believe that it was God, is only an illusion.

Yes, I think that religion created the atmosphere that makes people think they experience God when they have difficulties explaining something. Religion creates an image, a picture of God and tells people in which situations you will be able to feel him. They are already suggesting when and how you can have the experience of God – it is thus not a surprise that religious people have such experiences often. When you take yourself out of this field of suggestions, you may have the same feeling that I have: that you don’t experience God even then when religion tells you that you would.

Many people say for example that you can experience God when a person dies who was close to you. When my mother died, just half a year ago, I was by her side. I felt how life left her body, how her limbs got heavier and her breathing stopped. I was there but I did not feel God getting her soul, I did not see any angels stepping down and I did not see a small ball of light unite with a big one. I was with her the whole night and all the time until we burned her but I did not experience anything divine.

Maybe some of the people around me did. Some of the religious people among our staff, some of the mourners who were with us from the early morning hours. Even if one experiences God, it will always be an individual experience.

And in my eyes, this experience could as well be an illusion, a production of your mind which has received lots of information on how such an experience should look like. It doesn’t mean that what you experience is real though! If someone takes drugs, he may experience a lot similar illusions. He sees angels, aura of people and things, he may even talk to God. You would say he is high and his experience was not real. I could say the same about you – your emotions made you high and your experience was not real.

That is why I don’t believe in God. I believe in love because I have seen how love can accomplish great things. I feel that things work with love. What God is for you could be love for me. I experience it and say it is real for me – and whatever you experience is real for you!

Experiencing the Ashram without wrong Expectations – 11 Oct 12

At the Ashram we are very busy at the moment – we are having the house full of participants of the Ayurveda Yoga Holiday and everybody is enjoying their time together. The participants have their massages, do their yoga and in between they just take part in the Ashram life. Yesterday evening I talked with one of the participants about being here. She loves her time here and said what a beautiful place the Ashram was, with the children who live here, those who come to learn at school and the daily massages that she receives. She asked ‘Who would not enjoy that?’

Well, I explained her about our experiences and what kind of people would really not be very happy here. There are religious, spiritual and superstitious people who come to India for having a religious experience. They go to an Ashram because they want to be in a daily schedule of rituals and ceremonies. They want to go to that Ashram in that time when the guru is there so that they can get his blessing and maybe witness a miracle. But even if they go when he is not present, they have a daily program of chanting, praying and offering at the altar. In this way they get their blessing, too.

This is not what we can give anybody. We don’t have a temple. We don’t have a four o’clock morning ceremony and we don’t do chanting or rituals. We don’t even have a guru! No, there is nothing in this place that could satisfy such expectations.

We have had guests here at the Ashram who had come with wrong expectations and who then obviously could not enjoy their free time or playing with the children. They did not feel like joining our family for nice talks among friends but wanted me to give a speech about spiritual enlightenment or similar topics.

This is how we started giving as much information about us online as possible. Who are we? How are we different? What can you expect here and what should you not expect? I even wrote a diary entry characterizing those people whom we welcome and one for those whom we don’t welcome.

Finally, when someone gets in touch over email, the other one usually gives a short introduction of himself and if we get the idea that someone could have different expectations, we explain right away who we are. Or better, who we aren’t. We tell people straight-out that we believe our Ashram is not the right place for them and it would not be a nice experience for them and neither for us if they came here.

With this step, things changed and less and less people came who did not know about our philosophy of freedom and non-religion. More and more people came who were actually looking for an Ashram free of the religious atmosphere, a place where they are not forced to believe in a guru or take part in ceremonies but where they can organize their day the way they wish and simply get to know a loving Indian family.

I am happy to hear of our guests that they came because they read that we are how we are. After all, we welcome them in our home and it feels good to be with people who agree with your main ideas of life. And then it is nice to share time with each other, to talk, to laugh, to play, to dance and celebrate.

Read experiences of guests at the Ashram

Violent Teachers teaching about non-violent Gandhi – Corporal Punishment in Indian Schools – 3 Oct 12

Yesterday, on Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday, I shortly mentioned his non-violent approach to make a change. He believed that a change can be made without any violent acts. Unfortunately Gandhi’s idea of change without violence has not reached Indian schools.

In fact, the opposite is the case. A recent report shows that in 99% of India’s schools physical punishment is still exercised. A very common opinion among teachers and also parents is that this is necessary for children to improve in school and most of all to get better manners and discipline. The consequence, in the theory, is that children once they are adult, thank their teachers for beating them because this is how they finally learned in school.

The real result looks different: if you just take one of last week’s newspapers, you will read that a teacher in Jammu, in North India, beat a student of 9th grade into the belly. The boy is in hospital with an injured kidney. Pick up another newspaper and you read about a 10th grade student in Haryana who did not know the answer to a question. The teacher struck him with a stick 40 times. Again, the child is now in hospital and the teacher is absconding.

In India such things happen all the time. Teachers beat children, a teacher cuts the ears of children with blades, children come home with bruises and injuries, have to go to hospital and sometimes even die. There is a law against corporal punishment – but it has obviously not been implemented.

As I have told before in my blog, I have personally experienced physical punishment in school and I remember several teachers who just enjoyed beating children and searched for an excuse to punish them. I am still today angry and I can very clearly say that I never felt thankfulness. Not then and not now.

It does not stop with beating children, though. I have seen with my own eyes how teachers use the excuse of hitting for touching girls. Today I would call it sexual harassment and maybe it gives some kind of sexual satisfaction to sick minds. Let me describe one such scene. We were sitting on the floor learning, the teacher next to a girl. When the girl made a mistake, the teacher pinched the girl so hard in her thigh that she screamed. This did not only happen once. Whenever I think of this scene now, I hate the memory, wishing I would have done something against it. But I was just a child, too.

No, corporal punishment has to stop, there is no question. It is never right to be violent towards children. They are small and weaker than you, so you hit them because they cannot hit you back. You want to make them afraid of you, the bigger one. I believe hitting children will make them less fearful. They will accept it and just think ‘What else can happen? I will just get beaten once or twice more.’ This was exactly the attitude of those children in my school who were beaten frequently!

Such old and barbaric ways are not acceptable in today’s society. That is why in many countries of the world corporal punishment is banned and there are new approaches to teach children in a non-violent atmosphere. Those countries have very good education standards without beating a single child! But in our country, the country of Mahatma Gandhi, whom the world sees as an example of non-violence, the law is of no use, it is not being implemented.

We are positive however that there will be a change and we actively do something to start this process of change! In our primary school we have implemented the law and taught our teachers how to teach without physical punishment. In the past five years we had to fire three teachers for this reason. There are other ways to show children that they are doing wrong without making them hate school. I believe children have to like their school and we have created such a place and such an atmosphere where children like to come every day. Without violence.

Don’t hide the Changes of your Life! Your Past is a Part of you! – 13 Sep 12

Day before yesterday I mentioned that I have done the Parikrama, the ten kilometer pilgrimage way around town, not only in walking but also with lying down after each three steps. I also said that I think I was crazy in that time.

I have received some feedback on this diary entry and before about previous ones, too, noticing how much I have changed, congratulating me for having come out of religion and also remarking that I accept this change and openly talk about what I have done before. Reading those mails and comments I thought it was time to write about changes in our lives again – and about how we see our lives before that time.

You know that I am very open to talk about my life – be that my past or my presence. I honestly tell about the big change that I have gone through from being a guru and a very religious person to being a non-religious simple businessman, blog author, husband and father. I write about how things now but I am also not afraid of telling of that time – and of the lessons I have learned.

Unfortunately people too often get ashamed of their past when they have made any big change. They think something completely different now than they did then and they now consider others who do the same as crazy or stupid. They actually think that they themselves were stupid, too – but they would not admit it. Instead, they hide their past. They try to remove all evidence of what they did, with their friends they have an unspoken agreement never to talk about that time or those actions and they stand there, a perfect person.

They are afraid that others could think the same as they do themselves – that they were crazy, naïve, a little bit stupid or maybe even fully stupid. They want to present their surrounding the image of a perfect person, without any mistakes, who had a past that was just the same as everyone else’s. They want to be perfect and are afraid that others could judge them. It is of course again a matter of lacking self-esteem. You are you and you are a product of your past, why do you want to hide a part of who you are?

You need to realize that everyone has learned from his past. For some of us the lessons were life-changing and have turned life into a completely different direction. Every single one of us has some event in his past that shows how much he has changed. And I am sure the big majority of people has done something in his past that he would now call stupid.

If we all have this in our past, why can’t we admit it openly and honestly? Why do you have to be ashamed of your past? Just accept it as it is, don’t fight and struggle with it and don’t hide it. You obviously don’t have to go around and tell it to everybody but if the topic comes up, why do you lie and hide? If you just show the facts as they are, you are honest and others will know it. If you hide it and it comes out anyway, you will look very ridiculous for trying to cover up your past.

You should not hide what you have done and how you have changed your life. There is especially one further reason why you should even share what you have experienced: if others can learn something from listening to your story, if they can understand why you changed from one mindset to another and also think different, get off the wrong way or are prevented from doing something stupid, it was well worth it!

Does modern Technology spoil or enhance your travelling Experience? – 23 Aug 12

Modern technologies and especially the internet have changed many areas of our lives completely. I have always been a traveller and of course here at the Ashram we meet travellers all the time – which is why I get to reflect about the impact that technology has on travelling.

The first and main thing is that the whole world is now close to you wherever you are if you just have a computer and an internet connection. You can not only get information about every place on this earth, about the people there, the climate, the landscapes, the sights and the specialties but you can see the most beautiful pictures and videos of those countries, islands, oceans, mountains and rivers. You can even meet the people of those places online – as if you were there.

Realizing this, a question could arise: Is it actually still necessary to take the costs and effort to travel to another place on this earth if we can have it all in our home?

Not long ago we had a guest here at the Ashram who said that modern technology even spoiled travelling for her. In earlier times when you had not seen documentaries about every place of the world and when you could not look everything up online, you came to a new place like Mumbai and were simply amazed. You had no proper idea how it would be and you had experiences that you never thought you could have. This lady is of the opinion that nowadays you don’t get to see anything new. You have the feeling that you have seen everything and nothing can be that amazing anymore.

This is the second question: Does modern technology actually spoil your travelling experience? Is travelling less fun because of the vast possibilities online to see it all before?

I actually have a very clear opinion and answer to these two questions. A picture, a video or even a live video broadcast can give you a good impression and feeling for a place – but it can never replace the real experience!

All our visitors go from here to see the Taj Mahal, mostly in a day trip to Agra. Everybody has seen hundreds or even thousands of pictures of this famous building before even thinking of coming to India. During trip preparations it comes up so often that you think you have seen so much of it that you don’t need to go there anymore – but everyone goes and nobody ever regrets. Each single person who goes there is amazed by this great place, the architecture, the beauty and this majestic building regardless of the many pictures. It is a feeling that you have at this place that you cannot get from any picture.

There are simply things that you cannot transmit through a cable! A feeling, a smell, the real noise, the weather, the people, the culture of a place! Until you don’t breathe India’s air, you have not been here, you don’t know it! You see a nice picture of a beach with an ocean and a palm tree but until you are not there, you cannot feel the sand under your feet, feel the heat of the sun on your skin and be happy about the shadow you found under the palm tree. Until you are not at the top of that mountain, you cannot know the amazing feeling of having climbed it and looking around as if you were at the top of the world.

The same holds true for people and their culture – you can experience culture only when you are there.

No, travelling will always bring you a unique experience. Technology is great because it brings you the world to your home and enables also people to see the world who cannot travel. But it will not ever replace the real travelling experience!

Don’t try to convince others – they have to make their own Experience – 15 Jun 12

In the last days I wrote a few articles that illustrate my opinion towards religion, scriptures and all the nonsense that comes with it. Sometimes that nonsense is not only funny but can turn dangerous as well, regardless which religion you are talking about. I had expected these diaries to be criticized and that is exactly what happened. People are in denial, they blame insertions and translations and they just don’t want to see the truth. I mostly don’t argue and discuss much. I state my point and I let people make their own mind about it. Why? Because I don’t think that I can actually convince someone if I argue about it.

It was never my nature to fight and to argue, to stick with my point and defend it against endless attacks from the outside, trying to prove it from every different angle with the effort of making another person understand. I don’t tend to persuade people and I really hardly have an argument with anybody. It may have happened a few times – online or in person – and I mostly regretted wasting so much energy once the argument was over. It was a clear waste of time because the other one had not moved even a tiny bit from their stand, nor had I from mine.

If you see it realistically, how should you be able to convince someone with one page of your writing? Or with some comments on a social networking site like facebook? Even in real life, out of the computer, talking to someone who is sitting in front of you, a discussion of half an hour is hardly ever going to change the other person’s mind.

Just one example: I talked to a friend and I pointed out the different bad effects of religion. After some time he said okay, there are many bad ones but there are more positive ones! I asked him to name them but he could not find even one. Nevertheless he did not want to accept it. You can also talk as much as you like about the injustice of the caste system – if someone believes in it, you won’t get him to see that it is wrong!

The reason is that people have to make their own experience in order to change. Discussions are good for learning. You can find out different points of view, you can practice presenting your point but you will hardly be able to convince anybody.

It is kind of obvious, too: how could you, by writing a few lines or talking a few minutes, erase ideas which have been created over the course of many years or were learned while growing up? Change takes place only when a person is ready and really wants to, otherwise prejudices and previous opinions are too strong. The other one may even understand your arguments and your point of view may feel right to him but he will not accept it, especially when it comes to his belief. It doesn’t matter how great you are in discussing and how nicely you are able to put your argument, the other one will not change only because of your words.

So this is why I don’t even try it. Better don’t waste your time and energy. You can state your point of view, tell what is your opinion and make clear why it is like this. But don’t argue or defend yourself. If someone wants to think differently, it is fine. And whenever the other person will make an experience like you, something that makes him realize what you have seen before, he will think of your words and there will be room for him to accept what you had told. If you argue and insist, his ego may stop him from accepting the truth. If you just lay out your points, display them and show them, he can choose to believe in them whenever he is ready.

When everything goes wrong – but we don’t know why – 7 Mar 12

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!

Valuing everything only with Money can hurt Feelings of others – 20 Oct 11

Some time ago I told about people who have left my life or with whom I could not stay together anymore because they were very religious and I was not. Their expectation on my religious views was too high. Another attitude with which I have always had problems in my life is some people’s idea to value everything by money.

Interestingly I have experienced this especially with rich people. You might think that a poor person would think of everything how much it is worth but often it is those who can afford nearly everything they want to have, who calculate every action and every feeling in financial values.

I have made the experience several times that someone gets close to me and there is a nice relation but then problems arise because for the other one, everything is about money. When I realize this and feel this, it feels strange. It can even hurt when you have an emotion and you express it through an action of love and you get a reply of money.

Unfortunately there are many people who think about everything in a certain currency. This attitude makes people stingy, too, especially people who have more than enough. You may now say that they became rich only through their stinginess but that is not really admirable to me. Who would not like to be rich and have much money? I think everybody would be happy to live in financial abundance but the attitude towards money has to be right, too. What did your stinginess bring you except for money? Are you happy because of stinginess?

When such a person, rich, stingy and valuing everything with money, gives something to a poor person, he will always believe he gave a lot. It doesn’t matter whether he gave twenty Rupees to a beggar or he gave a few Dollars more tip, he is proud of this action and believes to have done a big charity. What he doesn’t realize is that the beggar knows exactly that he could have given ten or even hundred times more without having a financial problem. He could have tipped much more and the waiter also knows this. Such a person however expects great thankfulness for this small money. A really generous heart gives without expectation and without stinginess.

At this point I have to make clear that I have met many rich people who were really generous and had no hesitation to give at any time to someone who was in need. It is an experience that wealth creates another attitude in many people but it is by far not everyone who is affected by this problem.

Don’t value everything with money. There are different ways of seeing the world and money is not the most important thing. If you want to give, give generously and don’t expect anything back. If you get something, appreciate it with your heart, not with your purse.

You never wasted Time even if you have believed in fake Gurus – 13 Oct 11

Yesterday I wrote that there are many people who have been disappointed by their gurus and lost their faith in things related but they keep on selling the same books, ceremonies, rituals and magic tricks simply because it is also their own business and they earn money with it. There are however also others who do not have any business but who still don’t leave their belief in fake magic tricks although they have left their guru. What is the reason for their behavior?

I have met many of these people and I have told you of them before, too. They don’t want to have anything to do with their guru anymore but they still say that he has some supernatural powers. They believe he is fraud and wrong but they also show others that they believe in the magic that he propagates. Why?

A very big reason for this kind of behavior is the amount of time they have invested into following this guru. There are so many people who have spent ten, fifteen or even twenty years with a guru, then get to know something about him or make an experience and realize that they cannot go along with him anymore. Then they are there, without the secure and safe community of other followers, and feel devastated. They feel as if they fell into a big deep hole and nothing makes any sense anymore.

It is a very bad situation for many and I have been in touch with a lot of people who have gone through this. Each of them had to start putting his world back together at some point. And none of them wants to feel that he wasted all this time! People come to me for advice and they cry, asking ‘What should I feel now? Have I wasted all those years of my life? I believed in something and now I find that it is not true!’ They don’t want to feel that they have wasted their time and this is why many of them accept that a little bit of it must have been true and right. They accept a part of the whole story and make themselves believe in Siddhis or magic so that they have the feeling that not everything is lost.

Please don’t think in this way. You don’t need to fool yourself now, just to feel better! It doesn’t matter how many years you have invested, they are not lost! You have not wasted your time but you have made experiences, your grew stronger and now you know the truth! If you had not made this experience, how would you know the truth today? Accept the truth and be honest about it. Those years made you grow.

We have a saying in Hindi which would translate to: “Whenever you wake up, it is morning.” This is what I tell everybody who approaches me when they are in such a situation. It doesn’t matter whether that is six o’clock, eight o’clock or ten o’clock. You wake up and a new day is there to live. It is never late and time is never wasted. Accept your experience and grow with it.