Religion and Dowry Tradition Leave Baby Girls Unwanted – 29 Mar 11

Yesterday I explained you the system of dowry in India and mentioned that it is the reason for many more problems in India. The dowry is for example one of the reasons why many couples wish their babies to be boys, not girls. Let me explain this to you.

It is normal in India that the bride leaves her family and moves to the groom’s home after their wedding. The wedding is thus a big celebration but the parents of the bride also say goodbye to their daughter on that day. I already told how the wedding gifts that they gave to the groom turned into a pre-decided amount of gifts. I described how a rich bride’s family can give several cars, golden jewelry and a lot of cash on top to the groom and his family. This may be an amazing spectacle when there are rich families marrying their children. What happens however when the bride’s family is not that rich?

Even if the girl’s family is not rich, they try their best to get a good husband for their daughter. They really want to make sure she has a good life and as a high dowry can bring a husband with a good job who will be able to provide well for their daughter, they do everything to be able to give enough.

When a baby is born and it is a girl, the parent start saving, practically the moment she leaves her mother’s womb. Companies offer complete saving plans for girls because of this tradition. Some people however don’t manage to really save a lot and so, when the wedding day is coming closer, they take loans in order to get enough money together. Some people even sell their property, their inheritance, for their girl because it is her once-in-a-lifetime chance.

So if the baby is a girl, they know they have to start saving whereas when the baby is a boy, they know they can ‘sell his value’ at the time of his wedding. This may not be the only reason why they are happy about having a boy. Boys stay in the family, often run the business of their father and they keep the family name and thus preserve the family tradition. The sons and their families will be there and take care of the parents when they get old. And on top of all these benefits they get the dowry of the bride!

Even the Hindu religion says that you need to have male offspring, otherwise you will not go to heaven in between your incarnations. Your lineage will not be carried on and there is nobody who will burn your body once you are dead, as only men usually go to burn the bodies of their elders. In Hinduism there are many confusing ideas such as this one which make people want to have boys and not girls.

Due to this preference of boys, it is now also illegal for doctors in India to tell the gender of unborn children which they can see in the ultrasound picture. With this law abortions of girls, simply because of their gender, shall be stopped.

And so Indian parents try again and again to have a boy and not a girl. Unfortunately the woman has a lot of pressure through this and no way to do anything for ‘success’. If she gives birth to a girl and is in a family that is not very loving, she can quickly become the subject of the anger of her parents-in-law. This anger shows in comments and can even become violent.

This is just another reason why the system of dowry should be extinguished from this society.

Celebrations are not a Matter of Religion but of Love – 26 Dec 10

After I described our Christmas celebration in yesterday’s and day before yesterday’s diary entries, some people were surprised that we actually celebrate Christmas. When this question came up, I answered lightly that we take every reason we can to celebrate. And of course it is true, look at what we have celebrated in the last year: New Year, Holi, Easter, Janmashtami which is Krishna’s birthday, Radhashtami which is Radha’s birthday, Diwali, Advent, Christmas and of course we will celebrate New Year’s Eve. You could as well count everybody’s birthday which we celebrated and each full moon day because we had a full moon meditation each time.

Of course there is more to it than just presents and good food. When I say ‘a reason to celebrate’ I mean to have one more occasion on which everybody is happy, everybody is together and we do something that lets us all feel the love among each other. So if someone close to me suggests to celebrate a certain occasion which he or she loves to celebrate in a certain way, I will be happy to join because a happy atmosphere, joy and laughter unites people.

As I don’t believe in any religion, I actually have the choice: I can either decide not to celebrate any religious occasion or to celebrate every occasion. I believe that all religions are one. For me there is only one God that unites them all and that is love. If someone comes and tells me that their God personifies love, their God or their God’s son has a message of love to spread among people, as I heard of Jesus Christ, and everybody would like to celebrate the birth of this man of love, why should I not join this celebration? We are celebrating love. While we were exchanging gifts and later when we were sitting at the fire, I felt emotional several times, simply because of this love that everybody has for each other.

So why not celebrate love, without the limit and boundary if you belong to a certain tradition or not?

Stress-free Christmas Celebration at the Ashram – 24 Dec 10

Today is a day of celebration here at the Ashram. It is the 10th anniversary of me coming out of the cave. This is how in the morning people started coming to the Ashram, sitting together and in midday having food together. The children of the school were the first ones to eat and afterward all friends and guests sat down. Everybody is in a festive mood and the food was wonderful again!

After lunch, those who had eaten left again except for those who stay at the Ashram. These are two of my school friends and their families as well as Thomas and Iris from Wiesbaden and HC, Annick and their children from Bocholt. They all came here to India to celebrate Christmas with us at the Ashram.

When we were sitting together just a short while ago, my friends mentioned ‘It is so nice that guests here come, eat and then leave again!’ They told that in Germany hosts often have a funny issue: the guests enjoy it so much that they don’t want to leave! You have a dinner at seven in the evening and at twelve o’clock the hosts would like to go to bed but all guests are still talking and sitting around. I laughed and said it would be horrible if so many guests were there for several hours! Come, eat, talk a bit and go. We were laughing about this difference.

Now in the afternoon I thought, I should better write the diary early, so we took a little break of the celebrations. The next step will be now to prepare the Christmas tree, put the presents underneath and start celebrating again with friends, songs, games and presents.

Sponsor a Child or Sponsor Food as a Christmas Present – 13 Dec 10

Ramona and I are at the moment in Germany, working and enjoying the time before Christmas with friends. Yashendu is in Taiwan, busy giving Yoga workshops and we all are looking forward to go to India next week, back to the Ashram to celebrate Christmas there. This year we will not only celebrate Christmas but also the 10th anniversary of the day that I came out of the cave after three years and 108 days. We are happy that we can welcome several friends in India to enjoy the day with them.

You, too, are probably preparing for the holidays, decorating the house and buying gifts for friends and family. Also in this year I want to give you a special idea for a Christmas present for yourself or your loved ones. Simply sponsor a child or sponsor food for 150 poor children!

We have been working for more than a year to prepare a new system for our school children and sponsors. Now we are very happy to announce that it is finally ready. On our whole website you can now see how many children are un-sponsored and how many days are still free for sponsoring food:

"Sponsor

You see that you can look for yourself, how much support is needed and it is very easy to become part of our school and Ashram family. With this new system you can see the teachers, the Ashram staff and the children who already found sponsors like you. If, after seeing them online, you would like to see our Ashram and projects personally, you are most welcome!

It is only possible for us to run all these projects for children because we have the support of friends and sponsors from around the globe. I am always very thankful to all sponsors and am happy to send a personal Mantra to each new sponsor as a gift for their support which is a big present to us and the children.

And isn’t it a great Christmas present to yourself or others: giving a child the possibility to learn reading, writing and more for a better future or feeding 150 children?

Birthday Celebration of Yashendu at the Ashram – 8 Aug 10

Today is Yashendu’s birthday and we have spent the day celebrating. He turned 30 but I think the 0 doesn’t count, it is just a 0, we can say 3 also, he is anyway our little prince here in the family. I think he also had as much fun as 3-year-old can have today.

We had a wonderful lunch and afterwards the children were invited to have lunch here even though it is Sunday. This was Thomas’ and Iris’ gift for Yashendu: food for the children. I love this idea. No matter how much money you spend on your birthday party, you will never see so many happy faces as you can see when feeding poor children. The children had trained with Ramona and they sang Happy Birthday for Yashendu before starting to eat.

Ramona had a new idea of how we could give Yashendu his presents and this is how in the afternoon, when the sun was not very hot anymore, you could see him walking through the garden, searching for his gifts, following some signs and hints that were hanging in the trees. Suraj and Chhotu were of course most happy about this idea and ran ahead of him, trying to be the first ones to discover the presents.
It was a lot of fun and when he had found all, he started unpacking, again of course with eager help of the small ones. After this, we started a water party outside, filled little balloons with water, had a pipe on the roof from which water showered down and then it even started raining.

Now we will have samosas, a special snack that Ammaji made especially for Yashendu’s birthday, and some dinner. It was a beautiful birthday that everybody enjoyed.

See pictures of Yashendu's birthday

Food and Education for Children – Your Christmas Gift – 17 Dec 09

Christmas is nearly there and like each year many people are still looking for presents for those whom they love. Often people tell me that they don’t know what to give as everybody already seems to have everything they need and more than that. This is how I want to give you again the idea to give something this year, which will make many hearts happy.

The children of the school are now done with their half-yearly exams and we all hope that they will get good marks and next year will study in the next higher class. However we don’t have the space to accommodate one more class.

This is how we decided to build new classrooms for the next years. The rooms will be the first floor of our school and you are invited to support this project with your donation. And it will not only be a donation! Each donor will receive a voucher of the amount of the donation which can be used in any of our chakra workshops and yoga workshops, wherever we are. These vouchers can be wonderful gifts for any yoga-loving friend or spiritual family member.

Please also remember that every small donation helps! And of course we will be happy to welcome you here some day to show you how everything is progressing and how the children are learning.
Click here to read more about our project and to support it
 

Can Child Sponsors bring Gifts? – 7 Apr 09

Once there was a sponsor from Australia who was sponsoring a girl and when she came to the Ashram she brought a gift for her. It was a pair of golden earrings. I stopped her from giving it to the child and said ‘Sorry, I cannot allow you to give this to the girl because for me all other children are also the same. Why does only one girl get a gift? Maybe you can give a gift to each child, then it is okay, but if you give it to one only, what will the rest of the children think? This will hurt their soft hearts. When we give gifts, we buy something for everybody and then we give it to all of them. And if you want we can go and buy something for everybody. That will be the best.’

She also understood my feelings and respected them. She said ‘You are right. I did not think in this way.’ If anybody asks if they can bring or send gifts for their sponsored children, we respect their feelings but have to say no because we do not want to make a difference in between the children. It is wonderful if you want to give something and you give it to everyone. In this way the love and compassion of a sponsor and someone who wants to help and support will flow naturally towards children and God, without any ego or possessiveness which could be fixed on one child. And of course someone only takes a sponsorship because they love the children of this world and want to help.

Holi – The Last and Biggest Day of Colour Madness – 11 Mar 09

This was the last day of Holi. As I told yesterday there was the fire ceremony last night and today in the morning everyone started from their home equipped with colour powder visiting all friends and relatives in the town, putting colour on older people’s feet and on friends’ faces. Everyone is out meeting and greeting others. It is the sense of this festival. Even if there was any issue, problem or anger in between two people, this will be dissolved in this festive atmosphere and this love and embrace of friends. This festival brings hearts together.

Lots of sweets are distributed, too. The colour madness reaches a climax and suddenly at two o’clock, everything will be over. All colour will stop, everyone will go home, clean the whole house and themselves and then dress up with new clothes. In the evening they go out again, even those who saved themselves from the colour, and go to temples or each other’s houses. They are greeting, singing and saying ‘Happy Holi’ to everyone. We also had lots of colours here at the Ashram and you can imagine from the picture of the girls how much colour was here.

Now I am looking forward to the distance healing meditation tonight in which I will connect with all my friends over the world. Su, whom you can see in the left of the picture also wrote an article about her time at the Ashram.
Click here to see pictures of Holi at the Ashram
Click here to read Su’s article

Celebration is Sharing Happiness – 27 Oct 08

As you know these are festival days and we all celebrate. Tomorrow there will be the peak of celebration. What exactly is a celebration? It is a celebration when you share your happiness. When you share your happiness it means you want to give, when you feel happy to give. Most of the times we feel happy when we take but true happiness is when you enjoy in giving. That is how you will see in many festivals that there is a tradition of giving gifts. On Diwali, too, you give new clothes, sweets, money and light. In this way you want to share your love and happiness with others. I am also sharing my love and happiness with all of you through this diary. 

Celebrate your Birthday by Donating Food for Children – 25 Oct 08

Today the kitchen prepared extra vegetables and a special kind of flat bread for the children because today’s food was sponsored. It was a birthday gift for a nun, Sister Mechtild from Germany, who had her 85th birthday. What can be a greater gift for this woman? I don’t know her in person but I know nuns devote their lives to God, to do good. For me God is in the children and I am sure the nun will also see it as a wonderful present.

I have told you already that many children actually come to school because they get a warm meal. Feeding children is one of the most satisfying things that you can do and it is a wonderful support for our school and Kindergarten when more and more people make this present to their loved ones or celebrate themselves in this way. We will be very thankful and we always appreciate this support from this kind of present.

We live in a time in which we often don’t know what to give as a gift because it seems that you already gave everything on other birthdays or on Christmas or because that person seems to have everything anyway. There are funny presents like buying a part of a star in the name of this person and often one just ends up buying some small thing that you can put in a cupboard to look at it and which doesn’t have any other sense. I think supporting a project for children, feeding them or giving them the chance to learn reading and writing is a present that makes much more sense and which makes several people happy at one time.

I like to take walks in the garden now in the afternoon because the weather is pleasantly warm without being hot. When I was walking I saw butterflies in the trees and the photographer in me awoke. I took some pictures and the result you can see on the bottom of this page. They have wonderful colours!

Click here to sponsor food for a day

Click here to see more pictures of today's lunch