A wonderful Combination of Music, Yoga, Dance and Making of Love – 24 Aug 14

I have told you about the two weeks in summer 2006 during which I gave lectures at the No Mind Festival in Angsbacka, Sweden. I mentioned that the visitors of this festival really enjoyed their time, that they were easy-going and relaxed. And today I would like to add something to that: a lot of sex was had in those two weeks!

Yes, a lot of people were sleeping with each other during those two weeks of festival time. They came there to have a great time and what is the thing most people enjoy the most? Right!

No, really, I am not joking. There were new couple constellations to be seen every day, people got in touch during the day and in the evenings around the fires, they got closer and took the first steps. Often, they left together in direction of the tents. For some of them, I had the impression that this was what they had come for.

At this point I want to add something very important: when I write such lines, some of my readers will think what I describe is something bad. Some may even think it is bad that I was at such an event at all. And some may have the impression that I also think this is wrong. That I am talking bad about this festival or its visitors.

You got a very wrong impression, if you think this. When I write about people having sex, I tell about it, as I see it from my eyes. When you hear it, you hear it with your ears. I however really and honestly believe that this is very natural and beautiful!

On an event like this, you meet like-minded people, more than you could ever meet when going out in your town! After all, they came because they are interested in the same things that you are interested in! On top of that there are a lot of workshops which are all about the fact that you should accept your sexuality. I gave a lecture on ‘Sex and Freedom’ for example, there were tantra workshops and everywhere the message that you should just give in to your feelings.

So if you feel good, if you feel attracted to someone and the other one feels the same, why not enjoy a night together? If it then goes for longer, great! If not, also fine! If I had had these kind of feelings for someone at this festival, I might have done the same – and not thought anything wrong about it! I was single as well – but as a workshop leader, I had another responsibility and didn’t want to get closely involved with people I worked with either.

Before you now get the impression that this festival was all about sex, let me stop your imagination. As I described last week, there were a lot of wonderful workshops, lectures, yoga, painting, much music and beautiful dance in the surrounding of amazing nature. The possibility to be with each other, enjoy one’s time and get in touch not only with others but also with oneself. People were happy.

That’s how I remember those two weeks of the No Mind Festival as a great time. I personally got to know really many people, including some good friends with whom I am still connected today.

Giving an Indian Musician the Opportunity of his Life by taking him to the West – 8 Dec 13

I already told you that in the year 2005 the musician whom I had taken along at the beginning of the year to my Europe journey had disappointed me with his attitude. I had taken the decision not to take him along anymore. I knew however about the benefits of having a musician in my program – music is always great – so when I went to Europe again in the end of 2005, I was looking again for a musician to take along.

I don’t know if you are aware of how big an opportunity this is for just about any musician in India. It is a dream to be offered a program in the west, a chance to travel the world and get famous – or at least known – out of India! Once you made to the west, they think, there is gold lying on the streets, all roads to success, wealth and happiness are open to you and whenever you just get a hint of a chance, grab it and don’t let it go!

It is not surprising that musicians think this way and I guess it is partly even true. In India there are uncountable mediocre, a lot of good and many very good musicians. It is a very big country and not every musician who would be qualified actually receives the recognition and acknowledgement that would suit their talent and practice. Once you get a stage in the west however, together with an established other performer, be that a musician, a guru, a lecturer or anything similar, you suddenly have the chance to show your abilities to a market that is not yet satisfied and to a huge number of new contacts. For many musicians, their first journey to the west is the beginning of a successful international career.

For many however it is their first and last trip because they are not open enough for the other culture, because money is actually not lying around on the road for everyone to just pick it up or because they really are not as talented and gifted as the person thought who took them along.

They all try however and that’s how I have been asked millions of times by nearly every Indian musician I know whether I would take them on one of my tours around the world. I was thus not lacking the choice when I was looking for a musician in 2005. I had taken players for different instruments along with me to different countries at different times and now tried to learn from my experience while selecting one for this trip.

I finally chose a musician who had travelled with me in India already, whom I thus knew personally and about whom I could tell that he had enough talent and practice for the work that I had for him. He was overjoyed to hear from me and immediately made his plans to come along. It didn’t take long and he had a visa, a ticket and his suitcase ready.

I had a new musician – and of course once more, I made new experiences with him but that is something I will tell you about next week.

When my Musicians did not get a Visa to play in my Program – 28 Apr 13

In summer 2005 I finally had the big program in Dublin which we had been planning for more than half a year. A lot of preparations had been going on before the event as the organizer, my Irish friend, was expecting huge numbers of visitors. It was my task to get musicians for the event and I also planned to bring some yoga teachers to help with the yogic part of the program. I ran into quite a problem though!

I knew a whole group of musicians in India very well, as they had been travelling with me to my lectures all over India. It was them whom I wanted to invite to the program in Ireland. They were a group of six or seven musicians and they would play flute, sitar, tabla, sarangi, which is an Indian violin and some side instruments and one of them was a singer.

Obviously, they would need visas for coming to Ireland at all, which I told to the organizer. I had enquired and told him exactly what papers were needed. They were prepared and sent to India. I then gave my musicians the instructions what they needed to do and they started the application process.

The date of the program was getting closer, now only one week was left to the big day. Then there was a phone call from India and the shocking news: the embassy had refused their visa application. The musicians did not get the permission to travel to Ireland. What should I do now?

I was just happy I had not booked their flights! Oh well, that’s life, sometimes things go different than you planned and you have to make other arrangements. That’s what I started doing. After thinking a little bit about what to do, I decided that I definitely needed musicians, as it was going to be a big program with workshops the whole day long. People need the break after a lecture, some music makes the atmosphere light and also during meditations, music just helps people relax. For the vocals there was a singer from England whom I had met half a year ago when I was shortly in London. She had anyway planned to come but she was the only musician whom we had now. So I had to somehow find musicians with instruments, preferably Indian instruments, who could improvise and had time and the permission to come to Ireland the next week.

I started phoning some friends. A Dutch tabla player from Amsterdam who had played in my program before was immediately ready to come! He was happy about the opportunity and said he would ask some of his friends, too. He called some time later and told that he knew a flute player in Germany who agreed to join us! So we had a nice group together already but if I could just find one person with a string instrument, it would be perfect, I thought!

I was already in Ireland for some other program and thus kept on spreading the message there, too, that I was still searching for musicians. When member of the technical team finally approached me and told me of a friend who played the sitar, I was sure we were now complete!

It was quite exciting and even the media had picked up the news of the visa problem. They made some really funny headlines of it but I was happy – I had a great international music group and they did a wonderful job on the event!

When my Indian Musician had to learn how to use a western Toilet – 6 Jan 13

When I was travelling in Germany and Europe in spring and summer 2005, I had quite a full plan already with workshops, lectures and meditations in different cities. I had made the rough plans already while in India and was happy to see the program evolving. When it was clear that I would be pretty busy in that time, I decided to arrange something more for my programs: a live musician.

I had always done program with musicians because music simply creates a wonderful atmosphere. Music can help people relax, to go in meditation or to just feel good. It makes an already nice evening even better. In the past I had often asked local musicians, who had told me about their talents, whether they would like to play in my programs. Now I decided to take along a musician from India, as I had previously done for a program in London or when I had been travelling within India. I talked with my organizers, asked them to write an official invitation letter and thus arranged the visa for him.

This musician had never been out of India and was obviously happy that I had invited him to come and play Bansuri, the Indian bamboo flute, in my programs. There were formalities to be done and although they were not an obstacle and he received his visa without problem, I was already in Germany in that time. I was working in another town and thus asked friends from Mainz whether they could pick up my musician from the airport in Frankfurt. They were musicians themselves and of course they were happy to welcome an Indian colleague in their home! They picked him up and let him stay one or two days with them to have time to arrive in this country – and so that they had time to share music with each other.

The time went by quickly and they picked him up, enjoyed some time with him and finally placed him into a train to Cologne where I was staying at that time. If you meet my friends from Mainz however and ask them about the time when my musician stayed with them, they will laugh and remember their completely inexperienced Indian guest at their home.

They tell that my flute player had asked them for a bucket on the first day after his arrival. My friend thought he might want to wash something in it or was used to shower with a bucket, so she simply gave him one and yes, he placed it into the bathroom. She did not think further about it but the next time, when she had to use the toilet, she entered the room, locked the door behind her, pulled down her pants, sat down on the seat – and immediately jumped up again with a cry of surprise: the toilet seat was completely wet! He had not understood how a toilet flush works and had filled buckets of water to pour them into the toilet, soaking the complete bathroom along with it! This story, accompanied by my friend’s vivid depiction of what happened, always causes laughs around a table!

Well, they made sure my friend would not float further people’s bathrooms by explaining how a toilet flush works. That may seem a small thing to learn but it is definitely important for the comfort of the people who sit on the toilet after you!

Experiences and Impressions from the Himalaya Journey 2012 – 23 Apr 12

On Friday Yashendu arrived well in Wiesbaden, Germany. He will spend the next two months travelling and working in Europe. Ramona and I also used to go to Germany around this time of the year but as I told before, we will now stay here at the Ashram with our baby girl. For Ramona it will be the first experience of a hot summer in Vrindavan. And it will be hot – until 48 or 50 degrees centigrade! Many Indians flee the hot weather and go further north, into the Himalayas, where it is nicely cool. It has actually been only ten days that Yashendu has come back from the mountains together with the group of the Himalaya Journey.

We have received wonderful feedback from the group, have seen their pictures and heard stories of the funny, exciting and breathtaking experiences they had. They had started from the Ashram after our big celebration for Apra and in the following ten days experienced the Himalayas in all their beauty, adding music and yoga to their journey.

Stopping in a different town nearly every day, they visited Rishikesh, also called the gateway to the Himalayas, Gangotri, the source town of the Ganges, New Tehri, where they had a great view onto Asia’s largest man-made lake, Joshimath, from where they took a trip to Auli to get a look onto India’s second largest mountain Nanda Devi and the Jim Corbett National Park, India’s oldest National Park.

The tourist season in the mountains starts now, so our group was a bit early – which added to the adventure and at the same time made the journey even more beautiful. On the complete trip they had the advantage that there are not yet lots of tourists in the Himalayas. This is how they could enjoy nearly-empty hotels and towns. In Gangotri for example it seemed as though they were the only people there – and thus they took in the nature to its fullest without distraction or disturbance. There was no noise of others, they could take pictures in peace and even meditate at the riverside. There was however no electricity either – but with a nice fire and some music by the river they kept themselves warm in the evening! Everybody had been prepared for this adventure and although it was quite cold, it was a special experience!

They were travelling in their minibus a lot and took extensive stops and long breaks at beautiful stations of their journey. They got to see the big change in vegetation and also of temperature from Vrindavan, where we had 30 to 35 degrees centigrade up to Gangotri or Auli, where it was around zero degrees and, in the last case, even started snowing when they were just walking down the mountain again.

Going with the flow, they did yoga, led by Yashendu, at the side of the Ganges or on terraces of hotels, breathing in the great air of the mountains. Thomas’s music helped them to relax and process all the information, impressions and experiences they had.

In summary, it was simply an amazing journey and we will surely plan another one for next year so that more people can experience the majestic Himalayas!

See pictures of the Himalaya Journey 2012

Tribute to the Ghazal King Jagjit Singh

Yesterday we got the sad news that Jagjit Singh has left this world and is no more. Everybody has to go one day but I did not think he would go like this. Even though he had health problems he had still been fit. Only two days before he was admitted to the hospital, he had a concert and another one was planned on the next day. So he was active but when he reached the hospital, his situation was critical.

With this news many memories came up, because I knew him personally. The whole world knows how great an artist he was but he was also a nice human. He was here at the Ashram in Vrindavan several times and I met him and his wife at their home in Mumbai, too, he invited us to his program in Delhi and I even met him in Frankfurt once. When he was around, giving a concert in Agra or close-by, he phoned and came by or let us know that he was around, so that we could meet. So we had a nice relation.

He was the ‘Ghazal King’, that is what he is most known for but with his silky voice he recorded many Bhajans, too. While he recorded those religious songs, though, he only ever gave one Bhajan concert and that was here at the Ashram at my birthday celebration while I was in the cave. Otherwise he refused to do Bhajan concerts. We were once contacted by an organizer to ask him to sing Bhajans at their religious program but he clearly told that he would not do this. He would do Ghazal concerts but that was his one and only Bhajan concert, no matter how much money they would offer him. He was a great man with principles.

I honour him with this tribute.

 

See pictures of Jagjit Singh visiting the Ashram

See today’s newspaper article in Hindi

Business of Religious Programs with a Preaching Guru – 13 Mar 11

The thought of change was on my mind but not yet in a clear form as to what would actually change. We had started the preparations for my nine-day program in Rajasthan in the same way as we had done in the time before the cave. Purnendu had been to the venue to see where we would be accommodated, how the stage would look like, had talked to the organizers about everything, had made arrangements for coming and going and had also arranged for musicians. He had informed the same group of musicians with whom I had been travelling in the time before the cave, too and they agreed to come together from different places in India to play at my lectures in those nine days.

You have to know that such a lecture as I was used to give was also always a very musical program. We always started and ended with mantra chanting. The lectures were based on Hindu scriptures like the Ram Charit Manas, also called Ramayana, the Bhagavat Gita, the Bhagavat Maha Puran and others. In the two to three hours of the lecture, there were again and again short breaks in which the musicians played and a singer sang phrases or verses of the scriptures, mantras or leads bhajans.

The lead singer had been travelling all around India with me ever since we met in 1986. All my musicians had a good knowledge of Indian classical music and the singer had, in my company, learned many bhajans written by my grandfather which were already popular in the Indian public. Together we have created many compositions for different mantras and verses. As the oldest and most experienced member, he was also the director of my whole orchestra.

There was a Tabla player, making rhythm with his Tabla, an Indian drum and a flute player for bamboo flutes. Then we had two players of stringed instruments, one Sitar player and the player of Sarangi, a kind of advanced Indian violin with many strings. Finally a player of several instruments travelled with us who could play the cymbals, vibrating bells and a few other supporting instruments, whatever was needed, and who also was the backing singer, supporting the main singer with his voice.

Additionally to the musicians we also hired a cook and his assistant to come along and cook for the group. These were the preparations taken from our side and I want to give you a detailed picture of how such a big and well organized program actually took place, so I will describe you what the organizers did for making it a success.

Usually this kind of big program is not organized by a single organizer unless he is rich and can afford the big expenses that are necessary. In most cases, also in this case, there is a committee of several religious people who organize the program together. They fix a date with the invited guru’s management and are told how much the guru will charge for his whole program, including the salary for musicians, cooks and whoever else the guru wants to bring. As soon as they have the dates fixed, they start advertising and go from door to door to tell people about the program and ask them for a donation to support their organizing efforts. I already had given program in that area before, so my name was known there and I had many disciples in the surrounding areas who were happy to give money to the organizers so that the town could invite me. This is how it usually works. The organizers collect money already beforehand, so that they can arrange everything that is needed. People are ready to give because they want to see their guru again, want to hear the lecture and believe it is good for their spiritual development and their Karma to make this possible.

The organizers arrange then everything that is necessary from the tents to the accommodation for the guru, from food that is often given for free to the microphone system and the electricity backup.

If it is a big program where thousands of people come, there are often also high officials and politicians present at the program. Politicians come to those events because they want to show how religious they are so that religious people give them their vote in the next election. With this kind of VIPS, the organizers of course have to take care of security and there will be police present, too.

In the whole town you will find banners, hoardings and flyers with the picture of the guru printed on them, the dates and an open invitation to join. Depending on how big the organizers are, they also make advertising in the surrounding towns and villages.

They even organize buses to pick people up from those villages. They advertise there at what time that bus will come to pick them up and when it will drop them back off in the village. Those buses are completely free for everyone and there are no entrance fees or tickets. Anybody can come, free of cost, but of course people give donations of both, small and big amounts.

Actually this all is a very big business, just like every other. The organizers have a plan what they want to achieve, they collect the funds through sponsors, sometimes invest also some of their money and start the set-up. They get their revenue during the nine days that the program is going on by asking people for donations. Some give five Rupees, some give fifty thousand, but everybody normally gives something according to their capacity. After the program they pay the performers, the guru and his group and whatever is left, is their profit. If there were not enough funds collected, they can be in loss but mostly they make a good profit even after paying the artists, the tent, the salary to all employees, the food, the accommodation, the buses and everything. And it is right, they have done months of efforts, so this is simply what they earn for their work. The more people come, the higher their profit and it was normal in my programs to see 20000 and more people.

It is a business that makes everybody happy. I, the guru, get my money and can pay my musicians and cooks which makes them happy. The organizers pay all the people who have worked for them and they are happy. The organizers themselves got money from thousands of people and are happy as well as those thousands of people who had a great program, gave a donation to support religious efforts and had their guru in their town.

As a guru, like I was one in that time, you are like a rock star, just that there are no entrance fees for your concerts.

Saying Goodbye to Thomas and Iris – 13 May 09

Today we started in the morning from Wiesbaden to Lüneburg. Our friend Sabine dropped us at the train station in Frankfurt and waved us goodbye. This time we have spent a long time in Wiesbaden with Thomas and Iris and we did many things and many changes took place. I am happy to see that Thomas is getting more and more involved in music and helping people with music. It is proved that music works and helps as a therapy. I also experienced a sound massage this time and it was really nice.

But also these weeks passed quickly and since yesterday I could feel that even though we were still there they thought about us leaving and felt that they would miss us, miss eating together, cooking together, having ice-cream together and being together. Thomas also said that the house will be empty and Iris will miss the welcoming when she comes home from work. This morning, when we said goodbye we were all sad.

I am grateful to have these friends and their support and love in each way. A friend is someone who lends you his shoulder and is standing with you in every situation. We also miss them and carry their love in our hearts. We will meet soon again and I think it is nice to have this diary so our friends have the possibility to travel with us and daily take part in our life in this way.

We arrived in Lüneburg and were picked up by Michael. So now we are also looking forward to a nice week with Michael, Andrea and Ravael.

Charity Concert for our Children in India – 1 Feb 09

Yesterday Thomas and Iris organized a charity concert in the Indian vegetarian restaurant “Zimt & Koriander” with the motto “Food for a Day”. Since about one year Pavan Sharma, the owner of the restaurant has been supporting the project future for kids in India with a donation box. All in all it was possible to arrange five times food for the children at the Ashram. In order to make people understand this charitable project better Pavan had the idea to organize a small exhibition of photos in his restaurant. So yesterday they had the opening night with a small concert.

Yashendu had sent some pictures and Thomas and Iris added a few of their photos so that they could exhibit a total of 12 pictures. The pictures show different activities at the Ashram:
The preparation of food, a food for a day sponsored by the guests of the restaurant, distribution of food to the pilgrims, a big Bhandara feeding about 500 people and beautiful close-up views of children.

Thomas told that many visitors were noticeably touched yesterday by the pictures of the happy children’s faces who could enjoy a good meal. Iris framed the event with poems of Rabindranath Tagore. Tagore has also founded a school for children in Shantiniketan, Bengal, and thus the lyric verses which he wrote about children suited the exhibition very nicely. With the Sitar Thomas put the atmosphere of the verses into music and deepened it together with his friend Michael who played the arabid Udu-Drum.

Pavan provided all the guests with delicious vegetarian food so that not only the ears and the eyes but also the palate was pampered. The guests also generously filled the donation box so that it will be soon possible to sponsor another food for a day. The exhibition will be in the restaurant until the end of February: www.zimtandkoriander.de.

After that there is the possibility to show these photos also in other cities. It would be possible to create a touring exhibition which makes the work of the Ashram clear in a easy and free way. Whoever has interest in making this exhibition can feel free to contact Thomas at thomas@jaisiyaram.com

Measuring Energy and Selling Enlightenment – 9 Feb 08

Somebody came today, who was giving company to one of my healing clients. He showed me a kind of electronic device, a little box, and asked: "Swami Ji, can you feel the cosmic energy that is in it?" Then he switched it on with a power button. I answered "No." He said "Oh, I thought maybe you will be impressed because you feel wonderful energy." But I did not.

After the man had gone my friend Thomas told that he had recently seen an advertisement: apparently someone created a pill for enlightenment. Eat it and you are enlightened. This kind of thing nearly became part of culture. We want to buy everything and think we can have everything for money. Even enlightenment.

Especially the evening was nice today. Two friends of Thomas and Iris came for dinner. After food one of them played the tanpura and sang with it. He is a great singer. Thomas also made us happy by playing the rudraveena. Music is a wonderful medium for concentration. Meditation can be more easy with it. Music can bring you in that state of consciousness in which you can focus on the inside and try to find your inner joy.