Come together to help Farmers whose Crop was completely destroyed! – 12 Apr 15

Last Sunday, I told you about the big hail storm that we had in our area. While for us, the only real damage was a hole in our new advertisement board for our Ayurvedic restaurant Ammaji’s and a few dents in our car, much worse things have happened – and are still happening! The climate change and its consequences have caused big misery and even death! We want to help!

We have been having very untypical weather for weeks. Normally, we should have hot and dry weather here now, but what we do have is warmth and sun for a few days and then rain and heavy wind again for two or three days. Even while I am writing, there are clouds on the sky and it looks like it would rain again. And while normally at this time the harvest is over and the wheat is in, this year a big part of the crop is damaged by the rain, useless and destroyed!

That’s how since weeks we daily hear of farmers who get heart attacks when going out on their field or others who commit suicide and end their own lives because they are just destroyed along with their crop! Our newspaper tells today that in the past 24 hours in our state Uttar Pradesh, 44 more farmers died, 14 of them in our region, either due to a heart attack or suicide. Altogether, more than 2500 crore Indian Rupees, which is about 400 million US-Dollars, worth of crop has been destroyed until now.

If you live in a country that has a proper security system for such catastrophes, you may wonder why someone would take his life because of too much rain in a year. Let me explain this to you: there are farmers who don’t own their fields. They have taken a big loan and put everything they had in there to rent a field and buy the seeds. Their whole money and effort went into those crops – and they all were destroyed. They are standing there with nothing to eat, no money in the hand and a loan to pay back!

There is nothing like an insurance against weather and bad harvest. It brings them into a situation of complete shock. Many just die on the spot and others simply despair and see no other way out than death!

The government is trying to help financially. Many farmers who had hopes on this support however are disappointed. It is not enough, they are getting very little and many even nothing. There are just too many of them!

Many children of our school are the sons and daughters of farmers, too. Yesterday, a few of them came by and told us of their situation – it is horrible.

Apart from the government, some private organizations came up, too, and try to support farmers, each according to their capacity. Now when we see the situation of the farmers, we also feel that we should do whatever is possible for us and help them, too!

Due to money, people are losing their lives. This should not be the case and we want to help wherever we can, in any way we can! Of course, we alone cannot do much and so we want to ask you for your support! If you feel with the farmers of our area, if you want to support someone whose crop was destroyed and who depends on help from outside, you can donate here! Please also share and forward this message to friends and other people who would like to help!

Thank you!

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Heavy Hailstorm in Vrindavan – 5 Apr 15

We have had some great days already with Thomas and Iris here at the Ashram, relaxing a bit, working as well but simply enjoying being together with friends in this rather quiet time. I say quiet but the other day there was a rather major event: a big hail storm in our area and town!

The weather has been really untypical for this time of the year with rain falls again and again in the past weeks. That's how we were not very surprised when on Friday, the sunshine and blue sky suddenly seemed to disappear, replaced by rather dark clouds. Thunder started sounding in the distance and a strong wind was blowing, already ripping leaves off trees. A storm was coming, we could see that. But then, there was a strange noise!

It was like thunder at first but it didn't stop, drum roll, still in the distance. Confused, we looked at each other. What was that? Then, with the first tiny hailstones falling, we knew what it was: the sound of hail, but heavy hail, now already close-by!

In the moment after the realization, our driver ran to the car, which was until this point out in the open, in front of the building, jumped in and drove it, as fast as he dared on the wet floor, to the restaurant to get it under the roof.

Already when the car was half-way, the force of the hail increased and it was a matter of seconds until there were huge hailstones crashing down onto the earth, the path, the garden and everything in front of us!

It was mind-blowing! This display of the force of nature which we could witness there! Incredible and even a bit scary!

It seemed to go on for long, while it was probably not even a few minutes. When it subsided, a slow rain followed before that stopped, too, and the kids and of course our child-like staff members all enjoyed getting out, picking up the melting hailstones, throwing them at each other in joke, as if it was a snow-fight or collecting them in buckets. Of course we all took pictures with various phones and cameras of the size: some were bigger than tennis balls!

It was of course amazing for us but you can imagine all the damage that this storm brought to the area! The fields, where the wheat was already nearly destroyed by past rains took another blow. In the evening and the morning, standing at our gate, we saw hundreds of cars with broken windshields or smashed windows driving by, dents all over the car – of which we luckily only have four or five in ours!

The worst however is that 14 people died in the storm! Either directly hit by the hail or, more often, hit by something that the strong wind and hail had blown down.

The climate change is obvious now, more than ever – and we can feel the consequences!

Yamuna Arti – Superstition, Waste of Food, Pollution and a nice Atmosphere – 3 Dec 14

We are enjoying these days a lot – Michael and Andrea are here! With my first German friends here at the Ashram, we have lots of fun. Of course they also want to go out a bit and Ramona just came home from Kheshi Ghat and the Yamuna Arti with them. Obviously, how could it be different for my wife, she has some non-religious observations on the ceremony and the time spent there.

Our friends, also not religious, sat there together with Ramona and Purnendu, watching first how the men performing the ceremony poured milk into the river. After that, they saw them throw sugary sweets into the water and finally hundreds of rose petals. When they were looking after the petals flowing down the stream, they suddenly realized what happened to these flower petals: just about a hundred meters down, children were picking them out of the river. Children in worn-out clothes, without shoes and with dirt and dust all over them. The same children who had previously tried to sell our friends little bowls with flowers and a candle that they could have put into the river themselves.

It was a revelation: on one side, there are people pouring nourishing milk into the dirty water of the river and on the other side there are children, trying to somehow earn a few rupees which they can bring home and with which their family can buy rice, grains and – yes – milk. They won’t get to enjoy the sugary sweets though which also land in the river! They cannot afford it.

At the same time you look at the river and wonder whether you can actually still call it a river. Due to only little monsoon rains and big dams in Delhi, there is very little water these days. A big part of the river bed is clearly visible and where previously boats took tourists and pilgrims out on the river, there are now camels walking around. For the ceremony, they had to dig a channel and bring the water to the stairs. This shallow waterhole is where they now throw their flowers, milk and sweets in, polluting it even more than it anyway already is.

It is really not much more than sewage water and chemical waste coming from Delhi. There is no life in it. No fish, no turtles, none of all those animals that swam around us when we played in the water as children! They cannot live there – the water is dead.

In spite of all of this and in spite of two competing ceremonies blaring at each other by speakers Ramona and our friends enjoyed the visit to the river and the ceremony. How come? My wife did great effort to put it into words: she has no religious awe. No feeling that a god or goddess would now bless her for her visit there. No, but sitting on those old stones in front of the ancient building, the setting sun shining in their faces, listening to the singing and just looking around at people coming together, felt good. It was a certain atmosphere which, when in, makes you feel good.

There is nothing divine in that. It is not god that makes you feel good. It is you. You enjoy the get-together with people because human is made for being social. You like seeing the beauty of nature, even though it could be much more impressive. And you enjoy music and listening to others sing.

Couldn’t we have all of this without superstition, waste of food and pollution of the river?

The Dangers of Globalization – when everything good is exported! – 10 Jul 14

I yesterday told you that it was difficult – or rather impossible – for us to find good tomatoes on the Canary Islands as the best ones are usually exported to other countries. This is however not a problem only of these islands or of Spain! It is a global problem, a disadvantage and big danger that has come with globalization.

We know the exact same problem in India as well! India is the number one mango producer in the world. Nevertheless, there is always the complaint that we don’t get to see any of those great mangoes that are produced in our own country! They all are shipped away right from the tree to the markets of other countries.

The same holds true for rice! When travelling abroad, everyone knows of the quality of Indian rice and when you cook a good quality rice bought in the west, you get an unforgettable smell of this rice in your kitchen – but it is not so easy to find this rice in India!

India also produces lots of tea and coffee! Tea from Darjeeling and Assamis among the most famous of the world, but just yesterday someone commented on my diary entry, telling that the best tea is directly exported! And my commentator also wondered why everyone in India drinks instant coffee. Where is all the coffee we produce?

It is all about money. Western countries pay a higher price for the same products, so they get exported, even if that means that the own country is left with less. Less quality and quantity.The margin is higher – but it comes to a high cost and it ignores everything that you could call humanity or common sense!

Just look at the situation of water in Africa! Huge companies like Nestle have bought water sources that were formerly used by the local people, which provided water to whole villages! Now, this water is privatized, which means that the companies fill it in bottles and ship it abroad. Or sell it against good money in that same town that previously drank the water for free! Regardless of the fact that they don’t pay those people, the workers in their factory, enough to actually buy this water and still feed their families! They now have to walk far to a water pump, they have to carefully use it so that they have enough for the day.

Water. Rice. Fruit. Very common, everyday things! In an effect of globalization, everyone wants the best of everything at all times and right at his doorstep. Could we just take a minute of time and consider that this might be comfortable but at the same time has devastating effects on our earth? That people are starving and don’t have drinking water because human looks so much for convenience and comfort, for the highest margin and the biggest money!

You may think it is all about those huge companies, what can you do? You can!

Take a step back and consider where your food is coming from! Whenever you can, buy local vegetables, look out for labels of organic farming or production, prefer fair trade products, even if it costs a bit more. Take a check on yourself and your own consumption.

If we all do this, we can succeed in making this world a better place, individual after individual!

Having Fun on the beautiful Island Gran Canaria – 25 Jun 14

We are in the middle of our final week here on Gran Canaria and I thought I could give you an update on what is going on here, what we are doing and how we are enjoying this beautiful island!

Of course, we came here for giving our programs and we have thus had a series of different workshops and also individual counselling sessions. But with our dear friend Betty, we had the chance not only to be busy in work but also to see Gran Canaria and get to know more about the people who live here, how life is and how her home island looks like!

It actually is an amazing island with so many different places to see! It is called a miniature continent and we have already seen that this is very true. We were even joking that it is like in India where you can have every weather at any time of the year – just that you can cross the country from top to bottom in a drive of maybe three hours! Gran Canaria and the Canary Islands belong to Spain but they are actually far away from the mainland, much closer to Africa. Morocco is only 95 kilometers from here and you can comfortably go there by ship!

We are living in the capital called Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. Our flat is close to the beach – and that is why we have been to the beach nearly every day! While this city is in the north of the island, we had some program in the south, too, and went there one day for some tourism as well. I was surprised: there we were, standing on fantastic sand dunes, in an area called Maspalomas, and it looked as though we are out in the desert with the ocean just behind us!

Next to the dunes we then went to one of the most touristic beaches of Gran Canaria and just enjoyed the sand and the ocean once more. So yes, we are having some tourist time as well – and that in a place that is so full of German tourists that every sign is in Spanish, English and German, the restaurants have waiters that speak German and the shops sell German TV program magazines.

Another day, Betty took us up the hills – not yet quite into the mountains – and showed us the inner part of the country with some smaller villages, a wonderful landscape and very beautiful buildings. There, we did not see tourists, only local people. Actually, as the island is quite small, we have the impression that people know each other a lot anyway, not only in the villages! Wherever we go with Betty, we meet someone she knows – even on the ship in between Gran Canaria and Tenerife!

Tenerife is another island of the Canaries that we went to three days ago. We had two dance parties there – and did a bit more tourism. On Tenerife you can see even more clearly that the Canary Islands are volcanic islands. The whole island is hilly, much up and down and on the coast you can see that the stones are actually molten and then hardened lava. There, in between the rocks and in the blue sea, Ramona, Yashendu and Betty enjoyed swimming very much! Apra and I took a round in the pool afterwards!

I now raise my glass of deliciously fresh orange juice and say a toast to all of you wonderful friends, the good times I hope you all have, too, and the great places on this world that are out there to visit together!

How a lot of Nudity makes you lose your Erection – 6 Feb 14

I yesterday said that also women in burkas get raped, even though they are covering their complete body. Nobody can thus say that they wore revealing clothing. While this proves that clothes are not the reason for rape, it also gives evidence of one fact I always mention: any body part that you continuously hide becomes more and more sexy for the people around you because they don’t usually get to see it. Maybe it was this thought that made someone suggest there should be nudist colonies in India to fight the problem of sexual harassment!

While this may not be a serious suggestion for a nation-wide problem, especially in this culture of suppressing sexuality, there is some truth behind this idea which is why I would like to explore it a bit today.

In search for a relevant example, I had to think of my visits to nude beaches in many different countries around the world. While to some people it may seem funny that on my journeys I have been to nude beaches, I think it is not. I have always been with people who believe in a natural way of living and what can be more natural than your own naked body? And there is now the main point of the question already: why do you think it would be strange to go to a beach where everyone is naked? Because you imagine every man having an erection and staring at the women around him?

If you have ever been to such a place yourself you know that this is not the truth. I have been to nude beaches with big crowds of men, women, families, teenagers and children. Never did I see even one man with an erection.

Why? Because it is just natural to be naked and when everyone is, there is nothing special in it anymore, nothing that would be the cause for an erection. And nothing that would cause sexual harassment or an assault on a woman!

Society has created so much shame around the genitals that people in some countries gasp in shock when they think that there are such things like nudist beaches, resorts and colonies where people just live naked, just as they are, without covering anything. The more you cover up, the more you hide, the sexier it will become. If you start hiding your toenail tomorrow, it will become just as sexy as your genitals would be to most people today.

When you hide, people cannot see that they have nothing special, that billions of men and women have the same thing, the same body parts and the same urges, feelings and needs.

Now, I won’t start a naked community in our Ashram in order to prove my point but maybe someday the Indian government will follow this commentator’s suggestion and open some nudist colonies to prevent crime. Until that day comes however, India’s people still have a lot of change ahead of themselves!

India’s religious Businessmen succeed in cheating God and his Devotees – 22 Oct 12

In our area, not far from Vrindavan, there is a town called Govardhan, a popular pilgrimage town for religious people. Daily there is a huge crowd of pilgrims and on weekends, full moon days and other religious festival occasions it is even more. The main ritual at this place is to wash the statue of Krishna with milk. Many religious pilgrims also walk the Parikrama way of 21 kilometers around the town, carrying a pot of milk from which continuously milk flows onto the road.

You can imagine how much milk is used at this place every day. But where does all this milk come from? Religious businessmen of this town have made arrangements for it! They produce synthetic milk from urea, detergent and meat and sell it to pilgrims so that they can pour it onto their God. How easy is it to cheat God and his believers on the name of religious tradition. Or maybe they have a firm trust that their God won’t come to complain about the fake milk or that it won’t harm them in any way. In this way they have done business for years!

What is the bad result of this? All this fake milk will flow into the auspicious pond of the town called Mansi Ganga. We often read in local newspapers that their pond has become so polluted by this fake milk that the fish die in it. Many unaware pilgrims even drink this milk as blessed milk. You can imagine what will happen to them!

Now the time of pilgrimages is starting and according to one report, up to 68% of milk in India is not real milk. Drinking such milk can cause several different serious and dangerous illnesses, especially to children. I am always surprised about those people who are involved in this wrong business.. Unfortunately in this religious country and on religious occasions such wrong actions increase more and more behind the cover of religion because these religious businessmen don’t only think that they can cheat God and his devotees and give them synthetic milk out of meat, detergent and urea but also think that by earning some money from this sinful work, they can bribe God and do some rituals to free us from that sin again. Because there is a possibility to be forgiven anything according to religion!

You may have heard about the pollution of our holy river Yamuna. I don’t know how much holiness is left! You cannot even stand at the side of the river because of the bad smell! Fish and turtles and other water animals often die . For the purification of the Yamuna and for other religious rituals people pour many liters of milk into the Yamuna. I don’t know how you could make them understand that the Yamuna won’t be purified by pouring milk into it but stopping untreated sewage and chemical waste of factories from reaching the river.

Well, this is obviously not only about synthetic milk, many religious people surely take well care of the quality of their milk and give God only good, branded milk. And you cannot imagine how much food gets wasted for religious reasons in the whole country, not only in this area! Millions of liter of milk are poured onto Shiva Lingams and are used in other religios rituals. And this in a country in which 14 million children die of malnutrition and hunger every year! And 200 Million people daily go to sleep hungry.

6 Answers to a Meat-Eater saying ‘Plants are alive and feel Pain, too!’ – 27 Jul 12

Everybody who has been reading my diary for some time and those who have been looking around the different topics I have been writing about, knows that I am a vegetarian, my family is vegetarian and our whole town is vegetarian. You may also have read or heard me advocating vegetarianism which I will definitely always keep on doing. One of the counter-arguments of meat-eaters often seems so silly to me that I don’t have words to answer: “But why do you kill plants? They are also alive and feel pain!” I decided to gather together all my thoughts and write them down here. In future, whenever this question makes me speechless, I have a blog post to refer the person to.

So here are my answers for you:

  1. Don’t you think you are just being defensive because you know how much suffering your meat-eating causes?
     
  2. Most of the times, when you eat a vegetable, it does not mean you kill the whole plant! If you pick a tomato off its bush, it will just regrow! Cut your spinach, eat it and let it grow again. Did you ever try that with a chicken wing? No, it does not regrow!
     
  3. Maybe you argue now that it hurts the tomato plant each time that I pick a tomato off it, just as it would hurt me if someone pulled off a bunch of hair from my head. If you really want to use this kind of comparison, just think of all the hair that is falling off your head every day – picking a ripe tomato is much more like that, easy, painless and it is anyway due to fall off.
     
  4. Why, really why do you think plants feel pain? Did it scream when you pulled it? Did it run away? I don’t think so! You cannot say that about those millions of pigs, cows, goats, sheep and chicken that are killed every day. There are lots of documentaries that show the fear of those animals when they know they are going to be killed – I have never seen such a thing in plants. Have you?
     
  5. If we just assume that you actually ‘kill’ plants like wheat when you harvest them, let’s just count how many of them got killed for my food and how many you indirectly killed for eating your meat. How many plants did that poor cow eat before it was slaughtered and ended up on your plate? And how many not re-growing plants do I eat every day? I think you are the one who kills more of them!
     
  6. If you really think that plants feel pain and if you are really concerned about this, shouldn’t you especially have the morals not to kill animals? And if you really believe this, you should only eat fruit and vegetables that have fallen off their trees and bushes – then you would not hurt any of them.

So you see, that argument did not actually turn out to be anti-vegetarian at all but rather anti-meat-eating! I hope this will help some more vegetarians who are not willing to discuss this topic with anybody who makes such a stupid counter-argument. I will definitely save this link and use it as my standard answer as of now.

Experiences of a Tourist in Vrindavan – 11 Apr 12

When our friends were here, they of course also visited the sights of Vrindavan. We went down to the Yamuna, as I already told you, they climbed the stairs to the top of the Pagal Baba Temple from where they could get a view over the whole town, they took several trips to the colourful market, they walked through Nidhivan garden and they saw the evening ceremony at Kesi Ghat. They enjoyed their time here and loved visiting all those places. There is however always something that could have made the experience even nicer.

I already told of our short walk down to the Yamuna. We walked down the newly-tarred Parikrama Marg and then turned to a sandy road. I really enjoyed seeing the sand, just as it was everywhere in Vrindavan in my childhood. There were parrots and peacocks and everyone was enchanted by the beauty of nature – until we reached the dirty waters of the Yamuna with dead cows lying in there, everything stinking badly.

Our friends went up the nine floors of the Pagal Baba temple and enjoyed the view from up there, trying to find the Ashram, looking at the Yamuna in the distance and getting a better idea of the geographical situation of Vrindavan. Ramona, who had been with them, told me that on the walls of the complete staircase people had written their names, the dates when they were there, phrases that were supposed to be funny or insults. It is a temple, a holy place, pilgrims are going there – who writes on those walls and why?

When they came home from Nidhivan, the garden in which Krishna is said to dance every night with his loved one, they told of the beautiful trees there. It was nice to walk in their shadow and they marveled at their knotty branches. It is without doubt one of the most pleasant places in Vrindavan. For getting to the peace of the garden however you have to fight off several guides at the entrance who offer to take you through the garden and tell you the story of Krishna there. They insist and can be quite annoying to a first-time visitor. This visitor then walks by the many donation boxes in the garden. My friends commented that a Hindu pilgrim has to really spend a lot of money if he has to donate at each and every of those boxes and temples.

Finally, the best experience: watching the Yamuna Aarti, a fire ceremony, at Kesi Ghat. That is something we recommend to all our visitors and they love sitting there, watching the sun go down and maybe buying a candle and flowers in a little bowl to send it floating down the river. In earlier times everyone came back and told how peaceful the atmosphere there was. They still come back happily and they still enjoy the place there – but the word peaceful is now hardly ever a part of their description. The first people they encounter there are boat drivers who compete with each other to be the first ones to offer a boat ride. Having stopped their advances by simply sitting down and ignoring them, they look out towards the sun – and get irritated by the ugly remains of a bridge that was supposed to be built there but was stopped midway. Luckily now an artificial island in front of that will hide the ugly view. The most disturbing thing at the Ghat however is the sound of several loudspeakers shouting out spiritual songs. If someone was simply singing there, it would be fine but the speaker noise from both sides is too much to feel the peace of that place. People are happiest when there is a power cut – then we hear the word ‘peaceful’ from them again!

All these stories show that people enjoy seeing Vrindavan and going to these places but that they could enjoy it even more were there not those disturbing factors. And those factors are created by human and could be avoided. I know that rivers are dirty in other countries, too, that tourists write on walls of sights all over the world and that there are annoying guides at every tourist attraction, not only here. Why don’t we make our earth a nicer place and stop all this? Imagine you are the one going there, wouldn’t you appreciate more peace and cleanliness? Contribute your part and behave the way you would like others to. I am waiting for the day when our town is a place that I can show to my friends without the feeling that it was so much nicer in former times.

America – Highest Water Consumption per Person per Day – 30 Aug 11

Yesterday I wrote about individualism and mentioned that I noticed a certain attitude in the USA which made me think that many people there do not think a lot about their environment and the people around them. When talking to our friend Iris once, who is working in an office for the environment in the department for water, she told us that America also is the country with the highest amount of average water consumption per person.

When she said this, I remembered how we once noticed in an apartment that the tab of the bathtub was running. It was not leaking and only dripping every once in a while. No, it was continuously running in a steady flow. It was just open intentionally. The owner explained us it was running always so that the cat could drink. When we asked about the bill for water, we were told that it was a flat rate, so it didn’t matter how much water was used in that apartment, the cost would not increase.

There are hundreds of such examples from broken taps that are running to people who wash their cars every day in their courtyard. Again, this is not only reduced to America, people are careless about their water consumption in many countries in which it is taken for granted that there is always enough water in the water pipes.

I did however look at statistics online and found that America is the number one of water consumers with an average of 575 liters or 152 US gallons per person per day. I obviously compared it to the figures for Germany, which uses 193 liters or 51 gallons, and India which has an average use of 135 liters or about 36 gallons per person per day. There are obviously many countries that use less water, including all those African countries where water is simply so rare that most people do not have access to a lot of liters per day.

There are so many problems regarding water, the access and availability for rural population and also the question whether it is clean enough to be drinking water. Seeing all this and thinking of those who are thirsty and die of dehydration, we have to rethink our water spending habits. Water is precious. It is life. Don’t waste it! Think broader and wider, see that the water that you carelessly let flow down the drain without even thinking means life to someone else.