Religion is the Root of Terrorism – 11 Sep 16

Today is the day that the whole world will keep in their memory as the day of the biggest terror attack which shook the west and set the tone of politics for the future years. On 11th September 2001, terrorists flew two planes into the two towers of the World Trade Center and one into the Pentagon. A terror attack with nearly three thousand victims.

George W. Bush declared a war on terror some days after – and it never ended until today. Terrorism has grown in the years to come and in many parts of the world, there are wars and conflicts which you can trace back with the root being in the attacks of today, fifteen years back.

Politicians have been very diplomatic in the years after. There has always been talk about terrorists and much too often, talk did not touch the topic of religion! Why? Because nobody wanted to hurt those religious sentiments that I have been telling you about in the past days, too!

In my eyes, you have to say it very clearly: the violence which became evident that day and in attacks after is based on religion, the religion of Islam.

A lot of people say it is not religion but only fanatic minds that do such things. Agreed, it is fanatic minds – but religion is the base of them becoming fanatic! Religion enhances this violence, supports this violence and asks for this violence in the outdated texts that believers HAVE to follow! And I do not limit this to Islam! Of course, there are a lot of fanatics in all religions and that’s how you have terrorism in other religions, too. Religion fuels fanatic ideas and violence in the consequence.

Each time when you say ‘this is not religion’, you actually defend what religion is doing. You increase it further and give energy to those who are ready for violence! Only if you directly talk against it, the source of the problem, will you be able to make a difference and actually fight the cause and the consequences at the same time! It is a fight that was started then and we are still in it today – but talking around the core of the problem won’t help.

Don’t let Terrorists get what they want! – 25 Jul 16

Today I want to write to you about recent events in Europe. In my second home, to be exact: in Germany. I am sure you have heard about the terroristic attack in Munich – and you can imagine that we all are touched by this topic as well. However disturbed however you are, I would say one thing: don’t let this fear get you down. Because that is exactly what terrorists want.

Yes, it is true: what is the aim of terrorists? Spreading terror and fear. Disturbing your normal life in a way that makes it impossible for you not to think of them. Terrorists want you to act out of fear and that’s exactly what we should not do if we don’t want them to win!

Acting out of fear does not only mean that you don’t go out anymore or that you avoid concerts, festivals and big crowds in general. No, it is also about your actions towards people who are different. It comes to your thoughts, attitude and behavior as well! Do you start avoiding those who look different? Do you suddenly change the side of the road if you see a man in different clothing or hairstyle? Does your mindset start moving towards an attitude that would forbid foreigners, even refugees, to come to your country?

Because this is what is happening in many parts of the world right now and this plays directly into the hands of terrorists. What could fuel insecurity, negative feelings and finally hate towards others more than a big politician or leader telling foreigners to stay out of the country? And those leaders are supported by people who act out of fear. Who were affected by the attacks and decided to think against others instead of thinking how we, as society and mankind, can help each other in love instead of fear.

That’s how we get people like Donald Trump as presidential candidates! That’s how we get people like Narender Modi as prime minister.

And that’s how they get the power to fuel this hate even more.

So in the end, in all our democratic countries, it is up to us to decide: do we want to be in fear and give power to those who cash in on fear? Or would we rather despise the acts of terrorists, refuse to let them influence out minds and actions and spread kindness and love?

I request you to do the latter – for the sake of mankind and peace in this world!

Get active and don’t let Hate rule the World – 1 Feb 16

Today I would like to write about a topic that I don’t usually write a lot about: politics. Well, the point is that politics actually affects us all and finally, if we don’t get involved in politics at all, if we stay at home and don’t vote, we allow politicians to run the country without our voice. And that is something we should not do, as it is up to us to prevent madmen from reaching positions of power!

I am actually confident that we have enough sensible people in democratic countries that we could avoid having hateful people in top positions. Those kind of people who stir fire for conflicts, who give strength to ideas of racist, sexist and homophobic nature. Who give others the false moral excuse for violence. I believe we could stop them from reaching power.

If we take a look around the world however, we see that exactly such people are slowly advancing!

In India, we have current Prime Minister Modi with the background of a nationalist party, promoting Hinduism and with that fueling conflicts in between Hindus and Moslems, creating fear in non-Hindu minorities.

In France their old right-wing party, the ‘Front National’ with Marine Le Pen at its head, could celebrate huge success in the recent past. A party favouring the white population of France, opposing immigrants from Africa and previous French colonies, disregarding the fact that some of the ‘dark-skinned’ population of France has already been living there for generations!

In Germany, a relatively new right-wing party has been established, called the AfD, ‘Alternative for Germany’, actively supporting ideals which one can remember from history lessons about World War II and the Nazi time in Germany! Their party’s head even mentioned that policemen have the right to shoot refugees at the border if they try to cross illegally – and they should use it as well!

Finally, in the US we are today looking on the first votes on whether Donald Trump will run for president or not. If Modi made it here, why would it be impossible for this man to win, even though you sometimes feel he looks like a comic figure. With his hate against Mexicans, Moslems and basically immigrants, you feel it is ridiculous to even try in a country which is based on immigration, whose population has all roots in countries across the world! But no, he has come this far and is leading in most surveys for becoming the candidate for the Republican Party!

Here is however what I believe we can do: there are enough of us to find these people crazy, scary and dangerous. Who don’t want them to reach the power they are aiming for or already got. We do have a voice and we have to use it! With the internet, we have media to express ourselves and to show that we don’t support such people.

Modi is already losing supporters here in India. A lot of people are protesting against his government and even those who were convinced that he would bring a change start seeing things differently. In France, voters realized that they could not stay at home and let the Front National get so many votes – and they could strengthen other parties!

This shows that we all have to get up and take our right in our hand to vote, to raise our voices, to speak our mind and show that we are here to live together, not against each other. To find solutions for conflicts which will further humanity, not selected individuals. To spread peace, however cheesy that may sound!

Shameful and painful Situation in India – 7 Oct 15

I normally don’t write about politics in my blog. I use social media for that but as the situation in India seems to deteriorate and the issues gain international attention as well, I would like to register my unhappiness and protest, if you will, in this way today.

Recently an incident in India made headlines in big newspapers all over the world. Maybe you have heard it as well. In the Hindu temple of a village, the temple’s priest announced what the son of a leader of India’s ruling party, the BJP, had told him. It was the rumor that a Muslim family of the village had eaten beef. Upon hearing this, a mob was quickly formed which marched to this family’s home and brutally attacked the family’s father and son. Their strikes and blows killed the father and the son was admitted to the hospital with life-threatening injuries. In the aftermath, it turned out that they had not even eaten beef but lamb – but that did not revive the dead husband and father!

It is an outrageous story which was rightly covered internationally but even more appalling are the reactions of other members of the leading party! That son of a BJP leader, due to whose words this all happened, and some others were arrested. The leaders of their party however excuse their behavior, saying these young adults, who were all above eighteen, are innocent children, just kids who got too excited! They don’t want them to be booked for murder!

At the same time however, they openly approve of their actions, saying anybody who eats beef should get this kind of punishment! A member of parliament of our nation’s ruling party said that the cow was our mother and if you killed our mother, you would be killed as well! These people are ready to kill someone due to the consumption of cow meat!

Of course all these politicians are hypocrites! The most expensive restaurants of the country sell beef, in many states, beef is just normal food for the local population and this all is no problem! But they use this sentiment of the normal, religious Hindu for consciously provoking violence so that the country’s population polarizes and they get more votes!

Yes, it is a big plan. Another BJP leader said ‘If there are riots, we will win the election’, shortly before state elections, and in the past, this has proven true! Political leaders provoke violent reactions from different religious groups, mostly Hindus and Moslems, separating and splitting the country in this way. Some people will die in the riots. In the end, they get the Hindu votes, thus a majority. And that’s how those who were accused of rioting some years ago now sit in the assembly! It is an easy strategy to get votes on the name of religion or caste!

To top it all, our Prime Minister keeps his silence. His party shows its main aim the economic development. Even this is just a farce, something that happens only for the rich. They get richer while the common man and the poor one are still in the same situation as before! Worse even, if they are not religious Hindus, they are even in danger. Unfortunately with this right-wing party ruling, extremist and nationalist Hindus are in power and have the strength as well as political support to provoke violence against those who believe something else.

Well-known rationalist, atheist writers have been killed due to the same reasons and religious extremists have a list on which they already have their next target.

It is a sensitive time for our country and that’s how I am writing here today. I told you yesterday how even a little effort helps and many renowned writers of this country had the same thought. They gave back rewards to the government which they had got for their work as a sign of protest. We all have to show that this is not the India that we want to have. This is not the open, multi-cultural, welcoming country which we claim to be!

Rape within Marriage doesn’t exist in India because of the Institution’s Divinity – 6 May 15

I would like to write about an issue which is an evergreen in our society here in general and also on my blog: women in India. The reason to write about these problems today again is the statement of a government minister who recently said that the concept of rape within a marriage just didn’t exist in Indian culture. Isn’t that great?

Let me explain how we came to this ridiculous statement: a female Member of Parliament quoted the UN Population Fund which had found that 75% of married women in India get raped by their husbands. The MP asked the government what they were planning on doing about that.

The reply by a minister of the ruling party was that this was an idea which came from the west and didn’t exist in India. Something which is ‘not good for our country’! As in India, according to him, a marriage is a divine and auspicious connection and because of the religious beliefs and culture of India, this just doesn’t happen in India.

Are you shocked about such a statement? I tell you, we can hardly expect anything better from a pro-religion government that focuses on preserving ancient culture and traditions! Nevertheless, as an Indian, I just sit there and wonder about the lack of thought or even intelligence in such voiced statements!

According to our old religious culture, there is also no concept of divorce! Divorces started in India only when India got its freedom and our constitution was written. In the Hindu Code Bills, the provision for divorce and rights for women were made. Only from that time on, it was illegal to marry a second wife. There were big protests in that time, with the argument that it is not in Hindu culture to leave your husband because according to Hindu religion, a couple gets married for the next seven lives. Protesters said such laws would finish the auspicious religious culture.

I guess this minister also forgets that it once was a tradition in this great culture to burn the widow together with her husband once he died because she will be born again as his wife then. Rajaram Mohan Roy made a law to finish this tradition – but nevertheless there were people who carried on for a long time and believed it would destroy their culture if they didn’t!

In that time, Hindus were still allowed to have many wives and in temples, priests and religious leaders had religious prostitutes, called devdasi, to fulfill their sexual desires!

This all was once our culture. You can see the situation of our society, of this country’s traditions and of people’s beliefs in history! And throughout the history, Hindu religion considers women as second-grade citizens. They are only items, there for using and bearing children.

The UN can say that 75% of married women get raped and it should be considered a crime. Our nationalist, religious government however doesn’t agree because it is ‘against religion and culture’! Yes, in this country, men use rape to show women their place, to show that they are the ‘weaker gender’! And if any woman complains about being raped, it was her fault – she forced the man to rape her by wearing the wrong clothes or acting in the wrong way! If you are a bit more generous, rape is a ‘mistake of young boys’ – as our state’s chief minister’s father Mulayam Singh Yadav once said.

In traditional Indian culture, a woman is her husband’s property. He has all rights on his wife. Women get to know this early. A man won’t allow his daughter to look at unknown boys or talk with them. She is donated to a stranger on her wedding day and forced to sleep with someone she doesn’t know. Is forced arranged marriage anything less than rape?

But no, rape within marriage doesn’t happen in our country. The UN must be wrong. Every woman complaining must be wrong.

Replace your Guru with a Politician – human Worship in India – 16 Feb 15

I yesterday told you that I have lost two friends in the last year due to politics. It was, at first, unbelievable to me that this could happen – after all, friendship should be more important than political opinion, shouldn’t it? – but then I analyzed the issue deeper and I believe I could find a reason which explains such behavior: India’s long-standing tradition of human worship.

Yes, I know that human worship is in the culture and history of this society and it is very present today as well. Just take a look at all those religious leaders and gurus whom I have written so often about! They are accused of rape and murder but that doesn’t keep their followers to worship them, even from outside the jail they are in! It is not difficult, even for a non-religious person, to apply this concept to others as well, be that your ancestors, ideals such as movie stars or singers or political leaders!

In India, politics is a hot topic at all times. With my German wife, I cannot help but from time to time compare it to what I have seen in Germany: there are less people talking about politics and if they do, it is definitely not as passionate as in India. That may be due to their more sober character and nature – for a proof of that you just have to compare a parliament session in Germany to one in India – but there is also a little bit more to that. In Germany, I haven’t seen people worship their political leaders. They don’t idolize one of them as the best of all, the genius and one-and-only, as many Indians do with their party’s leaders! And they would definitely not break decades-old friendships over one of them!

The joke is however that really only the devotees of these leaders do such a thing – politicians themselves have no such notion! They are more focused on their personal aims and doing what they believe can bring them further, without taking their own words as serious as their followers do. And that’s something I would like to show to all these followers of politicians. I would actually like to ask them to follow the example of their idol even better!

India’s election campaigns are usually very heated and excited. In the past election for the post of Chief Minister in Delhi, the current Prime Minister Narendra Modi called the candidate of another party, Arvind Kejriwal, a lot of bad names, a terrorist, Pakistani agent, enemy of the country and more – publicly! He won nevertheless – and maybe even because people did not really like such a dirty way of campaigning for his party by the ‘leader of the nation’. Now, after the election, the Prime Minister invited the new Chief Minister of Delhi and tweeted a photo with him drinking chai. Are you surprised that they hugged each other, drank chai together and sat there together in sweet unison?

This man’s followers break relations and friendships of 20 or 30 years for him. What they don’t see is that he is just drama! That behind the curtain, they all are the same, that they don’t care that much about what they say one day or the other!

I want to appeal to each and every follower of any politician out there: please don’t break your personal relations because of them. Not any relation where there is love and no relation that has the possibility to grow with love. Because at some point of life, you need another human being – and Modi or your other politicians won’t be there for you! There are millions like you for them. You will always recognize them but they won’t recall your face or name.

Politicians come and go with every election. Your friends will be there to hold your hand and give you support in real life, when you truly need someone – Modi will not.

So no matter how devoted you are to a leader of any kind, don’t let this devotion destroy your friendships!

When Devotion to a political Leader is valued more than old Friendships – 15 Feb 15

I would like to write about an issue which I have seen in my life for quite a while. Last week, I told you of a former friend who has a problem with my non-religiosity. A very different issue which I have had to face is that some people have cancelled our friendship even due to politics!

In the past year I have made this experience twice with quite old friends. One was a friend of my father of over 50 years who used to come to our Ashram whenever he came to Vrindavan. The other one was a friend of mine whom I had known for over 20 years. I sometimes talked on phone with him and his family and we visited each other’s houses. In both cases, these friends got upset about what I wrote about politics, and specifically about India’s current Prime Minister Modi, on social media.

Yes, I lost friends, long-time friends, because we have different political opinions.

I was shocked. I really didn’t expect that this could happen with someone whom I personally know, with whom there is a bond of love, a relation that has lasted for many years, even decades! Over politics! Because they are in favour of a party and especially this particular political leader and I am not at all.

I am not a political person. I have always thought politics to be too much drama, too much of a farce. Politicians change parties whenever it suits their own career, success and benefit. They promise one thing if it gets them elected and do another once they are on power. And they always appear very insensitive, not acting with their heart.

That doesn’t mean however that I am not interested in what is happening in my country! I take interested, am informed and also form my opinion. I am not in favour of any one party though – and that’s how I write my comments about each party’s and politician’s funny actions and words on social media, as my blog is read by many non-Indians who don’t know and also would not care about the details. Online, you can filter. Read what you want to read, ignore what you don’t like.

Why do you get upset about a statement of a friend, whose opinion you anyway probably already know? Because he criticizes your ideal, the politician you don’t only support but to whom you are devoted. A worship-like relationship has been established – and ironically it is exactly that which I most often criticize. That you should not worship a person, be it a religious leader or a political one! That you should not be a blind follower, excusing your guru’s faults and mistakes in any way you can. I know you don’t like to hear the word ‘devotee’ and would rather call yourself an ‘admirer’. By getting upset and breaking a friendship however, you prove that you are exactly that, a devotee.

I am in favour of opening your eyes and seeing the truth. Guruism has cost me friends – due to religion and now also due to politics! It is best to let such people go and not get too upset about it. Their devotion is stronger than the love of a friendship!

I still have many more thoughts on this topic and so I will continue writing about it tomorrow.

Why the electoral System of Germany is fairer and more democratic than the Indian – 21 May 14

You probably know already that we recently had elections in India. India is the country with the second biggest population of the world and the biggest democracy on this earth. This is how it took five weeks to complete the voting process throughout the country. I am not going to discuss the results here, as I don’t want to make my blog political in any way. I don’t want to write about the different parties and although I may someday write about decisions of the government, I won’t write further about the result. I would like to write about the system instead!

In India, the party that has received 31% of the votes of the Indian people now rules with a majority of seats in parliament. This means, 69% of people have refused this party. This happens because in India, we vote for the local candidate. Whoever gets the higher number of votes locally goes to parliament – and the remaining votes get lost. He can win by one vote or very high, his party will have another seat in parliament. In this way, 69% of voters don’t want this party to rule but due to our system, this party got a majority which makes it easy for them to rule – it just doesn’t seem like a real democracy.


India’s population

1 270 000 000 (2014)

Total voters


815 000 000(2014)

Party


Votes


Seats

BJP


17,16,57,549


282

Congress


10,69,38,242


44

BSP


2,29,46,182


0

TMC


2,12,59,681


34

SP


1,86,72,916


5

AIADMK


1,81,15,825


37

CPM


1,79,86,773


9

TDP


1,40,94,545


16

AAP


1,13,25,635


4


When I told this to my German friends, they told me that this could never happen in the German election system. I asked how and Iris took the time to explain it to me. She told that it may be complicated but that it is much fairer, actually one of the fairest in the world – and I have to agree!

While we in India only make one cross on our ballot paper, Germans make two. They first can simply vote for one of the many participating parties, choosing one of which they like the basic program. After that, they make another cross for one particular candidate of their area. This candidate will, if he wins, enter parliament. In this way they would choose a person from their area, even if that person is not from the party for which they voted with their first vote.

When the votes are counted, the first vote will tell how many percent of the nearly 600 seats in the German parliament go to which party.

At the same time, every candidate that wins in his area will go to parliament. This is what happens with the second vote.

So if a party got 30% of the votes, they will have 30% of the seats in parliament. These seats will be filled with the candidates that won in their local area. If they have not won in so many local areas, they will fill up the seats with other party members according to a sequence which was announced before and which is calculated in a way that there are a fair number of candidates of each German state in the German parliament.

Now the big question: what happens if a party has more candidates that won locally than they have seats in the parliament according to the first vote of all voters? Then there are the ‘Überhangmandate’, the excess mandates or overhand seats. These candidates will go to parliament but due to them going, the other parties also get extra seats, so that the percentage of the parties is still the same as it was elected. In this way, the parliament can grow – but the percentage will stay the same.

The local winners will all be in the parliament. Every vote is counted and the percentage of seats that each party has in the government is guaranteed nevertheless.

I believe it is fair. I believe it is fairer than the Indian system. More democratic, more what the people really want.

Overkill of Democracy – 20 May 14

I believe we all can agree that democracy is the best form of government that exists. The people have a voice and those actions will be taken which the majority of people decide upon. While I would like to write about the Indian election, the election in the biggest democracy of the world, another time, I would like to tell you about another phenomenon today: the feeling that there can be, sometimes, too much democracy!

Yes, I am serious about this – although, no, I also have to laugh about the funny situations that are created, often also by my democracy-loving wife, in the effort to get the opinion of all present parties before taking any decision, no matter how small. Shall we go in this restaurant or in that one? – I would like this one, and you? Let’s ask him as well, and also her, oh yes, and the other twenty people who were planning on coming along as well! You can imagine how long such a decision-making process takes!

Our friend Thomas has experienced such situations in his school a lot and he often told me that he did not need that much democracy in his life. Here is an example: There are 16 people in one room and their main task is one day to choose which one should be their new office chair.

In Thomas’ school, there are certain meetings that you have to attend and this one was one of them. You had to be there so that the majority could say yes or no to a chair, no matter whether you thought that was important to you or not. At least an hour of your life spent on waiting for others to discuss about the height, hardness and rollability of a chair.

Mostly it looked something like this: person number one, the principal or a teacher with specifically this task, tells about a few different chairs and their benefits and drawbacks. He ends with saying ‘I believe this one will be good’. A logical choice, everyone agrees. But wait, no, everyone agrees is not just enough like this! Now each single person sitting there gets the word and has to say ‘Yes, I agree with him’ and preferably even give a statement as to why.

Thomas told me when he got the invitation, he told his principal ‘You are my principal, I trust that you can decide which will be best for me!’ and to us he added that he would rather sweep the courtyard and do something useful than wasting his time in such a meeting.

It is sure however that nobody can complain afterwards that he had not known about the new chairs!

What do you prefer – decisions taken behind your back or an overkill of democracy?

India, please ban Sex altogether, not only for Bachelors! – 26 Mar 13

Recently, there was a big discussion in India about a very interesting question: from which age on should it be legal to have sex? There were attempts to lower the ‘age of consent’, as it is called, to the age of 16, as it is in many countries worldwide. In the end however, India’s conservative groups gained a victory when the government decided that it would still only be legal to have sex for people 18 and older. Having had vivid discussions on social networks, I would like to write to you about this question in my diary, too.

The biggest controversy about this law is that India’s law still forbids women to marry before they are 18 and men to marry before they are 21. Would those new laws thus endorse sex before marriage, something that religion, tradition and culture strictly sees as a taboo?

Whoever has been in touch with me and my diary entries can probably guess what I would vote for if anybody asked me – the younger age of consent, 16 years. Why? Because we are living in modern times, because I don’t believe in traditions like arranged marriages and most of all because it is anyway already happening all over India. Yes, it is happening. Nobody wants to admit it because this society still believes that it is wrong but young, unmarried people have sex – and often they marry quite late, having made a lot of sexual experiences before their marriage.

The average Indian person will tell you that it is wrong to have sex before marriage and the reason is that they think sex is something dirty. Religion has taught them shame about their sexuality, even if they are married. Before being married however it is thought to be a sin. So even if a person himself has had sex while he was single, for example during his wild college days, when he was going for parties with friends, living far away from his parents and enjoying full freedom for the first time in his life, even then he might tell you that it is a sin. He won’t admit that he did it himself and he might even feel guilty about it. The last person to whom he would talk about his pre-marital sex life would be his wife. If you ask the grooms and brides, every Indian is a virgin at his or her wedding!

And this although we have a culture of arranged marriages! Or maybe especially because of this concept – after all it would reduce your market value if someone knew you had sex although you are not married! Who would give his daughter to a womanizer and who would like to marry his son to a loose woman? Arranged marriages are theaters of hypocrisy!

In my opinion however sex has nothing to do with marriage and should not morally be related to it either! There are lots of cases in this country where people don’t find the right match for getting their marriage fixed! It can be their skin colour, their money situation, their caste or any other reason why the parents just don’t seem to find the right girl or boy for their child. Does this mean these people are not allowed to ever have sex in their lives because they did not get married?

Another thought: what about those people who just don’t want to get married? Who don’t want to have the responsibilities that come with marriage or who only want to marry someone whom they love, not like the horse-trading that arranged marriages are? India is a free country. You don’t reduce the age of consent to 16 only because marrying is still only allowed at 18 and this seems immoral to you. So you will apply this morality on later in life, too, and this means nobody can have sex if they are not married. Then you should make this a law that you are only allowed to have sex if you are married. You cannot, because India is a free and secular country! So don’t apply these morals for young adults either!

Especially Indian parents try to teach such morals to their children, believing that this is the right way, regardless whether they themselves followed their own parents’ rules and morals or not.

I personally refuse to accept any ideology that says you can only have sex if you get married and that is why I will of course never project this on my own children either. I will teach my children freedom and respect. I will educate them about the consequences of sleeping with someone and the precautions and responsibility that need to be taken but it will be up to them to make the decision with whom to sleep or whom to marry.

A parent's heart will always try to do the best for his or her child. It is of course a very individual idea what is 'the best'. I am sure however that I would like my children to have a more natural attitude towards sex, a more educated view on everything that comes with it and then the responsibility and self-confidence to actually decide on their own.