Unemployed Office Workers become religious Preachers in Vrindavan – 17 Oct 11

Last week I explained that many westerners come to India looking for Siddhis and for those who have Siddhis and might show them how to achieve them for their own lives. As there is demand for such people, others make this offer and the number of gurus in this business grows daily. Not everybody starts showing off his fake Siddhis by magic tricks right away. Many begin their guru career as simple preachers and especially in Vrindavan we have many of those preachers.

We once had a person who worked on our website for us. That was before we took care ourselves of uploading pages on the website, updating content and making that content look nice online. He was the one who was supposed to do all that but after some time we noticed that he spent more time of the day downloading and watching movies than doing our work which is why any requested change on the website took rather long. We had to fire him and started doing this all ourselves which we are very happy about now.

Some time ago we got to know that our former employee was not anymore working on improving the websites of other people but had created his own website, had set up profiles on social networks and had started another business: he had become a preacher.

Online we saw pictures of him in full spiritual clothing instead of the suite that he used to wear, his hair grown longer and the make-up of a spiritual person in the face. For us it was quite funny to see this ‘holy’ getup and to read his advertising in which he of course told about his lineage, his guru and his tradition, his lifelong devotion to Hindu practices and scriptures as well as to the service of Krishna.

When he once came by at the Ashram again, I had some talk with him. I told him that I had heard about his new profession and asked how come he had started that. He answered ‘Well, you have to do something for a living!’

So you see, this is how dozens of preachers can be born in this town every day. They try to get a job according to what they have learned or what they know. If they have good qualifications, it can work. If it doesn’t, they often go into the preaching profession. Why? Because Vrindavan is always full of religious pilgrims. They come from all over India and from abroad on their pilgrimages and stop here in Vrindavan to do pooja at the river Yamuna, to go to the old temples Banke Bihari and Madan Mohan and maybe do some sightseeing at the ISKCON temple. And many love to have some extra program by hiring a priest or a preacher to tell them some stories of the scriptures, perform a ceremony with them or help them go to the religious places in town.

When you come as a pilgrim to Vrindavan, you come for your good Karmas. Doing the ceremonies and taking the services of a preacher to listen to devotional stories or to sing Mantras and Kirtan is part of increasing your good Karma. Someone who was born and grew up in Vrindavan usually has heard the main stories that are there to tell and some extra points for a lecture are quickly learned. Everyone can become a preacher and young people who want to start a business in Vrindavan often decide to go for this profession.

I do not want to blame anybody for taking up this profession because it is their way of securing their survival. They work for their living and it has to be appreciated. By explaining how they come into this profession I want to take the magic and mystery away from this idea of holiness that some people have. It is a business like every other. People learn a bit, there is demand and they make their offer in the market. They are not holy and they are not more blessed than you. Instead of calling them preachers, you should call them entertainers. Religious make-up and getup doesn’t make a person holy. Maybe some of them have worked in an office before. There could be some who actually devoted their lives but you might have to search for them.

Don’t fall for the illusion of holiness but dig deeper.

Modern preaching is comparable to modern Entertainment Industry – 2 Oct 11

There has always been a mixed public at my programs and lectures. Of course there are always those who are there for devotional purpose and for experiencing the holiness of such an event, meeting a guru and listening to the scriptures. Others, as I told you before, are there to look for a possible partner. And then there are again others who are only there for entertainment.

You have to understand that for many people these religious programs are really the best entertainment they can imagine. It has always been like that. These are people who have a lot of time. They may be old and retired or maybe women whose husbands work and provide for the family. They have time to go to programs that go the whole morning and then start again in the afternoon.

They would of course have other possibilities to entertain themselves, too, but maybe they don’t really like going to theater halls or cinemas. Maybe they don’t enjoy other concerts but enjoy more to be in a crowd to listen a lecture with some music in between. The audiences became smaller when more and more people started having TVs in their homes. In India there were very soon TV channels that broadcasted religious programs, too, and thus people could get the same entertainment at home.

A live show is always better though and this is how people still today come to listen to preachers and gurus, also only to get entertained, not because of their devotion to god or the guru. They get carried away there and often get very emotional. Maybe you ask how they start dancing, singing and crying during the program if they are not there full of devotion. I have seen this behavior many times and it is just as if you are watching a movie that moves you and you start crying. Many people get very involved when they watch TV and emotions are obviously and naturally triggered. So if there is anything that stirs the emotions in a live program, it is just natural to let them out. If there is music, why not sing and dance along?

With time the programs had more and more of such entertaining elements. In the time of my grandfather, when the tradition of telling about scriptures started getting popular, the guru was just sitting on a stage and talking and people loved it. It was great and enough for them if he just sat there and spoke. New thinkers, inventers and artists joined the profession and they started developing the shows. They realized that the audience loves it if they don’t only get dry lectures but some music in between, too.

When I started giving lectures, it was only me on the stage and I gave lectures of two hours. Later you can say I changed with the competition of the market and integrated musicians into my program. There was more music, thus more dance and a whole new charm to the event. There were always ideas to make it even nicer and this is how, when we had the possibility, we started installing screens in the back of the tents so that people in the back could also see the show. It was not anymore only about hearing, you wanted to see, too!

Nowadays those programs often resemble a complete musical. The organizers or the performers find someone to dress up like Krishna and some more people for other roles, who then dance and perform along with the main ‘artist’, the guru. People get something to see and get full entertainment.

In Vrindavan there are however many people who are still against those nice little additions to the preaching lectures. They believe by adding music and dance into the program, the preachers destroy the traditional way of preaching. Conservative, orthodox believers don’t want to see colourful costumes and don’t want to hear people sing. They only want the lecture and are often angry about the enhancement, saying that it loses its value. I did it because I saw that I made people happier and enjoy more and I still don’t see anything wrong in this.

This is how I usually had a group of musicians with me. In 2002 in London, I had only two musicians with me, one from India and one who had Indian ancestors but lived in London.

We had very good program and enjoyed it very much.

Is religious preaching a performing Art or a divine Act? – 25 Sep 11

It was not only young people in the search for partners who came to my lectures and programs in London in 2002. There were also older people who were interested in the scriptures and these were mostly those who came to me in my private time to talk a bit more about what I had said on stage. They either came to me or they invited me to their homes.

In my lectures I always gave the possibility to ask questions but some were more extensive and deeper so it was good that we had some time to talk about them in private. Questions and answers was thus a normal part of my work, too. I enjoyed that time with these older Indian Londoners, too. They spoke good Hindi, often better than their children, and they had spent 50 or more years reading scriptures, understanding religious texts and doing the ceremonies. I was young in age but I had learned from my father and from other teachers and with that knowledge and my experience of this work in India, I was able to satisfy their curiosity. I still consider myself as a student but I was good enough in my profession to satisfy their need. It happened several times that I could explain them an interpretation of a scripture which they had not understood in their long time of studying. This obviously brought me their respect.

It also increased their impression of me being a special and holy person. I was the guru and in their opinion I was divine and holy. I gave great answers to questions of life and they, the 70-year-old men could ask me, who was only 30 years old. It increased the impression that they had got when they had seen me on stage.

I actually see the stage performance as an art. Everybody who come on stage has to be an artist. Even people with much knowledge, who have made university degrees and long studies of a subject, become artists when they come on stage to present their knowledge. On stage you have to perform. You have to have a stage program, no matter in which field you perform. When I went on stage, I wore beautiful, colourful clothes, a really good outfit that made me shine. Of course I also put on the traditional religious makeup with sandalwood and tilak in the face. I am also an artist and good performer. Additionally however I had the knowledge to satisfy people’s interest and thirst for information.

The problem with religious performances is that people immediately believe that a good performer and even more a knowledgeable person is holy. If someone has learned a lot and has a deeper understanding than you which he can then present in a better way, he is not divine! He has done effort for it and he is a good artist. It may be his talent but he is not God. This happens in no other field, not in music, not in other performing arts, only in religion. And I was the guru. I had knowledge, I was a good performer and I impressed people. For them, I was holy.

Modern Interpretation of Religious Scriptures and Politics in Temple – 3 Apr 11

I landed in Bangkok and was picked up by the man who had invited me. He was the former manager of a Hindu temple. He had talked with the present management of the temple and they all had agreed to invite me and organize my stay and lectures at the temple.

So there I was, living in the temple complex and giving each day one lecture of a few hours. As it was a temple, they already had an audience and for announcing my program they had simply informed the Indian community. This is how many people daily came to my lectures and they liked my style of interpretation.

Already before the cave I was giving lectures in a different way than the traditional religious speakers. I guess being modern and different is somehow in my nature. Traditionally a preacher or lecturer, who has nine days of lecture to fill, takes one scripture and explains it from the first to the last word. He reads out the scripture and tells one of the common interpretations. People may have heard this lecture before, by another speaker but they believe that it is good for them and their Karma to listen to those lectures. They come for a religious purpose and believe that simply hearing those words will be good for them.

What I did was to take pick one mantra, only one phrase of a scripture and went into a detailed interpretation which took the whole time of one lecture. I talked about the whole philosophy which is behind that sentence or phrase and of course with this I gave everybody a different, a new point of view. I was not only narrating the scripture but I gave a new idea to the meaning of the phrases. This is why people liked and enjoyed being in my lecture. It was different from what they usually heard from their preachers. It was not only their karma that had a benefit but they actually liked to listen.

In that year I also celebrated Janmashtami, the birthday of Krishna, in Bangkok. Obviously the Hindu temple had a very big celebration and they also felt honoured to have me there in that time, as I came from Vrindavan, the town of Krishna. The rituals that they did were just like in India and I had seen this kind of big celebrations there, too. I even did not find any difference in the politics of religious organizations in India and the temple management there.

The members had a lot of fights among each other, the president with the secretary, the secretary with the vice president and everybody with the person who dealt with the finances. They are in their prestigious positions and all have different ideas how they should use their ‘power’. Such religious organizations are just like normal companies or even like a country’s government, full of politics. They preach against ego and should be serving society! Instead they are looking for power, prestige and often also money.

To sum it up, I enjoyed my lectures and the program but not really the religious scene around it. Again it made me think. This was not the meaning of religion and this is not how religious people should act. You don’t need to prove that you are the most religious person of all. I thought about whether I would be able to cope with this kind of situations my whole life long. Did I really want to do this?

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.

Creating Greed for Donations – A Popular Idea of Religion – 9 Feb 11

When writing the diary entries of the last days, I had a thought which is in a way very ironic. Religions, gurus and many more persons and institutions claim that they help people to live according to moral values. They preach to whoever wants to listen and talk a lot for all the virtues and against all the vice that we find in humans. On the other hand however they keep encouraging greed and are very often greedy themselves.

It is not the first time that I write about the greed of religions and religious leaders but maybe the first time that I write about the greed that they create in their followers.

Why exactly would anybody give a donation to a temple or a guru? To get blessings. Blessings for what? To achieve something bigger or to get something which is unlikely or difficult to achieve or to get. To sum it up, they think they can take a shortcut. They don’t want to go the whole way and try to find a shorter way.

I don’t know exactly whether this happens in other religions, too, but I know very exactly how it happens in Hinduism. Whatever you are wishing for, you only need to ask a priest or at a temple and they will tell you a certain pooja, a certain ritual or a certain prayer which you will have to do, often with them or at their temple. Every of these rituals or ceremonies has its price. Again and again, you find the same system: if you have a big wish, a bigger ceremony or more important prayers are necessary which obviously cost more. The conclusion is, if you want to have one million, you have to spend ten thousand first.

If you do this, you will get that. These rules are made by the writers of scriptures and founders and leaders of religion. They can show you the proof of what they say in their scriptures. There you will see written, black on white, if you do this ritual, you will get that benefit. So first of all they preach from these scriptures, create greed in people to get all those benefits and afterwards offer them to do the rituals for them. It is a full business.

They make people think ‘Okay, if I anyway get a million afterwards, I can spend ten thousand now, afterwards I will have much more.’ Instead we have to let people know that there are no such shortcuts. They have to learn to trust themselves and they have to realize that God does not love any priest or guru more than them. Do work and believe that God does only what is best for you.

Religion and Spirituality – What is the Difference? – 25 Oct 10

What is the difference in between religion and spirituality?

I have in the beginning of my life followed a religion and was even spreading its message. My grandfather was doing it, my father was doing it and so I also did it. I learned what was written in scriptures, I learned all the traditions and rules.

Religion has so many rules. It shows you exactly which way you are supposed to walk. It tells you which step to take and where not to go. Religion tells you if you do this, you will go to heaven and if you do that, you will go to hell. Or something similar, like God’s punishment or another way to make you afraid.

Even when I was preaching and living my guru life, I was a little bit different. Even in that time I liked to rather spread a message that makes you feel good. I liked to help people follow spirituality in their lives instead of only the hard rules of religion.
Spirituality does not have rules. It makes you feel good and gives you real joy. You know what you do and you do it because you love it. You do it because you enjoy it. You don’t do it because of some kind of fear or because a rule but because of love.

Religion is a firm and strict structure whereas spirituality is soft and flowing. Religion presses into clear and edgy shapes whereas spirituality makes round and soft. I believe religion comes from the mind and spirituality from the heart.

Christian Yoga Practitioners can Relax – 10 Oct 10

Yesterday I told that Albert Mohler, a Southern Baptist theologist, wrote why yoga should not be performed by Christians. I have read some of his articles on his website to get to know more about why he actually says this and to read a bit more of his opinion. I definitely disagree with him, as I already wrote yesterday, when he says yoga is not compatible with Christianity.

There are several points in his articles where you can see that there are misunderstandings and where he does not have the right information about real yoga. Nevertheless he has understood one thing that I also often mention, both in my diary and in person in workshops and seminars:

…a significant number of American Christians either experiment with yoga or become adherents of some yoga discipline. Most seem unaware that yoga cannot be neatly separated into physical and spiritual dimensions. The physical is the spiritual in yoga, …

I absolutely agree on this point. Mohler has received thousands of mails in which people tell him that they never do meditation, they do not do any spiritual practice and they do not think about yogic philosophy but they practice hatha yoga, merely physical exercise. I would also say, if you do this, then you are not really in yoga, you are just working out, doing training for your fitness.

Why do people who do yoga write like this? Are you afraid of the judgment of a minister or religious leader? I can assure you that God will not be angry with you if you do meditation! God will not punish you if you do yoga! If you have accepted yoga in your life, why are you so fearful or confused? You do not need to give a justification for what you are doing or, more importantly believing in. Yoga is food for the unity of body, mind and soul and how is this something wrong? You should not justify why you, as a Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Jew or Hindu are doing yoga or not. Don’t be afraid of the judgement of a priest, preacher, guru or bishop or minister. Yoga is not something that you have to confess in church on Sundays. Be confident about what you do. If you feel yoga helped you on your way, that is it. If you feel yoga brought you even closer to your religion, then keep on doing it. I have met many Christians who told me that after accepting yoga in their lives, they felt more connected to Jesus. Don’t lend your ear to those who say that this is wrong, listen to your heart.

In any way, there is no reason to justify your yoga practice by saying it was only physical. Yoga is more than just movement of body and you know that! Your feelings and experience tell you whether yoga is right for you as a Christian or not. Enjoy, feel and feel free.

Preaching Business on Spiritual TV Channels – 4 Apr 10

In India there are spiritual TV channels which show lectures of spiritual leaders and preachers, some yoga program and talk shows about spiritual topics, philosophies and scriptures. Many of these channels and have approached me with the question if I would like to buy some time on their channel for giving a lecture or anything similar. They came with a time table in which they had their different prizes listed. The prime time was more expensive and according to how much time you booked, you could also have a discount. These are national and also international channels. When I was in the UK, I also saw that you could watch those channels there. You can see high-profile Swamis and Gurus who have been giving program on the channel for years. They have big names and have not only millions but billions of dollars.

I received the offer of the TV channels and they showed me the tariff card. I don’t remember it exactly now but I remember that it was pretty expensive. They also had examples of how much profit you would get from doing one show on their channel. I said to this person that I have 100 children, they are just there at the school, you can get to know them. If you have a donation for them and for their education, you are very welcome. But I will not give you my face to show on your channel and even give you money for it! When I said that they were very surprised and said ‘But everybody gives money for this!’ and I just told them that they should go to those people, with me they are wrong.

As I said already two days ago, I am not really interested to become very big and to have my face known all over the planet. I once met a former ‘colleague’, a guru, who had given some channels his recordings to publish and he earned much money from it even after paying a lot in the beginning. I just think about all the money in this business: first you invest, then the TV channels make money and in the end you make a lot of money but is this really what spirituality is about? It is all a money game, where is the love? How is the money spent in the end? It would be good if it could go to charity but unfortunately that is hardly ever the case. I would like to recommend all those big Gurus and also the TV channels to do something solid, some concrete work instead of confusing and making fools of those who sit and watch those programs.

In the end also those Swamis and Gurus who are shown on TV will die and then they cannot take all their money and fame with them. I am happy if I know that even after my death there will be children who can eat with the help of what I did in my life.
 

Fake Guru Sex Scandal – 3 Mar 10

More and more fake gurus are exposed. Yesterday the TV news showed another guru who does not really behave according to what he preaches. He claims to be a God and he sells enlightenment by giving deeksha, an initiation, which costs you a good amount of money. The news was asking why God – as the man claimed to be – would ask for money for an initiation?

Just one day later, today, we received another news: another South Indian guru, who is actually very popular in the west, more than in India, was exposed by media. He calls himself Paramahansa Nithyananda and gives courses in enlightenment, too. About both these persons or organizations I have been writing on my diary already.

The TV channel showed a video how this fake guru Nithyananda is getting intimate with two different women. Just as I wrote in the last days, this man’s public appearance is the image of purity. I don’t think there is anything wrong with having sex; that is not the problem. But I wonder very much that these gurus give big lectures about enlightenment and being beyond worldly pleasures, preaching celibacy and on the other hand they enjoy having sex with their disciples. And he is by far not the only one, more and more of these fake gurus are exposed for having orgies, for pedophilia, prostitution and other scandals.

In the last days I wrote that sexual feelings are natural and this is why I believe you should not preach celibacy. And ironically those people who collect millions of Dollars through their image of being enlightened and the purest people on earth, abuse all their followers’ trust by going into the other extreme – into a sexuality which comes from a sick mind, which no longer is how nature intended it to be. And you need to add that this way of sexuality lacks every respect of women. There is just no love, it has absolutely nothing to do with love.

I again think of those who believed these fake masters. How much will their feelings get hurt? Why is the Indian culture polluted by this kind of fraud? You need to open your eyes now and see carefully if the person, whom you are donating hundreds or thousands of dollars to, actually lives what he preaches. Be aware. Don’t believe it if someone promises you enlightenment if you just pay him enough money. I said it before and I will say it again: you have your own guru inside yourself. Every one of us has access to this light, not just those who call themselves gurus.