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.

Does a Soul get more Comfort by expensive Rituals after Death? – 14 Aug 11

In the time of grief after my grandfather’s death in 2002, we enjoyed remembering him by telling each other such memories. It was not only us, our small family there, but also my grandfather’s brothers and other relatives. Unfortunately being together with them was not a very pleasant situation.

I had the feeling that many of them were not really there because they were grieving our grandfather but because it is a social responsibility and formality. They did not seem to have a feeling of loss but came to the funeral just as you come to any other social event such as a marriage or birthday celebration. A lot of their actions and talk hurt those who were really in grief. We were not really close to these further family members and their behavior led to some discussions and disagreement with our guests.

As my mother is a single child and my father is, too, we don’t have a lot of extended family relations. We don’t have uncles or cousins. When we saw the behavior of my mother’s uncles and relatives, we realized that we were living in a very different world, with different values and feelings for each other and for those around us. It just did not fit and we understood that it can be a good thing not to have such a very big family as it is normal in India. If you just cannot go along with those who are related to you, why do you have to be together with them?

It is usual to have rituals and ceremonies for thirteen days after a person’s death and for that time the whole family stayed to participate. It was a difficult time. We were all sad about the loss of our beloved grandfather, father, father-in-law and husband and additionally there were those relatives who kept on criticizing the rituals we did, complained that some were not performed or in another way. We did it from our hearts whereas for them it was empty rituals.

In Hinduism there are rituals for every little step you take. As a religious family we did them all but seeing those relatives and the complete atmosphere I started questioning the rituals in my mind and heart. It was, as I said before, the first close experience of a death so close to me. I realized that the more money you spend, the better it seems to be for the soul of your beloved. On the thirteenth day after the death, you call thirteen Brahman people, of the highest cast, one of them being a priest. You give pots, clothes, money, gold and silver to all these people and to the priest you also give a bed, a mattress and everything that belongs to it. The concept is that you believe that you actually give it to the one who died as if he needed all these things wherever he is then. Additionally to those thirteen you invite more people to feed them. The higher your reputation in your town, the more people you are expected to invite. Invitation cards are printed and sent out and many people come to whom you provide food.

We did this all, invited hundreds of people to a big feast, gave a lot of money and other things to the priest and his twelve friends and did everything that should be done. If we had not done that, people would have thought that we did not love our grandfather. With the whole situation however I thought about one question: What do these rituals really give to those who have the feeling of loss?

When the thirteenth day was over, our relatives finally left and we were alone again. We were actually one person more. My grandmother stayed with us. We did not want to let her go and she agreed on staying with her daughter and family.

Do not steal the Childhood of your Children by raising them in a Sect – 22 Jul 11

I have been writing about children and religions, saying that children should have the freedom of choice. When thinking about this, I could not help but wonder what happens to children whose parents are involved in a sect?

The plain answer is: these children have no free choice at all. They cannot shape their lives as they wish but are raised within the sect, with the habits and behavior of members of that sect and with all the rules of the sect. There is no need to brainwash children as their minds are from the beginning trained in everything the sect wants and needs. For sect leaders, they are usually the perfect followers.

Many sects are perfectly secluded from the rest of society. They have their community and the members all live together in one certain area where no non-member really goes. They often even have their own kindergartens, schools, hospitals and workplaces, so that their whole community can live with as little contact to the outside world as possible. They don’t want members to stay in touch with the normal world.

Children who grow up in such an environment have no experience on how to deal with the normal society and with people who live outside of their sect. They only get to know what is normal in their sect. For adults and parents this seclusion from the world often seems like a safe solution, a place where they can hide from the world. They believe it is good for their children, too, and a perfect environment to grow up in. What they don’t realize is that they don’t give their child a chance for normal development.

This is how we often see children in Vrindavan who were born to parents of ISKCON, a sect that has its headquarters in Vrindavan. Boys walk around, at the age of five or six years, in the getup of priests, with shaved heads, wearing dhotis, the head painted with tilak, a sign considered as holy, and with a mala or cymbals in the hands. Their parents instruct them to chant religious songs and mantras. They educate them to be priests and devotees, already at that age. Would you dress your five year old girl like a nun?

On one website I read a quotation of one of their masters that children should be raised without material attachment from the beginning. Tell me, does that mean that you won’t give your child toys to play? You will make them sit in the temple the whole day, performing rituals and chanting, without really ever playing, running around and enjoying like a normal child, in normal clothing and with normal toys? Don’t you feel sorry for these children? I do.

Children who grow up in such sects have no possibility to develop their mind to its full potential because of the narrow-minded view on life that everybody around them has. They have no chance to do anything else than becoming a devotee themselves. They cannot see anything critically because they are taught to believe in the doctrines of the sect. From the very beginning they are taught not to think anything else, not to ask about other things and not to be different. These children end up being adults who are afraid of the outside world.

Even in sects that are not fully separating themselves from normal society, children have difficulties interacting with others normally. The children of the sect ‘Jehovah's Witnesses’ are not allowed to celebrate anybody’s birthday for example because the sect does not believe in it. I have seen children heartbroken about the fact that they were not allowed to go to anybody’s birthday party. All their friends had fun and celebrated but they could not. They were seen as outsiders, avoided by others, often bullied because they were different. Sometimes this increases the feeling of belonging only to the sect, not to the normal world. In other times it gives them the longing of wanting to be like everybody else.

I have met adults who have parents in sects and they, too, are fully active in the sect’s activities. I have however also met people who have a very bad relation or no relation with their parents at all anymore because at some point in their lives they decided that they didn’t want to be part of the sect anymore. It is a hard way for them to go. Many sects don’t make it easy for people to just leave. There are threats about the perishing of soul and body outside of the sect, with the group being the only safe place. If anybody decides to leave anyway, they often have to do it secretly and are then seen as outcasts.

Former sect members who have no previous experience in the normal culture have to be really courageous to take this step. But only in this way they can get out of the control of the sect and have their free will. There have been so many stories about child abuse in sects and there are uncountable negative effects on children who have grown up in this way. There have been parents who let gurus abuse their children with the excuse that he is God. There have been sects that illegally married minor girls to old men and there have been sects that told parents to beat children to educate them in a better way. Many children carry away lasting damage, physically as well as psychologically. Many of them don’t know how to deal with others and are simply afraid of a normal life.

Why would you want to do anything like that to your child? You have decided for yourself that you want to live in a sect and get yourself brainwashed and manipulated. You don’t have the right to do this to another person, to your children though. If you want to follow a guru, a master, a sect leader or any kind of belief, don’t have your children affected by them, too! Maybe your child wants something completely different! Why would you force your belief onto a child? Give your children the possibility to decide themselves. Show them the normal world, let them develop properly with the full capacity of their mind to be critical, to think about everything themselves and with full emotional abilities, too! Give your child the freedom and the possibility of a healthy, normal lifestyle.

Catholic Bishop Raymond Lahey found guilty for Importing Child Porn – 11 May 11

Yesterday I wrote about judging and mentioned that there are cases in which each of us judges easily – and that it is not bad to do this either. The following news is one of those cases: a Canadian catholic bishop was found guilty of importing child porn.

When Bishop Raymond Lahey was searched at the Ottawa airport, border guards found 588 pictures and dozens of videos of naked boys, even as young as eight years old, on the clergyman’s computer and phone. With further investigations they found even more and after the judges found him guilty, he was arrested. He is awaiting sentence and will additionally also face disciplinary actions by the Vatican.

They have even found that he has taken trips to countries like Malaysia and Thailand. We all know that in those countries sex tourism is one of the biggest businesses with foreigners. How do you know the bishop only bought his porn there but did not actually had sex with young boys?

Now tell me, don’t you judge this? Wouldn’t you say that this is shocking, disgusting, horrible behavior? A person does this to children, innocent boys who don’t understand what is happening? And this all under the banner of religion! I do judge and say this is wrong.

At the same time, I do not judge just this one bishop. He is not the only one but just joins the high number of child molesters among Catholic priests. Of course, he is a bishop, which means that he is even higher in their hierarchy, a more important official of the Catholic Church. This all shows again how wrong their system is that does not allow priests to have sex. I have said again and again that such abuse is the result of suppressing the sexuality of these men. You cannot stop this natural urge and if you forbid its natural outlet, it will find another way. Priests, bishops and probably cardinals, too, turn to homosexuality and sometimes even child abuse. Yes, I have to judge and say that this system, this rule and this idea is wrong.

I have been writing a lot about sexual abuse by Hindu Gurus and also much about sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. It happens everywhere, in all religions and it is always wrong.

Photograph by: CHRIS MIKULA POSTMEDIA NEWS, Postmedia News; Ottawa Citizen

Gurus and Religious Leaders creating Fear to increase Income – 10 Feb 11

I said yesterday that Hindu priests and gurus often create greed in people. They tell them that they can perform rituals for them which will bring them money, luck, happiness and more. They use another feeling to sell their rituals: fear.

Fear brings a lot of money for many religious institutions and people. Selling through fear works in a similar way like selling through greed. Fake clairvoyants, astrologers and fortune tellers tell people about all the horrible things that could happen to them.

They tell them they can see in their hands, faces or in their aura some very bad things that will happen in future. They predict that Saturn will come in a constellation that will bring bad luck and sudden loss for their business. They forebode diseases and illnesses for the person himself and the family. They prophesy death of family members through accidents, snake bites and other misfortunes. Some even mention bad luck and unhappiness in future lives and incarnations but most of them concentrate on the current life as it is more urgent to those who ask.

Anybody who goes to these priests, preachers, gurus and cheaters is in some way superstitious. And whoever is in that business has good knowledge of human nature. They can guess easily in which way they can make the other one afraid. Everybody would get afraid, or at least feel uneasy, if someone told you of all the bad luck that you will certainly have in future if you don’t do any of the ceremonies and rituals recommended.

There is always a recommended way to save yourself from the prophesied bad luck. That can be a certain ritual, a prayer or a ceremony but also wearing a protective pendant, necklace or wristband. Of course you can buy all of these items and book all of these ceremonies with the person who made the prophecy or, at the most, with one of his relatives or their commission agents, who give them a share of their profit.

If you once see clear through this dirty business, you will understand how these people get richer and richer. It is a shame and whenever I hear from anybody that they left the belief in such nonsense and such cheaters, I get happy. We need to spread the word and let more and more people know that this is happening here so that less and less people get cheated in this way.

Pope says Child Abuse was normal because of Society – 30 Dec 10

Still before Christmas I read a website article about a statement of the Pope in front of his officials. In his speech to them he asked them to reflect on the church’s culpability in the child sex-abuse scandal which was discovered in the last years. Hundreds or thousands of young girls and boys have been sexually abused by priests whom the parents trusted with the religious education of their children. Victims and their relatives have been waiting for a long time for a reaction of society and church. When the society reacted with an outcry of protest, it still took the Catholic Church a long time to admit their guilt, to find those who did those crimes to innocent children and to take small and hesitating steps to approach the public again.

What the Pope said on 20th December to his officials however was more like an attempt to explain why those priests abused children. He actually blames the society around them! Benedict XVI said “In the 1970s, pedophilia was theorized as something fully in conformity with man and even with children”. It was thus just normal to touch children and have sex with them? Does he mean that the society in the seventies knew about that and accepted it and just nowadays people make a too big deal about it? I don’t really believe in this theory! Does he mean that priests abused children because everybody was doing? I think I stay with my previous statement: when you suppress a natural feeling of sexuality by religious restrictions and limits, the sexual urge will find another way – a sick and unnatural way that hurts people and harms young minds and hearts.

Another thing he said was “It was maintained — even within the realm of Catholic theology – that there is no such thing as evil in itself or good in itself. There is only a 'better than' and a 'worse than.' Nothing is good or bad in itself.” I heartily disagree with this opinion or theory. This would justify whatever action you take. For me it is good to help a child and support him or her for a better future. And it is definitely bad to mistreat and abuse a child. You show yourself unworthy of the parents’ trust, you break a child’s trust and love and you may even ruin his or her mental situation forever. It is a crime and that’s it.


Population of India Blasts and Pope Bans Contraceptives – 23 Nov 10

I had to think a little bit more about the Pope’s idea of using condoms for preventing HIV from spreading but not as a contraceptive. The Catholic Church with the Pope as its head says that people should not use birth control. Anyway, sex before marriage is completely unthinkable and comes close to a mortal sin, so they are not talking about one-night-stands, single sex or partners who did not decide to unite in the holy bond of matrimony. That is anyway evil, so let’s keep discussing intercourse in a marriage, absolutely legal intercourse according to Catholicism.

Why exactly are you not supposed to use condoms? Their answer is that you are trying to prevent life, you are practically opposing creation. Each time that you have sex and each time that the man has an orgasm could be one more life on this earth and you practically kill that life before it even started if you use condoms or birth control pills.

If we follow this thought it means that the Catholic Church wants a couple to get married and as soon as possible have children. When one child is born, don’t control anything, let the second one happen! And another one, and another one… wait, is that really the idea? Living here in India we hear many doctors telling illiterate and uneducated families not to produce a lot of offspring, and that for several cogent reasons.

India is a country with a population growing so fast, that it could in 15 to 20 years outgrow the population of China. Five or more children in a family are not a rarity. Uneducated farmers like the thought of having many sons who can work on their fields. Additionally the business would stay in family, you can trust them and you don’t need to pay anybody from outside. They don’t realize that feeding seven children may be even more costly than paying salary to extra workers. In their eyes their children are the provision for their old age. Everybody wants to have many children although they sometimes don’t even have the money to feed themselves. What should their children live from?

There are many grievances in India and charity workers from India and all over the world try to tell people that they should only have one or two children. The government tried to lower the birth rate in many ways. They spent millions of Rupees educating people on family planning and paying money to those who have sterilizations and vasectomies done. This all for a reason: if India’s population keeps on growing, the poverty in the country will take overhand, there are not enough schools even today, there is a big shortage of doctors and so many people live and die in situations of extremely poor hygiene simply because they don’t have enough space.

So if it is a sin to use birth control methods such as condoms, India will just keep on growing. To educated people, the idea of not using birth control seems old-fashioned, outdated and simply irresponsible. The Holy Father’s answer to this would probably be celibacy again. Just don’t have sex if you don’t want to have children. But you cannot teach people abstinence if you have difficulties teaching them the alphabet! Is it really a sin to use condoms in this country? Would the Pope make an exception and allow Indian Christians to use artificial birth control? Or is India just not a place for Catholics?

Pope allows Condoms to Prevent AIDS from Spreading – 22 Nov 10

After the child abuse scandals and sex scandals of the Catholic Church that have been uncovered in the last years, the world has been waiting for a reaction by Pope Benedict XVI. Something. An apology, a call to action against it, any reaction! But no, even on his Easter speech to the world it seemed like this topic was not enough of an issue to bother the Holy Father. Next week however the world will finally be able to read about how stunned he was about the scandals… better late than never?

Next week the Vatican will publish a book based on the first interview given face to face by a Pope and everybody can look forward to get some interesting new statements. One of the most surprising ones is that he finally accepts that condoms might be a good thing!

Well, he didn’t quite say it like that. He moved only a tiny little bit away from the conservative statement that condemns condom use overall: “In certain cases, where the intention is to reduce the risk of infection, it can nevertheless be a first step on the way to another, more humane sexuality.” He right away makes clear that although you may use it to prevent AIDS from spreading, it is not the ‘proper way’ to deal with HIV and for sure you should not use contraceptives when you are married and both you and your partner do not suffer from AIDS.

So he actually only admits that men may use condoms if they know that they are HIV positive so that they don’t infect another person. He gives an example: “There may be justified individual cases, for example when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be … a first bit of responsibility, to redevelop the understanding that not everything is permitted and that one may not do everything one wishes.” He does not leave the opinion that you should not use birth control or that you should not have sex before marrying – God beware! No, but it seems that after decades of protests, debates and discussions, the pontiff finally realized that even the Catholic Church cannot stay that much backward to believe it is better to infect another person with a deadly virus than to use a condom! Many cardinals, bishops and priests who obviously live more in reality are already of the opinion that birth control may even be a good idea and much better than the solution of the pope who still suggests abstinence.

Nevertheless I guess we have to thank his holiness for granting all HIV infected men to have sex with their wives using condoms and all male prostitutes to use condoms in their profession. Should he himself ever get the joy of having sex, I think he should try it without a condom to be able to get full pleasure.

More News

Does Yoga Need a Colour or is that only Marketing? – 7 Nov 10

Once someone asked me if a yoga teacher should wear white while teaching. My answer was very simple and quick: no. Then I was wondering from where that question even comes. When I asked the questioner, I got to know that this person learned from one of the thousands of different traditions that teachers should teach in white. There may be other traditions that teach in yellow and others that teach in orange and I know for sure that some tell you not to wear anything and do yoga naked!

I actually see this as ‘branding’, a kind of trademark-marketing. Once this tradition will get popular, everybody who teaches in white, yellow or orange will at first be seen as a follower of the specific tradition and their rules. So this may be good for marketing but I don’t think that yoga requires this.

Another point is that you should wear that dress ‘in yoga time’. When you are done with the class, you take off the dress and put it in the drawer where it belongs. Doesn’t it feel like the whole yoga has gone into the drawer then? It feels as if you are putting on a fancy dress or you wear the clothes for your role in a drama in theatre. Do you only play and step into the role of being a yoga teacher?

Why can we not just be who we are and how we are? Let yoga come into your life naturally, normally! Again, you don’t ‘do yoga’ for a few hours each day but you are in yoga and that for your whole life. Why would you dress up like for a show and when the show is over you do what you want? I know that this happens in really many traditions, some wear white, some wear another colour, some wear only a certain kind of shirt, some have their tradition’s logos on their clothes, some wear turbans, others wear special yoga socks and there are many more such examples.

I believe it is unnecessary ritualization which leads to several different problems. One of these problems is that ‘normal people’, means people who have nothing to do with yoga or any philosophy get afraid that these traditions might be sects. This leads to ideas like this Christian priest had that I told you about. He believes that Yoga is not compatible with being Christian.

So why don’t we just all be natural about who we are and leave this kind of rules behind us? Feel free to wear whatever you feel comfortable with and include yoga in your life!

Does Yoga Include Ritualized Sex Orgies? – 15 Oct 10

In the last week I have been writing about the opinion of a Christian man, Albert Mohler, who in his blog stated that Christians should not be doing yoga. When I read his blog I found a quotation of another person that Mohler liked that much that he added it in his blog:

“All forms of yoga involve occult assumptions…” and he adds: “While most adherents of yoga avoid the more exotic forms of ritualized sex that are associated with tantric yoga, virtually all forms of yoga involve an emphasis on channeling sexual energy throughout the body as a means of spiritual enlightenment.”

When I read this I had to smile. Even if you look up the word ‘occult’ you find synonyms like ‘secret, mysterious’ and an explanation about magic or supernatural powers. Now, if you have ever visited a yoga class, was it really anything about magic? That sounds as if someone confused Yoga with Satanism… but then you can read the next lines as an explanation: ‘ritualized sex…associated with tantric yoga’. Now we know what it is about: he believes real yoga classes to be like a secret meeting where people practice having sex.

Well, I actually do not wonder too much about this assumption anymore. He talks about ‘tantric yoga’ and the general and usual confusion in the west is that Tantra means sex. Unfortunately he is also not the only one who has this idea about yoga. Somehow when the ideas of yoga and tantra came into the west, many people accepted them openly and then added whatever they thought was missing in their previous belief. It is an idea of the west that yoga has to be associated with sex. I think one reason why some people see sex in yoga is because they were not happy with the restrictions that Christianity puts on their sexuality. It was too narrow for them, too much talk about sin and doing wrong. As not many people knew about the real and original meaning of yoga, it was easy to add or enhance the sexual aspect.

One thing is for sure: yoga accepts the whole human being as he is, including his sexuality, sexual urge and sexual energy. It does not exclude sex or see it as a sin as many Christian priests but also Hindu priests do. On the other hand it also does not especially include sex as anything extraordinarily important. Some people may have exaggerated the role that sex plays in yoga or tantra, but a normal yoga class is usually not an orgy or focusing on sex. Maybe we should invite Mr. Mohler sometime to join one, he might be surprised how simple and normal yoga is. Just a room full of nice and loving people, ready to do something for body, mind and soul.