Loud Music, long Hair and Verses on Facebook – Religious Devotion or just showing off? – 13 Nov 14

Today, on a walk through the Ashram, we could hear some music. It was not the soft bells of the temple service we often hear but the sound of music and someone singing, which is also not very unusual but unfortunately normally louder than the bells, as it is transferred via loudspeakers. It got louder and louder the closer we got to the gate and until we were at the road, it had reached an unbearable volume. It is no wonder that I started thinking about the mindset of religious people once more!

Purnendu walks the Parikrama Marg every day. It is a pilgrimage walk that goes ten kilometers around town and thus leads past a lot of temples. He walks it for exercising but of course while walking by, he sees what is going on in the temples. While we were walking back from the road, so that we can talk, he told me that in the temple where the loud noise was coming from, there were just a handful of people sitting. It was rather empty and you could just the sound of that music – not very melodious but it wouldn’t have disturbed people outside. Unfortunately they had the microphone and the horrible speakers on full volume. Inside I can imagine that they have a nice atmosphere with just their ten to fifteen people, by themselves, maybe enjoying their time – but outside it sounds like there is a band and a choir singing for a thousand people, so that they had to put speakers, as they could not all hear it live!

My conclusion, and that’s not the first time that I have it, is that religion is full of hypocrisy. They have a small ceremony or service for worship inside – but more important is that the whole area hears it! Wouldn’t it be just enough to pray for yourself? Religious people are not as interested in their religion as they are in showing off how religious they are! This is a realization that I have had long ago but there are just again and again signs that it is really true.

Do you have religious people among your facebook friends? And have you seen them post photos of gods or write psalms, mantras or verses from scriptures? God has not made a profile on facebook – so whom are these people showing that they are religious if not god? Obviously they want to show their relatives and friends how religious they are! They do it for others, to show the extent of their devotion – and maybe that they are more devoted than them?

Here in India, many religious people of the high caste keep one strand of hair in the back of the head long. Muslims and Sikhs keep their beard or the complete hair long. They say it is done to have a better connection with god – as if their hair would help them tune in on divine frequencies. In reality, they want to show and let everyone know that they are more religious, have a better connection to god, are from a higher caste and just better than those around them who don’t have that hairstyle! Because we all know that there is nothing more divine in having long or short hair!

I believe that all these stupid ideas and rituals, this showing off has made more harm to the thought of god, religion, belief and faith than it has done good. Intelligent people are turned off by this and walk away easily from a religion that is full of hypocrites who want to show off.

Or who want to blast out their service and worship to god into the whole area, like at a rock concert, making it difficult for people to have a conversation anywhere nearby.

Showing off Holiness – Religious Sound-Pollution – 9 Nov 12

To finish this week, in which my topic was religion once more, I want to return home with this entry, home to Vrindavan. You all know that our town is a very religious town. It is called the playground of the Hindu God Krishna and it is said we have more than 5000 temples in which you can worship all different Gods and Goddesses of Hinduism. The moment you enter Vrindavan, you notice the religiosity of the place. There are pilgrims on the roads, you see the temples and small chapel-like houses where people go to worship and most of all you hear people chanting and singing religious songs everywhere. It is this religious noise which I was contemplating about.

If you have not been to India yet, you may think of the sound of church bells or of a boys’ choir, singing with their tender voices. What is really going on here however needs to be witnessed in order to fully realize the difference. Every temple that has a bit of reputation has speakers hanging outside its door, facing the road and spreading the noise outside on the road. It does not matter whether they have a big program going on inside or if there are only three or four people chanting in an otherwise empty room, they will put the speaker on full volume and let it blare out onto the road into the complete neighbourhood. It is not subtle, it is not a soft voice in the background, it is hard-core, full-volume chanting, often regardless of musical talent, melodies and right tunes. I generally call that religious sound pollution.

Before Vrindavan-lovers now start their protest, let me add that I have absolutely no problem with people chanting religious hymns or songs. I actually approve of a joyful atmosphere in which people sing and when our kitchen is filled with music, it makes me feel comfortable and happy. Every temple should have the right to do singing and music, too, even if the singers are not very skilled in their art. But why, really why, do you need to place those four or five speakers onto the temple walls? Why do you need to amplify and shout it out to everyone who wants to or does not want to hear it?

I believe that this is religion on the outside, not on the inside. You are showing off how religious you are and the louder you can get, the more holy and blessed you think you are. Do you think by putting your speakers on the wall and keeping others from sleeping in their beds, you will turn non-believers into believers? Admit that you are doing it for others, not for yourself. If you did it for your own joy, you would not need the speakers, you would be happy just on your own, singing, enjoying the music and whatever religious feeling you get from it.

I sometimes wonder how it must have been when there were no speakers. When I grew up, we would hear the speaker sound in festival times but not every single day of the year! I don’t deny that the constant singing gives the town a certain atmosphere – but it has become too much and too loud. It is like a competition in between different temples who can sing the longest and the loudest. I am sure people would prefer walking in the streets and hearing the real voices coming out of temples instead.

My main point is here that people use religion to show it off. Don’t do this – stay real and be yourself, there is no need to force others to listen to it.

Showing Love without Showing off – 11 Aug 10

As a reaction to yesterday’s diary my friend Deniz wrote ‘I don't think Western people should do this so much in their own countries either. I see it as a form of exhibitionism, private behavior which should be kept private.’

I believe love is not for exhibition. It is a subject of consciousness. You do not need to show it off or prove it to anybody, it is for you and you and your partner know how much you have or don’t have. It is nobody else’s business. Love is in between the two of you and there is no need to practically have intercourse on the street just to make sure the world knows you love each other. Love is not for showing off.

It is also not for hiding though. When you love somebody or something you should not hold back in showing it when you have the feeling that you want to express. When you say ‘I love you’ to the other one, it is not exhibition of your love, it is an expression of your deepest sentiments. If you hug someone, and be it in public, I think it is also not necessarily showing off.

Of course the physical acts should be done with respect for your surrounding. This I would say for anybody and wherever he or she is, if in India or any Western country. What would you do if you were at home? How much affection do you show if you are sitting with older people like your parents or grand-parents? How much affection do you show if you are sitting with children under ten?

I think it is not any problem if you show love and affection by hugging somebody or holding hands. When it reaches sexual behavior, it is too much for your grandmother I think and thus too most for the normal person who sees you on the street and doesn’t even know you.

Real and true Love from within your heart is something beautiful and there is no problem with showing it without showing it off.

Our friend Su from New York celebrated her birthday today with the children at the Ashram by sponsoring their food. They remember her well and when they saw the notice board they talked about her and all wish her a happy birthday!

Showing off Spirituality and Wealth – 14 Mar 10

There are really many stories of religious drama that can be told and I am sometimes amazed by the ideas that some gurus have to show their status of being like Gods or also to show how wealthy or how spiritual they are.

While the Kumbh Mela was here in Vrindavan, we on one day heard an unusual sound: a helicopter was flying over the town. We are not very close to an airport so that we would hear planes or helicopters often, so everybody came out to look and watch what was going on. And suddenly there were flowers flying down from the helicopter to the ground. They were actually not falling simply to the ground but were aimed at a procession where one of the popular gurus of this area was walking or driving on a wagon. In one of the Hindu scriptures it says that from nowhere, out of the sky flowers are raining down. This is what they wanted to imitate to show this man’s spirituality and also of course his wealth. Think about how much it must have cost him to hire the helicopter for the day?

Another new fancy way of preaching is in airplanes and on cruises, so you preach on different elements, water, air and earth. But I really have to say that this is a waste of resources. Okay, you need the fuel for planes for travelling but if you go and fly just for having a lecture in the air, it is just causing pollution, you could as well do it on the ground.