A silent Comfort during Times of Grief – 7 Jul 13

After the Radhashtami celebrations in 2005, I left India again to go on another tour in Europe. I had several stations again and of course came back to Germany as well. During this trip however I decided that I wanted to spend some time in silence. I had done this before and it was always a nice experience for me.

I was actually not going to spend the whole trip in silence. Not even full days. I wanted to have a set time period of some hours, six or eight, I don’t remember exactly, during which I wouldn’t need to talk. I would otherwise just do whatever I was regularly doing and simply not talk. I told this to my organizers and although it was something new for them, they understood why I wanted to do it. Just withdraw my senses and not spend much energy on talking.

So I kept my silence for certain times and everybody accepted it. People actually appreciated this, too, and I think several people tried the same way of retreat for themselves, too, after seeing me do it. In that time I did not communicate in any form except with the eyes. I did not make signs and I did not write – that would not have had the desired effect. I did not communicate in any way.

I don’t know how it came then, on a day like every other, I saw by chance that my phone was blinking. It had received a message. I picked it up and read a sad SMS: my friend of several years, my first German friend, the doctor from Luneburg told me in short words that his father had expired.

Of course it made me sad to hear about the sadness that my friend must be feeling. I was in Stuttgart, a few hundred kilometers away but I knew that I would meet him in a few weeks, when I would come to Luneburg. For now however I wanted to send him a sign of comfort.

I sent him a blank message back.

My friend knew that I was spending my days in silence. He was sitting in grief in front of the dead body of his father, my message came and he looked at it, probably expecting the usual words of comfort. Blank space. Silence. A hug, love, everything expressed through some blank space. In spite of the place and situation he was in, he had to smile. ‘Only Balendu can do that!’ he thought – something that he still tells me today when we talk about that day.

Giving unpleasant answers can be avoided by not answering at all – 21 Mar 13

I yesterday started explaining possible ways to answer when you know exactly that the questioner would not be happy about what you honestly think.

2nd Possibility: Don’t answer at all

While I completely rejected even considering lying for an answer, I might in some certain situations suggest this option, especially when it is in a situation when you want to be diplomatic with someone who will not play an important role in your life in future. Someone whom you meet once and whom you don’t need to broadly explain your complete philosophy because you know that your words are lost on him – he won’t agree, not even think about what you said but instead simply feel insulted or bad. This is the only situation where you might try this option but beware: it is not as easy as it seems!

You obviously cannot just stay mute, turn around and leave – that would be worse than lying I guess and definitely too rude. You wouldn’t get out of your uncomfortable situation in this way. On the contrary, it would get much worse! No, you need to act a little bit more smoothly than that!

Let me give you an example for one case when I actually used this method, not in order to safe my own feelings but the questioner’s peace of mind. Some months ago we had visitors here at the Ashram who knew me from the time when I was still working as a guru. It was an old lady who had visited my program a lot. She had brought her son, his wife and his children and introduced me as her guru. After some normal small talk, she asked me when I would come in her town for giving lectures again.

I was standing there, three pairs of eyes on me, eagerly expecting an answer, hoping that I would come soon to give a religious program there. I considered my possibilities and while looking into the eyes of the old woman, approaching eighty years, I decided to choose this option to answer. If I told them now that I was non-religious and didn’t even believe in God anymore, it would unnecessarily confuse the old lady and disturb her without reason. “Oh, I am a father now!”, I thus answered and laughed, bending down to pick up Apra. When I came up, the baby on my arm, I continued “This little star is now taking up all my attention!” and I tickled her under her arms. “She has started taking her first steps last week!” I added and all attention was on Apra and her development, the question unanswered and forgotten. No hard feelings and nobody disappointed.

You can start at the topic that the question is about and then just talk past it without ever answering, softly switching over to a related topic which is interesting enough to take the person’s mind off his or her question. Maybe you can make a joke or you get into a controversial topic. You may even ask the other one a question back which you assume he would like to talk about – and of course forget his previous inquiry over it.

This technique is a bit difficult and I have to warn you that it won’t always work. If the other person seriously asked you something and the question is important to him, he won’t let you get away with this! He will ask again and then it would look funny if you tried to distract him again.

The main thing is that you really don’t answer the question. So you need to decide beforehand whether the other person is just being curious and doing small talk or whether he is seriously interested. If the second is the case, forget this option – it won’t solve the problem!

Silent Feedback – You agree but don’t have the Courage to admit it! – 14 May 12

I would like to write a few lines about the reactions that I get when writing my diary. There are all different kinds of topics and of course all different kinds of reactions. One of the most interesting reactions is, I think, the unexpressed agreement, hidden behind displayed polite disagreement or just plain silence.

There are times when I write about very outrageous, unbelievable stories, like the incident when a father cut his own children’s flesh to perform rituals, and everybody obviously agrees that it is horrible that such things happen. At other times there are topics, like the issue of the fake guru Kumar Swami, when I receive both, very positive and negative feedback, the negative feedback in this case by his followers, who even wanted me to take my article down. And then there are some topics in which the main feedback that I get is eloquent silence.

These topics are issues that are rooted deeply in people’s belief, their culture and their thinking. It happens when I directly point at wrong behavior that is socially accepted and widely practiced. It happens when I speak about something that people would rather not have anybody speak about. It happens when I say the truth and people realize it is the truth but they would like to pretend that they had never heard it, had never read my lines and did not know what is right.

I take a fact and I analyze it. I look at it from different directions and I reach a conclusion. I present this conclusion and then there is someone who has learned something which says exactly the opposite. His whole life he has acted in another way and decided to believe something different. Everybody reading my lines would agree and this person does, too. He feels inside that I am right! ‘Yes, there is something to it! But can I really admit this? Maybe I can just close my eyes and pretend that I never read about this – that will save me from a lot of trouble!’

Agreeing would mean a big change! It could change a person’s life to accept what he or she believed was wrong! It is easy and very comfortable simply not to reply. ‘Who will ask me about it anyway, it is the internet, a virtual world, after all.’

But you know inside yourself that you are not right, that there is truth to what I wrote. If you keep on pretending you don’t, you lie to yourself! Just because you have been told, because everybody was always doing it this way, because your scriptures say it should be like this, you think you have to believe this, too? No, you can make a change! I know it may contradict everything you ever believed in but you won’t lose anything if you give up a wrong belief! That is not your anchor or your life vest, you can survive without it! Don’t cling to it like a drowning man! See that you are free without it!

Instead, most people remain silent. Others, who have the urge to reply, cannot help but write a polite comment, disagreeing half-heartedly. They don’t have any valid argument against it anyway, they themselves know the truth. It is however not possible for them to publicly admit that. A conversation with them will always end with ‘Yes, I know, but I nevertheless keep on believing and thinking what I did before.’

I know that this is often a problem of religious people but also people who don’t believe in religion sometimes have a behavior or a way of thinking that they hesitate to change even if they know it is wrong. The fear of this change is strong. What will my surrounding say? I don’t want to step out of a group, out of the community! I will be different!

Don’t be afraid, you can make that change! Be honest with what you feel, that is most important. It is not me who will benefit from that change but you! To break your patterns and to start a new way of thinking which feels true to you needs courage. Be brave, you can do the change! If you feel different, don’t be stubborn, don’t hold on to what you thought was right but be free to choose the real truth. Only that will make you happy! And if you understand that it is the truth, others can understand it, too. You will never be alone if you believe in truth.

Prayers for the Survivors of Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan – 14 Mar 11

Of course the news of the earthquake, the following tsunami waves and the two explosions in the nuclear power plant in Japan have also reached us here in Vrindavan. We have been watching pictures and videos from Japan in the last days, wondering how much more suffering will come over the people. The first news was that of the earthquake. Already many people lost all they had. After that the waves and floods of the tsunami started carrying away cars, ships, houses, trains and everything they could find including people. And now thousands of people have been evacuated from the area around Fukushima, the nuclear station, where already two explosions made people fear radiation. Everybody is afraid that there may be another, bigger explosion and the radioactivity would leak.

It is even difficult to see these pictures, they just melt your heart and you can only imagine the situation of the people there who are suffering there. What can we do for them except for praying? We can only wish them the strength to bear it, stuck in the catastrophe, many without belongings, many without water and all in fear.

I have just seen one image, a hundred children standing on a school roof, the school surrounded by the waters of the Tsunami, waiting for someone to rescue them. They are alive but they have nothing to eat, nothing to drink. They are only standing there and waiting. There will be many stories which are much more painful than this and it just makes the heart sink.

We have seen the Tsunami in 2004, too, and many times in history nature has shown how powerful it really is. We claim to be powerful but in reality we are not. How much can change from one night to another!

This morning the whole Ashram family and all school children said a prayer together and in silence thought of all the people in Japan who are suffering, sending them our love, also to those who are providing help and trying their best to rescue others.

Pictures of land before and after the catastrophe

Leaving the Cave – My Day of Rebirth – 9 Jan 11

I stepped out of the hole that they had made in the door wall of my cave. There was my father and my brothers standing to welcome me. I greeted my father and when I touched his feet, he pulled me into his arms for a long embrace. Thousands of people were standing around, singing and cheering. In order to get through the crowd, my brothers lifted me up on their shoulders. In this way they carried me to a stage which they had prepared for this day, where everybody could come to meet me and welcome me back to this world.

The experience of coming out of the cave was like being reborn. I obviously don’t remember my own birth – nobody does, but now I can imagine pretty well how it is to be reborn. I already mentioned that I was shocked. I was shocked by all the noise after complete silence in the cave. I was shocked by the sunlight shining in my face after near darkness for such a long time. Most of all however I was shocked by the thousands of people welcoming me, hugging me and cheering for me after having been in complete isolation, fully alone for more than three years. They all tried to touch me, they all wanted to talk to me and get my blessing.

All my disciples were there and many more people from all over the world. For them I was the guru who I had been before, even greater, after my long retreat. People were crying, they came and hugged me, bowed in front of me and touched my feet to get blessings. Once, I noticed that I felt ticklish on my toe and was wondering for a second why it was wet before I looked down and saw that one man had bowed in front of me and not only licked my toe but put it fully in his mouth! What all these people did was in the hope that I now had gained some Siddhis, like magical powers, which would help their lives. They thought I could predict the future now or help them with some kind of miracle.

The whole day’s program was arranged and happened without any miracle though. We went to the main temple of the town. Going there meant however to pass through the streets of Vrindavan, passing through more and more crowds of people and it resembled a procession, a big celebration. I was welcomed everywhere and with each step.

After this visit to the temple, which took several hours, we came back to the Ashram. For the evening there was the plan for a big gathering of spiritual people. There were spiritual personalities from all over India and we had a kind of a conference in which everybody could hold a speech. During these speeches they honoured me with the title Yogi Raj, the king of Yogis.

To be honest with you, I realized all of this and it may have been a big honour but the whole day long I was watching what was going on as if through a cloud. I was there but I was also still sitting in my cave. It was all simply too much. Three or four times during the day I felt a very strong urge to go and sit in the cave. I just took some time, sat there and was just by myself again to find rest and some peace.

It was however also an overwhelming feeling of love, joy and happiness to meet my whole family and old friends again, to hug them again and be close to them again. Not only I looked different. I had not had a mirror with me in the cave and so I saw myself again after more than three years. My hair and beard had grown wildly. But they, too, had changed. We all had aged and you could see it, most of all on Yashendu, my youngest brother. He had been a boy of 17 years when I entered the cave. Now he was a man. He was big, strong and adult, lifting me up to save me from the crowd.

Even in the late evening the Ashram was still full with people. There were so many guests from far away who stayed and they found their place to sleep. I, on my part, went back into my cave for the night. There, I could find sleep peacefully after a long day full of impressions and emotions.

14 Types of People who are Always Welcome at the Ashram – 19 Nov 10

I yesterday wrote about people whom we would not like to welcome due to experiences that we made. We have however many beautiful experiences, too, with people of a lot of different countries and cultures and who came with different ideas to the Ashram. Here you will find a list of those people who enjoyed here and with whom we enjoyed their time here, too. In this way I want to give an open invitation to everybody who finds himself in this list to come and have a good time with us.

We would love to welcome you here

– If you are looking for something different than a hotel or guest house.

– If you want to experience family environment, a loving way of living together.

– If you are interested in our charity projects, want to get to know the children of our school, understand what their life is like and in which way our school helps them to have better chances for their future.

– If you want to practice and get to know real and original yoga without any label or tradition. In our retreats and Yoga Teacher Training you learn and practice simply pure yoga and of course in the normal Ashram life you see how yoga lifestyle can be integrated in daily life.

– If you want to receive daily oil massages, Panchakarma treatments, a diet according to your body type and more Ayurveda treatments. Our Ayurveda Yoga Holiday offers all of this plus the experience of being in the Ashram.

– If you bring a group to India to do yoga or other activities. If you have a yoga or wellness center and want to give your students a special experience of a week or two in India, the Ashram offers you all facilities you need.

– If you want to have a holiday simply doing nothing. Just relax, become a watcher and do absolutely nothing.

– If you want to taste great Ayurvedic food that is not hot.

– If you want to get to know yourself better without anybody telling you what to do for this. At the Ashram you can make a deep spiritual experience without the restricting rules and pre-written paths of religions and traditions. Go into yourself and find love there!

– If you wish to experience the energy of the cave in which I spent more than three years in meditation. You can sit there, do meditation yourself and just feel. It is a place of silence and going inside.

– If you love children and want to play and enjoy with them.

– If you want to meet lovely and like-minded people from all over the world.

– If you need an oasis of love, peace and safety in the craziness of Indian cities, traffic and street-life.

– If you want to support poor children through your stay in India. Make a difference simply by being here.

If you see yourself in the points above, we can guarantee that you will fall in love with the Ashram! See you on your next trip to India!

Listening to Silence – Being Tired of Noise – 2 Jul 10

I am really enjoying being here in Germany, where I can hear the silence. In the last two or three days I noticed how big a difference it makes. We came from New York and now, in Germany, I could hear the silence. Here is wonderful temperature and we don’t have air-conditioning, it is not necessary. In New York it was necessary and you had it on 24 hours, even if you switched it off sometimes, you hear the neighbours’ air-conditioning. When you sit in your room or when you go out and sit somewhere else, you feel like you are sitting in a factory, machine noise is all around you.
My personal experience is that this irritating noise makes me tired. I love peace and silence, that is my nature, and if you are 24 hours in the influence of this noise, you can feel that it is scratching on your nerves. I know my need for silence and the importance of silence for me.

I like to be in nature or as I was in the cave, when you hear the sounds of nature or when you just hear nothing. And in that big city it was just impossible, if we sit in the room or if we go out, there is always noise.

Normally I don’t talk much and I hear and listen more but how much can you listen? Sometimes I don’t want to listen, I want silence. It also makes tired if there is an ongoing process of listening to and hearing something. So I enjoy being here, it makes it possible to relax.

Today we came in a short train ride of four hours to Bern, in Switzerland. It is beautiful nature, already on the way and I am sure we will enjoy our time here. Switzerland is itself known for its cleanness and nature.

Expressing without Feeling – 14 June 10

Yesterday I wrote that you can only express a tiny part of what you feel. It is funny, when I said this to my friend he laughed: how many feelings some people must have if you judge from their amount of expressing!

It is true, some people talk and talk and I sometimes get the feeling that these people express much but do not feel anything. They say so many things from so many angles and about so many topics but if you go to the root of what they said, that sentence did not come from the heart. It was just a creation of the moment, something they said to fill the silence with words. There are so often just set phrases which are not felt.

There is a whole lot of set phrases which we use without thinking. ‘Hello – how are you – I am fine, thanks’ and ‘okay, see you next time – thank you for the invitation – have a nice evening – bye!’ are like standard sentences that you can learn by heart and just say whenever you want to welcome someone or tell them goodbye. But where is the feeling?

‘I miss you’ is another one of these words. How often do you use these words without even feeling them? Have you ever felt longing from the heart for a loved one who is not there? Do you really know the meaning of missing? When I hear words like these which feel artificial and unreal, I have to ask why it is like this? Maybe those who say it only learned the word but their heart does not feel it, it doesn’t know it! Their heart never missed anyone, never had the pain of longing for someone. And that is how they can say it without having a meaning.

Supernatural Healing Powers or just Nature – 22 Feb 10

Yesterday I talked about physical problems, about illnesses with which people went to healers for getting them cured. It is not only diseases but also psychological problems which then sometimes got healed like a miracle. As I said, it was usually not any miracle but just the natural strength of the body but the full credit went to the healer. It is nowadays unfortunately also still like that when people go to ‘modern healers’. And then the healer pretends that it was him who could heal.

I always say that it is dangerous to have this ego and think that you have this supernatural power. People might now say that I have done the same thing, that I was also in the guru business, in a kind of fake world. And I can say yes, I was doing the same thing but I changed.

Everybody has the right and also the task to change, to constantly work on improving himself, to develop the mind further and to get closer to truth. I changed and I do not believe anymore in the way that I did healing sessions and healed people before. Nowadays I have a very different approach, I like to be there for people to talk to, I like to sit in meditation with them or just be in silence. And a person who was in this drama can tell you best about it.

I was in the middle of this religious drama but today I feel that the real healing power is in each of you yourself. The right time, the right company, a loving touch, a hug and sharing words and emotions with the right person can help your healing process, that is true! But after this I would never take the ego of saying ‘I cured this, I did it, I healed.’ We are all a big family and if we are together and help each other, we can overcome a lot of problems, just with love.

Today was our friend Juergen's birthday and he sponsored food for the children and their sisters and brothers.

Required for Being in Silence: a Calm Mind – 7 Nov 09

I see often that some people are even afraid of silence. Maybe they feel that they have to take out their energy by talking. They need to spend their energy.

Of course silence is for calming the mind but to be in silence you need some practice of a calm mind. If your mind is not calm and you don’t know how you can calm it down, you will get nervous in silence and the thoughts in your mind just go crazy.

So for practicing silence you need a little bit of calmness of the mind. That is why I say if you want to practice silence and calm your mind, start by reducing how much you talk. Say only what is really necessary.

Today was my friend Govind’s birthday and he came here to visit me. It is always wonderful to meet him.