An Example of an Inquiry that we denied – 5 Nov 15

A few people have been interested to know more about how we actually tell people to better not come to the Ashram. I can give you a recent example of such an inquiry, a woman who wanted to come to Vrindavan for religious purposes.

This is actually one of the most common reasons for us to say no. The inquiries for this purpose have become very few already because we write all these things very clearly on our website. From time to time however, we get them and such a case was just recently.

In the inquiry form that this woman had filled, she had written in ‘Purpose of Visiting’:

To visit Vrindavan is my dream. I hope that God helps me to do this. It would be great to visit ashram and to live ashram life just for a few days. I want to visit temples, sing Harinama and to do Parikrama

This was already enough to tell us that it would not work out in between us. Here is what we replied:

Thank you very much for your interest in coming to your Ashram. We have received your information.

Unfortunately we don’t believe that our Ashram will be the right place for you. We are non-religious atheists who don’t believe in God or Krishna.

We don’t have any ceremonies nor do we have chanting sessions.

We believe that there will be other places for you to go to where you will be happier as they provide a more spiritual atmosphere and surrounding.

As we are non-believers, we feel you would not really enjoy your time in the surrounding here. We have made the experience that people with religious purposes coming to Vrindavan are not happy at our place and influence our other guests in this direction. They have more interest in religious talk etc and the conversations here in the Ashram are fully the opposite. I think it would not be a comfortable situation for both parties.

Simple, straightforward but still very nice so that nobody gets hurt. This is how we try to keep our answers to such inquiries.

Esoteric Nonsense claiming C-Sections prevent Bonding of Mother and Child – 12 Aug 15

A while ago, Ramona read a statement on her Facebook newsfeed which suddenly made her say ‘esoteric nonsense’ out loud, contempt in her voice. Surprised by her reaction, I asked her what she had read – and agreed on her statement. One of her contacts had posted a statement, asking women to give birth naturally instead of deciding to get a C-section and discouraged them from taking an epidural against the pain. The reason he mentioned: according to him, women bond closely with their babies through the pain of birth, which is why an epidural or a C-section prevents proper bonding of mother and baby.

Oh well, my wife is not very much into public discussions on social networks and she did not answer there but we talked about all the things that made this post so wrong.

Obviously, we know where the thought comes from: there is a trend to choose the exact date and time of birth of a child by simply performing a C-section after the unborn child has reached a certain weight and it is safe to take it out by surgery. There are women who don’t even want to try a natural birth, be it out of fear of the pain or of cosmetic reasons.

This is probably the issue which this man actually wanted to address. In the world of esoteric superlatives and spiritual connections to each and everything, he could not however just say it as it is: birth is something natural, please accept the changes it brings to your body as natural. No, he had to bring motherly love and bonding into it in order to make it more important, more spiritual.

There were people commenting on it that they doubted his theory and asked for proof but he replied that he didn’t need proof. People loved all those things more that they had gained through pain.

Oh no! I can hear every mother cursing out loud whose child had to be taken out by surgery due to medical complications! Without any labour pain, without any chance of experiencing this pain that allegedly brings more love and bonding!

It may sound wonderful if you talk about this great love a mother feels after a painful birth, when she just forgets the ordeal and bonds in spite of and even due to all this pain. It is however complete nonsense because it would in the same way mean that mothers who got their children through C-section or could not take the pain and had an epidural do not love their children as much. Do not bond with their babies as much.

We had a C-section with Apra. In spite of the doctor’s efforts to induce labour pain, Ramona did not even feel uncomfortable at any point while waiting for our baby. When finally the doctor told us that it would be risky to wait longer for a natural birth, we were ready for our daughter to come to this earth by operation. Should we have risked brain damage or heart failure just to experience this pain and bonding? Does it make our birth experience any less valuable?

Oh no, it doesn’t. And I consciously say ‘our birth experience’ because I was involved from the start to the end. I was holding Ramona’s hand while the doctor opened her belly, I was watching how the miracle unfolded and my daughter saw the light of this earth for the first time.

No, you cannot tell me that Ramona bonded less with Apra because she didn’t have at least seven hours of labour pain – because they are as close as I have seen every other mother with her newborn! No, you cannot tell me our birthing time was any less special – because we deeply love our time at the hospital from the beginning to the end, even still today!

This holds true for each and every other woman on this earth as well. Your bonding with your child depends on your love and not on a certain time of suffering!

Finally, the biggest argument of all I see here: I bond with my little girl very much. I did not have pains and she was not even in my belly but she is a part of me, no matter how she came to this world. Fathers bond as well!

So please keep esoteric nonsense out of matters where it is completely unnecessary – you will avoid insulting others!

Does Spirituality mean you can forgive yourself for cheating? – 15 Jul 15

A few weeks ago I had an individual counselling session here at the Ashram with an Ashram guest. It was a man who had come to India to find physical relaxation and mental clarity. He had decided to book our Ayurveda Yoga Holiday and thus had yoga classes and received Ayurvedic massages and treatments. On top of that, he asked me to have a talk with him. It was, in fact, a talk all about the question of secrets and clarity.

This man told me about his relationship. He had been together with a woman for eight years already. They love each other and cared a lot for each other but they just never felt the need to marry. They were happy as they were, without any official certificate of ‘belonging together’. For the past three years they have been living together.

At this point he hesitated before he continued: ‘But I have not been faithful.’ He had been cheating on his partner for a long time already. He had slept with several other women. Most of these encounters had been one-night-stands with women he had only just met and didn’t know further but he had also slept with a common friend of theirs.

I have had a lot of people sitting in front of me in counselling sessions and also this topic is not completely new to me. So when this man stopped and looked at me, expectantly, I told him what I usually recommend: be honest! If you love your partner, tell her about it. If you hide it, it is a secret that will slowly poison not only your relationship but also your mind. You will feel so guilty inside that you won’t be able to hide it anymore at some point. There is a chance that she can forgive you if you are open about it and regret it. Otherwise you will go through a hell full of guilty feelings.

I got a very unusual answer to this: ‘Oh, I don’t feel guilty! I am not that kind of person. I am able to forgive myself! But I am afraid that she will freak out! It is her house we are living in – she might kick me out… I am not sure whether I could afford a flat in our town on my own!’

Oh well, so there was the truth: this man was spiritually so advance that he could forgive himself for cheating on the woman he had just told me he loved. Very clear. At the same time he also very clearly saw the benefits of living in her home… Now it was just up to me to clear one confusion in his mind: it cannot really be love if you do something that would clearly hurt your partner and then hide it because you want to take advantage of her love!

A clear case – what do you think?

3 Types of People that want to stay at our Ashram – 12 Feb 15

I told you yesterday that we get emails by people who have religious interests and want to come here but obviously with expectations that we would not be able to fulfill. I explained the way how we can already read such ideas out of the lines that we get. While we sometimes get such messages, it is however far more often that we get emails of people who have very different thoughts and feelings when they inquire about a stay at the Ashram.

We really get more frequently mails by other kind of people. Apart from the overly religious believer about whom I wrote yesterday, I would like to introduce you to three other types of people from whom we get inquiries:

1. Your average guy/girl looking for stress-relief

The first of these ‘types’ is simply the quite typically ‘mainstream’ person who is fed up with the stress and hectic in corporate life, the anonymity of his work, apartment and life in general. Who may be lonely and suffer from depression, looking for relaxation and stress-relief, or even in physical pain, searching for detoxification, pain-release and exercises that help them soothe current and prevent further pain.

Of course our doors are open for this ‘kind’ of person because we know that Yoga and Ayurveda are sciences that can not only help a lot with physical issues but also provide mental relaxation. A stay at our Ashram can help – and we love getting to know new friends of all stages of life, areas of work and locations of the world!

2. The Health-Conscious with Thirst for more Knowledge

Another kind of person who writes to us is someone who is interested in an alternative lifestyle which doesn’t harm our bodies and our planet. They are vegetarians, vegans, raw food eaters, therapists, masseuses and alternative practitioners – and of course many more. Just someone who knows that Yoga and Ayurveda can give him another point of view, more knowledge, many useful tips and ideas and inspiration to change life further.

We open our arms to those people and enjoy sharing what we know and also hearing what they have learned and experienced. Exchange and providing support – wonderful!

3. The esoteric Hippie on the Dream-Trip to India

This last ‘type’ is the esoterically interested person, the one who would call himself spiritual but not religious. Men and women who are interested in philosophy and different ways of living, who find themselves to be ‘different’ and don’t seem to fit in. They are often about to embark on a long journey to find themselves. To figure out what they really want, who they really are and what it is that makes them happy. They are looking for a deeper sense and want to try in the country of Yoga and Ayurveda.

While I am using the word ‘hippie’, many of the people who fall in this category would not call themselves by this name and I don’t mind or care. I know that our hearts are open to these people as well and we enjoy that we can often be the first haven, the first place that they go to in India, as this country often turns out to be different than they thought. Of course they get with our Ashram, as I explained yesterday, a place without religious dogmas. We love giving them a soft start into this crazy culture and by letting them take part in our life and surrounding them with love and liveliness, we hope that we are able to support them in their quest, their search for themselves!

Why I’d rather be materialistic than spiritual – 29 Jan 15

There is an idea in spiritual circles that being spiritual means not being materialistic. The more spiritual you are, the less materialistic you are. The most spiritual people say that they want to come to the point that they don't need material anymore. I am against this thought. I don't think it is possible and, I would actually say that I want to be materialistic.

Yes, I want to have material. Why? Because the children whom we are helping here are in need of material! If we didn't earn money and our charity organization didn't get donations, how would we pay their food, books, pens, uniforms and teachers?

Well, fine, I agree it is not helpful to collect and collect material just so that you can look at it or know that you have it somewhere. At the same time however we live in a material world. You can live without spirituality but you cannot live without material.

You eat food – material. You wear clothes – material. You heat your home – material! All is coming from material and everyone who doesn't have food, clothes or warmth in his home wants exactly that: enough material to eat, clothe and get himself warm!

So if you are on the spiritual path and believe you have to get rid of everything material, forget about it, the real spirituality is when you learn to share your material.

People like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates – who is not even religious, not even believing in god – have donated 80 or 90 percent of their wealth to others. To me, they are much more spiritual than all those gurus and big religious people who have built huge temples and Ashrams while preaching to others they should leave materialism! From the material of others they enrich themselves and pretend to be the most spiritual of all.

If you are materialistic and learn to share material, you won't need any more spirituality, being materialistic is good when you share your material. We all need food, clothes and warmth. If you just think of this and learn sharing, you can forget about any spiritual lesson you have ever got.

There is no need for spirituality if you know how to share your material. But you cannot say that you don't need material if you have spirituality.

A wonderful Combination of Music, Yoga, Dance and Making of Love – 24 Aug 14

I have told you about the two weeks in summer 2006 during which I gave lectures at the No Mind Festival in Angsbacka, Sweden. I mentioned that the visitors of this festival really enjoyed their time, that they were easy-going and relaxed. And today I would like to add something to that: a lot of sex was had in those two weeks!

Yes, a lot of people were sleeping with each other during those two weeks of festival time. They came there to have a great time and what is the thing most people enjoy the most? Right!

No, really, I am not joking. There were new couple constellations to be seen every day, people got in touch during the day and in the evenings around the fires, they got closer and took the first steps. Often, they left together in direction of the tents. For some of them, I had the impression that this was what they had come for.

At this point I want to add something very important: when I write such lines, some of my readers will think what I describe is something bad. Some may even think it is bad that I was at such an event at all. And some may have the impression that I also think this is wrong. That I am talking bad about this festival or its visitors.

You got a very wrong impression, if you think this. When I write about people having sex, I tell about it, as I see it from my eyes. When you hear it, you hear it with your ears. I however really and honestly believe that this is very natural and beautiful!

On an event like this, you meet like-minded people, more than you could ever meet when going out in your town! After all, they came because they are interested in the same things that you are interested in! On top of that there are a lot of workshops which are all about the fact that you should accept your sexuality. I gave a lecture on ‘Sex and Freedom’ for example, there were tantra workshops and everywhere the message that you should just give in to your feelings.

So if you feel good, if you feel attracted to someone and the other one feels the same, why not enjoy a night together? If it then goes for longer, great! If not, also fine! If I had had these kind of feelings for someone at this festival, I might have done the same – and not thought anything wrong about it! I was single as well – but as a workshop leader, I had another responsibility and didn’t want to get closely involved with people I worked with either.

Before you now get the impression that this festival was all about sex, let me stop your imagination. As I described last week, there were a lot of wonderful workshops, lectures, yoga, painting, much music and beautiful dance in the surrounding of amazing nature. The possibility to be with each other, enjoy one’s time and get in touch not only with others but also with oneself. People were happy.

That’s how I remember those two weeks of the No Mind Festival as a great time. I personally got to know really many people, including some good friends with whom I am still connected today.

Hallucinations after taking Drugs are not spiritual Experiences- 27 Apr 14

Last week I told you about the weekend that I spent in the forest with friends, a group of young people. Several of them were musicians and they were generally all interested in spirituality, India and Indian music. And, unfortunately, it seemed as though all of them were also interested in and fascinated by mind expanding drugs. This is what made me think a bit about the connection of what people experience as ‘spirituality’ and drugs.

When I met this group of young men and women for the first time, some of them had come to my meditation. They stayed after the program and we had some talk. It was interesting and it was fun. The next days they came again and we had some music sessions as well. They asked me about my view on many topics and then there was this one question as well: do you smoke? When I replied with no, they carefully specified that they were not only asking about tobacco.

I clearly told them again no, and I would also suggest other people not to.

I know however why they thought I might: I was from India, I had lived the life of a sadhu, I had lived in a cave for three years and I talked about spirituality, meditation and similar topics in my program. I was wearing dreadlocks, just like many sadhus in India do and it is widely known that they smoke and then make their spiritual experiences. But one and the other thing had nothing to do with each other in my view.

Maybe because of respecting me and my opinion or because they were afraid that I would judge them, nobody openly told me that they smoked anything, not even tobacco but on that evening in the forest, I saw that a few of them definitely had taken something that made them more relaxedthan they normally were. A bit more open to say what they think. A bit more ready to laugh and enjoy without involving the mind too much.

Why do I think this is not good? Because I don’t see why you cannot reach this state of mindlessness, of openness and relaxation without smoking drugs!Because I think it is not spiritual experiences if you smoke something stronger which makes you hallucinate.

This group of people thus knew that they had in beginning just assumed that I was someone who I was not. Maybe that was the reason that we did not stay very closely in touch for a long time in spite of having had a very nice weekend together. I think they were looking for something different. For times of being high and then making very spiritual experiences. Something that I didn’t believe in.

Why do you want a Guru to take charge over your Life? – 22 Jul 13

Today is Guru Purnima, Master’s Day in India. It is a day on which every disciple honours his guru. Even if he doesn’t think of him the whole year long, he will come on this day, wash his guru’s feet, show his devotion and give a present and some money. Even if he is far away, he will call him to greet. I have played the role of a guru myself and know this scene very well. I have changed and I changed so much that today I completely refuse exactly that what I was recommending years ago. With it the principles of guruism.

I was believing and preaching what was written in the scriptures: without a guru, you cannot reach liberation. Liberation is what everybody should strive for – so everyone should find a guru who can lead him to liberation.

Today I feel that this kind of condition is the reason why there is so much corruption in this field. Innocent, gullible people come and you teach them three things:

1. You can only find liberation if you have a guru.

2. You can only have one guru, just as you can only have one father.

3. You have to devote everything you have and do to your guru. He will take your responsibility and in turn you have to do what he says.

From the moment you take your guru’s initiation, you devote all your rituals to him. You follow his advice and do your prayers with him on your mind. You willingly and happily become a puppet of this master with his promise that he will take you out of this world of illusion. Obviously these gurus like this power and everything that comes with it. This is why they say it is a must and necessary to take the initiation with a guru. In order to keep their followers with them, they promote the rule that every disciple can only have one guru.

This complete system is in my opinion made for the abuse that has been happening in the past decades and centuries. These gurus get lots of power over the minds of those people and they knowingly misuse it in order to gain wealth and satisfy not only their physical needs but also their sexual fantasies, which are not rarely crossing the borders of what you would call ‘normal’. It is wrong what is happening there.

In my opinion a guru is just a teacher, in the basic sense of the word. If you want to learn something, you need a guru. When I went to school, our whole class called our teacher ‘Guruji’ to show respect. It doesn’t matter who that person is, anybody with whom you are learning, whether that person is older or younger than you can be your guru. And it doesn’t matter how many gurus you have, whoever teaches you is your guru.

Don’t become a puppet of someone else. Whomever you learn from, you can give him the respect of a guru but don’t become fully dependable on one person. Let your relation be teacher and student – there is no need to put that aspect of divinity in that.

People may argue that you will need a spiritual, religious guru, if you want to learn about the scriptures and religious philosophy. I have spent a big part of my life studying exactly that. Today however I would ask you: why would you need to learn this philosophy at all? In my opinion it is completely useless. You want to live an honest and happy life. Why do you need the Vedas, the Quran or the Bible for this? Studying them will only limit your horizon, narrow your path and make you confused. So if you don’t need this philosophy, why do you need a guru?

Be your own guru. Let your own love, modesty and morality be your guru. It will guide you well, if you just let it.

Religion was cruel in the Past and is still at Present! – 9 Apr 13

I yesterday wrote about cruelty in ancient religions or beliefs that people nowadays strangely get fascinated about, forgetting about the cruel aspects or simply ignoring and denying them. They don’t do that however when it comes to similarly primal traditions and cultural beliefs in today’s time!

You don’t need to go that far back in time if you search for a native religion or belief. Just go to tribal Africa where still nowadays people believe in the spirits of stones and plants. And where still today little girls and young women are circumcised. They do it because it has always been done. Because of tradition, culture and in the end belief. You may not call that a religion as it is not written but orally transmitted from one generation to the next but it is the same thing!

Maybe you can shrug that away as something very remote, far away from what you normally hear about, in Africa, there were anyway so much bad is happening, where children starve and wars are happening. Maybe you even think those tribes are like relics of the past. I have to tell you however that such cruelty, the cruelty of tradition, culture and belief is much further spread! It is a part of those big main religions which we call the world religions!

Just look at countries like Saudi Arabia! Recently there was a case where a criminal had stabbed someone and that person got paralyzed from the injury. With the Islamic Sharia law according to which judges decide there, this man was sentenced to a horrible punishment: his spinal cord should be broken so that he should be paralyzed as well. An eye for an eye, blood for blood.

There are places in this world where women are sold because religion says they are just like objects that a man possesses. There are places in this world where women are beaten because religion tells their husbands and fathers that woman have to be disciplined if they are not obedient. I say ‘places in this world’ and it looks remote, far away. If I tell you that this is happening just close-by, everywhere around you, you will realize that this is the cruel reality for a lot of people on this earth! You cannot close your eyes in front of that!

Cruelty, blood and war is a part of all religions. Christianity, too, has a lot of cruel sentences in its Bible and Hinduism in various scriptures. You cannot just take all the good parts and say that this is what you follow. If you follow religion, this cruelty is a part of what you believe in because those scriptures is what your religion is based on.

The only thing that you can do if you want to distance yourself from that cruelty is to distance yourself from religion.

I actually believe that most people will do that one day or another and that the religions we know today as the world religions will lose its importance and one day vanish into history, too, like so many before them.

Fascinated by Celtic or Native American Spirituality? Think of their bloody Cruelty, too! – 8 Apr 13

On Friday the participants of our Himalaya Journey arrived at the Ashram. Some had stayed in Rishikesh to continue their journey from there and the rest returned to the Ashram. Yesterday our last guests left, our friends Sylvia, Melanie, Thomas and Iris. It was nice to have another free day together with them to just sit and talk a bit. While talking, I remembered a topic that Thomas and I had discussed before they left: the spirituality of people before our times and the fascination that some people have with that.

I told Thomas that I thought the religions we know today won’t stay with people forever. He agreed and we talked about religions that had been there before and which we now know only from stories. We know that the Greek mythology describes lots of gods with different qualities, half-gods, demons and more and when most people hear of that they think of fairytales, Disney movies or other fiction stories. The Roman Gods were very similar and although children in the west learn about them in school, they all know it is just fantasy and nothing real.

There are however also cultures before these that people mostly don’t learn about in school. The fact that they don’t and that most people don’t know too much about them makes them interesting to some people. Their belief was maybe not even very organized yet which is why you can hardly call it religion but it is belief with Gods and supernatural beings, including magic and energies. Many people get very fascinated and if they have the right psychological preset, they tend to believe that those beliefs were better than whatever exists today.

In the spiritual scene in the west, there are some who get more fascinated by the native American beliefs while others are attracted by the Celts and their ideas of how the world was created and how it still went on. People who are into these things will tell you of all the great knowledge those cultures had, how many things they knew that we have forgotten and how they were, with all this wisdom and knowledge, so much more powerful than we are today.

They seem to just ignore other things that we know of those natives of centuries ago! Or maybe they don’t know about it! Thomas and Iris, who had been interested in exploring the remains of the Celts in Germany, told me that they had visited a museum where their ancient rituals were explained and depicted. It was the contrary of what people like to believe! They were doing ritualistic human sacrifice, partly eating the dead because they believed they would thus soak up the strength of those people! They were barbaric, from today’s point of view you would call it inhuman! The same I have heard about rituals of Native Americans in earlier times!

So you see what is happening – out of a fascination for what they don’t know, people make themselves and others believe that the ancient times were great, that people were much more spiritual and understood life and world much better. The reality is that they were just believing in spirits and beings because they did not have any better explanation for natural phenomena! They were barbaric because their world consisted of wars among tribes and families, of violence, of eating meat of animals that they hunted and of making clothes and tools out of the other parts of those animals.

Of course people may sometimes refer to old times saying things were easier when they were simpler, when people didn’t have that much or when science had not explained the world and had not crated all kinds of gadgets for us yet. When times were slower because we didn’t have to be available at all times. But the time was not better then – it was bloodier, colder and more dangerous.