The absurd Belief that God saved his Temple while destroying thousands of Lives – 5 May 15

I have to come back once more to the earthquake in Nepal. Not only because help there has still not reached the people who need it the most but because some people keep insisting that on the day the earthquake happened, a miracle happened as well: the main Hindu temple of Kathmandu, the Pashupatinath Temple, was not destroyed. I think it is a ridiculous idea to call this a miracle or even a ‘proof of god’s power’!

The Indian media was repeating these news and a lot of religious people stated and shared it on their social media pages. The whole town was destroyed, just the temple is standing there! God saved the temple, it is so holy that even a huge earthquake cannot destroy it!

The same happened in 2013, when there were huge floods in North India. In the Himalayas, thousands of people died and so many houses were destroyed! In the pilgrimage town Kedarnath however, all the houses were completely destroyed but the Kedarnath temple was not.

It is fully fine for me if you believe in god and religion, if you have your faith and pray every day or do pilgrimage journeys – I don’t mind. I would give you the friendly suggestion however not to say such a thing like ‘God’s house could not be destroyed!’ because it will make you look insensitive and, frankly, also foolish!

If you really think god does everything that happens on this earth, he brought an earthquake or a flood, killed thousands of people, made millions suffer – and selfishly saved his house? And what about the hundreds of other temples which were completely destroyed and in which praying people and priests were killed? Hundreds, no, thousands of deities, little statues representing god were broken, destroyed, buried under rubble! Or are there different gods responsible for that? Weaker gods who could not save their homes?

But no, for you, the fact that this temple is still standing is an auspicious sign – and not due to maybe a better foundation and stronger construction which they could do because they had more money? More, anyway, than those poor villagers whose houses are destroyed but who are still waiting for some support of the government or international help!

I think you make fun of your own belief if you say such a thing. Why would your god, assuming he exists, not have the power to save all of his homes, all temples in Nepal? And again there is the question: why did he make all these people suffer? And don’t reply with ‘karma’ – I already wrote about that funny idea! No, I think there is no such god who would create an earthquake and then save one building because he thinks it is important!

But while we are talking about that – I heard there was a brothel, too, which didn’t even get one scratch… you can have your own thoughts about that!

When God doesn’t help his poorest Believers – Our School Children – 11 Apr 14

Last week I introduced you to Vaishaki and her sister Pallavi. I told you that they lived in the house of another woman from West Bengal. After the girls had joined our school, this woman, too, brought her son to our school to admit him here. His name is Sudeep and he is 12 years old.

Sudeep’s parents both are in the same business as their tenants: they, too, do kirtan in temples and Ashrams in the surrounding. While Sudeep’s mother has a fixed employment earning 20 US-Dollar per month, her husband only gets the opportunity to earn money from time to time. So they never know exactly how much money they have in a month – and that’s why they are renting out one of their two rooms.

For a year now, they have been living in this house. They bought it with some savings and loans from relatives which they have not yet paid back.

When we ask Sudeep whether he has some friends in school or in the neighbourhood, he tell us no, his mother had forbidden him to make friends. Surprised, we look at her and get an explanation: “He will want to visit his friends at home and we don’t know what people they are!” So they deny their son to have social contacts outside of school and outside their home so that he doesn’t get in wrong company. This is a simple mind’s solution. They don’t understand how important social contacts will be for his complete life!

Although his mother and father don’t like it very much, Sudeep often takes out his father’s bicycle and rides it around the home, sometimes even further until the area where other children of our school live. You cannot keep a child from making friends!

These people seem to be very religious. Their work is in temples and when the yearly school exams started, Sudeep’s mother came to school with a small deity, a statue of the Hindu God Krishna, so that Sudeep could once more ask for blessings for the exam.

In spite of having worked hard for God by singing and praising him for years however, this family’s situation has not improved much. They still don’t earn enough to put plaster on their home, the water cooler in their room is broken, replaced by a very tiny fan. And every year the river Goddess Yamuna floods their garden and home. Maybe they are still hoping for God’s grace to finally shine on them.

While God does not seem very helpful, we are trying our best to support Sudeep and his future. He is now in the second class of our school and a good student. Teachers are happy with the fact that he is calm and listens well.

If you would like to support children like Sudeep, you can sponsor a child or the food for a day at our school. Together we can help children like him find a better future.

Chanting for Money, not for Devotion – 7 Apr 14

We have completed the new admissions for our school already. We started on 1st April and already the next day we had enough children to fill our new smallest pre-school class as well as some new admission in the higher classes. From the day after, we had to start a waiting list and tell parents that we were already full. On the first day already, Ramona and Purnendu started visiting the new children at their homes to see how they are living and get an impression of their financial situation. Obviously they daily have a lot of interesting experiences and I would like to share some of these with you today and the next days.

None of the parents of our school children earns a lot. They are not in great jobs, often don’t have a steady income and usually struggle to earn enough for their monthly expenses. Those whom we see struggle the most are interestingly those who do religious work.

When you ask them what they do for a living, they answer that they are priests or that they do kirtan, chanting, in temples in the surrounding. Those who perform ceremonies for people in their homes or who assist priests, bringing the items they need for their poojas, never know when they will have work again. It is unstable and especially in this town, there are thousands of people doing exactly this. They do it because it is easy and you may find pilgrims and religious people who give higher donations – or even gift a TV or refrigerator, as we have seen in some homes.

Those who earn their money by chanting kirtans in temples or Ashrams are often employed on a more regular basis. They go to sing daily to the same place, for example from seven to eight in the morning. One hour of singing every day for approximately 13 US-Dollar per month.

So you see, when you come into our town – as a pilgrim or a tourist – and are amazed by the devotion of those people whom you see sitting in the temple the whole day long, singing and praising god, you now know what is behind that: not devotion but money. The need to earn a living! The real amount of love for what they do can often be heard on loudspeakers when they rattle off their kirtans in a bored tone, monotonously and without any enthusiasm.

Someone argued how nice it was that they had a job because of religion. I believe it is a waste of human resources. The people I am talking about are grown, strong men but instead of contributing to the development of this country or this society, he sits there and sings. He doesn’t even do anything for himself in this way! He is not meditating or finding inner peace through this – he just sits there because he gets that little money and this is an easy way for him to earn it!

There are many parents who work hard to earn their money, carrying bricks and cement from one place on a construction site to another. At the end of the day, they have been part of building a house. Religion makes those other parents sit and sing into a microphone, annoying the neighbourhood and fooling walkers-by into believing the singers were great devotees.

No, I am really not too fond of religion – and these thoughts don’t help changing my mind!

Refusing a Guru’s Initiation means getting into an uncomfortable Situation! – 21 Jul 13

When my German friends, whose Indian wedding I wrote about last week, came to India in 2005, they had another experience which is quite funny and which could happen to more people when they come to this country. Let me tell you about it.

When they arrived at the Ashram, they were actually, well, a little bit surprised. We had just built the second floor and some work was still going on, the building was very obviously still in process, the pathway was just a sand road and while the walls were nicely plastered, they were not painted yet.

They had the best room which was available and although it was very simple at that time, they started enjoying their time. They had been invited by another person in Vrindavan, though, the priests of a temple with an old music tradition that my friend was interested in. They felt honoured to be invited and told my brothers that they wanted to go there, too. That visit turned out slightly different than expected!

They went there and found out that the person, the musician, whom they wanted to meet was not there. And there didn’t seem to be any of the music program that they were expecting. That didn’t stop the priest’s family from welcoming them however and inviting them to stay. The women of the house prepared food – typically Indian and thus typically hot – urging them to take more again and again. Polite as they were, they ate way too much, also realizing that they really did what they could to make them feel welcome. The feeling somehow did not really come though. They had the feeling that the family was expecting something of them and soon they knew what it was: my German friends were asked to take the initiation of their guru!

Now luckily they did not feel obliged by the nice welcome to take that step! My friend had already made some experiences in India and knew that such an initiation meant that you should be of service to the guru, listen to his wisdom, follow his advice and of course also dedicate a part of your income to the guru – it includes a lot of duties and can lead to a lot serious consequences. They tried to decline as politely as possible but already felt that through this, the atmosphere had changed! The family got a bit pushy about the issue and were visibly not happy with their refusal. They saw however that they couldn’t change it and finally accepted it.

Our friends were showed to their room – a very simple room with a plank bed, a wooden board with a bed sheet – but no mattress. Mosquitos were all over the room. After they had been shown their room, they were told that they would be expected at the evening ceremony in the temple and for a meeting at four o’clock to walk the 10-kilometer pilgrimage walk around town. My friends were understandably not very happy with the situation.

That’s how they were sitting in the temple, obediently watching the evening ceremony, contemplating how to get out of this situation. They absolutely didn’t want to stay there – but felt it would be completely impolite to leave!

In that moment, like an apparition, Purnendu entered the temple, clad in shining white clothes with sunglasses. He came in, sat next to them and simply asked ‘How are you?’ The whole story bubbled out of them with all their unhappiness and uncomfortable situation. Surprised he looked at them and said ‘If you don’t want to, just don’t stay there, come back to the Ashram!’

This is how they came back to the Ashram, after Purnendu had, in polite words, explained the priest’s family their situation. From that moment on they didn’t see the unpainted walls, their room felt like their own bedroom and the construction site – not disturbing them anymore – was paradise.

The moral is that you should follow your feelings, do what makes you happy – and remember that India always brings you in adventurous situations!

No Difference in Faith and Superstition – Lose the Faith in your Faith! – 5 Jul 13

With topics like yesterday’s, there are always religious people telling me that I am mixing up two things: faith and superstition. I am told that I should not call the faith in god superstition and that I have to separate the two. In today’s entry I would like to make it very clear that I am not confused about the meaning of the word ‘superstition’ and that I also don’t confuse faith and superstition with each other. I know very well what you are trying to tell me but I have to tell you, I think all of your faith belongs into the same category as religion and superstition. Let me illustrate that to you.

Obviously it is religious people and people with faith in god who say such a thing. Why? They don’t want to be called superstitious! They don’t like it when I say religious acts are acts of superstition. For them, putting a flower at an altar is faith while hanging lemon and chili at the door, which is done against evil energies, is superstition. For me, there is not much difference in between the two – both is done with the belief that there is some supernatural force responding to this action. You are told to trust in that although there is no proof to it. You should pray to someone whose existence is still in question. You call that faith, I say it is fiction.

In the same context I was once asked whether it would thus be superstition to go to a temple. I said you can answer this question yourself! What is a temple? It is a house or a room, the walls adorned with silver and gold, in the middle an altar with a throne on which you can see a statue, often of stone, sometimes of silver or gold as well. You go there, put some food in front of it and ring a bell. You have been doing this your whole life long and you know very well that the plate with the food has never been touched by god. The food never got less. Nevertheless you still claim that god ate it and now it is holy prasad for you that you can eat and offer your guests – and eating it will be beneficial. If you didn’t offer it to god, the food would not be as good. Isn’t that superstitious?

The whole concept of going to a temple is superstitious! Your faith tells you god is omnipresent. If that is so, why do you have to go to a building made by people to meet him? Why does god need servants there who, at least in Hindu temples, feed him, clothe him, bathe him and take care of him? If they don’t take good care, if their hands are dirty or if they do a mistake in their service, they believe it is bad for them. Isn’t that superstitious as well?

All this is part of your ‘faith’ but I just showed you how you could call it superstition, too. I tell you one more thing: your faith tells you not to argue with people like me. Read your scriptures, it is written there! Why? Because you won’t be able to prove anything anyway. Believers however never learn this lesson. They argue and after two unsuccessful attempts, they have to retreat and say something like ‘God’s ways are mysterious’ or ‘It is about the love in the heart!’

No, they won’t learn and that again is a sign of superstition. There is no proof and that’s why you have to keep on believing, no matter how illogical it seems and how often you are proven wrong!

Faith and superstition don’t seem as different from each other now anymore, do they?

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.

Vrindavan’s Temples – old ones for Prayers, new ones for Tourism – 4 Jul 12

When coming home from Delhi on Monday, we entered Vrindavan when it was already dark, maybe around 8 o’clock. Entering Vrindavan, we saw the colourful lights of the ‘Prem Mandir’ that Kripalu and Prakashananda have built and the crowds in front of it as well as in front of the ISKCON temple. Looking a bit more closely however, you could see clearly that it was tourists going there.

Vrindavan is known as the town of 5000 temples. Obviously not all of these temples are big buildings into which dozens of people can go. There are a lot of small temples, tiny shrines and the truth is that every house has its own temple, too.

I grew up in Vrindavan, playing on the streets and in front of all these temples. In our childhood my brothers and I saw how many new temples were being built, including the enourmous palace-like temple of ISKCON. When we had guests at home, we then took them to go sightseeing at that temple and told them how much money had been invested to build it.

The Prem Mandir, which was opened to the public only recently, was built in the last few years, too. I wrote about it in 2009 when it was under construction and mentioned it when it was being opened.

Last year, when we heard that Kumar Swami wants to build his own huge temple in Vrindavan, I talked with friends and more people and many of them asked what we need another big temple for. So I did some research and wrote my article.

It is true, why would local people want another religious monstrosity in front of their door? It would just be another cause for hundreds of religious tourists flooding the town who just want to see a big golden temple into which a lot of money was put. I anyway don’t believe in the number that he mentioned – five lakh crore! That would be a 5 with 12 zeros. It is just a figure that Kumar Swami used to impress people, just like he used the names of Barack Obama and Queen Elizabeth or just like he says he has healed more than 500 million people.

All these figures are just there to get more people, more popularity and in the end more money. Those big temples are not being built in order to help and support people and put money into society for good but in order to take money out of society! And this is not right.

Instead of all those big temples people should have started schools or hospitals and run them for poor people who need it or, if not that, establish an industry so that the unemployed can get work and earn their living to support themselves. If Kumar Swami had taken his money and had really supported the poor, he would not have any problem now and people would not be against him – I had definitely not written my article had I not seen such claims in the newspaper advertisement. It is not only me, a lot of people are against this.

Local people use those new, big temples only as an attraction that they show to visitors. Tourists go there. Already in my childhood, we, my family and friends and the people around went to the old temples for worship. Bihari ji, in the heart of Vrindavan, for example, Radha Vallabh ji, Madan Mohan ji or Radha Raman ji. There is where people had and still today have their real belief. The center of people’s love and belief is old temples. They don’t go to pray in the ISKCON temple or in the Prem Mandir. They go because there are colourful lights, they can buy snacks in front of them and they can take pictures and say ‘I was in a temple which was built with so much money!’

Buddhism is a Religion – Why don’t you accept this fact? – 5 Jun 12

When I wrote about Buddha last week and mentioned that he created another religion instead of getting rid of religion, I could predict that there would be people who tell me ‘Buddhism is not a religion, it is a philosophy , a way of life’. And yes, of course I read this on my facebook post. It is not the first time that I read or heard this, so today I want to write in detail about this very statement.

The very first thing I always say is that Buddhists are not the only one claiming this for their religion – many Hindus keep on saying the same thing about Hinduism! And what does this statement actually mean? You don’t want to accept that you have a religion because you feel and know that ‘religion’ is nothing good. You don’t want that, what you believe in, to be called religion because you know that religion means control and manipulation, just as I always say. You resist saying that you believe in a religion because you have a bad conscience. So you just don’t want to accept that you believe in a religion.

But let’s first of all have a look at the definition of religion. I chose the Encyclopaedia Britannica as a source that I usually trust to give me reliable information. Here is the beginning of the definition of the word religion:

religion: human beings’ relation to that which they regard as holy, sacred, absolute, spiritual, divine, or worthy of especial reverence. It is also commonly regarded as consisting of the way people deal with ultimate concerns about their lives and their fate after death. In many traditions, this relation and these concerns are expressed in terms of one’s relationship with or attitude toward gods or spirits; in more humanistic or naturalistic forms of religion, they are expressed in terms of one’s relationship with or attitudes toward the broader human community or the natural world. …

If you look at other dictionaries’ definition of ‘religion’, you get very similar entries. Ironically, and here I want to quote the Merriam Webster Dictionary, the examples for the word religion say things like:

There are many religions, such as Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism.

So you see, the dictionary even gives Buddhism in the example for religions. And that is what every child learns in school about the five world religions! Both Hinduism and Buddhism are included in that list! In both dictionaries, the definition for ‘Buddhism’ starts with the words ‘a religion’. And if you think about it, it is obvious!

Hindus believe in millions of Gods, Christians, Jews and Moslems believe in one God and yes, Buddhists don’t believe in God but it is nevertheless a religion. You have Buddha and honour him, just like Christians pray to Jesus, the son of God or Moslems worship Mohammed, the prophet.

You are following a teaching with scriptures, too. Christianity has the Bible, Judaism the Torah, Islam the Koran, Hinduism the Vedas and you have the Dhammapada. I realize that in each of these religions there are again more scriptures that people also follow but I think I have picked the most important ones.

Additionally to this, you have the Lamas, teachers, people who are like gurus, who preach and teach exactly that which is defined as the basics of Buddhism. There are different teachings, you may add now, not only one, as you could say for Christianity, where the Bible is a very clear guide. The reality is however that there are many different teachings in Christianity, too! And again, in each other religion, too!

You have Buddhist temples, just like there are Hindu temples, Christian churches, Jewish synagogues and Muslim mosques. You have rituals and ceremonies. You have your religious paintings and sculptures. I read a funny sentence somewhere ‘Buddha himself was against statues and now he is the world record holder of statues of himself’.

You have a group that believes more or less the same thing. They identify themselves in this way. They are ‘Buddhists’. They are religious, they believe in a religion. Buddhism is a religion. That does not mean that it is not at the same time a philosophy or a way of life. That does not exclude each other! In the end that is what religion is all about – it is dharma, it is what you accept in life, it is your way of life. It is however additionally also organized, it had teachings, people want to spread and explain it. And also that is common to all religions, including Buddhism. There is also corruption in religion and I dare say that it is in all of them. I once wrote a diary about a corrupt lama, the Karmapa Lama, to name an example for Buddhism. I have heard many more such stories about corrupt lamas.

What I want to stress here is that it is a noticeable tendency of people that, as long as I write about other people’s religions, people appreciate it and support it. Everything is fine then, I can point out all bad issues of those religions but as soon as I talk about their personal religion, some people get upset. If you believe in a religion, you have to accept that it has negative sides, too.

Yes, Buddhism is a religion, a normal religion like the others.

Temple Business – More God for more Money – 28 Mar 12

I read online reports about the Tirumala Venkateswaar Temple near Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh recently which told about the situation of the temple, about the devotees that go there and about the corruption that takes place there. It seems as though there is a lot going on that would normally annoy the general public but this temple is and remains India’s richest and probably most popular temple.

Every day there are about 65000 pilgrims who want to go inside the temple and ‘see God’ there. That is only an average number, it is up to 80000 pilgrims on the weekends and 100000 pilgrims and more on religious holidays. The numbers are amazing by themselves and obviously a lot of people think that this must be an amazing spiritual experience to go to a place where so many people worship. To be honest, I don’t think so.

The very first fact is that you have to deal with those huge crowds whenever you go there. Wherever you go, there are people and when you move through the gates and into the temple, you can be nearly sure to be in the middle of a crowd that moves on and so you have to keep on moving, too, in order to avoid being run over. Temple workers keep on pushing people onwards, driving them onwards so that as many people as possible can see the deities in the temple in one day.

You can imagine that with so many people walking through the temple you don’t really have time to sit down and say your prayers in peace while looking at the deities which you believe are God. No – the estimated time that the pilgrims get to see the statue of God is 0.80 milliseconds to 1.5 seconds! Do you still think that this is such a special experience? Are these one and a half seconds really worth everything that the pilgrim has to go through before?

Because there is a lot to endure before you get this special honour! There are so many people queuing outside the temple that it often takes 15 to 20 hours until they get to be inside the temple! There is a way however to get there more quickly – just pay a bit more! They have difference entry tickets and the more expensive ones are for queues that move faster. They are selling God. If you have money, you can buy the entrance to the fast lane towards God.

And if you have some more, you can even get to the bypass! You can directly go in if you have a VIP pass! Yes, that is right, this temple issues VIP passes. They are for governors, ministers, other important government officials – and of course for everyone who donates more than one crore Rupees, which is about 200000 US-Dollars. There are special hours in the morning and the evening when God is there only for them. An ordinary pilgrim will have to wait, for them the temple is closed in that time. So God is obviously happier about believers with much money – he lets them see his face more quickly and for longer. Temples and religious buildings are the centers of the business of religion where they see religious people as cows and milk them for money and donations, even by selling tickets.

Pilgrims don’t only have to face long waiting times, they also have to face the corruption which is obviously prevailing in the temple administration. For getting your entry ticket and accommodation, there is an official way, you can do it yourself and run from one office to the other. You will spend hours and maybe have no success. Or you can get close to God more quickly and take the help of an agent which will of course cost you the double amount of money. He has his ticket from the same place but he paid a bit more for it and now you have to pay him for his efforts, too. Is God creating jobs here or is it just a simple way of ripping off pilgrims?

To summarize this: if you are a normal person with an average amount of money, you can wait in a hot crowd in summer for 20 or more hours and then be pushed through the temple and maybe get a glimpse of God’s statue. If you are a VIP politician or officer or if you have lots of money to donate, God welcomes you right away. Isn’t religion a great business?

I have written about this temple before, too. I told about their wealth, wrote about big donations that they get and I have also mentioned other temples where similar things are going on. They get very big donations, they have tons of silver and gold and their priests and employees are often very wealthy. Millions of people go there every day and think they are doing something good for themselves, their Karma and the world. What they really do is contributing in corruption. Don’t you think God would be happier if you invested your time, money and energy in doing service for the needy and humanity?

Here are the Reports:

21-hour wait for fleeting darshan of the Lord at Tirumala

Is Lord Balaji temple at Tirumala only for VIPs?

Corruption is a way of life in Tirupati Tirumala Devasthanams

Kripalu’s Billion Dollar Love Temple and a Book exposing his abusive sexual Behaviour – 15 Feb 12

Today is the starting day for a three-day inauguration program for a temple in Vrindavan, called the Prem Mandir. The name means ‘Love Temple’ and I wrote about it before, nearly exactly three years ago. In that time it was in construction – now it is done and ready for the public to enter.

It has been more than ten years of building work and some years ago local people were talking about immense figures of money that went into this temple. They were saying it would cost 140 million dollars. Today it is said that the building actually cost over a billion dollars! It is built completely out of Italian marble with carvings around the building and semi-precious stones in the walls. Situated at the beginning of Vrindavan – on the way from Delhi – this building will definitely catch the eye of many people entering Vrindavan.

Maybe some people will see it the same way that I do – as an unnecessary waste of money that could have been used to educate poor children or do other charity work. Vrindavan already has 5000 temples, so why do we need another one? 100% of people in India have access to a temple but 65% of the population has no access to a toilet. Wouldn’t it make more sense to build toilets?

This enourmous temple was built by two gurus and their organization. The main head of that organization is a guru called ‘Jagadguru Kripalu’, who is now 90 years old. His main disciple is Prakashananda, not much less in age. Prakashananda was the one who initiated the building project in Vrindavan and was the main person behind it. The temple should already have been inaugurated a year ago but in that time Prakashananda was not available – he was sitting in front of a court in Texas, accused for sexual abuse for minor girls. On the day when he was convicted though, he was nowhere to be found – he ran away and is now on the list of America’s Most Wanted. They suspect him to be in Mexico but maybe he will never be found and will die in hiding.

Obviously the temple had to postpone its inauguration because the main person was missing. It took them a whole year to schedule it again – and they used this year to remove his name, pictures and whatever reminded of Prakashananda from the temple. It is as though he was never there.

Their main guru Kripalu doesn’t have a clean record either! He himself has been accused of molesting women and girls of the organization and has even been arrested for rape, although he was never convicted for this crime. He and his organization are however known to use spirituality and religion as a way to have sex and to get more money. People tell that they train preachers, both male and female, and once they are trained, they go to preach. They get rich disciples, have sex with them and start extracting money. They lure more and more people into their organization and even ‘recruit’ young girls for their guru’s pleasures.

Kripalu himself dresses up as Krishna or sometimes even as Radha, inviting his female disciples to have a divine experience with him. For some it is nice to have sex with a spiritual wrapper – it is their fantasy and they think they are having intercourse with God and receiving a blessing. Others are ashamed afterwards for how naïve they had been. Many leave the organization and don’t tell anybody about the abuse that happened. And then there is one other kind of person: those who see what is going on, leave the organization and decide to tell the world about it, so that other people can be saved!

One of these women is Karen Johnson and today, on the same day of the inauguration of the temple she publishes her book about Kripalu, Prakashananda and their cult. It is called ‘Sex, Lies, and Two Hindu Gurus: How I Was Conned by a Dangerous Cult – And Why I Will Not Keep Their Secrets.’ She describes her experiences from inside the sect when she was a part of it and from after she left it – how she was harassed by followers who wanted her to stay quiet and how she talked to women who were abused by Kripalu. She has been running a facebook page about this for a long time and now gave an interesting interview to Vrindavan Today which you can read here.

I myself have experienced that they don’t like anybody to write the truth about them. After writing in my diary about the court case of Prakashananda, I got attacked verbally by their followers who started writing with different names and anonymously against me on different social networks and websites. For me, these people are criminals. Prakashananda is a criminal, he was convicted. There are many testimonies that could prove Kripalu a criminal. And why would you not call everyone who defends their actions also a criminal? I will not stop writing against them! Some of my well-wishers in Vrindavan have told me I should be careful with these anonymous people as they have money, criminal minds and obviously don’t want anybody to write against them. I answered them that it is very clear that, even if something happened to me or someone in my family, it was these people. And on the internet there is no way to stay anonymous. Their IP is recorded with each of their posts or online actions and they can be found. Then they will not be anonymous anymore – and they should be aware of this. So there is nothing to worry about – if anything happens, everyone will know who is behind it!

The worst thing for me is that all those things happen on the name of religion and God. People who search for guidance and help, people who are insecure and want the help of religion to find back to peace in their lives get sucked into that cult. I do appreciate this author’s effort and her courage to go against this cult with her book. I believe it is an important step to show people its dangers and I would love it if it got translated into Hindi and distributed in Vrindavan and in India. Then people could realize the truth and reality. The temple may be there but people should see what kind of organization is behind it.