Why young Indians don’t have to think twice before lying to their Parents – 18 Jan 16

Last week I told you about the metropolitan cities in India where parents cling to tradition in order not to get lost in all the new ways that a modern life brings. While they are in many ways trying to be modern, especially the raising of daughters brings them back to tradition – and this can create quite some trouble! Let me tell you how.

Over the past months, I have met a lot of young Indian people and many of them from Delhi. We talked about a lot of things, among others the lifestyle that girls and young women have in Delhi. They go to study and after their university, they start working somewhere. They travel around Delhi by Metro and auto-rickshaw, they use the offers that the big town gives them and they enjoy their lives. There is however a problem: they cannot be open with their parents about everything!

Several of the young women who visited us told that they also went on dates. Many enjoyed spending their time with friends of both genders and some of them had had boyfriends in the past as well. They went to late-night movie shows and even stayed at their boyfriends’ places overnight.

Obviously, that was not something they told their parents! I say obviously because it is still very much unthinkable in India for unmarried young people to be spending the night together. And they knew very well their parents would not allow this and instead create a lot of problems for them from uncomfortable discussions maybe even to punishments like being grounded.

So instead, these girls told me very openly that they lied. They told that they had work for university or that they would be with their best girlfriend overnight whom the parents knew well. The truth would have made everyone unhappy, they explained. A lie saves them from a lot of questions, uncomfortable situations and they know they would never be able to satisfy them anyway. So why to even start a discussion? In their faces I could see that they did not feel guilty about these lies at all.

This cannot be right. It is not right from either side but as a parent, you should think about why your child would feel the need to lie to you. I believe parents are responsible for these lies, forcing them with their restrictions. What are we doing by forcefully holding on to outdated traditions in modern times? We create a gap in between parents and children. Your children, themselves young adults, know what you would not allow them to do. They also know what they could be doing. They watch movies and want to have the same freedom, especially in a town in which it would be so easy!

And most of all, girls want to do what their brothers do. Why do you let them roam around freely at night? Why don’t you call them three times if it is after ten in the evening in order to see when they come home? Why are you okay with the thought that they might have a girlfriend but not okay with the thought that your daughter might have a boyfriend?

By forbidding and prohibiting, you are making your children lie. Be open with them and talk about things. Give them more freedom and they will stick to the rules that you are really serious about. Most of all, they will be safe. Because they can come to you and tell you about their problems. Otherwise, all you get is lies!

Be honest, even if you know the other one won’t be happy about your Answer – 22 Mar 13

In the past two days I analyzed two options on how you can answer a question when you know exactly that the questioner won’t be happy about it. Today I will describe my all-time favourite solution:

3rd Possibility: Be honest

This one is definitely the possibility that most people feel uncomfortable even thinking about beforehand but for which I can guarantee you that you will feel great afterwards!

I am generally very straight-forward about my opinion and believe that you need to be clear. If you tell others who you are, they won’t ever be confused about it and you will have less uncomfortable situations in future. If you are not clear enough, people won’t ever know you well and cannot ever predict what your opinion would be.

So even if someone asks me a question of which I know that he would not like my honest answer, I usually give my honest answer anyway. Then the other one can accept it if he likes. If he happens to agree with me, it is nice but if not, it is also fine for me. We all have the right to have our own opinion, so why should we hide it just to please others? We will never be all of the same opinion anyway, so better be honest about it!

The key point about this solution is your presentation. When I am in talk with someone I generally take care to be clear but not impolite. You have to express your opinion and leave no doubt as to what you think. Make sure the other truly understands what you are saying so that this situation doesn’t occur in future anymore. While you are giving the other person something that may not be very easy to accept, you can pack it in a nice wrapper to make it a bit easier.

In order to do this in a nice way, you may have to say a bit more than just one sentence. If someone asks you for philosophical advice for example and you absolutely don’t agree with the other person’s way of life, his religion and his philosophy, you will already know that your honest answer won’t please the other one. Instead of saying ‘I think what you believe in is stupid’, you can start by explaining what you believe in, describing the differences and the reasons for these differences.

You can always add one information in advance: ‘I know that my ideas regarding this are most probably quite different from yours!’ or something along these lines which makes the other one aware from the beginning that he doesn’t need to expect complete approval now! This will soften the blow of your words, make the impact less hard and the effect less negative.

If, in the end, you nevertheless notice that the other one is very unhappy or even miffed with what you said, just let it be. Your questioner also has to learn that different people have different opinions and that it is all well as it is. It may take some time but ultimately people understand.

Being honest is in my opinion the best of all three options.

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!

Don’t lie just to please others – 20 Mar 13

In my life it has happened many times that I was asked a question and I knew before that the person who asked would not be very happy about my answer if I replied with full honesty. I know this will happen to you at some point or the other, too, and it is a situation that makes many people very uncomfortable. Let’s explore our options to reply today and in the next days:

1st Possibility: Say a Lie

This is the possibility that probably comes very quickly to everybody’s mind: just say whatever the person wants to hear. It would be a lie and you know that very clearly but this option seems very attractive in that moment.

Especially if you are one of those people who always try to make everyone happy, you have probably already found yourself in such a situation. Let’s think of an example: you and your friend plan on going to the cinema and your friend is enthusiastically saying ‘My sister wanted to see that movie, too, would you mind if she came along?’ You don’t really like the company of your friend’s sister and would much rather have an evening alone with your friend. You don’t want to disappoint your friend though and most of all you don’t want to admit you don’t like her sister! So your answer is ‘Yes, of course, I love your sister!’

You want to make everyone feel good and you just want harmony, so what is the harm if you are not completely honest just this one time? It is okay, you spend a lot of time with your friend anyway, so you can share her with her sister! And shouldn’t you learn getting along with her relatives, too?

You may think this now but later on you will realize your mistake when you don’t enjoy your evening! You might make the questioner happy for now, for a short time but on the long run he will find out that you were not honest. Lies never live long and apart from the fact that they are morally wrong, it will come back to you later and that can get quite nasty.

Additionally to creating problems for someone else, you make yourself unhappy by lying. Even if your conscience allows you to say one lie, you won’t be able to behave accordingly. It is not your truth. If you say ‘Yes, I also love blue!’ but then always choose red, the other one will notice! Or you take care to always choose blue – although you would much rather pick red. The result: you are unhappy, the other one is unhappy, this solution failed.

In our example that would mean that you sit in the cinema and the two siblings are having a blast while you don’t really engage in conversation much. Your friend’s sister asks you something and you, annoyed by the situation and maybe even her, reply impolitely or just not with as much heart as your friend is used to – so she asks what the problem is. She might even get angry with you, after all she asked you whether it was fine to bring her sister, so what is the matter with you? Your evening is ruined.

Lying doesn’t solve anything, it creates more and more problems which you didn’t even have before. So I believe it is best for you and those around you if you don’t choose this option!

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.

Religious Education in Schools could be dangerous for our Children – 21 Jul 11

As I wrote yesterday, religion should be a matter of choice and we need to give our children the freedom of decision, even if this seems difficult to maintain for parents who have a strong belief. What I don’t understand, from this point of view, is why religious education is a school subject in many countries.

In many countries of Europe you have Christian religion classes in government schools, in the USA parents send their children to Sunday school of the preferred religion of their parents and in many Muslim countries the teachings of Islam are present in all subjects. In India government schools do not actually have a subject that is called ‘religion’ but religious Hindu stories often find their way into books and classrooms. In most countries there are of course also private schools of a certain religion where parents send their children when they explicitly want the religious values to be emphasized.

My question to those subjects is: what will children get from this education? In which way will it help them in their lives? And why do children get marks on those subjects that are then important in their exams? Is it merely a practice of learning and reciting scriptures? Are you testing their memory? Or do you give marks on how religious they are?

In those school lessons, children learn more about the belief that is now theirs. Apart from the fact that I think it is too early for a child to be fixed to one belief, the education that they receive there depends very much on the teacher. If you are lucky, the teacher is tolerant, they learn more about other religions, too, and also see the positive aspects of other religions. If the teachers are more conservative though, our next generation will believe that only their God, only their scripture and only their religion is the only true one. That generation will become more narrow-minded than the current one and people of different faith will be viewed with suspicion.

I don’t see at all why you would teach scriptures and declare them as the only right texts. The scriptures of any religion, culture or country can be written by very intelligent people of old times and we can see them as great literature. They should not be taught to children as ideals of how to behave though. They are fiction and many of them are full of blood and violence, creating an illusion for children that this behavior could be religious and good.

In many countries in which Islam is the main religion, these teachings can be very extreme, as there are many different ways of interpreting their scriptures and laws. The big problem with this education is that teachers can then install hate towards other religions in children’s minds and prepare them for a war against all people of other religion. The result is that there are young people who decide to perform terrorist attacks in the name of religion. Schools become terrorist training centers. That, too, is the work of religions. I am not against any particular religion but against the concept of religion and its teaching in schools.

This may be the extreme result but even if you don’t go that far, you can realize that those classes separate our children. They cannot sit altogether in one class, as they do for learning languages or Mathematics. There is the first point where religion separates and categorizes the world. It divides us all into different categories. This is what our children learn. But we are first of all humans! We should not let religion divide us in this way.

What has religion given us? What did we get? It has done its job in history by dividing people into different groups. Everybody thinks his religion is the best. Everybody has ego, is in competition with each other and often even hates people of any other belief. Religion has brought us war, too.

If your argument for religious education is that children also learn moral values, I have to ask why we need to pack those moral values in religious stories? I think it would be a great idea to take the positive message of every religion, every good moral value that they teach and have a subject called ‘moral education’. Every religion teaches things such as not to lie, to speak the truth, to respect life and to live with love and equally to the people surrounding you. Why not take all those positive aspects and teach them to our children without separating them into different groups? They could learn together to respect each other, even if they privately have another faith and different religious practices in their family. School is not a place for religion.

Do not stubbornly stick to Opinions and old Patterns – Be open for Change – 7 Jul 11

In one of my old diary entries I recently read the following paragraph:

“…everyone who really loves you wants you to be happy and strong and stable in your happiness. It is difficult to have stable happiness if you cannot have a stable opinion because all the time you actually worry in which direction you have to change your opinion now!”

I read these lines and I still agree on them. It is very important to be stable, to know what you want and to take your decisions accordingly. At the same time I thought however that there are times when people keep their opinion not only stable but solid and stubbornly stick to an opinion which has often been formed decades ago.

This is also not the right attitude towards your opinions. Don’t form an opinion and make it a tradition. Whenever this happens, all flexibility is gone. Maybe you know this kind of behavior from older people. As a teenager the neighbor girl may have been wild and in that time your grandparents have formed their opinion to never trust her to take care of their plants when they are gone. Now, thirty or more years later, they still think of this woman as a wild girl, although she may now be settled and happily married, living a calm life. The old people may however still hesitate and not be able to trust her.

This is an easy example but such opinions and the stubbornness that they could not change go much deeper. We often follow a certain pattern and don’t want to leave it. We know it is not right and not true anymore, times have changed, but because we have done it always in this way, we stick with it. I have believed this for so many years, how could I change now? How could I stop believing this? This thinking does not make you happy. If you know the truth and you don’t change your opinion, you are not honest with yourself.

If you experience something, don’t be shy to change your opinion, even if it is the opposite of what you thought before. Change if you believe it is necessary to change, otherwise it will cost you your happiness. If you change when it is right to change, you will see that new doors open for a better future.

Tattoos, Piercings and Body Implants – Beautiful, ugly or strange? – 21 Jun 11

In different workshops and lectures I have often told people that they are beautiful as they are. I have talked and also written a lot about inner beauty and outer appearance. I have explained that especially women can have real psychological problems if they don’t get self-confidence to find themselves beautiful as they are. They use tons of make-up to present a person who they are not and they believe it makes them more beautiful.

Today I want to mention another fashion which makes people feel more beautiful but which in my eyes is not something that could enhance the natural beauty of a person: Tattoos and piercings.

I said it was a fashion but of course that has been a fashion for many years already and this is how there are so many people who can tell you of their experiences with ink-drawn pictures and holes in different parts of their bodies. Tattoos and piercings can be everywhere nowadays. People have tattoos on the complete body, including on the eyeballs. Piercings with rings, studs and some other designs decorate their body from top to toe and even their genitals are not safe.

I never understood the reason for this kind of body decoration. You actually ruin your body. You make holes into your skin that are not supposed to be there and you put ink under your skin where it does not belong. And it is permanent!

More and more young people have a tattoo done and realize after ten or twenty years that is simply doesn’t fit anymore to who you are. It is not any wonder, you may not like the cute little heart with the wings anymore when you are 35 although you loved it when you were 18 years old and had it done. But now it is on your neck, visible to everyone whenever you don’t wear a turtleneck pullover – and in summer this means always.

There is a scenario that is even worse but also quite common: you have the name of your partner or spouse tattooed onto your forearm, hip, back or shoulder and discover after some time that it won’t work out for you. You break up and still have this name inked onto your body, a constant reminder of a past that you might want to leave behind soon.

There are two solutions to this dilemma and it is mostly stars and celebrities who have showed the general public how to solve such problems: you can have it removed with a laser that practically bursts the colour particles under your skin. It takes several sessions and a lot of money and can leave nasty scars. Another possibility is to tattoo over it, so that it turns to another picture or another slogan. Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp and Britney Spears are only some examples of celebrities who have had and removed tattoos.

So these are the regular stories of tattoos but there are people who actually advertise that having certain symbols tattooed onto your body gives you more energy and can have certain effects from fertility to wealth. It is wrong to tell someone that a tattoo would heal or give particular energy. There was a time when people lived in tribes, were uneducated and really believed that a certain array of dots and stripes on your forehead gives you strength and power. We live in modern times however and are aware that this is not the truth. This strength comes from your believe that you are strong, not from the tattoo.

I am just surprised again and again when I see what people do to their body. Many people really have extremely many tattoos and piercings so that you cannot really see the person underneath anymore. Other extremes are tattoos on tongues, eyeballs and genitals. Another strange fashion that you really cannot call art anymore is to have body implants and modifications. People have devices inserted under their skin merely for decorative purpose and thus get horns on the head, stars on the arms or even coins and beads in any part of the body.

Don’t do this to your body, you are beautiful and fine as you are.

My first sexual Experience after 30 Years of natural Celibacy – 19 Jun 11

One day my German friend took me to a woman who was his friend. She had a guest in that time, another woman, and when my friend invited them to come to visit us the next day for dinner, they both accepted.

So on that day, we were all sitting together, had dinner and were talking. It got late and my friend’s wife said she would go to bed. My friend was the next one to go to bed and finally one of the women said, she would leave, too. Her friend, the woman whom I had only met the day before, said she would stay a little bit longer. And so we were sitting there, on the couch, next to each other and she while talking, she moved a bit closer to me.

I pretended to be cool and experienced even though I was not at all. I was so excited in that situation and was thinking tonight, in this November night in 2001, that would happen which had not happened in the last 30 years. I was showing as if I am used to sitting with women like this, as if I daily did it but the truth was this it was the first time.

I remembered the talk of my Indian friend who had been my first host here in Germany. Once he told me that people were much more open towards sex here than in India. If you got to know a girl and started a friendship with her, you could at some point also ask her to have sex with you. She would not mind it and in most cases would be ready for it. That’s what he knew, the Indian man who was living and working here for a bit more than six months. That was his impression in this new culture. When I asked him if he had had such an encounter in those six months, he said very innocently ‘No’ and I knew he was not lying.

I was much newer to this country and culture than my friend and there was this woman, who was friend of my friend’s friend, sitting next to me on the sofa. I didn’t really know her, my English was still not good enough to have a big conversation and I did not have the courage to touch her even though I was very curious and wanted to. Thank God she started and took my hand to hold it in hers. I still pretended to be cool and experienced and thought it would be best to do what she did. I reacted on the same level to her action and held her hand. Anyway, what else could happen, after a while we hugged and were soon lying on the sofa, our clothes lying around us, and I had my first experience.

I had not told her that it was my first time before we started and when I told her afterwards, she was surprised and said that I seemed very experienced to her. I was happy and proud that I had played a good role. I smiled and answered ‘You know, I come from the land of Kama Sutra and have studied that’. She smiled back and replied ‘Yes, I knew you are a Tantra Master!’ It was not the right situation to say something but by myself I thought ‘What does this have to do with Tantra?’ I had not yet understood that people in the west think Tantra means sex.

I was not sad to lose my virginity but on the contrary I was happy for not being celibate any more. Celibacy came to my life naturally, not because I was following any tradition of celibacy. My parents were obviously not celibate, they gave life to me and three siblings. I was not following any other tradition than my family tradition and they wanted me to get married already when I turned 18. This was however not my interest. Instead I wanted to travel and preach. Later I went into the cave, so I just did not have any opportunity to lose my virginity.

We fell asleep on the sofa and woke up in the morning, when my German friend came down to make coffee. He waved and smiled at me and I smiled back, saying Good Morning.

Being a Student is better than being a Follower – 16 Jun 11

Yesterday I described the last one of 10 types of followers whom I have written about in the last weeks. These were the ten types:

  1. Blind Followers
  2. Intellectual Followers
  3. Proud Followers
  4. Secret or Ashamed Followers
  5. Bribed or Paid Followers
  6. Strict Followers
  7. Flexible Followers
  8. Mass Followers
  9. Personal Followers
  10. Celebrity Followers

I have seen many followers in my life, during my time as a guru in India and also now on my travels in the west. This is how I could sort them into these types. Not everyone fits into one single category, most of them belong to several types at once.

What happens usually these days when I meet followers is that they don’t stay with me for a long time. The reason is that they usually search for a guru and I am just not a guru or master. Many leave because they realize it and others try to stick around, try to find a way of being my follower without me minding it and actually develop some closeness. What I do is to always try and let them experience that they are their own gurus.

I don’t really like the word ‘follower’ or ‘disciple’. I think it is good to learn from someone, to be a student and to keep on learning. Guru simply means teacher, so if you have the need for a teacher, a guru, why don’t you simply call yourself student? I think rather than being a follower who follows blindly like a sheep, you should be a student, eager to learn more, enthusiastic for getting more knowledge and experience.
Many gurus are good teachers and you can learn from them. Don’t make them holy and don’t see them as Gods. They are human, make their mistakes and have their faults. Don’t worship them. Give them respect as persons who have some knowledge or wisdom which they share with you.

Keep a realistic view, ask deeper than what is on the surface and see who that person is. Don’t get dependent on one individual and don’t get confused if you hear contradictive statements of several of them. In the end you need to see that you are your own master inside yourself. There is the truth and you can feel for any philosophy and teaching whether it is right for you or not.