Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Rebel fights on- (Part 2)

(Second and final part of my interview with Canadian Esther Friede where she opens out a bit more and shares her personal side with us.)

Being an Indian Hindu, it felt rather strange to be taught verses from the Bhagavad Gita by a Westerner. It felt stranger, when I started realizing I am confiding in that person details of my life that I have hardly shared with anyone. Even more strangely, it started to feel good doing so and I would look forward to those conversations which would give me some strange kind of a solace. That is exactly how my relation with Esther Friede has blossomed over the past few months; from being a story’s subject to slowly evolving into a friend cum guide.

Esther with the children of her Ashram 
There is something oddly reassuring about Esther’s personality. Even though I haven’t yet met her, I always feel comfortable with her positive outlook toward life, her kindness, her patience, her simplicity and genuineness , all of it combined makes her a wonderfully human person; unlike any I have met in my life. Her stubbornness to not give up, to keep fighting and her belief in God despite all odds really moved me and made me want to help her at all costs, as if I too was in this fight with her, as if I am helping a family member.

All this might make one feel that I am biased about my whole approach towards Esther’s story as a journalist. But it really is the other way round. It is rather the honesty in her tale that makes me want to keep fighting harder, that makes me believe that there is something worth fighting for. And if in the end I do mange to contribute even one percent in her victory, I would feel I have done something good and worthwhile in my life after all.

So taking over from my last post, I explore some different facets of Esther; her personal side. Giving the land-mafia issue a pause, I try and delve on her human elements. Here she opens up on her relationship with ‘God’, her fears, her ‘Indian-ness’ and gives a short message to the Indian society.

Excerpts from the interview:

Q.1. You latest blog post questions India’s civility and Haridwar’s holiness. What exactly brought those feelings on?

Ans: I just can`t believe what is happening to India – the reason I came to India was for spiritual reasons – and to see this kind of corruption, violence, lawlessness in a holy city, of all places, I am just astounded!  What I don`t understand is that I have tried to get help from people – who have turned their backs when they could really help us put a stop to it. The place is full of big ashrams supported by a lot of wealth and influence.  You would think others would stand by us and demand justice and not want to have a holy place tainted by these kinds of corrupt activities.  When I first came to India in the 60`s to study with my Guru, I remember he used to say that one day India would overcome its difficulties, and become an advanced nation – both spiritually and materially.  Well, some of it is coming true.  On the one hand, material wealth has increased – but so what?  The disparity in society is so much greater. In my view, real development is about becoming more civilized, taking care of people, caring for the less fortunate, uplifting the nation as a whole, having honest governance that makes it possible for people to contribute to the welfare of society. I believe that in the heart of most people there is a desire to do good and a country where there is honest governance, lawful process, is able to benefit from the talent, drive, ambition and hard work of its citizens. People in India that I met before used to be kind, gentle, hospitable.  I was never afraid to go anywhere by myself. I literally felt like I was walking on holy ground when I went to the Ganges – or was anywhere in its vicinity.  Our ashram was so peaceful.  I still have a hard time reconciling the India I loved with what is happening now.

Q.2. You had mentioned to me that you tied a Rakhi to a friend of yours recently. You also seem to be quite inspired by the sacred Hindu book the ‘Bhagavad Gita’ besides knowing and enjoying quite a bit of Indian festivals and rituals. So despite all the negativities you have faced here can I say that there still is some Indian residing in you somewhere?

Ans: That part of me will never go away.  My Bhagavad Gita is daily food.  Whatever I study, I always compare it to the Bhagavad Gita.  I have started a blog – just got started recently – on the Gita.  I think the Gita is a phenomenal work, far deeper than it appears on the surface and the older I get, the more meaning it has for me.  Yes, I tied a rakhi on a good friend of mine to protect him when that festival came around.  Navratri is one of my favourite festivals because of its worship of the Divine Feminine – which is very significant.  Of all the countries in the world, the honouring of the Divine Feminine has disappeared and can be found only in the history of its ancient cultures, in archeological remains.  India is one of the only ancient civilizations with a continuous living history of this tradition.

Esther(center) with some kids of her Ashram
I sometimes think I am more Indian than some Indians. So many things feel completely natural for me, even though I was born to European parents who knew nothing about India. It is my samskaras from past lives that bring this about and will no doubt continue. When I first set foot on Indian soil, I felt like I had come home.  I feel at home in a sari;  I eat Indian meals regularly with my hands, Indian-style – a snack for me might be simple chapatis with Indian mango pickle, onion and dahi.

After my first trip to India, I hand painted a murti of Gayatri Ma which I still revere. I worship and meditate in Indian ways. When I came to India when I was still young, I visited with Sri Ananda Moyi Ma several times and have a habit of visiting Indian saints –especially the women saints – so I got hugs from Amma many times, learned about Sahaj yoga from Sri Nirmala Devi, sat at the feet of Mother Meera.  I visited SatyaSai in Puttaparti, knelt at the tomb of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother in Pondicherry, paid my respects at the tomb of Gandhiji, paid homage at ShirdiSai’s tomb. Of course, ultimately, I am devoted to my own Guru, Swami Devananandaji, but deep within me is the habit of taking the dust from the feet of highly developed beings however they may be embodied or even if they have left the body.

I have been down the Ganges with my Guru from Rishikesh to Varanasi, through the south of India with a friend, into Punjab, Rajasthan, Bengal.  There is still so much to see – I don`t know whether I will get to see it all in this lifetime – but it is as if I have an Indian soul……It is strange – when I see an Indian person, inside I feel like I am meeting a ``landsman`` - that is a German word for someone from your own country.  Of course, they wouldn`t know it – because I don`t look Indian.  It is really an inner thing, which is hard to explain.

Q.3. Is there still anybody in India whom you trust with your heart? Anyone whom you have faith or belief in or whom you can call a friend?

Ans: I trust my Guru with my life.  He is one in a million – I think God threw away the mould after He created him.   So it is hard for anyone to live up to that standard in my books.  And I am not just being starry-eyed and naïve.  I am in my 60`s, have considerable life experience now and I can honestly reflect on my time with him and still feel the same way.  I became very wary lately of people in India, don’t know whom to trust and have difficulty now being open-hearted in India, which is my nature.  I can’t understand the apathy of the many of the people around us in India. Recently, though, a few people have come forward to help who are showing a genuineness, courage and faithfulness that has really moved me. If it weren`t for them, the ashram may already have fallen into the hands of the mafia.  These people are restoring my faith – that there are still some really good people in India.

Q.4. What’s the update on the personal front? What occupies your mind and time these days? How do you keep your mind away from all negative emotions that are natural to seep in?

Ans: I see life as a journey of continual learning, growth, development and service.  Each phase of life offers new lessons.  I am very active and engaged in life.  For 4 years I had been serving as the Spiritual and Religious Coordinator (a chaplain) in three long-term care facilities, looking after the spiritual needs of the elderly and dying as well as young disabled adults. I was probably one of the first with Hindu spiritual training that made it through the difficult process of qualification (that has for so long in Canada been predominantly Christian) to become a chaplain and pastoral counselor. I had to leave that role because it did not give me enough flexibility to come to India and stay long enough to deal with the mafia issue. 

Now, I have my own private psychotherapy practice, where I do counselling for couples, families and individuals, adolescents and children.  I get a chance in my private practice to serve people, help them find hope through difficult challenges and facilitate finding solutions to their personal problems.  Life is not easy for anybody.  Nowadays especially, there is so much stress and anxiety, even amongst children.  
Esther Friede
More recently, I have been studying cybercounselling which will enable me to offer my counseling services online to adults anywhere in the world.  I am very excited about that. That would give me the most flexibility – because I could be anywhere in the world too as long as I have a computer and an internet connection.  I would like to write, turn my attention to that more fully.

I am a visual artist and have done a lot of art work – drawing and painting, and some work with fibre.  I have some training in the style of Renaissance Masters, and I have had some lessons in Chinese brush work.  But my natural spontaneous work is modern, a lot is abstract in oils and acrylics.  I also used my creativity to explore the inner psychological and spiritual life and have notebooks filled with symbolic drawings of the Divine Feminine.  I haven`t had much time for my art work lately.  I used to have visions of spending my later years at the ashram in service, working with children, in spiritual reflection, meditation and being creative as a writer and artist. 

Needless to say, that vision has been rudely altered by these recent developments with the land mafia.  Now, all I can think of when I think about the ashram is what next steps to take to defeat the mafia…..when I go there – I am constantly seeing lawyers and going to court, writing letters to try to drum up support……I still live my spiritual life, meditation and worship. I am struggling to make this battle part of the path.  I think of Arjuna in the Gita. I sometimes talk to God ``Bhagwan, if this is what you want me to spend my energy on – OK….I don’t agree with You – but if that is your will. ``   That is how I deal with the negative emotions.  I may feel them, try to process them and then put them into context of what my spiritual life is all about – discover and live the spiritual meaning behind the challenges facing me.

Q.5. At present what do you care for the most? What scares you?

Ans: I would have to say that it is my spirituality that means the most to me – in a different way than before. While it has been the underlying theme of my life, as I age, of course, I have had to come to terms with my mortality in ways that I did not think of in my younger years and most recently, life also has brought me to spiritually companion those who are dying.  I think about the four ashramas as taught by the Hindus – the four stages of life – Brahmcharya, Grihastha, Vanaprastha and Sanyasa……so I consider myself to be in the Vanaprastha stage in life…going towards Sanyasa – though I have been a sanyasin for most of my life, I still have always been active in the world, studying, learning and serving.  In the west, the ideal form of aging is to keep busy as long as possible.  In the Hindu way of life, the ideal is to turn to God, to become reflective, contemplative. What scares me the most is the thought of near the end, losing sight of God, my soul, my purpose for which I came to this earth, of my consciousness being distracted from its main purpose. You can check out the blog I started at which is all about completing one’s life.  Of all the blogs I started, this one gets the most hits.

Q.6. Endless issues hog the media space in India every day, yet important and serious issues like yours hardly find any light. Do you feel left out? Do you feel that some mileage from the media would help your cause? Your views on the Indian media as a whole in present times.

Ans: I am a little baffled why I have not been able to attract the interest of the mainstream press.  I would have thought that if the media took up the story of attempted theft and corruption, that the exposure would discourage the criminals. I was hoping that media coverage would highlight our cause and reach people who are interested in overcoming corruption in India – that people would come to our defense, support us – and perhaps with greater numbers, this fight could be won sooner.  Maybe the secular world of media doesn’t care about ashrams and religious folks – and think this isn’t mainstream enough to sell papers……

My feelings about the media are not only about the Indian media- I feel the same about the media in the rest of the world.  I don`t like the sensationalism and preoccupation with bad news, trivial things, celebrities.  I would rather read blogs like Daily Good – which reports good news or specialized magazines or blogs of my choice that are focused on issues of interest and are well written. 

I see the value of media in a democracy as a way of making issues transparent and providing interesting, educational and insightful commentary on matters that concern society and of taking up good causes. It could play a more enriching role in the culture of any country if it was truly civic minded. But sensationalism and trivia sells – just like junk food – which may not be good for you. I am realistic enough to know that media needs to be commercially viable but sometimes I think it could raise its standards and still be commercially viable. The media has so much power over people’s minds that if it was used in the right way, it could play such a significant uplifting role in the whole culture.

Q.7. Do you wish to give any message to the people of India or to anyone else in particular?

Ans: Sounds a little grandiose to be giving a message to the Indian people – but now that you have asked, yes I do: Rise up! Become your best and highest self! The power in each person is greater than anyone can imagine for God lives in the heart of each living being! Live boldly, imaginatively, creatively, devotedly with an open heart!

Now that I have had a taste of the corruption in India in the worst way, I would also like to say that when corruption takes a hold in a country it is because people are complicit – perhaps not in an overt way – but through apathy, indifference and acceptance of it. I understand that life is tough and that everyone is trying to take care of themselves and their families but sometimes, we just have to take a stand for the betterment of all and say enough! 

Many Indians have given up on India and go abroad where they find a lot of opportunity for their talents, ambitions and aspirations for their families.  Indians are probably one of the largest diaspora communities in the world.  What I would say to them is  -  don’t forget your roots and share some of your success with the people of India itself.   Give back to your home country – not just in time and money – but in bringing some of the values you have found elsewhere that inspire and motivate people to create a flourishing society.  Put pressure on the country to wipe out corruption, to put in place honest governance, social reform.

I ran away from the materialism of the west to seek simplicity and spirituality in India and was welcomed with open arms then.  Something has gone seriously wrong in India in its headlong rush to catch up materially with the west and it is the west that now is hosting more and more spirituality. I can’t begin to tell you how many new temples, centres, mosques have been built not only by Indian people, but by people from all over the world who bring their spiritual heritage with them. Throughout the west, ashrams, meditation centres, communities are being established – the west is welcoming this. Even large hospital systems in my city are teaching meditation practices to people suffering from pain, anxiety and stress.


(To read the first part of my interview with Esther, click here.)

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Rebel fights on- (Part 1)

(First part of my interview with Canadian Esther Friede where she opens out on the hassles she is currently facing in her long-drawn fight with the land-mafia over her Ashram in Haridwar.) 

Esther with a girl in her Ashram
I had been first introduced to Esther Friede more than a year back courtesy a journalist friend of mine. Back then I used to work for a media house which ‘proclaimed’ to be the Mother Teresa of today’s world and wanted to fight for all the good news the world had ever seen. Hence I would always be on the lookout for any kind of a positive or inspiring story. When I heard about Esther’s story from my friend – ‘Elderly Canadian woman, single-handedly fighting the land-mafia in Haridwar’- I was instantly intrigued and went on  to contact Esther immediately.  Back then I had no inkling that even more than a year after the story I wrote on her henceforth, I would be doing a follow-up story on my personal blog. The reasons for that are of course manifold.

Months after I had written the story on her many things changed in my life and quite significant out of those was my relation with Esther. She went on to be much more than a story’s subject for me and we gradually developed a good bond of friendship.(I shall dwell on this matter in a little more details in the second part of this story where we get to see a more personal side of Esther). However the story that I did eventually publish last year has a complicated tale too.

I had initially planned to visit Haridwar myself and meet Esther in person to conduct the interview. But as it turned out, my ‘Mother Teresa inspired’ bosses developed cold feet when they heard the land mafia was involved and moreover they never took any keen interest in the story itself. 'What’s so special about her anyways?’, 'How do you know if she is right?’ , ‘ The story doesn't seem inspiring enough’- these were some of the more general responses I got from them. The story remained stuck for more than two months, taking my frustration to its peak. They just didn't want to take any ‘risks’; this after claiming to show the world the plight of the needy people around us and all that crap. After several rounds of editing the story did eventually get published but not exactly in the way I wanted plus there were vibes I got that they had done me a huge favour by publishing such a 'controversial' story. There was also this small incident that happened a month after the story got published. Our reporters were supposed to present a few of our most inspiring stories for a public function. They chose three of my best, but that didn't have Esther's story in it. I argued vociferously for her story to be displayed at all costs as this was what 'helping the ones in need' is all about I said. They refused and chose to go ahead with some of my other 'better' works which had more 'renowned' people as the lead, helping them in grabbing eyeballs. I fumed within myself as I believed there couldn't be anything more inspiring than an elderly Westerner fighting a lone battle in our country for poor children. But many thought otherwise I guess. All of this left a bitter taste in my mouth and I decided to post the story here in my blog. That somehow changed things, and I got to share the unedited story with many people including Esther of course. As she still says, that story did help her get some attention and eventually helped her cause, albeit not majorly. The response on this story was pretty mild from others in my circle, but till date it remains one of the closest to my heart; something which I really believed in (and still do).

Over the months post the story I never failed to follow up on Esther to know what her status was. She did get some minor relief when they managed to get a ``stay`` through the SDM(Sub-Divisional Magistrate) which put on hold the fraudulent renewal of the registration of the society that the mafia received from the Registrar of Societies in May 2012. However, that was that and presently as she stays in Canada she and her Ashram members in Haridwar are being continually harassed by the land-mafia there. I tried to share her story with many journalists I know along with some NGO websites in the hope that maybe someone will see the honesty in her tale and try and help her out. But nothing has worked, none seem interested in this. I guess the story needs a little more ‘spice’ for our main-stream media to take it. After all when you have a Kareena Kapoor getting married who needs to hear about the plight of an elderly Canadian woman fighting for the cause of poor children in our country isn't it? I have thus decided to take this responsibility myself and let Esther have her say through this blog, and a bit more openly this time as the last time round I was burdened with restrictions. I know most of you wouldn't bother reading this story in the full and would just ‘like’ my link and give me a ‘good job’ comment. But I would still go ahead with this in the hope that something positive would come out of it in the end. I believe in Esther Friede and think that it’s shameful for us as Indians that we cannot look up to people like her and do anything for her cause. I will do my own bit in the way I know best, as much as I can. Taking cue from Esther’s own words she had once told me - “What is true and good must be fought for and we need to uphold the Light for all of society by doing what we are called to do in our own life.” – Amen to that.

Excerpts from the interview:

Q. 1. Update us on your current situation. How much have you and your Ashram progressed in the fight against the land mafia? Has there been any silver lining in all this?

Ans. - We made some progress – at least with the administration when I managed to get a ``stay`` through the SDM which put on hold the fraudulent renewal of the registration of the society that the mafia received from the Registrar of Societies. That was good news.  That was in May 2012.

But, when the mafia saw that the tactics of using the legal and administrative systems to steal our land did not work, they started to resort to physical intimidation.  On September 5ththis year, about 20 men entered the grounds illegally and occupied the ashram property, scaring the residents.  Miraculously, our friends and supporters were able to mobilize the police – they showed them a copy of the legal stay.  The police drove them out of the ashram. 

When all this started, I thought perhaps there might be a silver lining to this difficulty.  But at this point, I still have not seen it.  Instead of doing service, our energies, and funding have to be focused on defending ourselves. So whom does this serve? Money goes into the pockets of lawyers instead of towards doing something worthwhile for the children, for people, for humanity. 

Still, I have to put this into the context of spiritual life, faith and trust in God.  Perhaps in some roundabout way, God has a greater plan yet when She sees that we have the perseverance and courage to face whatever difficulties come our way.  Perhaps this is some kind of a test.

Q.2.You say that the land mafia has harassed you even at your homeland in Canada. Elaborate.

Ans. - On the same day that the mafia invaded the ashram, their lawyers in Delhi mailed a harassing letter to me here in Canada.  They said their client – a Swami Kumar Shankar wanted to know where Swami Devanandaji (our Guru) was – whether he was alive or dead.  He accused me of using his name fraudulently for our ashram and threatened to launch a case of fraud against me for doing so.  I of course replied that this was a nuisance letter – most ashrams are named after their founders – for example, the well-known Ramakrishna Mission.  Most Christian and Hindu ashrams are named after a saint – it is common practice.  I wrote to the lawyers to spend their time doing legal work for people who really need legal help, not fraudulent swamis like their client. 

Q.3. Over the last 10 months or so since our last interview how much do you think the situation has changed? Are you still as determined as you were then in fighting the land mafia seeing all the hassles you are having to deal with?

Ans. - As I said in the first question above, we made some progress but that just caused the mafia to get bolder.  They were probably so confident they would succeed in their misuse of the system. But when that failed, they became barbaric, becoming physically menacing. Of course, I am even more indignant!  I have a hard time believing this drama – like some really reeeeaaaallllllyyybaaaaaad Bollywood movie – but it is happening in real life!  But yes, I am just as determined.

Q.4. How much of this fight are you still willing to wage on? You are in your 60`s now and you have to look after your life all alone. Surely all these will take their toll on you. Given that the situation doesn’t improve any further what would you do?

Ans. - I have had to surrender this to God right from the beginning. If I followed a course of just looking after myself, I don’t think I would even have stepped up to this problem at this stage in life.  I don’t need to, if I just want to follow a path of self-preservation.  I have all the potential for living a safe and relatively comfortable life in the west, doing work that is of service to others, and in the process, providing for my needs. I get a small government pension, good medical care which in Canada is government subsidized so I can rely on being physically well cared for, material conveniences are at my fingertips. I can drive anywhere safely and live quite independently for as long as my body and mind are stable.  I can follow my interests as I choose. I live in one of the most culturally diverse, clean and beautiful cities of the world.

Coming to India in the first place in the very beginning, was a risk as far as my personal welfare was concerned. I came across land – during the India Pakistan war of 1965.  Spiritual calling brings me here, despite the fact that it disrupts worldly life.  This means walking in faith – and that changes how one looks at things completely.  Living life by the Spirit, means giving up one’s own preconceived ideas of what to do and how life should be.  It also means being autonomous from within, instead of being externally defined, following the calling of one’s soul. This desecration of my Guru’s ashram, is enough reason to set aside personal concerns.  I can’t say how this will affect me, how much stamina I have to carry on.  Central to the Gita is the concept of leaving all the results of one’s actions in the Lord’s hands.  One acts, knowing full well that “I” am not the doer. The point of all action becomes spiritual realization.  The care of one’s body and life are in the hands of the Almighty.  

Q.5. If you had a chance to speak to the land mafia directly what would you say to them? Do you think any truce can be brought about between the two parties? Or is the animosity too strong for anything like that?

Ans. - The word ``mafia`` is some generic collective term for a group of people.  So I would ask each person in that mob, to face his Maker – to ask himself what his actions are leading him to and the consequences of such actions.  I would ask each one of them to examine his conscience, if any of them are still able to get in touch with it (maybe they don’t know what it is any more). I don`t know who these people are – and the ones in front are only the little people – who have probably been offered  a small piece of the financial gains pie– behind them are people of influence: developers, business people, politicians– and maybe even some religious folks, manipulating these people.  I would ask them all to give up their greed.  After all, they can`t take their material wealth with them when they die – but they will certainly take with them the karmas, the samskaras(deep impressions in their consciousness of their thoughts and deeds) which they created by their lies, deceits and harm to others.  These will surely follow them into the hereafter and life after life.

I would ask them to join with me to fund a charitable enterprise on the land they are trying to grab.  I don`t have animosity.  I feel sorry for them and the terrible karmas they are creating for themselves – what goes around comes around. I also think this is such a waste of human energy! I am doing what I am doing, standing up to them, not with animosity but because it is the right thing to do.  But human energy could be put to good productive use for the common good.  Why waste life doing evil, harassing people and storing up bad karma?  Why waste time, energy and resources paying lawyers to steal other people’s property just to make money– when the time energy and money could be funding something that would make life better for so many others and continue to uplift society for generations to come? Why not leave a worthwhile legacy for the world?

Q.6. Looking back, do you think you could have changed anything in this whole situation? Do you regret anything that you have done in this whole episode? If you were given one chance to go back and rectify anything from your past in this what would that be?

Ans. - At the moment, it is hard to see the forest for the trees, to use a cliché.  But looking back before the actual troubles erupted, I think the biggest mistake the trustees of the ashram made was hire, and then eventually fire the administrator, who initiated this problem.  I was against hiring him in the first place.  I was especially suspicious of how he helped the trustees oust the incumbent administrator and then put himself in the employ of the ashram.  I was not there at the time at the ashram so could not have input to the process.  Not only was I not there in India when all this took place, but the trustees did not even inform me of their intentions and subsequently of their actions – until it was all a done deal. I am beginning to think that perhaps he was planning something like this all along, by becoming a trusted person in the employ of the ashram.  He saw an opportunity for the future and jumped on it. In 2006 when I came to the ashram, I was told that someone had tried to go to the petwari and tehsildar to claim rights to the property but were refused.  I am quite sure it was him and his family. He probably thought he could take over the place initially by himself by claiming squatter’s rights because he was working the fields to grow crops.  Of course he was supposed to be growing crops in order to bring in income for the ashram. Now I think he was hoping that his activities would entitle him to make claims of ownership. When he didn’t succeed on his own, he went to the mafia. I think I made a mistake at that time by not confronting him.  I thought that by behaving decently with him and his family that he would reciprocate by behaving decently for the ashram.

My other mistake was right at the beginning when he was hired, I took a back seat in the running of the ashram because of my disagreement with the other trustees over their decision to oust the previous administrator and put this person in place. I didn’t act on the intuition I had inside about the direction they were taking the ashram. Again, my desire to avoid conflict, trying to keep the peace amongst us, tripped me up. I focused more on my own studies, education, talents and work instead of fighting hard for a vision of the ashram that I wanted to see take place.  If I could go back into the past, I would have tried harder to assert my views and object to the decisions of the other trustees and taken more leadership towards what I felt was the direction the ashram should take.   Sometimes fighting is necessary, as I am now finding out. I am pretty introverted and do not assert myself. I like to keep a low profile unless I am thrust into the limelight by circumstances. My name Esther means Star and my last name is the German word for Peace – so my name means Star of Peace, which does pretty accurately reflect my personality. By nature, I am always trying to look after the well-being of others and mediate peace, trying to avoid conflict, looking for peaceful constructive resolutions. I also think very highly of others and I always think people will see things the way I do and back me up. Maybe I have something to learn from all of this about defending justice - that it is a never-ending battle to maintain dharma.  Maybe this is supposed to wake me up to see that there is corruption and evil in the world and no one is immune from its effects and one has to learn to deal with it, stand up to it.

Q.7. This fight between you and the land mafia has been going on for quite some time. Do you seriously believe that any practical solution can be made given the inherent complications in the case? Also, you alone can’t continue this fight forever. Do you think any other person or people will continue fighting your cause if this case drags on. Do you have any concrete back-up plan for the future of the ashram, the children?

Ans. - This officially started in 2009 which is three years, although I discovered when looking through the paperwork of the case, that the mafia was preparing their fraudulent documents long before that. Since this development took us by surprise, it is not something for which we have plans.  I am seriously thinking about the best way forward for the future and when I have that figured out – you can do a follow up again.
Esther(center) leading meditation with the school children.
I have been developing plans for the use of the land for charitable purposes – I have been working on vision papers for the last few months since I came back from India.  Perhaps you would like to see my vision papers.  I started to write them as a way of combating the negativity of the current situation with the land mafia.  I thought to myself, I will just keep filling my own mind with visions of what should be done at the ashram and write them down.  If and when I get an opportunity, I could start to pitch the vision. If I can find people to buy into the vision who are bold enough, good will prevail.  I think that would be the best defense, to just boldly go ahead with a grand plan of major proportions for something amazing and show the world that crime does not pay and that truth, charitableness, good will win. What concerns me is that with India being so corrupt, are there any visionaries out there that will not fall prey to corruption, who would devote themselves to carry out these visions?  Even if I did not live to see the fruition, I would feel that justice prevailed if people would come forward to create something truly worthwhile that would bless humanity.

(To read the second part of the story click here.)

(To read the initial story that I had written on Esther click here.)