I enjoy spending time and sharing my story with you this morning. I was amazed last night about the statements you made about spirituality. I think when we started with the Spiritual Civilization Group it was only three or four of us, and I’m very happy to see that now so many people have a deep spiritual interest in this philanthropy group, so I decided to share some of the life experiences I had. I personally learned a lot when I heard other people’s stories so take what you think is useful.
I was very lucky to be a Swiss, born in Switzerland in the Swiss countryside, with a lot of nature, a lot of forest in my childhood. I had a deer that was abandoned and lived two years with us like a dog in and out. The deer sometimes would pick me up from school, and I would walk through the forest and go home with the deer. In those days in our village there were only about four cars, so no deer was really run over ever by a car. I was very lucky. I had spiritual parents. I had a Christian upbringing. But when I think back, I remember my father was interested in Eastern philosophy, yoga, and Persian philosophy from a young age, and he was sometimes not too happy with the way Christianity was taught in the West. He had many discussions with Christian priests about faith but he was frustrated because they often said, “Well, we believe what we preach, but what it is, we don’t really know”. This took him deeper into his own spiritual practices and his search brought him to the way of Eastern philosophy.
So I grew up in the countryside, and when I was nine years old, an Indian monk, a swami whose name was Nirmalananda, visited Switzerland and came to our home. I guess in that part of Switzerland never has anyone seen a swami in a white dress. My parents later told me that the swami had told them something about me. But what that was, they never told me as long as they were alive so it remains a secret till today. Nevertheless, when I finished my high school and started the university, the swami asked me to visit him in India. So my first journey to India started at just around when I was 20, and I returned to spend one month with the swami every year for the following 15 years – a place called the B.R. Hills in South India, a remote place in the mountains with no radio, no coffee shop, no nothing.
The monk only had one guest at a time. He was very open, and had travelled to many places around the world including Mount Athos in Greece and Russia where he met and became friends with the niece of Tolstoy. He had also taught in the US. He travelled around the world until he settled in his small cottage in the South Indian mountains at the age of 45. He was probably there for five or six years when he invited me. When I went to stay with the swami, I was all alone with him for one month. The first time I arrived at his door, he wrote me a small note that he was in silence and that he was not talking. For nine years he was in full silence but he had a way of writing very fast and very beautifully. We would have two or three conversations a day where I would ask him questions and he would reply by writing very fast. In those days, when I was in my early 20s, I had lots of ideas and thoughts in my head, and whatever is usually going on at that age.
Every day, in the morning we would do yoga and one full hour of meditation, and same in the evening. Most of the time there was no electricity in the evenings. If you were lucky a bus would come once a day with mail, sometimes not. It was in the early Seventies, there was no Internet, no telephone, so you really were stay put. He would cook and provide everything. Early to bed and early out of bed. He trained me to keep control of my thoughts, to learn to be focused on what we were doing. It is something that I only later learned how important it is in life, that we really stay focused and keep control, and not allow ourselves to be controlled by our thoughts.
He taught me a few lessons that have stayed with me till today. One of them was that every day some 10 to 20 women came with their children and around 3 o’clock we would give them gram. Gram is something that looks like peanuts. These women would sometimes walk two hours just to get a handful of gram. He watched me giving them grams for days and then he said, “Listen, Chris. You give them the gram, yes, but you have to learn to give it with your heart.” A very small lesson, but he taught me that how you give is very important. So small things he would teach me in day-to-day life. The B.R. Hills, where the swami lived, is home to the Adivasi tribe. Because it’s a very remote place, the people do not really have access to doctors and they do not have proper schooling. So we started a small hospital there with a doctor. It was the first philanthropic act that I started on my own. Philanthropy came anyway early into my life as in the 1950’s my parents supported very much the Tibetan cause. We had a lot of Tibetan refugees in Switzerland, and my parents and I supported Tibetan children whom I visited on my first trip to India. I went to see them in North India, Mussoorie, a place where the exiled Tibetans lived.
So I spent 15 years this way, spending one month of spiritual life with the swami. When I returned home from my India trip, my father would say, “You’re very changed.” Of course, three, four months later I would return to the usual Swiss Chris again, but my father loved to send me to India and he always supported my endeavors and encouraged me to continue my spiritual practice.
In the B.R. Hills, the swami and I had silent walks every day in the jungle. I mean there were wild elephants, bears in that jungle. Around that ashram he built a deep well so that elephants could not really attack. And I think once they did attack and in that case you have to put out some burning clothes or something to get rid of them.
Growing a little older, I now really have a passion to go deeper into meditation because as we know life is not short, but time is limited, as a saying by a Persian mystic goes. So we really have to make use of the time we are in this world. Some of you met my Indian friend Shreedhar Kamat last year, who was at Greifenstein. He looks after our children’s home in India. I took a few tours with him spiritual trekking to the Himalayas where we had amazing experiences. We almost got into avalanches, there was a heavy snowfall in September when there should be no snow, there was extremely heavy rain, altitude sickness – I mean I had it, more or less, all.
Just the other day when I was discussing with Julianne, I looked through a book, my diary with some personal notes that I had written down. I found few things that I had written down in September 2010 after I came down from the Himalayan mountains. The altitude had affected me and I wasn’t feeling good. Sometimes when you think death is somewhere close, you become very clear in your mind, and you realize what is important and the things that are not important. So this is what I wrote in my diary: “One has to be grateful for what you have, accepting things as they are, even when you have the experience of giving up life and when you are not breathing properly or get into panics. You know life is not eternal. We are like a sunflower, existing because we exist.” So these were a few thoughts that came that morning. A week later I was back in Rishikesh and in the morning meditation I had another moment of clarity and I took note.
“Ask and the door will be opened. To go to the spiritual other side is like passing through a thin membrane. The other side is full of love and light. It’s almost painful to return since it’s a state of bliss.” So when you are by yourself for days all alone, you are in the mountains and you have certain spiritual experiences, you see that life is very precious and we have to really make use of the time we are here for and not just to be here. And we have to learn to focus within ourselves. We are too much focused on the little glittery things on the outside.
We live in duality. We very much realize that in this life and world there is constant pain and pleasure. Where there is war, there is peace. There’s hatred and there’s love – so it’s a duality. If you’re striving to find complete happiness in this world, I have to disappoint you; you are in the wrong place. And if we were all angels I guess we would be in heaven and doing competition flying with other angels. But we are here and we have to accept it with all the misery that’s happening. We are here as philanthropists to help other people. That’s certainly good for our karma and it gives us joy, but we have to go one step further. We also have to introspect. We have to look more into ourselves to discover our soul. We are used to discovering everything outside of our self.
There’s a little story. When once Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva met – that was when the world was created – they said, “What should we do with the soul of the human being? Let’s put it on top of a mountain. People will go and dig for it. Let’s put it in the depths of the ocean. People will empty the ocean and go and find the soul. Let’s put the soul in each individual human being because the human beings are not going to look for it there.” So I think we, with all that we do, have to look more into ourselves. In the material world, we have created many things, but we cannot solve the problems of this world by just focusing on the outside. Our intellect can solve many problems, but if we want to be one humanity, we have to be one humanity on the soul level. And why that is not the case? The difference is only one thing – that’s the little ego. The ego stays in between. The ego who wants – “I want to do this. I want to do that”. We have to shrink it. And when we shrink our ego, we’ll be, first of all, much more successful in what we do. We will be better human beings, and not least of all, we’ll be very happy and content with our life.
So I think that’s about what I wanted to share with you. I think in trying to create a spiritual civilization, it’s very important that we work towards this goal. In all religions, there is the spiritual and the mystic side that transcends the intellectual differences. When we follow that, we can all be one and we will be much happier in this world. So with these few words I hope I could give you a little insight into the life of a Swiss farm boy.
Christian Krüger, GPC Member, is Chairman of Krüger Holding AG and Krüger & Co. AG. Krüger & Co. AG provides solutions for building sites after water damage and for maintaining pleasant room climate in living and working areas. Since 1978, Mr. Krüger has led the company and is the third generation of his family to do so. As a student, he became involved in the Club of Rome in 1972 and saw first-hand the impact that can be achieved when prevailing theories are challenged by bold thinking and smart action. Keen to make a difference to those in need and a firm believer in the power of education, Mr. Krüger founded the Krüger Foundation for Child Aid in India (www.krugerfoundation.org), the Krüger Kinderhilfswerk für Indien in Switzerland, and a foundation for his company employees. He serves on the board of the Mobiliar, Switzerland’s oldest private insurance company, as well as other international boards, including Impact Economy.