Ingvar Villido – Ambassador of the New Era

Estonian national weekly newspaper "Eesti Ekspress", Tiina Jõgeda, June 27, 2013

The teacher of Lilleoru spiritual and ecological community, which celebrates its 20th birthday this year, tells us that human beings are too dependent on their emotions.

Close to Tallinn, in Aruvalla, there is a community that has been active for 20 years. It has been called a cloister, a commune, an eco-village and also a lifestyle center.

Lilleoru is popular among the tourists who search for themselves and is gathering more reknown outside of Estonia as well.
The founder and leader of the spiritual center Ingvar Villido (51), with ordained name Ishwarananda, prefers to call his life's work "a learning environment".

Sociologist Airi-Alina Allaste (from Tallinn University's international and social studies institute's lifestyles research center), who lived at Lilleoru while completing her research on eco-villages, admitted that "it is an important social phenomenon which certainly affects the lives of many people".

What is Ingvar Villido's social phenomenon founded upon?

Kaleidoscope of devotion
The first and currently only actually operating ecological community in Estonia is spread on approximately twenty hectares.

Gravel entrance roadway. A Native American teepee, a humongous canopy, a hindu chapel, biological dry toilets constructed with funds from European Union, a mysterious stone circle and correctly erected signboards in accordance with requirements from Brussels catch the eye, all at the same time.

There is a kaleidoscope of devotion in the Flower of Life Park: hindu-buddhist elements (yoga, meditation) assimilate with vedic fire rituals, Estonian runic songs (regi songs) coexist with hinduistic prayer ceremonies, a sculpture of the white bull Nandi (symbolizing the perfect student) sits comfortably alongside the gigantic Soul Bell designed by architect Vilen Künnapu.

Someone has named Lilleoru an Embassy of the New Era and Ingvar Villido, correspondingly, an Ambassador of the New Era. That is how he is regarded here- as a Guru, an undeniable figure of mastery. Villido himself does not place importance on grand words, quite the contrary: "I try to lessen the infatuation with me." He willingly talks about his teaching and its impact.

"I do not feel like an "ambassador", alas, but at this time, the most important thing could perhaps be getting to know the impact of one's inner world and learning to change that. A common concept that human beings cannot change themselves, that they need someone else to change them, needs to be overturned".

Former businessman radiates like a marigold
Villido belongs to the so called generation of winners: those young men who became active during the days of Rock Summer (the first rock music festival with foreign bands of that magnitute in the Soviet Union. Estonia was part of the USSR at that time). Some created a privately owned bank, some established a major independent newspaper, some formed a political party. Ingvar Villido who graduated from high school at Puhja also tried his hand at business, but soon began giving education in yoga instead.

"My interest began during my time as a conscript in the Soviet army, when a fellow who was Russian and younger than me and practiced Chinese martial arts, became my first teacher. A year later I was looking for a new teacher, but could not find one. I went to many such people in Estonia who were regarded as gurus, but they had very general roundabout explanations that had „no real meat in it”, so to say."

In 1992 he conducted his own first courses. Before that he attended yoga courses in Viljandi, Estonia that represented the so called Antonov's school. About 50-60 guys took part in them, 4 of whom got an invitation to continue studies in Russia." I passed four ranks. In the end, professor Antonov told me he had nothing else left to give me. I remember his exact words: I cannot teach you any more, your teacher is God."

For twenty years he has conducted his own affairs here in the Lilleoru wilds. Most of his peers who began conducting their own businesses at the same time have worn themselves out bustling with their firms. But Villido's face radiates like a marigold in his herbal bed, he looks about half the age of an average Estonian man of fifty - a circumstance that speaks volumes for his way of life and choices; more so than ten lectures about peace of mind and realization. "This place had no power in the beginning, but it started to accumulate when we began operating here. The place changes when you practice things that truly help people."

"Why do people come here to you?"

"Some people come with questions about themselves, others come when it gets difficult for them, some come out of curiosity. People stay when they see that it helps them."

It would have been easy for Ingvar to become a renowned healer, with a crawling queue outside the wigwam - people did come to him to be healed, rumours were already spreading. "I stopped healing, because I noticed that you can give relief to a human being but it is pointless if they do not change their habits, their mentality. The affliction returns, if one does not bother doing practices that ensure the change. That is why I began teaching how to change one's inner world - the changes in one's inner world get reflected in changes in physical health.

First and foremost, we are a learning environment. This means we are, first of all, about the teaching, and secondly - about the people. This is a place of learning, not a place of just hanging out, although some do come here also to take rest. People are not even conscious of having problems, they just feel bad and they think that this is how it should be. Community here is that circle of people who come here regularly, whose faces you recognize.”

"There is no religion here," the man called Guru says smilingly. "Guru means something very simple - the one who brings you from darkness to light, from ignorance to knowledge. It has acquired a wrong meaning over time."

About the buildings from the different worlds here he says that these are more like physical symbols that contribute to changes in the inner world according to one's knowledge. "And yoga is not acrobatic gymnastics, it is above all the development of latent potentials and a conscious union with God," comments Ingvar on the Kriya Yoga that he teaches.

We drink the "clear head and happy heart" tea - lavender, sage, peppermint, etc., the most appreciated tea blend here, the scent of incense spreading in the kitchen while the community cook prepares cabbage stew.

"There are three things that each person wants from life: to be somebody, to get to know something and to be happy, and all his actions in life are driven solely by these three motives," says Villido.

Sociologist Airi-Alina Allaste has said that "the people who gather at communities like Lilleoru do not find a satisfying life in the materialistic success-orientated society: they wish to create something new. Based on my few days stay at Lilleoru I could say that the core of the community is formed by Villido and his teaching: a diverse collection of knowledge centered on self-awareness."

Flower of Life bottled water helps to stay financially sustainable
Oftentimes communities that delve into spiritual matters tend to fade because they cannot feed themselves. The communities that survive are the ones that can unite their ideals and way of life with practical economical activities and find a field of activity that puts food on their table: some communities grow produce for sale, one Swiss community has their own hydropower plant that sells electricity to the villages in the district. One of the largest communities in Europe - Damanhur (Italy), earns money by producing olive oil and breeding livestock, and by offering various courses and psychotherapy. Lilleoru has its own products.

"In the 90s, when something had to get done here, we made a collection. Now the place has grown too big to manage this way, but new projects still get funded partly by making collections. Also, various business ideas were looked at - at one point we were planning to make ceramics. Currently, we are not financially dependent on membership fees, income for the nonprofit organization comes from schooling and publishing. "Applications for funding from the European Union are also being written. The newest hit has turned out to be the Flower of Life water carafes and water bottles that restore the vitality of water - the water from that bottle has allegedly another quality altogether.

Lilleoru community draws people who on the one hand seek answers to spiritual questions and on the other, represent a more natural way of life. No need to spend and consume that much!

"My teachings also teach how to run a better business," beams Ingvar Villido, "everything that takes place here is based on efficiency. The people who come here regularly differ from the ordinary people in that by changing themselves, they become wiser and therefore manage better."