ON THE BRAHMA KUMARIS CULT
BY REZA GANJAVI
I received an invitation for a "Raja Yoga" retreat and when I saw that it was yoga and in Schoenried I signed up. Schoenried is the next villlage before Gstaad and 2 villages from Saanen. That entire region, known as Saanenland / Gstaad is my favorite mountain resort in Switzerland. Unlike most mountain regions which is crammed this area is wide and the sky is bigger than typical mountain skies. Aside from the natural beauty, I have many fond memories (I have forgotten the painful ones) of this area in association with the summer gatherings which were organized in relationship to Jiddu Krishnamurti's work, which were sometimes great and sometimes had nothing to do or even were contrary to his work but that is the human condition (I don't want to call it human nature). In those gatherings I met many good friends, had deep conversations, inquiries, timeless love and joy, as well as pains of gossip authority polarization and small-mindedness.
That gathering has since dwindled down in size and been moved to Muerren, another mountain region - in the midst of the high Alps. The setting is not comparable to Saanenland which is a very special jewel. Anyway, seeing a retreat in Schoenried, I immediately signed up without doing research of what it was really about -- the title said Raja Yoga.
It turns out that the retreat was by a group called "Brahma Kumaris" (BK) -- a big international cult. I am calling it a cult because it has been called a cult by many entities including the government of France. The government of Greece declared it as an "enemy of the state" and it was termed "dangerous" in France and Poland. A quick scan of this cult's history indicates every reason for it to be considered a cult including blind beliefs, ridiculously unscientific and senseless beliefs, fanaticism, radical predictions, suicide, love for money, and allegedly violent actions against some who spoke against it.
I spoke to one of the BK's recently and just as I had thought she pretty much ignores the history of the BK movement - she gives no weight to anything written in books or internet and sticks to her experience. We didn't discuss epistemology in depth but we can't discard knowledge -- it is not all important, it's limited and can be distorted, however if it wasn't for knowledge we would not have technology and advancement in medicine, etc. I have no desire to take anyone off this path - I think if it works for you fine - but it's important to know that as soon as you associate with a cult you automatically carry its history. More notes from the conversation at the bottom of this article.
Here is some information from wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brahma_Kumaris_World_Spiritual_University#Controversies_and_criticism
Another website was set up by ex-followers of this cult and reveals shocking information about the cult. BK tried to shut it down but were not successful: http://www.brahmakumaris.info/
Here's another website exposing BK: http://bkwatchers.wordpress.com/2008/10/13/brahma-kumaris-exposed/ (There's a shocking video on this website -- direct link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=mnNSe5XYp6E#!)
Some photos and info: http://bkwsuwatch.com/
Core beliefs of the cult: http://bkwsuwatch.com/about/core-beliefs/
Why it's a cult: http://bkwsuwatch.com/about/identifying-a-cult/
Failed predictions: http://www.brahmakumaris.info/end-of-the-world/historical-revisionism/
How new recruits are sucked into the cult: http://www.brahmakumaris.info/forum/faq.php?mode=forum#f5r7
After the first session he told me I am too advanced for these people who are mostly beginners. I didn't attend most of the sessions because I didn't have an interest in the subject which was essentially what I call pop-psychology combined with a simplistic view of nature of human consciousness.
Most participants were ladies, majority of whom were over 50 -- this is typical for this sort of thing -- I don't know why. One older man was my roommate and God forbid it was hell. He woke up at 4 a.m. to take a shower and made so much noise. He didn't even join the devout followers who were in the meeting room "meditating" at 4 a.m. -- he went for a walk. The next night I wanted to change my room but he said he won't take a shower at 4 so I stayed hoping for a night of uninterrupted sleep. No Chance!! He made so many weired noises all night - not just snoring but strange noises. I finally said something at 3 am: are you ok? He woke up and said there are many movies going on in his mind. His strange noises continues including strange movements in bed. By 5 he got up to go for a walk and made drumming noise with his shoes for several minutes. I just got up and went in living room till he's done with his ordeal. Went to get a drink and at 5 am the cult members were there around the coffee machine -- it was a bit of a spooky energy although they're all nice people -- that cult feeling was still there. He came to me and said "I have telepathic information that the police is looking for my computer - and now we are connected so they may be looking for you". I said I have nothing to fear about. Later I asked him why the police is after him. He said it's a telepathic intuition because he's older he's alone he has a computer and he watches porn. What the hell !! And he used both set of towels that were in the room for the double occupancy, for himself. And he was a smoker. But he slept with his "spiritual" beads.
Anyway I survived 2 nights there. The organizer apologized for this ordeal.
The organizers were nice people - gentle - might be so called meditators but at least one, was not short of image making.
We had fun - laughing etc - and also some deep discussions.
One of the cult members was not shy - or what he considered a joke - or maybe not - at least not in my eyes - by calling themselves the clan.
The cult members, i.e., the senior members, organizers, cook, etc., were nice gentle people and we had good interactions.
My impressions are:
- the BK cult is reshaping itself away from the past beliefs some of which were proven to be false (e.g. the world ending by a couple of predicted dates which did not happen).
- They say there is no guru but authority plays a big role in this cult, in their meditations and beliefs around divine connection.
- these seminar leaders who say they're not leaders actually are authorities -- the presentation was never an inquiry but it was "I tell you now it is"
- their reduction of truth to their theory of life and human and soul and universe works is sloppy.
- the cult's beliefs is typical of most such systems in that the self is always there - not just the jiva atman, the individual soul is always there, but in their practices the me, the ego, is always there.
- they have refined their beliefs to keep up with times and the hardcore cult's beliefs have turned into kind of pop psychology, self-help, motivation seminar type due to contribution of various people some of whom present themselves as a motivational speakers, and not as a "senior cult adviser".
- they're trying to suck in beginners into the cult by painting a rosy picture,offering gift, etc., and not appearing materialistic at all (except for room fee all other fees were on donation basis). However once sucked in. "The start of Brahma Kumari expansion into the West, under its current chief BK Janki Kirpalani, is notable for its purchase of freehold property at the same time it was encouraging its followers that the end of the world was to happen (1976) and to give over their life savings." (source: http://www.brahmakumaris.info/)
- cult members are expected to provide free service and donate their time (as well as money).
- an older cult member gentleman who explained the belief system to me, left out the hardcore aspects of it. Again, it's going through reform.
- If it does go through a major reform, and drop the radical ideas, etc., why does it need to remain as a cult? Why not end itself? It will never do that because it has the insight.
- Key question is, is it helping people. I am not sure. It helps people sit quietly which is good. But as the speaker said the effect of the weekend wears off UNLESS you continue taking seminars and retreats etc. (which sounds to me like he's saying you need to join the cult).
- The beginners are not provided an honest background of what this cult is about. In fact it seems they prefer that their history never comes up.
- From a technical standpoint I see dangers with their approach because
a) the controller is separated from the controlled which is a major fallacy
b) the self is always there and with it all the self glorification and self crystallization that cults like this provide (like the whole business of "I get what I want"). None of them talk about the ending of the self. BK talks about ending of the world but what continues after the world ends are BK's! It's childish, it's silly, but when did silliness stopped masses from believing in something totally nonsensical?
c) understanding and growth which comes from learning in relationship is not promoted
d) their theory of how human psyche operates is confusing obscure esoteric and contradictory (e.g. their leader said thought is the source of creativity -- after I questioned it he twisted it around saying he meant thought creates but real creativity is blah blah).
e) their definition of meditation is totally senseless and has no reference to emptying which is essential to meditation.
f) state of consciousness is not attended to except during the "meditation" period and "traffic stop" periods (once an hour or so).
g) The obscure esoteric teachings confuse people. I don't think the leaders mind this because when people get confused they will need more lessons to understand. Much core wisdom is missing in their teachings and people are misled into believing the observer is separate from the observed, a traditional idea which is simply bankrupt.
h) Most of the cult members looked kind of sleepy and worn in some ways perhaps because they get themselves up at 4 a.m. every day to "meditate". Why? Because supposedly at that time the world is sleeping and it's easier to connect. The issues are:
- if physical distance matters in that mountain region there was hardly anybody around so 4 am and 10 am makes no
difference in terms of "chitta britti nirodha" I guess (I remember this term from a long time ago).
- if physical distance doesn't matter 4 am here is a very busy time in another time zone.
- The gist of the issue is this: Brahma Kumaris as a system, a method, a theory and a cult is short of insights about nature of
natural quietness and it requires the self to always be there - so things like outer vibration and time of day become important in search for imposed quietness.
One author wrote: "At the end of a day that started before 4.00 am they will go to bed exhausted – only to wake up a few hours later to sit in meditation to
cement their beliefs and do it all over again – day after day, 7 days a week."
h) there is a whole set of dangers associated with any cult, with blind belief, and some of the consequences have been documented about this cult as well.
i) they call their classes a university which sounds fraudulent to me -- there is nothing about it that resembles a university which is generally understood to be a place for love of wisdom and truth not one of propagating blind belief and radical prophecies.
j) their Raja Yoga is dithered with these fanatic beliefs which are not part of what is generally known as Raja Yoga. Some people claim BK is not Raja Yoga at all. In a flier I just received they promote a speaker as having studied Raja Yoga meditation in India. Petanjali 's might roll in the Ganges if he finds out they call their cult Raja Yoga.
- On a positive note what's good about their new revised offering if you delete all the bullshit:
a) sitting quietly is good -- anyone who finds a quality of a quiet mind sees the joy associated with it. Connecting with the source is good, it's joyful. But it does not justify having a cult, believing in a cult, or belonging to a cult. I don't think thought can just be suppressed without being understood. The quality of quietness which is the result of suppression is very different than the quietness that comes naturally when thought understands its own limits.
b) eliminating divisive thought is good -- however this does not mean there is positive psychological thought that is not divisive. Love does not need thought. I saw no where in their teachings the idea of thought ending, neither any discussion on origins of thought except what they seem to have cherry picked from other profound thinkers to add to their system which I'm sure was not part of the cult's foundation. The self is always there and the psychological self is a bundle of memories which is made from thought.
c) if you put aside the nonsense - and the division of controller and controlled, then the idea of "me" being one of the select few who will rule the world once it's destroyed (according to their silly belief) -what's left is nothing that needs any system method cult or organization.
d) no matter how much the new leaders of the cult try to put lipstick on it, present it as something moderate, the fact remains that the background, the foundation of Brahma Kumaris makes it a cult and all cults are dangerous.
The last night they did what they call a "Global Cafe" - groups of 4 discussed 2 questions:
Q1) how do you see the world unfolding in the future
Q2) what will be your role in that world
Now I know that the cult's answer to the above questions are:
A1) their cults thinks the world will be destroyed - I read different things - one was that it will be destroyed except their campus in India or something like that -- and they predicted end of world several times but those dates passed and they were proven wrong. Now they have a new date in mind.
A2) their cult preaches that only the cult members will survive and be saved.
Here's a funny quote to end this write up with. It's by the current head of this cult, Dadi Janki: "meditation is about learning to entertain your mind". That about explains it.
NOTES FROM TALKS WITH A BRAHMA KUMARIS FOLLOWER
(BY REZA GANJAVI)
"I am immortal"
"I was not content. BK told me you're a soul - a point of light - how it looks like - what it is - and where is supreme soul (God) -
"I don't spend time and energy checking things.
They've modernizes the doctrines - are no longer calling for a destruction but calling it renewal - very contradictory to their doctrine.
Money is paid in retreats. No donation or dues are paid otherwise
"I am no longer attracted to men but I was once and i prayed and got pure love from god
don't need it any more
never felt 100% fulfilled w/ a man "
I asked: why separate it?
sex is overblown true but it's part of life.
"I can't sleep with a man without being attached - i give it continuity in my mind - all day thinking about him"
why not understand attachment instead - its building blocks - and thought finding its right place.
"not everyone can do that..."
MORE ON BRAHMA KUMARIS CULT
BY REZA GANJAVI
I don't understand why people need to belong to organizations? A human can, throughout the day, and also when sitting quietly, be rooted in that movement which is not of time and thought , the immeasurable. And in that there is joy and contentment. If we are not rooted in that, and are seeking contentment from the world and senses we go to pieces. I am against all forms of cult, fanaticism, blind belief. The article below outlines my preliminary research on the BK cult. But I must say I have met a few people who seem to not pay attention to the weight that being in a cult carries, and find joy in sitting quietly twice a day and connecting, in their own way, to the unknown.
(BY REZA GANJAVI)
This is an email I just wrote to a fine gentleman who corresponded with me on this subject:
Dear X. Thanks for the note. There is no doubt that right meditation - simply sitting quietly - being aware of what-is either sitting quietly or during the day - and emptying consciousness of its content, is good. I don't think there's a method of doing it - as in step 1 2 3 and there you are - because where you're trying to get to is not a fixed point - it's moving. And much of the belief system is not necessary either -- people don't have to believe the world will get destroyed etc in order to meditate... Also the notion that "I will continue" somehow seems to be born out of human weakness for continuity. Why not be ok with ending completely? What I sense in BK teachings is that the "I" will continue - the Jiva Atman, individual soul. We don't know if that is really the case or not - it might work in pools instead of little drops... I would be happy to post your email on the online article so people can see your response. I want the article to be balanced and provide any rebuttals. Is that ok with you? Anyway thanks again for writing. All the best. Reza
EMAIL EXCHANGE (posted with permission of the author who sent me the mail)
(BY REZA GANJAVI)
Thanks a lot for the mail. Please see my comments in line:
On 9/12/2012 5:32 PM, Aigle, Brahma Kumaris wrote:
I would like to give my opinion on one important point, which is about the
need to destroy the old to be able to re-establish the new.
This seems to be part of the renovation of Brahma Kumaris. My impression is that the idea of destruction which is one of the attributes of Shiva which is at the foundation of the BK belief system. I understand the Hindu idea of destruction being precursor to renewal. But BK took this literally and predicted that our world - the physical world - would get destroyed - they thought it's coming through in the world war - they had at least one if not two other predictions but they were all false.
Now in the new, "reformed" BK, as you put it, it's taken a more moderate shape - but that history associated with this belief is there and that's a problem with belief systems - not only usually they're blind belief, they are indoctrinated. Is it necessary? That's the whole question?
At the moment there are 4 powers running the world:
1) the power of science
2) the power of politics
3) the power of economics
4) the power of religion
The 5th one, which does not exist at the moment in the world, is the
spiritual power or the power of the soul (atma), which is the power of
Thought is the accumulation of memory - there's nothing spiritual about thought - it's a tool like the computer CPU for practical aspects of life.
I would say the power of love is there -- if it wasn't we would have blown ourselves away long time ago. Love is what's holding this together still and thought is the antithesis of it.
Nothing exists in this world that we didn't think of before.
We did not create trees and mountains.
the greatest power and only it can bring UNITY. UNITY begins in our
Perhaps mind would be a better term because thought by its very nature is dualistic, and likes to break things apart. We can hypnotize ourselves to think good thoughts but it's still the movement of thought which is limited because it's a material process and because it's based on the known, on experience, which is limited.
UNITY means: One God and all human souls are His children. No
DIVISION. One FAMILY. This is SPIRITUALITY.
I agree. Whether it's He or She or It is irrelevant - whether he's a father mother or not a relative is also irrelevant. These are just human projections of something greater than our limits of understanding according to our limitations.
From the beginning until now,
all religions have split into many, many religious sects, this means into
DIVISIONS, competition and fights.
Think about it, how can you bring UNITY
amongst the world Family now ?
Impossible as long as problem of identification exists.
Do you think that people will listen and stop
First they have to stop fighting with themselves.
Without UNITY you cannot have respect and without respect you
cannot build a better world.
What we see now in the world is the degradation
in human relations and degradation means conflicts, wars.
It has never been different.
that he/she is right. This means that at one point you have to go through
destruction to start again in UNITY.
That's reformed-BK thought. 60 years ago they'd laugh at that idea because destruction had a very specific meaning.
For instance, when Christ came, he
established the Christian religion, without divisions. Today, like in all
other religions, there are so many different sects created by men. Expansion
means interpretation of the original message and this can only increase
difficulties amongst human beings.
It's true. That's the divisive nature of thought - my tribe vs. your tribe.
Regarding matter you can, for instance, renew a house a certain number of
time, but at one point, it will no longer be possible, because it will be
too old, too damaged. The same thing is happening to the Earth. We continue
to pollute it, more and more, without any respect and no will to change
anything in our behaviour. Due to greed, we also manipulate Nature and food,
which has a great impact on our health. But again, the businesses of health
and food are the biggest ones in the world. And so, greed, attachment,
anger, ego, etc. don't allow human beings to change ! Who will start first,
showing the path ?
Is there a path to truth? A path to somewhere means that somewhere is a fixed point. Truth is dynamic.
This is the way that Raja Yoga is showing to those who
really want to change their lives. But only a handful of people (souls) will
feel concerned by this change, because one needs some courage to step out of
Meditation is good. Meditation is not control. Seeing what-is is at the root of change.
For the majority it's easier to stay in their old beliefs and
fight any coming change.
Change is not a matter of choice when there is insight into what-is.
So, how can the world be changed ? How can we make
it better ? Each day, this world is losing so many moral values ! All that
we do in response, is just make new laws, in an effort to stop corruption.
But this is vane because laws should be inside of human beings, not in
I fully agree.
External laws can never stop dishonesty. Matter, from new becomes old
and human souls lose energy through reincanation and become weak.
This is purely a belief, a theory.
The cycle of life must come to an end, must be destroyed and than it starts again.
Now we're talking classic-BK belief -- so you do believe after all that the world will get destroyed
Each soul is an eternal actor.
I am not sure if this individual concept is true or is it a projection of human vanity and desire for continuity.
This is eternity. We should meditate on these subtle aspects to be able to understand them very clearly. You can post these reflections on your online article. Best regards.
Thank you for sharing.