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Brahma Kumaris


The Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University (Prajapita Brahma Kumaris Ishwariya Vishwa Vidyalaya) or BKWSU is a [3]

The BKWSU teaches a form of meditation that focuses on identity as souls (as opposed to bodies). They believe that all souls are intrinsically good and that God is the source of all goodness.[4] The university teaches to transcend labels associated with the body, such as race, nationality, religion, and gender, and aspires to establish a global culture based on what they call "soul-consciousness".[2][5]

In 2008, the movement claimed to have more than 825,000 regular students, with over 8,500 centers in 100 countries.[2]

Contents

  • Early history 1
  • Expansion 2
  • Beliefs 3
    • Self 3.1
    • Supreme Soul 3.2
    • Karma 3.3
    • Cycle of time 3.4
    • New Golden Age 3.5
  • Practices 4
    • Meditation 4.1
    • Good Wishes and Pure Feelings 4.2
    • Study (Murli) 4.3
    • Lifestyle 4.4
  • Activities 5
    • The United Nations 5.1
    • Education 5.2
    • Environmental 5.3
    • Healthcare 5.4
  • Criticism 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • Further reading 9
  • External links 10

Early history

The Brahma Kumaris, originally called Om Mandali, started in Hyderabad, Sindh in north-west India.[5] It received this name because members would chant "Om" together, before having discourse on spiritual matters in the traditional satsang style. The original discourses were closely connected to the Bhagavad Gita.[5]

The Founder

The founder, Dada Lekhraj Khubchand Kripilani (who became known in the group as "Om Baba") was a wealthy jeweller who was respected in the community for his piety.[5] He reported what he said were a series of visions and other transcendental experiences that commenced around 1935 and became the basis for the discourses. He said he believed there was a greater power working through him and that many of those who attended these gatherings were themselves having spiritual experiences.[5] The majority of those who came were women and children from the Bhaibund caste[6] - a caste of wealthy merchants and business people whose husbands and fathers were often overseas on business.[7]

The President of Om Mandali, Radhe Pokardas Rajwani (1916 - 1965) in approximately 1964

After about three years of meetings it became clear that Om Mandali was giving very special importance to the role of women, and was not adhering to the rigid caste system. The group had named a 22-year-old woman, Radhe Pokardas Rajwani (then known as "Om Radhe") as its president, and her management committee was made up of eight other women.[8] People from any caste were allowed to attend meetings.[9] The group also advocated that young women had the right to elect not to marry and that married women had the right to choose a celibate life. In tradition-bound patriarchal India, these personal life decisions were the exclusive right of men.[10]

Anti-Om Mandali Committee Picketing, preventing children from entering Om Mandali - Hyderabad Sind India 1938

A committee headed by a number of important male members of the Bhaibund community began to form in opposition and became known as the 'Anti-Om Mandali Committee'. On 21 June 1938 this group picketed Om Mandali's premises preventing members from entering. This caused considerable upheaval in the community. Women attending were verbally abused, there was an attempt to burn the premises down and the police made several arrests. Many women and girls were later victims of domestic violence in their homes.[11] The picketing resulted in criminal proceedings being taken against both groups, and on 16 August 1938 the local District Magistrate ordered that Om Mandali be prevented from meeting. This ban was reversed on 21 November 1938 after an appeal to the Court of the Judicial Commissioner of Sind.[12] In an unusual move the judges directly criticized the District Magistrate for trying to punish the victims for the disturbance caused by the perpetrators and for trying to apply the law according to his own personal bias.[13] Nevertheless, in an increasingly sour atmosphere, Om Mandali had decided to leave Hyderabad and gradually relocated its activities to Karachi in the latter half of 1938. Approximately 300 members moved.[14]

Om Mandali group on an outing at Clifton beach Karachi Approximately 1940

On 31 March 1939 the government appointed a tribunal to inquire into the activities of Om Mandali. When the Tribunal made its findings, Om Radhe responded by compiling a book titled Is this Justice? criticizing the tribunal, which did not have a constitutional basis and made its findings without taking evidence from Om Mandali.[15] In May 1939 the government used the tribunal's findings to effectively reinstate the ban, declaring Om Mandali an "unlawful association" under section 16 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1908.[16] Nevertheless, Om Mandali continued to hold their Satsangs, and the government did not enforce it. Possibly because of this the committee then hired someone to kill Om Baba, but the attempt was unsuccessful.[17][18]

Expansion

A photo of the Brahma Kumaris during their relocation from Karachi to Mount Abu Rajasthan in May 1950

In May 1950 Om Mandali moved to

  • Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University —official site
  • About Brahma Kumaris

External links

Further reading

Bibliography
  1. ^ a b c
  2. ^ a b c
  3. ^
  4. ^ Religions of the World. A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Beliefs and Practices. J Gordon Melton and Martin Baumann. Facts on File Inc, 2007, ISBN 0-8160-5458-4
  5. ^ a b c d e
  6. ^
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  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ a b
  20. ^ a b c A Reader in New Religious Movements: Readings in the Study of New Religious Movements. George D. Chryssides, Margaret Wilkins, Margaret Z. Wilkins. Continuum, 2006. ISBN 0-8264-6168-9
  21. ^ Howell (1998)
  22. ^ Religion & globalization: world religions in historical perspective. Esposito, John L. Fasching, Darrell J. Lewis, Todd Thornton. Oxford University Press, 2002 - P. 340
  23. ^
  24. ^ Howell (1998)
  25. ^ 'Why are Women More Religious Than Men?' Trzebiatowska, Marta. Bruce, Steve. Oxford University Press, 2012. ISBN 0-19-960810-5,
  26. ^
  27. ^ a b Julia Day Howell (2006), "Brahma Kumaris (Daughters of Brahma)" (pp. 71–72). In:
  28. ^ Howell (2006) p72" Since the [Brahma Kumaris] University spread to Western societies it has increasingly accommodated people with little interest in its theodicy but attracted to the practical applications of BK spiritual practises. The community service programmes of the 1980s and 1990s stimulated creative renderings of BK meditation as a tool for psychological healing and eclectic spiritual exploration. The casual participants whom the BKs have attracted in this way probably made up the vast majority of the 450,000 people on the University's records at the turn of the 20th to 21st century".
  29. ^
  30. ^ Howell (2006) p71
  31. ^ a b c
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^ a b
  35. ^ Archived from the original on 11 February 2014.
  36. ^ Archived from the original on 11 February 2014.
  37. ^
  38. ^ a b
  39. ^
  40. ^
  41. ^ Brahma Kumaris: Conquering A Callous World with Purity, Hinduism Today, May 1995.
  42. ^
  43. ^
  44. ^
  45. ^
  46. ^
  47. ^
  48. ^
  49. ^ a b Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Constance A. Jones and James D. Ryan. ABC-CLEO, LLC 2010, ISBN 9780816054589
  50. ^
  51. ^
  52. ^
  53. ^ Ramsay, Tamasin. Spirit possession and purity: A case study of a Brahma Kumaris ascetic. Paper presented at the conference on Medical Anthropology at the Intersections: Celebrating 50 Years of Interdisciplinarity, Yale University, New Haven, USA, 24‐27 September 2009.
  54. ^
  55. ^
  56. ^
  57. ^
  58. ^ a b c d e f
  59. ^ a b
  60. ^
  61. ^ a b
  62. ^
  63. ^
  64. ^ Liz Hodgkinson, Peace & Purity: the story of the Brahma Kumaris, 2002, p. 96.
  65. ^
  66. ^
  67. ^
  68. ^
  69. ^
  70. ^
  71. ^
  72. ^
  73. ^ [2]
  74. ^
  75. ^
  76. ^ Musselwhite (2009), pp. 141, 163–164, 174. "The problem was that up until that time, my relationship with him had been through the Brahma Kumaris; but now he was President, and he wanted to use...not only Self Management Leadership, but the whole strategic focusing thing, and his party was the centre-right, Catholic party. They're sufficiently fundamentalist for them to have a fit about Brahma Kumaris" "So we went there, but it had to be done within the context of a commercial enterprise. So, we set up a branch of a consulting company there. But the fact of the matter is, most of his senior people have...been to Oxford for the Brahma Kumaris program. Many have been here to Madhuban.... So the Brahma Kumaris have had a huge influence in the reform process there [in Mexico].... We have trained 90 facilitators from the government who are running these programs, 25,000 people, all the top level of government throughout the entire country have been through the course.", " a management training program called Self Management Leadership, which has become the backbone of Brahma Kumaris management philosophy"
  77. ^
  78. ^
  79. ^ a b
  80. ^ [3]]
  81. ^
  82. ^
  83. ^
  84. ^ Howell (1998)
  85. ^ Walliss, John (2002). The Brahma Kumaris As a Reflexive Tradition: Responding to Late Modernity.
  86. ^
  87. ^ Adhyatmik Ishwariya Vishwa Vidyalaya [God Fatherly Spiritual University]. Pbks.info. Retrieved on 2013-07-28.
  88. ^
  89. ^
  90. ^
Citations

References

General
Associated concepts

See also

When the organisation started, empowering women to assert their right to remain celibate, particularly in marriage, it was a prime factor in the controversy that arose in 1930's Sind as it directly challenged the dominance men held over women in patriarchal India .[1] Overlooking the organisation's predominantly female leadership and that this practice was adopted by both men and women equally, feminist commentator Prem Chowdry has criticised the practice of celibacy within the organisation as being a form of patriarchal control[90]

Dr. John Wallis wrote a book examining the status of tradition in the contemporary world which used the religion as a case-study,[85] focusing on recruitment methods, the issue of celibacy, reinterpretation of religious history. He reports about the re-writing of the revelatory messages (Murlis) by the BKWSU leaders and anger and aggression towards the Adhyatmik Ishwariya Vishwa Vidyalaya. (The Adhyatmik Ishwariya Vishwa Vidyalaya or Advance Party).[86][87] The Brahma Kumaris have been accused of breaking up marriages.[88][89]

In the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Howell reported the Brahma Kumaris protected itself from the practice of families "dumping" their daughters with the organisation by requiring a payment from the families of those wishing to dedicate their daughters to the work and services of the organisation. The payment is intended to cover the living expenses incurred during the trial period.[84]

The Brahma Kumaris have been criticised for hiding or downplaying their prophesied physical destruction of the world from non-members,[83] particularly as BKs still believe that such an event will happen "soon". However the BKs maintain their primary purpose is to teach meditation and peace of mind, not to push their views about the different challenges the world is facing on non-members who may be visiting the group to learn about meditation or values based living.[49]

Criticism

  • Global Hospital and Research Centre (GHRC) was started Rajasthan India in 1991, funded by the J. Wattammull Memorial Trust. GHRC provides free healthcare to one of the most impoverished areas in India.[81]
  • In 2004, the Brahma Kumaris established the G.V. Mody Rural Health Care Centre & Eye Hospital, located at the base of Mount Abu.[82]

The Brahma Kumaris expansion in size has led to a greater participation in more mainstream community services.

Healthcare

The group advocates Sustainable Yogic Agriculture (SYA), a program it started in Northern India in 2009. One basic premise of the BK environmental initiative is that thoughts and consciousness can affect the natural environment.[79] In 2012, experiments were being conducted in partnership with leading agricultural universities in India[79] to establish if the practice of Brahma Kumaris meditation in conjunction with implementing more traditional organic farming methods could be shown to have a measurable and positive affect on crop development.[80]

The Brahma Kumaris have launched several environment initiatives. Their work in solar energy and sustainable energy has included the 2007 development of the world's largest solar cooker,[77] and a solar thermal power plant in Talheti at the base of Mount Abu, where the International Headquarters is located. The 25-acre site is projected to produce 22000 kwh of electricity daily.[78] The project was made financially possible with the support of the Indian and German governments [1].

India One Solar Thermal Power Plant - India - Brahma Kumaris. April 2014

Environmental

A large solar generator at the Brahma Kumaris HQ

With the support of Vicente Fox, the Brahma Kumaris introduced meditation practice and philosophy to the Government of Mexico through the "Self Management Leadership" (SML). The SML course is closely related to the Brahma Kumaris philosophy and is the backbone of Brahma Kumaris management philosophy. 90 trained facilitators ran programs through which 25,000 people at the top level of government have passed.[76]

Traditionally the Brahma Kumaris have conducted an introduction to meditation consisting of seven one-hour-long sessions. The sessions include their open-eyed meditation technique and philosophy. The organisation also offers courses in "positive thinking", "self management leadership", and "living values."[74] They also have a number of voluntary outreach programs in prisons.[75]

BK Sister Shivani Verma presenting an Awakening with Brahmakumaris program in Bangkok.

Education

Brahma Kumaris is one of over 1600 accredited observer organizations to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change,[73]

The United Nations.[68] and UNICEF.[69] It is associated with the UN Department of Public Information.[70] It was granted International Peace Messenger Initiative status by the U.N. for the Global Co-operation for a Better World campaign[71] and has permanent office space in New York for their work at the United Nations.[72]

The United Nations

Activities

  • Complete celibacy.[58][59] in or out of marriage[59][60]
  • Sattvic vegetarianism, a strict lacto-vegetarian diet[61] (excluding eggs, onions, garlic and/or spicy food) cooked only by the self or other members of the BKWSU.[58][62]
  • Abstaining from alcohol, tobacco and non-prescription drugs.[58][61]
  • Daily early morning meditation at 4:00[58] to 4:45 am, called 'Amrit Vela'.
  • Daily morning class at approximately 6:30 am.[63][64]
  • Men and women traditionally sit on separate sides of the room at the centres during classes.[58]
  • Brahma Kumaris can be identified by their frequent adoption of wearing white clothes, to symbolise purity.[65][66][67]
  • Students often prefer to keep the company of yogis (soul conscious individuals) as opposed to bhogis (those given over to worldly pleasures).[58]

Brahma Kumaris recommend a specific lifestyle[56][57] in order achieve greater control over physical senses. However many participate in a casual way electing to adopt whichever beliefs and lifestyle disciplines in the following list they wish:[1]

Lifestyle

Avyakt murlis are still being spoken at the BKs headquarters in India. Students must complete the Brahma Kumaris foundation course and start by attending morning Murli class before visiting the headquarters.[55]

  1. Sakar Murlis refer to the original orations that BKs believe to be the Supreme Soul speaking through Brahma Baba.
  2. Avyakt Murlis are spoken by BapDada. BKs believe BapDada is God and the soul of their deceased founder. BapDada(God) is believed to speak to the BKs through a senior BK medium, Dadi Gulzar.

There are two types of murli:[54]

Brahma Kumaris' students study the murli. The Hindi word murli literally translates to "flute". It is an oral study, read to the class early each morning in most BK centres on the world. The murlis are derived from mediumship and spirit possession.[51][52][53]

Dadi Gulzar, a member of the Brahma Kumaris since its inception in the 1930s

Study (Murli)

Flowing on from the BK belief that everyone is a spiritual being, is the practice of Shubhawna (good wishes) and Shubkamna (pure feelings).[48] For BKs, all prejudices and ill-feelings are seen as arising from identifying the self and others based on external labels like race, religion, gender, nationality, beauty (or lack of), etc. However, when there is the practice of finding the intrinsic goodness in each one, the prejudice based on those labels is replaced by the vision of one Spiritual Parent, one Human family, and universal spiritual values such as respect, love, peace and happiness.[49] A flagship slogan for the BKs has been When we change, the world changes. It is for this reason that BKs consider bringing about this kind of change within the self as an important form or "world service".[50]

Good Wishes and Pure Feelings

The Brahma Kumaris teaches a form of meditation[44] through which students are encouraged to purify their minds. This may be done by sitting tranquilly, then making affirmations regarding the eternal nature of the soul, the original purity of one's nature, and the nature of God.[45] The aim of the BK meditation is also to learn to hold meditative states while being engaged in everyday life. [46] For this reason meditation is usually taught and practiced with open eyes.[47]

Meditation

Practices

When the organisation began, emphasis was placed on the physical destruction of the world as seen in the cataclysmic visions of Dada Lekhraj.[40] As the organisation developed, it witnessed World War II, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Cold War, and the destructive aspects of its teachings were reframed as a process transformation.[41] The group had also made many failed predictions of the violent destruction of the world, between 1987 and 2008,[19][42] aspects which are now downplayed.[43]

The present time is believed to bring great global transformation as the world is transitioning from its present Iron Age to begin a new Golden age. The Brahma Kumaris believe that modern civilization is unsustainable and that economic and environmental pressures will ultimately boil over into civil and global conflict, coupled with natural calamities. They believe that there will always be a human population on Earth and that cataclysmic events form part of a natural and cathartic cyclic process.[39]

New Golden Age

The first half of the cycle (the Golden and Silver ages) is considered to be the age of "soul conscious living". The Brahma Kumaris see this as a time of "heaven on earth" or as a version of the Garden of Eden when human beings are fully virtuous, complete, self-realised beings who lived in complete harmony with the natural environment. The primary enlightenment was the innate understanding of the self as a soul.

In contrast to linear theories of human history that hypothesize an ancient point of origin for the universe and a final destruction, the BKs do not posit a start, end or age for the universe, believing such concepts to be an erroneous application of the human life cycle to the universe. BKs believe the universe to follow an eternal, naturally occurring 5,000 year cycle, composed of four ages (yugas): the Golden Age (Sat Yuga), the Silver Age (Treta Yuga), the Copper Age (Dwapar Yuga), the Iron Age (Kali Yuga) and each represents 1250 years of the cycle.[38] The present period of this cycle is sometimes described as a fifth age or "Confluence age" as it is considered to be the confluence (the junction or meeting) between the Iron Age and the Golden age. [38]

Cycle of time

The Brahma Kumaris believe that every action performed by a soul will create a return accordingly, and that the destiny of the soul’s next body depends on how it acts and behaves in this life. Through meditation, by transforming thinking patterns and eventually actions, the Brahma Kumaris believe that people can purify their "karmic account" and lead a better life in the present and next birth.

Karma

Pratibha Patil, the UPA-Left candidate and former President of India said on camera during the Indian presidential election, 2007, that she spoke to "Baba" (a term the BKs use for God)[34] of the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University at their headquarters in Mount Abu, Rajasthan.[35] Patil stated that when she meet Baba He had indicated great responsibility was coming her way.[34][36][37]

The Brahma Kumaris believe God's purpose to be the spiritual re-awakening of humanity and the removal of all sorrow, evil and negativity. They do not regard him as the creator of matter, as they consider matter to be eternal.[33]

The Brahma Kumaris use the term "Supreme Soul" to refer to God. They see God as incorporeal and eternal, and regard him as a point of living light like human souls, but without a physical body, as he does not enter the cycle of birth, death and rebirth. God is seen as the perfect and constant embodiment of all virtues, powers and values and that He is the unconditionally loving Father of all souls, irrespective of their religion, gender, or culture.[32]

Brahma Kumaris believe God to be an incorporeal point of light

Supreme Soul

The Brahma Kumaris teach that Souls enter bodies to take birth in order to experience life and give expression to their personality. Unlike other Eastern traditions, the Brahma Kumaris do not believe that the human soul can transmigrate into other species.[31]

The Brahma Kumaris see humans as being made up of two parts; an external body (including extensions such as status and possessions) and an internal soul whose character structure is revealed through a person's external activity - whether actions are done with love, peacefully, with happiness or humility is an aspect of one's soul.[31] The group teaches that the soul is an infinitesimal point of spiritual light residing in the forehead of the body it occupies,[31] and that all souls originally existed with God in a "Soul World", a world of infinite light, peace and silence.

Self

The movement has distinguished itself from its [29][27][30]

Beliefs

The leadership and membership of the BK movement remains primarily female, for example, in the UK only one-third of the 42 centres are run by males [24] and 80% of the membership are women.[25] As of February 2015, centres are mostly in followers' own homes with a tendency toward middle or upper class membership. Estimates for its worldwide membership ranges from 35,000 in 1993 to 400,000 in 1998[26] to 450,000 in 2000,[27] however, it is reported that many were probably not completely committed to the group's worldview.[28]

In 1980 the Brahma Kumaris became affiliated to the United Nations Department of Public Relations as a Non-Governmental Organisation. In 1983 when the Brahma Kumaris achieved consultative status with the Economic and Social Council at the United Nations. The BKWSU now has a permanent office space in New York for their work with the United Nations.[23]

After an unpromising beginning when it almost ran out of funds,[20] from the mid 1950s the Brahma Kumaris began an international expansion program.[21] Since the 1970s it first spread to London and then to the West.[20][22] The most visible manifestations of the religion are its "Spiritual Museums" located in most major Indian cities.[20]

[19]

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