Child Abuse & the BKWSU II

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Child Abuse & the BKWSU II

Post14 Jun 2006

Child Abuse and Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University (Raja Yoga) II,
June 2004 [v 4d 180604] by eromain

A personal assessment of child protection in BKWSU, documentation of proven risk,
abuse disclosure and the ongoing campaign for child protection provision

Links to: Part I - Part II - Part III - Part IV - Part V - Part VI.

Knowledge ‘instead’ of Faith

Another aspect of this experiential emphasis on the learning of Raja Yoga concepts is a confusion of language which connotes facts with language that connotes experience. This is closely connected with subject /object confusion and children are particularly vulnerable to missing the logical jumps. It is particularly enlightening here to appreciate that there is no Raja Yoga concept of faith in respect of beliefs.

Raja Yogis do not conceive of beliefs needing to be bolstered by faith in the way that for instance Anglicans do. For an Anglican one has faith in a belief partly because one understands logically that it could be false to fact. Raja Yogis would simply say that this is someone who doesn’t really believe. A Raja Yogi does not have faith in the truth of a particular belief, he does not think of the contents of his head as beliefs. He has no distinction between logical possibility and contingent fact. That is to say he cannot believe something and yet genuinely acknowledge that it is ‘just’ a belief. He thinks of the contents of his head as facts. He has in Raja Yoga parlance ‘realised’ them, he has ‘had the realisation that’ such and such is true.

This is a cultural norm and a linguistic distinction in Raja Yoga which puts great pressure upon the young. It effectively robs them of the ability to doubt, or even to imagine disbelieving. Because if the language to do such has been misappropriated to do something else one becomes blinded to the very concept. And there is indeed a very strong absence of any doubt or disbelief in Raja Yoga. The consensus agreement about the beliefs is universal. In the young at least I would contend that this is not a good thing nor evidence of good teaching. To the extent it exists it is a function of bad teaching (for how can you teach about religion if you do not teach about doubt) and of poor language usage.

So well practised in this way of thinking was I that I can honestly say that I had left Raja Yoga for several years before it even occurred to me to doubt any of its core beliefs.

The Raja Yoga Caste System

Another component of the Raja Yoga ideology –indeed cosmology too - and which shapes their thinking on all manner of subjects is their metaphysical caste system. Each soul is forever a member of a particular caste. Not just in this or that life but even up in the so-called Soul World. And Raja Yoga illustrations and imaginings of the Soul World show the each soul on an inverted tree.

God is at the top, at the tip of the trunk, followed by the highest Raja Yogis, then the middle rank, and then the lower Raja Yogis. Below the lowest Raja Yogi positioned at the beginning of each of their own branches are the so called prophet souls Christ, Buddha, Abraham etc. Below these are all the souls of their respective religions and again the best come first, followed by the lower and then the lowest.

One’s position in this hierarchy is fixed. If you happen to be a Raja Yogi soul you are blessed, compared at least to the members of the other religions. In your cycle of births and deaths down on earth you are predestined to be a Raja Yogi just as you were in your previous cycle. There is no risk that although you were a Raja Yogi in the previous cycle you might get relegated to being a Christian or a Jew or a Muslim.

Likewise even the best of the other paths cannot hope to gain promotion into the Raja Yogi elite. Nor can they enter the only true heaven in Raja Yoga theology namely the Raja Yoga one. The souls of other religions at best have a kind of relative heaven in the midst of Raja Yoga hell. They have no true i.e. absolute heaven.

Within the constellation of Raja Yoga souls there is of course also different levels – reflected both in position in the Soul World and in the quality and quantity of lives on Earth. Closest to God and indeed in many practical ways virtually inseparable from God is the founder of Raja Yoga. There are seven other souls making up the highest quality of beings –the only human souls who could be truly said to attain perfection. It is universally agreed that most if not all of these positions have already been taken by the current senior Raja Yogis. But there might just be one place so you could squeeze in if you really try.

Below these is another hundred who whilst perhaps not attaining the absolute highest level of perfection came very close and as a side effect of their efforts helped the whole of humanity by simultaneously spreading the word about Raja Yoga and purifying themselves through their own meditation thereby triggering the nuclear holocaust which ends the world thus ending another round of hell. Many of the thrusting ambitious Raja Yoga teachers secretly harbour hopes of making it into the legendary 108. And one should stress that this kind of ambition is encouraged. It is all part of the ‘greed is good if it’s the right kind of greed’, enlightened self interest ethos at the heart of Raja Yoga karmic philosophy.

Below the ‘Rosary of the One Hundred and Eight’ is another sixteen thousand. This may sound like a lot but when one considers that there are currently several hundred thousand members of the religion the rush for seats is going to be pretty tight.

And below these is nine hundred thousand, the official number of souls who make it to heaven. These would be souls who became Raja Yogis but ended up doing rather poorly. They did not do much service, their meditation was erratic and ineffectual.

If a Raja Yogi has sex, leaves Raja Yoga, or defames the institution, he is still technically a Raja Yoga soul and so will get to heaven but he is guilty of spurning an opportunity not presented to the vast majority of souls. He has rejected or ignored the direct teachings of God not inadvertently but consciously. He has allowed his latent vices to re-assert themselves during his one incarnation as a Raja Yogi to the point where the sins of the flesh or the arrogance of his ego make him indulge himself, his own desires, his own opinions rather than what God has instructed him to do.

From being a potential god sitting at the top table of celestial and earthly deities, living and loving with other members of the elite 108 Rosary for the whole of eternity he has thrown himself off the fifth floor irredeemably destroying his chance of true greatness. In his incarnations whether in heaven or in the later ages when heaven has yet again deteriorated into the relative hell he is destined to only looking at the great from afar. If he is lucky he might gain proximity to a medium quality soul say of the sixteen thousand by being his servant. The closest he would get to the hundred and eight is as a cremator. He will burn their bodies, because during his Raja Yoga life he was consumed by the fires of lust.

I have merely touched upon the iconography at work here there is a great deal more to it and the effect is all compounded by the daily repetition of these images in the morning class to which all Raja Yogis must attend and in the extremely vivid relationship to his concepts the Raja Yogi develops. Like medieval Catholicism the beauty of divine grace in all its exquisite depictions is matched in the mind of the pilgrim only by the horrors of hellish failure. Meditation makes both sides of The Cycle hyper real.

The Raja Yoga notion of metaphysical caste has like very nearly all Raja Yoga concepts been ‘borrowed’ from Hinduism. That Raja Yoga should seek to revitalise or re-interpret a way of looking at people which many modern liberal Hindus find to be abhorrent is unfortunate in the extreme. The Hindu caste system in its worst manifestations is comparable with slavery, nazism and apartheid.

Although Raja Yoga is critical of the traditional caste system it uses not only the basic concepts (although one must re-iterate again they are reinterpreted) but also the very terms. Hence the names of the traditional caste levels –Brahmin etc all have taken on new Raja Yoga significance. The cremator status in heaven that is the destiny of bad Raja Yogis is a direct reinterpretation of the untouchable role of the leatherworker and the body burner. The term ‘Shudra’ meaning someone of extremely low caste –someone who a good Hindu of higher caste is disallowed to even touch let alone socialise with or befriend has become in the Raja Yoga lexicon a label for those souls who impurify themselves with sex or who leave Raja Yoga.

Think of the worst swear words you know – I would contend that ‘Shudra’ to the Raja Yogi has something of this level of potency. Interestingly amongst ex-Raja Yogis the term is being reinterpreted such as the way that young African Americans are now referring to themselves as ’niggaz’, and the gay community has re-claimed the term ‘queer’, and modern urban women have wrestled control of the term ’****’ from purely misogynist ownership. So now the attitude of some ex-Raja Yogis to all of this is to laugh and declare ‘yes I’m a Shudra’. But that is partly posture and partly a defence against what remains a highly potent, insulting and damaging concept. Fifteen years on it still stings because we know they mean it.

And part of the problem Raja Yoga has had with my input on child protection is that in their eyes I am a ‘Shudra’. It is deeply offensive to some Seniors that I might have something to teach them, or even that my current involvement in the management of their organisation might be one of God’s mysterious ways. If it turned out that I was rewarded for my efforts by a place in the 108 it is very doubtful that any of the others would agree to turn up.

The effects upon the young Raja Yogi of this ever present categorisation of the people one meets are manifold. I have already mentioned the inevitable isolation of narcissm. It also has a very strong tendency to stimulate an uncritical and overly venerative attitude towards the Seniors. They are after all synonymous with the very notion of the eight. The different caste tiers are each tight networks of inter-birth relationships and relations.

One clear sign that you are destined for obscurity would be poor personal relations with the members of the higher caste levels. You will have spent your births interrelating with your own category of soul so if you are not comfortable with the elite, or they with you, this is not a good omen. The metaphysical caste system finds its locus in the physical world in the form of the Seniors because their position is already ‘known’.

The Seniors are members of the eight so one way or another if you want to make it to the top table you better not damage your relations with them. Please them on the other hand and all other factors remaining equal you will do well. Hence like all ‘theoretical’ caste systems it is the control of behaviour that is the inevitable real effect.

The malcontent at the back of the class is less plausible as a role model simply because he does not pay his dues with his Seniors. No matter that he may actually be more sensible than the rest of the class put together. The tendency to stigmatise, isolate and ultimately loose the ‘bad’ Brahmins is subtle because Raja Yogis are almost universally friendly and well meaning people. It is also part of the culture to show love and respect to all. But you neither show nor actually feel the same quality of love or respect for those you categorise as ‘good’ and those you categorise as ‘bad’.

A central tension at the core of this is that whilst all Raja Yogis are certain of the factuality of the metaphysical hierarchy they do not know the one piece of information that really matters –where their place is. Raja Yoga folklore is littered with stars that shone brightly and then faded away. The high turnover of members mean that in a large or medium size centre there will definitely be Yogis you previously admired and aspired towards in your early years who have since –here is that image again- thrown themselves out of the fifth floor.

Or as one friend of mine put it about a mutual friend who had disgraced herself in the most serious way a centre Sister can –‘she has ripped her own guts out, she has gutted her cycle’. It is heartbreaking when someone that you thought you would share heaven with turns their status from that of one of the blessed into a ‘Shudra’. And if such and such a person who you thought was a great Raja Yogi can fail maybe you are next.

The pressure and self examination this causes can become all pervasive. Every thought, every action is potentially the beginning of ones decline. Every mistake one can look back on is a trigger for self mistrust and loathing. And as I have intimated this has already proven itself as something more than some Raja Yogis could bear. And it does not help that Raja Yoga insists on repeatedly using images of self destruction as a metaphor for this type of failing.

How does one learn to handle failure when that failure irredeemably changes all of your future births? How does one hold on to ones positive self image when the occurrence of that failure means that even in your past you could not have been one of the truly successful Raja Yogis. The belief system here coupled with cultural elements such as the iconography, the language, semantic frames, the pedagogic style and the meditative and mystical practices acts in the young or vulnerable to effectively place a curse upon the transgressor.

The curse is arguably self inflicted or arguably installed by the religion, but what is undeniable is that it uses the tools, jargon, images and concepts of Raja Yoga. It is usually ‘pre-programmed’ during the happy early years when hope of ascendancy is at its strongest and fear of failure at its most fervent. It lies within and only emerges or is triggered after the young student comes to define, or is persuaded by others that he must define, his actions or indeed whole selfhood to have failed in Raja Yoga terms.

Most of the toxic after effects of this do not emerge except over an extended period of time – frequently when the student has distanced himself from the Seniors – or indeed they from him – or he has left the organisation. The leaders of Raja Yoga know quite a lot about the range and seriousness of psychological problems ex-Raja Yogis suffer. They have so far given no indication that they feel the organisation should share any responsibility for this. Appendices F and G contain two letters from ex–Raja Yogis which illustrate something of this problem.

Risks inherent in the child’s experience of Raja Yoga

The cultural features I have outlined above can and do combine in the immature with some of the beliefs and or lifestyle components I previously listed. And whilst on the one had Raja Yoga can have dramatically beneficial effects upon the young practitioner it can unfortunately create or trigger rather poisonous dynamics both psychologically and in a way of living that ends up being highly unsuitable for certain individuals who nevertheless do not have the wherewithal to right themselves.

Problems with trust (either too much or too little), self and body image distortions, isolation, hallucination, narcissm, self loathing, exhaustion, obsession, sexual confusion, sexual guilt, magical thinking, sexual dysfunction, dissociation are all problems which I would contend occur disproportionately in young Raja Yogis and ex-Raja Yogis compared to non-Raja Yogis. Add to that family and/or parental problems either when they join Raja Yoga or when they leave. And damage to school and future career prospects because some idiot has persuaded them that the world is about to end. The replacement of their old family with a new sari clad one and the near total replacement of their burgeoning intelligence and independence of spirit with a desperate adherence to doctrinal conformity.

I do not wish for a minute to suggest that the lives of Raja Yoga children is always as awful as it might sound, but the above are components of that existence enough to be considered integral risks.

And of course these side effects set a particular social context within which active perpetrator led abuse of children is much more likely to flourish. And which when it does occur also causes much more long term damage and tends to be much more likely to have the child either colluding in the abuse or at least in the cover up. I have personally known of a variety of occurrences of physical and psychological abuse as well as the sex abuse occurrences in Delhi and Mt Abu in which the child inadvertently allowed elements of his or her training as a Raja Yogi to dis-empower him or her at the crucial time when more not less power was needed.

It is my contention based upon my experience and that of fellow child Raja Yogis that any Raja Yoga Child protection plan which is to be of any real use must take account of and indeed start from the lived experience of child Raja Yogis. Not how one would like it to be, but how it actually is. But for that one must listen to those relatively few people who actually were children in Raja Yoga.

And as many of this pathological after effects take years to emerge Raja Yoga should take issue with one of its most sacred taboos –that of learning from ‘shudras’ or in plain English finding out about its mistakes from its victims who have left the organisation. As a group those who have left also happen to be by far the biggest collection of Raja Yogis on the planet.

6 Assessment of BKWSU UK Child Protection policy

Having outlined some features of Raja Yoga culture and lifestyle which can complicate and compound the risks children face I now wish to critically assess current BKWSU child protection provision.

I wish to examine the appropriateness of the policy documents, the quality of their implementation and the monitoring of such. I then wish to examine the credentials and credibility of those currently in charge of this programme.

Appropriateness of BKWSU UK Child Protection Policy Document

This document is reproduced in full in Appendix D. It is the template upon which the Indian document is based and presumably this it true for the vast majority of policy documents around the world. If there are any.

Firstly the policy document does not even read as if it is for a religious institution. Indeed it pretends that the organisation is something other than a religion. This is not a good start. It neither bodes well for the documents credibility nor for its use-ability. Beyond avoiding the religious nature of Raja Yoga it attends to none of the specifics of the particular religion in question.

It takes no account of Raja Yoga culture, lifestyle and beliefs as potential complications in incidents of abuse nor as causative elements in themselves of problems for the child which might amount to ‘abuse’. To the extent that it refers to BKWSU practices it in no way questions the assumption that they are always good for children. Sometimes unfortunately they are not.

As a result of this omission it provides no guidelines for the safe and careful development of Raja Yoga training in the young. It fails, for example, to delineate any beliefs or practices from which children might well need to be shielded until a later age.

There is no suggestion or indeed instruction about the modification of certain Raja Yoga perspectives by carers of children, or the contextual suspension of some of its principles. For example maybe an adult Raja Yogi who believes all forms of sexual thought and deed are wrong should nevertheless encourage teenager Raja Yoga students to go out on some dates and to accept rather than repress their burgeoning desires for romance and sexual growth. This document is useless in helping one make such decisions. It is not enough to assume that responsible parents will form their own opinions. As Raja Yogis they are implored/exhorted on a daily basis not to impurify Raja Yoga with their own opinions.

There is no clear discussion of issues around systemic and/or institutional abuse, which is a big failing in itself given as has been mentioned this is the child protection policy of a religious movement. But it must be pointed out that the failure of this particular institution to be genuine right from the start of this document in the way that it describes itself is itself a form of institutional abuse.

Once again as it has so many times before the BKWSU is misrepresenting its fundamental nature but herein the consequences are more serious than usual. The BKWSU is not essentially an educational institution, it is a religious organisation which carries out educational activities as per the principles of its religion. These are not the same thing at all, and the child protection specifics for each are different. One does not go on field trips to Mount Abu as this document claims. One goes to get a personal meeting with God. How can such be described as a field trip? And if in its’ child protection policy it cannot be honest about itself, to itself, what hope is there of it not misleading parents and children who come to it anew?

To mis-describe your true nature, to lure people in with promises of relaxation techniques and positive thinking courses without being honest from the outset who is really teaching these side dishes is itself abusive. It is also, - to borrow a word explicitly disavowed in the policy document – exploitative. Until Raja Yoga finds even this simple level of integrity it will continue to lay itself open to the charge that it is something of a predatory cult. The old Indian accusation that Raja Yoga steals your children and hypnotises them will refuse to go away.

The whole of the second paragraph in the background section is no better. This mixture of spin, misuse of language and downright dishonesty should have no place in this document. Neither its self indulgent and congratulatory style nor its misleading substance are appropriate. If I write its complete opposite this is no less true.
" Young people are able to damage themselves greatly from their participation in BKWSU activities particularly with regard to their personal, social, emotional and spiritual lack of development. Both they and their parents or guardians have come to place considerable mistrust in the BKWSU and its personnel and overwhelmingly history has shown this mistrust to be well founded. Nevertheless the BKWSU remains inattentive and careless with regard to children’s interests, ensuring that it continues not to follow best practices that etc etc. "

This is not how I would put it myself but if I were to be forced to choose between my version and that of the document I would argue that a good case can be made for both. Which means neither should be present.

Likewise the first sentence of the aims section. This time I do not need to play with it. Anyone who truly knows Raja Yoga understands it.
" The BKWSU was established in the spirit of service to humanity in order to create an environment that helps all individuals to fulfil their potential thereby improving the quality of life for all. "

Simply not true.

At the bottom of this section it states that training in the management of possible incidents of abuse will be provided by professionals not connected with BKWSU, but I could find no details on this. Further on the policy actually attempts a quick piece of ad hoc training so I am not sure how one relates to the other.

There is no advice or instruction anywhere in the document on reconciling the major differences in opinion between Raja Yoga and conventional professional child sciences. The paradigms are largely incompatible so which ones do Raja Yoga carers use as their ultimate guiding principles? Raja Yoga is very strongly at odds with most prevailing precepts, principles and values in the fields of child sexuality, adolescent sexuality, child cognitive, emotional and social development and the many related fields. So without explicated terms of reference it is impossible to even read this document intelligently. Terms such as ‘best interests of the child’ ‘welfare’ and many others beg the question; according to who? Do they mean the Raja Yoga interpretation of ‘welfare’ and ‘ best interests’ or the generally accepted experts as recognised by society as a whole? Hence many of the instructions are so vague as to be open to too much interpretation.

Point 6 of the ‘Guiding Principles’:
"Due consideration should be taken of the traditions and cultural values of each child and his or her family."

Raja Yoga for all its many virtues has a very poor record in this regard so whilst one might heartily welcome the presence of this statement one needs to know what is meant exactly by this. Does it mean that Raja Yoga will no longer be dressing Western children in Indian clothes for example. Does it mean that children will be taught not to value their Raja Yoga Family above their outside one or to value a Raja Yoga parent above a non Raja Yoga parent?

In short ‘due consideration’ according to who? I believe I have successfully shown that culture is a central issue to Raja Yoga’s success or failure in the ethical treatment of its children. Now I would suggest Raja Yoga must do the work of fleshing out how they are going to interpret the practicalities. This is the document which should outline the sharp end of these issue.

Point A of Forms of Abuse:
" Abuse is caused not only by those who actually perpetrate it but also by those who fail to prevent it or condone, minimise or tolerate it. "

Again it sounds very good but what does it mean in practice? Is not every Senior Raja Yogi who knew about the Child X incidents and did nothing to tighten up procedure guilty then of causing any abuse which has subsequently taken place? Is this what is meant?
" Emotional abuse occurs when adults fail to show due care and attention or threaten, ... causing him to or her to lose self confidence or self esteem or become nervous or withdrawn. It may also take place when an adult repeatedly ignores or fails to respond to a child’s efforts or places the child under undue pressure to meet unrealistically high standards or expectations."

I believe this kind of abuse occurs far more frequently than the authors of this policy document presently suppose. It certainly occurred frequently during my time as a Raja Yogi and there has been insufficient change in the institution since then to justify a presumption that it is not so prevalent. But the emotional abuse they describe here occurs in Raja Yoga in systemic ways and as a by product of institutionalised social interacting. If this document is going to assist in a reduction of this it needs to explain emotional abuse in such terms. At present it phrases emotional abuse in terms of arguably the least prevalent forms as far as Raja Yoga is concerned.

The Children’s Officer

If the Children’s Officer is going to have expertise not only in Raja Yoga concepts of good childcare but also such concepts as framed by the best in non Raja Yoga care then the appointment of such is in my opinion a good idea.

But I am doubtful that the current internal politics both structure and mindset of Raja Yoga will not cause serious problems for the real effectiveness of any appointee. Given where the institution currently is and given how far it needs to travel in terms of the whole cultural milieu in which its’ children are growing up I am doubtful that the Children’s Officer is a job as it is currently shaped anyone can successfully do. Perhaps in five years but not at the moment.

For example if I were the Children’s Officer in London I would immediately try to send all the senior Raja Yoga leadership on very extensive courses on child development, sexuality, institutional development and policy implementation. Would I have the authority to do this? Somehow I suspect not. But institutional development on this scale must start at the top. Without the political power to effect change at every level as necessary the process of child protection becomes reduced to a little side issue as if checking there are no convicted paedophiles on the staff of the children’s class is the crux of the matter.

The Children’s Officer would need to be backed up by real political power as well as an amalgam of the necessary Raja Yoga, child sciences and institutional development expertise. I cannot see how this would be achieved unless such an Officer was supported by a body of respected experts across the fields such as a steering committee or an advisory committee comprising largely but not exclusively of non-Raja Yoga experts. And this agency too would need some political power.

So as it stands, in my opinion the Children’s Officer is toothless in terms of being an agent for the most effective type of institutional change. Nevertheless as it is currently configured I believe it could be expected to gradually raise the quality of care delivered by those in the lower levels of the Raja Yoga organisation.

One current arrangement I would contest is that it is the duty of the Children’s Officer alone to refer any concerns to parents, social services or police as appropriate as well as to the Trustee of the BKWSU. I would configure this differently. Whilst anybody with concerns should take them initially to the Children’s Officer, that person must themselves verify that the Children’s Officer has dealt with the situation properly. Failing this it is the duty of all to refer concerns on to appropriate persons or agencies.

Having one person alone responsible for disclosure creates a weak link in the chain and places bureaucracy above individual conscience and awareness. The causative reason Raja Yoga is now getting child protection policies is because two ex-Raja Yogis refused to accept the inappropriate responses of those who were in charge.

Related to this is the issue of chains of command. The Children’s Officer should not be appointed by the senior teachers of BKWSU in my opinion but rather by the Trustees. He or she should be accountable to the Trustees and not to the senior Raja Yogis.

Also if they are to play their proper role in creating genuine accountability the names and addresses of the Trustees should be publicly available. If someone would only disclose who they are I for one would certainly like to contact them about child protection issues in both UK and India.

These are just some of my major observations in respect of the BKWSU UK policy document. There are many others including numerous lessons learnt from the Catholic Church’s problems with child sexual abuse in celibate communities. I will at a later date be feeding these into the debate. That is to say when a serious debate has commenced.

Policy Implementation

It has taken five years to achieve what should have taken at worst a couple of months. Indeed one can state it more starkly than this: It has taken two decades to achieve what should have taken a couple of months. And the world wide organisation is still a long way from even the most basic levels of actual child protection policy implementation.

I could write a better child protection policy than the current BKWSU UK document in under a week. And if I could there are definitely members of the Raja Yoga world wide membership who could. Clearly they are not yet in the loop. Having between them produced a policy document in, let us be generous -say a month, it should actually take BKWSU London all of one day to disseminate it to all centres around the World with instructions to immediately implement those parts of the plan which so can be. In the space of a month and a day the level of real risk on the ground would be lessened.

From here local centres should then be required to state in writing which bits of the plan have been implemented and which they are in the process of implementing. Individual officials should be required to sign off on such. Failure to do so must be grounds for disciplinary intervention.

Deadlines for the implementation of late parts should be agreed or if necessary imposed. Detailed supporting guidelines and educational material specific to all tiers of local organisation should be centrally produced and disseminated.

Good two-way communication should mean that elements of best practice in this or that regard happened upon by this or that centre are incorporated into the supporting materials which are sent to everyone. As the focal point of a living process the policy document would be regularly revised.

Clearly this is not happening.

Raja Yoga London with a great deal more resources than the average centre took years to produce a policy document. It has then taken years for centres around the world to either re-invent the wheel by writing their own or years to type the name of their country over a copy of the UK policy. With ridiculous and potentially a disastrous public relations, had I been so inclined as to take the whole matter to the press and media at that point, London tried to claim the delay was due to local centres finding out about local laws. All this achieved was to persuade me that London still did not have a clue about child protection.

There are no laws in Kenya, Guatemala, Canada, New Zealand or anywhere else specifying how religions should write or implement child protection policies. To waste time exploring local law or practice is to look for reasons to find the lowest common level of standard. If Raja Yoga Germany reports back that none of the other religions operating there have any child protection in place in precisely what way does this inform Raja Yoga Germany’s policy implementation? Either Raja Yoga wishes to protect its’ children or it does not. And either it is prepared to flesh out what it means by this or it is not. And if it wishes to implement its’ policies with due speed it could consider doing so.

Thus far the evidence is that it wishes to have the appearance of implementation but it does not yet even know enough to convincingly fake this.

Monitoring and Evaluation

I was trained as a young Raja Yogi to keep a record of the amount of time in every hour that I spent thinking of God. From 3.30 am till late at night I would write the figures down. I ended up with piles of notebooks. I kept a graph on my wall of daily averages and each week I would celebrate reaching a new total or castigate myself for failing to keep up the progress. The average Raja Yoga watches himself like a hawk – all elements of his life have specific rules. What he eats, what he thinks about as he is preparing his food: What he looks at when he walks on the street: How he washes himself: Even how he empties his bowels: Where he looks when he is talking to somebody, how he looks at them, what he is thinking about as he listens to them. And so on.

These are not abstract principles but specific activities and modes of being he will review and monitor on a day to day basis. Some Raja Yogis would note down their daily expenditure down to pennies and present them to their senior teacher each week. Some would present a list of their worst thoughts, or most significant failing. When I found myself being attracted to any other Raja Yogi I immediately reported it to my Seniors. This is what I was trained to do.

When a fellow Raja Yogi displayed evidence of having formed an attachment to me I was severely admonished for not telling the Seniors before a third person reported it first. Years later at the age of 23 when I ‘threw myself off the fifth floor’ by losing my virginity –an irredeemable crime, I was bitterly castigated by my senior more for the fact that I had failed to tell her immediately than for the fact that it had happened. My point is this – Raja Yogis are masters of monitoring. If they decide they want to monitor something they will do it to a positively Stalinist level of scrutiny.

On a larger scale they have an international infrastructure extremely impressive in both the bonds of communication and in the outcomes they can achieve in terms of co-ordinated action. In the Million Minutes of Peace (1985) project every centre and every country collected amounts of minutes of peaceful contemplation pledged by individuals and organisations. Across the world children, politicians, hospital patients, convicted felons, businessmen, religious orders, celebrities and numerous others were convinced to join in. Each centre tallied up the accumulated minutes and they were fed on to national offices and then on to the United Nations.

The UN knows a bit about beaurocracy and was extremely impressed by the millions and millions of minutes the BKWSU had managed to collect around the world. During this and subsequent projects the Raja Yogis became very adept at setting up temporary project led infrastructures utilising both burgeoning Raja Yoga project management expertise and a multitude of non Raja Yoga professionals and technicians. For example, the children’s pack produced for Global Co-operation was within a couple of months professionally printed and disseminated to schools in over 30 countries.

When it suits them the senior Raja Yogis like to portray themselves as having more to do with the Himalayas than the internet but this group of supposed other-worldly ascetes were computerised long before the general publics of the most advanced Western countries. The first time I heard about the Internet was in Mount Abu as far back as 1981 long before the existence of the world wide web and when the internet was only used by a handful of Universities and the US military. As a good Raja Yogi I did not possess a television or radio but I owned my first computer in 1985. It cost an eighth of my annual salary. I can remember being very disappointed that I failed to persuade the London Seniors in 1986 that the whole Raja Yoga office should be computerised. I needn’t have worried, it was only a few years later. Raja Yoga is not backward in coming forward.

When Raja Yoga wants to achieve something quickly and effectively on a large scale it does so. It believes it is God’s organisation and that it cannot fail. It believed in the power of vision decades before this became a management principle in corporate America. The effort necessary to achieve a systematic policy implementation of child protection initiatives would be a tiny fraction of the level of work Raja Yoga routinely expends on its promotional and religious dissemination activities.

Part of the problem maybe that it has no vision for true child welfare and education. Certainly it does not train its children for life so much as train them for it’s prophesied religious events. It fervently believes that a future happy family and career for it’s children away from Raja Yoga would be vastly inferior to a life as a professional yogi married to the organisation. If it’s children are destined to be life-long yogis the institution does not really need in its opinion to concern itself with any unpleasant after effects of their departure from the path. If a child grows up and leaves it is the child and not the supposed destiny which was wrong.

So there is more here than an organisation sincerely and committedly trying to adjust itself to new and supposedly culturally strange requirements. It has done much bigger harder versions of this process decades ago. The kind of systematic monitoring and evaluation necessary to implement proper child protection is not alien to Raja Yoga. What is alien is the subject. And the fact that the imperative come from ‘impure’ sources rather than God.

After several years of child protection policy implementation one has to ask why it has neither the infrastructure, nor the external expertise, nor the materials, systems, or records that it would have if this was another Million Minutes or Global Co-operation?

Why suddenly has an extremely centrally controlled organisation discovered local autonomy, allowing each country on its own timescale to work out for itself what child protection means?

Why when I informed London that I was going to produce this assessment of their child protection policy document were they happy for me to do so on a version that is already two years old? Has it not been revised in that time? When I have found upwards of thirty major and minor points I would change has no one in the whole Raja Yoga infrastructure found a single point worth modification? What sort of mirror of actual practice does this make it? Is the UK Children’s Officer working to the same document that led to the creation of her post? What then has she being doing all this time?

Why are the centres of the world so ignorant of the principles of monitoring and accountability that they think their interests are served by refusing to even confirm that they have a child protection policy?

It certainly takes work to produce systems for monitoring and evaluating the implementation and sustenance of a new initiative. These need to be tailored to every tier in the organisation and it takes work making the systems themselves reflexive i.e. getting the systems themselves able to be modified in the light of experience.

Raja Yoga has done this in other areas but not yet in child protection. So one must treat with scepticism its claims that the welfare of its children is paramount and that the safety of children takes priority over everything else. The poor quality of the monitoring and evaluation of the implementation is strong evidence that such statements are not policy aspirations or true guidelines but rather soundbites in place of genuine action.

The Credibility and Credentials of Raja Yoga’s Senior Management In Respect of Child Protection Initiatives.

Like many things in Raja Yoga child protection is controlled by the traditional senior leadership so they must take responsibility for its slow progress.

Worse than this many of them appear to be implicated in the initial cover up of events in Delhi and Mt Abu as well as the decades of no progress. The unanswered questions as to who knew what and who did nothing to minimise the number of subsequent occurrences of child abuse, combined with their continued political control of both Raja Yoga in general and child protection in particular is a potential disaster for the organisation. And one which gets worse the longer they fail to address it. I would argue that this is potentially a more serious threat to the long term future of the organisation than the death of its founder in 1969.

Given this mess it is extremely unpalatable to attempt an assessment of child protection management so far but it must be done if such mistakes are to be minimised in the future.

We cannot know the extent to which current policy and day to day actions by Raja Yoga Seniors are influenced by incriminating facts at present known only to them. No one can seriously believe that whatever child abuse has occurred in the last two decades none of it reached the attention of the Seniors. They must also know that the disclosure of such might threaten their survival as leaders of the movement.

A conflict of interest of this kind would surely require any official who finds him or herself in such a position to temporarily step down and disclose whatever is necessary so that following suitable investigation such a person could, if exonerated, resume his or her post. The only alternative to this is to hand investigation and evaluation of prior individual and institutional misconduct to an independent agency within the organisation or even better from outside the organisation. Raja Yoga has done none of these things.

It would be ridiculous therefore to receive any of its current statements on face value. For anyone who genuinely wishes to place child protection at the top of the list of priorities they must be prepared to examine the record of those who at the moment still have control of its real position in the Raja Yoga agenda.

Personal affections and perceptions as to the calibre of the individuals in the top tier of Raja Yoga should not distract from an examination of actual behaviour. And a political structure and ideology which turns any criticism of its provision into the equivalent of a personal attack on its leaders and an attack of its religious beliefs and values should not deflect those who would seek to help it. Rather it goes in itself to pointing out the need for structural change so that faults can be pointed out and positively received both by the senior management and the organisation in general. Otherwise the rank and file Raja Yogis around the world have to exist in an organisation more suited to medieval times than the twenty first century.

The correspondence revealed in this report, written not by this or that individual Raja Yogi but by the institutions highest officers and official spokes people is perhaps the first clear body of evidence ever published about child protection in Raja Yoga. It discloses a secretive response spanning decades to tragic events and even now no expression of collective or individual culpability.

Child X and her Brother are still waiting for a proper apology and for a proper explanation of why they were treated the way they were. There has been no disciplinary procedures instituted for either the cover up or the subsequent inaction of officials whose job it surely must have been to take steps to protect their most vulnerable students. In their correspondence with me they have employed I believe as many delaying and obfuscating tactics as they could imagine. They have mis-described, misrepresented, mis-interpreted and mis-applied in whatever way they could to buy time or to create an appearance of credibility. I even had to insist that they use headed stationary for their letters to me.

I believe the correspondence gives support to my claim that so far the recent child protection initiatives are primarily of public relations and legal substance rather than a child welfare matter per se. The early letters show that Raja Yoga considers itself well able to look after it’s children. I believe it is only when they slowly realised how the body of the correspondence, coupled with the scandalous original events, would read to the wider public did they begin to entertain coming up with some documents they could show the world.

Only when they realised that I might well act on my threats to publicise the whole sorry matter did they start to ask what types of documents would society at large expect of them. The resultant policy document obviously based originally upon a completely different organisation (probably a secondary school in my guess) and then very poorly matched to the specifics of Raja Yoga is matched in its bluntness as a tool only by the weakness of its implementation.

The document itself when read by someone sufficiently knowledgeable about Raja Yoga also weakens rather than strengthens any claim to credibility in child protection the current leadership of Raja Yoga might wish to make. Raja Yoga teachers are well trained to put this new piece of shelf ornamentation in its proper place. They will know how to read it as one of Raja Yoga’s many badges of respectability.

This is not to say that they do not care about their children, rather it is illustrative of the accepted view that whilst they do not need the impure non-Raja Yoga world to tell them how to look after their own, they are happy for the sake of the furtherance of their aims to jump through a few of the wider world’s hoops . The considerable expertise gathered in the area of professional child protection has as much chance as shaking up the complacency endemic in the organisation as the procedures of real universities have of filtering into this non-university.

In Raja Yoga ideology child molestation could only occur in its holiest places if it was precisely what the child in question most needed to pay off their karmic debts from previous lives. The most likely cause of such a karmic debt would be child molestation itself. Hence if Child X was abused it was probably because she was an abuser herself. How the current batch of BKWSU child protection policies is going to combat this kind of thinking is beyond me. And in my correspondence I have pointed this specific issue out to the most senior Raja Yogis in the world – as if it needed me to say it - and yet they have persisted in disseminating a policy document which blithely ignores this area of concern.

When somebody shows me a secondary school in this country that teaches that paedophile victims have pre-ordained their abuse in previous lives I will then at least consider as relevant their child protection policies as a model for that of the BKWSU. Until that point I believe the substance of the document is evidence not that they are genuinely engaging the serious issues of child welfare, but rather that their apparent engagement is a sham.

So in my opinion both their correspondence with me and the child protection policy documents they have so far produced damage rather than assist what claims towards credibility as protectors of children’s well being and long term interests they might wish to make.

There are also systemic, structural and cultural facets of the organisation which have direct baring upon the issue of the leadership’s child protection credibility.

One of these is the fact that to be an official leader one must be a woman who has either never married or had children, or who has abandoned her husband and children. In Raja Yoga, both as a theology and a career, virginity is intrinsically superior to motherhood.

There is somebody who gave birth to a child at the top of the Raja Yoga hierarchy but she is alone amongst an otherwise exclusively unmarried and indeed virginal peer group. And crucially she left both her husband and child for the sake of her Raja Yoga life. If she had not she could never has risen to the top. It would not surprise me if many Raja Yoga teachers around the world did not know to which of the senior Sisters I refer.

In an organisation with many happily married husbands and wives and many wonderful examples of parenting who have to exist as second class citizens in some ways it is alarming that the group which has most displayed an aversion to child rearing should be in charge of child protection.

The members of the Raja Yoga leadership, apart from repudiating the chance of personal experience of child rearing also repudiate all opportunities to expose themselves to the vast body of professional experience and expertise covering all of the child and family sciences. Indeed the Raja Yoga Seniors would be affronted if any of the organisations lower ranks were to suggest that they should actually read a book about child protection or child psychology, family health, paedophilia and religion, child sexuality, adolescent sexuality, trauma, child law, family law, institutional development, hypnosis, psychotherapy etc etc.

The senior Raja Yogis in Mount Abu, Delhi or London, the leaders of this so-called university do not have a single proper university degree to share between them. It is quite conceivable that the senior Sisters who take pride in not reading impure books nor reading newspapers have no knowledge whatsoever of the tragic disclosures in the Catholic church over recent years.

Senior Raja Yogis who have just read this paragraph will now be stopping to ask ‘what tragic disclosures?’ Nor will they have any knowledge of the resources that have emerged out of the Catholic story, resources which are of inestimable worth in the case of their own religion. For example, research conducted by Catholic sources has established that celibate communities have a higher number of child abuse occurrences than non-celibate. The Brahma Kumaris blind dogmatic faith in wholesale chastity actually increases rather than lessens the amount of child sexual abuse occurring in their midst. Anyone in charge of their child protection has a duty to understand and face these facts however humbling they might be.

Beyond a duty to protect ‘God’s work’ by not allowing his organisation’s name to be sullied is a closely allied and very similar duty which needs to be appreciated. And that is to protect the ‘honour’ of the Seniors. By definition a Raja Yogi in the very top tiers of the hierarchy is part of the constellation of gods and goddesses at the heart of its theology. If one of them were to resign because of scandal a substantial part of the paradigm would be called into question.

We are speaking about people who themselves and also the totality of their fellow Raja Yogis consider to be undoubtedly amongst the most divine beings ever to exist. They outshine Mary, Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha etc. This is why God has picked them to run his organisation. Could God be wrong? The established consensus view of the senior Raja Yogis that God watches and guides them with great attentiveness means that they are not replaceable in the way an errant company director might be. If one of them goes, they take with them part of the whole dream. The pressure this can exert upon individual Raja Yogis including the Seniors is immense.

I cannot imagine true internal two way accountability within Raja Yoga as well as proper accountability towards the wider world being achieved until the political structures of Raja Yoga are in some way re configured so that they are prised apart from the metaphysical hierarchy they all have in their heads. That is to say if there are figures who are irreplaceable in the theology it is in the interests of Raja Yoga that these people be removed from executive power in an area such as child protection. Otherwise because God and the world supposedly needs these people whatever mistakes they might make will need to be re-described or simply hidden.

The incidents to Child X and their mismanagement are instructive in their locations on the Raja Yoga map. She came from London and was abused in Delhi and Mount Abu. The top Raja Yogis in India and the West are all implicated in allowing whatever laxities in child protection may have exposed her to danger and also in failing to tighten up such after her molestations had proved beyond all doubt that danger was present. I contend that if these events had occurred at distant outposts of the Raja Yoga landscape there would have been less inducements for the hierarchy to bury all the events and do nothing in terms of acknowledging an ongoing threat.

So the personal failings of the current leadership in their response to Child X’s abuse certainly damages their credibility now. But paradoxically the pressures upon them and their juniors to avoid viewing any events as reflecting in a damaging way upon the leaders means that rectifying such in the future will be twice as hard.

I conclude that I do not find any real credibility to the current leader’s management of their organisation’s child protection. I believe this report demonstrates the opposite. That it is much more creditable to assert that the leadership both as individuals and as a structure have demonstrated that they are intricately woven into a web of systems and forces which put children at very real risk.

[ Continued ... ]

Links to: Part 1 - Part II - Part III - Part IV - Part V - Part VI.

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