Why do Brahma Kumaris wear the White Dress for Widows?

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seva

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Why do Brahma Kumaris wear the White Dress for Widows?

Post05 Jul 2007

Why do Brahma Kumaris wear the "White Dress for Widows"? Is this not for "real" widows? Are both BK women and men considered the widows of Baba or the founder?

If the Brahma Kumaris wear the White Dress of Widows, why don't they make it their job to help these widows that are in poverty? Why don't they help the children? (Shunned from society, widows flock to city to die).

If there are 40 million widows suffering like the ones on the video and if the Brahma Kumaris say they are helping women, that they are run by women, why not start by changing the attitude of the culture since the video says it is cultural, not a religious practice that allows this to happen?

The video said if a widow dies in Vrindavan they escape The Cycle? Is this why the Brahma Kumaris are wearing white, to escape?


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ex-l

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Post05 Jul 2007

In the movies thread I mentioned one called Water. It is an Indian made movie about a young girl that is married at 8 years old, whose husband dies and then she is widowed. She is sent to another "holy ashram" to live for the rest of her life.

I do not think that there is anything in it that would offend your mom. Indian made by a woman director, it avoids all the usual Hollywood excesses whilst handling the very serious issue you raise in a sensitive manner. May be check it out with her first but I am sure you are capable of watching serious movies. It is also very beautiful made and has some very touching moments. I have not watch your clip but these "widows" did until recently include child widows, thrown out by their families.

I agree with your wholeheartedly. If the BKs want their 900,000 to go to heaven, why do not they target, and serve, the estimated 40 Million widows; and all the other women and girls forced to do terrible things to escape poverty. Why do the BKs give gold chains to VIPs and chase the Presidents and politicians?

Well, perhaps there is the reason. May be they do not just want 900,000 but 900,000 with a good source of power or income! That would be my interpretation ... we will have to ask them. It is amazing how "practical" these "spiritual" people are. They always told me that BKs "did not do social work and charity", they only promoted their god and practise as it was "the highest service to humanity" according to them. If someone was suffering, that was their bad luck (karma) for their bad actions in the past according to the BKs. Not every one agrees with that ...

The white issue, I do not know the whole story. In India, white is also the cheapest as it is undied and unwoven. It is for the poor and, as you say, widows etc. Practically, it is a very cheap way of making a unifying uniform. BKs are generally called the "Brides of God or Brahma" not widows. As far as I am aware, the only issue to do with death is that they have "died alive" from the real world.
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arjun

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Post06 Jul 2007

Dear Seva,

Omshanti. BKs (especially the surrendered ones) wear white dresses because it is a sign of purity. Moreover, white is not just the dress of Hindu widows but everyone loves to wear white dresses. Married Hindu women avoid wearing white sarees because of the stigma associated with it. This stigma has been created due to narrow thinking of Hindus of the past. Now the society has progressed a lot and white should not be considered just the dress code for widows. In fact it has become a fashion statement today.

It is not just white but also black that is stigmatised in India. Hindu women do not wear black dresses especially on auspicious occassions, but it is popular with Muslim women. But today, I find even Hindu women wearing black dresses just for fashion sake and even in Hindu functions.

As per Murlis BKs can wear dresses of any colour, but they have made white their preferred colour in respect of dresses, and compulsory for the surrendered category of BKs. But I feel that even the surrendered BKs should be given the freedom to wear dresses of other colours, if they wish. They could wear light coloured printed sarees, if not during the Murli Classes or Godly service, at least when they are performing their daily chores.

As regards PBKs, the non-surrendered PBKs can wear dresses of any colour they wish. But for the surrendered PBK Sisters, they prefer to wear white dress during the class time and when giving Advance Course, but all other time, they are allowed to wear dresses of any colour (preferably light colours). The surrendered PBK Sisters even go out of the mini-Madhubans in coloured sarees, like when they are going to the hospital or when they are travelling from one town to another.

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Arjun
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ex-l

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Post07 Jul 2007

arjun wrote:Omshanti. BKs (especially the surrendered ones) wear white dresses because it is a sign of purity. Moreover, white is not just the dress of Hindu widows but everyone loves to wear white dresses. Married Hindu women avoid wearing white sarees because of the stigma associated with it. This stigma has been created due to narrow thinking of Hindus of the past. Now the society has progressed a lot and white should not be considered just the dress code for widows. In fact it has become a fashion statement today.

Is this something India has taken from the Christians? Or just modern fashion? I thought red was the traditional color for purity in India (weddings etc).

I don't know when the white sari thing entered into the BK world but, obviously, it pre-dates any general fashion statement.
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seva

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Post08 Jul 2007

Thanks for the replies. I will ask about the movie.

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arjun

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Post08 Jul 2007

ex-l wrote:Is this something India has taken from the Christians? Or just modern fashion? I thought red was the traditional color for purity in India (weddings etc).

The foundation for the BK institution was laid during the pre-independance days of India when it was undivided. And during the freedom struggle white was the preferred colour of (Khadi) dress both for men and women.

As regards Indian weddings red/pink is the preferred colour for bridal wear in north India, while in some of the states of South India the brides wear white/cream coloured silk sarees with a colourful border :lol:.

As regards the Christian connection, it may be possible that the choice of white colour for dresses may have been influenced by the white dresses of nuns and fathers, although I have seen nuns and fathers wearing coloured uniform also (like grey, brown etc.).

Regards,
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Arjun
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ex-l

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Post08 Jul 2007

arjun wrote:The foundation for the BK institution was laid during the pre-independance days of India when it was undivided. And during the freedom struggle white was the preferred colour of (Khadi) dress both for men and women.

By Christian, I was thinking "white for weddings"/white for purity and the forum Edwardian wear but I think this is a weak connection. The early school did have a different uniform, white blouses and blue shorts

I think it is safe to say that the Gandhian (after Mahatma Gandhi) adoption of was not of white cloth but an undyed and hand-made cloth you call Khadi (handspun cotton).

Its special significance to Indians was as a symbol of strength and self-sufficiency, and to provide employment for millions during India's freedom struggle. The symbolism of wearing cloth made by human hands has continues to this day.

Its reference to self-sufficiency was based on the denial of the British Imperialist's exploitation of the Indian cotton industry and, I think, a renunciation of Western dress and values that was becoming common. It had far different meanings that the Brahma Kumaris did not share at all.

The BKs had no part in the Independence movement.

It is interesting to note that the early Brahma Kumaris shunned, strongly criticised and condescended to Gandhi, the Indian Congress Party and the Independence movement whilst courting the British Royalty, and India Raj (Indian Royalty sponsored and protected by the British). The BKs were (are?) royalists or Imperialists and not democrats or republicans. They certainly appear to tend towards believing in the "divine right" of kings and queens.

I am looking at old pictures of Om Mandli and wonder if the girls were not dress in simple Europe style dresses, or the Pakisthani Shalvar Kameez?

I think a simply detail like "clothing" is an interesting historical footnote as it symbolically describes other elements of the movement. So, a good question Seva. To me, it would demonstrate when the philosophy and lifestyle of the BKs became universally fixed and made concrete into a corporate-styled image.
    When, and who by, was the white sari adopted as the universal dress code - as I do not remember any direct reference in the Murlis?
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bansy

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Post08 Jul 2007

If white clothing is purity, then the pictures of Laskhmi and Narayan are wrong ?
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arjun

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Post08 Jul 2007

ex-l wrote:I don't know when the white sari thing entered into the BK world but, obviously, it pre-dates any general fashion statement.

"You don't have to leave your household. You are neither bound by the condition of white clothes. But white clothes are good. Ever since you have been in Bhatti (14 years camp of meditation in Sindh, Pakistan from 1936- 1950) this has become your dress. Now a days people like white clothes very much. Even when human beings die, the dead body is covered with white cloth." (Revised Sakar Murli dated 13.9.71 published by BKs in Hindi and translated by a PBK; narrated by ShivBaba through Brahma Baba)

"Who has asked you to change the clothes? Wear whatever you like. You have to come in contact with a lot of people. There is no restriction on coloured clothes. You can wear any cloth. There's no connection with clothes. Baba just says, Shed all relationships of body including body." (Revised Sakar Murli dated 10.12.70, pg.2 published by BKs in Hindi and translated by a PBK; narrated by ShivBaba through Brahma Baba)

"Father explains you children that you should not indulge even slightly in decorating the degraded body. The world is very bad. While living in the household do not be fashionable. Fashion attracts. In the present time beauty is not good. It's better to be dark. Nobody will run behind (such person). Lots of people run after beauty." (Revised Sakar Murli dated 5.6.71, pg.1 published by BKs in Hindi and translated by a PBK; narrated by ShivBaba through Brahma Baba)
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arjun

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Post08 Jul 2007

Sister Bansy wrote:If white clothing is purity, then the pictures of Laskhmi and Narayan are wrong ?

Omshanti. As per the advanced knowledge being taught by ShivBaba through Baba Virendra Dev Dixit, the Lakshmi Narayans of the Golden Age would not be covered by so many decorations. They would be decorated by nature. The decorations on the body of Lakshmi and Narayan as depicted in the pictures published by the BKs depict the jewels of virtues which we imbibe in the present Confluence Age.

Regards,
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Arjun
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Post08 Jul 2007

arjun wrote:"Who has asked you to change the clothes? Wear whatever you like. You have to come in contact with a lot of people. There is no restriction on coloured clothes. You can wear any cloth. There's no connection with clothes.

Well, there you have it from the top. Thank you very much. It amazing the little miracles that are recorded in the original Murlis. This really underlines how much of the 'cultic aspect' of the Brahma Kumaris is human inspired.

Choosing a single colored single cloth was also a very good way of making everyone equal. Especially in the beginning when some of the girls came from very wealthy families and were attracted or attached to beautiful fineries, when others were complete poor. Dress very often donates class/caste and status in society.

What we discover now is in some centers in India is that there is still a subtle caste system/dress consciousness in centers where the center-in-charge will get the new sari and the youngest surrendered Sister in Gyan will get the second or third-hand, hand-me down old saris. Originally, there only used to be cheap cotton types but then gradually shiney new polyesters ones were introduced as formal or even "power dressing" by the more progressive Sisters ... as the old fashioned kind tended to look like wrinkled piles of old bed linen.

White saris have become the formal, "official uniform", and definitely indicate rank along with the size and quality of the badge (see other thread); the salwar kameez/kurta pajama, has become a sort of "off-duty" dress. I would admit that as a BK, I would look down at another BK that did not wear 100%, or if a Sister would a mainly white sari with alittle decoration, it would be thought that she was not 100% pukka or self-realised. The wearing of white was a sort of "rite of passage" ritual, symbolic of "dying alive" and being reborn as a BK Brahmin.

Initially, Westerns attempted to find white Western style cloths in whites of a formal sort but they did not look so good. To the Western eye, a white suit has limited or negative values. So off white or beige became a "serviceable" alternatively, e.g. light enough to stand out and indicate a degree of purity but not too whacky/cheesie/cultie looking.

One of the funniest memories I have is of a story of a BK picnic in a park in Australia where all the BK were wearing white to be pukka. (There certainly was group pressure to dress/conform in white). Whilst walking through the park in one direction, all the BK bumped into a party of cooks and chefs walking in the other direction who were also all wearing white (traditionally cooks and chef will wear cotton whites in high class kitchens). You can imagine the strange looks on each group's face as it walked past the other. I would not say wearing white was a natural thing for westerners to do, especially in any season except summer.

In the beginning, at least, there was also group pressure, I thought, to dress in a very orthodox, middle of the road look which, again, I think that it not really have its roots in the philosophy of the Murli. Amongst Western Sisters, I would also say that there was a subtle fashion of dressing like a "New Age angel" which, kind of came in from some of he dance costumes that they used to put on for "Avyakt Dancing".

Anyone else as attuned to this sort of stuff to notice?
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Mr Green

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Post08 Jul 2007

The white clothing is not for purity Bansy, it symbolises dying alive or physical death.

In the West, white is considered a colour of purity, hence the white dress for the (ahem) virginal bride.

In India, white is the colour of death. They wear white there the same as we wear black here. When we go to a funeral etc.

This is an aspect which is, to my knowledge, never explained to Westeners unless they specifically ask about it.
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Post08 Jul 2007

mr green wrote:In India, white is the colour of death. They wear white there the same as we wear black here. When we go to a funeral etc.

Its an interesting mental picture. Imagine 100, or 10,000 BK Brahmins. Now imagine all of them dress completely in black funeral dress. No wonder they make non-BK Indians a little bit afraid.

Sure society is changings and meanings are becoming more relazed. Yes, in the West, White is seen as purity and has the connotation of happy summer days insted of cold, wet, dark winters and winter wear.

Arjun, do you concur from the India point of view?
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arjun

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Post09 Jul 2007

ex-l wrote:Arjun, do you concur from the India point of view?

I have already said that both white and black are considered inauspicious, but times are changing, especially in the cities.

In fact, the dress code for the young women of urban India has changed so drastically in the last few years that it is hard to find young unmarried women wearing traditional Indian dresses like salwar kameez. The bulk of young college-going urban women prefer to wear Western dresses like jeans, T-shirts, trousers and shirts in all sizes, shapes and designs, which were unimaginable a few years ago.

Regards,
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Arjun
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Post09 Jul 2007

arjun wrote:In fact, the dress code for the young women of urban India has changed so drastically in the last few years that it is hard to find young unmarried women wearing traditional Indian dresses like salwar kameez. The bulk of young college-going urban women prefer to wear Western dresses like jeans, T-shirts, trousers and shirts in all sizes, shapes and designs, which were unimaginable a few years ago.

Are the BKs appearing to be anachronistic now ... stuck in the past ... puritanical?

Or are young BKs, and the system with them, also changing?
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