"I am Brahma Kumari ..." Sam Miller's Delhi Adventures

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"I am Brahma Kumari ..." Sam Miller's Delhi Adventures

Post25 Feb 2013

"Women of a certain age" is an idiom used to avoid saying that a woman is no longer young but is not yet old.

India Today reported that author Sam Miller's book "Delhi: Adventures in a Megacity" topped the Indian non-fiction bestseller list. The following is from page 130 - 135 of the book (abridged for review). The author is a well known and well respected British journalist who has made Delhi is home. He is not at all involved in the cult/new religion movement world, however, he writing gives one of the best little insights into the Brahma Kumari world I have read with none of the gloss or facade of the usual PR stuff.
Sam Miller wrote:I finally reached the pavement on the other side, and beside the entrance to the International Centre for World Renewal were several similarly hyperbolic signboards, this one a little obscure but strangely seductive:

Health, Wealth, Happiness for
21 Births is your God-Fatherly Birth Right,

Those last three words were painted in scarlet, each letter eight inches his. I was in the mood to give 'now' a chance. I headed in, passing through a dust-choked courtyard and entered a square room, whose four walls were covered with dazzling cartoon-strip murals.
I sat down and looked around me at the swirl of colours and caricatures. The head of a man, a comic-book Tintinesque villain with x-ray vision and a magnificently oiled handlebar moustache, was leering at a woman in a scarlet sari. And next to him, written in English: "Sex-Lust".
I felt my brow furrow as I looked more closely at the "Sin of Attachment". A Father was crying as his young son lay on his deathbed. Amongst the other portrayals of the sin of attachment was a grief-stricken adult monkey carrying the corpse of a baby monkey, and a mother gazing lovingly into the eyes of a young child resting on her lap. I turned back and was startled to see an Indian woman in a white sari ensconced in the armchair I had just vacated.
"Do you have any questions?" She asked in English.
"No ... I mean, yes. Lots." I gabbed, caught off guard by her ethereal appearance, hypnotized by her angelic gaze and gently confident manner.
"Sit." She commanded, pointing across the table, at the chair opposite her. I sat.
"Where am I?"
"This is a place of peace and meditation. We are Brahma Kumaris and you are welcome to join us."
"What do you believe?"
"We don't believe. We know." There was a heavy, deeply meaningful emphasis on the word 'know'.
"What do you know?"
She looked at me a little quizzically, as if she were not sure whether I was a total fool or just teasing her.
"The Truth. It is not a matter of words. You must come and join us."
"Why is attachment a sin? What is wrong with that man crying over the death of his son?"
She drew a deep breath, and looked straight into my eyes, a half smile creeping over her llips.
"You have a son?"
"Yes, and a daughter."
"It will be hard for you to overcome attachment."
"But why should I?"
"It will take some time for you to know the answer to that question". She looked deep into my eyes again, as if searching for something inscribed on the back of my eyeballs. "There is only one object of love. The Paramatma. The Supreme Soul. Earthly attachments are of no value. I am a soul ... the body is only a costume." And then she added, as a hesitant afterthought. "You are also a soul".
"Eat." She commanded ...
"What is your name?" I asked; non-controversially, I thought.
"My name is Brahma Kumari."
"Eh? I don't understand. Surely you're a member of the Brahma Kumaris. You must have a name, a family."
"Now my name is Brahma Kumari."
Three middle-aged Western woman entered the room carrying light day-packs. They greeted 'Brahma Kumari' warmly, and sat down at the table with her. One of them began chanting 'Om Shanti" underneath her breath, while the other two discussed something, train timetables I think, in quick-fire Italian. Then Brahma Kumari joined them.
They all began discussing the future, the impending destruction that would engulf the world. Only a few would make it to the Satyugya, the coming Golden Age. They began talking about Baba, the founder of the movement, and of people they knew, and I heard the name Dawn Griggs mentioned in an undertone. The name was vaguely familiar. Suddenly 'Brahma Kumari' turned to me and asked me if I had any more questions. I asked her about the 21 Births referred to on the signboard outside. "Ah, that would take me a long time to explain." One of the Italian women giggled softly, "But come," she said with a soft firmness, "I will show you our small bookshop". And so I lleft a little unwillingly - feeling I'd be uncovered as a soulless time-waster.

I was led away to an outhouse with a collection of exorbitantly priced Brahma Kumari pamphlets; a place, I felt, where the less spiritually inclined are sent to spend the proceeds of their materialism. I felt obliged t purchase, and walked off with a Brahma Kumaris "Thought of the Day" calendar, full of more cute-and-clumsy platitudes, feeling only a little wiser and wondering why I knew the name Dawn Griggs.

When I returned home later that day, an Internet search for Dawn Griggs came up with an old BBC story, "Arriving tourist killed in Delhi ..." It was a particularly brutal murder, covered in graphic detail by the Indian press, and one in a series of attacks on Indian and Western women that have gained Delhi the reputation of being India's least safe city. Dawn Griggs was in fact no ordinary tourist: she was a Brahma Kumari who was heading from the airport to the building I had just visited, when she was killed with a screwdriver. There [was] a website celebrating that very human sin-or-virtue of attachment, by commemorating Dawn Griggs' life, in tributes and photos, as well as a prose poem full of Brahma Kumari imagery.
    she died alone
    in the wee hours of the morning
    in an eerie forest near Delhi where no one heard her cries
    fighting off the young thief who bore the sign of death
    her light suddenly transformed into the eternal
    her bones a metaphysic of love
    the song of spirit and now of memory
Although the Brahma Kumari movement was founded by a man, most of its senior officials are women, and its beliefs and practices have proved particularly attractive to middle-aged Western women, who can be seen in large numbers at Mount Abu. For many ordinary members of the sect, meditation, chastity and the search for spiritual peace are the most important features of the Brahma Kumaris, and the movement's very strong millenarian beliefs are underplayed. They have good reason - 18 January 1977 was predicted as the end of the world - and when this did not happen many believers left the fold. The Brahma Kumaris do continue to believe that the world as we know it is coming to an end, probably in 2036 - and a new Golden Age will begin in which an elite of Golden Souls will rule the world.

However, 'cult-busters; have given them a relatively clean bill of hhealth, and I have not traced any accusations of ritualized brainwashing, abuse or misappropriation of funds. Ex-members of the organization remain fairly supportive ... and though there were well-documented claims that a child was sexually abused in a hostel next to the buildings that I visited in Delhi, it was not suggested that this was condoned by the Brahma Kumaris. However, the organization has had its fair share of space cadets, quite literally.

Interesting he actually adds more information to the sex abuse cases that I was not aware of.

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