The profile of a Polish BK

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The profile of a Polish BK

Post04 Jul 2013

Asked by ex-l about the BK profile in Poland some time ago, I am eventually able to collect some facts based on the research of PhD Agnieszka Kościańska, on Polish BKs (in Warsaw) in the past (2002-2005).

All the quotes come from her monograph on the Brahma Kumaris in Poland (Potęga ciszy/The power of silence) translated to English by me.

The age and number of the BKs in Poland.

Among the adherents of the Warsaw BK community, there are two main groups. One "BK generation" is of the people in their 40s-50s. And the second one is of the people in their 60s-70s. For example, BK Halina (a national coordinator and founder of the BKWSU Poland) is in her 50s at the moment (PhD Kościańska introduced in one of her interviews she did in 2002 in Warsaw: "Przywódczyni polskiej filii, 47 lat, wykształcenie średnie/Polish leader, 47, secondary education"), and the BK leaders, centre-in-charges are in similar age. The rest of the BKs in the minority, are men and women in their 30s.

I don't know how large is the Polish BK group at the moment, so let's assume that in general, in Poland there are no more than several dozen BKs (approx. 100 or less, but these are only my speculations).
6. W Brahma Kumaris większość uczestników to kobiety. W próbie Doktóra stanowiły 66.7% (2002, s. 83). Na podstawie moich obserwacji twierdzę, że ich odsetek jest jednak wyższy, zarówno wśród członków, jak i sympatyków.

(6. The majority of Brahma Kumaris adherents are women. In Doktór's probe their percentage was 66,7% (2002, p. 83). However, on the basis of my observations, I claim that their percentage is even higher, both among the adherents and the supporters.)

(A. Kościańska, p. 68)

In my BK life, in my city, (let's say from 1994 to 1999), the number of the regular attendants in the BK centre was even about 20 (usually on Sundays), but during the BKs programs the number of the BKs were even higher.

Later it dramatically decreased to just a few - less than 10 or so, so the BKs had to move from a regular BK centre, first rented from a non-BK, then in a flat who was private property of one of the BK Senior Brothers, to just a gallery of meditation, much smaller and not that comfortable, although still in a very attractive location, just few steps from the address of the City Office (City Hall).

They also lost support from the local cultural centre, where they had their largest events for almost 20 years (Meditation For Peace). From 2011, the BKs have been disallowed to promote themselves there. So they had to organize and held their programs in their own Gallery of Meditation. It is a small success, but anyway it is a fact, that the city authorities keep an eye on them.

The matter of education and career.

Most of the BKs in Poland before they joined the BKWSU achieved secondary education. Some of the BK Seniors achieved higher education, but they stopped to develop their academic/scientific career somehow disappointed with their life in general and joined the BKs.
7. Wśród uczestników większość osób pracuje zawodowo (wyjąwszy jedynie osoby kierujące organizacją oraz będące na emeryturze). Warto jednak zaznaczyć, że wiele spośród nich wykonuje wolny zawód.
(7. Many individuals among the adherents work professionally (except for those who retired, and the BK leaders*). It is worth noting that many individuals among them are freelancers.)

(A. Kościańska, p. 68)

* which is not exactly the truth, as e.g. BK Joanna Rękawek, the Secretary of the Board of BKWSU Poland, in spite of being a "surrendered" Sister, is still working for the National Medicines Institute in Warsaw, a research unit, who is paid and supported by the Polish government (Ministry of Health).

I remember some copies of Murlis which were sent by fax to the BK centres from the NMI, with the address in header (ul. Chełmska 22), or with the name of the institute printed.

Did it happen occasionally, once? No. It was a regular practice in the past.

But if we talk about the leader, I mean BK Halina Paradela, PhD Kościańska's claim is true. BK Halina is only a leader, paid of the Church Fund (because of the fact that the organization got a legal registration as a religion/NRM in the past). That is her "job" - to manage and to coordinate the organization's activity in Poland.

The social, emotional and cultural/religious background. Why people joined the BKs.
3. Rozmówcy wychowani byli w katolickich domach, ale albo zrazili się do Kościoła (w wywiadach pojawiają się nawet opisy tak drastycznych sytuacji jak ksiądz molestujący dziewczynki w trakcie lekcji religii), albo katolicyzm przestał im wystarczać w nowych warunkach, w których się znaleźli (po przeprowadzce, po śmierci bliskich, po wojnie, po śmierci klinicznej). W efekcie zaczęli aktywne poszukiwania odpowiedzi na nurtujące ich pytania egzystencjalne.(...)

(3. My interlocutors were raised in Catholic families, but either they were disheartened to the Church (in my interviews even so drastic situations appeared such as a priest who was molesting minor girls in the R.E. class), or the Catholicism was not enough for them in new conditions they find themselves, (i.e. after moving to a new place, after their beloved ones death, after the war, after the clinic death). As a result they started to seek answers to existential questions bothering them actively.)

(A. Kościańska p. 68)

I also heard about the BKs personal tragedies when they passed through their traumatic experiences about sudden death of the beloved ones, of mental illnesses even before they join, of those who joined the BKs because of heartbreaks they experienced and attempts to commit a suicide while in a deep despair with no emotional support, of others joined the BKs because of the family issues or marital problems, of some of them were disappointed on account of being raised in a conservative family according to the strict Catholic tradition, of some who had passed through the horrors of the Second World War and had to get used to live with that trauma for the rest of life, of some who experienced the horrors in the post-war communistic People's Republic of Poland and were terrorized, jailed, interned, or persecuted in other ways because of their political opposition activity e.g. during the "martial law" time (1982-1983).

Generally, neither PhD Kościańska's interlocutors, nor the BKs I knew personally, ever had the chance to be happy and to be fulfilled, to get the support they needed, compassion and understanding. They felt somehow excluded and they found in the BKWSU a place of belonging. As such as, the Brahmin family became a group of people with similar experiences and traumas. So did I.

Generally, even though they usually claim that after they joined the BKWSU their life and all the relationships improved, and they find there answers to any questions they had, it is not true.

The BKs only deepen their traumas and issues, as they are not discussed at all, not supported, not solved, they are just covered. And even though they try not to see their problems, and focus themselves on anything else, it doesn't mean that their problems don't exist anymore. They still exist, and when they realize of that after a long, long time, the "awakening" might be very painful and shocking to them.

Source: A. Kościańska - "Potęga ciszy. Konwersja a rekonstrukcja porządku płci na przykładzie nowego ruchu religijnego Brahma Kumaris". Wydawnictwa Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego 2009.

I'll be posting translated fragments of PhD Kościańska's monography on Polish BKs.

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