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Q: BKWSU (Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University) ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Question  
Subject: BKWSU (Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University)
Category: Relationships and Society > Religion
Asked by: probonopublico-ga
List Price: $10.00
Posted: 20 May 2003 08:37 PDT
Expires: 19 Jun 2003 08:37 PDT
Question ID: 206345
I've done a Google which produced about 1,980 hits, mostly PR stuff
from what I've gleaned.

Is it possible to get behind the blurbs?

And, if so, please show me how. 

No, I don't plan to join.
Answer  
Subject: Re: BKWSU (Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University)
Answered By: tehuti-ga on 20 May 2003 17:08 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
 
Hello Bryan,

Warning – this is going to be llllloooooonnnnngggg    Further warning
– some of the web sites cited below set off numerous pop ups and pop
unders and are not be taken as having any endorsement from me.

One way that I would seek to get past the blurb on any organisation is
to try and identify criticisms of it and/or its founder/leadership. 
Obviously this will also produce a highly biased picture, which may
include downright lies, but it will be an interesting counterweight to
the PR and can open up avenues for further research should you so
wish. The second way would be to try to identify academic opinion on
the matter.

Since this is an organisation that is trying to promote a particular
brand of spirituality, I’ll start with that context, with “cult” as my
first search term, since that is likely to be the primary accusation
to be made against the group. I’ll keep the name at just “Brahma
Kumaris” because that is the essential part.

1. “Brahma Kumaris” cult 

(a) “On Thursday 8 January 1998, the Spanish police in Santa Cruz on
the tourist island of Tenerife announced that they had only just
prevented a mass suicide planned for that day  A Berlin psychologist,
Ms Heide Fittkau-Garthe… was the leader, the 'World Mother', of the
Atma Center (Isis Holistic Center); the cult involved in this….
Apparently, Fittkau-Garthe had been the leader of the Hamburg branch
of the Brahma Kumaris religious group (founded in the 1930s in India;
headquarters at Mt. Abu). She retained its doctrine of an elite of
'golden souls', destined to reincarnate to rule the world in a new
world era, and its belief in "Shiv Baba" (or "Brahma Baba") as supreme
deity.”
http://www.stelling.nl/simpos/isis.htm 

The words Brahma Kumaris in the snippet above are a hyperlink. 
Following that link, I got to a higher directory level on the same
site, titled “Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual Organization:
controversies” http://www.stelling.nl/simpos/brahma_kumaris.htm

Which gave me a link leading to:
“The 'Brahma Kumari World Spiritual Organization', or 'World Spiritual
University'… was founded in 1937 in colonial British India, by the
diamond trader Dada Lekh Raj. His devotees call him Brahma Baba. They
claim Raj was a manifestation…  of the Hindu God Shiva…. devotees at
Mt Abu in India claim still to receive his channeled messages from the
hereafter.  They expect Brahma Baba's return soon. Then, a
destructive, but purifying fire will supposedly end the old 'Kali
Yuga' era, and bring about a new Golden Era; in which the spiritual
elite of Golden Souls (the Brahma Kumaris) will rule the world….
Devotees should be celibate, as sex is allegedly the great enemy of
the soul. With a 'fifty points chart' devotees must count, whether
they are thinking about Baba enough, and whether their thoughts are
pure enough. Negative ideas [critical of the organization's
leadership] are said to gobble up energy and to poison the atmosphere.
Ex-devotees complain about anti-women attitudes, and autocracy. New
devotees often join the movement after supposedly non-religious
introductory courses in 'Positive Thinking'. In followup courses, Baba
enters the picture.”
http://www.stelling.nl/simpos/brahma_kumaris.htm#brahma 

The web site is that of SIMPOS: Foundation for Information on the
Social Consequences of Occult Tendencies. Survey 1996-1999
http://www.stelling.nl/simpos/simpoeng.htm

(b)  A dissenting book review on Amazon, which gives a lot of
information. It sounds as if the person was once involved and got
away:

“This is another book from the doomsday cult that call themselves the
Brahma Kumaris…. Since the 1930's they have insisted that the world is
coming to an end. They were extremely embrassed when nothing happened
during Y2K… . They believe this world is only 5,000 years old but
cannot explain why the dinosaurs and pyramids are more than 5,000
years old, not to mention the age of all those meteor craters and
canyons throughout the world…..  they are not allowed to go to the
movies, watch television, attend rock concerts, sit near the opposite
sex, read novels, eat in restaurants, eat eggs or any meat, etc. etc.
However, the majority of them secretly indulge in these "vices" and
eventually leave their organization because they are not happy with
these vices that God told them them must give up in order to go to
heaven ("Golden Age")…  . Every morning they attend classes to listen
to the words of God….  tells them that they are degraded and impure
souls and that the world is coming to an end….  believe that the more
money they give to their organization, the higher their "position" in
heaven will be…  Wealthy people are called V.I.P.'s by God and are
given the special treatment while minorities and poor people are given
menial tasks… Anyone visiting a Brahma Kumaris center should not be
fooled by the free classes. This is just a way to lure the curious
into their web”
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1558746722/102-4063145-8595346?vi=glance

(c) “The unfounded claims that it operates under the UN (United
Nations Organization). The truth is that the cult has only rented some
assembly rooms that belong to the UN, to organize seminars. While the
UN has forbidden to the cult to claim that it operates under its
auspices, Brahma Kumaris insists on misleading people in this way.”
http://www.fortunecity.com/marina/pitcairn/1421/deal-eng.htm 
(However, this web site is a bit dodgy. I tried twice to go to the
home page to see the affiliation, but each time it made IE6 bomb out).

All the above appeared in the first 50 search results. It’s probably
as much as you need for your purpose?  Nevertheless, on we go….
I next turned to a search for people who have stood up against the
organisation.  I’m expecting to find articles that include phrases
such as “Critics of the Brahma Kumaris maintain….  “

2. “Brahma Kumaris” critics

(a) I find a page referring to L Kripalani.
http://www.maxpages.com/owelsong/Brahma_Kumaris_Blood_letters
 “Kripalani needed a pre-packaged loyal following. Nothing was easier
than pied-pipering the bored Amil women in Hyderabad. Their husbands
and fathers where across the seas more than half the year doing
business and most of these women found themselves lonely enough to
listen to Kripalani's ideas…. With their dowries and other wealth used
to support Kripalani's ashrams in the early years, these women, now 70
and 90, seemingly have no escape…. ashram full of virgins and
celibates was not the "harem" that L. Kripalani wanted… he devised
ways to take sexual advantage of these trusting women and young men
that "magically" left their physical virginity and/or celibacy intact.
… A organization that stresses peace of mind, has many aspirants
quietly going to counselors to discuss problems with shame…. Charges
that Brahma Kumaris use mind altering techniques and substances to
control their aspirants still stand today….  modern day families of
Brahma Kumaris aspirants complain that this group damages family and
family members.”

[A quick side check in a new Google search on that name confirms that
this is another name variant for the founder: “Om Mandali, now well
known as the ``Brahma Kumaris'' organization…. started by Dada Lekhraj
Kripalani (1876--1969), who had been a jeweller in Calcutta.”
This page also confirms some of the above: “Om Mandali attracted
mostly women…  unmarried among them refused to marry; and the married
ones gave it in writing to their husbands that the latter were free to
re-marry…. organisations such as the Congress and the Arya Samaj
denounced the Om Mandali as disturber of family peace. And Dada
Lekhraj in turn denounced the Congress as ``Kansa''. Under pressure of
Hindu public opinion, the Sindh government reluctantly banned the Om
Mandali, which went to court and had the ban order quashed.”
http://yangtze.cs.uiuc.edu/~jamali/sindh/story/node15.html  (The Sindh
story) ]

Staying with the maxpages site, I find a very long rant, of which only
small excerpts are presented here:

(b) Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual Org. Guilty of Terrorism?  by Kaye
Smith
“Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual Org., formerly Brahma Kumaris World
Spiritual University has "Centers" all over the world…. [which] are
really Command Posts for their real organization called "Advance
Party"…. their secret political face that is used to manipulate and
even conspired to overthrow governments. Their members are people of
prominence many of whom are unsuspecting that they belong to a group
whose main goal is to take over the world violently… .  Submission is
the main mind altering technique… teaching pupils to not think but to
only trust and obey by saying "Yes", no matter what a pupil is asked
to do… Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual Org. has a vendetta against
Britain and anything that Britain sired because of the colonization
that Britain did to India years ago. To set up command posts in the
United Kingdom, including Iceland, and the United States are ways to
infiltrate and eventually conquer these countries which is a Brahma
Kumaris main plan….   "Little" krisna in New York has a specialty of
Journalism (though she never practiced it) and uses it to entice
writers and other artists into Brahma Kumaris snares. Little krisna is
also schooled in diplomatic relations as is the former ambassador’s
daughter for Guyana, the other female who seems to run the Manhattan
command post, and so their serious concentration has been to lure
diplomatic officials into the Brahma Kumaris organization….  Brahma
Kumaris encourage martyrdom by instructing their students to be
prepared to die at any second "die whilst alive". Or to be prepare to
die at that "sound" of a wireless signal that the organization gives
that looks like a tiny blinking light…  They were pulling Rajiv Gandhi
close to the organization for a while. The week he was killed he had
just left Mt. Abu, India. It has been later whispered, that the son of
the founder of Brahma Kumaris…. who was anti-Gandhi was associated
with this assassination…  pupils are encouraged to get as many
political people involved in Brahma Kumaris as possible…  With guards
down usually through chemicals and herbs that this org. uses in its
food, the person writes the confession and tells everything….  Though
Brahma Kumaris promise that they burn these confessions, if person
tries to leave or tries to make trouble with this group, these
confessions can materialize from ashes and later serve to haunt the
person who wrote them….
http://maxpages.com/owelsong 

And another article from the same source:
(c ) New York Brahma Kumaris Terrorists Connection and Behavior  by
R.Kaye Smith
“Brahma Kumaris World Organization teaches their pupils to become
"incognito”… Brahma Kumaris even have a phrase that is similiar to
"mum's the word" as well as other "secret" signals. One signal they
use over the "wireless" to prepare pupils to fight….  Brahma Kumaris
burn others with financial deals that result in Brahma Kumaris owning
their pupils' properties and assets all over the world. "Make bapdada
your heir" Brahma Kumaris pound into their pupils to get them to leave
their properties to the organization in their wills or purchase acres
of land and mansions for these "asthetics" to live. One way to take
over the world Brahma Kumaris privately teach is property by
property--a piece of land at a time. "3 Feet of Land" is another
slogan of Brahma Kumaris. They teach that all they need is 3 feet of
land at a time and eventually they will have the world… .The woman who
has a postion with the UN who calls herself "little krisna" …. spends
her time readying the world for the complete birth of Krisna which
means the complete take over of the world.
"Little Krisna" who lives in Manhattan, New York is incognito though
she is known in the UN circles. Her spokesperson is the former
ambassador of Guyana's daughter who lectures for her in New York and
the rest of the United States… This organization chants to the world
that Brahma Kumaris are celibate though their older teachers wear a
black tantric ribbon in their hair. How to live a "paradox" or lie is
what Brahma Kumaris teach most….  Brahma Kumaris even prostitutes its
female and male pupils….   uses as "temple harlots" during Brahma
Kumaris rituals where members of the Bapdada board can have their
pick…  Brahma Kumaris connection to pornographic websites proves that
Brahma Kumaris have links with the underworld or black markets. The
black market also finances terrorists activities like those that
cremated the World Trade Centers and damaged the fortress of the
Pentagon killing approximately 6,800 people.”
http://maxpages.com/owelsong/Brahma_Kumaris_Terrorist_Face 

These are all from something called the “Owelsong Investigative
Journal” I could find no references to such a publication, except on
its own site <shrug>

(d) A bibliography at http://www.skepsis.nl/nrm.html  (Dutch
Foundation of Sceptics) takes me to the web site of “CESNUR, the
Center for Studies on New Religions, was established in 1988 by a
group of religious scholars from leading universities in Europe and
the Americas.”, where there is an article:
Brahma Kumaris: A New Religion?
By Reender Kranenborg, Free University of Amsterdam
http://www.cesnur.org/testi/bryn/br_kranenborg.htm 
The copyright notice forbids not only reproduction, but also quotation
from the article, so I will summarise a few of the points made
instead. The objective is to present a case study of the BKs as be a
“new religion”.   The religious ideas of the BKs are:
God is eternal, so also is matter and human souls, which God did not
create. When required, God sends a messenger to humanity to restore
“primal harmony”. Humanity purifies itself through an orientation to
the “All-Highest-Soul”. This destroys negative karma. The BKs believe
the whole cycle of world ages lasts 5000 years. After the current dark
period, the world will enter a golden age provided there are enough
enlightened people to support it. BKs practise Raja Yoga, consisting
of meditation aimed at becoming one with the divine, and supported by
a spiritual lifestyle of vegetarianism, good company, study, celibacy.
BKs meditate open-eyed, preferably while supervised by a female guide.
There is a stress on “positive thinking”. This is the basis of courses
offered by BKs to the public on topics such as stress-free living,
self-managing leadership, secrets of self-esteem.  BKs are involved
with UNO, UNESCO, UNICEF, interfaith activities, organisation of
conferences. The scripture of the BKs is called the Murli and consists
of writings channeled by their founder, and some channeled after his
death. The Murli is not mentioned to new recruits and is not available
for purchase.

(e) Surviving Transplantation: The Brahma Kumaris in the Western World
Dr Julia D. Howell Asian and International Studies, Griffith
University, Australia
Dr Peter L. Nelson Center for Humanities and Human Sciences, Southern
Cross University,
Australia 
“This paper examines the organizational and cultural responses made by
the Brahma Kumaris to the challenges of transplanting an Indian
spiritual movement to the West. Focusing on case materials from
Australia, it shows that modifications t o the hybrid "household
collective"/"congregation" form of movement organization developed in
India where the movement originated have facilitated BK survival and
growth in an alien cultural environment.”
Full text at: http://www.socialscienceservices.com/papers/BKTransplantation.pdf

3. That last paper made me wonder what academics might be saying.  So
I searched on “Brahma Kumaris” and restricted the search to .edu site
and then to .ac.uk sites.  I am aware this covers only a fraction of
academic sites in the world!

(a) Entry in the Overview Of World Religions at St Martin's College,
Lancaster
“The teachings of the Brahma Kumaris are called Raj Yoga….  The
philosophy is more dualistic than most Hindu-based NRMs. The key
mantra is: 'I am a soul, my body is a garment', and the aim is to
realize one's essential nature as a soul… The main practice is simple
meditation… a growing emphasis on social and environmental action,
education and human rights…  also moving into management training,
offering courses on positive thinking, stress reduction and
leadership, with an emphasis on the importance of spirituality in
business. A key belief is that 'When we change, the world changes'….
The movement was unusual in being run by women from the beginning. The
heads of the main centres and most of the teachers and administrators
are still women…. The Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University
(BKWSU) recently opened a retreat centre in a former stately home in
Oxfordshire. In 1980 the organization became affiliated with the
United Nations as a non-governmental organization…  it has a large and
influential grass-roots membership who donate time, money and other
resources …   many supporters among governments and the business
community…  less controversial than many other NRMs but has been
criticized for its evangelical activity under the guise of social
work, and for the damaging effects of celibacy upon family life…. has
dropped much of its original Hindu symbolism, but full-time members
still wear white… Purity is the aim of the practice and ascetic
regime, with a strong emphasis on celibacy which is essential for
full-time male and female members, including married people…. food
comprises a simple, non-spicy Indian vegetarian diet. Images of Brahma
and Shiva are central to the meditation practice. There is also
devotion to Brahma Baba, although he is not formally regarded as a
guru to be worshipped. There is a millennialist belief, based on Hindu
cosmology, that the present world cycle will end in destruction to be
followed by a golden age centred on New Delhi, but this belief is
downplayed in the West…. claims 250,000 regular students worldwide,
though this may be an overestimate… preponderance of members in India
and Britain.”
http://philtar.ucsm.ac.uk/encyclopedia/hindu/ascetic/brahma.html 

Unfortunately, this strategy did not turn up any academic papers!  :(

My next step after this would be to try and identify some resources on
the Deep Web, ie resources containing information that cannot be
indexed by search engines, because it is present within a database,
for example.  I would go to somewhere like Pinakes, a meta-site of
meta-metasites:
http://www.hw.ac.uk/libWWW/irn/pinakes/pinakes.html and to
http://www.invisible-web.net/
I would use these to identify starting places, from which I might be
able to find databases covering religion, philosophy and social
sciences. If I did identify such resources, I would use them to find
references to other information, including offline sources, which I
could follow up through a library if I so wished.

I hope this jaunt has been at least slightly useful.  Please use the
clarification feature mercilessly if you feel I have been remiss in my
coverage.

Clarification of Answer by tehuti-ga on 20 May 2003 17:38 PDT
Bryan, perhaps I should also clarify that what you see above is not a
perfect polished answer that I would present to answer a question
about the BKs, but rather a faithful record of "thinking on my feet"
(or maybe "thinking on my surfboard" is a better metaphor) with
respect to starting a search. For my sins, I am sometimes asked to
give presentations on surfing the Net, with a live demo.  Since I
believe in living dangerously, I usually ask someone in the audience
for a topic, for which I then search in a similar manner, or maybe go
through a specific database if I know one exists.  In normal
circumstances, what you see there is only part of the first phase. I
would then go through the information I found, filter it, try to find
confirmation of at least some of the statements, and summarize the
whole.

The process is always iterative.  I would go back over what I had
found above and pick out key words to use in further searches. 
Sometimes, as a last resort, when no strategy is successfull, I put in
the broadest search term possible, pull up thousands of hits and look
at every 10th, 50th, 100th or whatever page retrieved. This random
dipping into the virtual ocean has at times resulted in a very nice
catch.  Also, when it is very important to find information, I will
spend hours working through literally thousands of hits to see if
there is anything at all relevant. This sounds very amateurish, but
actually most information pros I know admit to doing the same at
times. In fact, one of them said that the main characteristic of an
info pro is not esoteric skills and knowledge, but the tenacity to
keep ploughing through search results long after most sane and normal
people have given up!
probonopublico-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $20.00
Hi, Tehuti

You are a GENIUS and a modest one, to boot.

You have provided everything that I could have wished, and more.

But, beware, you will now be the envy of your fellow researchers.

Perhaps as a way out you should now join the BKWSU?

Kindest regards

Bryan

Comments   Log in to add a comment
Subject: Re: BKWSU (Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University)
From: tehuti-ga on 21 May 2003 13:06 PDT
 
Hey Bryan,

OOOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
(WWWWWWWWWAAAAAAAAAAAATTTTTTTTT,
JJJJJJJJOOOOOOOOOOOUUUUUUULLLLLLLEEEEEEE..... whatever... )

Sheesh <BLUSH!> Thank you!  I'm sure Prof James Shearer and colleagues
from the postgrad diploma course in library and information studies at
what was then Ealing College would be highly pleased with your
endorsement, since they did teach me much of what I know, nearly two
decades ago.

However, I am one of many.  Google Answers has managed to attract a
large number of talented researchers from all over the world, some
with formal training, some who have learnt much through their own
experience. Some of their answers have made my jaw drop in sheer
admiration. I'm naming no names, for fear I might omit some
inadvertently, but I think you can name several yourself. What is
equally impressive is that it is precisely the very best researchers
who are most willing to offer help and support to their colleagues in
the researcher community.  I know you're a friend of GA, so I hope you
won't mind me stealing a comment to your question in order to express
my appreciation of my researcher colleagues and friends.

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