The BK Blogosphere

for ex-Brahma Kumaris, to discuss matters related to their experiences in BKWSU & after leaving.
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The BK Blogosphere

Post by fluffy bunny » 30 Dec 2006

Having a little trawl around the internet, I was interested to find a few more alternative voices discussing their BK-related experiences. It is very interesting to discover the many shades of white kurtas and saris out there, some of them less than a whiter shade of Pa le.

I suggest we collect them so that the sociologists that come this way don't have such a hard job find an overall impression. A few might need help, a few might be able to offer it, most are entertaining just to read something written without basis. And I think both we and the BKWSU have something to learn from them. (Blue links go to blog for as long as it lasts on the internet.)
the mango i shall peel wrote:Wednesday, January 04, 2006 - a personal journey

Firstly, a clarification, i am not sufficiently enlightened or learned in the matter of religion or spirituality to blog very much. However, opinions and experiences do count as something.

Recently, my Dad asked me, "so what religion do you practise now?" A bit of an odd question but anyone familiar with my circumstances would be aware that having a Catholic Ma and a Hindu Pa is enough to confound most individuals. By law, one follows their Father's religion until the age of 18. That would have made me Hindu while i remained under 18. However, by religious convention, a Catholic would require their spouse to convert and thus their children to also be Christian. This did not happen since my parents decided to respect each others religion as neither wished to convert.

As a child, that left me confused, yet i reveled in my uncertain state since i was allowed to choose what i wanted. However, since my parents knew that a kid needed guidance, they decided to give us that! When i was young (about up to primary school), each parent asserted that their children should practise their respective religion. That meant that i got an equal dosage of Hindu mythology and Bible stories. In my own warped manner, i came up with a hybrid religion whereby a prayed to 'God' in general ... it seemed to work. As i grew older, i was getting less satisfied.

It did not help that my parents were experimenting too. My Dad in particular. He joined the Brahma Kumaris, an alternative sort of spiritual practise. Their practises were interesting but somehow it did not quite cater to married life and my parents had horrible rows over it. We decided my Dad was going on an odd trip but as family, we were going with him. My brother and i were taught about their concept of life and the universe (neither of us got much out of it since we were distracted by the teacher's bad breath and shrill nasal voice ... plus we kept on giggling every time she told us to look into this red bulb and imagine it was our third eye). My Dad eventually dropped it.

His journey on the spiritual path led him through many things ... while i admire my parents drive to attain Moksha (being one with the divine or if you believe in rebirth, breaking the cycle of life and death), i cannot imagine not having an ego, i.e. not existing, never being me but being a merged part of a greater force that i am apparently unaware of at present. The very fact that i have given myself an individual identity (refering to me as 'i', 'me', 'myself' etc) is extremely telling. Anyway, my Dad just laughed at my uncertain look and my piquant answer that i may decide to be an atheist or may stick to being a free thinker. He reminded me that it was important to be spiritual rather than religious. I hope that one day I may truly realise what the precise difference would be in the muddled up section of my brain devoted to religion/spirituality/God.

posted bythe-mango-peeler at 5:26 AM

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Ball of Dirt

Post by fluffy bunny » 30 Dec 2006

"..." mean snips, see links for original piece.

This one is quite positive really, and goes into the Gyan, but I include the entertaining bits.This is some guy who just turned up at Abu ...
ball of dirt wrote:Our Train arrived early (shock horror) in Abu Rd, 45 minutes from Mt. Abu. We missed our dinner on the train because it was early. Not really bothered by this, we jumped off the train after a scenic desert landscape had faded into sunset. We went out into the car park to find the bus stand. Every person we asked directions from seemed to give us misleading and conflicting information. So after walking in circles we ended up back in the car park, waiting for a bus. ...

Next stop down the mountain was the Brahma Kumaris Spiritual University, which Lisa had heard was a cult. So we went inside, and were given an impromptu tour by a man whose English was terrible, not because he couldn't speak it well, but because he thought he could and became impatient each time we asked him to repeat something. Anyway, turns out, their sect is as wacky and rooted in false logic as the Hare Krishnas. I took a picture of their tree of knowledge, which, at the top, depicted America and the USSR as cats with human heads and different colored hats sticking arrows into a fiery ball called "hell". Bizarre. I converted at once. Lisa told me about a sex cult near Pune where you have to get a AIDS test before you can enter. Once you do, they hand you red robes and its time to do anything you feel like. I think Lisa wanted me to find it strange, but I just wanted to find it!! Just kidding, I already have the address. Mom, calm down, I am joking! They said that they would check this journal and that if the last entry was near Pune and a few weeks old, they would come rescue me. ...

Spent the evening trying to upload pictures on an abyssmally slow connection. Gave up after 2 hours and went to a South Indian restaurant and had my first paper dosa, which is a long flatbread rolled into a tube. You are supposed to break it up and eat some masala potatoes with it. It was excellent. I bought a lychee ripple ice cream cone and walked back to my hotel, where, on the rooftop, I found a bunch of travellers around a fire pit. The conversation ranged from frequency of bathroom visits to cults. I sat down with three eighteen-year-old English girls who were, turns out, in town to visit the Brahma Kumaris as one's mother was an avid devotee back in England. I quickly remembered all the loud ridiculing we did over the fire and got extremely embarrassed, but they said it was okay, they knew the kind of cultish reputation it had. I quickly finished my beer at retreated to bed! My stupid mouth does it again! ...

Even though all religions provide wisdom and often help humanity, they are mixed up memories of the past. All religious teachers are considered souls who remembered who they really are at a high level, which is that they are pure peaceful souls like you and me, and spoke the truth. This truth was then degraded by the natural law of entropy which resulted in the corruption of the truth, and eventually we will see the death of the religion. They do not believe that God would ever take a body.

In short, the meditation practice itself encourages you to follow peaceful feelings, and to keep your eyes open while you explore your thoughts. Most importantly it offers all teachings as a hypothesis and encourages the student the opportunity to experience the truth of it through the meditation itself. They encourage skepticism, since it is a useful tool to becoming a master of Raja Yoga.

So that is a rough outline - remember it’s ONLY as I understand it, if you would like to read more you can visit their site. http://www.BKWSU.com/ ...

So anyway back to the story. After a brief discussion we were invited by Margaret to visit one the University itself, which is a complex separate to the peace hall. We caught the BK bus service and arrived at huge campus of elaborate and impeccably maintained gardens, with once again, sci-fi designed white building. As they were aware I was a musician they took us to meet David, an Australian brother who has a little pro tools studio there, and is also the resident artist, he is the man behind alot of the amazing art around the place. He is a peaceful guy, and he engages us warmly. During chatting a little more about recording, music and Australia, the four of us engage in what is known as traffic control.

This is 3 minutes silence every hour on the half hour. It is great to sit there with these relatively unknown people to us at this point and observe silence in a relaxed manner. Quite beautiful. We head to his dwellings for a cuppa and more of a chat. On the way we pass a small dome shaped structure, like half an egg. We walk into the red lit room, which has amazing acoustics. We stand in the middle and all the reflections come back at you. We meditate here for 5 minutes. We then head to his dwelling on the uni grounds. In the 4 sided igloo shaped mud brick structure, painted white and perfectly clean and feng shui organized, he shows us his array of instruments. He also hand feeds birds on his balcony. His electricity comes from the batteries in the shed running off solar power. He even has an oven that runs off sunlight from a mirror! The whole experience is so cool and outa this world like, and I feel great.

We also meditated along with the not quite synchronized monthly world peace meditation hour, which was great, despite people in the room farting, burping, sneezing, coughing and snorting.
http://www.ballofdirt.com/entries/3554/27112.html
http://www.ballofdirt.com/entries/5240/43771.html

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Post by fluffy bunny » 30 Dec 2006

Universal Peace Festival - Behind the Scenes of the Universal Peace Festival

Big service Bharat style. Am I the only one to remember when the Murlis said to remember Brahma Baba was to become a sinful soul?
universalpeaceforall wrote: This is a job for ... Super Dadi!

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Corporate partners ;

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Big doo-dahs for the dignatories;

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Even bigger Brahmas than last year;

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Ownership and superiority of other religions;

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Its like Leni Reifenstal number ... Germany in the 30s!

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But with funkier vimanas ...

(I warn you, I am not going to the Golden Age without there being some cooler Industrial Designers on board.)

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The 3 Stooges;

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Yup, Tomorrow Belongs to them ... a deity with little portable Shiva.

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http://universalpeaceforall.blogspot.com/

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Post by fluffy bunny » 30 Dec 2006

Train of thots... wrote: Trying to control the train of thots ... How many of us have done meditation, successfully? Now, this has nothing to do with religion! So please...please... don’t be prejudiced!

Also, please don’t ask me how to do it, because I am not in a level to teach that flawlessly to another person. But I was taught that (flawlessly) by some one, and I will never ever forget my first experience, with that. Very few people, who know that I do meditation, had asked me “show me, too”, and I just try to skip the subject. To do it on your own doesn’t need skill, but to take others too in that way and make them ‘feel’ is entirely different. And main thing was that if you failed in making others ‘feel’ it, they would lose faith in the power of meditation. And you will be called a‘fraud’.

Seven years back, one day I just took the telephone directory and looked for listings under ‘meditation’. I must be crazy or was that my destiny? I don’t know. But that single impulsive act of mine has lifted me entirely to another dimension, after 7 days.

I was never spiritual, till then. I used to go to temples, prayed hard to get all that I wished for and cried hard, when I didn’t get what I wanted. I don’t know when that desperation took me away to near craziness, that I was forced to take 7 days leave from work. And then, I wanted to heal myself.

When I rang the place, a female voice answered. She asked me to come there, anytime I wanted and I needn’t pay any fees at all. Even after I kept the phone, the voice haunted me. It was a kind of reverberating peace in the voice that drew me towards it like a magnet.

That evening when I first went to Brahmakumaris meditation center, I was clueless about anything related to meditation. There I saw the owner of the ‘reverberating’ voice for the first time. Sister Bindu. [Every member is addressed like brother or sister, there!]. Now I had 1 hr class everyday for 7 days. I asked a lot of questions. I got answers, for them. And there were a lot of beliefs of mine that were broken down. Some questions, I was asked to write it down and was asked to wait, till I got the answers from my own mind.[Once it has attained a certain level of knowledge]

The seventh day came. This was when I was going to be taught ‘mediation’. Sister Bindu was there and she just asked me to sit down, in a chair. She was supposed to say a commentary to me, and I have to make my mind follow that. She was more comfortable with English and as I was also comfortable with that, she chose that language. The next 5 minutes were the most valuable 5 minutes in my life. She was doing commentary [that’s the word, we say to describe the thought-process that eventually takes us to the complete detached level of meditation], and my mind was trying to follow whatever she was telling. I tried and then I don’t remember what happened.

After some time [I don’t know how many minutes passed], Sister Bindu asked me to get back, slowly [we just cant come back from ‘that’ level suddenly to our normal level]. And when I opened my eyes, I found that I was frozen. I couldn’t move my limbs on my own. Even though my mind would like to move my hands, my hands felt detached. I was looking at my body, as though it was a foreign object. I got scared and told Sister that I can’t move on my own. She told me that it was because my concentration was strong along with her commentary and that I will take some more minutes, to get back to normal.

Any way after some half an hr, I was okay and went back.

Now after that I started practicing it on my own, with commentary cassettes and later without cassettes. Now once you are familiar with the commentary you can ask yourself to do that. But in order to get easy concentration, meditation music is good. I practiced it, regularly till I got married. After that I could never practice it.


Now 4-5 days before, some incident provoked me to try meditation, in order to get my mind clear. With the help of music, I tried and was soon successful. And when I came back, I was both relieved and happy. Relieved that I haven’t lost my ability to meditate and happy and thankful that I can still do it.


Want to download some meditation commentary??? : click here
http://blog.360.yahoo.com/blog-SJf9rlci ... hmakumaris

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Galway

Post by fluffy bunny » 31 Dec 2006

Some Indian goes to Ireland for a holiday and has his rahki tied at the local BK center, picture of Brahma etc.

Brahma Kumaris Galway

Sister in center

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Lee Grant

Post by fluffy bunny » 04 Jan 2007

From Malaysia FH2o: Kuching Kayaking
Eye Candy and Candy for the Soul November 30th, 2005

Attended an amazing solo performance and seminar on Meditation (the art of healing) by Lee James, an Australian, and a follow-up workshop conducted by him the following morning on my birthday.

Lee James, a charismatic personality who had the audience spellbound, is a psychologist, spiritualist, actor and international speaker and counselor. Woah! The events were organized by the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University (082-256106 Email: kuching@my.BKWSU.org) who offers courses and conducted workshops for free.

The simple orange letterings against a plain dark background with flickering candle lights on the floor created a most serene and beautiful stage setting. While admiring and appreciating the efforts put in by the organizers I suddenly realized that the letterings were made from orange peels! How organically (’orangically?’) creative!

To me the workshop was a great birthday present and to top it off – I won the ‘grand prize’ that most befit the name of this blog! Thank You BK Lee James. Be Well!
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What is going on here?

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Please give a short description of your interest in joining this forum.: It has been over a year that I left the center but still there is a lot of pain in my heart...pain caused by deception. I went in looking to come into grips with my own sense of self and came out with no faith at all. The experience was so bad at times that now I am clear there is no such a god. For that I am grateful. Yet, there were other moments that I would not change for the best of my experiences. I experienced love as I had never imagined! It was a beautiful experience of forbidden love.

Baba in MySpace

Post by driedexbk » 23 Feb 2007

I was checking MySpace.com and found that Brahma Kumaris has a space there, too. Did any of you know that? I found it under groups. Luring Baba has his picture there. Check it out.

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Re: Baba in MySpace

Post by fluffy bunny » 24 Feb 2007

driedexbk wrote:I was checking MySpace.com and found that Brahma Kumaris has a space there, too. Did any of you know that? I found it under groups. Luring Baba has his picture there. Check it out.
Do you have a link. There are quite a lot of links if you do a search for the Brahma Kumaris

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driedexbk
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Please give a short description of your interest in joining this forum.: It has been over a year that I left the center but still there is a lot of pain in my heart...pain caused by deception. I went in looking to come into grips with my own sense of self and came out with no faith at all. The experience was so bad at times that now I am clear there is no such a god. For that I am grateful. Yet, there were other moments that I would not change for the best of my experiences. I experienced love as I had never imagined! It was a beautiful experience of forbidden love.

Re: Baba in MySpace

Post by driedexbk » 24 Feb 2007

Do you have a link. There are quite a lot of links if you do a search for the Brahma Kumaris
Yes ... see if this link works: BKWSU myspace.

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Post by fluffy bunny » 06 Mar 2007

How the rest of the world see us. From http://www.moxon.net/India/mt_abu.html
moxon.net wrote:Brahma Kumaris

One of the reasons for this is the Brahma Kumaris Spiritual University, the headquarters of which are in Mt Abu. Purporting to combine all the religions of the world into one spiritual philosophy, this multinational collection of ashrams is totally funded by donations (evidently very large donations) and fills the streets of Mt Abu with white-clad people who are obviously quite at ease with life. I decided to float along to the centre's museum where the basics of their mission are explained, just to see what the beatific smiles were all about.

It was a real groovy trip, man. It was, like, far out, know what I mean? Sitting alone in a theatre equipped with funky lasers and mellow soundtracks, I listened to a delightfully English accent tell me that if my life was getting me down, I could solve it all by getting into meditation. I found out that if the rat race was proving a burden, I could commune with the one true God and get into real salvation. And then I began to lose track of quite what was going on.

Perhaps the problem was that my life wasn't getting me down, and the rat race was proving nothing but a distant memory, but I still wanted to know what it was that had made these centres spring up all over the world, providing guidance to all sorts of nationalities and creeds. Unfortunately the woman's diatribe started to sink into the realm of sixties cliché, and that's when I realised that every cliché has to start somewhere, and I'd surely found a place that was responsible for some of the more embarrassing psychedelic buzz words from that era.

Meditation is cool, but it doesn't half make some people start spouting bollocks, and the Brahma Kumaris presentation was no exception. I had already met two kindly products of the university in the street who had practically begged me to drop by for a chat and to meet the only westerner currently studying there, an Australian painter called Dave; unfortunately for them, my idea of hell is something akin to being stuck in an ashram with an Australian painter called Dave, so I thanked them and managed to escape, but still the influence of Brahma Kumaris lived on in my visit to the museum.

Here's an example of what I discovered about the Meaning of Life. A big sign sits in the museum, proclaiming the following: What the buggery is that supposed to mean? If that one's a little too esoteric, try this one. On another wall in the museum is the following list of entries in God's curriculum vitae: Whoa! So God is an incorporeal point of light, after all, and that's what students like Dave get into when they hang out doing Raja Yoga in their ashrams (of which there are over 4000 in over 60 countries, incidentally). It all starts to make sense now ...

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Post by fluffy bunny » 09 Mar 2007

A personal blog by Judy Rodgers. This is interesting for its note of at least 5 Celebrations of Dadi Janki's 90th birthday. I suppose they were milking it for service purposes and a bit of personal Bhakti. I will leave it to a PBK to offer a Murli quote to say that we really should not do such things.

I do not know if she is a full BK but she is "up at 3 am meditation with the Bharatwasis" and speaks of God's birthday etc. She is at Case Western University, home of the Appreciative Inquiry/David Cooperrider connection and involved in the service vehicle Images and Voices of Hope. Example;
Tuesday, February 21, 2006

"So the season of Shiv Jayanti has arrived in India. It is God's birthday...the celebration of his entering the world...so there is lots of celebrating going on. Today was the 4th flag hoisting ceremony. The way this works is a flag is rolled up with rose petals inside and run up the pole. Then thousands of people parade to the flag pole, make speeches, sing a few songs and hoist the flag which opens up and drops rose petals on every one. They really do know how to celebrate here.....Also more parties for Dadi Janki's 90th. I think last night was the 5th I've been to and it's only February. She sits like a real trooper while they put crowns on her head, garlands around her neck and sing her praises. Not easy turning 90. Weather has gotten warmer....walks around the lake have to take place early in the morning or late afternoon....such a sacrifice.

This is the season for the "double foreigners" to come to this ashram and university at Mt. Abu. The way it is explained to us is that all of us souls are really from the Soul World so we are foreigners here on earth, and those of us who weren't born in India are "double foreigners." They are so pleased we are here. They have two lines for food "chilly" and "non chilly" -- they mean Chili (hot) and mild --I was going to try to explain to them that chilly actually means a little cold, but I think the nuances would be lost.
"
Judy Rodgers

Judy Rodgers is executive director of the Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University. She is also a consultant and communication strategist who has worked extensively with thought leaders to produce organizational transformation and to support social innovation. The emphasis in her work is on Appreciative Inquiry and the power of dialogue and narrative for individual, community-wide and system-wide change. For the past twenty years she has worked with thought leaders such as Tom Peters, Peter Senge, and Walter Cronkite, as well as with organizations and networks as various as Appreciative Inquiry Consulting, The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, a socially responsible business and Fair Trade leader in Vermont.

For over 15 years she developed and executive produced educational programming for the broadcast and corporate non-broadcast television markets. During the 1980's she worked at Twentieth Century Fox Video and at CBS/Fox Video. During her tenure with CBS/Fox she produced a number of award-winning programs, most with best selling authors. She also was a stockholder and executive vice president of Video Publishing House, Inc., where she developed many programs with management author Tom Peters, some of which aired on PBS. In the 1990's she joined New World Knowledge, a division of New World Entertainment, as executive vice president.

In 1997 she founded the Communication Architecture Group as a vehicle for a range of related work: organizational consulting, dialogue design and facilitation, management of communication projects, coaching, and editorial consulting. She was founding director for Images and Voices of Hope, an international dialogue with media, journalism and the arts co-sponsored by the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University, Case Western Reserve University, and the Visions of a Better World Foundation. Images and Voices of Hope seeks to strengthen the role of media as a constructive force in society. Since 1998 she has worked on the design and facilitation team for the Call-of-the-Time dialogues, a global dialogue series convened by the Brahma Kumaris for leaders on the field of world service. She is a founding co-owner in Appreciative Inquiry Consulting.

In 2003 she moved to the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University to help launch a World Inquiry and open a Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit.

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Post by fluffy bunny » 04 Aug 2007

Here is a classic BK interjection, from a tastily entitle article; Opinions are like arse holes by Raja Petra Kamarudin.

It has it all; subtle mention of Destruction, 5,000 years, cod history, BKs as deity gods ... utterly classic. No need to comment really.
Quo Vadis said ... Greetings Raja Petra,

Spot on! If everyone practised what you had articulated life would be a breeze. But this will not be so - till the very end, which is OK, not all five fingers are the same. Problem arises when there are attempts to chop the fingers to make them uniform.

I'd like to comment:

[....we allow the Hindu to believe in his God or Gods. ] This is where the problems for India began from Dwara Yug (Copper Age) onwards. The word Hinduism was created by the Persians because the actual name ADI SANATAN DEVI DEVTA DHARAM (Original Deity Religion) was too long and too difficult. The British reinforced that and thus the word remains to today.

There is only ONE GOD - and He is known as Parampita Paramatma Shiv (Supreme Soul Shiv). He created the Trimurti (Trinity) of Deities Brahma, Shankar, and Vishnu. It is because of Shankar's deep meditation that the Soul of Shiv immersed into him, thus Hindus who lost their deitic qualities from Copper Age mixed up the two. Still, throughout, it is known as Shiv-Shankar and not Shankar-Shiv. Shiv is a Point of Light. When His ASDDD is completely degraded i.everyy 5,000 years, He comes to bring it back to its original form, which is right now at the tail-end of Kaliyug.

The "Gods" so erroneously misunderstood by everyone are Deities - 108 in all. In the Dilwala Temple (built by the Jains) in Mount Abu, Rajasthan are the statues of the 108 ASDDD deities. Anyone who enters can feel very strong vibrations "pullling" the Soul of the person towards a particular Deity - meaning the soul belonged to that Deitic clan. Recommended not to eat non-veg before visit.

And those who mock and dispute about the Supreme Soul, inside the Kaaba which is the Shivling - which is the earthly image of the Supreme Soul should search for knowledge of the Vedic Roots of Arabia, its Vedic history before Islam came on the scene. Arabia at that time had 365 deities who were worshipped.

And the statue of Ganesa - the elephant "god" was found recently in Kuwait (after the 1991 Gulf War). Very exhaustive subject. This shall suffice.

As I have written a few times, I do comparative research on religions and history.

Thank you for giving me the space. Have a nice day and Cheers. You are one Towering Soul!

Friday, August 18, 2006 12:41:04 PM

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Post by mr green » 04 Aug 2007

I know this is off topic but you might find it amusing.

I was looking through the pictures above of the big Indian event and noticed the vehicle with the signs on. It reminded me of a service project that was being put together in India when I was there many years ago. It made me laugh even then.

They were planning to customise a number of lorries and make each one look like a particular famous Bhakti temple ... then they were going to drive to each particular Bhakti place and drive slowly through the crowds of bhagats, believing that just the sight of their favourite temple moving along would entice the bhagats closer ... Then at the back of the van there would be a small open area with sisters sitting there with leaflets in hand and ready to convert anyone ... hehehehehehe.

It was a huge project at the time, they were planning to cover all the major pilgrimage places over India ... wonder how it went?

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what happened?

Post by alladin » 04 Aug 2007

How did it go? Did they get attacked by infuriated mobs?

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Just add followers

Post by fluffy bunny » 21 Aug 2007

Just add followers

The Dallas Morning News, USA Oct. 6, 2004 The Dallas Morning News

DALLAS - (KRT) - Dadi Janki strains to hear the questions. But her dark eyes flash intensely as she explains the tenets of her faith. “God says to open your eyes,” she said through a translator. “He says each and every soul knows exactly what is sin.”

Dadi Janki (”Dadi” means “elder sister” in Hindi) is no average theologian. She’s the No. 2 leader of the Brahma Kumaris, a faith with more than 700,000 adherents worldwide. She was in Dallas last month as part of an international tour.

Brahma Kumaris (”sisters of God”) is one of more than 800 new religious movements operating in the United States. Most are New Age amalgams of many traditions. Some, like Brahma Kumaris, are obvious spinoffs from of older religions (in this case, Hinduism).

Perhaps 5 million people follow these faiths in the United States, less than 2 percent of the population. But experts say they’re more interesting and more important than their numbers suggest. “They become important because they revivify the whole tradition,” said Gordon Melton, an authority on new religious movements. So church renewal movements like Vineyard and Calvary Chapel put a charge into Christianity, he said.

And new religious movements challenge the faithful in other traditions. “They make me consider questions I never would have asked,” said the Rev. John Saliba, a Jesuit priest and professor at the University of Detroit Mercy. They’re spiritual “experiments” that can be studied to figure out how religion works. Sociologists track these movements the way genetic biologists focus on fruit flies. And once in a while, they make the big time.

Academics say that only five religious traditions are now in at least 200 nations. Four were born in the last 175 years: Baha’i, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists. (The fifth on the list is Roman Catholicism.)

BABA HAD VISIONS OF GOD

She was a young woman in what is now Pakistan when she realized she had been called to a new faith. “When I first met Baba, I felt that all the hopes and desires of my life were fulfilled - instantly!” Dadi Janki said, snapping her fingers. Her audience laughed with delight. About 75 strong, they filled the Dallas-area “meditation center” of the Brahma Kumaris a couple of weeks ago.

They listened to one of their faith’s most important leaders explain how she was struck by the kind of spiritual thunderbolt that hit Saul on the road to becoming Paul, or Siddhartha under the Bodhi tree as he grew into being the Buddha. That moment for Dadi Janki came in the late 1930s. “Baba” was originally a wealthy Hindu grain merchant and diamond trader named Lekh Raj. When he turned 60, visions told him that he was channeling the spirit of God, and that he’d been chosen to return truth to an ignorant world.

He adopted new names, eventually settling on Brahma Baba - “Father God.” In 1937, he formally founded the Brahma Kumaris, “sisters of God.” (Among Baba’s revelations was the notion that women deserved more control of religious institutions. So he put women in charge.)

Baba Brahma’s tale of himself as a leader chosen by God follows a pattern in many longstanding religions and in many of the hundreds of new religious movements in the world today. More than 800 of these movements have a foothold in the United States. Most are New Age, with a vague sense of spirituality that appeals to Western seekers.

Brahma Kumaris, on the other hand, have a specific set of core beliefs similar to some Hindu traditions. In America and elsewhere, most “students,” as they call their followers, are members of Indio-Pakistani families. Considering that most new religions die with their founders, the Brahma Kumaris (who often refer to themselves as “BK”) count as unusually successful.

When Baba died in 1969, he had tens of thousands of followers, mostly in India. Today, the organization claims more than 700,000 students, men and women, in 90 nations. As with any religion, numbers of true adherents are hard to confirm, and not all of those who call themselves Brahma Kumaris follow all of the standards of the faith, including strict celibacy and ovo-vegetarianism.

Their 5,000 meditation centers include four in Texas. The Dallas-area center is in a house in Irving, across the street from a car wash and around the corner from an auto insurance office. Like the most private of clubs, there’s no sign outside. Part of the inside has been converted into a peaceful, art-filled sanctuary.

That was where Dadi Janki sat one recent morning offering rambling recollections of Baba and patiently, if not always straightforwardly, responding to a reporter’s questions. The night before, she spoke to a crowd twice as large at the downtown Dallas public library. That session consisted mostly of aphorisms: “Even in your dreams and in your thoughts, everyone should benefit.” “You are the child of the remover of unhappiness and the bestower of life.”

Dadi’s almost palpable aura of energy belies her age. Before arriving in Dallas, she’d been in New York. In the next few days, she’d see Mexico and California as part of a regular travel schedule that makes the younger Pope John Paul II seem like a homebody.

In the 1970s, she became coordinator for activities outside India. She’s now second in the BK hierarchy only to Dadi Prakashmani, one of the original eight Baba put in charge in 1937. Dadi Janki had no trouble handling more than an hour of questions passed through translators. “Baba has told us many years ago that journalists would come here and understand the material and disseminate it to the rest of the world,” she said.

Some of the material is not easy for a newcomer. Dadi and other leaders call it “subtle.” To others, “contradictory” may seem more apt. For instance: Baba taught that humanity is stuck on an unchanging wheel of the ages. Every 5,000 years, the cycle repeats. Exactly as before. Like a movie playing over and over. Sister Denise, Dadi Janki’s British-born translator, said we would all be in the same room 5,000 years hence. And the reporter would be wearing the same yellow tie.

On the other hand, the Brahma Kumaris talk about self-improvement. They run hospitals, feed the poor and emphasize day-to-day hospitality. And they teach that meditation allows God to burn away the bad karma that creates suffering. But if we are unalterably fated to repeat, age after countless age, what’s the point of trying to improve?

It’s subtle, Dadi explained. A soul who is aware of his or her role in the unchanging human drama is free from sorrow. “Once you get the point you will be very intoxicated,” she said. And, really, is this any harder to follow than a five-point Calvinist explaining the point of evangelizing if God predestined all actions before the creation of the world? Or any pastor, rabbi or imam explaining what free will means if God already knows exactly what’s going to happen?

Every religion has aspects of faith that seem reasonable to believers and irrational to nonbelievers. Since people are more likely to find the tradition they grew up with reasonable, that limits the number willing to explore. Still, in America, between 3 million and 5 million people are counted as serious followers of new religious movements.

Drawn by the promise of self-improvement through meditation, a steady trickle of American seekers visit Sister Ranjan, the coordinator of the Irving Brahma Kumari center. Regina Parker is a registered nurse who discovered the movement in 2001. Raised Baptist back in Virginia, she’d been seeking a more satisfying spiritual path for a while when she discovered the BK center in Austin. Since then, she’s visited the headquarters in India and has become a regular at the Irving center. “I just know the truth as I know it,” she said. “It all makes sense.”

But not everyone who finds the path stays with it. The philosophy of rigid predestination, a steady pressure to accept more of the core teachings, and the suggestion that followers must dramatically alter their lives eventually discourage casual visitors.

Kathryn Karpf may be edging that way. She was at Dadi’s morning talk. She had been drawn to BK a few months earlier, when a fellow Yoga student told her about the free meditation training. Karpf said she’d been going through a rough patch and was up for any training that would bring her some peace of mind. She’d been raised Jewish but has had little contact with that tradition for a while, she said. The meditation was fine. The other elements of BK teachings have become increasingly less so, she said.

“The more I listen to them I hear exclusion, that `we are the chosen ones,’” she said. “That bothers me.” The Brahma Kumaris do teach that Baba’s followers are chosen for special roles. But Dadi Janki was careful not to publicly criticize other religions during her visit. “I may go a lot less frequently than I have been,” Karpf said. “I don’t do well when someone tries to push me in a little box and make me do something.”

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