A personal assessment of child protection in BKWSU, documentation of proven risk, abuse disclosure and the ongoing campaign for child protection provision.
June 2004 [v 4d 180604]
By eromain firstname.lastname@example.org
A Personal Assessment of Child Protection in Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual ‘University’ (Raja Yoga)
1 The Purpose of this Report
2 About the Author
3 Summary of Events
- Disclosure - February 1999
Post Disclosure February 1999 –April 2004
5 Raja Yoga Culture for the Child
The Impossibility of Selflessness
Methods of Persuasion
Knowledge ‘instead’ of Faith
The Raja Yoga Caste System
Risks Inherent in the Child’s Experience of Raja Yoga
- Appropriateness of BKWSU UK Child Protection Policy Document
Monitoring and Evaluation
The Credibility and Credentials of Raja Yoga’s Senior Management In Respect of Child Protection Initiatives
- Full documentation of abuse disclosure, campaign for child protection provision and current UK and India policy documents.
- For original abuse disclosure see Appendix F.
- For campaign for child protection see Appendices A,B and C.
- For current UK and India policy documents see appendices D and E.
- A Correspondence with International Co-ordinating Office, London
- B Correspondence with Regional Offices
- C Mass Mailings to Raja Yoga Centres around the World
- D BKWSU Child Protection Policy UK
- E BKWSU Child Protection Policy India
- F Disclosing letter from Child X’s brother.
- G My Original Reply to Child X’s brother
1 The Purpose of this Report
This report is a personal assessment of the current level of child protection and child welfare practices in the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University (BKWSU) otherwise referred to herein as Raja Yoga.
It is intended to inform children, parents, other practising members of Raja Yoga (herein frequently referred to as BKs or Raja Yogis) as well as the international BK leadership. To the extent that is necessary it is hoped that it will warn the BK community of those areas where its’ current practice in its’ treatment of children is deficient.
Outside of the practising Raja Yoga community are other parties to whom these matters are in one way or another relevant. Firstly, parents and children who are not yet associated with Raja Yoga who are entitled to make informed decisions about such important matters.
Beyond these are local government authorities and agencies, members of parliament, social workers, police, news media, educators, and numerous special interests groups which work on behalf of society as a whole to watch over our children to ensure that they are being cared for in ways that are consistent with the agreed principles of modern democratic countries.
It is my belief that Raja Yoga has a duty to prepare its children not just for life as Raja Yogis but also for life in the wider world –and that too not necessarily as Raja Yogis. This necessitates the balancing of very different worldviews and values, namely those of Raja Yoga on the one hand and, to the extent that there is consensus, those of the societies in which Raja Yoga children are growing up.
I would like to stress that in discussing any Raja Yoga beliefs or practices I do not wish to judge them favourably or otherwise in religious terms, but to assess their effect as part of the culture in which Raja Yoga children have to grow up. Hence the supposed metaphysical truth or falsity of Raja Yoga beliefs is outside the terms of reference of this report, but the effects of such beliefs upon the minds and lives of children in terms of how they view themselves, their parents, their friends, other Raja Yogis etc is not.
2 About the Author
I was first introduced to Raja Yoga in 1975 at the London Centre in Kilburn, north-west London when I was 14 years old. I was extremely impressed with it from the very first day. I accompanied my parents on a weekly basis and practised on my own at home. And when my parents stopped attending I took two buses to make the seven mile journey through London to get to the centre.
In 1977 I moved to Trinidad and here the centre was more easily accessible. Because of my relatively advanced experience I soon began teaching. By the age of 16 I was teaching introductory courses and occasionally taking whole classes of adult practising and committed Raja Yogis. This was on top of daily attendance at the centre for my own spiritual study.
In 1979 on the advice of the BK senior teachers in London I did not take up the University place to study medicine I had been offered and instead stayed in London to continue my Raja Yoga study and training. I worked in casual jobs during the day and attended the centre every morning and every evening.
For the next ten years Raja Yoga was my life. I continued my daily practice and went to India without fail every year. I taught Raja Yoga to countless individuals in numerous countries. I recorded albums, spoke on television and radio, wrote and edited books, gave numerous lectures, represented the organisation in numerous conferences in many different fields. I helped to train many centre teachers around the world and worked on a daily basis in the international centre in London. I knew the senior teachers in a way it is no longer possible and I watched as the movement went from being no more than 3 rooms in a London flat to a world wide presence by 1989 the year I left.
Of most relevance perhaps to this report I became both a qualified primary teacher during the mid-eighties and also worked as one of the teachers looking after the growing class of Raja Yoga children. I helped Raja Yoga plan and orchestrate large scale international projects that were implemented with the UN’s blessing and nominal sponsorship in over eighty countries. An education pack, which I wrote with two other teachers who were practising Raja Yogis, was translated into over twenty languages and distributed in over thirty countries. In some countries it was sent to every single school. The school at which I worked helped in the piloting and became only the sixth school in the world to be awarded UN Peace Messenger Status.
With hindsight I would say that I was one of a handful of Raja Yoga experts on Children. And given that the Organisation asked me to present its flagship program of the time to the UN in Vienna it would appear that the Raja Yoga leadership viewed me as such. And in the outside world as a published author and one of the youngest advisory teachers in UK I was perhaps the only practising Raja Yogis who had some degree of expertise in both Raja Yoga with children but also mainstream education theory and best practice.
In spite of all this the Raja Yoga leadership did not tell me of certain events in the mid-eighties which have led indirectly and nearly twenty years later to the writing of this report and the beginnings of serious considerations of such matters on the part of BKWSU Raja Yoga.
I left Raja Yoga in 1989 at the age of 28, having spent over half of my life within it. Since leaving I have remained on amicable terms with many members and ex members and with the BK leadership.
For the purposes of this report I should state that I do not any longer consider myself a Raja Yogi – I no longer follow its practices nor subscribe to its central beliefs. At the same time I do not consider myself to be ‘anti’-Raja Yoga’ and have never done anything that could be considered such.
3 Summary of Events
Disclosure - February 1999
In February 1999 a young man who had become a member of the London Raja Yogis as a young child, when his mother joined in the late 1970s, wrote to many current and ex-Raja Yogis. It was several thousand words long and in it he explained his feelings about growing up in Raja Yoga and how he looked upon it all now that he had decided to sever all ties with the organisation and the accompanying culture and lifestyle. With his permission his letter is reproduced in full in Appendix F
His letter mentioned the child sexual abuse of his sister some twenty years earlier by Raja Yogis in India. From hereon she is designated as Child X.
I met with both him and his sister and among the many issues we discussed they told me in some detail about the incidents of sexual abuse. As a child under 10 years whilst staying with her mother in a Raja Yoga Centre she suffered a serious sexual assault by an adult Raja Yogi living and working at that centre. When she went on to Madhuban Mount Abu, the world-wide home of Raja Yoga she suffered another sexual assault by a different and unconnected assailant. Not one assault, but two in the space of as many weeks –by perpetrators living and working in Raja Yoga’s two most important centres in India.
I immediately wrote to the senior Raja Yogis in London and the correspondence regarding these events and their fallout has continued to this day and is reproduced in Appendix A.
Post Disclosure February 1999 –April 2004
The letter I had received Child X’s brother referred to many disturbing aspects of his Raja Yoga childhood. The components of his former lifestyle to which he had referred in his letter I knew from personal experience to be damaging, and I had no hesitation either as a former child Raja Yogi or a professional teacher in concluding that his experiences amounted to abuse.
But his abuse, compared say to sexual abuse, was systemic rather than consisting of discrete traumatic events. Much of it could be characterised by them as just an unintended by-product of over zealousness. His sister’s sexual abuse however was black and white and could less easily be explained away. And what seemed equally black and white was that the events had, as both sister and brother now claimed, simply been covered up. As one of the most experienced professional teachers in the Raja Yoga hierarchy both in London and indeed the world at the time of these assaults I could have told the Seniors how such events should be handled. It was my educated guess now, that if they had not consulted me they had consulted no one.
On 24th February I wrote to Dadi Janki, (the World-wide Co-Administrative Head of BKWSU and Founder of the Janki Foundation) and to Sr. BK Jayanti, Director of the London Raja Yoga Centre. These were key people whose responsibility it was to ensure the well being of all Raja Yogis travelling from London. Dadi Janki was based in London and in charge of all international centres now and at the time of the assaults. Sr. Jayanti as the Director of the centre from which Child X was travelling would or should have been informed during the immediate aftermath. Both should have ascertained how it was allowed to happen and should know what the follow up was.
They are both close colleagues of Dadi Prakashmani, (World-wide Administrative Head of BKWSU and head of Mt Abu) and Dadi Gulzar (head of all centres in Delhi). One assault occurred in Dadi Prakashmani’s jurisdiction while the other occurred in Dadi Kulzar’s. My letters and their responses are reproduced in Appendix A.
Following my letter of 24th February 1999 I wrote again on 10th April, 30th April and 9th June 1999. Each time I received what I considered to be mere sentiments and vague platitudes rather than solid information. On 25th June 1999 they indicated they were planning to formalise some procedures for protection and care of children. This small step took six months since Child X’s brother had broken the near twenty year silence around these events.
In the interim those in charge of the Institution made no apology nor indicated any acceptance of responsibility for what happened, nor did they feel the need to explain the decades of inactivity. They offered neither external counselling nor any compensation. They called in the help of no outside agencies who might help them manage the pain they had undoubtedly caused nor rectify what were clearly inadequate child protection policies.
They did not cease, or even pause in bringing children to the same centres where the abuse had taken place nor did they brief parents or teachers around the world. The many practising Raja Yogis who had not heard about the initial disclosing letter knew nothing and the many who had – for he had sent out over fifty copies, did nothing.
I wrote to them again on 9th August 2000 reminding them of their promise to keep me informed. I heard nothing and so wrote again on 19th September 2000. I followed this up with a telephone call something I was loath to do, as it provided no record. On 28th October 2000 I was delighted to see the BKWSU logo on a letter to me. I thought that it might be their child protection policy. It was very late but at least they were finally getting on with it. The letter contained nothing of substance.
I waited and waited and eventually wrote again on 30th April 2001. It was not until 27th January 2002 after more delaying and obfuscating correspondence on their part that I received a child protection policy document for UK Raja Yoga Centres. It had taken 3 years of harassment by me to get them to write this, but they claimed in a letter of 5th December 2001 that some of the delay had been because of consultation with ‘educational specialists’ and with ‘social services’. If any of this was even slightly true then at least it would be a reasonable policy.
In chapter 6 I have recorded my opinions, both as an ex-Raja Yogi and as a teacher, of this child protection policy.
My opinions of the policy notwithstanding I immediately turned my attention to ensuring that it was actually implemented and not just in UK but around the world, wherever there were Raja Yoga children and particularly in India where the original abuses took place.
One might ask why did I not seek first of all to get the Raja Yogis to improve the policy they had just written before getting it instituted around the world? The reasons for this are several.
Firstly to widen the number of people involved in the process. Raja Yogis around the world are frequently professionals much more used to implementing professional policies than the Raja Yoga elite of London who have never had a job outside of Raja Yoga. The input of these professionals on the defects of the policy might carry much more weight coming from them rather than me – an ex (i.e. failed) Raja Yogi.
Secondly a perfect child protection policy is useless sitting on a shelf. It might easily take another 3 years to get them to improve the first one, in the meantime nothing would be happening around the world. Getting them to implement the first draft would at least begin the process of institutional development around the world however imperfect the guidelines.
Thirdly Raja Yoga is essentially an Indian Religion. Perhaps less than 2 percent of its members live outside, and so the majority of children in it are also in India. The original incidents of child abuse which prompted this report occurred in India and no doubt most of the others of which I am unaware are also overwhelmingly likely to occur there. The original events were so appallingly handled – one of the perpetrators was caught and simply let go; which begs the question how many children has he since abused? He was not even handed over to the police. No attempt was made to find out which other children he had abused. In these circumstances it did not make sense to me to spend another few years quibbling with London Raja Yoga about the defects of its child protection policy instead of getting them to implement something, anything at the scene literally of the original crimes.
Fourthly implementation is what a policy is all about. Without implementation you have no policy. A policy is not what is on paper it is what people do. It has been my aim that the institution protect its children and in order to do this it needs to work our how it is going to do it. To not check that it is actually doing what it says it will, when it has given - what I think the correspondence shows - such clear indications that it is not yet truly committed to child protection nor indeed that it can be relied to do what it says it will would be to make me completely complicit in a general milieu of neglect and recklessness. The implementation of its UK policy or equivalents around the world would constitute some kind of progress. The implementation in UK alone would in my opinion be little more than useless.
And fifthly implementation or failure thereof would or should dictate moral and legal culpability on the part of the Institution. I was genuinely worried that in forcing BKWSU to get child protection policies I might be providing it with a false defence if it got sued by victims of abuse. If I did not force them to prove they were implementing their policies there would be no evidence of negligence if they did not. I did not doubt that the original motivation for the production of the UK policy, was as a protection against adverse publicity and as a legal tool in the case of more unfortunate freak events – as Raja Yoga would view them. In Raja Yoga eyes their beliefs, practices and sheer religious power constitute much better tools for the protection of their children than the blunt crude instruments cooked up by the impure non-Raja Yoga world as they would view them.
I will deal more with these cultural and ideological perspectives upon child protection in chapter 5. Suffice it to say here that in my opinion the only way to get child protection policies implemented world wide was the same way I had got London to write its’ policy and that is through the use of implied and explicit threats. That is, by writing to them and building an incriminating bank of correspondence and by dropping ever more unsubtle threats as to the potential public relations damage this might all cause.
So in January 2002 upon receipt of the UK policy I made the strategic decision to accept its imperfections for the time being and to concentrate upon getting BKWSU world wide to follow London’s lead and formalise child protection policies.
Via letters and particularly telephone calls to various third parties I tried to make it clear to the London leadership throughout 2002 that if I gave up talking to them I would talk to other agencies about what I considered to be inadequate progress. But having written a UK policy London apparently decided they could safely ignore me and so the communications dried up again.
I kept pressing for evidence that implementation of child protection policies world wide was taking place and received only some very silly delaying tactics by the so-called UK Children’s Officer.
So at this point I decided to let Raja Yoga teachers around the world know what the leadership in London was doing on their behalf. I emailed the mass mailing reproduced in Appendix C to all the centre emails listed there. Up until this point any child protection initiatives in the BKWSU had been done in London only and in the utmost secrecy. It was possible in my opinion that some Regional Office heads might have been consulted, but that the ordinary teachers running their centres in their respective countries would certainly know nothing of the child abuse incidents, the subsequent cover up and my subsequent campaign for proper procedures.
It is part of Raja Yoga culture that accountability goes one way, Seniors do not share their issues with the lower ranks nor do they disclose their problems or failures. In the higher echelons of London and India to implement child protection policies copied from those devised by non-Raja Yogis in the impure outside world is to admit that there are other sources of instruction in the running of the institution than purely Raja Yoga sources – namely God and the Seniors. And here too on one of Raja Yoga’s most sacred subjects – sexual purity.
To risk the exposure before their peers the individual failings of the various senior Raja Yogis in London, Delhi and Mount Abu, and to expose to its centre teachers the collective institutional failings was not taken lightly. But it was precisely these same people who were dragging their feet and taking years to do what should take weeks to protect the children they consider themselves to have a God-given responsibility to protect.
It is a classic symptom of situations where individual instances of abuse can become systemic and institutionalised that those in authority sacrifice victim protection for the protection of the good reputation of the organisation. Only by proving to the Raja Yoga hierarchy that their institution would be more damaged by inaction than action could they be persuaded that child protection was in their interests. Henceforth even if the Raja Yoga hierarchy remained resolute in its determination never to learn anything from an ex-Raja Yogi like me hopefully it would learn from its world wide teachers many of whom were by now no doubt wondering why an institution that deals with the public and throughout the corridors of the UN proclaims itself an expert in ethics, social policy and education had not established such guidelines many years ago.
Clearly this action on my part conveyed to the London Raja Yoga leadership that they still had to manage me or risk further disclosures. Hence on 26th November 2002 I received information that the regional offices around the world had been instructed to implement equivalent child protection policies in their respective regions around the world. This had supposedly occurred 9 months before I found out about it, but when I checked with the regional offices not a single one could confirm if had itself a child protection policy let alone the countries under its’ authority. The Regional Offices are run by the most senior Raja Yogis on each of the World’s continents. If they were doing nothing, nothing was happening.
Meanwhile, I was continuing to try to convey to London in practical terms what accountability actually feels like in the real world and that whether they like it or not they are accountable to me in the same way that all members of civilised society are accountable to each other.
Gradually through spring 2003 I received assurances from individual Raja Yogis that the hierarchy and the centres around the world were ‘starting to get it’ and I started to receive from London lists of countries which now either had policies or were in the process of writing such. Whilst this was welcome news it was always tempered by misgivings caused by London’s tendency to describe the slow progress as if it was a good thing. Why London did not order all centres world wide to immediately adopt its own policy (which itself took an inordinate amount of time to produce) whilst local countries then adjusted it as they so desired is beyond me. By this point London at least should have known how long it takes to produce a child protection policy, theirs after all is only 6 pages long.
Raja Yoga is a highly centralised organisation. Local centres are trained to do whatever India or London tells them to do. If London had instructed all Raja Yoga Centres world wide to adopt the London Child Protection Policy they would have done so within the week.
The unfortunate truth is that lacklustre and ambiguous management from London and India sent out to the local centres the mistaken idea that they had to re-invent the wheel.
But this was comparatively speaking a side issue compared to the glaring omission in the list of countries who –big deal –have ‘written’ their child protection polices. There was no mention of India. Probably ninety eight percent of all Raja Yogis live in India. If Raja Yoga has still not instituted child protection policies in India then it simply doesn’t believe in them.
On 9th June 2003 after my repeated questioning about India London replied that ‘discussions are still continuing’ and ‘we understand that child protection policies are in place and being followed and will inform you as soon as the formal policy encapsulating these is completed’. Decades after the original events and over 4 years since the disclosure by Child X’s brother the children in India whether of local origin or visiting from centres overseas could not sensibly be considered to be protected by a serious child protection policy. And London in full knowledge of this continued to simultaneously instruct tiny outposts of its empire some with no children attending its centres to write child protection policies while happily allowing all world wide Raja Yoga children to visit India which had not even bothered to formulate a policy. This is the same administration in London which had been persuading me for years it now took Child Protection seriously and sent lists of countries hoping to smokescreen the absence of India from that same list.
On 19th December 2003 having still received no confirmation of an Indian plan I emailed as many centres around the world as I could find to remind all of those planning to take children to India that they must if they adhered to child protection policies check that the equivalent was in place in India. I also invited them to send me a copy of such. Not one did. The text of my message and the list of centre emails used are in Appendix C. It should be noted that not a single centre replied. Over two hundred were contacted and not one replied.
The silence was deafening and is an example of how well co-ordinated the Raja Yoga organisation actually is. It is unfortunate that such co ordination which could be deployed to control communication flow with an outsider like me but not deployed in the speedy implementation of child protection policies. Here suddenly every centre was a law unto itself. In her letter of 23rd December 2002 Sr. BK Jayanti writes ‘The nature of the Brahma Kumaris modus operandi world wide has not been one of detailed control and monitoring’. This is nonsense. Perhaps she would suggest that the uniform response to my email amongst over two hundred centres must therefore have been a coincidence.
According to Sr. BK Jayanti in her letter of 26th November 2002 BKWSU India was instructing regional offices as far back as February 2001 in the implementation of child protection policies and yet India at the end of 2003 had no such plan of its own. As a member for over half my life of this organisation I will in chapter 5 of this report comment on this kind of hypocrisy and this tendency when it suits to withhold or distort the truth not only to the non Raja Yogi general public but also to its own membership.
But at this point I do not wish to understand it as a part of a particular religious subculture but rather to judge it in terms of more universal principles. It is institutional and systematic and pre-meditated dishonesty. It strongly suggests that Raja Yoga India cannot yet be relied on to act ethically in matters of child protection. Whatever efforts the well-meaning centre teachers around the world might make towards protecting their charges would be rendered useless by the cynical refusal of India to do what it has required everyone else to.
ON 17th January 2004 I finally received from London a BKWSU India policy. It was written some two years after the UK policy and about three years after India instructed the Regional Offices to start writing their policies. If ever the organisation sees fit to inquire formally into the management of these matters this incredible delay and reversal of the proper order of events needs to be explained.
The India policy is an edited version of the UK policy produced two years earlier. Clearly no serious local consultation took place, either with Raja Yogis or child experts in India, as it is hardly plausible that between them they would come up with not a single point not present in the UK document.
Nevertheless by January 2004 I could at least try to take some satisfaction in the idea that many if not most child Raja Yogis were now under some form of increased protection. In reality I found that my knowledge of the way in which this progress has supposedly been made was such as to render it seriously lacking in credibility. In chapter 6 I directly address this.
In concluding this summary of my correspondence with BKWSU I regret to note that the organisation has failed to persuade me that it can be trusted. I believe that the correspondence as repeated in Appendix A of this report demonstrates repeated incidences of outright dishonesty by the most senior Raja Yogis in the world and their representatives. A detailed study of this record shows case after case of distortions, omissions, misrepresentations, obfuscations, dissemblings, minimisations and outright falsehoods and I do not believe that Raja Yoga will justifiably be able to claim to be safe for children as long as those guilty of such communications are not required to account for their behaviour.
4 How many Raja Yoga Centres have Child Protection Policies
The existence of a policy document does not itself prove anything in respect of actual child safety or risk levels but it is at least a step in the right direction. I have seen a UK and an Indian Child Protection Policy and these are reproduced in Appendices D and E. The Indian policy is merely a slightly edited version of the UK. This is not a criticism of it per se but it does as I have already noted leave unexplained the substantial gap in production dates when by any sensible reckoning India was more urgently in need of procedural reform.
Unfortunately none of the many Raja Yoga centres worldwide except for London appear to have seen the BKWSU India plan. Even the centres in India that I contacted failed to verify its existence. It is possible that they have been instructed not to communicate with me but why not at least confirm they have a child protection policy? How could refusing to verify this be in their interests? It is equally possible that the India plan which was sent to me by the same person in London and who has now a substantial interest in persuading me that there is an Indian plan was cooked up by somebody in London to try to shut me up once and for all. But here too I am speculating. The simple truth is that I do not know if centres in India have a policy document. But this I would argue is not a problem for me, so much as a problem for Raja Yoga.
Firstly as a procedural point if one emails or writes to a particular centre asking if they have a child protection policy and they refuse to answer one is correct to treat with skepticism any third party that asserts they have. So London’s assertions would in themselves be inadequate even if they did not come from a source tainted by prior unreliability and also one compromised by proximity to the very serious allegations of negligence hanging around this whole matter.
It is also very strange and very improper that the appointed spokesperson for the institution in these matters is someone who was Child X’s centre teacher and who was therefore one of the people responsible for sending her unsuspectingly into danger. This person could also appear to have been part of those highly senior teachers who subsequently knew about the cases of abuse and failed to institute adequate procedures. It is highly improper that the BKWSU compromise this individual further by asking her to conduct either the unraveling or conversely the covering up of these events. And I must stress that this person could also be innocent of the possible failings I have just raised.
And what of my endeavours? Can I sensibly be expected to rely on the utterings of people I suspect to have been involved? By the very nature of those events which are not in dispute I must treat with suspicion pronouncements about unverified events when such pronouncements may actually be true. And given that the ultimate matter in hand is the safety of children it would be negligent and reckless on my part if knowing what I know I were to give anyone the benefit of the doubt. Child protection must not work like that. And any professional working with children accepts that they must be prepared to provide reasonable evidence to back up their assertions. London has not learnt this nor have their satellite centres around the world and nor unfortunately has India.
On the issue of centres’ refusal to verify the existence of a policy let us be clear: There is no such thing as a secret child protection policy. There is no such thing as a child protection policy without a clearly understood principle of accountability. Any centre in the world which is not prepared to admit to possessing a child protection policy and to make copies of that policy available to members of the public should not be allowed near children. Any organisation that has failed to teach this principle to its officials and has failed to ensure that they are complying with it does not understand child protection. And any organisation that does not understand child protection is a danger to children.
So there are various centres including those in India which according to unreliable and compromised sources in London have child protection policy documents. If they do then I am pleased because that is arguably better than nothing. But the fact that they have all decided to make a secret of it suggests that Raja Yoga’s journey towards being a place people should happily send their children to is far from over. The centres which London alleges have policies in place are Holland, UK and India.
Raja Yoga centres in the following countries have allegedly stated that they are in the course of developing a written policy but London is awaiting their documents: Australia, Canada, Colombia, Israel, Kenya, New Zealand, South Africa, Switzerland, Vietnam. None would confirm such when requested. BK Centres in the following countries are according to London ‘obtaining further information and researching the situation prior to formalizing a comprehensive written policy as required according to their circumstances’: Barbados, Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, Hungary, Iceland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Guyana, Malaysia, Netherlands Antilles, Poland, Russia & other CIS, South Korea, Surinam, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, USA Mauritius, Vietnam and Spain.
So, three countries currently claim adherence to a proper policy and some thirty-three others allegedly say they are preparing to do so but declined when asked to verify such. All the other countries of the World have as far as I can ascertain made no child protection provision.
Even without raising questions about the suitability of such documents or the quality of their implementation this is a frighteningly poor response to such a serious issue.
5 Raja Yoga Culture for the Child
To understand truly the risks facing children one must understand the culture in which the children live. Certainly there are universal risks – dangers or experiences whether physical or psychological which we would abhor whatever culture we came from. But even in the case of cross cultural discussions where we agree on what we mean by abuse we must look to cultural context to understand how the child in question will interpret the abuse and either ameliorate its effect or compound it. An abusive action in one culture is different in terms of its meaning upon the child of a different culture who has suffered the same external action. If you do not understand the culture you have no hope of understanding a significant number of the ways in which the child will continue to re suffer the effects of the initial action. Some abuse is physical but all abuse is psychological.
So a policy which seeks to protect children from abuse and to help suspected victims of such must attend to the context in which it is to operate.
I wish therefore to explain some elements of Raja Yoga beliefs, lifestyle, practices and other elements of its culture which have or might be reasonably expected to impact in particular ways upon children and which are relevant to the question of child abuse.
I wish to stress here that I do not wish to insult or disparage the religious beliefs of the Brahma Kumaris movement. Nor do I wish to distort, misrepresent or take out of context the same. My concern here is not the truth of them nor is it their relation to my personal beliefs. My concern is what a child might do with them. Even if they are true they are open to misuse. Even if they are skilfully used as part of a sophisticated ideology by suitably experienced and educated adults they are sharp tools which can be misapplied by children. Apart from simply misinterpreting them children by virtue of being at a different stage in life are susceptible to influence in ways adults frequently mis-read or plain miss.
For example category confusions – where the child takes an expediency to be a universal moral principle, or for example confuses subjective experience for objective fact, or mistakes the modal posture of a speaker – mistaking aspirational poetic talk for factual prediction, interpretation for primary source, warning for curse etc etc. These are potentially toxic energies when mixed with religious concepts. Obviously I cannot here produce a comprehensive account of all the damaging ways in which children might misuse beliefs but I would stress it is the responsibility of those who wish to teach to equip themselves with such information. What I will do briefly here though, is detail some Raja Yoga beliefs which present themselves readily for such misuse. I contend that child welfare as a Raja Yoga issue must address them.
I list below some beliefs which whether accurate or mistaken interpretations of Raja Yoga can be used very differently by a child from that intended by the teaching adult. These are in no particular order ;
- My centre teacher is God’s representative.
- God takes upon himself the bad karma of Raja Yogi failings.
- My senior teachers talk to God and are never wrong.
- All anger is absolutely wrong.
- All human love or attachment is absolutely wrong.
- There is no valid or good reason to leave Raja Yoga.
- To leave Raja Yoga is to curse oneself forever.
- The body is only a vehicle.
- The world is about to be destroyed in a nuclear holocaust.
- I should love my Raja Yoga family more than my original family.
- I should not follow the instructions of non-Raja Yogis.
- The cycle of history repeats identically.
- My life as a Raja Yogi dictates all of my future lives.
- Past karma dictates what happens to me.
- All human and natural history is within a 2500 year time span.
- My mistakes as a Raja Yogi are repeated ad infinitum in future cycles.
- All sex is absolutely wrong.
- My parents were only meant to look after me until I found Raja Yoga.
- The brain is merely part of the body, it is the soul that thinks.
- It is the destiny of me as a Raja Yogi to rule the world.
- Raja Yoga is the one true religion.
- Only Raja Yogis will go to heaven, the rest will only have limited happiness in what is for Raja Yogis hell.
- India is the true cultural home of the world and of my true identity.
- Only God as revealed through Raja Yoga teaches true knowledge.
- All science is wrong.
In addition to such beliefs there are elements of the Raja Yoga lifestyle that we can reasonably expect to effect children differently to adults. A mature adult who reaches a certain point in their life might well wish to restrict the influences upon himself in order to explore as deeply as he can his spiritual nature. But even where children freely choose the full Raja Yoga lifestyle rather than having it thrust upon them by their parents, or parent, it is important to at least raise the question as to whether this is the best thing for them at their time of life.
It is important here to stress that in practice there are many shades of intensity with which different people take on the daily principles of Raja Yoga, but it is important to also acknowledge that the more vigorous applicants are considered better than those who keep one foot in the outside world. Raja Yoga creates very close ties between members and peer pressure can be extreme.
Raja Yoga teaching certainly projects an ideal and the Seniors and centre teachers try and indeed usually succeed in exemplifying these principles. So it not surprising that the young seek to emulate those that they admire. But living the life of a monk when you are 60 is very different than when you are 16. And such a life includes the following :
- No friends outside of Raja Yoga.
- No cinema, TV, radio, novels or magazines.
- Indian dress rather than local.
- No food cooked by non-Raja Yogis (including ones own parents)
- No socialising with the opposite sex.
- No romance or sexual experimentation whatsoever.
- No socialising with ‘bad’ Raja Yogis.
- Complete shower and change of clothes after bowel movement.
- Early morning meditation at 4 am followed by morning class at 6.30am
- Cultural milieu
Raja Yogis are superior to all others and that superiority gives both special privileges and also special responsibilities. The privileges are impressive –direct contact with God and their own private Heaven to name just two. They have at least twice as many years to live out all their incarnations as even the best of the other religions.
Raja Yogis get five thousand years whereas most others get less than a hundred years. But they have special responsibilities. They must through their meditation make themselves literally perfect in order to trigger the destruction of this impure world and the creation of their new heavenly one. They only get one chance to do this and if they manage to mess it up by becoming bad Raja Yogis or even worse they actually leave they have blown all hope for eternity of ever making it back into the true elite.
Hence that sense of superiority is somewhat precarious and it leads to another massively important feature of the Raja Yoga mindset –purity.
Purity is a very wide ranging concept in Raja Yoga. Firstly it means no sex. It should be stressed that this is not ‘no sex before marriage’, or ‘no sex unless procreating’. It means no sex. Whether your husband has joined you in your new religion or not you must not have sex with him. Whether you are fifteen, twenty five, thirty five or sixty five; single, engaged or married: No sex, no kissing, no touching, no masturbating and no intercourse. Morning class has very vivid phrases for what sex does for your destiny as a Raja Yoga and these are repeated on a near daily basis. ‘For a Raja Yogi to have sex is like throwing yourself out of a fifth floor building’. All Raja Yogis hear this exact saying probably five times every week. I happened to have a friend who was a few years older than me but perhaps a little bit more impressionable. In Raja Yoga terms she ruined her fortune in heaven by having sex and she did what she had heard it described as for more months and years than I can bear to remember: she threw herself off a five storey building.
But Purity does not just mean celibacy it means protecting oneself from all influences that are not Raja Yoga. This includes the opinions of others and above all the opinions of oneself. Raja Yoga actually has a derogative term for listening to one’s own opinions. The only opinions one must listen to are those of God –as revealed by Raja Yoga. Any influence which might conflict with Raja Yoga is also proscribed such as virtually all the sciences. Hence half of a child’s secondary school curriculum is impure and should not be allowed by the good Raja Yoga child to pollute his mind. Secular knowledge and skills even those that are useful to Raja Yoga are quietly disparaged compared to true knowledge from God. Entertainments such as cinema, tv, radio etc are an obvious source of impurity filled as they are with pleasures of the body rather than of the soul.
But even the Raja Yoga centre is rife with potential impurity in the form of one’s fellow Raja Yogis who may be sliding off the true path. The protection of oneself from the bad influence of ones fellow Raja Yogis is a daily concern for the diligent yogi. Non-conformists, individualists, even the overly gregarious or overly affectionate must be kept at a suitable distance. An effect of this is that purity turns into sterility. Raja Yoga society tends to gradually become a relatively homogenous collection of the obedient and docile. The black sheep tend to self selectively remove themselves.
This cult of purity also tends to lead to an over emphasis upon the source of a statement for its validity rather than its intrinsic merit. A senior teacher once summed this up by saying that if God said two plus two equals five she would agree with him. In Raja Yoga knowledge is not invented or discovered, it is revealed by God and interpreted by his chosen agents, chosen because they are the most pure. The postulations, speculations, hypothesising and counter hypothesising of everyone else can never lead to anything worthwhile because the source is polluted. Hence the intellectual life of non-Raja Yogi is worthless.
A side effect of this is that unlike most social groupings and cultures which learn and grow as a result of input from every source, Raja Yoga cannot learn from its malcontents, its failures or its black sheep. They are ignored because they are impure. And if an impure soul such as myself says that two plus two equals four a devout Raja Yogi might well feel duty bound to disagree.
There are several human emotions which also have no place in Raja Yoga life so much so that their presence virtually guarantees that whatever is said or done in such a state is wrong. The first is anger. If I am angry then whatever I say is expected to be wrong and will be discounted. Unless one is a senior anger is an instant disqualification from validity. So anger tends to get repressed, and the things that cause anger get repressed along with it.
Another is arrogance – mistranslated by Raja Yogis as ‘ego’. But this does not mean a tendency to give too much weight to ones one opinions. It usually means to value ones opinions above those of the orthodoxy and the Seniors. To think for oneself as opposed to accepting revealed truth either from God or the Seniors. Hence if the Seniors are wrong and you point it out your words will be discounted because you are suffering from ego. In Raja Yoga terms all of my letters reproduced in appendix A are extreme examples of the vice of ego. And it is no exaggeration to state that no practicing Raja Yogi could have written them without seriously damaging his Raja Yoga career.
Another important feature of Raja Yoga culture of relevance to young people is its awkwardness over the body. The very strict Cartesian dualism at the core of Raja Yoga beliefs coupled with certain Indian cultural sensitivities mean that human touch is strictly regularised. Virtually any kind of touch between the sexes is treated as if it is the beginnings of lust. Whilst paying lip service to good physical health many Raja Yogis including many Seniors quietly take pride in not succumbing to either the demands or the simple pleasures of looking after the body. The Raja Yoga way is to exert strict control not only over bodily pleasures but also over bodily needs. It is viewed literally as a vehicle and one too which will only be needed for a few more years because the world is due to end imminently. One will not need it for decades so it makes no sense to look after its long term well-being.
Many Raja Yogis whilst dragging themselves up each morning at 3.30am will not admit that their physical systems cannot function on 5 hours sleep a day and they do not successfully adjust their schedules at the other end of the day. The result is that many serious Raja Yogis are chronically over tired. This is simply accepted as part of the lifestyle. One good friend of mine woke up one morning face down on the carpet with his arm stretched out to the power socket in his living room which he had fallen asleep whilst switching off. He was not only so exhausted as to fall asleep in the middle of this action but he also did not move all night whilst in this highly uncomfortable position. I once fell asleep whilst holding a cup of coffee. Another fellow Raja Yogi once fell asleep standing up teaching in a secondary school.
Physical pursuits and sport are not valued as part of the culture nor indeed is good diet. It is true that the Raja Yoga diet is vegetarian and generally home cooked without many of the low quality ingredients of mass produced food. But this is merely circumstantial the diet is about purity rather than nutrition. Raja Yogis will not eat mass produced food because it is made by the impure. And many Raja Yogis would think it both disloyal to the originally Indian culture of Raja Yoga and inappropriately indulgent to feed the body what suits it best rather than what is the cultural norm.
All of these elements add up to an attitude of strict control over the body rather than an integrated and complimentary relationship between mind and body. Many ex-Raja Yogis enjoy an incomparably better level of health since they left. Indeed the point has been made that the Brahma Kumaris are in general so antagonistic towards the body that they should not really be allowed to refer to what they do as Yoga.
It is worth noting here also that the strict Cartesian mind/body dualism at the core of Raja Yoga metaphysics and psychology is itself considered to be a form of mental illness by various schools of psychology.
The concept of service is very important to Raja Yoga thinking but it does not always mean what it usually connotes. To serve someone in Raja Yoga terms is certainly not to do what that person might like or appreciate or want. It is rather to do what you think God wants you to do for them. This notions extends itself even to giving people what they need inspite of themselves. The person in need of ‘service’ cannot be expected to know what he needs so if one has to get around his resistance in somewhat ambiguous ways this is acceptable because it is being done for his benefit.
In a culture with this value behind human interactions and also where displays of anger or confrontation are taboo it becomes common place to misuse charm. Charm, persuasion and even subterfuge are acceptable if they are performed skilfully enough and if done in the furtherance of God’s work. This shows itself as un-mitigated obsequiousness before so called important or famous people who might be useful in some way. On a larger scale it shows itself as the regular disguising of the fundamentally religious nature of Raja Yoga into all sorts of different forms all in the name of service.
Hence for example BKWSU always refers to itself not as a religious organisation but as a University. This is because this title though less accurate, indeed totally inaccurate, will open more doors. The truth is that BKWSU really is a religious organisation and the University label is an intentional misrepresentation. There is no Brahma Kumaris University either in London, Delhi, Mount Abu or anywhere else. There is an Ashram (i.e. a religious establishment) in Mt Abu which teaches but certainly not a university curriculum and it awards no university degrees or indeed any certificates of any kind. No exams exist whatsoever let alone university exams.
The senior Raja Yogis in Mount Abu, Delhi and London – the heads of this so-called university -do not even have a single proper university degree to share between them. If they had perhaps they would know what a university is. There are no properly qualified lecturers and no properly qualified students. There is not a single government ministry of education of any country in the world that has on its lists of recognised universities a BKWSU. And in India where they pretend such exists if really pressed, they have been banned from using the word ‘University’ in their title.
The Impossibility of Selflessness
Aligned to this is the principle of enlightened self interest that underpins the Raja Yoga interpretation of the ‘Law of Karma’. The highest form of Karma in Raja Yoga terms is not that of selflessness –the traditional Hindu and Buddhist idea. Raja Yoga believes that selflessness is a myth. In Raja Yoga philosophy people always act in what they perceive to be their best interests. Whether they are right in their perceptions is another matter but no one is ever truly selfless. The Raja Yoga definition of the highest form of karma is to follow the exhortation from God to be a Raja Yogi.
Hence no Catholic, Jew or Muslim however kind, wise or good to others can match the quality of karma that a Raja Yogi can achieve. A Raja Yogi benefits others more than other religions, and indeed any other class of person in any sense simply as a by product of cultivating his relationship with God and becoming a better Raja Yogi. When he has become pure through connection with God and all his fellow Raja Yogis have done like wise this will trigger a nuclear holocaust and every one will get released from hell and sent home to the Soul World.
The Raja Yogis will return to a pure world and each one according to his accumulated store of good karma will be rewarded with a kingdom commensurate with his particular level of goodness. So when Raja Yogis make statements such as ‘BKWSU was established in the spirit of service to humanity’ they are being disingenuous. Raja Yoga was established for the betterment of Raja Yogis – in short so that they can claim their future kingdoms. The betterment of the rest of humanity is a highly indirect offshoot.
So in Raja Yoga terms the best way a Raja Yogi can benefit you is to give you not what you might want but what God wants him to give you –which in essence is the knowledge of Raja Yoga. Anything else is a waste of valuable Raja Yoga time unless of course it impresses you to the degree that your are sufficiently intrigued or charmed or plain old seduced that you decide to give this knowledge a chance after all. And then behind all of this the only real reason the Raja Yogi is doing any of this is so that he can get a bigger Palace than you in heaven, because much as he likes you it is actually impossible for him to do anything genuinely for you.
This mindset has led to Raja Yoga building hospitals not because it cares about the sick but simply to impress the bystanders with how spiritual it is. And most ironic of all it has been very active in promoting itself as an authority on all matters pertaining to world peace when it is totally certain that the best thing that can happen to the world is its forthcoming nuclear holocaust. Why would a movement that believes completely in a forthcoming nuclear holocaust and fervently wants it to come and to come as soon as possible be active in the peace movement? Because it is another platform for Raja Yogis to get their message across to everyone and hence bring on the war.
It would be a problem however if the organisers of this or that peace conference were to find out that the Raja Yoga idea of peace involves everyone else being dead. So in order to make it to the all important microphone Raja Yogis will present a distorted version of their beliefs. And when in the past they have been found out and challenged for their presence at peace conferences aimed specifically at preventing nuclear war, (as indeed the United Nations did when Raja Yoga was trying to become affiliated with it) they simply switched into their ‘the ends justify the means’ mentality and misrepresented their own beliefs.
When children are being raised in a culture which combines a disbelief in genuine selflessness with a willingness to deceive when it suits a higher purpose, this should at least trigger some alarm bells.
Methods of Persuasion
Another element of the Raja Yoga culture which needs to be mentioned in the context of the childhood experience of Raja Yoga is its pedagogic style –its teaching methods. This style shows itself in formal teaching but also in general communication as well particularly in its method of teaching meditation.
Firstly the language of Raja Yoga is extremely vivid. Its images are strong and memorable, and captured in lots of specific phrases and references it takes several years to learn. The descriptions of heaven are so detailed and so apparently real that it is as if one is living an epic poem. The romanticism of the story of ones journey around the cycle through both heaven and hell in search of yourself is re-lived with techniques in meditation which are extremely powerful. It is very normal in such practices to experience on a daily basis an intensity of feeling which the non-meditator perhaps only experiences once a year. The skilful yogi can usually summon a particular experience on demand –love, power, peace, bliss. Take your pick. If Raja Yoga is ones only strong referent for such intensity the power of the experiences is assumed to contribute to the veracity of the religion. This is a mistake but it is one which children are extremely likely to make.
Such experiences and the fact that it is the Raja Yogi child and not his non-Raja Yogi school colleagues (his ex-friends) who can more or less at will conjure them up for himself all goes to confirm ones sense of oneself as special, one of the chosen few. For the Raja Yogi to know oneself is to love oneself to a degree which anyone else might consider narcissistic.
But in the case of the Raja Yogi it is not; because he really is that great. If he was not he would not be able to have such experiences –or so the logic goes. There is an anti–normality, a continual watching of oneself to check that one is as great as the script specifies: a way of being which views spirituality as all about self aggrandisement. Raja Yoga claims that greed is a vice, but what they are really criticising here is the stupidity of wanting the wrong things. In actuality as long as you want karmic accumulation for yourself in Raja Yoga greed is definitely a virtue. Upon the path of the enlightened nothing succeeds like excess.
But the vividness of its images of beauty can disappear when the yogi suffers the violent mood swings most less experience practitioners suffer from. Then the insecurities of one’s own ultimate position in the grand scheme of things emerge and the vivid descriptions of the consequences of failure come with the same hyper-real quality as their pleasant counterparts. These mood swings can be extreme and they were so common as to have a name and to be considered part of the journey. After about 5 years I learned not to panic when they came.
The vividness of frightening images used in teaching, their constant repetition on a daily basis, the continual exhortations not to leave and dire warnings as to what will happen if one does are the flip side of the ecstatic blissful hypnotising beauty of Raja Yoga on a good day.
In my opinion the Raja Yoga explanations that they are both caused in the mind because they are true i.e. that subjective experience is evidence of objective truth is reckless and irresponsible. The effects that Raja Yoga practices regularly induce need to be understood better by Raja Yogis particularly when used with children. It is fifteen years since I left Raja Yoga and though I subscribe to none of its beliefs I am still regularly visited by images which I believe were inadvertently planted in me at an early age. I do not claim to full understand the mechanism, but I know also that until Raja Yoga can claim such it needs to clarify to itself how exactly it trains its young and if some practices should be for adults only.
Raja Yoga certainly needs to get better acquainted with the dynamics of hypnotism so that it can with somewhat more authority than it has in the past affirm that it uses none.
Staring at white dots or directly into the eyes of ones teacher for extended periods of time as she tells one what to think are all methods to heighten suggestibility. As are the use of coloured lighting and soothing ambient music whatever the metaphysical validity of the belief system that uses them.
I look forward to the day when a Raja Yogi can specify to me how the mechanisms by which hypnotism works are somehow switched off because all Raja Yoga suggestions, guided visualisations and meditation commentaries are epistemologically and ontologically true. In actual fact a cursory read of any book on self hypnosis will contain many of the techniques taught by Raja Yoga as meditation.
[ Continued ... http://brahmakumaris.info/bb/viewtopic.php?t=139 ]