As is described in the pages of this website, the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University has a deep and significant effect on those who become involved in its’ beliefs. However the Brahma Kumaris do not have a duty of care policy or practise. As an organisation they do not accept any responsibility for the psychological and emotional impact or the welfare, on any level, of those they have recruited into their membership.
The BKWSU actively seeks to increase the number of “students” who study their teachings, adopt their lifestyle and have full faith in their belief system. However the BKWSU has never developed a capacity to assess or assist those followers who become psychologically affected as a result of their involvement.This is evidenced by the fact that the tragedy of what happened to Ranjana and Sharad has never been addressed by the BKWSU management.
What we seek is the consideration of important issues and resolutions to problems related to the emotional safety and well being of the members of the BKWSU – an issue which BKWSU management is in denial about.
The major concern is what to do to protect those who are already associated with them or will be at some time in the future. This site is about pressing the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University to establish a duty of care program and an exit strategy for its members including permission to leave. The fact that the deaths of Ranjana and Sharad did not lead to even a consideration of how to prevent such tragedies again is a statement about the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University leadership and the degree of effort necessary to gain their compliance.
Why no duty of care? Why has this organisation so determinedly resisted considerations of this matter? The answer lay in their beliefs: the teachings of God, that they claim to be channelled through Brahma, state clearly that those who study and then leave are the worst type of sinners – they are labelled as deserters and traitors. As such, their well being is just not up for discussion.
Within the ranks of the BKWSU membership the attitude toward ex members is governed by the cults’ management – the people who effectively own the philosophy. The established attitude towards ex members is that they are people who have been overwhelmed by Maya – the illusions of the material world – and are now spiritually diseased. For members to associate with ex members is to become diseased also. Thus the common experience of ex members is one of being outcast. Their friends within the BKWSU are no longer their friends, there is no cooperation or support. Even a member of many years who has given a great deal will feel abandoned – and they have been.
So what’s the problem? The nature of the Brahma Kumaris philosophy is to attract people who are emotionally or psychologically vulnerable at that time. The simple fact is that happy people do not join the Brahma Kumaris. Unhappy people do because they have been lead to believe that they have found the explanation and solution to their lifes ‘dilemma’ (dysfunction).
The BKWSUs’ core promise is purification of the soul, with the resultant peace and strength of mind. This is achieved by studying and practising and surrendering to their philosophy and meditation – something that appeals to those who are dissatisfied within themselves. What new members don’t realise is that the honeymoon like experience they have in the initial stages are largely associated with the fulfilment of basic emotional needs – belonging, community, respect, reinforcement – and a satisfying, if not intoxicating, explanation – they are the special ones who now know God personally are to become deities in Heaven.
The danger grows because the BKWSU teaches a pseudo-psychological ‘understanding’ of consciousness they claim is taught directly by God. The result is that the inculted members believe that the knowledge they have is superior to the ‘impure knowledge’ of humans – including mental health professionals. One of the consequences of this is that if a member is suffering depression or anxiety they will only seek to solve their issues from within the teachings and ranks of the Brahma Kumaris themselves. However the only answers a troubled member will get are distilled from the BK philosophy and only serve to indoctrinate the member more deeply – or blame them for being too impure to be content as a BK and thereby simply adding guilt to their existing feelings of depression and anxiety.
As a result there is a higher concentration of the group who are in need of professional help than a typical cross section of society, all of whom are heading for deeper trauma. The initial experience that was so pleasant simply disguised the real issues. These issues will re-emerge at some point – even years later – and this will result in serious internal conflict and tension. Their real issues are then compounded with cult induced sense of failure and guilt. This leads to depression and possibly self destructive tendencies.
What duty of care requires is:
The acceptance by management that duty of care is responsible and reasonable. What is the harm in having such a program? Why is management so threatened by something that is so typically accepted in the world they look down upon?
It will require a professional, responsible and mature attitude from senior management – and this is probably the heart of the matter – BKWSU management is so bound in its’ reductionist theories that new thinking is essentially impossible.
The BKWSU is quick to highlight that it has a membership of over 800,000 students globally. The organisation has become very wealthy. It is effectively a global corporation. Yet it has no strategy at all to ensure the well being of its’ members, even on a minimal level of occupational health and safety. Given that it is the nature of the BKWSU to recruit emotionally vulnerable or socially dysfunctional people it is highly likely that there will be a problem. And there has been – which is why we are here. Until now communications with the BKWSU has only confirmed that duty of care is simply not on their agenda.
What could they do?
Firstly we have to establish the premise for duty of care in order to define the key issues. In the case of the BKWSU that would be directly related to what they do and how they recruit their members. In the first instance, what they do is literally guarantee that if someone fully surrenders to the teachings and practises they will achieve complete purity and peace. Thus they actively encourage “students” (members) to submit completely. This consequence of this is that a member will relinquish all forms of outside support. This includes family, friends, and professional health care. The member is rendered totally dependent on the BKWSU – and notably the seniors. The obvious problem is that the seniors are not qualified or able to provide the level of support required to sustain other individuals in either the short or long term. In the west, an estimated 90% of these seniors will run into problems themselves and also leave – that is, they are the victims of the process themselves.
Duty of care in this context is complex – how to provide a necessarily comprehensive program to ensure the well being of people who are totally dependent on a single and exclusive provider of emotional and psychological support. We have major problems here – firstly we are talking about an organisation as such a provider as opposed to family, friends or people who actually care. Is this even possible? Secondly, we are talking about an organisation which fails to even recognise that such a thing as duty of care even exists!
So we are definitely coming from a deficit position. Assuming that the BKWSU could recognise its’ responsibility, and also recognise that it has positioned itself as a soul provider of care – where to from there?
They could begin by implementing a comprehensive education campaign to enable their members to understand psychological matters that may effect them or those they know from a qualified perspective. Matters such as depression, anxiety and ADHD – common conditions buried throughout the ranks of the Brahma Kumaris – should be openly addressed. It should be a regular topic of discussion. This information could also be made available on an internal website for example.
This could be in conjunction with independent assessment and counselling by outside professionals. This service needs to be available to members and ex members. Its use should be encouraged. Those leaving would benefit greatly from this service.
Additionally there is a requirement for an independent Ombudsman to be available to resolve issues fairly and make recommendations. At this stage, all the power is with the Seniors and inevitably the decisions are all in their favour. Consequently there is no learning curve or development for management. And people seeking help are inevitably the ones in the wrong. This definitely has to change.
At this stage, members are psychologically manipulated into staying. They may be told by a senior that it is okay to leave, but the teachings state clearly that to leave is to fail – forever. There is no coming back, there is nothing but eternal damnation waiting for them if they leave. All advise given to struggling members is based on this premise. In short, it is not okay to leave. This is evidenced by the fact that there is no exit strategy.
Not being able to leave is a major contributor to the psychological breakdown that is witnessed in almost all departing members. This is one of the most important aspects of duty of care that has to be implemented – permission to leave and an exit strategy. This will require a major change in attitudes, which, in reality, is unlikely. Numbers are much too important to the Brahma Kumaris – the volume of membership is critical to their feelings of success, to their own organisational identity.
Another one of the key challenges we are laying down for the BKWSU is honesty. It is their culture of “self justified deception” that is a significant factor in the trauma they cause. They seem to be always hiding something – even their core beliefs!
Firstly they could start with financial transperancy. The Brahma Kumaris claim to be the true children of God, yet when it comes to money, property and finance, they have a lot to answer for. We simply seek honesty on all levels. Deception is a silent and dangerous practise and harmful to members.
All that is being asked of the Brahma Kumaris is honesty, integrity and concern for the well being of members and ex members. The Brahma Kumaris promote themselves as authorities on spiritual and moral values. It is high time they practised what they preach in their ‘own home’ and overcame the embedded culture of hypocrisy.
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