Rather than reinvent the wheel or limit this discussion to a perhaps subjective point of view this discussion has been cross referenced with other sites that are exploring cult issues. Here we look at ‘cult identifiers’ and see how they relate to the BKWSU. Typically these identifiers include: totalitarian control of members, elitist perspective, ownership of a revelation, psychological manipulation and abuse of members, exploitation of members, and the willingness of members to blindly support the organisation to the point of personal crisis.
These descriptions or identifiers of a cult are provided by www.culthelp.info
A Universal Definition CULT – Any group which has a pyramid type authoritarian leadership structure with all teaching and guidance coming from the person/persons at the top. The group will claim to be the only way to God; Nirvana; Paradise; Ultimate Reality; Full Potential, Way to Happiness etc, and will use thought reform or mind control techniques to gain control and keep their members.This definition covers cults within all major world religions, along with those cults which have no OBVIOUS religious base such as commercial, educational and psychological cults. Others may define these a little differently, but this is the simplest to work from.
The BKWSU have a hierarchical management system with a clearly defined lineage. At the very top are God Shiva and Brahma Baba (the spirit of the late Dada Lehkraj) who are channelled by Dadi Gulzar. The senior most people in management are referred to individually as “Dadi” (meaning Senior Sister). The Dadis then direct the organisationand its members through a network of preferred members. To be a preferred member one must be worthy, that is, co-operative, obedient and totally support the Dadis and the system. Dissenters are marginalised by default and considered to be lacking in realisation and struggling in their relationship with God.There is also a powerful committee that has a high level of control. This committee includes a number of Senior Brothers. The exact role of the committee and its influence is not made public but its members were not elected nor are they accountable to the general membership.Like all religions, sects and cults, the BKWSU base their lifestyle and practises on a belief system that is the basis of their reality. This reality is formed in the minds of members through constant study and hours of daily meditation. The members believe that they are the true children of God, who is teaching them directly and exclusively. They believe that through their relationship with God Shiva they will become pure and achieve Nirvana. They will then reincarnate into the new world (Golden Age) as deities and rule that world as divine kings – the product of the pure karma they accumulated at this time through their renunciation (of money and personal resources) and service (expansion of the organisation).The main method for becoming pure is meditation, which means to concentrate on the love and purity of Shiva and Brahma and the ’spiritual knowledge’ to the exclusion of all ‘worldly thoughts’ – a very effective system of indoctrination and mind control.
A Secular Definition CULT – From the Latin ‘cultis’ which denotes all that is involved in worship, ritual, emotion, liturgy and attitude. This definition actually denotes what we call denominations and sects and would make all religious movements a cult.
A Christian Definition CULT – Any group which deviates from Biblical, orthodox, historical Christianity, i.e. They deny the Deity of Christ; His physical resurrection; His personal and physical return to earth and salvation by FAITH alone.This definition only covers those groups which are cults within the Christian religion. It does not cover cults within other world religions such as Islam and Hinduism. Nor does it cover Psychological, Commercial or Educational cults which do not recognize the Bible as a source of reality. The Orthodox Bible-Based Cult
A group is called a cult because of their behaviour – not their doctrines. Doctrine is an issue in the area of Apologetics and Heresy. Most religious cults do teach what the Christian church would declare to be heresy but some do not. Some cults teach the basics of the Christian faith but have behavioural patterns that are abusive, controlling and cultic.This occurs in both Non-Charismatic and Charismatic churches. These groups teach the central doctrines of the Christian faith and then add the extra authority of leadership or someone’s particular writings. They centre around the interpretations of the leadership and submissive and unquestioning acceptance of these is essential to be a member of good standing. This acceptance includes what we consider non-essential doctrines e.i. not salvation issues (such as the Person and Work of Christ.) The key is that they will be using mind control or undue influence on their members.
Other Identification Marks:
(a) The group will have an ELITIST view of itself in relation to others, and a UNIQUE CAUSE. i.e. THEY ARE THE ONLY ONES RIGHT – everyone else is wrong. THEY ARE THE ONLY ONES DOING GOD’S WILL – everyone else is in apostasy.
Integral to the Brahma Kumaris philosophy is the notion that they are a special group of souls, those whose good fortune brings them eternally back to God. They are the souls who will achieve the highest state of purity and spiritual power. They will uplift all the souls of the world and bring about the new Golden Age of humanity – which they will rule as divine kings and queens.The BKWSU consider themselves the most fortunate souls of the world for all of time. They are the only ones who know God, the Truth or who can save the world from sorrow. They are by default the ones who are right and that all other religions, sects etc are the domains of partial truth and exist for weak souls who need that type of limited support. They typically counter accusations of elitism by claiming that as anyone can become a member they are not so. It is an argument that only works for them.
(b) They will promote their cause actively, and in doing so, abuse personal rights and freedoms. This abuse can be THEOLOGICAL, SPIRITUAL, SOCIAL & PSYCHOLOGICAL.
Promoting themselves as a great spiritual organisation that makes a unique and critical contribution to humanity is a major preoccupation. They hold courses, seminars and conferences etc. and they have meditations centres to run. They are a very busy group of people. The members take on this workload as a way of creating good karma and purifying themselves.
They start with meditation at 4.00am and are occupied from then until the end of their day. To not participate is a sign of weakness, lack of innate ‘fortune’, lack of recognition of God or their inherent responsibility as a child of God. Failure to cooperate with the heirachy in the fulfilment of the ‘elevated purpose’ of the BKWSU carries guilt and implications of being a lesser, weaker and poorer soul. Obedience is seen as a sign of strength, disobedience is bad karma. To leave is eternal damnation, eternal loss. The fear of failing is referred to as a “sweet fear” and therefore a good thing.
Throughout their time as a member they will have been promised rewards of purity, peace, bliss and a kingdom in heaven whilst being patronised with lessons on failure and loss. The heirachy take ownership of the individuals self esteem and manipulate them with concepts of reward and loss. Members must confess their weakness and doubts to the Seniors, ostensibly in order to overcome them.
Ultimately the Heirachy exerts influence on everything a member will think, say or do, and how they spend their time and with who. They are told to renounce all past relationships, attachments and money and belong only to ‘Baba’ (God Shiva).The BKWSU practise all the types of abuse mentioned, but because it is not violent, or loud, but carried out from behind a facade of pity and benevolence no one sees it for what it is.
How They Do This?
1. Their leader/s may claim a special, exclusive ministry, revelation or position of authority given by God.
The bureaucracy of the BKWSU is a hierarchy of ‘exceptional souls’ who are the dispensers of “Shrimat” – the divine directions of god – to the general membership. Ones’ seniority within the organisation is seen as an indication of one’s past good karma and current good efforts, and of ones overall ‘fortune’. It would also suggest that one’s “yoga” or connection with God, is of a higher quality and therefore one is able to receive “touchings” from God and would also have a clearer understanding of what God wanted or expected of his “beloved children” at any given moment. Thus the senior is worthy to dispense shrimat and, effectively, control the lives of members under their ‘care’.
2. They believe they are the only true path and take a critical stance regarding the Christian church while at the same time praising and exalting their own group, leader/s and work.
The BKWSU believe that God has incarnated directly into the body of their founder, Dada Lehkraj, and is teaching them personally and exclusively. From 1936 to 1969 BKWSU religious philosophy was ‘chanelled’ in daily sermons known as Murlis. As there is only one God and they are the only ones who know him or the Truth, then definitely they are the only one true path. The Senior members (known as Dadis) are praised as angels, and as the highest and purest souls of all time. Everyone else is patronised as good souls but without the power of purity or greatness that the Seniors have.
3. They use intimidation (albeit subtle) or psychological manipulation to keep members loyal to their ranks. This could be in the form of threats of dire calamity if they leave; certain death at Armageddon; being shunned by their family and friends etc. This is a vital part of the mind control process.
Members are continuously reminded that the world is to end soon and to leave would be the greatest misfortune and lead to “a thousand years of suffering in a second” as a result. They are told to break their attachments to the ‘old world’ (family, friends, career, money etc) because that is only bondage to a life of suffering. They are instructed by Seniors, on behalf of God, to dedicate themselves to their new spiritual life exclusively. Their self-respect is based entirely upon being a committed child of God Shiva who is obedient to Seniors. The Seniors are very much in control of the minds and hearts of the members.
A simple example of group manipulation is one of Dadi Janki, now head of the BKWSU. In 2006 it was known to many that the then head of the BKWSU – Dadi Prakashmani – was seriously ill with Alzheimers. Dadi’s Alzheimers was creating some confusion in the ranks for a variety of reasons. Typically Dadi Janki used the philosophy to pull members back into line. In 2006 Dadi Janki, in a typically moving and emotive lecture, told everyone that “the time is close” (meaning that the world is about to end) and that as sick as Dadi Prakashmani is, she would be there with all of them until the end. Suddenly all the doubters are ‘inspired’ to refocus on their personal efforts for purity. If they do not become pure in time, they will have to suffer judgement, punishment and a lower status in the new world. In fact, Dadi Prakashmani died in early 2007. Dadi Janki has been made head of the organisation, and everyone has forgotten the guarantee that she gave in that lecture.
4. Members will be expected to give substantial financial support to the group. This could be compulsory tithing (which is checked); signing over all their property on entering the group; coercive methods of instilling guilt on those who have not contributed; selling magazines, flowers or other goods for the group as part of their ministry. At the same time bible-based cults may ridicule churches that take up free-will offerings by passing collection plates and/or sell literature and tapes. They usually brag that they don’t do this. This gives outsiders the intimation that they are not interested in money.
The BKWSU is a very wealthy organisation. Vast sums of money, property, jewellery and other assets have been ‘donated’ to the organisation. Hapless members who are convinced of the truth of the BKWSU teachings believe that the world is soon to be destroyed and that they will reincarnate in paradise in the very near future. A new member who is experiencing the ‘honeymoon stage’ of their ‘new life’ will be encouraged to give all they can in this context. In some cases this can be houses, cars and bank accounts. Ultimately all funds and assets received by the BKWSU have been solicited – BKWSU are lectured on the good karma of giving and are reminded regularly of the need to ‘donate’ to the Godly purpose.
It was uncommon for any new person to be asked for money. The public or interested parties were always told that all services of the BKWSU are free and that the organisation is funded entirely by donations. The general perception of ‘outsiders’ is that the BKWSU are not interested in money and that the property they do have is really a sign of the integrity of the organisation and the donations they have received as a result.
5. There will be great emphasis on loyalty to the group and its teachings. The lives of members will be totally absorbed into the group’s activities. They will have little or no time to think for themselves because of physical and emotional exhaustion. This is also a vital part of the mind control process.
A member’s day begins with meditation at 4.00am. It is known as “Amrit Vela” and is one of several [“Mariadas”]. Mariadas are the basic rules by which a good member should live their lives. In reality someone is only considered a true or real member/student/child of god if they are following these rules. The list of mariadas includes celibacy, vegetarian diet (with no eggs, onions or garlic) and daily morning class (Murli class).
There is a real if unspoken pressure to conform to these Maryadas (and thereby demonstrate one’s loyalty) if one is to be taken seriously by the group, especially the seniors. Additional to Mariadas is Shrimat (the supposed directions of God). Shrimat coerces members to think and behave according to the directions spoken by god in the murli, and directions given by seniors. Supposedly mariadas and shrimat are to ensure the ‘child’ receives maximum benefit from god their true father. The main benefit is to be purity of the soul. To not follow Maryadas and Shrimat is a great sin – very bad karma.
Shrimat requires obedience, submission and compliance from the member. The member who follows Mariadas and Shrimat will start their day at 4.00am and will be busy until they sleep at night. If they are not busy meditating or earning an income they will be kept busy doing “service”. There is no room for free will, only loyalty, obedience and “cooperation”. The net effect is an almost permanent state of tiredness or exhaustion.
6. There will be total control over almost all aspects of the private lives of members. This control can be direct through communal living, or constant and repetitious teaching on how to be a true Christian (or member) or being obedient to leadership.
Members will look to their seniors for guidance in everything they do. A good student will follow Shrimat. They will not make a decision about their lives without consulting seniors in order to get shrimat. Their lives are heavily influenced by seniors in this way, and in the process the seniors will come to know the detail of the member’s life. A good student would not risk making a mistake and accumulate even more bad karma by either not consulting a senior or by disobeying shrimat.
Shrimat will commonly include instructions to donate money, to dissociate from family and friends, to give up ones career, to only eat food cooked by other members, to not watch television and movies or read books and magazines, and to give up all “worldly interest”.
7. Any dissent or questioning of the group’s teachings is discouraged. Criticism in any form is seen as rebellion. There will be an emphasis on authority, unquestioning obedience and submission. This is vigilantly maintained.
Questioning or doubts are the sign of a weak intellect. Dissent means the soul is under the influence of past bad karma and is the proof of past sin. The senior sisters especially are to never be challenged. To do so is proof of ignorance. Any member who continues to dissent will be excommunicated.
9. Members are required to demonstrate their loyalty to the group in some way. This could be in the form of informing on fellow members (including family) under the guise of looking out for their ’spiritual welfare’. They may be required to deliberately lie (heavenly deception) or give up their lives by refusing some form of medical treatment.
In the BKWSU members would demonstrate their loyalty through their financial support, commitment to service and obedience. They would follow the party line publicly and talk the talk. They adopt the view that they are one family – a divine family of future deities and act according to the rules of the family – [Maryadas].
10. Attempts to leave or reveal embarrassing facts about the group may be met with threats. Some may have taken oaths of loyalty that involve their lives or have signed a covenant and feel threatened by this.
Ranjana and Sharad both demonstrated the state of mind one experiences when leaving the BKWSU. They were indoctrinated into the belief that any form of dissent is a mortal sin that they will be burdened with it for all eternity. Therefore the system is never challenged and the status quo within the organisation is not interrupted. People leave, are crushed by the belief system that they had been manipulated by during their membership, and will suffer severe depression and may suicide. But they do not dissent.
The BKWSU have generally maintained a ’softly softly’ approach in public to all issues. They have no concern for those who leave – hence this website. Former members may be encouraged to return, but BKWSU teachings recommend leaving ex-members alone in case existing members become ‘trapped’ trying to help them and leave as well.
Ex-members are so affected by guilt that they rarely become dissenters even after they leave.