Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University, or Prajapita Brahma Kumaris Ishwariya Vishwa Vidyalaya, is a monastic, renunciate millenarian religion of Indian origin. They project themselves as a vehicle for spiritual teaching, rather than a religion. They teach their own flavour of Raja Yoga, a spiritual practice centred on meditation.
The Brahma Kumaris (BKs) beliefs and customs are primarily Hindu in origin, but, although they pre-date the New Age movement, they have characteristics that link them to that movement. They advocates a lifestyle which includes chastity, a vegetarian diet, and avoidance of alcohol, recreational drugs, and tobacco.
The Brahma Kumaris view themselves as the world’s true rulers. They expect imminent transformation of this "old world", through spiritual power into a new Golden Age, into which they will reincarnate, and then rule, enjoying 1,250 years of peace and plenty on earth.
A number of Brahma Kumari splinter groups exist, the most notable being the Prajapita Brahma Kumaris (PBKs) founded by Baba Dev Dixit, after he was debarred from the BKs.
The BKs originated as "Om Mandli", founded by Dada Lekhraj (1884–1969) in Hyderabad, Sindh in the 1930s.
Lekhraj, known as "Dada Lekhraj", and later known as "Brahma Baba" to his followers, was a Diamond merchant and follower of the Vaishnavite Vallabhacharya Sect. Dada Lekhraj (Brahma Baba) retired from his business with assets of 1,000,000 Indian rupees, to turn to spirituality. Their original spiritual knowledge was obtained though "divine revelations" and "divine visions" by sisters who channeled messages, and included "detailed knowledge ... on the basic concepts of soul, God, World, Time, Space, Karma, Mukti, Jeevanmukti, Heaven, Hell, Creation, Sustenance, Destruction, various Yugas, Maya and its various forms, the true kind of Yoga-Meditation, the divine virtues and the methodology to practise them." Lekhraj started holding satsangs which attracted many people and the group became known as Om Mandali.
In 1937, he named some of his followers to a managing committee, then reportedly transferred his fortune to the committee. Several women joined Om Mandali, and contributed their wealth to the association as well.
Some members of the local Sindhi people reacted unfavorably to this movement because women were given an elevated status. Many young married Sindhi women attended his ashram and were being encouraged to take vows of celibacy, so the Om Mandali was accused of breaking up families.
In April 1950, after the partition of India, the Brahma Kumaris moved to Mount Abu in India, saying that they had been instructed by God to do so.
Beginning in the 1950s, the Brahma Kumaris began an internationalization expansion program, establishing centers across India with female teachers. From 1964 to 1969 methods of outreach began involving exhibitions, seminars and conferences in different parts of India.
The leadership of the BK movement remains primarily female. For example, in the UK, only one-third of the 42 centers are run by males. According to the BK website, there are currently 825,000 students, and over 8,500 Raja Yoga centres, in 100 countries and territories.
In 1952, after a 14-year period of retreat during which Dada Lekhraj (Brahma Baba) published numerous pamphlets, newspaper articles and wrote letters to important national and international figures, a more structured form of teaching began to be offered to the public by way of a seven lesson course.
After Dada Lekhraj's (Brahma Baba) death in 1969, his followers expanded the movement to other countries.
The human being is an eternal soul (being), living within a physical body (human), and distinct from that body.
The form of the soul is an infinitesimal point of divine light residing in/behind the forehead of the body it occupies. Within this "point of light" all aspects of the personality are contained. The soul is said to enter the human body in the 4th to 5th month of pregnancy, and it leaves on death.
A soul can inhabit the body of another, or possess them, against their will.
The soul moves from one human body to another. Unlike other Eastern traditions, the soul is not thought to transmigrate into other species, and does not evolve, but rather devolves birth after birth.
There is divine justice through the universal law of karma. At the end of each cycle (i.e. very soon!), all outstanding karmic debts are settled by Dharamraj ("the king of righteousness"): in other words, Judgement Day. Each soul is thus purified, and returns to the soul world (a.k.a paramdham), awaiting their first rebirth in the next cycle.
Every BK has to surrender to God, and through study and "churning" of BK knowledge, through yoga with God (Raja Yoga), and through inculcation of virtues, and through serving others, will become angelic and God-like (and thus fit to reincarnate in the coming paradise). The BKs aim to become, in this life, so perfect, that they do not suffer any purgatory at Dharamraj.
Time is an eternally repeating cycle. Humanity is now reaching the end of the current cycle, and we are now living in hell on earth. Our current "civilisation" will shortly go through a process of physical transformation, through natural and man made catastrophe, in which most of the human race will die (leave their bodies). Nature will transform the planet into a fresh new perfect world, the start of the Golden Age paradise of the next cycle: heaven on earth. This will take place centred on the site of Delhi, in an enlarged Indian subcontinent, the continents having re-formed in the upheavals into the Pangaea of old. The cycle progresses downwards through Golden, Silver, Copper, and Iron Ages, as humanity become increasingly mired in material things, and loses sight of our original spirituality and inherent virtue.
Time is considered to repeat identically, every 5,000 years, and is composed of five ages (yugas):
- the Golden Age (Sat Yuga) : paradise
- the Silver Age (Treta Yuga) : creation and magic
- the Copper Age (Dwapar Yuga) : religion and commerce
- the Iron Age (Kali Yuga) : degradation
- the Diamond (Confluence) Age (Sangam Yuga) : ascension
The first four ages are each exactly 1,250 years long each. During the first half of the cycle - the golden and silver ages - matter us much more subtle than now, and procreation takes place through yoga, without sexual intercourse. This is the day of the cycle, a time of peace and joy, slowly decreasing. Then there is the flood, and the Copper then Iron ages commence: these are the night of the cycle, a time of increasing trouble and anguish.
The merging of the old Iron Age into the next Golden Age is a short period called the Confluence Age, or Diamond Age. At this time (i.e. now) there is a ramping up of spirituality through certain souls (BKs!) to bring about the purification and cleansing of the world which is required to transform the old decadent hellish Iron-Aged world into the new heavenly Golden-Aged world.
The Confluence Age lasts for 100 years superimposed over the end of the Iron Age, and the beginning of the Golden Age. This is believed to have started in 1936 with the descent of Shiva. During this time, present day civilisation is to be completely destroyed by natural disasters, civil and nuclear war, which followers call "destruction" (or "transformation"). BKs who have purified themselves spiritually at this time (with the help of BapDada and other angelic beings in the subtle regions), will be reborn, in their next life, into the newly created Golden Age paradise. They will, later on in the cycle (Copper Age onwards) become worshiped as deities.
The Universe is never transformed into primordial or atomic state matter, nor does the world ever becomes devoid of human beings.
Numerous false predictions of the date of Destruction have been made, such as 1976, 1987 etc and the philosophy re-written to suit, but followers are still being told it is extremely soon. The current expected date for the beginning of the Golden Age is 2036.
tree of humanity
The tree is used as a metaphor for the growth of the human race. The founder Brahma Baba and his BK followers, now, in the confluence age, are shown as the roots of humanity, with God a.k.a. Shiva as the seed of the next cycle (tree). Brahma Baba reincarnates as Krishna in the Golden Age, and the other BKs follow, as other deities, forming the the trunk of the tree. As the cycle progresses (by the start of the Copper Age) the main branches (religions) are established. As time moves on, they too decline and splits, schisms, cults, and sects appear in the Iron Age, forming the smaller branches and twigs of the tree. Each leaf represents a soul incarnation at this time.
Thus, every religion of the world is seen as branch of the world tree, of which the Hindu culture, rooted in the original deity religion, is the trunk. The BKs are the roots, and God is the seed.
The BKs teachings (the "murlis" of BapDada) are centred on God - the "God of all religions" - in the form of Shiva, the Supreme Soul, an eternal soul just like us, but who never incarnates in a body, and who intercepts the affairs of man at this time. Shiva speaks to humanity exclusively via the Brahma Kumaris, through the mediumship of Brahma Baba.
At this time there are subtle regions, spiritual dimensions outwith time and space, where souls can reside in bodies of light, before reincarnating (or going to the souls world), in order to serve humanity spiritually through subtle spiritual energy and teachings.
Since Brahma Baba left his body in 1969, he has resided in angelic form (body of white light) in the subtle regions, and he continues to channel the combined form of "BapDada" (Shiva through Brahma) through the mediumship of Dadi Hirdaya Mohini.
Souls originally exist with God in the Soul World, a world of infinite light, peace, and silence, called Paramdham. Here souls are in a state of rest and beyond experience. Souls enter bodies to take birth in order to experience life and give expression to their personality. They may return to Paramdham to recharge themselves.
All of life will die, and return to the soul world, then take birth in the forthcoming cycle, at their predestined time and place: BK souls take their first birth in the Golden Age, others in later ages.
The role of BKs now is to reveal God and God's teachings to the world, and thus prepare the rest of humanity spiritually for the coming destruction/transformation.
Unlike traditional forms of Hinduism, the Brahma Kumaris' teachings come not so much from ancient scriptures but from revelations given in trance states. These are called "murli" ("flute" in Hindi, referring to Krishna's flute).
There are two types of murli: sakar and avyakt. The earlier sakar ones, channeled by Brahma Baba while he was alive, are now repeated in a five year cycle. They are supplemented by the later "avyakt" murlis channelled by Hirday Mohini of Delhi in trance states, and these too are written down, and circulated to BKs.
The BKs believe that the soul of Brahma Baba has become perfect, and now has the role of an angel. These messages are understood by members of the BKWSU to be the words of God (Shiva). The Murli's instruct the BKs in their personal spiritual transformation, and institutional service.
BK Raja Yoga has no proscribed breathing exercises nor physical postures: it is purely yoga of the mind, focusing on the third eye. It is practiced open-eyed, in order that meditation may be incorporated into everyday activity.
BK teachings and meetings take place at the BK centres. Raja Yoga is taught via a seven day course, of seven one-hour-long free lessons in their philosophy and open-eyed meditation technique.
The organisation also offers more generalised courses in "positive thinking", "self management leadership", and "living values", and a variety of public programs, aimed at the bringing awareness of the benefits of spirituality and virtue to the public in general. They also have a number of voluntary outreach programs in prisons. In India they have established, and run, hospitals, and other charitable facilities.
Devout BKs follow the following practices:
- daily early morning meditation at 4:00 to 4:45 am, called Amrit Vela
- frequent short pauses for meditation ("remembrance of God"), throughout the day: known as "traffic control". Other more prolonged meditation sessions, or "bhattis", at various times.
- the giving and receiving of drishti (spiritual vision focused on the third eye), during meditation, and when meeting each other (as a greeting).
- daily "morning class" (the reading of, and discussion of, a sakar or avyakt murli), at approximately 6:30 am
- separation of the sexes: men and women traditionally sit on separate sides of the room at the centres during classes
- strict vegetarian diet, avoiding onions, garlic, alcohol, recreational drugs, and tobacco.
- offering of food ("bhog") to God, in a ceremonial way on a Thursday morning, and in general before eating
- avoidance of food prepared by non-BKs, wherever possible, as the energy of the person who prepares the food is absorbed by the food
- strict celibacy (meaning avoidance of sex, as un-consummated marriage is allowed)
- the wearing of white clothes, to symbolise purity
- cultivation of good company, meaning other BKs, in preference to non-BKs
Luckily, it is not necessary to accept all these beliefs to find benefit in the teachings!
In India the BKs have established hospitals and various other charitable facilities. Most BK effort is focused on teaching.
adapted from wikipedia in the light of personal experience :)