Het heeft even geduurd voordat de BKWSU aanstalten maakte om een reglement op te stellen om kinderen te bescherming tegen de strikt celibaat levende volgelingen binnen de organisatie. Seksueel misbruik van kinderen waar de BK leiders al vijftien jaar van op de hoogte waren maar hardnekkige hebben ontkend, het kind zelf de schuld hebben geven en een trage correspondentie over dit onderwerp wellicht in de hoop dat het vanzelf over gaat werd uiteindelijk gerealiseerd. Gedocumenteerde gevallen van kindermisbruik binnen de organisatie van persoonlijke bronnen worden gezien als onbetrouwbare bron om deze wellicht zoveel mogelijk buiten de publiciteit te houden. Onderstaande correspondentie komt ook van datzelfde persoonlijke verslag. Terwijl het “BK Wikipedia witwas team” overuren draait om alle verwijzingen naar ongunstige informatie tegen te houden komt er steeds meer informatie boven water.
De Brahma Kumaris schreef: The welfare of children has always been of paramount importance to the Brahma Kumaris since the beginning of the organisation in the 1930s when the Founder, Brahma Baba, opened a boarding school for about 80 children in Hyderabad, Northern India (now Pakistan).
Brahma Kumaris schreef er niet bij dat de school op last van de overheid gesloten en ontruimd werd omdat er sterke verdenkingen waren dat de kinderen in een staat van hypnose /trans werden gebracht. Leden van het Sindh Assemblee dreigde af te treden tenzij Om Mandali zoals BK toen nog heette werd verboden en in 1908 werd de organisatie als onwettig verklaard. De leider Lekhraj Kripalani werd beschuldigd van tovenarij, ontucht , het vormen van een sekte en het beheersen van zijn groep door middel van hypnose . Om strafvervolging te voorkomen gingen ze op de vlucht van Hyderabad naar Karachi , waar zij zich vestigden in een gestructureerde ashram. De Anti Om Mandli commissie die in Hyderabad in opstand kwam ging achter ze aan. In april 1950 na de opdeling van India ging de Brahma Kumaris naar Mount Abu. Na de dood van Kripalani in 1969 breidde zijn volgelingen de beweging uit naar andere landen.
Het verzoek om een reglement in te voeren om kinderen te bescheren. Laten we even terug gaan en kijken hoe het allemaal begon.
I am finally sitting down and writing you this letter, because you have been a friend, someone I have felt cares for me, someone I have looked up to in my life, or someone that perhaps has looked up to me. This is not a letter I ever thought I would be writing, and it is painful for me to write it, but I feel I would like to express to you some of the things that have been going on throughout my life. I should have said these things many years ago, but I didn’t have the “guts”.
It won’t be long before this letter hits the grapevine and people will be talking about it. But I hope that you, to whom I am actually writing, will at least empathize with what I have to say and think about it.
This letter is not about the BK philosophies, but rather their values. Whether the cycle is 5000 years long is neither here nor there, but the way I was taught to feel and perceive is my concern. Doubtless the two are connected, but philosophy can be debated until you’re blue in the face. My experience is what it is.
I don’t really know how to go about writing this at all, as there are so many complicated issues at stake, and many good things are mixed in with the bad, so bare with me. This is the culmination of many years of experience and searching for the truth within me, I haven’t all of a sudden become dissatisfied due to my present situation, and decided to write this. I have never really been satisfied. I always wanted to be somewhere else or someone else.
My observations and concerns about the BK’s have built up over the last few years. I would complain and gossip to relieve some of the pressure, but that is not good for the soul. And if none of you knew how I was feeling despite the many years I have known you, then what does that show? How can an organisation call itself your family if it knows nothing about you?
I suppose the best way to start is from the beginning. Let me tell you how “lucky” I was to be brought up in the BK institution. How nice it was to feel superior to all the other children at school, how remembering BABA would make the bullies leave me alone, and how it was nice never to be able to talk properly to my own father, because he was not my true father.
For twenty-odd years I was unable to talk to my father because he was someone that needed to be served or saved, though, if he were lucky enough, he would have a ticket to heaven just because he knew us. Can you imagine trying to make small talk with your own father as a child, because he was some kind of “shudra”? And now to look back and see that I had a father but in my own head I didn’t. How much did I miss? When my parents split up because of “gyan”, what did the seniors do for me then, did they hold me when I cried? They might have given me an apple, though I am sure I would have rather had my parents back.
It was my mother that brought us into the institution and I don’t blame her for that. She did what she thought was best for us, as any mother would do for her children. She loved us and encouraged us with all her heart and still does. I do have issues that I need to resolve with my mother, but they are not part of this letter and should not be mixed up. Every child needs to talk to its parents and sort things out. But my upbringing has been unusual, to say the least, and it really involves a lot more people than just my parents.
As a BK child I was bullied at school and I found I had no ability to deal with people or confrontation, all I could do was cry and my mother would have to sort it out. I had no ability to socialize with people, that made me very lonely. I could never have any close friends. And when I told the other school children about the end of the world I was ridiculed for years after. Did the fact that I didn’t mix really make me so lucky?
Childhood in general was very mixed up for me, and I do believe that to be so for many BK children. On one level it was taken away from me: “you are an old soul”. People thought I was like an old man when I was about 12. And the responsibility of the world was placed on my shoulders, let alone that of saving my own father. It’s not fair to give children this kind of superiority complex and burden, yet still treat them as children. And then to give them so many “hopes” to live up to, as well.
Then again, we were never allowed to grow up. For example, my sister was always the angel, until she became a teenager when she fell from grace in the eyes of others. How can she ever love herself when she can see herself changing from a perfect angel to a menstruating, acne-ridden teenager? And when everyone can only remember that little angel that she was. And for myself, how the hell was I going to understand pubity? The beginning of sexual energies could inspire nothing less than self-hate and denial. What advice could the seniors give me then? Whatever they said only made me feel worse about myself. Who could I even tell? Not my own parents, or BK friends, there was too much shame. To believe that by masturbating you are letting God and the whole world down and carving yourself a pathway to hell is ludicrous. Was my semen one of the world’s last natural resources or something? Teenage years were not normal to say the least. I never rebelled against my parents, or anyone, because by then I was already conforming to “God’s will” for the good of humanity.
At 16 years, I should have at least been sat down by the seniors and asked whether this was what I wanted in my life. Someone should have said to me: “You are old enough to decide things now, why don’t you go and look at what the world has to offer, then decide if you want this life or not.” Even that would have been too late, I was already so sure that this was for me – how little I knew. Some of you must have known better and could have done something, surely. I can’t bear to see the same thing happening to future generations.
And what about fun? I only had fun because others and myself were “naughty”; otherwise it was certainly not condoned. Though there were certain days when you could dance in a circle. I was a feisty, energetic child, who was pushed into being a “mature”, quiet, “knowledgeable soul”. There is a line in a film that comes to mind: “If you’re not going to have any fun than what are you saving the world for?”
You could say that I had so many chances to perform in plays, travel the world, meet people, etc, but they all came at a price. I could never do these things on my own terms. I did have fun performing on stage, as any child of my nature would. But later on the plays and productions we did, were done in spite of the lack of encouragement, positive distrust and censorship. The arts were always looked down upon; perhaps it was an Indian thing? Though that has changed a bit nowadays. I felt that I had to fight to do service – fight the very people that wanted it done. And I was willing to do this because of the promise of a higher purpose. I remember we created a team of artists to become a design team for the BKs, but we got nowhere, and we had to fight for it – why did we bother? Were we so gullible? It was a genuine gesture to do something useful and use our “potentials” as I was so often told to do.
To be fair I did receive encouragement, help and fun from certain individuals during my life, but that was still only within the parameters provided by the BKs. I thank them for that and give credit to them. They did it because that was their nature anyway. I believe they were nice people and would have been even if not BKs.
Then there was destruction! A concept that in my observations and experience can do nothing but destruct. The BKs themselves teach that if you focus on the negative it will get the better of you. Destruction has been an important part of my upbringing and it has done nothing but damage. It can only fuel hopelessness, fear, panic, guilt and pain. How was I supposed to be able to do anything worthwhile with my life if it was all to be over soon? I should have just sat and meditated alone until becoming “Karmateet”. Yet I was supposed to live in the world as well. What was I supposed to do? How confused can that make a child? If destruction is coming then you might as well see the world and have some fun while you can. There was no point to studying, as I heard so often, but then working in an underpaid “office job” was okay. Why? Was it only money that was worthwhile for the institution? Could they not be offered anything else? Was my spirit not enough? As far as I could see, both studying and working occupied your time when you should be preparing to die. The BKs taught me how to die, not how to live. If I am going to help humanity than I am going to do it because I want to and on my terms, not because the world will end.
I used to say to people since last year that I learned more self-respect and gained more strength in the few years I learned Kung Fu than in the 20 years of serious “effort” with the BKs. Yet I was supposed to be able to cope with world destruction. After twenty years of meditation, I should be able to stand on my own feet; I shouldn’t need Dadi to give me Toli before I can go outside.
I have never known basic human rights, even to have had them taken away from me. Look at it: The right to eat, drink, sleep, feel, fornicate, defecate, speak freely, have friends of your own choice, have a family. Not one of those things could I do without feeling bad or guilty about it. I even had to remain constipated until I could find a shower! I do not believe that is a healthy way for a child to grow up. I used to get up, get taken to class and sit there sleeping. Even today you will see many people get up religiously, attend class and sleep and be tired all day at work, in the hope that just by turning up they are doing something for their spirit. These things make me angry.
Anger is something else that I could never have. I was never angry, and I used to think that was a good thing. But it was a terrible thing, because anger was there and it could only come out through constant irritation and sorrow. Emotions would come out sideways, as I was never taught how to handle them head on. I don’t know what it means to throw a tantrum at my parents. I have never even been irritated at my father, because I was always on show for him. Even towards my mother I could only express very controlled words and sulk a bit, because I knew it was wrong, though inside I was fuming. That anger is still there and only now am I trying to deal with it. Did any of you know that about me? I doubt it. Emotions had to be kept well under wraps lest the peace and harmony be spoilt. This, I believe, is very unhealthy, especially for a child. To cause children to suppress their feelings is nothing less than abuse. The BKs are such a “peaceful” organisation, so “humble and caring”; but its only skin deep. Scratch the surface a bit, push the right buttons and they are just as angry as the next person is, indeed more so because they are delusional about it. The only thing wrong with that is hypocrisy. And BKs take the meaning of that word to the extreme. I am sure you have all seen it to different levels and even to the highest. To sit back and see this happening does not compute with my integrity. They should either change policy or be honest. Yet most BKs seem to be unable to hear a bad word said about the organisation, why? Is it because people would rather not see what they see? Surely a policy of self-examination and constructive criticism is required in any good organisation?
This brings me on to say that some of you “brothers” that “left gyan” were my teachers and mentors in those years. I looked up to you and believed everything you said. Having willfully abandoned my own father and family, you became father-figures to me, in a world of women. Then for some reason you left “gyan”. Disappeared without a word and left me and my generation wondering “why?” If you found something better or realized something was wrong – why did you not tell me about it? Why did you leave me there? You were conveniently pushed under the carpet by the institution and I heard many stories about you that I couldn’t understand. I thought about you for a long time after, and still do.
I really do not want those of you that looked up to me in the same way to feel like that, which is why I have included you in this letter. I want to apologize for helping to perpetuate some of the hang-ups and untruths that you may also face in your life now. But I can only say in my defence that I knew no better and I was genuine in what I said and believed. I still am. And I will always be there for you if you need to talk, and if you are ready to hear the advice that I have accrued over the last 20 years. Please do not think that I have betrayed you by writing this letter, but rather that I would have, had I not done so.
My student days were painful. It was hard to feel ambition or any kind of joy in doing things for myself, though I am naturally ambitious and determined. I enjoyed studying; especially my degree, but those were also the years I was a “space cadet”. (Its funny that we used to joke about being fundamentalist if we knew it was wrong, yet still perpetuated it.) I did not mix with anyone and just kept myself to my chart. It was a constant battle to try and live in two worlds and split my intellect between them. How was I supposed to remember BABA and solve abstract mathematical problems?
I served my time as a “centre niwasi” during my degree and I lived with a very regimental, authoritarian brother. It was awful. Do the BKs have any idea about the people that run their centres? At that time I did not even have the London BK family to support me, and I felt abandoned. But I thought I was some kind of “spiritual teacher”, and it was my duty to be able to handle it. What could I have known at that age?
If I am going to start something I will do the best I can. I am someone that strives for perfection and success, which is why I was so “pukka” and lasted so many years as a BK when so many of my generation “fell by the wayside”. If I believe I have to make efforts, attend classes, wear white to achieve spirituality then I will do it. I was up at 2am meditating until 5.30. Going to BABA Bhawan every morning and staying there until it was time to go to Dudden Hill for class. I was called a Dada on occasion, which for a teenager is quite a mix-up. I did everything “right” and received all the praise from Dadi. I even adopted an Indian personality, as it seemed the best way to “come close”. My mother and sister (let alone my father) were nothing more than irritations for me. Obstacles in my path to the “Karmateet” stage. I was perceived to be a successful “effort-maker” and an example of the “perfect western kumar”. I did indeed make sincere efforts without coveting overt name and fame. But I was arrogant, delusional and imbalanced. I was so far from reality and who I really was. The Hindi class and Dadi loved me, but as some kind of a gimmick or showpiece, whereas the English class couldn’t relate to me at all. It hurts me to think of those years and how far I was misled. I am, by nature, trusting and innocent; I am not a cynic. I have always believed that things would be alright in the end if I just stick with them. I clung to the fragile dream of the BK world and gave everything. I feel that my trusting nature has been abused. I did things by the book, remained pure, barely even flirted, been honest and, in short, given the best years of my life away. Yet because I gave it away of my own “free will” it was okay. What chance does a child have to develop itself in that organisation? Did I ever have free will?
You may be wondering if I have forgotten my experiences in Yoga, and certainly during my fundamentalist years I had many of them. But I would like to point out that the BKs do not have a monopoly on meditation, trance-states, possession and voices from God or visions. They are ubiquitous throughout the cultures of the world and anyone can access deeper spiritual modes through penance, extenuating circumstances, hallucinogens or whatever. I was relieved to find that I can still access my spiritual side without walking into GCH, and without imagining Brahma’s face. Truth and spirituality can be found everywhere, by their very definition, and not just in the small world of the BKs.
I feel that after all these years the BK organisation, as it is, does nothing for your spirit, in fact it is detrimental to it. The atmosphere does not encourage individuality, though if you stand out in spite of it you are frowned on or praised, depending on whatever the flavour of the month is. I feel that my spirit has been crushed, and I see that in so many of my compadres who are still BKs. I feel like a wild horse that has been tamed and now can only run for its rider and cannot run free for itself. It feels like I have to fight for my own freedom. This is a battle within myself. But the BKs work within you, never that overtly. I was never tamed with a whip, but with sweet guilt-ridden words. The passion, the verve for life and creativity that I see in many “normal” people I never had. It felt hard to do anything for myself. Often people would say that I was wasting my life, but I had no drive. I thought that to work or study was a waste of time when I could be doing “service”. These ideas made me lost and confused. Everything seemed hopeless or pointless. Sometimes I had to fight to wake up at all. I spent five years writing a book, and I had to keep that a secret because I knew it would be frowned upon. Even as I wrote it I had to censor myself, I had to justify to myself that it was “good service”. Then I began martial arts about 7 years ago and kept that secret as well. There was a constant battle inside me as to whether I could be a BK and do Kung Fu, even though I was unfit and overweight and had to do something. How can any organisation that claims to be spiritual be so closed minded and blinkered? Surely that goes against the ideals of holistic living?
Spirit is something alive and free, it needs to be encouraged to find itself, to explore, to create and to stand on its own two feet. Ultimately I do not feel that the BKs can teach people to look after themselves, you are spoon-fed their own special brand of spirituality, and just by following a few basic principles you can get to heaven. True spirituality is more than that, it has to be. It is a holistic thing. The Chinese have a saying: “If your feet don’t touch the ground your hands can’t touch the heavens”. The BKs want to reach heaven, but their feet are nowhere near the ground! They need some serious grounding. I used to say that if all the BKs disappeared and GCH was destroyed, I would still have my spirituality. And now I am finding out how hard that really is. Effectively I have created that situation for myself and it is hard to find my own spirituality, because I am still attached to the BKs and feel that I have to be there to be spiritual. That notion has been implanted in me as a child.
I would like to say that I have tried for many years to affect change within the BKs. I have not been just idly complaining. I did workshops and held meetings and debates in which I questioned the things we believed and the attitudes we had. I even asked the question: “Who are the BKs?” I was greeted with suspicion, contempt or tolerance. If what the BKs have is so wonderful and strong then why not be open and let people see everything? They should be saying: “come and look in every corner, we have nothing to hide!” Why all the panic of trying to keep people? It should be easy to come and go without being treated as a traitor or a failure. Instead they project themselves as some kind of “executive training programme”, embarrassed of their humble beginnings as an Indian cult. As an organisation it seems totally obsessed with its own glorification. It must look good above all else. In doing this it has sold out all spirituality and become a commercial venture. Enough is enough. I feel now that there was nothing I could do from the inside, and it was hurting me too much to see people turned into mindless zealots, so I can only now stand up for integrity and honesty by writing this letter and resigning formally. A bit dramatic I know, but I am very serious. I hope someone will finally sit up at take notice of what I say.
You may wander at how I can doubt the values of this organisation, as it preaches values itself; but I do. Is not equality of rich and poor, black or white, man or woman, BK and non-BK an important value? Then what about the unbending heirachy? The preferred treatment of the rich and famous? The blind arrogance of deciding what is pure and what isn’t; who is good company and who isn’t? Need I go on? They say that they teach by example, but do they? The seniors are our examples, yet they live lives so different to us on the grass roots. Served hand and foot while we dote over them, hanging on their every word, imagining they know our very thoughts. Gandhi led India to freedom because of his integrity. He lived a poor man’s life to prove we are all equal. Ask yourself will you ever really feel equal to the seniors, or the seniors ever feel equal to you? Just because they visit your house are they living at your level? Who put them up there as “representatives of God”?
The BKs are a charity. Charities donate things to people that are worse off. Does it require such vast acquisitions of wealth and property to do “service of the mind”? They collect money, but donate “virtues and good wishes”. We are encouraged to collect money and give it away to them, yet they don’t give anything away. As far as I know they won’t even sponsor their smaller centres, it’s the other way round. The smaller centres (run by people who work as well) have to provide for the expanding mother. Let’s see something valuable done with that money!
I remember sitting in front of Avyakt BAPDADA and watching as the seniors all sat there crowding him for hours. It made me quite jealous. They have known him all their lives, lived with BABA, and yet still need all the attention. I myself used to sit at the back of the hall so that newcomers could have a better view. But if I followed the example of the seniors where would I be sitting? One rule for one and another for another it seems.
I was told not to judge people or categorize them, but the example of the seniors does not follow. If any of you have been the victim of gossip, you will realise that they believe the first thing that they hear about you. And I can guarantee they will be jumping to conclusions about me right now, categorizing me as an “X-BK”, but will they be able to spare the time to come “down” to my level and try to understand me? Or will they just have words with my mother? If I turned up to class tomorrow morning wearing my white kurtas, would they not see me differently? How shallow is that?
For an organisation that says we’re on the family path, look what happened to my family. Look how parents treat their kids. Where are the family values in the BKs own families? They are just for show it seems. Once more if things are okay on the surface, everyone is attending class, then they are the perfect example. Don’t let’s hear about what goes on behind the closed doors. In fact you are positively encouraged to disassociate yourself from your own family – they become “lokiks”. For me, as a child or young person, how could I ever leave the BKs? Since my blood family no longer counted, I would be leaving my “true family” – which no child can do!
There is a saying that I heard about the BKs: “when they want something from you, they are a family, when you need something in return, they are an institution.” It is very unpleasant to play with people’s feelings like that. I am sure you know what I am talking about.
Perhaps now you are wondering if I have sent this letter to the seniors. No, I have not. Why? Because I do not feel that they have been close to me in the same way as you have. They have never let me close to their level. I only ever had an official relationship with them, without any genuine contact or empathy, just one-way traffic. I have only really been afraid, in awe, or defiant of them, never friends; though I did try. Besides, I know they will get this letter anyhow.
It seems that the BKs only attract certain types of people. No people that are already strong in their own identity and successful in their lives, but people that are mixed up, hopeless and failed in their relationships. Hence all the stories of “zero to hero”. In that weakened state people need the world to be small and simple; they need reasons for everything and people to tell them what to do (indeed God), so that they can control life again. The organisation is such that it seems to perpetuate this neediness, like an overprotective mother, incestuously attached to her child. When you join the BKs you are handing over your “self sovereignty”; your freedom and it feels good because of the security you get in return. But is it a true security? Or have you just been suckered?
As an adult you have the right to be gullible and give your life away if you choose, but as a child you are by nature gullible. I do feel now that I am a strong personality and always have been, which is why I was a leader in my own way as a BK and why I made “efforts” with integrity as I am sure you do know that about me. But I feel that the things I took on board were not suitable for someone with spirit, like me, someone who has the ability to control their own life and make decisions on their own. That personality has been oppressed in me and instead I picked up the personality of dependence and accountability. Where I not brought up as a BK I now don’t think I would be one. I think I would have grown up as a strong, independent man with a healthy interest in spirituality, instead of a small, dependent boy who believed he was the answer to the world’s problems.
“You should always say ‘Yes’”, “you are an instrument of Baba”, “surrender your intellect”, are comments that I would often hear. What do these do to you? Take everything away. You become a nothing, just a spoon for God to eat with. Even your “talents” and “virtues” are no longer yours, but BABA’s. Everything you have has been given to you, because you are so “lucky”. These ideas cannot create strong individuals in my opinion. Because a strong person knows who they are and their abilities belong to them. If a non-BK is talented in something was that BABA’s blessing? I would so often hear that people do things for BABA and I would always wonder why. Surely God doesn’t need anything. Do I have to cook for him? Even if taken metaphorically these ideas take away the individual’s power to act for themselves. I was taught always to look towards BABA or the seniors and never to find strength from within myself. That is not self-empowerment.
Any good spiritual healer, with the genuine interest in helping you would not want to keep hold of you. They would want to help you to heal yourself and move on – leaving them behind. You would leave them without pain of separation; indeed would leave with a warm glow. But here, after 20 years of so called help, look at the problems I face in my life now and the “healer” still wants me to come everyday. I was virtually born into this organisation so surely my problems should have been cured even before I got them! Then again I suppose I did have “maya”, “past karma”, “clash of sanskars” or any other convenient excuse to hide behind.
I could always find something to blame other than the organisation – usually myself. If this was a genuinely caring and warm organisation with the spirit of freedom I should be leaving now with fond thoughts and thanks, the legacy of spirituality should leave me feeling strong and good about myself in whatever I do, rather than battling with residual guilt and anger.
Let me talk about sex now.
In fact why has that been always so hard to speak of? Are you now cringing inside as I was for so many years? Shrinking away at the very mention of the word “sex”. Or perhaps you would like to hear if I have any exploits to tell to fuel your imagination? Has it been suppressed so much? Externally I could talk about the efforts I made to conquer “lust”, but inside I hoped no-one would ever see my real feelings. I now feel that celibacy as taught by the BKs is irresponsible. You cannot just be told to be celibate for the good of the world, there is a lot more to it than that. I was the only person to write something for BKs about celibacy and send it round the world – and I wrote that as a teenager. Who told me how to be celibate? The Taoists have the right idea; they developed exercises to elevate your sexual energies, practical things that you can do, instead of just “remembering BABA”.
I put it to you that most of the problems in the BKs come from unresolved sexual desires. If you try and switch off your natural instincts and emotions it is bound to twist your motivations. Manifesting, for example, in perversion, power struggles and grown people flirting like twelve-year-olds! Power has become an important issue in the BKs and there seems to be so much available, so many ways to manipulate and control people. Perhaps the thirst for power and position compensates for that of sex. People who “need” power thrive in that organisation.
Repressed sexuality also opens the doors to all kinds of abuse. My sister and her friend as young children were sexually abused, on several occasions and by different people in Madhuban and Delhi. The seniors were informed, but did nothing. It seems that they blame the victim for “attracting it” no matter how young they may be. That somehow women attract rape. What “Women’s Organisation” would allow that attitude? And these people have the gall to say that the vibrations of Madhuban are so “pure” and that nothing bad could ever happen in “God’s home”. I remember my sister telling me about the “brother” that did this to her, but what could I do to protect my sister when I was only 12 years old myself? Though, I believed her and would have done whatever I could to prevent it happening again, (It did happen again). If I saw this happening now –woe betide! My mother was also powerless to do anything. Do not look too closely or listen to too many stories, lest the fragile dream be shattered! What makes it worse is that the seniors have always been aware of these all-too-common travesties yet have done nothing except hide them away. How can I affiliate myself with any organisation like that?
I found that I had to split my personality, into that dark and the light. The dark side was called “old sanskars” or “karma” or “maya”, or whatever other excuse I was given, whereas the light was the “real me”. I always hoped that those sexual feelings might just go away, I certainly made enough efforts, though I came to the conclusion years ago that they would always be there and I would just have to keep them hidden or let them out secretly. All I learnt from the BK’s is to suppress things, so that the surface is calm. Which is why people that are good at that can achieve so much in that organisation; they can get away with murder if they are able to smile afterwards. Again, this rankles my integrity.
Attitudes to sex, I think, are very closely connected to attitudes towards men. The BKs are traditionally run by Indian women that have had unfortunate experiences with men. Men will either rape you, beat you, or leave you, given half the chance. And men have an uncontrollable desire for sex (and women don’t.) This is nonsense, of course, yet we hear very little about women’s sexuality from the BKs except that they are “impure” when menstruating – another incredible act of sabotage towards women’s rights by a Women’s Organisation. Basically, men cannot really be trusted, especially the ones with facial hair, (except Brahma of course).
Are there any manly men in the BKs? I can’t think of any regular attending man that isn’t in some way self-effacing, effeminate, or quiet. In the early days I used to wish I were a sister so that I could surrender and achieve the “purity” and “status” that only they could achieve. A couple of months ago I was with a group of BKs and someone joked that I had a lot of “Macho ego”, but I am just a regular guy. Can they really not tell the difference between a good, honest man and a misogynist, arrogant lecher? There is nothing wrong with being a man! Tell me that these ideas do not affect your natural instincts. In an organisation run by neurotic women what chance did I have of becoming a man?
I was essentially brought up by the BKs and hence where I am today surely is partly their responsibility, is it not? And if I, someone with so much capacity to do service, one-time “Dadi’s pet”, am leaving in bitterness, surely they must look at themselves? Will they accept even part of the responsibility and not make the same mistakes again? Indeed, will I get an apology? I doubt it. Once more I will be expected to blame myself, as it is conveniently all just “karma”. They may try to get me back with smiles and Toli, so I cannot badmouth them anymore. But frankly, I no longer want my good name dragged down with them. I am no longer a pawn to be played or a “subject” in the “Kingdom”. I will settle for “cremator status”, it is honest work and at least I shall be free. I do believe that we are all ultimately responsible for our own lives, and I feel that by writing this letter I am accepting that responsibility and leaving some of the pain and confusion behind.
Did you find this hard to read? If so, why? It should not be difficult to express freely or listen freely. There is so much to write and I am finding it hard to stop, but I have to end somewhere. There will be other letters I am sure, not only from me, but there are many more people with similar experiences that could write just as much as me. But it is hard. I had to fight everything in me to write this, I had to fight the guilt that it would be “disservice”. Can you see how well I have been controlled? I cannot even say what I feel without difficulty. Is that freedom? I feel like I am standing alone against the world I have known, and it takes courage. I hope you can appreciate that.
So what do you think of me now? Have I forfeited the place in the golden age, which I was promised? Am I still a second-birth Brahmin, or have I forfeited that as well? Am I still a member of “the family”, or have I been disowned? Or was I ever a member of “the family”? Can you really tell me what you think or will there be a hidden agenda when you talk to me?
You may think that five years down the line I would have worked it out of my system. Had my relationships and done all the “normal” things until I fail in them or reach boredom and decide to come back. Some people have done this, which doesn’t surprise me, because what you learn from the BKs doesn’t help you with facing relationships or the “real world”, so its no wonder people fail and return to be mollycoddled. (The BKs seem to be proud of this.) Or perhaps they want to keep one foot in the BK boat – just in case. But that isn’t me. I have never been shallow, and whatever I do, I do with integrity. Because I have always been caring, honourable, honest and good-natured. I hope you know this about me. I was always like this regardless of whether I attended class or not, or the “fluctuations” in my “efforts”. This is me and I still am that. I don’t have the BKs to thank for these qualities and I don’t have to hand them in at reception when I leave! All life is an adventure and a mystery, both physical and spiritual and the world is not as small and simple, as we sometimes like to believe. But I would like to tread that path on my own terms and find my own guides along the way, the most important of which is me.
3rd March 1999
Thank you for your letter. I was astounded by the clarity, lucidity and directness of your words. It is a most incisive critique of the less praiseworthy side of Raja Yoga. And it seems to me that as a Raja Yogi of some twenty years and in particular as someone who had to grow up in Raja Yoga you have every right to expect your story to be heard. Everyone connected in the past, present or future of Raja Yoga whether they acknowledge it or not, and no matter how unpalatable they might find your words owes you a debt of gratitude for your honesty and your courage. To learn from mistakes they need to be pointed out. Maybe someone somewhere might learn from this.
One of the most powerful feelings I have on reading your letter is one of respect for your anger. Anger may not be the ultimate answer but it is sometimes a very good starting point. Over the years I have had such sad discussions with so many ex and current Raja Yogis in which they have expressed great anger at their experiences in Raja Yoga. I do not seek out Raja Yoga gossip at all, I had more than enough when I was in it, but through the years so many deeply upset people have contacted me, often after years of no contact. Sometimes it is current Raja Yogis wanting to talk and finding no one in the organisation that they feel able to confide in. Sometimes it is ex Raja Yogis re-examining their past and struggling with unresolved issues. From these various people I have heard the most awful stories of mistreatment, intimidation, exploitation, violence, attempted suicides, wife beatings, mental breakdowns and sexual molestation. I was in Raja Yoga for fourteen years, and it is only after I left that I started to hear about most of these things! It fills me with dread now to think about this real hidden legacy of Raja Yoga; not their little leaflets and VIP lists but the inner work that thousands of people have to do to repair the damage once they leave.
Over the years I have worked hard to get my own history within Raja Yoga to a place inside of me in which I could emphasise it’s good points and I could appreciate the good things I participated in whilst there. I wanted to feel that my exchange with it was on the whole an upstanding and noble thing. I wonder in retrospect if I should have allowed myself to be much more critical of it than I did.
There are very few western Raja Yogis that could be said to have grown up from childhood to adulthood in Raja Yoga. They are a select and therefore valuable group. As one of them I would like to state that in my opinion I cannot believe for one moment that a Raja Yogi who came to the institution as an adult can imagine what it is like to have to try to grow up in Raja Yoga. Nor do I think they realise how vulnerable the young and innocent are to the more extravagant claims of Raja Yoga. I totally worshipped my teachers when I was a child, I was incapable of thinking of them as anything but God’s directly appointed and infallable instruments on earth. They were not people they were gods and goddesses. And I was totally unequipped once their human frailties and weaknesses started to show through. Coming to Raja Yoga as an adult and making a life once there is so sufficiently difficult that ninety nine percent of people ultimately fail. Coming as a child is substantially harder and rarer. All Raja Yogis have a responsibility to listen respectfully and humbly to the testimony of the Raja Yoga children. And ultimately if Raja Yoga ever feels the need to apologise to you for your treatment, the proof of their regret would be an overhaul of the way they treat their members’ children.
All over the world awful things are done in the name of God. The legacy of Raja Yoga like all religions is in parts sublime, but also it can be awful. What will or will not distinguish the institution from all the other religions which it judges so critically is whether or not it shows itself to be morally and institutionally mature enough to be accountable for it’s failings. Nowhere is this more crucial that in respect of the Raja Yoga children -those people who were not in a position to choose their involvement. If Raja Yoga cannot listen honestly to the cries of it’s children, if it cannot take responsibility for it’s part in causing the long-term pain and difficulties you speak of, and if it cannot do this publicly, then I’m really not sure what it’s claimed spirituality really amounts to. In spite of the many very good people within it, the institution would to all purposes be morally bankrupt.
A crucial measure of this will be if the seniors try to deal with the issues you raise without involving the wider Raja Yoga community. If they try to exclude the rank and file Raja Yogis from whatever soul-searching your letter prompts I think this will speak more loudly than whatever they say to you. Your letter raises issues that the whole Raja Yoga community needs to address. I hope that the more cynical of the seniors don’t try to deal with it simply as a potential public relations issue. If they do I have no doubt that they will come to regret it.
Many institutions, both religious and otherwise, are painfully and awkwardly having to account for past failings and abuses of power. They are having to institute safeguards and controls which until recently they thought themselves above. When I left it Raja Yoga had yet to begin this process, and did not recognise the need for it. Indeed this was a factor in my departure. In my discussions with the seniors about your generation of young brahmins I felt that their disregard for your emotional, social, sexual and spiritual needs was unjustifiable. In my opinion both at the time and now it went beyond the bounds of well meaning failure. I think they failed in their duty of care for you not through error but through neglect. As an adolescent myself I had gone through many of the very things which I could see were waiting for you on your horizon, but the seniors seemed to think that because they did not really understand what I was talking about there was nothing to talk about. They knew the intimate details of my story and knew some of the difficulties I had been through but they neither acknowledged that I could have been handled better nor that you should. I felt at the time that their rather blaise and condescending attitude amounted, on an institutional level, to negligence and recklessness. In short I was trying ten years ago to warn them of what you are now complaining about. I apologise now to you that I left so discreetly and did not at least tell you of my failed efforts.
It seems to me that if Raja Yoga is to flourish in the west it will have to institute genuinely the kind of accountability every other public organisation faces. When I was in Raja Yoga accountability was about as foreign a concept as you could get. Students and teachers from all over the world in their most candid moments used to ask myself and the other older London Brahmins advice and tell us their problems. It was clear to us in Shanti Bhavan that half of the people whose job it was to sort out these problems did not even know about them. The other half were frequently causing the problems in the first place. Many students and teachers had no idea what to expect in any given situation, there were no norms, no standards, no agreed common practices. Every centre in the world seemed to be run a different way and they all thought they were doing it by the book. Of course there was no book. Every teacher was more or less a law unto themselves, and abused or poorly treated students had virtually no comeback against a teacher who had the ear of his or her senior. Those that complained found that there seemed to be virtually nothing a bad teacher could do to get themselves thrown out if they managed to keep up the appearance of a good centre. The system was open to the most extreme abuses and in Shanti Bhavan at one time or another we would hear of most of them.
When I tried to raise some obvious directions that we might gradually as an organisation move in (such as proper teacher training, standards of delivery and conduct, some system of complaint management, proper monitoring of teachers, perhaps a mentoring system) or at least a systematic investigation into what the most common problems might be, the seniors could see no need for any of these things. They seemed to me to ignore half of the crises and deal with the others in a very arbitrary way. Above all they seemed to treat them as if they just happened out of the blue. Most of them, however, could be seen coming a mile off. Most of them were inevitable given the lack of training, monitoring and accountability. Even today I shudder at how badly so many people were let down. People were coming to Raja Yoga centres in good faith, they were getting involved because they perceived it to be a certain kind of an organisation and then once they had jumped in they were finding themselves at the mercy of all kinds of poor treatment against which they had no effective recourse. And with the amazing amount of trust and faith students give their teachers and the institution, it can easily take many years before one works out what is really happening.
Clearly, this sort of mismanagement is still happening, but in my opinion it should no longer be tolerated or excused. Raja Yoga has had long enough in the west to get it’s act together. Innocent mistakes repeated and repeated are not innocent mistakes they are reckless endangerment.
Like many ex-Raja Yogis it is no understatement to say that leaving it was like death. Starting again was so hard and so painful and so completely the opposite of what I wanted to do. In reality all I really wanted was to be a Raja Yogi, but there was no Raja Yoga, there was just this complacent and arrogant little club that was an insult to the name. Along the continuum of well-meaning failure; carelessness; negligence and cynical recklessness senior Raja Yogis would no doubt place any institutional mistakes at the well-meaning end of the scale. I disagree. What you complain of are not aberrations in the Raja Yoga lifestyle, they are the cultural norms of it. They are the well established patterns one must learn to get on in that organisation. To be a good Raja Yogi you must learn their particular dysfunctions and preoccupations, their obsessions and their group languages and games. But, and this is a big one: It does not matter how much you devote your life to it all, those sweet little ladies will never allow you to genuinely participate in their adventure. Ultimately you are just another person they are using while you are passing through. They think that you are benefiting from the exchange and so they allow themselves to use you. But it is still just that: They are using you. If you want to stay then it is on their terms. Not God’s terms, their terms. The moment you try to point out something on the horizon that they don’t see, it is your sight that will be called into question. The moment you disagree with them, it is you who will be wrong, even if it is they who are wrong. And if truth or justice or your conscience gets in the way of you playing your role they expect you to sacrifice your selfish little morality just as they have. Ultimately I concluded that morally speaking Raja Yoga was a captainless ship, and it was around this time that I reluctantly and with a very heavy heart decided I had to swim for it.
In the end the renunciation of personal responsibility that everyone in Raja Yoga indulges in is a complete illusion. Baba doesn’t take on your personal baggage if you hand your brain in with your shoes. Spirituality is a relentlessly individual affair and whatever help you receive from others you will have to pay for. That doesn’t mean one should not receive help, simply that one should factor in the true cost before handing your soul over into their safekeeping. At some point one has to begin to claim it back. I remember the happiness of Raja Yoga and I remember the price of it. It is a dirty, self-denying trade. But our hearts betray us and disguise it so well . And those who are offering the trade are so very, very seductive.
Good luck to you. There is a big wide world out there and you are an amazing person due some nice times. Whether Raja Yoga ever apologises to you or not is really a matter of their loss or gain. It is their privilege to be accountable to you and their loss if they fail to recognise it. But for the sake of those that they will in future presume to teach I applaud your act of whistleblowing.
Raja Yogis make extravagant promises to the person turning up at their door. They offer heaven in the next life and a near perfect lifestyle for this one. What they don’t tell you is that ninety nine percent of the people that sign up ultimately fail and leave bitterly disappointed. I think it extremely dishonest of Raja Yoga that they take absolutely no responsibility for their failures, even though most of their students will end up, by their own definition failures. An experienced senior looking out over a class of students at any given day of any given year knows that of her hundred students, on average only one or two will be in the fold in ten years time. But she directs everything she says to that one. In her opinion all the rest, who will founder and fall, will deserve whatever post Raja Yoga problems they inherit. Even if it is Raja Yoga teaching and practices that will sow the seeds of those problems, she will take no responsibility for them. If in her quest to find and make her king she damages others, that is their problem.
And every Raja Yogi of any substantial amount of time in the organisation has watched this merciless and exploitative system in action. Generation after generation pass through each centre. They leave and are replaced by a new batch, each one being told that they have miraculously just got in the door before time runs out and the world ends. A few years later they have gone. New people come, are seduced by the same promises and the same spectacular early progress. Gradually they too get disillusioned and eventually leave. They take with them not the health, wealth and happiness they were promised but often anguish, confusion and great personal dislocation. What they always take with them, without fail, and it is a horrible gift for a spiritual university to bestow on its graduates is a heavy and permanent disappointment.
If they are still at this point Raja Yogis they also often have a great deal of guilt, because they still believe the party line that only low class souls leave. The centre makes occasional friendly gestures to them but both sides know that according to Raja Yoga they are failures, they are the irredeemably impure, the fools who were attracted back to hell from the very lap of God. But this is not the odd difficult or weakminded brahmin we are talking about here! This is the story of very nearly all serious, committed Raja Yogis. According to the definitions of it’s own metaphysical caste system Raja Yoga does not actually make kings so much as legions and legions of body burners. Viewed from a distance it is a rather merciless system. Up close you are carefully shielded from this view. No teacher lets their fresh faced latest batch realise that the centre which they think of as a kind of nursery for kings is actually little more than a production line for cremators.
The sad reality behind this perverse system is easily stated: Any system which by it’s own definitions has at least a ninety percent failure rate is itself the failure.
If I were in charge of Raja Yoga I would make genuine and sincere efforts to get comprehensive knowledge from those that leave Raja Yoga of the ways that it could be improved. Instead of it blindly stumbling onwards, causing untold bad karma and pain in it’s wake I would manage the progress Raja Yoga makes consciously and openly. I would gather information from everyone, especially the ex-brahmins. I’m more likely to get the truth from them and anyway there is always five times as many in the ex-brahmin family as in the current one. Most current brahmins are simply passing through on their way to their eventual status as ex-brahmins. Knowing this fact as every senior does I would also be much less insulting about ex-brahmins during my classes to my current batch. When in the future I am inviting them round to tea as ex-brahmins this would stand me on much better ground. Given that the murlis are edited anyway I would edit out the insults about ex-brahmins they are littered with.
In addition I would apologise to anyone who having committed themselves to Raja Yoga then decided that it was no longer for them. I would apologise formally in writing, I would thank them for their time and efforts and I would ask them to be candid in their insights about the institution. I would gather information such as this systematically and I would use it to drive through the large-scale improvements the institution needs. I would publish statistics on drop-out rates. I would know how many people dropped out after one, two, five, ten fifteen and twenty years. I would know what the major reasons are. And those reasons would guide me in my planning.
In essence if I was one of these self declared living deities running the so-called confluence age and the failures of my institution played a hand in people diminishing their future fortunes I would feel an obligation to find out where those failures lay. And I would think it deeply unspiritual to assume it was simply the karma of those that fall by the wayside to have a poorly trained or unsuitable teacher. I think it is patently obvious that usually people leave Raja Yoga somewhat reluctantly, when they see no other option. This kind of undermines the official view that they were predestined to go because they are poor-quality souls. People leave when their needs do not get met. It is usually a shared failure.
Raja Yoga is full of wonderful people. I have known most of the seniors very well and many of the rank and file and they are in general people I am proud to know. Unfortunately wonderful people in a dysfunctional system can do as much damage as immoral louts. But wonderful people who refuse to acknowledge that they are doing this much damage actually are immoral louts. Raja Yoga is full of genuinely spiritual people functioning in an unaccountable, autocratic and ignorant way. Raja Yoga is full of the most spiritual people actually participating in a very unspiritual organisation. It teaches wonderful introspection then requires people to retard themselves so that the teacher has someone they can pretend to teach. It turns self respecting adults into lip-serving cow-towing weaklings. It shows people how to grow self esteem privately and secretly, making real foundations into the hidden self, and then it puts them at the mercy of some coward with a gun and calls the resulting struggle dharna. Wonderful decent people have received your letter T– and many of them won’t know what to do with it. So well trained are they that they won’t know what to think about it until their senior (or conversely the trouble-maker at the back of the class) tells them. Three years later when they have left they’ll know exactly what they think, but by then it is too late.
What is perhaps most saddening about this awful episode is that according to, in my opinion, a most crude and unspiritual distortion of the principle of karma many badly trained and mis-educated Raja Yogis would interpret anything bad happening to someone as, karmicly speaking, their fault. Hence if your sister was sexually abused there are many Raja Yogis that would be quietly asserting that it serves her right. If I were you I would at some point request that apart from accounting institutionally for such an event as her repeated abuse you also request that an appropriate authority gives an official statement on the Raja Yoga beliefs as to the karma of such an event. In short is it a part of Raja Yoga doctrine that she deserved it? Do they actually realise that something bad happened to her? And if they believe that her abuse was as a result of her own karma how does this bode for their protection of children from child abuse in the future?
As we enter this thing called the Information Age when anyone can publish their thoughts to the entire world’s front room for virtually no cost at all Raja Yoga will rapidly lose the near total control it presently has of it’s public profile. People won’t leave discreetly with a polite letter asking why their sister was abused, they will publish their grievances on the internet. Once that starts it will not be long before all manner of skeletons start to emerge. Apart from the damage this will do to all the VIP parties, one wonders what the impact will be on Raja Yogis themselves, who up to now have had vast areas of their institutions failings carefully hidden from them by their seniors. I would recommend that you do not use the internet in this way and concentrate instead on your own life, your own future, and your own healing. If Raja Yoga really cannot police itself in the longer term then unfortunately it will inevitably invoke it’s own public nemesis, but as I say I would discourage you from taking on the role of instigating this. Presume it is another battle, for someone else.
Isn’t it such a shame to think of the Yugya we loved needing to be slapped on the knuckles in public like all the other rather disappointing organisations? When I think about it all it makes me so sad. Ten years on I still can’t quite let go of my dreams for it all. I still can’t let it be normal. How ironic that it trained us so well in the conception of the sublime and the transcendent, and then with the perception it taught we turned on it and saw so clearly its’ many faults. Perhaps it really is a university and we simply outgrew it. Perhaps we shouldn’t resent it for not being heaven on earth, but should be grateful for what it was.
I know one thing for sure; ultimately every ex-Raja Yogi needs and deserves to be able to look back on it with love.
I think you should feel proud of all you have tried to do in Raja Yoga. It has great failings but it is a noble path. But however noble it might be or could be never forget this: All along from day one, in direct contradiction to what they tried to tell you, the question was not whether you would be good enough for it but whether it would be good enough for you. They tried, they really did, but it wasn’t. When you are ready you’ll forgive them and you’ll move on.
Een briefwisseling met de BK leiders komt op gang.
24th February 1999
Dear Dadi Janki, Sr. Jayanti and Sr. Maureen,
I was shocked to receive allegations today of repeated child sex abuse in the context of Raja Yoga centres. I was doubly shocked to read that allegedly seniors in Raja Yoga knew of these incidents and did nothing.
As these alleged events are apparently now public knowledge please advise me what happened and what the institutions response was. Please also advise me what mechanisms are in place now to protect children from this kind of danger.
27th March 1999
Thank you for your letter which Maureen sent to us in Madhuban….
I spoke to Dadi XXXX [a senior BK in Delhi] about the incidents and her memory tells her the report was followed up.
It wasn’t reported immediately, and when it was XXXX [child’s name] was already back in London and some weeks had elapsed. An inquiry took place and the person who appeared to be the culprit was asked to leave. In Madhuban it was more difficult as the turnaround of sheevadharis –souls who come to help as volunteers in service – had already happened, and there was no conclusive information.
Our concern is as great as yours and the spiritual training given to the people involved in service focuses on the need for purity in life and relationships. We will definitely ensure that proper care and attention is given especially to the children who come to us
10th April 1999
Dear Dadi Janki, Sr. Jayanti and Sr. Maureen,
Thank you Sr. Maureen for your note of 28th February 1999 and thank you Dadi for your letter of 27th March 1999. I hope you all had a fulfilling and fruitful time in India.
On the matter of the child sex abuse issues referred to in our correspondence I would strongly suggest that you consult some of the excellent agencies with expertise in this area. The response of those in positions of authority within Raja Yoga at the time of the original events in question and also your recent responses to my inquiry do indicate unfortunately that as an organization you are not up to date with the best possible practices in this field. Most organizations that deal with minors have numerous safeguards and systems for the prevention, or at least quick reporting, of such incidents. In an organization of your size it is inevitable unfortunately that some sex abuse will occur. You know this and I know this, but based on your letter to me I would have to suggest that regrettably, you do not even know what good practice in child protection is, let alone having actually got around to actually implementing it. In educational circles this would be considered complacence at the very least. There have been many court cases where such failures have in themselves been judged to constitute reckless endangerment and gross negligence. Already in failing to report the person responsible for the abuse in Delhi the Brahma Kumaris themselves broke the law as it is itself illegal to fail to report a crime. For the sake of the present and future minors in your care I request that you put aside the reasons you have not already sought proper advice on this area before and do so now….
26th April 1999
…We appreciate your concern and care in making us aware of the factors requiring attention, in particular with regards to children and we are ensuring that precautions are taken…
30th April 1999
Dear Brahma Kumaris,
Thank you Sister Jayanti for your letter of 26th April.
…Please explain what you mean when you state that you are “ensuring that precautions are taken” in respect of children…And what is your response to my recommendation that you get expert advice in the area of child protection? Are you going to do this or not? If not, why not.
Please explain why you have not been using headed notepaper in your letters to me. I must request that henceforth you do so. Is it Brahma Kumaris policy not to use headed notepaper when dealing with unsavory subjects? The matters with which we are dealing have potentially legal implications, and in the light of this I must request that the information contained in the memorandum you sent me is copied onto a proper letter so that somebody in authority in your organization signs for it…I am writing… not to this or that individual but to the Brahma Kumaris as an organization. I expect, in fact I demand, proper responses from accountable officials of that organization.
So far your responses to me … make you as an organization look somewhat evasive, casual or only semi-interested. I don’t know which of these if any it actually is, I can only tell you how it appears. I request that you take me and the issues I am raising more seriously. I request that you do not use unattributable statements, unheaded notepaper or vague platitudes such as “appreciate your concern” and “precautions”. I suggest you face what I am putting before you head on. Frankly I have been trying to diplomatically nudge you in a direction which you need to evolve towards i.e. proper open and systematically managed child protection awareness and procedures. If there is a single reason why I should not help you in this area I would be delighted to hear it. If there is a single reason why you as an organization should be absolved of responsibilities in this area, again I would love to hear it. If you think it inappropriate of me or anyone else to raise the questions I have you are of course free to state it. In the absence of these please deal with my questions more fulsomely and clearly.
I wish to be fair to you and to give you every opportunity to express what good practices and awareness your organization has in child protection. And if you need to improve your expertise in this area I would certainly like not to embarrass you by pointing out such things indelicately or in an inappropriate forum. However, these matters concern many more people than you and myself and I feel an obligation to raise issues which frankly effect all people connected with children. All that is necessary for evil to prosper is that good men do nothing. Neither you nor myself are minors who find themselves, through no decision of their own, in the midst of your organization, nor are we parents of such. So there are others to whom these issues are much more directly pressing. I am concerned that you are failing to facilitate these people’s right to address these issues within your organization properly. And I fear that you do not have sufficient knowledge in this field to make such decisions as this competently and responsibly. And, unfortunately I also fear that you do not even have enough knowledge to recognize your lacking in this area. Hence I feel it is my obligation to not let up until you at least check out your position properly. Tell me honestly, do you think I am being improper?
Each letter I receive from you sets off alarm bells in my head. You are a gigantic worldwide organization and you do not know how to answer straightforward questions about your child protection policies. My conscience will not allow such apparent ignorance go unchallenged. You have as yet told me nothing of any substance to suggest that there is any less chance of the same things which happened to XXXX [child’s name] happening to one or more of your current Raja Yoga children. I am hoping that I only have half the picture here and that someone in your organization will successfully reassure me that my fears are wrong. But that will not happen with platitudes, it will happen with details. Details which you should be able to provide. So far no one has done this, nor even seriously tried. Up to now each letter has multiplied my fears. Either you are failing to explain your policies well or those policies are inadequate. For my part I will continue to raise these issues, with you in the first instance but failing that to a wider audience if necessary, so that I can feel that I have done my part in reducing the amount of such abuse happening to children who are ostensibly under your ‘protection’. I would humbly request that you join me in such efforts. You saw fit to offer me the words ‘truth’ and ‘beauty’ in your last letter. In return I offer you one -humility.
Sooner or later Raja Yoga will need to face these issues just as every other educational institution and every religious body has had to. Failure to do so on your part will mean that the goodness of many of your endeavours will be eclipsed by an evil so pernicious and so destructive that you will get little sympathy when it emerges that you knew about it and did less than you could have. Reading between the lines of your organization’s communications with me I fear that you might just view me as a distraction or an irritation. You have clearly spent a tiny fraction in the production of your letters as I have on mine, presumably you feel you have better uses of your time. Well I may be a mere irritant, but you cannot afford to treat the issue of child sex abuse as such. Right now, if you care about the long term success of your institution, or if you care about the physical, psychological and sexual well being of your children, you need to view irritants such as myself who take the time to point out your vulnerabilities as the best friends you have got.
Ultimately of course, you can pretend that the fallen such as me are a complete irrelevance. Out here in the world, where most of your followers end up, people with children find it hard to ignore real issues, whoever raises them. The question I am asking myself, as I assess your non-answers, is just how much do the present administrators of your organization wish to be their own worst enemies. And to what extent are they prepared to sacrifice their most vulnerable charges for the sake of ideological intransigence.…
9th June 1999
Dear Brahma Kumaris,
It is now some time since my letter of 30th April 1999, and I am still waiting for a reply. I understood from my telephone conversation with Sr. Jayanti that I had managed to raise some issues which you wished to address. I am therefore somewhat confused by the subsequent silence.
I await your advises.
25th June 1999
…Thank you for your letter which we received on 16th June. Sr. Jayanti has been travelling quite a bit.
I just wanted to let you know that we are in discussion with the teachers who look after the children’s classes at Global Co-operation House (6-12 year olds) and also with the teenagers (two groups –12-15 year olds and 15-18 year olds) This includes a schoolteacher who for the past 23 years has taught biology and Health Education in secondary school and has been a regular student of the Brahma Kumaris for the past nine years.
We will shortly put in writing to you the procedures that we already have in place for the protection and care of our children and young people and would be pleased to receive any further comments.
9th August 2000
Dear Brahma Kumaris,
It is now sometime since you began the process of instituting adequate child protection policies following last years disclosures. You have not yet indicated what your policies now are although you undertook to inform me of such. I would be grateful if you would clarify your intentions in this regard.
19th September 2000
Dear Brahma Kumaris,
I wrote to you on the 9th August this year requesting an update on the implementation of your child protection policies following last year’s unfortunate disclosures. I have yet to receive a reply. I would request that you give this matter your attention at your earliest convenience….
28th October 2000
Thank you for your telephone call.
This is to let you know that the matter is in hand and we will be writing to you shortly.
30th April 2001
Dadi Janki and BK Jayanti,
I refer you to my letters of 23rd January 1999, 10th April 1999, 30th April 1999, 9th June 1999, 11th September 1999, 19th September 2000, 24th February 1999, 9th August 2000 and 28th October 2000.
It is now well over two years since the public revelation of several incidents of child sexual abuse in your Institution. It emerged that the Brahma Kumaris was aware of these events soon after they happened over 15 years ago and by its own admission failed to deal adequately with them. The Institution failed to identify all the perpetrators amongst its staff, it did not report any of the crimes in question to the police, and this failure in itself is a crime. Neither did it offer or provide any form of professional physical or psychological aid to the victim. Nor did it undertake any review of its practices or arrangements which had exposed a child under 10 years of age to such horrific damage. It neither devised any measures to reduce the risk of a repetition of such events nor introduced any systems to monitor or report them. In short it did nothing.
When a relative of the child in question, himself a minor at the time and now an adult, revealed these events some 15 years later it emerged that the Institution has also done nothing in the intervening years to prevent a repetition of these events. This is an organization prominent and active in many fields of psychological, medical, educational, spiritual and moral development; an institution used to meeting with the elite of these various fields, used to lecturing Governments and ordinary people alike about all manner of ethical and moral subjects in which it claims not just expertise but also moral authority.
As all of the letters listed above will attest I have these last two years been writing to you with one simple request. I have been asking you to institute appropriate child protection policies which would at least minimize the risk of this kind of tragedy happening again. To date I have received not one piece of substantive information that would indicate any less risk to a child in your organization now than when the previous events occurred. I have received various promises all of which have been broken. Indeed if you review your letters on the subject I think you would agree that you could not seriously expect me to believe another such assurance. I have also received a fair measure of platitudes and various other evasions. At one point in the correspondence I even had to insist that your replies be printed on headed notepaper. On the telephone senior officials in your organization have on occasion assured me that the matter is being taken seriously whilst at other times I have been quizzed as to why I seem so bothered about the subject.
I was told recently by an ex-Raja Yoga member that when another ex-Raja Yoga member asked recently about any child protection policies which might have been put in place he was told by a responsible official in one of your centres that according to the teachings of the Brahma Kumaris the child in question had brought about the assault upon herself. Not just in this particular instance, but universally speaking – any child which is sexually abused in the Brahma Kumaris must deserve it. Is your Institution so incapable of facing its responsibilities in such matters that your teachers are descending to this?. It is all ok as long as ideologically speaking you locate the child as the cause of its own abuse? And what does this say about how you as the leaders of your organization have been using the last two years?
Clearly whatever child protection policies I might have persuaded you to implement would have no chance against both the inaction and hesitation of your leadership on the one hand coupled with the worrying spiritual distortions now apparently being taught by some of your teachers out in the field.
With some small professional experience in these matters I have tried in vain to help you react bravely and positively to what any sane person would consider awful events. At least something might be redeemed for all concerned if the door to future abuse was firmly closed. Instead I feel that you have been hypocritical, disingenuous and downright dishonest. Both institutionally and individually. And I think that the prevailing ideology of your institution in respect of the victim of these events would appear to be no less than another kind of violent assault. If your organization does not believe her to be the ultimate cause of sexual abuse you, and I mean you personally, should have ensured that every responsible teacher in your organization shows adequate local leadership. And if you do believe her to be such, in my opinion you are not fit to be put charge of children.
Your organization has not persuaded me that it has learnt either from the original events themselves or recent injunctions from such as myself. More worryingly you have conveyed to me an outright resistance to such learning.
I am afraid that I must conclude that in respect of minors at least you are a reckless and dangerous organization.
And unfortunately it must be that consideration above all else which henceforth will guide me in the handling of this unresolved matter.
22nd May 2001
Thank you for your letter of 30th April. We apologize for not replying earlier. We will be responding to you shortly.
5th December 2001
This is to advise you that we have been working towards the finalization of our child protection policy for the BKWSU –UK and are nearing completion. We have been in consultation with educational specialists experienced in this field and with social services.
As you will be aware it takes time to formulate such policies and to ensure that adequate professional training is set up for volunteers.
A copy of the policy itself will be with you shortly.
We apologize for the delay.
27th January 2002
Please find enclosed the child protection policy of BKWSU-UK, for your information.
15th September 2002
Dear Dadi Janki,
It is now over nine months since you implemented your child protection policy in your UK centres and I trust more than adequate time to implement it, or local equivalents, world-wide.
Please confirm that this has been accomplished and that your International Co-ordinating Office in London has procedures in place to vet and monitor the local equivalent policies if this is the path your organisation has chosen.
I await your advises.
14th October 2002
Dear Dadi Janki,
I enclose a copy of my letter dated 15th September and I note your failure to reply.
If I receive nothing from you by 15th November I shall assume that your decision not to reply is final.
I await your advises.
9th November 2002
Dear Mr. R,
We have received your letter of 14th October 2002 addressed to Dadi Janki on whose behalf I am replying, and appreciate your continuing interest in children’s welfare. In response to your enquiry, I would confirm that the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University (UK) is fully compliant with all relevant child protection legislation and requirements by virtue of its child protection policy, procedures and practice.
15th November 2002
Dear Dadi Janki, Sr. Jayanti and Ms Monteiro,
Thank you for your letter of 9th November 2002. My letter of 15th September is only 6 lines long and is as unambiguous as I could possibly make it, and I find it hard to imagine anyone interpreting it as a request as to whether BKSU (UK) has a child protection policy. My letter clearly asks if you have used the nine months since the production of that policy to implement it or equivalents of it at your centres around the world. My letter moreover is expressly addressed and directed to Dadi Janki at the International Co-ordinating Office. The only sense I could make of the sheer inappropriateness of Ms Monteiro’s reply of 9th November 2002 was that she had not read the letter to which she was replying. I telephoned your offices today but was told that they had never heard of her. I did also email Sr. Jayanti a few days ago with a view to finding out why there had been no reply, but I have heard nothing from her. For the sake of the good faith of these communications I would be grateful if you would explain what happened, so that I can at the very least dispense with the hypothesis that these misinterpretations were intentional.
This issue notwithstanding you will I trust, under the circumstances, agree that I can only conclude that you have not disseminated your UK child protection policy amongst your other centres abroad. My response to that is simple. I find it astounding.
It leaves you in a completely untenable situation in terms of credible child protection. It is the equivalent of saying that you will protect your children as long as they are in Britain, but they are on their own if they go to other centres abroad. It would also appear that you value the sexual protection of your UK based children above that of your Raja Yoga children elsewhere. Clearly this is nonsense so I can only sensibly conclude that whilst you have a UK child protection policy document it is currently more of a document than a genuine policy.
How could it be genuine if you have not disseminated it to your other centres? What good is a lifeguard who will only save you if you fall in one half of the swimming pool? How can it be worse to be molested in London than in Delhi and Madhuban? A girl under the age of 10 travelled from England to India. At the Delhi BK centre where she stayed she suffered a sexual assault. And then in Madhuban –your headquarters no less, she suffered another completely unconnected sexual assault . Unconnected in the sense that it was by a different and unrelated person to the perpetrator in Delhi. Not one assault, but two in the space of as many weeks. Both perpetrators working in your two most important centres in India.
You have known about these events for many, many years, and yet only after numerous requests by me did you even begin to do anything. And what did you do? You produced a policy document that does not even relate to the locations where the events happened. It is a document which had it existed at the time would have made absolutely no difference whatsoever. I would therefore suggest to you that it is a document produced more in response to my letters than to the assaults upon your child student.
I have spent the last three years trying to think up different ways of asking you the same question: What are you going to do to offer better protection for your children? Is this not the most important issue? Your policy document pretends it is, but your actions say something else. Whether you are allowing yourselves to be distracted by your karmic theories as to why she supposedly deserved what happened to her, or whether your attention to these issues is sabotaged by an obsession with politics and public relations I do not know and frankly am not interested in speculating about. But there is certainly something distracting you from what I state again I think is the most important question: What are you going to do to offer better protection for your children?
The correspondence between myself and your institution over the last three years combines to make a fairly damning statement about your fitness to look after other people’s children. This sentiment, you will remember was not my starting point. My posture was one of positivity –trying to find the one good thing that could come out of these extremely unfortunate events –new procedures, attitudes and awarenesses that would strongly lessen any chance of repetition. I thought that you would be humble enough to recognise that in spite of your eloquently declared ambitions you are certainly not perfect yet. I must confess to being quite shocked by what has happened since. I have entered these communications in good faith and with respect for your institution. What I have experienced from it in return, and I think the record of our correspondence shows this, is platitudes in place of genuine regret, delay rather than action, deception rather than honesty, and smokescreens in place of proper accountability.
There is amongst many ex-Brahmins a feeling of deep disappointment at what they believe is a callous and hypocritical disregard on the part of your organisation to the many real difficulties and issues faced by current and past-raja yoga practitioners. Problems which you take no noticeable responsibility for just as you have yet to take real responsibility for your failures in respect of the Delhi and Madhuban assaults at the core of our discussions. Many of these difficulties are extremely serious –depression, physical abuse, spousal violence, psycho-sexual problems, depression, marital break-ups, parent-child estrangement, attempted suicide and actual suicide. You know much better than me that there are many more letters about many more incidents I could be writing to you. For every such incident I know of, and believe me there are many, no doubt you know a hundredfold. And for every one of those hundredfold events there are thousands others of which you have no knowledge. But which you should. I think that in your most private moments you would agree that you have an institutional culture which to some extent buries its problems. Whether this is intentional or accidental is for you to decide but I would ask you to take responsibility for it as much as you take the credit for the many wonderful things about your culture. They are in total a much truer expression of who you are as a group than what you say about yourselves –both amongst yourselves and to the wider world. It is a culture that is very beneficial in many ways to many people, but it is not without its imperfections and these cause casualties. I look forward to the day when your organisation is mature enough and truly confident enough to face its obligations to them.
In the meantime I think you will have to agree that I have given you more than enough time with our current mode of communication to address the concerns I have raised with you. In fact I fear that my misplaced loyalty to you has led me to give you much more time to waste than I should have. Henceforth my letters to you will be to your organisation as a whole so that your various teachers around the world can be informed about our progress or lack thereof. Perhaps under their gaze you might suddenly discover some sense of importance to these issues. You have disclosed precisely nothing to me that is of a confidential nature and your letters to me are purportedly about your official policies or the application of such so there is obviously no issue of personal privacy about them.
And in finishing I must ask you again the following two questions:
Nearly a year on now from its production have your centres around the world implemented either your UK child protection policy or local equivalents thereof?
This is a simply yes or no. You can email it or post it in less than a day.
Does your International Co-ordinating Office have procedures to vet and monitor these regional policies?
This too takes a simple yes or no.
I await your advises
26th November 2002
Thank you for your communications. I am sorry that I have not been around to always reply personally to your letters and e-mails as I have been travelling a great deal. Thank you for everything that you have shared with us to help make our work more effective for young people. We appreciate your concern and have paid attention to this. As you know we have been implementing this in the UK, and now around the world.
The process of implementing a child protection policy for the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University (BKWSU) worldwide has been under way for a number of years and steps to formalise this further started over a year ago.
The written child protection policy for the BKWSU in the UK was completed in December 2001 and was sent to you on 27th January 2002.
In February 2001 and February 2002 the BKWSU held meetings at the Regional Office level at the BKWSU world Headquarters in Mt Abu, India, during which we discussed the implementation of formal child protection policies worldwide. (Regional Office level meetings involve consultation amongst senior BKs from BKWSU offices in London, Delhi, Mt Abu, Moscow, Nairobi, New York, Sao Paulo and Sydney.) On 15th February 2002 there was a meeting of national co-ordinators of BK centres across the world. One of the main items
on the agenda was the implementation of formal child protection policies in each country. A copy of the policy prepared for the UK was distributed to all the co-ordinators who were requested to find out the legal requirements in their own countries and to prepare a policy accordingly. The level of activity of each BK centre varies from country to country, but all
co-ordinators have been asked to take this very seriously and to take action accordingly. We have requested the co-ordinators to keep us informed of developments in this regard.
All over the world our awareness of child protection has been considerably heightened. For example, in the UK we now undertake a risk assessment before taking minors out on any outings and all of our children’s’ and youth teachers have been police checked.
If you agree, I would still like to be able to meet you personally. I shall not be travelling so much over the next two months. Please let me know when would be a suitable time for you.
I hope this information is helpful. With regards,
30th November 2002
Dear Dadi Janki and Sr. Jayanti,
Henceforth I shall send you both an email and a hard copy of my letters to you. I would be grateful if you would consider doing likewise.
As a reply to my letter of 15th November you letter of 6th November is, in my honest and blunt opinion, so incomplete that I simply cannot accept it as a credible and appropriate response. Please re-read my letter and take the time to re-consider if you truly wish your reply to stand as your institution’s formal position all the matters I have raised. If I do not hear from you by 15th December I shall interpret your letter of 6th November as your final statement and shall act accordingly.
I await your advises
Thank you for your e-mail of 1st December (contents dated 30th November).
Could you please clarify which letter you are referring to, dated 6th
November, as we do not have a record of any letter sent on that date. It
seems from your e-mail message that you did not receive my letter by post,
dated 26th November, so I am enclosing it below in this e-mail.
I would also reiterate my invitation to you to come and meet so that we may
discuss your concerns.
With best wishes,
Dear Sr Jayanti,
I apologise, you are correct, there is no letter from you dated 6th November. My letter should have said 26th November and not 6th November. I hope this clarifies the mix up and you will be able now to understand my letter dated 30th November as a reply to your letter dated 26th November.
As to meeting you thank you for the invitation but I see no point at this stage at least until I get your response to the issue of good faith referred to in the 2nd paragraph of my letter of 15th November and the various other
outstanding matters of that letter which you have not addressed.
21st December 2002
Dear Dadi Janki and Sr. Jayanti,
Further to my letter of 30th November I note that you have not chosen to respond to me either by my stated deadline of 15th December nor until now. I shall therefore do as indicated and interpret your letter of 26th November as your final statements in response to my letters of 30th November and 15th November.
I note that you have not referred to my complaints and questions about your office’s letter dated 9th November 2002 and signed by a Ms Monteiro. I wish to know if Ms Monteiro and Sr. Maureen intentionally misrepresented my previous letter and if they were intentionally dissembling in wasting time sending to me a redundant and nonsensical answer. Obviously I also wish to know if you take responsibility for such behaviour by those under your direction. How you deal with such apparent dishonesty in your office is crucial to the issues surrounding what appears to me to be your failure to run an accountable and ethical organisation. As you do not feel the need to apologise for them I can only assume you do not also feel the need to provide the monitoring and control your posts oblige and which they clearly need. So I request again that you investigate these matters and provide me with both the facts of what happened and what you have done, or are going to do about them.
I note also that behind the platitudes, euphemisms and padding you have been unable to provide me with any reassurance that your UK policy document has a realistic chance of being properly implemented outside the UK. In the last year you have managed no more than to let your regional offices see your policy. But it would appear that if their respective regions have no statutory requirement for organisations such as yours to have such a policy you are happy for none to be implemented. Otherwise local law is an irrelevance. So you are not committed to child protection per se, you are merely committed to not breaking the law. This by the way is completely contradictory to your UK position where you have borrowed a policy document from a state school which by its very nature is subject to statutory obligations completely differently to an organisation such as yours.
With such a lacklustre leadership from London it is therefore no surprise that not a single one or your regional offices was willing or able to reply to my email of 1st December in which as you know, I requested the following five pieces of information for each respective region:
1. Which centres have formally implemented a policy and the date that they did so.
2. Which centres have not yet formally done so and when they are expecting to do such.
3. What monitoring and reporting procedures you have in place between yourself as the regional office and the various centres in your region.
- What monitoring and reporting procedures there are between yourself as the regional office and either Madhuban or the International Co-ordinating Office.
- Your own centre’s child protection policy and the date it was implemented.
I repeat –not a single one of your regional offices which are supposedly industriously exploring the local details of child protection issues was able to provide a single piece of information in any of the 5 above categories. Of particular noteworthiness in its failure to reply is London –the one regional office which supposedly now has an active policy and none of the substantial legal differences with its neighbouring partners which you have presented as the reason for delay in international implementation. And you have not even been able to tell me that European Union countries have implemented your policy. Please explain why this is the case.
You attempt in your letter of 26th November to make vast months of inactivity sound like the intricate organisation of a substantial task. However, using the issue of regional legal variations will fool only the ignorant and I am alarmed that you have attempted to use it. Even your language where you ‘request’ your subordinates to keep you informed, and where you refer to your implementation process as being ‘under way for a number of years’ (as if that is a good thing) suggests to me that you still do not even know how to pretend to be seriously implementing such a policy. I can remember many occasions when I was a member of your organisation in which the speed of world-wide implementation of something you were committed to was impressive to say the least. When we wrote ‘Co-operation in the Classroom’ it was only within months of completion that you had it printed and distributed to every single school of many of the twenty five or so countries in which it was published. When BKWSU really wants to do something quickly it does not take ‘a number of years’, and it does not make regional participation an autonomous matter. You know like any other organisation the difference between a discussion paper and a policy. And you know better than me the difference between disseminating a policy with schedules, deadlines and clear monitoring on the one hand and the vague open ended process you have described to me. You have by far the most centrally controlled organisation I have ever come across –one where the intimate daily practices of all your officials are highly regulated. Your officials have precise instructions on their sleeping habits, their diets, their family relations, what they do with their money and leisure time etc etc. Now suddenly in respect of child protection you have discovered democracy.
I suggest to you that if you had been serious about child protection you would have had a working policy in place around the world a long time ago.
I predict that your terrible record over the last twenty or so years since the occurrence of the appalling incidents which you chose to forget and in particular your constant delay and excuses over the last three years will be used one day to prove gross recklessness and negligence on the part of your institution in general and its London leadership in particular.
And given my failure to impress upon you the seriousness of these matters I will perhaps take some grim comfort that at least the record of the correspondences between us will prevent you from using as your defence in court the same tired platitudes and empty sentiments.
Given all of the above I find it entirely in character that within the recent months of our correspondence you can find only the ridiculously irrelevant fact that you were unable to reply to my emails personally as worthy of apology. In a proper university, school, business, religious body or any other kind of adequately regulated organisation you would be unable to brush off such behaviour with so trite a conceit. Your position would be untenable and you would be forced to resign.
I await your advises as I still await replies from your regional offices.
23rd December 2003
I have received your various recent emails. First of all I would like to reiterate that the Brahma Kumaris take the issue of child protection seriously and are now very firmly in the process of implementing child protection policies worldwide. It is not a fast process but it is progressing, as I hope our previous correspondence has indicated. In that context I would like to answer what appear to be the two outstanding questions from your letter of 15th November as follows:
Nearly a year on now from its production have your centres around the world implemented either your UK child protection policy or local equivalents thereof?
As you know we have distributed the Child Protection Policy (“CPP”) of the BKWSU (UK) and requested each centre to implement such a policy, adapting it as appropriate to suit their local circumstances, and to do so regardless of whether or not this is legally required. We have also requested that centres inform us about their progress in doing so and are awaiting responses from them.
Does your International Co-ordinating Office have procedures to vet and monitor those regional policies?
The nature of the Brahma Kumaris’ modus operandi world wide has not been one of detailed control and monitoring of all the ongoing activities of centres around the world; offering services on a volunteer basis, and varying widely in the scope and scale of their activities, to a large extent they operate autonomously, albeit while also receiving certain guidelines, requests or options given to them on a local, national, regional or world wide level. In view of the increasing importance of ensuring that appropriate measures are taken to protect children, a greater level of involvement is required than in respect of other areas and the International Co-ordinating Office in London has requested centres in all countries to report on what current child protection measures they already have in place and what steps they are taking to adopt and implement a formal CPP if they have not already done so. We are also offering further support such as additional briefings, helping assess training requirements, reviewing policies and providing training, while also, at a national, regional or international level, monitoring centres’ child protection measures through ongoing reporting requirements to help ensure that they are adequate.
We have not at present received all this information. At the time of Lygia Monteiro’s letter to you of 9th November we were therefore also not aware of the extent to which the centres in different countries had implemented child protection measures; while her letter to you accordingly did not contain all the details you required, it went some way to doing so within the timeframe requested by you. While this letter did not state, as it should have done, that further details would be provided as they became available, both Maureen and, following my return to the UK, I, have been attempting to provide additional information as you have requested in your emails sent here and to centres in other countries. I would again apologise that we have not been able to provide a complete answer more promptly and hope that you will understand not only that this is a matter receiving increasing attention from us but also a protracted one that we are treating as necessarily ongoing in nature and involving a continuing and substantive process of education, awareness-raising, reporting and monitoring. I would reiterate that we will provide you with further details once we receive these from the various centres and that we will be issuing further requests in this regard to centres as required. Other than in this respect, please do let me know if there are any outstanding issues and I will endeavour to respond to you as soon as I can.
I also acknowledge receipt of your email of 21st December and will reply in due course.
2nd February 2003
Further to our previous correspondence, I enclose further information regarding the formalisation of Child Protection Policies by BK Centres worldwide. This is clearly an on-going process both in terms of the flow of information to us and the action being taken by the various centres.
In the following places the local BK Centres have formulated a Child Protection Policy: Texas, USA – adopted in January 2002, The Netherlands – adopted in January 2003
BK Centres in the following countries have stated that they are in the course of developing a written Child Protection Policy and we are awaiting their documents: Australia, Canada, Colombia, Israel, Kenya, New Zealand, South Africa, Switzerland, Vietnam
BK Centres in the following places are obtaining further information and researching the situation prior to formalising 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 (other than Texas)
Several of these countries have indicated that they have a policy of running activities only for adults aged 18 years and older, but may, nevertheless, develop a formal Child Protection Policy.
We are still waiting to hear from Centres in some countries as to which of the above categories they fall into, and will keep you informed.
2nd May 2003
Dear Brahma Kumaris,
After the encouraging content of your last letter in February you have not fulfilled your promise to keep me informed. I hope that this does not mean you have been failing to monitor progress around the world and that you will be able to update me quickly.
If you have not decided to keep me informed on a regular basis I have misunderstood you and would appreciate clarification.
11th May 2003
Thank you for your e-mail of 2nd May; we have noted your new addresses and
would update you as follows.
A meeting of National Co-ordinators of Brahma Kumaris centres around the world was held in Delhi at the end of March and the importance of developing and implementing a child protection policy was again highlighted and discussed.
Brahma Kumaris centres in Mauritius, Vietnam and Spain have now formalised and are implementing a written child protection policy.
12th May 2003
Dear Brahma Kumaris,
I welcome the progress in respect of Mauritius, Vietnam and Spain but as a reflection of your Institution’s worldwide development in the area of child protection over the last six months I find it alarming.
I note that you do not address the issue of information flow to me. That is your decision.
I have waited to see India appear on your list of countries with child protection policies and have been dismayed by its absence. Please clarify
the situation there.
8th June 2003
Dear Brahma Kumaris,
I am still awaiting a reply to my recent correspondance.
9th June 2003
Thank you for your email of 12th May and subsequent one of 8th June. I am pleased to inform you that we have now received the Brahma Kumaris Child Protection Policy for New York State and that centres in other states in the USA are formulating their own Child Protection Policies taking account of the requirements of local state laws.
Regarding the Child Protection Policy for Brahma Kumaris centres in India, we have been in communication with senior members of the BKWSU in India about appropriate child protection practices and discussions are still continuing. We understand that child protection procedures are in place and being followed and will inform you as soon as the formal policy encapsulating these is completed.
2nd December 2003
Dear Brahma Kumaris,
It is now a further 6 months since you last promised me confirmation of child protection for your centres in India. Please now finally confirm such and email me immediately a copy of the policy document.
19th December 2004
Dear Brahma Kumaris,
I understood from Sr Waddy that you had discussed with your God in Madhuban how to respond to my letters to you and he had told you to communicate with me. Given your failure to respond to my recent emails I do not know whether to doubt her veracity or your obediance. Please clarify.
I also was assured by Sr Jayanti back in june of this year that child protection policies are now in place in India and that the document encapsulating such was being completed. I have sent several communications requesting an update on this and they appear to have been ignored.
I assume that it is another Madhuban season and that chilren are visiting from around the world and so I am contacting other centres to try to get verification that the long promised protections are now in place.
9th January 2004
Dear Brahma Kumaris,
Your failure to respond to my communications of 2nd December 2003 and 19th December 2003 is noted. I enclose copies.
I will wait another 10 days and then conclude that you consider our communications to be at an end.
17th January 2004-
I refer to your recent correspondence and, following my recent return to London, am now pleased to enclose a copy of the written child protection policy received from the Brahma Kumaris, India.
With best wishes,
20th March 2004
Dear Brahma Kumaris,
Thank you for your email of 17th January with its enclosed copy of the child protection policy document for India.
If this document is part of a committed and systematic policy then some progress has been made. However, I have been unable to find any other Raja Yoga centre in the world that will confirm knowledge of it. I contacted approximately two hundred. There maybe some good reason for this but I cannot think of one. Normally, a child protection policy is not a matter of secrecy –indeed it is something which needs the opposite, So I am unsure what to conclude. Perhaps you could explain.
I trust you will agree that the presence of a few pages does not in itself make any difference to the safety of children under your care, that is to say – the existence of a policy document is substantially different from the existence of a policy. I request therefore that you provide any information on the management of your policy implementation world wide which might indicate the degree to which your organisation is genuinely and actively committed to child protection.
Given the credibility problems our correspondences have thrown up including the latest one to which I refer above I will state now that I am no longer prepared to spend months and years teasing out information from you drip by drip. I will give you one chance to persuade me that your policies are being implemented and one chance only. I will take whatever level of detail you provide to be the level of scrutiny you exercise. Send me some platitudes and I will know that platitudes is all you have. I suggest instead that you send me facts with the evidence you used to arrive at them. You should be experts in child protection by now –you owe that to child X, so you should know everything you need to send me. Whatever you fail to tell me about I shall conclude you do not consider important and do not do.
Given that you will be providing me with information that you already have I think it reasonable to require that you provide it to me within three weeks of today –namely by Monday 12th April.
I will then write a response to you which, in the event of you failing to allay my fears for children in your care, I will make public.
12th April 2004
Thank you for your communication of 20th March, received on 22nd March. This is to inform you that we are in the process of arranging for an independent evaluation of our child protection policies and procedures by social services. We will send this to you in due course.
Full Correspondence to BK Regional Offices
1st December 2002
I have been informed by the BKSWU International Co-ordinating Office in London that Regional offices such as you have since February 2001 been involved in the implementation of child protection policies in the BK centres of your respective regions. Please send me the following information for your region:
1. Which centres have formally implemented a policy and the date that they did so.
2. Which centres have not yet formally done so and when they are expecting to do such.
3. What monitoring and reporting procedures you have in place between yourself as the regional office and the various centres in your region.
- What monitoring and reporting procedures there are between yourself as the regional office and either Madhuban or the International Co-ordinating Office.
- Your own centre’s child protection policy and the date it was implemented.
I await your advises.
Attention: Centre In Charge and BK Teachers,
Date: 15th November 2002
Do you have an appropriate child protection policy which all of your fellow bks who work with children in your centre are aware of and adhere to?
If you do not I strongly recommend that you get advice from appropriate agencies in your country and from your senior bk centre. The London centre has a policy which you can use as a guideline.
I have been sufficiently dismayed with the BKSU’s record in this regard that I am considering starting a register of those centres who fail to follow proper child protection policies, and initiating a fund to help anyone in the future who suffers as a result of any failure on the part of a Raja Yoga centre or teacher to apply such policies. The fund would provide for legal recourse, and independent counselling. These are in their early stages of planning so I hope that you will use the intervening time to educate yourself and your centre members if necessary.
I enclose a summarised account of correspondence between myself and senior administrators of your institution in London and Madhuban, which I hope will impress upon you the seriousness of this matter.
I have out of necessity had to summarise quite a lengthy body of correspondence, but have only edited out victim’s names and trivial irrelevancies –courtesies and such like. However please do note that this is not a full record of all documents pertaining to these matters and so I would ask you not to rush to judgement of any and all individuals concerned. I have only printed the names of individuals who were writing to me not on their own behalf but in an official capacity as representatives of your institution. Any judgements implied or stated in my correspondence is not of them as individuals but rather is aimed at the institution as a whole. With an organisation that is so individually led, it is impossible to point out it’s vulnerabilities without appearing to attack the particular leaders. If this is what you conclude I intend, that is a fault of my communication skills for which I apologise. What I want is institutional accountability, openness and development, rather than to portray any particular BK individuals in a certain light.
In a similar vein I would contend that speculating on my motives, vices, virtues etc is as much an irrelevancy as speculating on this or that senior teacher. It is irrelevant to me if you choose to view me as I am a fallen Brahmin, a “shudra”, a co-operative soul or an instrument of a perfect drama or anything else. Be my guest. Whatever you think about me you will still then have to reflect upon the information I have provided and judge its many implications on their own merit and ultimately decide if you are going to adopt a formal child protection policy or not. I would contend to you that this should not be about me or anyone else in the correspondence, but rather about your most vulnerable students and your obligation to protect their interests. Not their raja yoga interests, but their psychological, sexual and physical interests separate to their identity as Brahmins. They cannot possibly choose to be Brahmins in the same way that a mature adult does and I would suggest that they should be treated as children first, and brahmins second.
I would like to state for the record that I am not a Raja Yogi, and do not share your beliefs. I was a teacher and student at the London centre for over 14 years but left in 1989. I left on good terms and I still consider myself sympathetic to and respectful of your path, although as I say I no longer subscribe to it’s beliefs. I believe I have never been anything less than a good friend to your organisation. And I believe that if this was ever true it was never more so than today.
I wish you well and sincerely hope that in receiving these writings you will view them as matters of important information and of potential benefit and institutional development and as I say from a friend, albeit in some unusual and awkward circumstances.
19th December 2003
If you are a centre which takes children or young people under the age of 18 to India you must presumably have verified that the centres to which you take your children have child protection policies adequate and appropriate to the policies you follow in your native country.
To fulfil this requirement you will necessarily have a copy of Madhuban’s, Delhi’s or Mumbhai’s etc policy document.
I invite you and request that you email me a copy of such.
If you are not a centre which takes minors to India I invite you to verify that you have a child protection policy in your national centres and to email me a copy of that document.
BKWSU UK Child Protection Policy Statement
BRAHMA KUMARIS WORLD SPIRITUAL UNIVERSITY (UK)
CHILD PROTECTION POLICY STATEMENT
The Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University (UK) (the “BKWSU”), which has been a registered charity since 1975, offers a variety of courses, lectures, seminars, programmes and other activities in religious and spiritual education for public participation. The BKWSU recognises that members of the public attending its activities include young people who, by virtue of their age, are in need of special care and protection to ensure that no harm comes to them. This document serves as a statement of the BKWSU’s policy and practice in this regard as implemented and developed over the years.
Young people are able to benefit greatly from their participation in BKWSU activities, particularly with regard to their personal, social, emotional and spiritual development. Both they and their parents or guardians have come to place considerable trust in the BKWSU and its personnel and overwhelmingly history has shown this trust to be well founded. Nevertheless, the BKWSU remains attentive and vigilant with regard to children’s interests, ensuring that it continues to follow best practices that result in children and parents having confidence in and placing trust in its ability to provide a safe, wholesome and nurturing environment. The BKWSU accordingly wishes to formalise procedures designed to ensure this and to deal with any weaknesses or breaches of such procedures.
The BKWSU was established in the spirit of service to humanity in order to create an environment that helps all individuals to fulfil their potential thereby improving the quality of life for all. To this end it conducts spiritual, religious and educational courses and programmes that empower and inspire individuals to better themselves on all levels. As such, the BKWSU is committed to the development, safety and well being of all its students and other participants in its activities. In particular, the BKWSU is committed to taking all appropriate measures to ensure that while participating in its activities, all children and youth (under the age of 18) are protected from abuse, exploitation or neglect and are appropriately safeguarded and supervised.
The BKWSU seeks to provide a safe and caring environment for its child participants and a family atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding in which they are protected from neglect, exploitation and abuse regardless of culture, age, gender, race, national or social or linguistic origin, religion or disability. These are inherent to human dignity and the harmonious development of every child.
This Policy Statement aims to set out the procedures necessary to safeguard the interests of all children and adults involved in BKWSU activities for or with children. It seeks to promote a safe, healthy and positive approach to these issues and to set standards against which progress can be measured. This Statement also seeks to ensure, through its distribution, that all relevant BKWSU personnel involved with children are fully aware of different types of abuse and know what to do in the event of any incident that may involve or relate to child abuse.. Training will be provided by professionals not connected with the BKWSU.
The paramount concern is the welfare of the child and the principles and practices described below have been formulated to serve the best interests of the child according to the various circumstances involved. In giving priority to the overall well being and protection of children, the BKWSU believes that, above all, children should be respected as human beings and individuals with recognised rights and needs.
1 In all actions concerning children, the best interests of the child should be a primary consideration.
2 Children have the right to develop to their fullest potential in every respect, including physically, mentally, spiritually, morally and socially.
3 Appropriate educational activities will foster the overall development of children, including that of their personality, talents and abilities.
4 All children have rights without discrimination of any kind, for example on grounds of ethnicity, religion, culture, language, gender, disability or social or national origin.
5 Children should be respected and listened to, and their views given due consideration, in accordance with their age, maturity and cognitive ability.
6 Due consideration should be taken of the traditions and cultural values of each child and his or her family.
7 The rights and responsibilities of a child’s parents and family should be respected.
8 While anyone under the age of 18 is a young person or child and is potentially vulnerable, maturity and attitudes vary greatly and everyone has the right to protection from abuse whatever his or her age.
9 The best interests of the child may require that the BKWSU communicates or works in partnership with the child’s home, school and community and/or makes use of and fully cooperates with social service organisations and police authorities.
10 Suspicions or allegations of any incident that need investigating should be handled tactfully and sensitively by people well qualified and officially appointed to do so. In endeavouring to establish the truth, evidence should be gathered and weighed carefully, avoiding premature conclusions and seeking to pre-empt wrongful accusations, which can be very damaging and hurtful.
Forms of Abuse
A Abuse is caused not only by those who actually perpetrate it but also by those who fail to prevent it or who condone, minimise or tolerate it.
B Physical abuse occurs where adults or other children deliberately inflict injuries on a child or knowingly do not prevent such injuries.
C Emotional abuse occurs when adults fail to show due care and attention or threaten, use sarcasm, taunt or shout at a child causing him or her to lose self confidence or self esteem or become nervous or withdrawn. It may also take place when an adult repeatedly ignores or fails to respond to a child’s efforts or places the child under undue pressure to meet unrealistically high standards or expectations.
D Sexual abuse occurs when adults use children to fulfil their own sexual needs or indicate that sexual favours can help, or refusals hinder, a child’s prospects. Such abuse may include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at pornographic material or encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways.
E Abuse of trust takes place where a child is indoctrinated with attitudes, which are unacceptable, to the child’s family or guardian or if an adult misuses his or her power over a child.
F Neglect takes place when adults fail to meet a child’s essential needs for clothing, food, shelter, wamth and medical care or leave a child without proper supervision or place him or her at risk of injury. It may also include neglect of, or unresponsiveness to, a child’s basic emotional needs.
Identification of Abuse
1 While it may be the case that a child’s disturbed behaviour or an injury may suggest that a problem may exist, in many instances signs of abuse may not be discernible. Nevertheless, an experienced adult may sense that something is wrong and that extra vigilance, or investigation, is called for. In other situations, apparent indicators of abuse may have other causes, or involve other factors, and so should not be taken as proof of abuse.
2 The following list of some possible indicators of abuse is purely indicative and can never be, and should not be taken to be, all inclusive.
3 Bruises or other injuries may sometimes be clearly visible or a child may show distress, but often victims learn to conceal or disguise signs of abuse with the result that it is not always obvious.
4 Uncharacteristic changes in a child’s behaviour, attitude or commitment, or an inappropriate desire for closeness and attachment to an adult, may be indicative that there is something wrong.
5 Fear of particular adults (especially those with whom a comfortable relationship should be the norm) may be a cause for concern.
6 A child who begins to appear unkempt, is reluctant to return home, is always alone or doesn’t socialise with peers may also need attention or extra vigilance.
Dealing with Possible Abuse
Dealing with abuse is seldom a straightforward or clear-cut matter. Whatever the circumstances, decisions and conclusions will always need to be carefully considered.
1 It is not the responsibility of those working with children to decide that child abuse is occurring but it is their responsibility to refer any such concerns to the BKWSU’s Children’s Officer. The volunteer’s role is to report, NOT to investigate. In particular, the child should not be questioned as this may lead to legal complications at a later date.
2 Any allegations of abuse made by a child should be responded to and they, and any accidental injury, hurt or distress caused to a child, promptly noted and reported to the Children’s Officer. Although a child may find it difficult to express this, should a child feel discomfort, or abused or neglected, it is their responsibility to communicate this without exaggeration or embellishment. To help a child in this regard, in communicating with the child, whatever is said should be taken seriously, but non-judgmentally, while going at a pace that is comfortable for the child.
3 If abuse is suspected or has been alleged, the highest degree of discretion and confidentiality should be exercised, both for a person making any accusation and the person(s) against whom allegations have been made or by whom abuse is suspected.
4 In considering a possible instance of abuse, poor teaching practice should be distinguished from abuse. In cases where poor teaching practice is identified, the BKWSU will ensure that further training and monitoring will be carried out for any person(s) against whom allegations have been made or by whom abuse is suspected.
5 The BKWSU does not seek to protect staff, students or volunteers at the expense of a child’s potential welfare.
The Children’s Officer
1 The BKWSU will designate one or more Children’s Officers (the “Children’s Officer”) who will be responsible for the implementation of this policy.
2 The Children’s Officer will also be responsible for monitoring this policy and amending it as required to make it more effective and ensure compliance with relevant legislation.
3 The Children’s Officer will ensure that, before they are involved with children’s activities, all helpers complete a volunteer reference form with their personal details and declare that they have not been convicted of child abuse. Volunteers will be informed that they can only work with children subject to a satisfactory police check. The exemption to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act applies to these checks and all “spent” convictions must be disclosed for the purposes of applying to do voluntary work with children under the care and supervision of the BKWSU.
4 The Children’s Officer will be responsible for monitoring volunteers during a three-month probationary period, including direct observation of the volunteer with the children, explanation of health and safety regulations, and during which time the volunteer will be required to undergo child protection training delivered by an external specialist trainer.
5 The Children’s Officer will be responsible for initiating action where any abuse is suspected or alleged, keeping confidential all information on any matters referred to him or her but making such information available to the BKWSU’s Trustees, the social services or police as necessary, while also being mindful of possible remedies and/or ramifications. It is the duty of the Children’s Officer to refer any concerns to parents, social services or police as appropriate as well as to the Trustees of the BKWSU.
Code of Practice and Behaviour
This Code of Practice and Behaviour will apply to all volunteers who have contact with children under the age of 18 during the course of any activities provided by the BKWSU in the UK, including the Children’s Teachers Team at Global Cooperation House (London), teachers and volunteers facilitating activities and providing accommodation at the Global Retreat Centre (Oxford), and teachers and volunteers accompanying children on field trips to and from the World Headquarters of the Brahma Kumaris in Mt Abu (India).
1 Be publicly open in working with children and ensure that situations do not arise in which an individual child is alone, completely unobserved, with an adult.
2 Avoid unnecessary harshness or criticism and ensure that children do not cause harm to each other in any form. Be alert for bullying tactics.
3 Where correction of a child’s behaviour is deemed necessary, there should be no physical or emotional punishment for misbehaviour for any reason whatsoever. In cases where correction is necessary, it should always be made clear to the child that it is his or her behaviour that is not acceptable and not the person himself or herself.
4 Respect children’s evolving capacities while also remembering that their path to adulthood will inevitably be gradual. Ensure that all activities undertaken are compatible with the age, abilities, maturity and potential of the relevant child, paying due respect and attention to the situation of children with disabilities and any cultural, religious or social diversity.
5 Encourage children to take responsibility for their own behaviour, respect the rights of others, develop concern for their own safety and protection and be honest, accurate and open in their communication.
6 While maintaining a high standard of personal behaviour and appearance, remember that the best of intentions can be misinterpreted.
7 Should any physical contact be necessary, this should be carried out openly and not in conflict with any parental instructions in this regard. Physical contact should be avoided and children should discouraged from cuddling volunteers or sitting on their laps, etc.
8 Do not allow any suspicion, allegation or disclosure of abuse to go unreported, but do not jump to conclusions without being sure of all the facts and circumstances. Write down the relevant facts, dates and observations as soon as possible. Do not rush into unconsidered action. Although a pattern of behaviour may bring a child to your attention (for example, where an outgoing child becomes unusually withdrawn) and may be indicative of abuse, do not investigate it yourself (unless specifically asked to do so by the Children’s Officer) but refer the matter on to the Children’s Officer.
9 Children under 12 years of age are to be brought to the children’s class and collected by their parents and supervised at all times by at least two adults. It should be noted that the children’s parents are normally involved in other on-site activities at the same time. In cases where this is not so, parents should leave precise details as to where they can be contacted in case of emergency. Older children must wait in the Reception area until they are taken to their classroom by their teacher. All children’s classes should have two teachers. When classes are over children are handed over to their parents. In cases where parents are members of the 3KWSU and stay on the premises to do voluntary work or carry out other activities, the parents are responsible for their children outside official class hours.
10 All doors used for children’s activities must have glass panels. Where this is not possible, then doors should be kept open.
11 Only those who have been regularly involved with the BKWSU and are known to one or more of its senior personnel for at least three years may work with children and young people. They must complete a Volunteer Reference Form and be approved by the Children’s Officer who will also check the volunteer’s police clearance form before giving such approval. Volunteers will also be subject to a three-month probationary period, during which time they are expected to be observed and to undergo any relevant training deemed necessary by the BKWSU.
12 The safety of the children must take priority over everything else. All UK centres of the BKWSU are accessible to members of the public and teachers must ensure that in no circumstances can anyone have close access to a child and be alone with him or her for whatever reason.
13 Matters relating to children’s safety and behaviour are to be discussed regularly at meetings of the Children’s Teachers Team and, where necessary, raised by the Children’s Officer with senior personnel and Trustees of the BKWSU. Any resultant directives are to be promptly
implemented by the Children’s Teachers Team.
14 Where a child is involved in regular activities provided by the BKWSU, the presence of the child should be endorsed in writing by the parents or guardian.
15 In cases where children are involved in activities that require travel from one place to another, it is the responsibility of the parents to ensure that children have adequate travel and health insurance. While travelling, teachers and other volunteer helpers will assume the role of parent and will take appropriate action to ensure that children are supervised at all times and are not exposed to any risk that will unduly cause them physical or emotional harm.
16 Where children unaccompanied by their parents need to be accommodated for one or more nights at any of the BKWSU premises, this will be done with the written permission of the child’s parents or guardians. In cases where young or disabled children are involved, parents will also give written permission for a named volunteer to assist the child with any personal or intimate care tasks deemed necessary for the well-being and comfort of the child. The BKWSU will always ensure that children and young people are accommodated in single beds and, where rooms are shared, with other children or young people of the same gender.
17 The BKWSU will ensure that where unaccompanied children are in overnight accommodation on any of its premises that adequate provision is made to protect the safety of the child, and to provide the child with nourishment and warmth.
18 Children under the age of seven should not be separated from their parents overnight.
Global Co-operation House