Child Abuse and Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University (Raja Yoga)
A personal assessment of child protection in BKWSU, documentation of proven risk, abuse disclosure and the ongoing campaign for child protection provision.
By E Romain
v 4d 180604
A Personal Assessment of Child Protection in Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University (Raja Yoga)
1 The Purpose of this Report
2 About the Author
3 Summary of Events
Disclosure - February 1999
Post Disclosure February 1999 April 2004
4 How many Raja Yoga Centres have Child Protection Policies
5 Raja Yoga Culture for the Child
The Impossibility of Selflessness
Methods of Persuasion
Knowledge instead of Faith
The Raja Yoga Caste System
Risks Inherent in the Childs Experience of Raja Yoga
6 Assessment of BKWSU UK Child Protection policy
Appropriateness of BKWSU UK Child Protection Policy Document
Monitoring and Evaluation
Full documentation of abuse disclosure, campaign for child protection provision and current UK and India policy documents
For original abuse disclosure see Appendix F.
For campaign for child protection see Appendices A,B and C
For current UK and India policy documents see appendices D and E
A Correspondence with International Co-ordinating Office, London
B Correspondence with Regional Offices
C Mass Mailings to Raja Yoga Centres around the World
D BKWSU Child Protection Policy UK
E BKWSU Child Protection Policy India
F Disclosing letter from Child Xs brother.
G My Original Reply to Child Xs brother
1 The Purpose of this Report
This report is a personal assessment of the current level of child protection and child welfare practices in the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University (BKWSU) otherwise referred to herein as Raja Yoga.
It is intended to inform children, parents, other practising members of Raja Yoga (herein frequently referred to as BKs or Raja Yogis) as well as the international BK leadership. To the extent that is necessary it is hoped that it will warn the BK community of those areas where its current practice in its treatment of children is deficient.
Outside of the practising Raja Yoga community are other parties to whom these matters are in one way or another relevant. Firstly, parents and children who are not yet associated with Raja Yoga who are entitled to make informed decisions about such important matters.
Beyond these are local government authorities and agencies, members of parliament, social workers, police, news media, educators, and numerous special interests groups which work on behalf of society as a whole to watch over our children to ensure that they are being cared for in ways that are consistent with the agreed principles of modern democratic countries.
It is my belief that Raja Yoga has a duty to prepare its children not just for life as Raja Yogis but also for life in the wider world and that too not necessarily as Raja Yogis. This necessitates the balancing of very different worldviews and values, namely those of Raja Yoga on the one hand and, to the extent that there is consensus, those of the societies in which Raja Yoga children are growing up.
I would like to stress that in discussing any Raja Yoga beliefs or practices I do not wish to judge them favourably or otherwise in religious terms, but to assess their effect as part of the culture in which Raja Yoga children have to grow up. Hence the supposed metaphysical truth or falsity of Raja Yoga beliefs is outside the terms of reference of this report, but the effects of such beliefs upon the minds and lives of children in terms of how they view themselves, their parents, their friends, other Raja Yogis etc is not.
2 About the Author
I was first introduced to Raja Yoga in 1975 at the London Centre in Kilburn, north-west London when I was 14 years old. I was extremely impressed with it from the very first day. I accompanied my parents on a weekly basis and practised on my own at home. And when my parents stopped attending I took two buses to make the seven mile journey through London to get to the centre.
In 1977 I moved to Trinidad and here the centre was more easily accessible. Because of my relatively advanced experience I soon began teaching. By the age of 16 I was teaching introductory courses and occasionally taking whole classes of adult practising and committed Raja Yogis. This was on top of daily attendance at the centre for my own spiritual study.
In 1979 on the advice of the BK senior teachers in London I did not take up the University place to study medicine I had been offered and instead stayed in London to continue my Raja Yoga study and training. I worked in casual jobs during the day and attended the centre every morning and every evening.
For the next ten years Raja Yoga was my life. I continued my daily practice and went to India without fail every year. I taught Raja Yoga to countless individuals in numerous countries. I recorded albums, spoke on television and radio, wrote and edited books, gave numerous lectures, represented the organisation in numerous conferences in many different fields. I helped to train many centre teachers around the world and worked on a daily basis in the international centre in London. I knew the senior teachers in a way it is no longer possible and I watched as the movement went from being no more than 3 rooms in a London flat to a world wide presence by 1989 the year I left.
Of most relevance perhaps to this report I became both a qualified primary teacher during the mid-eighties and also worked as one of the teachers looking after the growing class of Raja Yoga children. I helped Raja Yoga plan and orchestrate large scale international projects that were implemented with the UNs blessing and nominal sponsorship in over eighty countries. An education pack, which I wrote with two other teachers who were practising Raja Yogis, was translated into over twenty languages and distributed in over thirty countries. In some countries it was sent to every single school. The school at which I worked helped in the piloting and became only the sixth school in the world to be awarded UN Peace Messenger Status. With hindsight I would say that I was one of a handful of Raja Yoga experts on Children. And given that the Organisation asked me to present its flagship program of the time to the UN in Vienna it would appear that the Raja Yoga leadership viewed me as such. And in the outside world as a published author and one of the youngest advisory teachers in UK I was perhaps the only practising Raja Yogis who had some degree of expertise in both Raja Yoga with children but also mainstream education theory and best practice.
In spite of all this the Raja Yoga leadership did not tell me of certain events in the mid-eighties which have led indirectly and nearly twenty years later to the writing of this report and the beginnings of serious considerations of such matters on the part of BKWSU Raja Yoga.
I left Raja Yoga in 1989 at the age of 28, having spent over half of my life within it. Since leaving I have remained on amicable terms with many members and ex members and with the BK leadership.
For the purposes of this report I should state that I do not any longer consider myself a Raja Yogi I no longer follow its practices nor subscribe to its central beliefs. At the same time I do not consider myself to be anti-Raja yoga and have never done anything that could be considered such.
3 Summary of Events
Disclosure - February 1999
In February 1999 a young man who had become a member of the London Raja Yogis as a young child, when his mother joined in the late 1970s, wrote to many current and ex-Raja Yogis. It was several thousand words long and in it he explained his feelings about growing up in Raja Yoga and how he looked upon it all now that he had decided to sever all ties with the organisation and the accompanying culture and lifestyle. With his permission his letter is reproduced in full in Appendix F
His letter mentioned the child sexual abuse of his sister some twenty years earlier by Raja Yogis in India. From hereon she is designated as Child X.
I met with both him and his sister and among the many issues we discussed they told me in some detail about the incidents of sexual abuse. As a child under 10 years whilst staying with her mother in a Raja Yoga Centre she suffered a serious sexual assault by an adult Raja Yogi living and working at that centre. When she went on to Madhuban Mount Abu, the world-wide home of Raja Yoga she suffered another sexual assault by a different and unconnected assailant. Not one assault, but two in the space of as many weeks by perpetrators living and working in Raja Yogas two most important centres in India.
I immediately wrote to the senior Raja Yogis in London and the correspondence regarding these events and their fallout has continued to this day and is reproduced in Appendix A.
Post Disclosure February 1999 April 2004
The letter I had received Child Xs brother referred to many disturbing aspects of his Raja Yoga childhood. The components of his former lifestyle to which he had referred in his letter I knew from personal experience to be damaging, and I had no hesitation either as a former child Raja Yogi or a professional teacher in concluding that his experiences amounted to abuse.
But his abuse, compared say to sexual abuse, was systemic rather than consisting of discrete traumatic events. Much of it could be characterised by them as just an unintended by-product of over zealousness. His sisters sexual abuse however was black and white and could less easily be explained away. And what seemed equally black and white was that the events had, as both sister and brother now claimed, simply been covered up. As one of the most experienced professional teachers in the Raja Yoga hierarchy both in London and indeed the world at the time of these assaults I could have told the seniors how such events should be handled. It was my educated guess now, that if they had not consulted me they had consulted no one.
On 24th February I wrote to Dadi Janki, (the World-wide Co-Administrative Head of BKWSU and Founder of the Janki Foundation) and to Sr. BK Jayanti, Director of the London Raja Yoga Centre. These were key people whose responsibility it was to ensure the well being of all Raja Yogis travelling from London. Dadi Janki was based in London and in charge of all international centres now and at the time of the assaults. Sr. Jayanti as the Director of the centre from which Child X was travelling would or should have been informed during the immediate aftermath. Both should have ascertained how it was allowed to happen and should know what the follow up was. They are both close colleagues of Dadi Prakashmani, (World-wide Administrative Head of BKWSU and head of Mt Abu) and Dadi Kulzar (head of all centres in Delhi). One assault occurred in Dadi Prakashmanis jurisdiction while the other occurred in Dadi Kulzars. My letters and their responses are reproduced in Appendix A.
Following my letter of 24th February 1999 I wrote again on 10th April, 30th April and 9th June 1999. Each time I received what I considered to be mere sentiments and vague platitudes rather than solid information. On 25th June 1999 they indicated they were planning to formalise some procedures for protection and care of children. This small step took six months since Child Xs brother had broken the near twenty year silence around these events.
In the interim those in charge of the Institution made no apology nor indicated any acceptance of responsibility for what happened, nor did they feel the need to explain the decades of inactivity. They offered neither external counselling nor any compensation. They called in the help of no outside agencies who might help them manage the pain they had undoubtedly caused nor rectify what were clearly inadequate child protection policies. They did not cease, or even pause in bringing children to the same centres where the abuse had taken place nor did they brief parents or teachers around the world. The many practising Raja Yogis who had not heard about the initial disclosing letter knew nothing and the many who had for he had sent out over fifty copies, did nothing.
I wrote to them again on 9th August 2000 reminding them of their promise to keep me informed. I heard nothing and so wrote again on 19th September 2000. I followed this up with a telephone call something I was loath to do, as it provided no record. On 28th October 2000 I was delighted to see the BKWSU logo on a letter to me. I thought that it might be their child protection policy. It was very late but at least they were finally getting on with it. The letter contained nothing of substance.
I waited and waited and eventually wrote again on 30th April 2001. It was not until 27th January 2002 after more delaying and obfuscating correspondence on their part that I received a child protection policy document for UK Raja Yoga Centres. It had taken 3 years of harassment by me to get them to write this, but they claimed in a letter of 5th December 2001 that some of the delay had been because of consultation with educational specialists and with social services. If any of this was even slightly true then at least it would be a reasonable policy.
In chapter 6 I have recorded my opinions, both as an ex-Raja Yogi and as a teacher, of this child protection policy.
My opinions of the policy notwithstanding I immediately turned my attention to ensuring that it was actually implemented and not just in UK but around the world, wherever there were Raja Yoga children and particularly in India where the original abuses took place.
One might ask why did I not seek first of all to get the Raja Yogis to improve the policy they had just written before getting it instituted around the world? The reasons for this are several.
Firstly to widen the number of people involved in the process. Raja Yogis around the world are frequently professionals much more used to implementing professional policies than the Raja Yoga elite of London who have never had a job outside of Raja Yoga. The input of these professionals on the defects of the policy might carry much more weight coming from them rather than me an ex (i.e. failed) Raja Yogi.
Secondly a perfect child protection policy is useless sitting on a shelf. It might easily take another 3 years to get them to improve the first one, in the meantime nothing would be happening around the world. Getting them to implement the first draft would at least begin the process of institutional development around the world however imperfect the guidelines.
Thirdly Raja Yoga is essentially an Indian Religion. Perhaps less than 2 percent of its members live outside, and so the majority of children in it are also in India. The original incidents of child abuse which prompted this report occurred in India and no doubt most of the others of which I am unaware are also overwhelmingly likely to occur there. The original events were so appallingly handled one of the perpetrators was caught and simply let go; which begs the question how many children has he since abused? He was not even handed over to the police. No attempt was made to find out which other children he had abused. In these circumstances it did not make sense to me to spend another few years quibbling with London Raja Yoga about the defects of its child protection policy instead of getting them to implement something, anything at the scene literally of the original crimes.
Fourthly implementation is what a policy is all about. Without implementation you have no policy. A policy is not what is on paper it is what people do. It has been my aim that the institution protect its children and in order to do this it needs to work our how it is going to do it. To not check that it is actually doing what it says it will, when it has given -what I think the correspondence shows- such clear indications that it is not yet truly committed to child protection nor indeed that it can be relied to do what it says it will would be to make me completely complicit in a general milieu of neglect and recklessness. The implementation of its UK policy or equivalents around the world would constitute some kind of progress. The implementation in UK alone would in my opinion be little more than useless.
And fifthly implementation or failure thereof would or should dictate moral and legal culpability on the part of the Institution. I was genuinely worried that in forcing BKWSU to get child protection policies I might be providing it with a false defence if it got sued by victims of abuse. If I did not force them to prove they were implementing their policies there would be no evidence of negligence if they did not. I did not doubt that the original motivation for the production of the UK policy, was as a protection against adverse publicity and as a legal tool in the case of more unfortunate freak events as Raja Yoga would view them. In Raja Yoga eyes their beliefs, practices and sheer religious power constitute much better tools for the protection of their children than the blunt crude instruments cooked up by the impure non-Raja Yoga world as they would view them. I will deal more with these cultural and ideological perspectives upon child protection in chapter 5. Suffice it to say here that in my opinion the only way to get child protection policies implemented world wide was the same way I had got London to write its policy and that is through the use of implied and explicit threats. That is, by writing to them and building an incriminating bank of correspondence and by dropping ever more unsubtle threats as to the potential public relations damage this might all cause.
So in January 2002 upon receipt of the UK policy I made the strategic decision to accept its imperfections for the time being and to concentrate upon getting BKWSU world wide to follow Londons lead and formalise child protection policies.
Via letters and particularly telephone calls to various third parties I tried to make it clear to the London leadership throughout 2002 that if I gave up talking to them I would talk to other agencies about what I considered to be inadequate progress. But having written a UK policy London apparently decided they could safely ignore me and so the communications dried up again.
I kept pressing for evidence that implementation of child protection policies world wide was taking place and received only some very silly delaying tactics by the so-called UK Childrens Officer.
So at this point I decided to let Raja Yoga teachers around the world know what the leadership in London was doing on their behalf. I emailed the mass mailing reproduced in Appendix C to all the centre emails listed there. Up until this point any child protection initiatives in the BKWSU had been done in London only and in the utmost secrecy. It was possible in my opinion that some Regional Office heads might have been consulted, but that the ordinary teachers running their centres in their respective countries would certainly know nothing of the child abuse incidents, the subsequent cover up and my subsequent campaign for proper procedures. It is part of Raja Yoga culture that accountability goes one way, seniors do not share their issues with the lower ranks nor do they disclose their problems or failures. In the higher echelons of London and India to implement child protection policies copied from those devised by non-Raja Yogis in the impure outside world is to admit that there are other sources of instruction in the running of the institution than purely Raja yoga sources namely God and the seniors. And here too on one of Raja Yogas most sacred subjects sexual purity.
To risk the exposure before their peers the individual failings of the various senior Raja Yogis in London, Delhi and Mount Abu, and to expose to its centre teachers the collective institutional failings was not taken lightly. But it was precisely these same people who were dragging their feet and taking years to do what should take weeks to protect the children they consider themselves to have a God-given responsibility to protect.
It is a classic symptom of situations where individual instances of abuse can become systemic and institutionalised that those in authority sacrifice victim protection for the protection of the good reputation of the organisation. Only by proving to the Raja Yoga hierarchy that their institution would be more damaged by inaction than action could they be persuaded that child protection was in their interests. Henceforth even if the Raja Yoga hierarchy remained resolute in its determination never to learn anything from an ex-Raja Yogi like me hopefully it would learn from its world wide teachers many of whom were by now no doubt wondering why an institution that deals with the public and throughout the corridors of the UN proclaims itself an expert in ethics, social policy and education had not established such guidelines many years ago.
Clearly this action on my part conveyed to the London Raja Yoga leadership that they still had to manage me or risk further disclosures. Hence on 26th November 2002 I received information that the regional offices around the world had been instructed to implement equivalent child protection policies in their respective regions around the world. This had supposedly occurred 9 months before I found out about it, but when I checked with the regional offices not a single one could confirm if had itself a child protection policy let alone the countries under its authority. The Regional Offices are run by the most senior Raja Yogis on each of the Worlds continents. If they were doing nothing, nothing was happening.
Meanwhile, I was continuing to try to convey to London in practical terms what accountability actually feels like in the real world and that whether they like it or not they are accountable to me in the same way that all members of civilised society are accountable to each other.
Gradually through spring 2003 I received assurances from individual Raja Yogis that the hierarchy and the centres around the world were starting to get it and I started to receive from London lists of countries which now either had policies or were in the process of writing such. Whilst this was welcome news it was always tempered by misgivings caused by Londons tendency to describe the slow progress as if it was a good thing. Why London did not order all centres world wide to immediately adopt its own policy (which itself took an inordinate amount of time to produce) whilst local countries then adjusted it as they so desired is beyond me. By this point London at least should have known how long it takes to produce a child protection policy, theirs after all is only 6 pages long. Raja Yoga is a highly centralised organisation. Local centres are trained to do whatever India or London tells them to do. If London had instructed all Raja Yoga Centres world wide to adopt the London Child Protection Policy they would have done so within the week.
The unfortunate truth is that lacklustre and ambiguous management from London and India sent out to the local centres the mistaken idea that they had to re-invent the wheel.
But this was comparatively speaking a side issue compared to the glaring omission in the list of countries who big deal have written their child protection polices. There was no mention of India. Probably ninety eight percent of all Raja Yogis live in India. If Raja Yoga has still not instituted child protection policies in India then it simply doesnt believe in them.
On 9th June 2003 after my repeated questioning about India London replied that discussions are still continuing and we understand that child protection policies are in place and being followed and will inform you as soon as the formal policy encapsulating these is completed. Decades after the original events and over 4 years since the disclosure by Child Xs brother the children in India whether of local origin or visiting from centres overseas could not sensibly be considered to be protected by a serious child protection policy. And London in full knowledge of this continued to simultaneously instruct tiny outposts of its empire some with no children attending its centres to write child protection policies while happily allowing all world wide Raja Yoga children to visit India which had not even bothered to formulate a policy. This is the same administration in London which had been persuading me for years it now took Child Protection seriously and sent lists of countries hoping to smokescreen the absence of India from that same list.
On 19th December 2003 having still received no confirmation of an Indian plan I emailed as many centres around the world as I could find to remind all of those planning to take children to India that they must if they adhered to child protection policies check that the equivalent was in place in India. I also invited them to send me a copy of such. Not one did. The text of my message and the list of centre emails used are in Appendix C. It should be noted that not a single centre replied. Over two hundred were contacted and not one replied. The silence was deafening and is an example of how well co-ordinated the Raja yoga organisation actually is. It is unfortunate that such co ordination which could be deployed to control communication flow with an outsider like me but not deployed in the speedy implementation of child protection policies. Here suddenly every centre was a law unto itself. In her letter of 23rd December 2002 Sr. BK Jayanti writes The nature of the Brahma Kumaris modus operandi world wide has not been one of detailed control and monitoring. This is nonsense. Perhaps she would suggest that the uniform response to my email amongst over two hundred centres must therefore have been a coincidence.
According to Sr. BK Jayanti in her letter of 26th November 2002 BKWSU India was instructing regional offices as far back as February 2001 in the implementation of child protection policies and yet India at the end of 2003 had no such plan of its own. As a member for over half my life of this organisation I will in chapter 5 of this report comment on this kind of hypocrisy and this tendency when it suits to withhold or distort the truth not only to the non Raja Yogi general public but also to its own membership. But at this point I do not wish to understand it as a part of a particular religious subculture but rather to judge it in terms of more universal principles. It is institutional and systematic and pre-meditated dishonesty. It strongly suggests that Raja Yoga India cannot yet be relied on to act ethically in matters of child protection. Whatever efforts the well-meaning centre teachers around the world might make towards protecting their charges would be rendered useless by the cynical refusal of India to do what it has required everyone else to.
ON 17th January 2004 I finally received from London a BKWSU India policy. It was written some two years after the UK policy and about three years after India instructed the Regional Offices to start writing their policies. If ever the organisation sees fit to inquire formally into the management of these matters this incredible delay and reversal of the proper order of events needs to be explained.
The India policy is an edited version of the UK policy produced two years earlier. Clearly no serious local consultation took place, either with Raja Yogis or child experts in India, as it is hardly plausible that between them they would come up with not a single point not present in the UK document.
Nevertheless by January 2004 I could at least try to take some satisfaction in the idea that many if not most child Raja Yogis were now under some form of increased protection. In reality I found that my knowledge of the way in which this progress has supposedly been made was such as to render it seriously lacking in credibility. In chapter 6 I directly address this.
In concluding this summary of my correspondence with BKWSU I regret to note that the organisation has failed to persuade me that it can be trusted. I believe that the correspondence as repeated in Appendix A of this report demonstrates repeated incidences of outright dishonesty by the most senior Raja Yogis in the world and their representatives. A detailed study of this record shows case after case of distortions, omissions, misrepresentations, obfuscations, dissemblings, minimisations and outright falsehoods and I do not believe that Raja Yoga will justifiably be able to claim to be safe for children as long as those guilty of such communications are not required to account for their behaviour.
4 How many Raja Yoga Centres have Child Protection Policies
The existence of a policy document does not itself prove anything in respect of actual child safety or risk levels but it is at least a step in the right direction. I have seen a UK and an Indian Child Protection Policy and these are reproduced in Appendices D and E. The Indian policy is merely a slightly edited version of the UK. This is not a criticism of it per se but it does as I have already noted leave unexplained the substantial gap in production dates when by any sensible reckoning India was more urgently in need of procedural reform.
Unfortunately none of the many Raja Yoga centres worldwide except for London appear to have seen the BKWSU India plan. Even the centres in India that I contacted failed to verify its existence. It is possible that they have been instructed not to communicate with me but why not at least confirm they have a child protection policy? How could refusing to verify this be in their interests? It is equally possible that the India plan which was sent to me by the same person in London and who has now a substantial interest in persuading me that there is an Indian plan was cooked up by somebody in London to try to shut me up once and for all. But here too I am speculating. The simple truth is that I do not know if centres in India have a policy document. But this I would argue is not a problem for me, so much as a problem for Raja Yoga.
Firstly as a procedural point if one emails or writes to a particular centre asking if they have a child protection policy and they refuse to answer one is correct to treat with skepticism any third party that asserts they have. So Londons assertions would in themselves be inadequate even if they did not come from a source tainted by prior unreliability and also one compromised by proximity to the very serious allegations of negligence hanging around this whole matter.
It is also very strange and very improper that the appointed spokesperson for the institution in these matters is someone who was Child Xs centre teacher and who was therefore one of the people responsible for sending her unsuspectingly into danger. This person could also appear to have been part of those highly senior teachers who subsequently knew about the cases of abuse and failed to institute adequate procedures. It is highly improper that the BKWSU compromise this individual further by asking her to conduct either the unraveling or conversely the covering up of these events. And I must stress that this person could also be innocent of the possible failings I have just raised.
And what of my endeavours? Can I sensibly be expected to rely on the utterings of people I suspect to have been involved? By the very nature of those events which are not in dispute I must treat with suspicion pronouncements about unverified events when such pronouncements may actually be true. And given that the ultimate matter in hand is the safety of children it would be negligent and reckless on my part if knowing what I know I were to give anyone the benefit of the doubt. Child protection must not work like that. And any professional working with children accepts that they must be prepared to provide reasonable evidence to back up their assertions. London has not learnt this nor have their satellite centres around the world and nor unfortunately has India.
On the issue of centres refusal to verify the existence of a policy let us be clear: There is no such thing as a secret child protection policy. There is no such thing as a child protection policy without a clearly understood principle of accountability. Any centre in the world which is not prepared to admit to possessing a child protection policy and to make copies of that policy available to members of the public should not be allowed near children. Any organisation that has failed to teach this principle to its officials and has failed to ensure that they are complying with it does not understand child protection. And any organisation that does not understand child protection is a danger to children.
So there are various centres including those in India which according to unreliable and compromised sources in London have child protection policy documents. If they do then I am pleased because that is arguably better than nothing. But the fact that they have all decided to make a secret of it suggests that Raja Yogas journey towards being a place people should happily send their children to is far from over. The centres which London alleges have policies in place are Holland, UK and India.
So, three countries currently claim adherence to a proper policy and some thirty-three others allegedly say they are preparing to do so but declined when asked to verify such. All the other countries of the World have as far as I can ascertain made no child protection provision.
Even without raising questions about the suitability of such documents or the quality of their implementation this is a frighteningly poor response to such a serious issue.
5 Raja Yoga Culture for the Child
To understand truly the risks facing children one must understand the culture in which the children live. Certainly there are universal risks dangers or experiences whether physical or psychological which we would abhor whatever culture we came from. But even in the case of cross cultural discussions where we agree on what we mean by abuse we must look to cultural context to understand how the child in question will interpret the abuse and either ameliorate its effect or compound it. An abusive action in one culture is different in terms of its meaning upon the child of a different culture who has suffered the same external action. If you do not understand the culture you have no hope of understanding a significant number of the ways in which the child will continue to re suffer the effects of the initial action. Some abuse is physical but all abuse is psychological.
So a policy which seeks to protect children from abuse and to help suspected victims of such must attend to the context in which it is to operate.
I wish therefore to explain some elements of Raja Yoga beliefs, lifestyle, practices and other elements of its culture which have or might be reasonably expected to impact in particular ways upon children and which are relevant to the question of child abuse.
I wish to stress here that I do not wish to insult or disparage the religious beliefs of the Brahma Kumaris movement. Nor do I wish to distort, misrepresent or take out of context the same. My concern here is not the truth of them nor is it their relation to my personal beliefs. My concern is what a child might do with them. Even if they are true they are open to misuse. Even if they are skilfully used as part of a sophisticated ideology by suitably experienced and educated adults they are sharp tools which can be misapplied by children. Apart from simply misinterpreting them children by virtue of being at a different stage in life are susceptible to influence in ways adults frequently mis-read or plain miss.
For example category confusions where the child takes an expediency to be a universal moral principle, or for example confuses subjective experience for objective fact, or mistakes the modal posture of a speaker mistaking aspirational poetic talk for factual prediction, interpretation for primary source, warning for curse etc etc. These are potentially toxic energies when mixed with religious concepts. Obviously I cannot here produce a comprehensive account of all the damaging ways in which children might misuse beliefs but I would stress it is the responsibility of those who wish to teach to equip themselves with such information. What I will do briefly here though, is detail some Raja Yoga beliefs which present themselves readily for such misuse. I contend that child welfare as a Raja Yoga issue must address them.
I list below some beliefs which whether accurate or mistaken interpretations of Raja Yoga can be used very differently by a child from that intended by the teaching adult. These are in no particular order
My centre teacher is Gods representative.
God takes upon himself the bad karma of Raja Yogi failings.
My senior teachers talk to God and are never wrong.
All anger is absolutely wrong.
All human love or attachment is absolutely wrong.
There is no valid or good reason to leave Raja Yoga.
To leave Raja Yoga is to curse oneself forever.
The body is only a vehicle.
The world is about to be destroyed in a nuclear holocaust.
I should love my Raja Yoga family more than my original family.
I should not follow the instructions of non-Raja Yogis.
The cycle of history repeats identically.
My life as a Raja Yogi dictates all of my future lives.
Past karma dictates what happens to me.
All human and natural history is within a 2500 year time span
My mistakes as a Raja Yogi are repeated ad infinitum in future cycles.
All sex is absolutely wrong.
My parents were only meant to look after me until I found Raja Yoga.
The brain is merely part of the body, it is the soul that thinks.
It is the destiny of me as a Raja Yogi to rule the world.
Raja Yoga is the one true religion.
Only Raja Yogis will go to heaven, the rest will only have limited happiness in what is for Raja Yogis hell.
India is the true cultural home of the world and of my true identity.
Only God as revealed through Raja Yoga teaches true knowledge.
All science is wrong
Anyone experienced in the child sciences will immediately be able to imagine some very toxic interpretations by children of such ideas both individually and when combined. And it is in the compounding of such beliefs particularly when two or three or four are put together that the damage from the effects can grow exponentially.
In addition to such beliefs there are elements of the Raja yoga lifestyle that we can reasonably expect to effect children differently to adults. A mature adult who reaches a certain point in their life might well wish to restrict the influences upon himself in order to explore as deeply as he can his spiritual nature. But even where children freely choose the full Raja Yoga lifestyle rather than having it thrust upon them by their parents, or parent, it is important to at least raise the question as to whether this is the best thing for them at their time of life.
It is important here to stress that in practice there are many shades of intensity with which different people take on the daily principles of Raja yoga, but it is important to also acknowledge that the more vigorous applicants are considered better than those who keep one foot in the outside world. Raja Yoga creates very close ties between members and peer pressure can be extreme. Raja Yoga teaching certainly projects an ideal and the seniors and centre teachers try and indeed usually succeed in exemplifying these principles. So it not surprising that the young seek to emulate those that they admire. But living the life of a monk when you are 60 is very different than when you are 16. And such a life includes the following:
No friends outside of Raja Yoga
No cinema, TV, radio, novels or magazines.
Indian dress rather than local.
No food cooked by non-Raja Yogis (including ones own parents)
No socialising with the opposite sex.
No romance or sexual experimentation whatsoever.
No socialising with bad Raja Yogis.
Complete shower and change of clothes after bowel movement.
Early morning meditation at 4 am followed by morning class at 6.30am
There are various strands to Raja Yoga culture which are not necessarily in the leaflets and booklets by which the institution tries to recruit new members but which are integral to the Raja yoga mindset. Some of them are more pronounced in different parts of the world and some are on the wain as the years go by. But to be a Raja Yogi is to accept these as part of ones pre-suppositions.
Raja Yogis are superior to all others and that superiority gives both special privileges and also special responsibilities. The privileges are impressive direct contact with God and their own private Heaven to name just two. They have at least twice as many years to live out all their incarnations as even the best of the other religions. Raja Yogis get five thousand years whereas most others get less than a hundred years. But they have special responsibilities. They must through their meditation make themselves literally perfect in order to trigger the destruction of this impure world and the creation of their new heavenly one. They only get one chance to do this and if they manage to mess it up by becoming bad Raja Yogis or even worse they actually leave they have blown all hope for eternity of ever making it back into the true elite.
Hence that sense of superiority is somewhat precarious and it leads to another massively important feature of the Raja yoga mindset purity.
Purity is a very wide ranging concept in Raja yoga. Firstly it means no sex. It should be stressed that this is not no sex before marriage, or no sex unless procreating. It means no sex. Whether your husband has joined you in your new religion or not you must not have sex with him. Whether you are fifteen, twenty five, thirty five or sixty five; single, engaged or married: No sex, no kissing, no touching, no masturbating and no intercourse. Morning class has very vivid phrases for what sex does for your destiny as a Raja yoga and these are repeated on a near daily basis. For a Raja Yogi to have sex is like throwing yourself out of a fifth floor building. All Raja Yogis hear this exact saying probably five times every week. I happened to have a friend who was a few years older than me but perhaps a little bit more impressionable. In Raja Yoga terms she ruined her fortune in heaven by having sex and she did what she had heard it described as for more months and years than I can bear to remember: she threw herself off a five storey building.
But Purity does not just mean celibacy it means protecting oneself from all influences that are not Raja Yoga. This includes the opinions of others and above all the opinions of oneself. Raja Yoga actually has a derogative term for listening to ones own opinions. The only opinions one must listen to are those of God as revealed by Raja Yoga. Any influence which might conflict with Raja Yoga is also proscribed such as virtually all the sciences. Hence half of a childs secondary school curriculum is impure and should not be allowed by the good Raja Yoga child to pollute his mind. Secular knowledge and skills even those that are useful to Raja yoga are quietly disparaged compared to true knowledge from God. Entertainments such as cinema, tv, radio etc are an obvious source of impurity filled as they are with pleasures of the body rather than of the soul.
But even the Raja Yoga centre is rife with potential impurity in the form of ones fellow Raja Yogis who may be sliding off the true path. The protection of oneself from the bad influence of ones fellow Raja Yogis is a daily concern for the diligent yogi. Non-conformists, individualists, even the overly gregarious or overly affectionate must be kept at a suitable distance. An effect of this is that purity turns into sterility. Raja Yoga society tends to gradually become a relatively homogenous collection of the obedient and docile. The black sheep tend to self selectively remove themselves.
This cult of purity also tends to lead to an over emphasis upon the source of a statement for its validity rather than its intrinsic merit. A senior teacher once summed this up by saying that if God said two plus two equals five she would agree with him. In Raja Yoga knowledge is not invented or discovered, it is revealed by God and interpreted by his chosen agents, chosen because they are the most pure. The postulations, speculations, hypothesising and counter hypothesising of everyone else can never lead to anything worthwhile because the source is polluted. Hence the intellectual life of non-Raja Yogi is worthless.
A side effect of this is that unlike most social groupings and cultures which learn and grow as a result of input from every source, Raja Yoga cannot learn from its malcontents, its failures or its black sheep. They are ignored because they are impure. And if an impure soul such as myself says that two plus two equals four a devout Raja Yogi might well feel duty bound to disagree.
There are several human emotions which also have no place in Raja Yoga life so much so that their presence virtually guarantees that whatever is said or done in such a state is wrong. The first is anger. If I am angry then whatever I say is expected to be wrong and will be discounted. Unless one is a senior anger is an instant disqualification from validity. So anger tends to get repressed, and the things that cause anger get repressed along with it.
Another is arrogance mistranslated by Raja Yogis as ego. But this does not mean a tendency to give too much weight to ones one opinions. It usually means to value ones opinions above those of the orthodoxy and the seniors. To think for oneself as opposed to accepting revealed truth either from God or the seniors. Hence if the seniors are wrong and you point it out your words will be discounted because you are suffering from ego. In Raja Yoga terms all of my letters reproduced in appendix A are extreme examples of the vice of ego. And it is no exaggeration to state that no practicing Raja Yogi could have written them without seriously damaging his Raja Yoga career.
Another important feature of Raja Yoga culture of relevance to young people is its awkwardness over the body. The very strict Cartesian dualism at the core of Raja Yoga beliefs coupled with certain Indian cultural sensitivities mean that human touch is strictly regularised. Virtually any kind of touch between the sexes is treated as if it is the beginnings of lust. Whilst paying lip service to good physical health many Raja Yogis including many seniors quietly take pride in not succumbing to either the demands or the simple pleasures of looking after the body. The Raja Yoga way is to exert strict control not only over bodily pleasures but also over bodily needs. It is viewed literally as a vehicle and one too which will only be needed for a few more years because the world is due to end imminently. One will not need it for decades so it makes no sense to look after its long term well-being. Many Raja Yogis whilst dragging themselves up each morning at 3.30am will not admit that their physical systems cannot function on 5 hours sleep a day and they do not successfully adjust their schedules at the other end of the day. The result is that many serious Raja Yogis are chronically over tired. This is simply accepted as part of the lifestyle. One good friend of mine woke up one morning face down on the carpet with his arm stretched out to the power socket in his living room which he had fallen asleep whilst switching off. He was not only so exhausted as to fall asleep in the middle of this action but he also did not move all night whilst in this highly uncomfortable position. I once fell asleep whilst holding a cup of coffee. Another fellow Raja Yogi once fell asleep standing up teaching in a secondary school.
Physical pursuits and sport are not valued as part of the culture nor indeed is good diet. It is true that the Raja Yoga diet is vegetarian and generally home cooked without many of the low quality ingredients of mass produced food. But this is merely circumstantial the diet is about purity rather than nutrition. Raja Yogis will not eat mass produced food because it is made by the impure. And many Raja Yogis would think it both disloyal to the originally Indian culture of Raja yoga and inappropriately indulgent to feed the body what suits it best rather than what is the cultural norm.
All of these elements add up to an attitude of strict control over the body rather than an integrated and complimentary relationship between mind and body. Many ex-Raja Yogis enjoy an incomparably better level of health since they left. Indeed the point has been made that the Brahma Kumaris are in general so antagonistic towards the body that they should not really be allowed to refer to what they do as Yoga.
It is worth noting here also that the strict Cartesian mind/body dualism at the core of Raja Yoga metaphysics and psychology is itself considered to be a form of mental illness by various schools of psychology.
The concept of service is very important to Raja Yoga thinking but it does not always mean what it usually connotes. To serve someone in Raja Yoga terms is certainly not to do what that person might like or appreciate or want. It is rather to do what you think God wants you to do for them. This notions extends itself even to giving people what they need inspite of themselves. The person in need of service cannot be expected to know what he needs so if one has to get around his resistance in somewhat ambiguous ways this is acceptable because it is being done for his benefit. In a culture with this value behind human interactions and also where displays of anger or confrontation are taboo it becomes common place to misuse charm. Charm, persuasion and even subterfuge are acceptable if they are performed skilfully enough and if done in the furtherance of Gods work. This shows itself as un-mitigated obsequiousness before so called important or famous people who might be useful in some way. On a larger scale it shows itself as the regular disguising of the fundamentally religious nature of Raja yoga into all sorts of different forms all in the name of service.
Hence for example BKWSU always refers to itself not as a religious organisation but as a University. This is because this title though less accurate, indeed totally inaccurate, will open more doors. The truth is that BKWSU really is a religious organisation and the University label is an intentional misrepresentation. There is no Brahma Kumaris University either in London, Delhi, Mount Abu or anywhere else. There is an Ashram (i.e. a religious establishment) in Mt Abu which teaches but certainly not a university curriculum and it awards no university degrees or indeed any certificates of any kind. No exams exist whatsoever let alone university exams. The senior Raja Yogis in Mount Abu, Delhi and London the heads of this so-called university -do not even have a single proper university degree to share between them. If they had perhaps they would know what a university is. There are no properly qualified lecturers and no properly qualified students. There is not a single government ministry of education of any country in the world that has on its lists of recognised universities a BKWSU. And in India where they pretend such exists if really pressed, they have been banned from using the word University in their title.
The Impossibility of Selflessness
Aligned to this is the principle of enlightened self interest that underpins the Raja Yoga interpretation of the Law of Karma. The highest form of Karma in Raja Yoga terms is not that of selflessness the traditional Hindu and Buddhist idea. Raja yoga believes that selflessness is a myth. In Raja yoga philosophy people always act in what they perceive to be their best interests. Whether they are right in their perceptions is another matter but no one is ever truly selfless. The Raja Yoga definition of the highest form of karma is to follow the exhortation from God to be a Raja Yogi.
Hence no Catholic, Jew or Muslim however kind, wise or good to others can match the quality of karma that a Raja Yogi can achieve. A Raja Yogi benefits others more than other religions, and indeed any other class of person in any sense simply as a by product of cultivating his relationship with God and becoming a better Raja Yogi. When he has become pure through connection with God and all his fellow Raja Yogis have done like wise this will trigger a nuclear holocaust and every one will get released from hell and sent home to the soul world. The Raja Yogis will return to a pure world and each one according to his accumulated store of good karma will be rewarded with a kingdom commensurate with his particular level of goodness. So when Raja Yogis make statements such as BKWSU was established in the spirit of service to humanity they are being disingenuous. Raja Yoga was established for the betterment of Raja Yogis in short so that they can claim their future kingdoms. The betterment of the rest of humanity is a highly indirect offshoot.
So in Raja Yoga terms the best way a Raja Yogi can benefit you is to give you not what you might want but what God wants him to give you which in essence is the knowledge of Raja Yoga. Anything else is a waste of valuable Raja Yoga time unless of course it impresses you to the degree that your are sufficiently intrigued or charmed or plain old seduced that you decide to give this knowledge a chance after all. And then behind all of this the only real reason the Raja Yogi is doing any of this is so that he can get a bigger Palace than you in heaven, because much as he likes you it is actually impossible for him to do anything genuinely for you.
This mindset has led to Raja Yoga building hospitals not because it cares about the sick but simply to impress the bystanders with how spiritual it is. And most ironic of all it has been very active in promoting itself as an authority on all matters pertaining to world peace when it is totally certain that the best thing that can happen to the world is its forthcoming nuclear holocaust. Why would a movement that believes completely in a forthcoming nuclear holocaust and fervently wants it to come and to come as soon as possible be active in the peace movement? Because it is another platform for Raja Yogis to get their message across to everyone and hence bring on the war. It would be a problem however if the organisers of this or that peace conference were to find out that the Raja Yoga idea of peace involves everyone else being dead. So in order to make it to the all important microphone Raja Yogis will present a distorted version of their beliefs. And when in the past they have been found out and challenged for their presence at peace conferences aimed specifically at preventing nuclear war, (as indeed the United Nations did when Raja Yoga was trying to become affiliated with it) they simply switched into their the ends justify the means mentality and misrepresented their own beliefs.
When children are being raised in a culture which combines a disbelief in genuine selflessness with a willingness to deceive when it suits a higher purpose, this should at least trigger some alarm bells.
Methods of Persuasion
Another element of the Raja yoga culture which needs to be mentioned in the context of the childhood experience of Raja Yoga is its pedagogic style its teaching methods. This style shows itself in formal teaching but also in general communication as well particularly in its method of teaching meditation.
Firstly the language of Raja Yoga is extremely vivid. Its images are strong and memorable, and captured in lots of specific phrases and references it takes several years to learn. The descriptions of heaven are so detailed and so apparently real that it is as if one is living an epic poem. The romanticism of the story of ones journey around the cycle through both heaven and hell in search of yourself is re-lived with techniques in meditation which are extremely powerful. It is very normal in such practices to experience on a daily basis an intensity of feeling which the non-meditator perhaps only experiences once a year. The skilful yogi can usually summon a particular experience on demand love, power, peace, bliss. Take your pick. If Raja Yoga is ones only strong referent for such intensity the power of the experiences is assumed to contribute to the veracity of the religion. This is a mistake but it is one which children are extremely likely to make.
Such experiences and the fact that it is the Raja Yogi child and not his non-Raja Yogi school colleagues (his ex-friends) who can more or less at will conjure them up for himself all goes to confirm ones sense of oneself as special, one of the chosen few. For the Raja Yogi to know oneself is to love oneself to a degree which anyone else might consider narcissistic. But in the case of the Raja Yogi it is not; because he really is that great. If he was not he would not be able to have such experiences or so the logic goes. There is an anti normality, a continual watching of oneself to check that one is as great as the script specifies: a way of being which views spirituality as all about self aggrandisement. Raja yoga claims that greed is a vice, but what they are really criticising here is the stupidity of wanting the wrong things. In actuality as long as you want karmic accumulation for yourself in Raja Yoga greed is definitely a virtue. Upon the path of the enlightened nothing succeeds like excess.
But the vividness of its images of beauty can disappear when the yogi suffers the violent mood swings most less experience practitioners suffer from. Then the insecurities of ones own ultimate position in the grand scheme of things emerge and the vivid descriptions of the consequences of failure come with the same hyper-real quality as their pleasant counterparts. These mood swings can be extreme and they were so common as to have a name and to be considered part of the journey. After about 5 years I learned not to panic when they came.
The vividness of frightening images used in teaching, their constant repetition on a daily basis, the continual exhortations not to leave and dire warnings as to what will happen if one does are the flip side of the ecstatic blissful hypnotising beauty of Raja Yoga on a good day.
In my opinion the Raja Yoga explanations that they are both caused in the mind because they are true i.e. that subjective experience is evidence of objective truth is reckless and irresponsible. The effects that Raja yoga practices regularly induce need to be understood better by Raja Yogis particularly when used with children. It is fifteen years since I left Raja Yoga and though I subscribe to none of its beliefs I am still regularly visited by images which I believe were inadvertently planted in me at an early age. I do not claim to full understand the mechanism, but I know also that until Raja Yoga can claim such it needs to clarify to itself how exactly it trains its young and if some practices should be for adults only. Raja yoga certainly needs to get better acquainted with the dynamics of hypnotism so that it can with somewhat more authority than it has in the past affirm that it uses none. Staring at white dots or directly into the eyes of ones teacher for extended periods of time as she tells one what to think are all methods to heighten suggestibility. As are the use of coloured lighting and soothing ambient music whatever the metaphysical validity of the belief system that uses them. I look forward to the day when a Raja Yogi can specify to me how the mechanisms by which hypnotism works are somehow switched off because all Raja Yoga suggestions, guided visualisations and meditation commentaries are epistemologically and ontologically true. In actual fact a cursory read of any book on self hypnosis will contain many of the techniques taught by Raja Yoga as meditation.
Knowledge instead of Faith
Another aspect of this experiential emphasis on the learning of Raja Yoga concepts is a confusion of language which connotes facts with language that connotes experience. This is closely connected with subject /object confusion and children are particularly vulnerable to missing the logical jumps. It is particularly enlightening here to appreciate that there is no Raja Yoga concept of faith in respect of beliefs. Raja Yogis do not conceive of beliefs needing to be bolstered by faith in the way that for instance Anglicans do. For an Anglican one has faith in a belief partly because one understands logically that it could be false to fact. Raja Yogis would simply say that this is someone who doesnt really believe. A Raja Yogi does not have faith in the truth of a particular belief, he does not think of the contents of his head as beliefs. He has no distinction between logical possibility and contingent fact. That is to say he cannot believe something and yet genuinely acknowledge that it is just a belief. He thinks of the contents of his head as facts. He has in Raja Yoga parlance realised them, he has had the realisation that such and such is true. This is a cultural norm and a linguistic distinction in Raja Yoga which puts great pressure upon the young. It effectively robs them of the ability to doubt, or even to imagine disbelieving. Because if the language to do such has been misappropriated to do something else one becomes blinded to the very concept. And there is indeed a very strong absence of any doubt or disbelief in Raja yoga. The consensus agreement about the beliefs is universal. In the young at least I would contend that this is not a good thing nor evidence of good teaching. To the extent it exists it is a function of bad teaching (for how can you teach about religion if you do not teach about doubt) and of poor language usage.
So well practised in this way of thinking was I that I can honestly say that I had left Raja yoga for several years before it even occurred to me to doubt any of its core beliefs.
The Raja Yoga Caste System
Another component of the Raja Yoga ideology indeed cosmology too - and which shapes their thinking on all manner of subjects is their metaphysical caste system. Each soul is forever a member of a particular caste. Not just in this or that life but even up in the so-called soul world. And Raja Yoga illustrations and imaginings of the soul world show the each soul on an inverted tree. God is at the top, at the tip of the trunk, followed by the highest Raja Yogis, then the middle rank, and then the lower Raja Yogis. Below the lowest Raja Yogi positioned at the beginning of each of their own branches are the so called prophet souls Christ, Buddha, Abraham etc. Below these are all the souls of their respective religions and again the best come first, followed by the lower and then the lowest.
Ones position in this hierarchy is fixed. If you happen to be a Raja Yogi soul you are blessed, compared at least to the members of the other religions. In your cycle of births and deaths down on earth you are predestined to be a Raja Yogi just as you were in your previous cycle. There is no risk that although you were a Raja Yogi in the previous cycle you might get relegated to being a Christian or a Jew or a Muslim. Likewise even the best of the other paths cannot hope to gain promotion into the Raja Yogi elite. Nor can they enter the only true heaven in Raja Yoga theology namely the Raja Yoga one. The souls of other religions at best have a kind of relative heaven in the midst of Raja Yoga hell. They have no true i.e. absolute heaven.
Within the constellation of Raja Yoga souls there is of course also different levels reflected both in position in the soul world and in the quality and quantity of lives on Earth. Closest to God and indeed in many practical ways virtually inseparable from God is the founder of Raja Yoga. There are seven other souls making up the highest quality of beings the only human souls who could be truly said to attain perfection. It is universally agreed that most if not all of these positions have already been taken by the current senior Raja Yogis. But there might just be one place so you could squeeze in if you really try. Below these is another hundred who whilst perhaps not attaining the absolute highest level of perfection came very close and as a side effect of their efforts helped the whole of humanity by simultaneously spreading the word about Raja Yoga and purifying themselves through their own meditation thereby triggering the nuclear holocaust which ends the world thus ending another round of hell. Many of the thrusting ambitious Raja Yoga teachers secretly harbour hopes of making it into the legendary 108. And one should stress that this kind of ambition is encouraged. It is all part of the greed is good if its the right kind of greed, enlightened self interest ethos at the heart of Raja Yoga karmic philosophy.
Below the Rosary of the One Hundred and Eight is another sixteen thousand. This may sound like a lot but when one considers that there are currently several hundred thousand members of the religion the rush for seats is going to be pretty tight.
And below these is nine hundred thousand, the official number of souls who make it to heaven. These would be souls who became Raja Yogis but ended up doing rather poorly. They didn't do much service, their meditation was erratic and ineffectual.
If a Raja Yogi has sex, leaves Raja Yoga, or defames the institution, he is still technically a Raja Yoga soul and so will get to heaven but he is guilty of spurning an opportunity not presented to the vast majority of souls. He has rejected or ignored the direct teachings of God not inadvertently but consciously. He has allowed his latent vices to re-assert themselves during his one incarnation as a Raja Yogi to the point where the sins of the flesh or the arrogance of his ego make him indulge himself, his own desires, his own opinions rather than what God has instructed him to do. From being a potential god sitting at the top table of celestial and earthly deities, living and loving with other members of the elite 108 Rosary for the whole of eternity he has thrown himself off the fifth floor irredeemably destroying his chance of true greatness. In his incarnations whether in heaven or in the later ages when heaven has yet again deteriorated into the relative hell he is destined to only looking at the great from afar. If he is lucky he might gain proximity to a medium quality soul say of the sixteen thousand by being his servant. The closest he would get to the hundred and eight is as a cremator. He will burn their bodies, because during his Raja Yoga life he was consumed by the fires of lust.
I have merely touched upon the iconography at work here there is a great deal more to it and the effect is all compounded by the daily repetition of these images in the morning class to which all Raja Yogis must attend and in the extremely vivid relationship to his concepts the Raja Yogi develops. Like medieval Catholicism the beauty of divine grace in all its exquisite depictions is matched in the mind of the pilgrim only by the horrors of hellish failure. Meditation makes both sides of the cycle hyper real.
The Raja Yoga notion of metaphysical caste has like very nearly all Raja Yoga concepts been borrowed from Hinduism. That Raja Yoga should seek to revitalise or re-interpret a way of looking at people which many modern liberal Hindus find to be abhorrent is unfortunate in the extreme. The Hindu caste system in its worst manifestations is comparable with slavery, nazism and apartheid. Although Raja Yoga is critical of the traditional caste system it uses not only the basic concepts (although one must re-iterate again they are reinterpreted) but also the very terms. Hence the names of the traditional caste levels Brahmin etc all have taken on new Raja Yoga significance. The cremator status in heaven that is the destiny of bad Raja Yogis is a direct reinterpretation of the untouchable role of the leatherworker and the body burner. The term shudra meaning someone of extremely low caste someone who a good Hindu of higher caste is disallowed to even touch let alone socialise with or befriend has become in the Raja Yoga lexicon a label for those souls who impurify themselves with sex or who leave Raja Yoga. Think of the worst swear words you know I would contend that shudra to the Raja Yogi has something of this level of potency. Interestingly amongst ex-Raja Yogis the term is being reinterpreted such as the way that young African Americans are now referring to themselves as niggaz, and the gay community has re-claimed the term queer, and modern urban women have wrestled control of the term cunt from purely misogynist ownership. So now the attitude of some ex-Raja Yogis to all of this is to laugh and declare yes Im a shudra. But that is partly posture and partly a defence against what remains a highly potent, insulting and damaging concept. Fifteen years on it still stings because we know they mean it.
And part of the problem Raja yoga has had with my input on child protection is that in their eyes I am a shudra. It is deeply offensive to some seniors that I might have something to teach them, or even that my current involvement in the management of their organisation might be one of Gods mysterious ways. If it turned out that I was rewarded for my efforts by a place in the 108 it is very doubtful that any of the others would agree to turn up.
The effects upon the young Raja Yogi of this ever present categorisation of the people one meets are manifold. I have already mentioned the inevitable isolation of narcissm. It also has a very strong tendency to stimulate an uncritical and overly venerative attitude towards the seniors. They are after all synonymous with the very notion of the eight. The different caste tiers are each tight networks of inter-birth relationships and relations. One clear sign that you are destined for obscurity would be poor personal relations with the members of the higher caste levels. You will have spent your births interrelating with your own category of soul so if you are not comfortable with the elite, or they with you, this is not a good omen. The metaphysical caste system finds its locus in the physical world in the form of the seniors because their position is already known. The seniors are members of the eight so one way or another if you want to make it to the top table you better not damage your relations with them. Please them on the other hand and all other factors remaining equal you will do well. Hence like all theoretical caste systems it is the control of behaviour that is the inevitable real effect.
The malcontent at the back of the class is less plausible as a role model simply because he does not pay his dues with his seniors. No matter that he may actually be more sensible than the rest of the class put together. The tendency to stigmatise, isolate and ultimately loose the bad Brahmins is subtle because Raja Yogis are almost universally friendly and well meaning people. It is also part of the culture to show love and respect to all. But you neither show nor actually feel the same quality of love or respect for those you categorise as good and those you categorise as bad.
A central tension at the core of this is that whilst all Raja Yogis are certain of the factuality of the metaphysical hierarchy they do not know the one piece of information that really matters where their place is. Raja Yoga folklore is littered with stars that shone brightly and then faded away. The high turnover of members mean that in a large or medium size centre there will definitely be Yogis you previously admired and aspired towards in your early years who have since here is that image again- thrown themselves out of the fifth floor. Or as one friend of mine put it about a mutual friend who had disgraced herself in the most serious way a centre sister can she has ripped her own guts out, she has gutted her cycle. It is heartbreaking when someone that you thought you would share heaven with turns their status from that of one of the blessed into a shudra. And if such and such a person who you thought was a great Raja Yogi can fail maybe you are next.
The pressure and self examination this causes can become all pervasive. Every thought, every action is potentially the beginning of ones decline. Every mistake one can look back on is a trigger for self mistrust and loathing. And as I have intimated this has already proven itself as something more than some Raja Yogis could bear. And it does not help that Raja Yoga insists on repeatedly using images of self destruction as a metaphor for this type of failing.
How does one learn to handle failure when that failure irredeemably changes all of your future births? How does one hold on to ones positive self image when the occurrence of that failure means that even in your past you could not have been one of the truly successful Raja Yogis. The belief system here coupled with cultural elements such as the iconography, the language, semantic frames, the pedagogic style and the meditative and mystical practices acts in the young or vulnerable to effectively place a curse upon the transgressor. The curse is arguably self inflicted or arguably installed by the religion, but what is undeniable is that it uses the tools, jargon, images and concepts of Raja Yoga. It is usually pre-programmed during the happy early years when hope of ascendancy is at its strongest and fear of failure at its most fervent. It lies within and only emerges or is triggered after the young student comes to define, or is persuaded by others that he must define, his actions or indeed whole selfhood to have failed in Raja Yoga terms.
Most of the toxic after effects of this do not emerge except over an extended period of time frequently when the student has distanced himself from the seniors or indeed they from him or he has left the organisation. The leaders of Raja Yoga know quite a lot about the range and seriousness of psychological problems ex-Raja Yogis suffer. They have so far given no indication that they feel the organisation should share any responsibility for this. Appendices F and G contain two letters from ex Raja Yogis which illustrate something of this problem.
Risks inherent in the childs experience of Raja Yoga
The cultural features I have outlined above can and do combine in the immature with some of the beliefs and or lifestyle components I previously listed. And whilst on the one had Raja Yoga can have dramatically beneficial effects upon the young practitioner it can unfortunately create or trigger rather poisonous dynamics both psychologically and in a way of living that ends up being highly unsuitable for certain individuals who nevertheless do not have the wherewithal to right themselves. Problems with trust (either too much or too little), self and body image distortions, isolation, hallucination, narcissm, self loathing, exhaustion, obsession, sexual confusion, sexual guilt, magical thinking, sexual dysfunction, dissociation are all problems which I would contend occur disproportionately in young Raja Yogis and ex-Raja Yogis compared to non-Raja Yogis. Add to that family and/or parental problems either when they join Raja Yoga or when they leave. And damage to school and future career prospects because some idiot has persuaded them that the world is about to end. The replacement of their old family with a new sari clad one and the near total replacement of their burgeoning intelligence and independence of spirit with a desperate adherence to doctrinal conformity.
I do not wish for a minute to suggest that the lives of Raja Yoga children is always as awful as it might sound, but the above are components of that existence enough to be considered integral risks.
And of course these side effects set a particular social context within which active perpetrator led abuse of children is much more likely to flourish. And which when it does occur also causes much more long term damage and tends to be much more likely to have the child either colluding in the abuse or at least in the cover up. I have personally known of a variety of occurrences of physical and psychological abuse as well as the sex abuse occurrences in Delhi and Mt Abu in which the child inadvertently allowed elements of his or her training as a Raja Yogi to dis-empower him or her at the crucial time when more not less power was needed.
It is my contention based upon my experience and that of fellow child Raja Yogis that any Raja Yoga Child protection plan which is to be of any real use must take account of and indeed start from the lived experience of child Raja Yogis. Not how one would like it to be, but how it actually is. But for that one must listen to those relatively few people who actually were children in Raja Yoga.
And as many of this pathological after effects take years to emerge Raja Yoga should take issue with one of its most sacred taboos that of learning from shudras or in plain English finding out about its mistakes from its victims who have left the organisation. As a group those who have left also happen to be by far the biggest collection of Raja Yogis on the planet.
6 Assessment of BKWSU UK Child Protection policy
Having outlined some features of Raja Yoga culture and lifestyle which can complicate and compound the risks children face I now wish to critically assess current BKWSU child protection provision.
I wish to examine the appropriateness of the policy documents, the quality of their implementation and the monitoring of such. I then wish to examine the credentials and credibility of those currently in charge of this programme.
Appropriateness of BKWSU UK Child Protection Policy Document
This document is reproduced in full in Appendix D. It is the template upon which the Indian document is based and presumably this it true for the vast majority of policy documents around the world. If there are any.
Firstly the policy document does not even read as if it is for a religious institution. Indeed it pretends that the organisation is something other than a religion. This is not a good start. It neither bodes well for the documents credibility nor for its use-ability. Beyond avoiding the religious nature of Raja Yoga it attends to none of the specifics of the particular religion in question. It takes no account of Raja Yoga culture, lifestyle and beliefs as potential complications in incidents of abuse nor as causative elements in themselves of problems for the child which might amount to abuse. To the extent that it refers to BKWSU practices it in no way questions the assumption that they are always good for children. Sometimes unfortunately they are not.
As a result of this omission it provides no guidelines for the safe and careful development of Raja Yoga training in the young. It fails, for example, to delineate any beliefs or practices from which children might well need to be shielded until a later age.
There is no suggestion or indeed instruction about the modification of certain Raja Yoga perspectives by carers of children, or the contextual suspension of some of its principles. For example maybe an adult Raja Yogi who believes all forms of sexual thought and deed are wrong should nevertheless encourage teenager Raja yoga students to go out on some dates and to accept rather than repress their burgeoning desires for romance and sexual growth. This document is useless in helping one make such decisions. It is not enough to assume that responsible parents will form their own opinions. As Raja Yogis they are implored/exhorted on a daily basis not to impurify Raja Yoga with their own opinions.
There is no clear discussion of issues around systemic and/or institutional abuse, which is a big failing in itself given as has been mentioned this is the child protection policy of a religious movement. But it must be pointed out that the failure of this particular institution to be genuine right from the start of this document in the way that it describes itself is itself a form of institutional abuse. Once again as it has so many times before the BKWSU is misrepresenting its fundamental nature but herein the consequences are more serious than usual. The BKWSU is not essentially an educational institution, it is a religious organisation which carries out educational activities as per the principles of its religion. These are not the same thing at all, and the child protection specifics for each are different. One does not go on field trips to Mount Abu as this document claims. One goes to get a personal meeting with God. How can such be described as a field trip? And if in its child protection policy it cannot be honest about itself, to itself, what hope is there of it not misleading parents and children who come to it anew? To mis-describe your true nature, to lure people in with promises of relaxation techniques and positive thinking courses without being honest from the outset who is really teaching these side dishes is itself abusive. It is also, -to borrow a word explicitly disavowed in the policy document exploitative. Until Raja Yoga finds even this simple level of integrity it will continue to lay itself open to the charge that it is something of a predatory cult. The old Indian accusation that Raja Yoga steals your children and hypnotises them will refuse to go away.
The whole of the second paragraph in the background section is no better. This mixture of spin, misuse of language and downright dishonesty should have no place in this document. Neither its self indulgent and congratulatory style nor its misleading substance are appropriate. If I write its complete opposite this is no less true.
"Young people are able to damage themselves greatly from their participation in BKWSU activities particularly with regard to their personal, social, emotional and spiritual lack of development. Both they and their parents or guardians have come to place considerable mistrust in the BKWSU and its personnel and overwhelmingly history has shown this mistrust to be well founded. Nevertheless the BKWSU remains inattentive and careless with regard to childrens interests, ensuring that it continues not to follow best practices that etc etc"
This is not how I would put it myself but if I were to be forced to choose between my version and that of the document I would argue that a good case can be made for both. Which means neither should be present.
Likewise the first sentence of the aims section. This time I do not need to play with it. Anyone who truly knows Raja Yoga understands it.
"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."
Simply not true.
At the bottom of this section it states that training in the management of possible incidents of abuse will be provided by professionals not connected with BKWSU, but I could find no details on this. Further on the policy actually attempts a quick piece of ad hoc training so I am not sure how one relates to the other.
There is no advice or instruction anywhere in the document on reconciling the major differences in opinion between Raja Yoga and conventional professional child sciences. The paradigms are largely incompatible so which ones do Raja Yoga carers use as their ultimate guiding principles? Raja Yoga is very strongly at odds with most prevailing precepts, principles and values in the fields of child sexuality, adolescent sexuality, child cognitive, emotional and social development and the many related fields. So without explicated terms of reference it is impossible to even read this document intelligently. Terms such as best interests of the child welfare and many others beg the question; according to who? Do they mean the Raja Yoga interpretation of welfare and best interests or the generally accepted experts as recognised by society as a whole? Hence many of the instructions are so vague as to be open to too much interpretation.
Point 6 of the Guiding Principles: "Due consideration should be taken of the traditions and cultural values of each child and his or her family."
Raja Yoga for all its many virtues has a very poor record in this regard so whilst one might heartily welcome the presence of this statement one needs to know what is meant exactly by this. Does it mean that Raja Yoga will no longer be dressing western children in Indian clothes for example. Does it mean that children will be taught not to value their Raja Yoga Family above their outside one or to value a Raja Yoga parent above a non Raja Yoga parent? In short due consideration according to who? I believe I have successfully shown that culture is a central issue to Raja yogas success or failure in the ethical treatment of its children. Now I would suggest Raja Yoga must do the work of fleshing out how they are going to interpret the practicalities. This is the document which should outline the sharp end of these issue.
Point A of Forms of Abuse:" Abuse is caused not only by those who actually perpetrate it but also by those who fail to prevent it or condone, minimise or tolerate it."
Again it sounds very good but what does it mean in practice? Is not every Senior Raja Yogi who knew about the Child X incidents and did nothing to tighten up procedure guilty then of causing any abuse which has subsequently taken place? Is this what is meant?
"Emotional abuse occurs when adults fail to show due care and attention or threaten, causing him to 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 childs efforts or places the child under undue pressure to meet unrealistically high standards or expectations."
I believe this kind of abuse occurs far more frequently than the authors of this policy document presently suppose. It certainly occurred frequently during my time as a Raja Yogi and there has been insufficient change in the institution since then to justify a presumption that it is not so prevalent. But the emotional abuse they describe here occurs in Raja Yoga in systemic ways and as a by product of institutionalised social interacting. If this document is going to assist in a reduction of this it needs to explain emotional abuse in such terms. At present it phrases emotional abuse in terms of arguably the least prevalent forms as far as Raja yoga is concerned.
The Childrens Officer
If the Childrens Officer is going to have expertise not only in Raja Yoga concepts of good childcare but also such concepts as framed by the best in non Raja Yoga care then the appointment of such is in my opinion a good idea.
But I am doubtful that the current internal politics both structure and mindset of Raja Yoga will not cause serious problems for the real effectiveness of any appointee. Given where the institution currently is and given how far it needs to travel in terms of the whole cultural milieu in which its children are growing up I am doubtful that the Childrens Officer is a job as it is currently shaped anyone can successfully do. Perhaps in five years but not at the moment.
For example if I were the Childrens Officer in London I would immediately try to send all the senior Raja Yoga leadership on very extensive courses on child development, sexuality, institutional development and policy implementation. Would I have the authority to do this? Somehow I suspect not. But institutional development on this scale must start at the top. Without the political power to effect change at every level as necessary the process of child protection becomes reduced to a little side issue as if checking there are no convicted paedophiles on the staff of the childrens class is the crux of the matter. The Childrens Officer would need to be backed up by real political power as well as an amalgam of the necessary Raja Yoga, child sciences and institutional development expertise. I cannot see how this would be achieved unless such an Officer was supported by a body of respected experts across the fields such as a steering committee or an advisory committee comprising largely but not exclusively of non-Raja Yoga experts. And this agency too would need some political power.
So as it stands, in my opinion the Childrens Officer is toothless in terms of being an agent for the most effective type of institutional change. Nevertheless as it is currently configured I believe it could be expected to gradually raise the quality of care delivered by those in the lower levels of the Raja Yoga organisation.
One current arrangement I would contest is that it is the duty of the Childrens Officer alone to refer any concerns to parents, social services or police as appropriate as well as to the Trustee of the BKWSU. I would configure this differently. Whilst anybody with concerns should take them initially to the Childrens Officer, that person must themselves verify that the Childrens Officer has dealt with the situation properly. Failing this it is the duty of all to refer concerns on to appropriate persons or agencies. Having one person alone responsible for disclosure creates a weak link in the chain and places bureaucracy above individual conscience and awareness. The causative reason Raja Yoga is now getting child protection policies is because two ex-Raja Yogis refused to accept the inappropriate responses of those who were in charge.
Related to this is the issue of chains of command. The Childrens Officer should not be appointed by the senior teachers of BKWSU in my opinion but rather by the Trustees. He or she should be accountable to the Trustees and not to the senior Raja Yogis.
Also if they are to play their proper role in creating genuine accountability the names and addresses of the Trustees should be publicly available. If someone would only disclose who they are I for one would certainly like to contact them about child protection issues in both UK and India.
These are just some of my major observations in respect of the BKWSU UK policy document. There are many others including numerous lessons learnt from the Catholic Churchs problems with child sexual abuse in celibate communities. I will at a later date be feeding these into the debate. That is to say when a serious debate has commenced.
It has taken five years to achieve what should have taken at worst a couple of months. Indeed one can state it more starkly than this: It has taken two decades to achieve what should have taken a couple of months. And the world wide organisation is still a long way from even the most basic levels of actual child protection policy implementation.
I could write a better child protection policy than the current BKWSU UK document in under a week. And if I could there are definitely members of the Raja Yoga world wide membership who could. Clearly they are not yet in the loop. Having between them produced a policy document in, let us be generous -say a month, it should actually take BKWSU London all of one day to disseminate it to all centres around the World with instructions to immediately implement those parts of the plan which so can be. In the space of a month and a day the level of real risk on the ground would be lessened.
From here local centres should then be required to state in writing which bits of the plan have been implemented and which they are in the process of implementing. Individual officials should be required to sign off on such. Failure to do so must be grounds for disciplinary intervention.
Deadlines for the implementation of late parts should be agreed or if necessary imposed. Detailed supporting guidelines and educational material specific to all tiers of local organisation should be centrally produced and disseminated.
Good two-way communication should mean that elements of best practice in this or that regard happened upon by this or that centre are incorporated into the supporting materials which are sent to everyone. As the focal point of a living process the policy document would be regularly revised.
Clearly this is not happening.
Raja Yoga London with a great deal more resources than the average centre took years to produce a policy document. It has then taken years for centres around the world to either re-invent the wheel by writing their own or years to type the name of their country over a copy of the UK policy. With ridiculous and potentially a disastrous public relations, had I been so inclined as to take the whole matter to the press and media at that point, London tried to claim the delay was due to local centres finding out about local laws. All this achieved was to persuade me that London still did not have a clue about child protection. There are no laws in Kenya, Guatemala, Canada, New Zealand or anywhere else specifying how religions should write or implement child protection policies. To waste time exploring local law or practice is to look for reasons to find the lowest common level of standard. If Raja Yoga Germany reports back that none of the other religions operating there have any child protection in place in precisely what way does this inform Raja Yoga Germanys policy implementation? Either Raja Yoga wishes to protect its children or it does not. And either it is prepared to flesh out what it means by this or it is not. And if it wishes to implement its policies with due speed it could consider doing so.
Thus far the evidence is that it wishes to have the appearance of implementation but it does not yet even know enough to convincingly fake this.
Monitoring and Evaluation
I was trained as a young Raja Yogi to keep a record of the amount of time in every hour that I spent thinking of God. From 3.30 am till late at night I would write the figures down. I ended up with piles of notebooks. I kept a graph on my wall of daily averages and each week I would celebrate reaching a new total or castigate myself for failing to keep up the progress. The average Raja Yoga watches himself like a hawk all elements of his life have specific rules. What he eats, what he thinks about as he is preparing his food: What he looks at when he walks on the street: How he washes himself: Even how he empties his bowels: Where he looks when he is talking to somebody, how he looks at them, what he is thinking about as he listens to them. And so on.
These are not abstract principles but specific activities and modes of being he will review and monitor on a day to day basis. Some Raja Yogis would note down their daily expenditure down to pennies and present them to their senior teacher each week. Some would present a list of their worst thoughts, or most significant failing. When I found myself being attracted to any other Raja Yogi I immediately reported it to my seniors. This is what I was trained to do. When a fellow Raja Yogi displayed evidence of having formed an attachment to me I was severely admonished for not telling the seniors before a third person reported it first. Years later at the age of 23 when I threw myself off the fifth floor by losing my virginity an irredeemable crime, I was bitterly castigated by my senior more for the fact that I had failed to tell her immediately than for the fact that it had happened. My point is this Raja Yogis are masters of monitoring. If they decide they want to monitor something they will do it to a positively Stalinist level of scrutiny.
On a larger scale they have an international infrastructure extremely impressive in both the bonds of communication and in the outcomes they can achieve in terms of co-ordinated action. In the Million Minutes of Peace (1985) project every centre and every country collected amounts of minutes of peaceful contemplation pledged by individuals and organisations. Across the world children, politicians, hospital patients, convicted felons, businessmen, religious orders, celebrities and numerous others were convinced to join in. Each centre tallied up the accumulated minutes and they were fed on to national offices and then on to the United Nations. The UN knows a bit about beaurocracy and was extremely impressed by the millions and millions of minutes the BKWSU had managed to collect around the world. During this and subsequent projects the Raja Yogis became very adept at setting up temporary project led infrastructures utilising both burgeoning Raja Yoga project management expertise and a multitude of non Raja Yoga professionals and technicians. For example, the childrens pack produced for Global Co-operation was within a couple of months professionally printed and disseminated to schools in over 30 countries.
When it suits them the senior Raja Yogis like to portray themselves as having more to do with the Himalayas than the internet but this group of supposed other-worldly ascetes were computerised long before the general publics of the most advanced western countries. The first time I heard about the Internet was in Mount Abu as far back as 1981 long before the existence of the world wide web and when the internet was only used by a handful of Universities and the US military. As a good Raja Yogi I did not possess a television or radio but I owned my first computer in 1985. It cost an eighth of my annual salary. I can remember being very disappointed that I failed to persuade the London seniors in 1986 that the whole Raja Yoga office should be computerised. I neednt have worried, it was only a few years later. Raja Yoga is not backward in coming forward.
When Raja Yoga wants to achieve something quickly and effectively on a large scale it does so. It believes it is Gods organisation and that it cannot fail. It believed in the power of vision decades before this became a management principle in corporate America. The effort necessary to achieve a systematic policy implementation of child protection initiatives would be a tiny fraction of the level of work Raja Yoga routinely expends on its promotional and religious dissemination activities.
Part of the problem maybe that it has no vision for true child welfare and education. Certainly it does not train its children for life so much as train them for its prophesied religious events. It fervently believes that a future happy family and career for its children away from Raja Yoga would be vastly inferior to a life as a professional yogi married to the organisation. If its children are destined to be life-long yogis the institution does not really need in its opinion to concern itself with any unpleasant after effects of their departure from the path. If a child grows up and leaves it is the child and not the supposed destiny which was wrong.
So there is more here than an organisation sincerely and committedly trying to adjust itself to new and supposedly culturally strange requirements. It has done much bigger harder versions of this process decades ago. The kind of systematic monitoring and evaluation necessary to implement proper child protection is not alien to Raja Yoga. What is alien is the subject. And the fact that the imperative come from impure sources rather than God.
After several years of child protection policy implementation one has to ask why it has neither the infrastructure, nor the external expertise, nor the materials, systems, or records that it would have if this was another Million Minutes or Global Co-operation?
Why suddenly has an extremely centrally controlled organisation discovered local autonomy, allowing each country on its own timescale to work out for itself what child protection means?
Why when I informed London that I was going to produce this assessment of their child protection policy document were they happy for me to do so on a version that is already two years old? Has it not been revised in that time? When I have found upwards of thirty major and minor points I would change has no one in the whole Raja Yoga infrastructure found a single point worth modification? What sort of mirror of actual practice does this make it? Is the UK Childrens Officer working to the same document that led to the creation of her post? What then has she being doing all this time?
Why are the centres of the world so ignorant of the principles of monitoring and accountability that they think their interests are served by refusing to even confirm that they have a child protection policy?
It certainly takes work to produce systems for monitoring and evaluating the implementation and sustenance of a new initiative. These need to be tailored to every tier in the organisation and it takes work making the systems themselves reflexive i.e. getting the systems themselves able to be modified in the light of experience.
Raja Yoga has done this in other areas but not yet in child protection. So one must treat with scepticism its claims that the welfare of its children is paramount and that the safety of children takes priority over everything else. The poor quality of the monitoring and evaluation of the implementation is strong evidence that such statements are not policy aspirations or true guidelines but rather soundbites in place of genuine action.
The Credibility and Credentials of Raja Yogas Senior Management In Respect of Child Protection Initiatives.
Like many things in Raja Yoga child protection is controlled by the traditional senior leadership so they must take responsibility for its slow progress.
Worse than this many of them appear to be implicated in the initial cover up of events in Delhi and Mt Abu as well as the decades of no progress. The unanswered questions as to who knew what and who did nothing to minimise the number of subsequent occurrences of child abuse, combined with their continued political control of both Raja Yoga in general and child protection in particular is a potential disaster for the organisation. And one which gets worse the longer they fail to address it. I would argue that this is potentially a more serious threat to the long term future of the organisation than the death of its founder in 1969.
Given this mess it is extremely unpalatable to attempt an assessment of child protection management so far but it must be done if such mistakes are to be minimised in the future.
We cannot know the extent to which current policy and day to day actions by Raja Yoga seniors are influenced by incriminating facts at present known only to them. No one can seriously believe that whatever child abuse has occurred in the last two decades none of it reached the attention of the seniors. They must also know that the disclosure of such might threaten their survival as leaders of the movement. A conflict of interest of this kind would surely require any official who finds him or herself in such a position to temporarily step down and disclose whatever is necessary so that following suitable investigation such a person could, if exonerated, resume his or her post. The only alternative to this is to hand investigation and evaluation of prior individual and institutional misconduct to an independent agency within the organisation or even better from outside the organisation. Raja Yoga has done none of these things.
It would be ridiculous therefore to receive any of its current statements on face value. For anyone who genuinely wishes to place child protection at the top of the list of priorities they must be prepared to examine the record of those who at the moment still have control of its real position in the Raja Yoga agenda. Personal affections and perceptions as to the calibre of the individuals in the top tier of Raja Yoga should not distract from an examination of actual behaviour. And a political structure and ideology which turns any criticism of its provision into the equivalent of a personal attack on its leaders and an attack of its religious beliefs and values should not deflect those who would seek to help it. Rather it goes in itself to pointing out the need for structural change so that faults can be pointed out and positively received both by the senior management and the organisation in general. Otherwise the rank and file Raja Yogis around the world have to exist in an organisation more suited to medieval times than the twenty first century.
The correspondence revealed in this report, written not by this or that individual Raja Yogi but by the institutions highest officers and official spokes people is perhaps the first clear body of evidence ever published about child protection in Raja Yoga. It discloses a secretive response spanning decades to tragic events and even now no expression of collective or individual culpability. Child x and her brother are still waiting for a proper apology and for a proper explanation of why they were treated the way they were. There has been no disciplinary procedures instituted for either the cover up or the subsequent inaction of officials whose job it surely must have been to take steps to protect their most vulnerable students. In their correspondence with me they have employed I believe as many delaying and obfuscating tactics as they could imagine. They have mis-described, misrepresented, mis-interpreted and mis-applied in whatever way they could to buy time or to create an appearance of credibility. I even had to insist that they use headed stationary for their letters to me.
I believe the correspondence gives support to my claim that so far the recent child protection initiatives are primarily of public relations and legal substance rather than a child welfare matter per se. The early letters show that Raja Yoga considers itself well able to look after its children. I believe it is only when they slowly realised how the body of the correspondence, coupled with the scandalous original events, would read to the wider public did they begin to entertain coming up with some documents they could show the world. Only when they realised that I might well act on my threats to publicise the whole sorry matter did they start to ask what types of documents would society at large expect of them. The resultant policy document obviously based originally upon a completely different organisation (probably a secondary school in my guess) and then very poorly matched to the specifics of Raja Yoga is matched in its bluntness as a tool only by the weakness of its implementation.
The document itself when read by someone sufficiently knowledgeable about Raja Yoga also weakens rather than strengthens any claim to credibility in child protection the current leadership of Raja Yoga might wish to make. Raja Yoga teachers are well trained to put this new piece of shelf ornamentation in its proper place. They will know how to read it as one of Raja Yogas many badges of respectability. This is not to say that they do not care about their children, rather it is illustrative of the accepted view that whilst they do not need the impure non-Raja Yoga world to tell them how to look after their own, they are happy for the sake of the furtherance of their aims to jump through a few of the wider worlds hoops . The considerable expertise gathered in the area of professional child protection has as much chance as shaking up the complacency endemic in the organisation as the procedures of real universities have of filtering into this non-university.
In Raja Yoga ideology child molestation could only occur in its holiest places if it was precisely what the child in question most needed to pay off their karmic debts from previous lives. The most likely cause of such a karmic debt would be child molestation itself. Hence if Child X was abused it was probably because she was an abuser herself. How the current batch of BKWSU child protection policies is going to combat this kind of thinking is beyond me. And in my correspondence I have pointed this specific issue out to the most senior Raja Yogis in the world as if it needed me to say it- and yet they have persisted in disseminating a policy document which blithely ignores this area of concern. When somebody shows me a secondary school in this country that teaches that paedophile victims have pre-ordained their abuse in previous lives I will then at least consider as relevant their child protection policies as a model for that of the BKWSU. Until that point I believe the substance of the document is evidence not that they are genuinely engaging the serious issues of child welfare, but rather that their apparent engagement is a sham.
So in my opinion both their correspondence with me and the child protection policy documents they have so far produced damage rather than assist what claims towards credibility as protectors of childrens well being and long term interests they might wish to make.
There are also systemic, structural and cultural facets of the organisation which have direct baring upon the issue of the leaderships child protection credibility.
One of these is the fact that to be an official leader one must be a woman who has either never married or had children, or who has abandoned her husband and children. In Raja Yoga, both as a theology and a career, virginity is intrinsically superior to motherhood. There is somebody who gave birth to a child at the top of the Raja Yoga hierarchy but she is alone amongst an otherwise exclusively unmarried and indeed virginal peer group. And crucially she left both her husband and child for the sake of her Raja Yoga life. If she had not she could never has risen to the top. It would not surprise me if many Raja Yoga teachers around the world did not know to which of the senior sisters I refer.
In an organisation with many happily married husbands and wives and many wonderful examples of parenting who have to exist as second class citizens in some ways it is alarming that the group which has most displayed an aversion to child rearing should be in charge of child protection.
The members of the Raja Yoga leadership, apart from repudiating the chance of personal experience of child rearing also repudiate all opportunities to expose themselves to the vast body of professional experience and expertise covering all of the child and family sciences. Indeed the Raja Yoga seniors would be affronted if any of the organisations lower ranks were to suggest that they should actually read a book about child protection or child psychology, family health, paedophilia and religion, child sexuality, adolescent sexuality, trauma, child law, family law, institutional development, hypnosis, psychotherapy etc etc. The senior Raja Yogis in Mount Abu, Delhi or London, the leaders of this so-called university do not have a single proper university degree to share between them. It is quite conceivable that the senior sisters who take pride in not reading impure books nor reading newspapers have no knowledge whatsoever of the tragic disclosures in the catholic church over recent years. Senior Raja Yogis who have just read this paragraph will now be stopping to ask what tragic disclosures? Nor will they have any knowledge of the resources that have emerged out of the catholic story, resources which are of inestimable worth in the case of their own religion. For example, research conducted by catholic sources has established that celibate communities have a higher number of child abuse occurrences than non-celibate. The Brahma Kumaris blind dogmatic faith in wholesale chastity actually increases rather than lessens the amount of child sexual abuse occurring in their midst. Anyone in charge of their child protection has a duty to understand and face these facts however humbling they might be.
Beyond a duty to protect Gods work by not allowing his organisations name to be sullied is a closely allied and very similar duty which needs to be appreciated. And that is to protect the honour of the seniors. By definition a Raja Yogi in the very top tiers of the hierarchy is part of the constellation of gods and goddesses at the heart of its theology. If one of them were to resign because of scandal a substantial part of the paradigm would be called into question. We are speaking about people who themselves and also the totality of their fellow Raja Yogis consider to be undoubtedly amongst the most divine beings ever to exist. They outshine Mary, Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha etc. This is why God has picked them to run his organisation. Could God be wrong? The established consensus view of the senior Raja Yogis that God watches and guides them with great attentiveness means that they are not replaceable in the way an errant company director might be. If one of them goes, they take with them part of the whole dream. The pressure this can exert upon individual Raja Yogis including the seniors is immense. I cannot imagine true internal two way accountability within Raja yoga as well as proper accountability towards the wider world being achieved until the political structures of Raja Yoga are in some way re configured so that they are prised apart from the metaphysical hierarchy they all have in their heads. That is to say if there are figures who are irreplaceable in the theology it is in the interests of Raja Yoga that these people be removed from executive power in an area such as child protection.
Otherwise because God and the world supposedly needs these people whatever mistakes they might make will need to be re-described or simply hidden.
The incidents to child x and their mismanagement are instructive in their locations on the Raja Yoga map. She came from London and was abused in Delhi and Mount Abu. The top Raja Yogis in India and the West are all implicated in allowing whatever laxities in child protection may have exposed her to danger and also in failing to tighten up such after her molestations had proved beyond all doubt that danger was present. I contend that if these events had occurred at distant outposts of the Raja Yoga landscape there would have been less inducements for the hierarchy to bury all the events and do nothing in terms of acknowledging an ongoing threat.
So the personal failings of the current leadership in their response to Child Xs abuse certainly damages their credibility now. But paradoxically the pressures upon them and their juniors to avoid viewing any events as reflecting in a damaging way upon the leaders means that rectifying such in the future will be twice as hard.
I conclude that I do not find any real credibility to the current leaders management of their organisations child protection. I believe this report demonstrates the opposite. That it is much more creditable to assert that the leadership both as individuals and as a structure have demonstrated that they are intricately woven into a web of systems and forces which put children at very real risk.
Full documentation of proven risk, abuse disclosure and the ongoing campaign for child protection provision. Plus current UK and India policy documents
For original abuse disclosure see Appendix F
For campaign for child protection see Appendices A, B and C
For current UK and India policy documents see Appendices D and E
A Correspondence with International Co-ordinating Office, London
B Correspondence with Regional Offices
C Mass Mailings to Raja Yoga Centres around the World
D BKWSU Child Protection Policy UK
E BKWSU Child Protection Policy India
F Disclosing letter from Child Xs brother.
G My Original Reply to Child Xs brother
Full Correspondence with International Co-ordinating Office, London
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 wasnt reported immediately, and when it was XXXX [childs 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 dont 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 peoples 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 [childs 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 organizations 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 childrens 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 years 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 childrens 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 Monteiros 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 peoples 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
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 institutions 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
Dear Sr Jayanti,
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 offices 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.
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
2nd May 2003
Dear Brahma Kumaris,
11th May 2003
12th May 2003
Dear Brahma Kumaris,
8th June 2003
Dear Brahma Kumaris,
9th June 2003
2nd December 2003
19th December 2004
Dear Brahma Kumaris,
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,
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,
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.
I await your advises.
Regional Co-ordinating Offices
Regional Co-ordinating Office, Global Museum, Maua Close, off Parklands Road, Westlands, P.O Box 12349, Nairobi, Kenya firstname.lastname@example.org
Regional Co-ordinating Office, Brahma Kumaris,
2 Gospitalnaya Ploscha build.1, Moscow 111020, Russia email@example.com
Regional Co-ordinating Office, Global Harmony House, 46 S. Middle Neck Road, Great Neck , NY 11021, USA firstname.lastname@example.org
Regional Co-ordinating Office, Global Co-operation House, 65Pound Lane, London NW10 2HH email@example.com
Regional Co-ordinating Office, World Headquarters, Post Box No 2, Mount Abu Rajasthan 307501, India firstname.lastname@example.org
Regional Co-ordinating Office, Brahma Kumaris, Pandav Bhawan, 25 New Rohtak Road, New Delhi 110005, INDIA email@example.com
Mass Mailings to Raja Yoga Centres around the world
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 BKSUs 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 victims 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 its 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 its 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 Madhubans, Delhis or Mumbhais 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.
Centres that received the above:
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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
BKWSU Child Protection Policy India
PRAJAPITA BRAHMA KUMARIS ISHWARIYA VISHWA VIDYALAYA
CHILD PROTECTION POLICY INDIA
Background and Aim:
The Prajapita Brahma Kumaris Ishwariya Vishwa-Vidyalaya of Mount Abu, Rajasthan, India, ("hereinafter referred to as Institution") recognises that members of the public and invited guests attending its activities include young people who, because of their age, are in need of special care and protection to ensure that no harm is caused to them. The institution has formalized procedures to ensure this and to deal with any breaches of such procedure. The institution aims to provide a safe and caring
environment for its child and youth participants (under the age of 18 year) wherein they are protected from neglect, exploitation and abuse.
1. In all actions concerning children, the best interests of the child should be a primary
consideration. Children should be respected and listened to, in accordance with their age, maturity and cognitive ability.
2. All children shall have equal rights without discrimination of any kind inter alia on grounds of ethnicity, religion, culture, language, gender, disability, social or national origin.
3. Due consideration should be taken of the traditions and cultural values of each child and his or her family. The rights and responsibilities of a childs parents and family should be respected.
4. In the best interest of the child, the institution may communicate with the childs home and therelevant authorities.
Forms of Abuse:
A) Abuse can be in the form of physical, emotional or sexual abuse and causing intentional harm to the child.
B) Abuse is caused not only by those who actually do it but also those in whose custody the child is and fails to prevent such abuse.
Identification of Abuse:
The following is a list of some possible indicators of abuse and is not all inclusive
a. Bruises or other physical injuries that may sometimes be clearly visible or a child may show distress.
b. Uncharacteristic changes in a childs behaviour, or an inappropriate desire for closeness and attachment to an adult;
c. Fear of a particular adult (especially those with whom a comfortable relationship should normally be the case) may be a cause for concern.
Dealing with possible Abuse:
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 Institutions officer in charge who shall also serve as Childrens officer. The volunteers role is to report and not to investigate.
2. If abuse is suspected or has been alleged, the highest degree of 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.
3. In considering a possible instance of abuse, poor teaching practice should be distinguished from abuse. In cases where poor teaching practice is identified, the institution 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.
4. The institution does not seek to protect staff, students or volunteers at the expense of childs potential welfare.
The Childrens officer
1. The institutions officer in charge will also be designated as National Childrens officer (hereinafter referred to as the Childrens Officer) AND will be responsible for implementing its Child Protection Policy.
2. The Childrens Officer may, if appropriate, request helpers directly involved with childrens activities to complete a Reference form with suitable references and/or declaration that he/she was not convicted of any child abuse.
3. The Childrens 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 management of the institution and otherwise appropriate.
CODE OF PRACTICE AND BEHAVIOUR:
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 in bullying tactics. Where correction of a childs behaviour is deemed necessary, there should be no physical or emotional punishment for misbehaviour for any reason whatsoever. 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.
3. Children under 12 years of age attending any childrens activity are to be brought and collected by their parents or other appropriate adults. In cases where the childrens parents do not remain on-site during activities, parents should leave precise details as to where they can be contacted in case of emergency. All childrens classes should have at least two teachers. At the end of a childrens programme, children are to be handed over to their parents or other appropriate adults. The parents, or such adults, are responsible for their children while children are travelling to and from childrens activity of the Institution.
4. Only those who have been regularly involved with the Brahma Kumaris and are known to one or more of its senior personnel, for at least one year may work with children and young people.
5. The safety of the children must take priority over everything else. All centres of the institution are accessible to members of the public and teachers must ensure that no activities are organised that involve anyone having close access to a child or being alone with him or her for whatever reason.
6. Where a child visiting from abroad is involved in regular activities or a residential programme provided by the Institution, the presence of the child should be consented to by the childs parents or guardian. Such consent should also be given in respect of a child from within India. All children who attend organised events at the Institution, either one day or residential, are accompanied by one or more resident teachers from their centre and/or parents.
7. 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 travelling to the Institution from abroad have adequate travel and health insurance.
8. Where children unaccompanied by their parents need to be accommodated for one or more nights at any Brahma Kumaris premises, this will be done with the permission of the childs parents or guardians. In cases where young or disabled children are involved, it is the parents responsibility to ensure that the child is accompanied by a named helper/volunteer to assist the child with any personal or
intimate care tasks deemed necessary for the well-being and comfort of the child. The institution will always ensure that children and young people are appropriately accommodated.
Reporting an incident:
If any incident of Child Abuse is reported by teacher, parent, guardian or child, the Childrens Officer will take appropriate action.
Disclosing letter from Child Xs brother
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 didnt have the "guts".
It wont 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 youre blue in the face. My experience is what it is.
I dont 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 havent 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 BKs 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 didnt. 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 dont 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 didnt 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. Its 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 worlds 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 "Gods 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 dont 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 cant 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 youre 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 shouldnt 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 dont 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 couldnt 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 couldnt 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 Brahmas 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 dont touch the ground your hands cant 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 isnt; who is good company and who isnt? 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 mans 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 dont give anything away. As far as I know they wont even sponsor their smaller centres, its the other way round. The smaller centres (run by people who work as well) have to provide for the expanding mother. Lets 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 were 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. Dont lets 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 peoples 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 dont 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 worlds 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 BABAs. 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 BABAs blessing? I would so often hear that people do things for BABA and I would always wonder why. Surely God doesnt need anything. Do I have to cook for him? Even if taken metaphorically these ideas take away the individuals 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 "Womens 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 "Gods 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 BKs 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 dont.) This is nonsense, of course, yet we hear very little about womens sexuality from the BKs except that they are "impure" when menstruating another incredible act of sabotage towards womens rights by a Womens 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 cant think of any regular attending man that isnt 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 "Dadis 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 doesnt surprise me, because what you learn from the BKs doesnt 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 isnt 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 dont have the BKs to thank for these qualities and I dont 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.
My Original Reply to Child Xs brother
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 its 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 Gods 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 its 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 its children, if it cannot take responsibility for its part in causing the long-term pain and difficulties you speak of, and if it cannot do this publicly, then Im really not sure what its 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 dont 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 its 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 Gods terms, their terms. The moment you try to point out something on the horizon that they dont 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 doesnt 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 dont 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 its 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 its 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 its wake I would manage the progress Raja Yoga makes consciously and openly. I would gather information from everyone, especially the ex-brahmins. Im 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 wont know what to do with it. So well trained are they that they wont 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 theyll 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 worlds front room for virtually no cost at all Raja Yoga will rapidly lose the near total control it presently has of its public profile. People wont 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 its 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.
Isnt 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 cant quite let go of my dreams for it all. I still cant 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 shouldnt 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 wasnt. When you are ready youll forgive them and youll move on.