What is the Brahma Kumaris (BKs)?
The Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University (BKWSU) is an international non-governmental organisation with spiritual headquarters in Mt. Abu, Rajasthan, India with over 8,500 centres in 100 countries, territories and islands. As a learning community, it currently has more than 825,000 regular students seeking to strengthen their ability to live by their own higher nature and to improve their contribution to society through spiritual education and reflective practices.
What are the aims and objectives of the Brahma Kumaris?
The Brahma Kumaris seeks to help individuals re-discover and strengthen their inherent worth by encouraging and facilitating a process of spiritual awakening. This leads to an awareness of the importance of thoughts and feelings as the seeds of actions. The development of virtues and values-based attitudes creates a practical spirituality which enhances personal effectiveness in the workplace and in family life.
An understanding of the spiritual context of human existence is offered, helping to make sense of contemporary issues. Based on the principle that the roots of change lie within, the university encourages individuals to live by their highest values, vision and purpose. It holds that this commitment to self-transformation will create peace and a better world for all.
How does the Brahma Kumaris carry out these aims?
Through its international network of centres, the organisation offers courses in Raja Yoga Meditation and a variety of lectures, short courses and programmes in personal development. Outreach projects to the community serve a variety of local needs. Brahma Kumaris retreat centres provide a supportive and nurturing environment where individuals and professional groups can explore meditation and the application of spiritual values in daily life. At the national and international level, by engaging in partnerships and dialogues, the Brahma Kumaris co-ordinates a variety of projects providing opportunities to participate in activities of social and humanitarian concern. The focus is always on developing spiritual learning as the key to individual and world transformation.
The guiding principles that form the foundation on which all BK courses, activities, programmes and projects evolve are respect, co-operation, trusteeship and benevolence.
What does the Brahma Kumaris offer?
All courses, activities, programmes and projects help sustain a life-long learning process. Offerings are broad and inclusive, applicable in everyday life, and relevant within a broad cultural context.
Courses and Programmes offered at the centres:
Core Curriculum: Raja Yoga Meditation At the heart of the university’s teachings is the Foundation Course in Raja Yoga Meditation. Classes are a practical study and facilitate an inward journey towards recognition of the deepest aspects of the self, a relationship with God, and the purpose of life. The practice of meditation is grounded in a core knowledge that connects the inner world of thoughts, feelings and ideas to the outer world of actions and relationships. The result of this practice builds mental, intellectual and emotional capacity. Like any skill, meditation requires practice. By doing a little every day, it soon becomes a natural, easy and enjoyable habit. The course covers:
- Consciousness and Self-Realization
- Our Home of Silence
- Relationship with God
- Law of Karma
- Eternal World Drama
- Tree of Life
- A Spiritual Lifestyle
The course presentation may vary according to country, culture and local facilities.
Personal Development Courses Through these courses and programmes individuals deepen their self-understanding, explore and experiment with spiritual life skills, and develop a strong spiritual context with which to live a practical and fulfilling life. The courses offered may include:
- Positive Thinking – How to use the mind in a positive, productive, and beneficial way
- Stress-free Living – Understanding, managing and preventing stress
- Self Management for Quality of Life – Exploring spiritual tools to manage time, anger, etc.
- The Four Faces of Woman – Balancing personal, family, and professional lives
- The Secrets of Self-Esteem – How to build and sustain self-esteem and self-worth.
Retreats: The university now has a number of residential retreat facilities across the world where individuals and professional groups can find an atmosphere conducive to contemplation, meditation and exploration of meaning and purpose at both personal and professional levels. Most retreats cover awareness of the inner self or soul, silent contemplation, meditation and developing spiritual understanding. Gatherings of specific professional groups are sensitively guided to explore spiritual values and their application in the workplace. Examples of themes include Inner Peace, Inner Power; Values in Healthcare; Spirit of Leadership; Healing Heart and Soul; Peace of Mind, Exploring the Power of Silence.
To find out more about the retreat centres, please click on the links below:
- Centre for Spiritual Learning, firstname.lastname@example.org, Villa Elisa, Argentina
- Centre for Spiritual Learning, Leura, New South Wales, Australia
- Centre for Spiritual Learning, Wilton, New South Wales, Australia
- Centre for Spiritual Learning, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
- Villa Serra Serena, email@example.com, Serra Negra, Brazil
- Gyan Sarovar Academy for a Better World, Mount Abu, India
- Casa Sangam Retreat Centre, Gubbio, Italy
- Centre for Spiritual Learning, Tagaytay, Philippines
- Global Retreat Centre, Oxford, United Kingdom
- Peace Village, Haines Falls, New York, USA
Brahma Kumaris centres often play a significant role in their local community. Activities are designed to involve people in identifying and implementing the positive spiritual values, ethics and understanding necessary to improve the quality of family, community and professional life. Brahma Kumaris teachers visit community centres, prisons, hospitals, homes for the elderly, drug rehabilitation units, schools and local businesses to give talks and conduct seminars on meditation, personal development and new ways of working together in the community. Community projects include:
- Interfaith - helping to build bridges between people of different faiths, beliefs and cultures.
- Service in Places of Detention - serving both staff and detainees.
- Spirituality and Men (SAM) – an exploration of spirituality through informative dialogue, honest interaction and meditation.
- Youth - encouraging youth participation and leadership through spiritual development, enhancing social skills and intergenerational dialogue.
- Spirituality and Women - exploring the symbolism of four ‘faces’ which have characterised women and their role in society through the ages.
Global Initiatives and Partnerships
The Brahma Kumaris co-ordinates and participates in a variety of partnerships aimed at serving the wider community, based on shared purposes and principles. These partnerships include the co-design and facilitation of a variety of dialogues and initiatives.
- Education – Living Values Educational Programme; Education in Values and Spirituality
- Health – Janki Foundation for Global Healthcare (UK based charity); Point of Life Foundation (POL), USA and the Global Hospital and Research Centre in Mt Abu, India
- Leadership – Call of the Time (COTT)
- Media – Images and Voices of Hope (IVOH)
- Environment – Renewable Energy Projects -- Hybrid Energy, Solar Energy
- 1986 - The Million Minutes of Peace
- 1988-91 - Global Co-operation for Better World
- 1994-95 - Sharing our Values for a Better World
- 2000 - Culture of Peace
For further information please see section: What is the Brahma Kumaris’ relationship with the United Nations?
Why are all Brahma Kumaris courses and programmes offered free of charge?
From the beginning, the organisation’s work has been based on the principle that spiritual knowledge is a basic right of every human being. It was the founder’s (Brahma Baba’s) aim to provide opportunities for everyone to develop their own spiritual potential, without charge, regardless of age, background or financial circumstances. This ethic is endorsed and reflected by all participating BK teachers and students.
How is the organisation funded?
The organisation is run with voluntary contributions, both financial and in kind, from individuals who have been served personally through its courses and activities. As an aspect of their life of service, students of the Brahma Kumaris contribute regularly in support of the work, in accordance with their means. This is done without overview by the organisation. The organisation neither solicits nor accepts funds from others for activities that relate to the internal running of the organisation and there is no membership fee.
Funds from well-wishers, national or international agencies are sometimes received for humanitarian and environmental initiatives, such as solar energy projects, health and education projects that are designed to benefit the community as a whole.
Can anyone participate in the courses and programmes?
Yes, all are welcome to participate in any activity of their choice. Informal open-house meetings and visits provide an opportunity for individuals to learn more about the organisation even before deciding to participate in any of the courses or activities at local centres.
Are children allowed to participate?
Yes. Young adults under the age of majority (18 years) require written permission from a parent/guardian prior to joining in activities, unless accompanied by the parent/guardian. Minors under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent/guardian. In cases where children’s retreats are organised, parents are required to sign separate documents enabling retreat teachers and facilitators to act in loco parentis. All Brahma Kumaris’ centres carry child-protection policies, in accordance with the laws of the country.
Do I need to take any precautions before learning meditation?
If you are suffering from a mental illness it is advisable to ask your doctor's opinion before learning to meditate. It is also important that you do not discontinue any medication without first consulting your doctor.
Do Brahma Kumaris centres offer counselling?
The organisation does not offer counselling at any of its centres. It provides a wide range of courses in spiritual knowledge. Individuals are free to choose which course they are interested in and pursue it to whatever extent they feel comfortable with.
What are the Brahma Kumaris teachings?
The basic understanding in Raja Yoga meditation, which the university teaches, is that each one of us is an eternal spirit or soul. Like actors taking on a costume, we express ourselves on the ‘stage’ of the world through our physical bodies. As souls, our original nature is filled with the highest qualities of peace, purity, love, joy and power. However, over time, forgetting this spiritual truth, we have lost ourselves in an addictive search for temporary happiness through physical and material means. This has brought us into a state of worry, fear and conflict.
The present time is seen as a unique turning point, in which amidst the suffering and violence, a transformation of consciousness is taking place. How? The university understands that the tree of humanity has one seed, God, the Supreme Soul, who stays eternally full of all divine qualities that are originally ours. As children of the one Seed, all souls are spiritually related. By making a subtle shift from an outer, material consciousness to an inner, spiritual consciousness, we once again realise our true selves and God, and move towards our nature of peace, respect and love. The process begins at the personal level and will eventually lead to a shift from a world torn apart by anger, dependency, arrogance, greed and lust to a kinder, gentler world with only the finest in human virtues – happiness, love, peace and purity.
How does the Brahma Kumaris view religion?
We emphasise the importance of the ‘dharma’ element of religion – inculcation of the universal principles, taught by God to humanity, for spiritual renewal. The purpose of ‘dharma’ is to enable us to come close to God so as to receive the power to live by our highest motivations, and finish our negative tendencies. When our actions become aligned to universal principles, this becomes a basis for the advancement of the world.
What are the main principles in the Brahma Kumaris way of life?
There are four main principles: Study – The daily study of spiritual knowledge provides nourishment to create a healthy and stable mind. Meditate - The practice of soul-consciousness creates inner strength to overcome negative self-beliefs. Connecting to God in a personal relationship removes blind faith and instils a deep sense of trust. The relationship charges the battery of the soul and fills it with love, peace and power. Practise - To live a life dedicated to improving one’s character by imbibing universal truths and higher motivations in thoughts, words and actions. Serve - To share with others on the basis of one’s own life experiences.
Are there any recommended observances in the Brahma Kumaris way of life?
Aspiring to complete self-realisation does involve observing certain lifestyle disciplines. These are recommended and not imposed (although centres ask students to observe the disciplines on their premises). The fundamental belief is that every human being has an intrinsic spiritual nature and qualities but to uncover these qualities is a journey. The pace at which that journey takes place is individual to each one. Spiritual study and practice underpin the endeavour, and it is the responsibility of each student to discern and choose what works best for him or her. The basic lifestyle choices encouraged are:
Satwic (pure) Diet: As well as being good for physical health, a vegetarian diet, avoidance of alcohol, drugs (non-prescribed) and tobacco, helps develop the clarity, concentration and subtle focus which spiritual development requires.
Celibacy: Because of the current parlous state of the world, recreating a loving relationship with God and oneself in a whole-hearted way is seen as a priority. This is helped through abstinence from sexual intercourse, which whilst capable of being an expression of love at the human level, generally pulls our consciousness firmly into the material domain. Celibacy helps to cleanse our subtle faculties of thoughts, feelings, intentions, motives, desires, words, perceptions and relationships – enabling us to give and receive lasting, spiritual love.
Does everyone have to conform to the BK way of life to be part of the BK community?
No. This is a learning community in which all the participants are involved in a process of life-long development. Everyone has access to the full curriculum and each one chooses what to take from that according to their interest. It is an open school to which people from diverse backgrounds come, bringing with them the richness of their specialities. The level of commitment is a personal decision.
Is there a dress code?
There is no specific dress code, although casual, modest dress is generally appropriate when attending BK courses or activities. Some members within the BK community prefer to wear white, as it reflects the inner aspirations towards living a life of simplicity, purity, cleanliness and truth – qualities to which the practice of Raja Yoga meditation gives rise.