July 4, 2013 | 2 Comments

by Mike George, Writer and Author of The Immune System of the Soul


ABK = About Brahma Kumaris MG = Mike George

ABK: So are the BK’s a dangerous cult or a harmless organisation?

MG: Well it depends on how you view the BK’s, on how you choose to perceive the BK community. We tend to forget perception is a choice. Unless we are aware, our perception can easily become a projection! You have two perceptions in the possible description i.e. cult and dangerous. Both tend to be cast in a negative light. They are projections that come from a fear-based perception. But take a moment and look at the word ‘cult’. Today many use the word cult in ways that signify a ‘dedicated following’. We say certain movies have a cult-like following. Certain TV series have a cult following. The music of some bands has a cult following. So in that sense the BKs are a cult because there is a group of people around the world who follow the ideas and teachings that you find within the BKs.

ABK: Yes, but you know it goes deeper than that!

MG: Well if you mean are people being misled into following, then I would have to say it’s no different from the cult of materialism, or the cult of a political party, or the cult following of some financial gurus, whose beliefs and ideologies are considered dangerous by some, but almost worshipped by others.

What tends to be forgotten whenever the word cult is used is that no one says you ‘have to’ believe, you ‘have to’ agree. No one is saying that you have to follow. You look, you see, you listen and you make your choices as to what you believe. No one can do that for you. It’s your choice. Some people obviously believe faster, more easily, more deeply, more enthusiastically, than others, but that just affirms that we are all different and all free to believe what we choose. However, once some people start participating in the community they forget that what they are believing and doing is their choice and they start projecting onto the community a resentment based on the illusion that they ‘have to’ do/believe/follow. It’s a bit like a teenager’s resentment towards controlling parents. They have not yet realised or they have forgotten that they cannot be controlled!

ABK: Yes, but surely there must be dangers of just believing and following?

MG: Well, put like that and there will be some danger in following and believing almost anything. If you follow the cult of materialism and buy into the beliefs of materialism, there is a danger you will lose a lot of money, as well as a lot of cupboard space, as you buy stuff you obviously don’t need. But in certain moments you allowed your self to be convinced and therefore ‘believed’ that you did need, or should that be ‘want’, all that stuff? If you follow the cult of your soccer team, there is a danger you will get into a fight at worst, or just waste the time of your life at best! Yet, for you as the follower, it wouldn’t be a waste of time. So it’s always your choice and my judgment of your choices is ultimately irrelevant to your life. Unless of course you are dependent on my judgment of you and your beliefs for how you see and feel about your self. But that’s another seminar!

Look, imagine two people go bungee jumping. One is a novice; it’s his first time and the other, the old timer, has jumped a hundred times. The novice views it, perceives it, with abject terror. He believes it’s the most dangerous thing he has ever done. The old timer sees no danger whatsoever. He’s been there and done it many times before. Each one perceives the jump differently. In life each one of us perceives everything differently. Otherwise we would all be clones. So whose perception is the right one, the novice or the old timer?

There is an interesting paradox here. When people point at a group of people and shout, “Watch out, they are a dangerous cult that is using fear to suck you in and control you”, notice how they themselves are attempting to induce your fear to try to control your perceptions and behaviours. So perhaps it’s wise to ‘watch out’ for the ones who shout, “Watch out!”

ABK: OK let’s drop the “dangerous” bit for a moment. Do you personally think the BKs are a cult?

MG: People tend to perceive and label a group as a cult when there is something about the group they don’t like. It tends to be a term that reflects a personal disapproval. Very seldom do you get someone who sees themselves as part of the actual group saying ‘we are a cult’, simply because it mostly infers a negative connotation. However there is an awareness within the BK community that the community sometimes seems to behave in cult-like ways. But we’ll come back to that.

Accusing a group of being a cult usually means you judge that there is something bad or wrong going on. But the extent and nature of such judgments will vary from person to person, depending on their personal perception and their own cultural context. For example Inform, the UK organization that monitors groups who are deemed to have cult-like behavior, point out that ‘the Chinese don’t like the group Falun Gong and have banned it as an ‘evil cult’, but in the UK it’s ‘accepted as a group that teaches an acceptable variation of the qigong spiritual exercise’. Russians describe the Catholic Church as a cult, while in Belgium the Quakers are listed as a cult. To most people both are a natural part of the fabric of those societies. So definitions of a ‘cult’ will always vary.

Then there are those who like be specific about what they believe marks a cult as a group that is ‘different from ordinary groups and communities’. For them the specific characteristics of a cult can range from criminal to antisocial behavior, from brainwashing to authoritarianism, from political intrigue to financial manipulation, from peddling heretical beliefs to sexual perversion. However it becomes fairly clear that there is no behaviour found in so-called cults that cannot also be found in mainstream religions and indeed politics and business.

That’s not to say that some organisations never get up to some form of those ‘mischiefs’ just mentioned. Some do and many do not. But it pays to be careful and not jump to generalized judgments. It pays to look closely to see each group or community accurately for your self. This of course takes time and energy, not to mention the inclination, which few have. Many don’t look and explore for themselves and they just ‘believe’ what others are saying. Then they make themselves scared. So it’s as if they are blindly following those who use ‘cult’ as an accusation as well as a description. This is why anti-cults can often become more like a cult than the cult they seek to warn you off!

ABK: So you would say cult is a bad thing or just a term of description?

MG: Well, it depends how you use the word. Are you using it as a description or as an accusation? If it’s an accusation it’s a form of attack. In a religious or spiritual context ‘cult’ is a label that ‘tends’ to be used in a detrimental or negative sense. It can often be an indication of the labeler’s previous personal experience of that community, which was probably an unhappy one. Or they could be perceiving the organisation’s teachings/beliefs as a threat to their own values and beliefs. They are taking it personally, although they might find that hard to see within themselves. It just means their ego is built around an attachment to their own values and beliefs and that is what is underlying the impulse to attack with an accusation. I am not saying that’s good or bad, it just is. What it does mean is they have yet to work out how their ego is running their life. In a spiritual context, in the context of the BK community, the whole ethos of the BKs is to help people to liberate themselves from the habit of creating and sustaining the ego. It is understood that it’s the ego that is the root of all our suffering, all our stress.

ABK: Yes, but surely among those within the BK’s, surely many so called BKs themselves are still egotistical in that sense.

MG: Yes of course. That’s why they are there. They gradually recognise how the ego and all its ‘products’ such as anger and greed, lust and attachment, has been taking over their consciousness. They are there precisely to do the inner work of liberating themselves from such suffering. That’s not unique to the BKs. Any authentic spiritual path will take you into that territory where the ego is recognised as ‘the great spiritual mistake’…so to speak! But that kind of liberation doesn’t happen overnight. Sometimes it doesn’t happen fully even after 30 or 40 years! Sometimes, when you step onto a spiritual path’, the ego becomes even stronger for a while. Sometimes the ego is simply transferred into a spiritual context and just takes a more subtle form. So if you do step into a spiritual community it helps to ‘wake up’ fast. That means recognising the work you need to do within your self to free your self from all the attachments that underpin your ego. But everyone does their ‘waking up’ at a different speed.

When you do start to recognise your own ego and the suffering you are causing your self you naturally start discerning how the ego of others can and does shape the dynamic of the community. Just as Rome wasn’t designed and built in a day so the ego cannot be dissolved overnight! ‘Waking up’ is not about fixing others, only freeing your self. Only the ego wants to fix others. The shouting and the accusing that you hear from the ‘cult watchers’ is really code for, “You guys need to be fixed,” which just means it’s their ego that’s at work. It means they are creating their own suffering and projecting that suffering in the form of accusation and criticism on to what they ‘perceive’ as ‘that cult’. But that’s OK, whether you consider your self to be ‘in the community’ or ‘outside the cult’, it’s all part of the process of realising for oneself what one needs to change within one’s self.

Filed in: BKs - Cult or Community

Comments (2)

  1. margeschiller

    This is a wonderful article. It is fair and balanced. I am clear that the Brahma Kumaris are not (in my understanding) a cult.
    However I am concerned when I read that the Brahma Kumaris are a religion. That has not been my experience.
    I call myself a FOBK (friend of the Brahma Kumaris) because I do not follow all of the disciplines of those who have committed to a way of life and some specific beliefs. As a FOBK I get so much benefit from the teachings, the meditations and the experience of being with women and men who do dedicate their lives to living their values.
    Thank you for this article about a community on which I place such a high value.

    • Shireen Chada

      “We understand that using the word ‘religion’ will have different meanings for different people. For some the Brahma Kumaris fit into descriptions of a ‘new religion,’ one that still has the enthusiasm that comes from feeling close to the ‘founder’ and close to God and one that has not been heavily codified into rules and organizational bureaucracy. Others see religions as separate from spiritual movements, which focus on the individual as spiritual energy in connection with the ‘Supreme Spirit,’ God. This group of ‘friends of the BK’s’ is valuable to the Brahma Kumaris, companions on the spiritual path. Thank you for your comments.”
      “You may wish to read Frank Whaling’s book “Understanding the Brahma Kumaris” where he distinguishes the Brahma Kumaris as a ‘new spiritual tradition’.

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