Understanding the Brahma Kumaris

Understanding the Brahma Kumaris

Understanding the Brahma Kumaris

Understanding the Brahma Kumaris

Synopsis

The Brahma Kumaris are a new spiritual tradition. The movement currently has over 450,000 worldwide adherents in more than 100 countries. As with all spiritual traditions, the Brahma Kumaris are different, bewildering, and fascinating in their newness and in their complexity. In 1936, in Hyderabad, India, a millionaire diamond merchant named Lekhraj Khubchand began to have visions at around the age of 60. The visions led him to hold meetings in his own home which were attended mainly by women. This was the beginning of the Brahma Kumaris. Dada Lekhraj, as he became affectionately known, used his fortune to set up a trust composed of 11 women. One of the young women, who became known as Om Radhe, became the leader of the new movement, while Dada Lekhraj remained a key figure. Following the Partition, the Brahma Kumaris moved to Mount Abu in Rajasthan, India, and this remains their headquarters. Through phenomenology, this book examines the Brahma Kumari tradition. Phenomenology involves firstly putting one's own world-view aside in order to understand the world-view of others. Applying 'epoche' (to avoid bias) and 'empathy' (to engage sympathetically), the objective of this study is to understand the Brahma Kumaris, as far as is possible, from within. The book, along with others in the Understanding Faith series by Dunedin Academic Press, is intended for students of comparative religion and is a basic source of essential information about the major world faiths in the 21st century for those who seek to understand this aspect of influence on our lives today. (Series: Understanding Faith)

Excerpt

It has been my privilege to be the general editor of the series entitled Understanding Faith to which this book belongs. The series has covered the three main monotheistic religions — the Christian, Muslim and Jewish traditions — as well as three religions that arose in India — the Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh traditions. The Baha’i tradition that started in the Middle East in the nineteenth century has also been discussed. The series concludes by engaging with two further traditions — Chinese religions and the Brahma Kumaris.

The Brahma Kumaris are the newest of all these traditions. Indeed this movement began (at roughly the same time as the writer was born) in the twentieth century and has developed and spread during the lifetime of most readers of this book. The Brahma Kumari tradition, as with all spiritual traditions, is different, bewildering and fascinating in its complexity, and its newness adds to its attraction. I have found it rewarding and insightful to engage with the Brahma Kumaris, who have been generous with their help.

It is one thing to describe the Brahma Kumaris. It is another to understand them. The aim of this work is to try to do both. I will therefore mainly use phenomenology. First, this involves putting one’s own world-view aside in order to understand the world-view of others and to see them ‘as they are’, unhindered by one’s own prejudices. The technical term for this is epoche, and the aim is to avoid bias. The second element in phenomenology is empathy. This has the positive aim of engaging sympathetically with the world-view of others in order to try and see them as they see themselves. It is to try to understand, as far as is possible, from within. If the readers are not Brahma Kumaris they can attempt to empathise with those who are, and if they are Brahma Kumaris they may gain new insights into their own community.

It is difficult however for ‘outsiders’ to become ‘insiders’. I am a white male who was born in Yorkshire (in England, in Europe) but now lives in Scotland; I am also a professor and a Christian. It is not easy to put all that background and environment on one side. Total empathy and total objectivity, although they may be desirable, are virtually impossible to achieve. We are all laden with inherent baggage.

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