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Prajapita Brahma Kumaris Ishwariya Vishwa Vidyalaya or Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University is a monastic or semi-monastic[1] millenarianist new religious movement (NRM) of Indian origin."[2] It teaches a form of meditation called Raja Yoga — although not classical Raja Yoga as described by Patanjali[3] — involving mediumistic channelling.

Early history

The Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University (BKWSU) was founded in 1936/7 in Hyderabad Sindh, North-West India[4] by an elderly man called Lekhraj Kripalani. Known by many as ‘Dada Lekhraj’ (1876-1969), he was a wealthy Sindhi jeweller and a deeply religious man[5]. In 1937 Dada Lekhraj had a vision of great suffering through war, natural and technological disaster. A later vision revealed the world in a state of paradise, where people and animals lived in a state of abundance, perfection and absolute joy. Dada Lekhraj had a further experience of a being of great power, love and knowledge entering him and speaking through his body[6]. He gradually understood this being to be the Supreme Soul, God. After these life-altering experiences, Dada Lekhraj made the decision to sell his jewellery business and to live a life of purity, simplicity and meditation. Many within the local Bhaiband business community[7], primarily women and children, had similar experiences and were also inspired to adopt a spiritual life. In their early years, the gathering was known as the ‘Om Mandali’. It was during this time that Dada Lakhraj came to be known as Brahma Baba. After a short period of time, Brahma Baba handed over both the finances and the responsibilities of administering the organisation to a trust of nine women. This small spiritual revolution resulted in both social and legal opposition in the local community[8], which was one in which women were oppressed and certainly not permitted to be spiritual leaders[9]. Following partition, the gathering moved from Karachi to their current location in Mount Abu, Rajasthan [5].

From the time of establishment, through the time of opposition, Brahma Baba encouraged women in particular to develop their spiritual lives and take leadership roles. Brahma Baba particularly rejected the Hindu understanding that only men could pursue a life of celibacy. Anyone, regardless of gender, who wished to adopt a life of spiritual pursuit[10] was welcome.

In the early 1950's, after 14 years of living together with little outside contact, the young sisters began establishing teaching centers within different parts of India. Brahma Baba chose women to be the teachers, and the leadership of the BK movement remains primarily female[11].

For more on their history, visit the Indian[12] official International [13] and Australian[14] websites.


From its humble beginnings of approximate 300 individuals from a single community, the organisation has expanded significantly. The main ashram or headquarters of the Brahma Kumaris’ centers worldwide is known as 'Madhuban', translated by Hindi it means 'Forest of Honey'. Madhuban is located on Mount Abu, in the Rajasthan desert. The BKWSU reportedly now has more than 5,500 Raja Yoga centres in ninety countries and over 800,000 students [15].

While the Brahma Kumaris continue conducting their traditional seven day course in open-eyed meditation, other regular programmes include courses in open-eyed meditation, positive thinking and self-esteem classes, as well as education initiatives such as Living Values[16]. The Brahma Kumaris have also instigated a number of voluntary outreach programmes in prisons, homes for the elderly, drug clinics and hospitals. In India, the BKWSU is particularly noted for its charitable Village Outreach Programme administered by the J.Wattammull Memorial Global Hospital and Research Centre (GHRC),established in 1991, also located in Mount Abu. In 2004 the Brahma Kumaris established the G.V. Mody Rural Health Care Centre & Eye Hospital, located at the base of Mount Abu.

The Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University is an international non–governmental organization (NGO) in general consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations [17] and UNICEF[18]. It is also affiliated to the UN Department of Public Information. The BKWSU provides a spiritual framework and advice within the context of their relationship with the United Nations, to various committees, caucuses and agencies[19].

The Brahma Kumaris have undertaken two major international projects; ‘The Million Minutes for Peace’ in 1986 for which they received 7 Peace Messenger Awards and ‘Global Cooperation for a Better World’ in 1988.


The movement teaches that the world is approaching a time of great change that will be heralded by war, natural calamities and suffering. As a form of developing inner spiritual resilience the Brahma Kumaris adopt a disciplined lifestyle [20] that involves:

  • Complete celibacy (including no sex within marriage, or masturbation).
  • Sattvic vegetarianism, i.e. lacto-vegetarianism excluding eggs, onions, garlic. They also eat food only cooked by those following the same principles.
  • Keeping a "Daily Chart" or journal as a means of spiritual self-progress.
  • Abstaining from alcohol, tobacco and non-prescription drugs.
  • A high level of physical cleanliness.
  • Regular early morning meditation at 4:00 a.m. which they call 'Amrit Vela'.
  • 'Traffic Control', being moments of meditation interspersed throughout the day.
  • Regular morning class at approximately 6:00 a.m.
  • Men and women traditionally sit on separate sides of the room at the centres.
  • BK's wear simple, modest and culturally appropriate dress, frequently white.[21]


In 1952, after the initial fourteen year period of tapasya, Brahma Baba published numerous pamphlets, newspaper articles as well as writing letters to important national and international figures as a form of bringing this knowledge and experience of God to the outside world. Furthermore, as a more structured form of understanding, the Brahma Kumaris knowledge began to be offered to the public as a seven-lesson courses [22]

An overview of the seven-lesson course can be found here: [10] under "Foundation Course in Raja Yoga Meditation." According to Kranenborg [23] and O'Donnell [24] beliefs include:


The Brahma Kumaris understand God to be an eternal and benevolent point of conscious light energy, the ‘Supreme Soul’, the embodiment of love, knowledge and truth and beyond gender[25]. They believe that God is supreme, they do not subscribe to omnipresence. Matter and human souls are also eternal — neither are they created by God nor do they emerge from God. BKs also provide understanding of God’s roles as creator, preserver and destroyer, through the symbol of the Trimurti. The name they use for God is ‘Shiva’ meaning The Benevolent One. They often use the term of endearment ‘Shiv Baba’.


Each eternal human (and animal) soul originally resides with God in the Soul World, a world of infinite light, peace and silence otherwise known as Nirvana. Here the soul is in a state of rest, where they are beyond experience. Souls then enter a body and take birth in order to experience life and give expression to their original positive qualities.


Brahma Kumaris teachings accord with the ancient Greeks, the Mayans and ancient Indian understanding that time is cyclic. The Brahma Kumaris understand that time comprises five ages (yugas): the Golden Age (Sat Yuga), the Silver Age (Treta Yuga), the Copper Age (Dwapar Yuga) and the Iron Age (Kali Yuga). Within this last age, however, there is a fifth age known as the Confluence Age (Sangam Yuga), the Diamond Age or, literally, the Age of Change. The most striking departure from Hinduism is that for Brahma Kumaris the whole cycle lasts 5,000 years and it is repeated identically and eternally. The Confluence Age is thought to be approximately 100 years long after which time, the ‘cycle turns’, The Brahma Kumaris believe that we are at this Age of Change, the world will experience great calamities after which time all souls (including animals) receive liberation, return to Nirvana and then take birth in the forthcoming cycle, at their predestined time and place. Once a soul comes into the ‘drama of life’, they continue to reincarnate until the end of the cycle, then once again returning to Nirvana re-entering the cycle of time, ad infinitum.

BK Raja Yoga Meditation

The practice involves developing an awareness of the inner being, or the soul as a being of truth and peace. Once that awareness exists, thought is turned towards union with God or the Supreme.


There are two types of murli’s known as ‘sakar’ and ‘avyakt’.

Sakar murlis refer to the original classes spoken by Shiva through Brahma in the 1960’s, before Brahma Baba left his body in 1969. These include teachings by Shiva and also the life of personal spiritual endevaour of Brahma Baba. Shiva is known as the master of yoga or Mahāyogi (Sanskrit: महायोगी) and the destroyer of evil or Ekambaranatha (Sanskrit: एकम्बरनथ.) Avyakt murlis are those teachings given after the death of Brahma Baba. The Brahma Kumaris believe that, as a result of his unwavering spiritual endeavour, the soul of Brahma Baba has become complete and he now has the role of an angel. The role of teaching is therefore now quite distinct from the 1936/7 to 1969 classes. Now, Shiva and Brahma speak together through the medium of an elder sister named Hirday Mohini, also known as Dadi Gulzar[26]. These messages are understood by members of the BKWSU to be the words of God. The murli's are the 'scripture' of the Brahma Kumaris and what they use to direct their personal spiritual effort and life of service. Murlis are not available for sale and one must complete the Brahma Kumaris foundation course in order to attend morning murli class. Murli class is held at around 6:00am every morning at all BK centres around the world.

Patterns of membership

Through its expansion form its initial group, the BKWSU now has a variety of membership patterns. Walliss recognizes four different types of members[27]:

1) Instrumental users: Individuals drawn to the BKWSU through what they perceive as tangible benefits through their life in the "here and now" usually emotionally or physically related issues.

2) Eclectic users: individuals looking for personal development or "self-spirituality", there is a spiritual quest behind their association.

3) Spiritual searchers: Individuals who feel they belong to the spiritual path, however; their involvement with the BKWSU grew out of sense of disillusionment with conventional religiosity.

4) Interpretative drifters: Individuals originally involved due to instrumental reasons, however they "gradually discovered that the ideas behind the belief are true."


The organization now has hundreds of branches internationally and ;

  • most level management and the majority of local management and teaching is done by women
  • administrators of two hospitals
  • organizes interfaith meetings that have brought together previously opposing groups
  • active within female emancipation in India
  • Seven UN Peace Messenger Awards 1987 for the co-ordination of the ‘Million Minutes of Peace’ project
  • Chief adminstrator Prakashmani awarded Peace Medal of the United Nations for the year 1981
  • granted International Peace Messenger Initiative status by the U.N.for the Global Co-operation for a Better World campaign
  • does not charge for its services

Splinter movements

Walliss mentions the advent of a breakaway movement refering to one of them as the Advance Party, elsewhere they are referred to the Prajapita Brahma Kumaris or PBKs [28]. He goes on to state that as Lekhraj Kirpalani's orginal message of separation, spiritual introversion and violent destruction becomes repackaged as the emergence of a New Age through self-understanding and self-development, this direction has caused discontentment within certain segments of the Brahma Kumari movement. The most vocal of these being the "Advance Party" who offer a radicalise rendition of the original millenarian messsage.

The Advance Party are seen as a sectarian response to what they see as the increasingly wordly, and therefore corrupt, nature of the BKWSU manifest particularly through their UN and New Age orientation. They assert that the BKWSU has fallen from its original purity in the age of Kirpalani's influence to a state where the adulteration of the knowledge and sublte curruption is rampant and students are being exploited by the senior members. Walliss goes on to state that the PBKs claim that Shiva is now manifesting himself through a different medium to correctly interpret the original teachings [29].


  2. [1]Reflexive Traditions: New Religious Movements and the 'Negotiation' of Identity.-John Walliss, Ph.D University of Warwick, UK.
  3. [2]Professor Reender Kranenborgh from Free University of Amsterdam. All citations originate from this web article unless noted differently.
  4. Geographically Sindh is now part of Pakistan and has been so since the time of partition between India and Pakistan in 1947.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Adi Dev, by Jagdish Chander Hassij, Third Edition, Brahma Kumaris Information Services, 2003.
  6. From World Rejection to Ambivalence: The Development of Millenarianism in the Brahma Kumaris. Walliss, John; Journal of Contemporary Religion; Oct99, Vol. 14 Issue 3, p375, 11p
  7. The Sindh Story, by K. R. Malkani. Karachi, Allied Publishers Private Limited, 1984.
  8. Brahma-Kumari Radhe, Om Mandli & the Om Nivas and their suppression, by application of the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1908” 1939, Pharmacy Printing Press, ISBN: B00089UWHE
  9. Read 'Peace and Purity: The Story of the Brahma Kumaris: A Spiritual Revolution', Hodgkinson, L. (1999) London:Rider' for further context
  10. This included adopting a vegetarian diet. In the east, many on spiritual paths such as the Jain path for example, abstain from eggs, animal flesh, garlic and onions, as well as having strict guidelines about cooked food. Read 'The Jains (Library of Religious Beliefs and Practices' Dundas, P (2002), London:Routledge. Also see A life of high spiritual endeavour may also include celibacy, abstaining from drugs, tobacco and alcohol and practicing regular prayer or meditation. The Brahma Kumaris live by similar principles.
  11. Gender Role Experimentation in New Religious Movements: Clarification of the Brahma Kumari Case, Howell, Julia. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion; Sep 98, Vol. 37 Issue 3, p453-461, 9p. Julia Day Howell is Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Asian and International Studies, Griffith University, Australia
  16. [3] Journal of Beliefs and Values, Vol.24, No.1, 2003 Religious Organisations in the UK and Values Education Programmes for Schools by Eleanor Nesbitt, Senior lecturer in Religions and Education, University of Warwick, UK and Ann Henderson, Research Fellow from The Univeristy of Warwick, UK.
  18. [4] List of UN NGO and respective status within UNICEF.
  20. Hodgkinson, Liz "Peace and Purity: The Story of the Brahma Kumaris, A Spiritual Revolution" 2002, Health Communications Inc: Florida. Also read Lochtefeld, James G. Ph.D. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism Vol. I ISBN 0-8239-3179-X, entry "Brahma Kumaris" New York Rosen 2002
  21. Barker, Eileen in Hinnells, John (Editor), The Penguin Dictionary of Religions (1997), ISBN 0-14-051261-6 page 79
    "Brahma Kumaris [XXVIII] The Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University (BKWSU) refers to itself as non-political, non-religious and non-sectarian. It was founded in 1937 in Karachi by Dada Lekh Raj (1877-1969) after ‘Shiva, God the Supreme Soul, entered [his] body ... to begin the task of creation of a new world order’. Over 200,000 (sic) people are now said to practice the meditation, which does not involve a mantra, special posture, breathing techniques or the worship of a guru. Fully committed members are celibate; they usually wear white and are strictly vegetarian. Nearly all of those in a position of spiritual authority are women [5:168-70; 42:909-10]"
    Sources used for this entry
    Barker, E., New Religious Movement: A Practical Introduction London, HMSO, 1989, pages 168-70
    Melton, J.G. The Encyclopedia of American Religions 4th edition Detroit, Gale 1993 pages 909-10
  22. [5]From World Rejection to Ambivalence:The development in Millenarianism in the Brahma Kumaris." by John Walliss. Journal of Contemporary Religion, Vol.14,N 3, 1999
  23. [6]Reender Kranenborg, Free University of Amsterdam. "Brahma Kumaris: A New Religion?", 1999
  24. [7]
  25. While in their literature they often refer to God as 'He' this is for clarity only. The Brahma Kumaris believe that because God is bodiless, is never born and never dies, a gender being a physical construct cannot be ascribed to the Supreme.
  27. [8]Reflective Traditions: New Religious Movements and the 'Negotiation' of Identity. Walliss, John; University of Warwick, UK.
  29. [9]From World Rejection to Ambivalence:The development in Millenarianism in the Brahma Kumaris." by John Walliss. Journal of Contemporary Religion, Vol.14,N 3, 1999


Hassaji, Jagdish Chander (2003 (orig.1981)). Adi Dev. Translated from hindi by Shanta Trivedi PhD (Third Edition ed.). London: [Brahma Kumaris Information Services]. 

Hodgkinson, Liz (1999). Peace and Purity: The Story of the Brahma Kumaris: A Spiritual Revolution. London: Rider. 

Howell, Julia (Sep 1998). "Gender Role Experimentation in New Religious Movements". Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 37 (3): 453-461. 

Wallis, John (Oct 1999). "From World Rejection to Ambivalence: The Development of Millenarianism in the Brahma Kumaris.". Journal of Contemporary Religion 14 (3): 375-386. 

Further reading

  • Dr Julia D. Howell, Asian and International Studies, Griffith University, Australia & Dr Peter L. Nelson, Nelson Center for Humanities and Human Sciences, Southern Cross University, Australia. "Surviving Transplantation: The Brahma Kumaris in the Western World".
  • Dr. Julia D. Howel. Changing Meanings of Religious Pluralism, [11], 2003.
  • John Walliss, Ashgate New Critical Thinking in Religion, Theology and Biblical Studies, Aldershot. "The Brahma Kumaris as a ‘reflexive Tradition’: Responding to late modernity ", 2002 ISBN 0-7546-0951-0 [12]
  • Reender Kranenborg, Free University of Amsterdam. "Brahma Kumaris: A New Religion? "[13], 1999.
  • Peter Clarke, "Dada Lekhraj" & "Brahma Kumaris." Encyclopedia of New Religious Movements. Routledge 2005.
  • William Shaw , "Spying in Guruland: Inside Britain’s Cults", Fourth Estate, London, England 1994. [14]
  • Lawrence A. Babb, "Amnesia and Remembrance in a Hindu Theory of History", Asian Folklore Studies, Vol. 41, No. 1 (1982), pp. 49-66.
  • Lawrence A. Babb "Indigenous Feminism in a Modern Hindu Sect", Signs, Vol. 9, No. 3 (Spring, 1984), pp. 399-416.
  • Mayer, Jean-François et Reender Kranenborg, Geneve, Suisse. "La Naissance des Nouvelles Religions". 2004 ISBN 2-8257-0877-1
  • Frank Whaling, Emeritus Professor of the Study of Religion, University of Edinburgh. "Understanding the Brahma Kumaris", 2006. ISBN 1-903765-51-X.
  • Suma Varughese. "Satyug is as Sure as Death". 1998 [15]
  • BK Jayanti. "Valuing the Future : Education for Spiritual Development", 1999 [16]
  • Interreligious Insight. "Brahma Kumaris, World Spiritual University", [17]
  • Ken O'Donnell. "Raja Yoga for beginners", 1987.
  • Jagdish Chander, Translated from original Hinu by Shanta Trivedi, PhD , Edited by Robert Shubow, J.D. "Adi Dev: The First Man", 1981.
  • Dadi Janki, "Companion of God", 2003 ISBN 0-340-82915-X
  • BKWSU. "World Drama", unknown date.
  • BKWSU. "Easy RajYoga", unknown date.
  • BKWSU. "The Seven Day Course" Pamphlet series, unknown date.
  • Near-Death Experience/Heide Fittkau-Garthe, 1998. [18]
  • A Critique of the BK Philosophy as presented in the 7 Day Course,By Andy Harangozo [19]
  • Pamphlets Take a Closer Look,The Successful Subtle Soft-sell of Raja Yoga By CCG Training Insititue, Australia March 1989

External links




This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.