Brahma Kumaris and the Nuclear Family
Stories abound of new religious movements and their clash with the parents of children enticed by spiritual exploration. There is a general assumption that new religious movements are manipulative and people are trapped due to brainwashing. An article published by the Guardian and written by Will Hodgkinson (http://goo.gl/OrQlc5) on the 22nd of July 2006 demonstrates a reversal of roles and contradicts the assumption of brainwashing. Hodgkinson tells the story of his parents joining the Brahma Kumaris, a new religious movement that has origins in Hinduism, and its effect on Hodgkinson’s childhood. His father introduces him to his friends in the BK and so begins a journey of spiritual restructuring. Hodgkinson explains the transformation that his childhood home and family goes through in great detail. He explains the alienation of his father from old friends and the conversion of his mother, as well as the vow of celibacy his parents take and the abolition of meats from the home. Hodgkinson moves to a boarding school, to find he is confronted with curious peers whom find interest in his parents comparatively odd set of beliefs. Hodgkinson concludes by recognizing that new religious movements need not be deleterious or sinisterly manipulative. Although his family underwent significant changes in a relatively short period of time, his parents continued as high functioning members of a new religious movement. I believe Hodgkinson offered a very positive story of a movement that has taken criticism in the past due to events that have labeled them by some to be a manipulative doomsday-cult (see this article published by BBC on January 13th 1998 (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/47149.stm)).
From personal experience with the Brahma Kumaris, I have found no manipulation and there was no mention of any doomsday. There was a strong invitation to participate in discussions with hard-to-relate feminine topics, and I did my best to put in my two cents. The meditation and complimentary Chai were altogether refreshing, but I was not restrained and was free to leave at any time. There was no expectation that they would ever see me again. My experience was very similar to Hodgkinson’s and the key reason I choose this article over others. On reading Understanding Cults and New Religions, I found that the section in chapter one, on page nine, titled “Evidence Against Brainwashing” was rather fitting, both to this article and my personal experience. Hodgkinson’s parents made a choice to join the Brahma Kumaris because it fit with where they were in their life. I felt the same way, the Brahma Kumaris were welcome to the possibility of me joining but the religious movement did not fit into where I was at that point in my life.