Brahma Kumaris in South Africa
Globally, humanity is experiencing an increasing wave of spiritual awareness which calls for an emphasis on self-transformation through the development of higher consciousness. The Brahma Kumaris is one such spiritual organisation which has a relatively young history in South Africa. Brahma Kumaris South Africa is part of a worldwide spiritual movement dedicated to personal transformation and world renewal. Its commitment is to helping individuals cultivate a deep collective consciousness of peace and an understanding of the individual dignity of each soul.
Brahma Kumaris South Africa was established in the mid 1980’s. Incidentally, within the same time period in different parts of the country, different individuals who had been exposed to the international centres of the organisation during their travels were greatly inspired and brought their inspiration back to the uplift the country. The 80’s was a time of intense political and social upheaval within the country and Brahma Kumaris centres offered people an oasis of hope and a space to enjoy authentic sharing and spiritual exchange between people from diverse backgrounds. Meditation centres which sprung up in places like Yeoville, Lenasia, La Mercy and Soweto and Uitenhage were testimony to this universality.
Despite the fairly informal inception where offerings of free meditation courses commenced in private homes and hired community venues, the Brahma Kumaris have shown a solid commitment to having representation in major cities across South Africa and steadily progressed towards this aim. Presently, a few decades later, Brahma Kumaris South Africa has centres has been consolidated into a more formal offering all operating as dedicated meditation centres, with nine properties spread over the major cities, namely Johannesburg, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town,
The organisation is becoming more significant in a post-apartheid South Africa through its efforts to create awareness about the pivotal role that spirituality plays in a society that has endured deep racial, religious and class cleavages across generations. The defining influence of the Brahma Kumaris, has been the unique yet all-encompassing nature of its core practice “soul consciousness” which it promotes through its courses, lectures and programmes. Soul consciousness, which is developed through meditation, is seen to be the method to create a vision and attitude of equality which transcend race, religious and cultural differences thereby contributing to the country’s widespread initiatives to restore justice and freedom within it’s fold.
Brahma Kumaris South events are offered in our centres and sattelite class locations. Sometimes community rooms, libraries and other public places are used to reach local communities. This trend has expanded the geographical opportunities available to would-be meditators in various city suburbs. In addition, organisation and hosting of spiritual retreats has offered the community an opportunity for deeper reflection and experience.
Currently approximately 40 meditation teachers and volunteers take care of all facilitation, mentoring, events co-ordination, administration, publicity, catering and maintenance at each of the Brahma Kumaris’ centres across South Africa. This dedicated team works tirelessly for the benefit of their neighbourhood and strive to be samples of how to lead a balanced life using meditation as the foundation. These volunteers are regular students who are committed to supporting these venues, many of whom are also professionals who are still working in their fields within the community.
Brahma Kumaris International
Brahma Kumaris is a worldwide spiritual movement dedicated to personal transformation and world renewal. Founded in India in 1937, Brahma Kumaris has spread to over 110 countries on all continents and has had an extensive impact in many sectors as an international NGO. However, their real commitment is to helping individuals transform their perspective of the world from material to spiritual. It supports the cultivation of a deep collective consciousness of peace and of the individual dignity of each soul.
The spiritual headquarters of Brahma Kumaris is in Mount Abu, India. At a national level, activities are generally coordinated by local people in alignment with the spiritual principles of Brahma Kumaris, working in accordance with the laws of the land. Activities of international interest are coordinated regionally from offices in London, Moscow, Nairobi, New York and Sydney.
The role of women as spiritual leaders
Brahma Kumaris is the largest spiritual organisation in the world led by women. It was the founder, Prajapita Brahma Baba, who chose to put women in front from the very beginning, and it has set Brahma Kumaris apart on the stage of the world’s religions and spiritual organisations. For over 80 years their leadership has been characterised by steady courage, a capacity for forgiveness and a deep commitment to unity.
Although women hold the top administrative positions, the women who hold these positions have always made decisions in partnership with the men. It is a partnership and consensus model of leadership, based on respect, equality and humility. As such, it stands as an exemplar of accomplished and harmonious jurisdiction.
The Brahma Kumaris Story
Mount Abu, high in the Aravali Mountains of Rajasthan, provided an ideal location for reflection and contemplation for the original group’s move from Karachi in 1950. After a few years in a rented building, the community moved to the present site which remains the Prajapita Brahma Kumaris Ishwariya Vishwa Vidyalaya (Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University). The Brahma Kumaris spiritual headquarters is known as Madhuban (‘Forest of Honey’).
Brahma Kumaris was founded by Dada Lekhraj Kripalani, a retired Indian businessman, in 1937 in Hyderabad, a city now in Pakistan. His spiritual name is Prajapita Brahma and he is lovingly called Brahma Baba. After experiencing a series of visions in 1936, he was inspired to create a school where the principles and practices of a virtuous and meditative life could be taught. The original name was ‘Om Mandali’. It consisted of a handful of men, women and children, many of whom decided to stay together as a community.
In spite of the incredible social upheavals which were going on in pre-Partition India, these people came together, initially in Hyderabad and a year later they moved to Karachi. With time, a simple and clear body of knowledge about the nature of the soul, God and time became revealed. In 1950 (two years after Partition), the group moved to its present location in Mount Abu, India. Until then, these nearly 400 individuals lived as a self-sufficient community, devoting their time to intense spiritual study, meditation and self-transformation.
Brahma Baba, the founder
Who was he?
Brahma Baba, born into a humble home as Lekhraj Kripalani in the 1880s, was the son of a village schoolmaster. Lekhraj was brought up within the disciplines of the Hindu tradition. After different jobs, he entered the jewellery business, later earning a considerable fortune as a diamond trader. He was the father of five children and a leader within his local community, known especially for his philanthropy. In 1936, around the time when most people at his age start to plan their retirement, he actually entered into the most active and fascinating phase of his life. After a series of deep spiritual experiences and visions, he felt an extremely strong pull to give up his business and dedicate his time, energy and wealth to laying the foundations of what later would become the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University.
Between 1937 and 1938, he formed a Managing Committee of eight young women and surrendered all his property and assets to a Trust administered by them. After guiding the creation of many Brahma Kumaris centres throughout India, he passed on in January 1969. The Tower of Peace on the Madhuban campus is a tribute to the invincible spirit of this ordinary human being who achieved greatness by rising to the challenge of the deeper truths of life.
Brahma Baba’s legacy
Many years have passed since Brahma Baba’s series of visions in 1936. The lifestyle revolution he began has inspired millions to empower themselves and create hope for the future. The life skills that Brahma Baba taught have stood the test of time. The young women that he put to the forefront, now in their eighties and nineties, have become beacons of love, peace and wisdom.