Friday, 8 October 2010

The Brahma Kumaris

We were on the road again. Leaving the fresh mountain air, we descended South into the furnace of pre-monsoon heat.

With Uttrakashi behind us, I was able to reflect on some of the experiences I had there. One that stayed with me was my first day there, when I was propositioned by a celibate monk.! After being told that he he wished to marry me and take me to live in a cave with him, I started dressing like a monk.

There are so many things that I love about India, but there is one thing that I hate: the attitude of the average Indian man to Western women. What they know of Western culture is what they see in Western media. Beautiful girls dancing in skimpy clothing is the norm for us here, but in the context of India's conservatism it looks like porn. Uneducated people presume these images are of indicative of Western culture, and that Western women are okay with being being touched and fondled. Therefore, we're fair game.

Disguising myself as a monk was, ironically, a sexual liberation. The orange trousers, orange T-shirt, and orange shawl that covered my shoulders and hair were like an protective field. I suddenly felt free.

This journey was our longest and most taxing so far. We got rickety government buses from Pilot Baba's ashram to Uttrakashi, Uttrakashi to Rishikesh, Rishikesh to Delhi, Delhi to Jaipur. From Jaipur we got a taxi to Mount Abu, which involved driving through the desert state of Rajasthan. The whole trip took 48 hours.

On the rocky road from the Himalayas we grew accustomed to the sound of people throwing up over the side of the bus. We carried the equipment in our laps to absorb the shock, our legs went numb, and we mastered the art of sleeping sitting upright with no feeling below the waist. We were awed by the majesty of the mountains, and the wistful beauty of the desert.
We stopped at Dabbas (Indian road side restaurants) , and ate Indian food for breakfast. Local kids would come on board the buses trying to sell water, soft drinks or crisps. During one of our stops, a ticket inspector grabbed one of the little boys, and shoved him out of the bus while it was moving. The boy tumbled onto the road, and his crisps exploded and mingled with the red dust. Our taxi driver was legally blind, and Dipesh had to read the road signs for him, while Raj had to resist his urge to jump behind the wheel every time we had a close call with death. In India you're always on the edge of civilisation.

The peace and cleanliness of the Brahma Kumaris headquarters at Mount Abu was a safe haven for us after the journey, and I quickly shed my orange robes and replaced them with white.

You see, the Brahma Kumaris have a couple of rules. No sex, no alcohol, no drugs, no smoking. You must be vegetarian, you must wear white, you must take a shower every morning, you must get up at 3.30am to mediate. Those who live at the complex full-time have to take a shower every time they empty their bowels. (I shit you not!)

Their goal is to purify the self and become Angels. Once December 21st 2012 hits, they believe modern civilisation will end, and be replaced by a Golden Era on Earth. The majority of the 6 billion inhabitant on Earth will die, but those who have attained a sufficient level of purity will survive and become Deities.

The rules and the philosophy combined create an environment which is like something out of a James Bond film. The complex is completely self-sufficient, and run on solar energy, and everyone floats around wearing white, and being peaceful. Everywhere you look, there are pictures of deceased spiritual teachers, a red glowing light, and a symbol which represents the point of light of God.

It was interesting that neither myself nor Raj were phased by this place, but then again, this wasn't my first time at the BK. We came here in 2009, to research, and that time I had a pretty violent inner-reaction against it. I objected to the teachings, fought with several of the teachers, and even took up smoking on the balcony. I wasn't trying to rebel, but I felt so repressed and restricted that I needed to do something to know that I was free.

So a year had passed, and I obeyed their rules, and didn't argue. I still didn't agree with their vision of life, but I was prepared to hear them out and not judge. Had I changed, or had I simply become accustomed?

Since becoming interested in spirituality, I have always preached the philosophy of "not-knowing", but it was in a Bill Maher "Religulous" ( kind of way. (ie. I said I didn't know, but I secretly thought I did). It was at the BK that I really opened my mind to the possibility that I don't know what's going on in this Universe.

This happened because of one Westerner living there: a German called Golo. Golo made the point that I can't judge God or spirituality unless I actually mediate, because it's through mediation that God is experienced directly. So I mediated with them, and something weird happened. As I was meditating, the BK symbol floated into my mind's eye. It was around this time, that me, Raj and Dipesh started talking about joining the BK.!

In my defense, I was attracted to the idea of having free places to stay all over the world (you're not charged for anything when you stay at a Brahma Kumaris centre, and they have centres in more than 60 countries, including one in New York, U.S.A), but needless to say, we hadnt fully thought it through fully. Raj was the voice of reason, saying that we should see how we felt when we left.

And as soon as we got out of the complex we realised what had almost happened! It was at this point that I realised the power of being in an environment where so many people were visualising the same thing. It gets inside you. And then it becomes validated for you - I had seen the symbol float into my vision when I mediated, and this could be taken as a kind of proof that this was the path to Truth.

It makes me wonder how much we are all products of our environment. Every day we pass through environments which send out specific messages, which filter into our subconscious. (Advertising is a prime example of this).Are our beliefs ever the truth, or are we simply processing information in accordance with how we have been programmed?