Help! My sister-in-law is getting deeply involved with the Cult of Brahma-Kumari

Help! My sister-in-law is getting deeply involved with the Cult of Brahma-Kumari

Hi everyone! I need some help/advice. So my brother got married around 8-10 years ago to an amazing lady. She is very sweet, very caring and very smart. My father, mother and brother are all doctors (I am the only engineer in my family). My sister-in-law is also a doctor so she gelled with the family really well (it was an arrange marriage). We are Hindu but we are fairly liberal (because we are fairly well educated). We know religion is just a philosophical relic. For instance, I am into gymming so I eat non-veg everyday for protein which my family initially felt was very weird (culture shock for my parents but not for me as I studied abroad) but then later on they accepted it as a part of a healthy diet.

Now here comes the story— my sister-in-law has gotten involved with a cult called Brahma Kumari. It is a religious cult consisting of mostly or exclusively women. They wear some white gown and go and meditate somewhere. As a part of their rules, she is required to cook her own food (vegetarian food with no onion and garlic— like Jain food). Initially she used to just meditate and then post spiritual quotes on WhatsApp story. She even went on a trip to Mount Abu to meditate and stuff. And now over time, she has gotten aggressively devoted to this cult to the point that my family is worried about her. Whenever we have to travel here and there for conferences or weddings, she doesn’t even eat food because it is not cooked by her hand so she only eats fruits— as a result of this she has gotten very skinny. She has also slowly started isolating herself from her own family (not only in-laws), seemingly because of the brain-washing done by her cult members. Apparently this Brahma-Kumari cult encourages women to cut ties from their family, break marriages and dedicate their lives to this cult leader named Shiv Baba (not Lord Shiva) and settle down in Mount Abu and keep meditating there and lead deeply pious lives. This has my family extremely concerned. My father and brother confronted her many times over this— asking her to not get too involved and take care of her health as well her family. She was even trying to drag her 6 year old daughter into all this and my father/brother/mother strictly told her not to involve my niece into all this nonsense as she is a minor.

I also have a relative who was very smart (got into IIT, got a job in US and was doing very well in life). He got involved in Shri Shri Ravishankars cult and then gave up everything he has achieved to serve in Ravishankars cult in Bangalore (they call him Gurudev) and obviously his family was not happy with his decision but they couldn’t do much about it. My family is worried that my sister-in-law is headed in the same direction— earlier she used to go there just once in the morning to meditate, but now she is lying to all of us and going there many times (almost like a drug addict). All these cults in India (headed by people like Sadhguru, Ravishankar, Shivbaba) seem to be preying on peoples fears/anxieties/insecurities and brainwashing them into serving the organization and the cult leader. And their supporters are showing extreme level of fanaticism (almost like the M community). I know a thing or two about cults as I was also in a fraternity when I was in US. I know a little bit about how they operate— isolation from families by preaching exclusivity is a big part of their recruitment strategy. Members of that cult are “exclusive” because they have access to something other mere mortals don’t, such as a god man’s blessings (for religious cults) or a really dope party and girls grinding on you (for fraternities or other social clubs). I got out of my cult by pretty much graduating from college and getting a job and stuff (significantly cutting down on alcohol/weed and limiting it to weekends). But my sister-in-laws cult is a religious cult wherein they believe in things like afterlife and how the world will be destroyed by a cataclysmic event and then the true devotees will get rewarded after dying by becoming kings of heaven etc and all this mumbo jumbo, so there is no scope for a rational discussion and hence this situation is much more complex.

So if any of you has had this kind of experience or know someone in this kind of situation, please let me know your insights. They can help me my sister-in-law and my family. Just today morning she had a fight with my brother and my father (I was just a spectator).

View on r/India by sinsandtonic

  1. I have seen that people who usually get involved with cults is because they are very lonely. People put a facade of fake happiness in front of others but internally they are not really happy. I’m pretty sure your SIL is also feeling lonely maybe because of work or your brother doesn’t spend quality time with her, there are lots of quarrels between them etc. It takes a very long time for someone to feel dejected and rejected from others that when someone gives them just a little bit of attention, they devote themselves to it. As others have pointed out, if your family tries to move away her away from it all instantly, it won’t work and she will instantly latch to that cult and leave you all instantly.

    Don’t do an intervention where all your family gathers around her and starts saying we are concerned or something. Because in her eyes, she is fine, there is nothing wrong.

    I would suggest you to look into her upbringing, not ask her parents, but somehow see if possible if her life growing up was tumultuous or not. She probably has a lot of trauma pent up and our brain is an excellent organ in basically packing away any trauma in a corner so that you can survive. Until you understand what her trauma is, you cannot help her. When you do, politely ask her and your brother for a couple counselling where you inform the therapist beforehand that is primarily for her and somehow make her do one on one session with the therapist to see what’s bothering her that she is taking such a big step.

    You should look at the lives of all the ladies of this cult, most of them are from battered marriages or have some sort of insecurity. You need patience.

    Hope you get your SIL back. Best of Luck.

  2. This is a very difficult situation. From her perspective, she is serving God and doing nothing wrong and from your family’s perspective she is isolating herself from family and maybe not doing certain family duties. The more your father and brother fight and argue with her, the more she will be drawn to her religious practices as they give her peace and home life is giving her stress. The best way would be to accept and let her be. If her family showers her with love and respect then she will surely remain attached to the family. Respect her views. Your inconveniences during outings are no reason for her to stop her beliefs.

    Also, transfer her assets to her children’s names. She maybe guided to donate her worldly possessions so keeping them secure will give you some peace of mind.

  3. I was following along until you mentioned “almost like the M community”. Stick to what you are experiencing in your own family. Broad generalisation doesn’t do any one any favours.

  4. The Brahma Kumaris are definitely a cult, and they are big and bizarre. There exists a thing called cult deprogramming, but practically such things work only in some circumstances. There are many sites that explain how cults work, what are their characteristics, and what can be done. Someone needs to give concrete information about the cult to the victim, and hope for the best. Remember, this is not a rational process.

    The consequences need not be bad. If someone has taken up spiritual practices, and they are happy, that is good. The aggressive vegetarianism or occasional fasting isn’t a problem by itself – I suspect your family has its your own biases that make you exaggerate its impact on health. Likewise, the meditation retreats are not bad in themselves. A lot of this are just the features of religion and not necessarily cults. And the standards you are applying (e.g. in calling it fanaticism,) are your own and that of your family. At this point, some kind of discussion and compromise are good. Control and conformity is not the goal. She should be encouraged to be open about her intentions, and your family should not imagine that she will become a didi or dadi in the near future if she says she has no such intention.

  5. >And their supporters are showing extreme level of fanaticism (almost like the M community).

    This is the mentality of self proclaimed ‘fairly liberal’ and ‘fairly well educated’ people in this country. Explains why Modi and Yogi are so popular here.

  6. Maybe take her to a therapist. Find out what she is getting there that she is not getting at home/work etc. A close family member of mine is part of BK and he is exactly as u say your SIL has become. But there are a lot of BKs who are not extreme and appreciate the meditative sessions. I think your SIL should find a balance and for that she might need professional help.

  7. Sri² organization is just a covert high margin business.

    I don’t deny that meditation and yoga are healthy but what this guy is doing seems like just greedy business. Even his “trademarked” kriya was not originally created by him.

    Then he has branched out to manufacturing FMCG which sell at huge margins and all the cult members buy it. There are alternative “doctors” in their ashrams and they charge a Bomb (+ accommodation) without even trying to treat the condition (I have personally experienced this, not by my own choice tho).

    They also keep introducing new medical “courses” for long term members

    The cult leader has a net worth of $200M according to various sources and I’d wager he’s *very* close to the government (both bjp and congress)

  8. What is M community? That was little hurtful to read. Fanaticism is not associated with one group or community. As indicated out by your own post. Please have a broad mindset, Mr Engineer.

  9. OP – you can claim all you want about your family being liberal but I don’t think you understand what being liberal means at all. This is what is called pseudo liberalism. I sense a lot of false prestige and over achiever mentality in your family from how you have described yourselves. Trust me if you call yourselves “smart” “fairly” educated, this is pretty much what an average upper middle class family in India is.
    Anyways why I say this is because your “liberal” family doesn’t look inclusive of your SIL. People who seek these cults are basically very lonely who have no body to talk to or share their feelings with. And if you were really liberal as you claim you should’ve let her do her thing and not micro manage what she eats etc. she’s a doctor she must be knowing what she is upto. The only thing I’m
    Worried about is your little niece.
    I think you and your parents should stay out of this and let your brother and SIL handle this between themselves.

  10. Cult 😂 ..Jared Leto be crying right now.

    These cults you mention sure has a lot of influence Mark Zuckerber ,Steve Jobs, Julia Roberts , Miley Cyrus,follow meditation and some rituals like laksmi puja and stuff.

    You SIL needs to find the balance between the two.

  11. Lord indians are stupid i swear i have people i know who are in osho,then that guy in beas ,another ones are into Jai guruji something.There was satya sai then ram rahim,Asaram .I really want to know from people who are in this like wtf are these babas? Like are they gods? Why tf do you feel so dedicated towards them?Why do you guys worship them?

  12. I don’t trust this godmen n godwomen coz all are just scam artists. She looks too deeply involved and it doesn’t look great. Separate the kid and don’t allow her to take into these meetings or she will force this deeksha n end her life. Take all her assets n if possible let ur relative give an ultimatum of divorce or proceed with that.

  13. Well, she’s a grown up adult who can think and take her own decisions. Not every decision of her’s should please others. Giving up everything they have earned/achieved for a cult doesn’t make sense to most including myself but for that person it maybe liberating.

    I get your concern that she has a family she can’t do whatever she wants which may impact the family. Tricky situation. All you can do is talk to her about the impact for the family. Don’t speak negatively about the cult which will make her even more attached to the cult.

  14. Man i really thought and argued with all people that studying science helps us to understand that these cults are stupid and we scientists have responsibility to make people understand to get out of the cult or other religious bullshit.
    Now seeing ur sister in law getting eaten by the cult and she is a doctor breaks my heart.

  15. I have two cousins who did the inner engineering programme and honestly they have changed a lot FOR THE BETTER. They’re so much more sorted now, and everyone in our family is genuinely happy and relieved. They mostly participate in the meditation sessions and it’s working for them (it’s been 3 years). I haven’t noticed any fanaticism in them primarily because sadhguru’s teachings revolve around meditation and enlightenment through looking inwards.

    Having said that, there are a lot of religious cults in India from all religions and it could be possible that Brahma kumaris is one of them. But what you’ve told doesn’t point to fanaticism, it sounds more like extreme order and discipline. Very similar things (discipline and rigid rules) are expected to be followed in all Buddhist orders up north. You don’t hear people labelling them as cults.

    Your sister in law is an adult. The life of a brahma Kumari is that of a monk. Monkhood is extremely difficult and not for most people. You ever see Buddhist monks? This is how they live.
    If you and other family members are genuinely concerned, try to figure out if there is something she’s not comfortable with, but is still forced to perform said actions. If there’s nothing as such, there’s not much to do but to let her try to live her life as she pleases.

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  17. Cult usually targets (or unwillingly attracts) people who need a sense of belonging, someone who want to be part of a tribe, someone who’s lonely.

    If you want to bring your sil (or any family member) back to your family, maybe see if there was any factor that made them lonely or made them uncomfortable, as in they had to change themselves a lot to fit in, like stuff. Ask your mother more than yourself these questions.

  18. The cult has brain washed her and also may be by joining the cult she is satisfying an unfulfilled psychological need .Check for any psychologist who deals with such issues. Its unlikely that she will willingly agree for treatment , so best option is to involve families from both sides to put pressure considering future of her daughter is also at stake. No easy solutions here , some tough decisions will have to be taken before things go totally out of hand…..

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