‘Change yourself to change the world’

2009-01-30 00:00

“It’s nice to have a politician such as Barack Obama say what we have been saying for 70 years — we have to take personal responsibility and not wait for a great messiah to rescue us. The message of hope is that people have to do their own bit to make the world a better place,” said Sister Jayanti Kirplani, European and Middle East director of the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University (BKWSU).

Sister Jayanti was in Pietermaritzburg to open a new BKWSU meditation centre in Northern Park near Grey’s Hospital. She was in the country on a national speaking tour and addressed gatherings here and in Durban, Cape Town, Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth.

She first came to South Africa in 1982, “a dark era”, and has visited several times. “I was here in 1994, which was a time of great expectation and hope. Then at the beginning of the 21st century the question was ‘What next? Are we going in the right direction?’ Now, the country is in a different place, and people don’t really know where to turn, so that message of hope is important here and now.

“There is hope because we can do something about the future. We do not need to be anxious and fearful. We have to understand that what is going on in human consciousness has an impact on the world around us. If we allow conflict inside the self then conflict and chaos are created in the world. If we create a state of inner peace it will allow us to make right decisions and have right personal relationships, so that we can nurture and co-create a better world.

“The other main focus of my message is the crisis of values, morals and ethics. The two most important things facing us are the financial crisis and the international ecological disaster we have created. They have been created firstly by human ego and anger, and then by greed and the exploitation of nature. The answer is in transformation of the self.”

Sister Jayanti said that although the origins of the BKWSU’s teachings are in the ancient Hindu tradition, its ideas are relevant to people of all backgrounds. “They are concerned with knowing the self and developing a relationship with the divine through meditation, contemplation and reflection. Many traditions talk about these things but do not give followers methods to do it. We focus on the practical teaching of meditation.

“Through self-knowledge we can develop a deeper sense of self-esteem, which becomes an anchor for inner stability through periods of uncertainty and change.

These teachings and method of meditation acknowledge that sustainable outer change is dependent on deep inner change, which allows us to make a personal contribution towards making a better world.”

Questioned about evidence for the effectiveness of the methods that the BKWSU promotes, she said: “The evidence is the subjective experience of people who say that meditation has created change in their life and the testimony of their family and friends who confirm this. It is also in the quality of work engaged in by a million people across the world. We are a small minority, admittedly, but these are universal ideas.

“People across the world, no matter what religious tradition they belong to, are coming to the realisation that there has to be change on the inside. If there is a significant minority, we know that they can bring about change in the world. Anthropologist Margaret Mead said that change only comes from a committed group of individuals, not through the majority. It starts with one, reaches a handful and then more, and then the minority begins to influence the majority.”

Who is sister jayanti Kirplani?

Born in India in 1949, Sister Jayanti emigrated with her family to England when she was eight. She credits her mother and grandmother with encouraging her to meditate. “My mother would spend a few minutes a day meditating with my younger brother and me, which is how I learnt.”

When she was 18 and facing many personal questions, she decided to explore spirituality to “see what it had to say” and started with BKWSU. “I felt as if I had found bits of the puzzle that fitted into place. That was June 1968, a turbulent time internationally, and I have been involved ever since.”

She began working and studying with the Brahma Kumaris at 19 and is now the European and Middle Eastern co-ordinator, helping to co-ordinate its activities in over 84 countries. She sees the erosion of spiritual values as the underlying cause of the crises that the world faces today and has extensively researched the role of spiritual values in world change. She works to promote positive, human, spiritual values in all sectors of society. In 1980, she was appointed BKWSU’s representative to the UN in Geneva, which has led her to participate in many UN Conferences and projects in connection with health, education, women, development, the environment, youth and peace.

She lives in London and spends much of her time travelling widely as a speaker, broadcaster, lecturer and counsellor. Her speeches focus on how to live a spiritual life in a complex world through meditation and God’s healing power of love. She has also been active in interfaith work, including positions as:

• member of the executive committee of the World Congress of Faiths;

• member of the Inter-religious Friendship Group, with the Dalai Lama; and

• member of the Advisory Committee of the International Interfaith Centre.

— culturebase@dccd.dk

Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University

This is an international NGO for self-help and spiritual renewal. It is dedicated to encouraging individual inner growth and a personal contribution towards making a better world.

It teaches practical meditation called Raja Yoga, which is based on the understanding that goodness is the intrinsic nature of the human soul. It aims to help people explore and understand the inner nature of the self and the divine. Its headquarters are in Mount Abu, India.

The university regularly participates in and hosts conferences, seminars, retreats, workshops and consultations focused on peace, positive thinking, stress-free living, values-based leadership and a spiritual approach to current issues. These programmes aim to enable the integration of spiritual identity with the social and physical realities around, restoring a healthy balance between the inner and outer worlds.

Brahma Kumaris means “daughters of Brahma” and the organisation is primarily administered by women, following the example of its founder, Brahma Baba. In 1937, he formed a managing committee of eight young women and surrendered all his property and assets to a trust administered by them. He chose women to lead the organisation because he believed that core values based on traditionally feminine qualities would increasingly become the foundation of progress in personal growth, human relations, and the development of caring communities.

He identified “traditional feminine qualities” as patience, tolerance, sacrifice, kindness and love. Some of the women whom he chose as leaders are now in their eighties and nineties, and are still leading the organisation, which has grown into an international entity with over 8 000 centres in about 120 countries.

In South Africa there are centres in Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Johannesburg, Soweto and Lenasia. Free courses in meditation are held at the BKWSU centres in Raisethorpe and Northern Park. For information contact 033 391 2513, e-mail lalithas@telkomsa.net or pmbg.northernpark@gmail.com or 033 342 9717.

— www.bkwsu.com

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