The catalyst for writing The Brahma Kumaris Memoirs – a surprise call.
On 5th March 2021, I had a surprise call from someone whom I yelled at on the occasion of the Silver and 25th Anniversary of Brahma Kumaris Malaysia in May 2006, just five months after my wife and I moved base from Hong Kong to Petaling Jaya, Malaysia.
I think I never yelled at person so hard, and so loud over the mobile phone. I totally lost it. I was beyond ballistic. Even my late wife Brenda commented that I really let it rip!
So for fifteen years I really wanted to apologize to this person, but I never got round to do it. It was nagging me as one of the things I need to do as a make amends completion before I die.
And this person did me a great favour, by calling me first. His name is BK Jothi, the head of Johor Bahru Raja Yoga Centre since 1989. In fact Jothi was the most senior brother after me, and became the second local head of BK Malaysian service (1983-1989) when my eldest brother Tom suddenly left for Hong Kong.
Jothi confessed he was slightly apprehensive to call me for obvious reasons. Luckily, I had the biggest change in my life on 21st February 2021, after my recent darkest hour, when I not only changed my name from Robert Chaen to Robren, but I had a series of ongoing epiphanies since Covid-19 pandemic started. So I sounded very surprised and excited to hear his voice. I felt his silent sigh of relief.
But he had a burning wish to call to me for the last two months. Then two days earlier he was told to do a five minute video of his experience of the late Dadi Janki about the first anniversary memorial of Dadi on 27th March 2021. He wanted to confirm the period of Dadi Janki’s first public program in Malaysia, in fact it was the first ever BK public program in Malaysia.
I still remember that incident vividly, like it was only yesterday. I have an elephant’s memory. Tom and I went down to Singapore to meet Dadi Jaki. Before we could even put down our bags, Dadi gave shrimat and directions to return back and organize a public program.
Within four days we manage to book the Vivekananda Hall in Brickfields, the Little India of Kuala Lumpur for free. I got an Editor to write a full page article on “The most stable mind in the world” with a stunning picture of Dadi Janki with wires on her head, from an EEG machine. The free publicity brought a full hall audience of 300 people.
Jothi was one of the keen ones who attended Dadi’s talk. He enrolled immediately for the five day course the coming Monday. He remembered it was BK Maureen Chen who gave him the first day class. He then brought four more colleagues for the second day class.
We talked for a good one and a half hours. It was so wonderful to talk about our glorious past that we had, and I was reminded of the lasting legacy Tom and I had left behind. He said it felt like the good old days when we were a small close-knit team. Of course, I apologize profusely but he said I needn’t apologize as he understood my frustration. He had forgiven me.
Due to a series of circumstances, Jothi moved to Johor Bahru around 1989, and opened the first JB BK Raja Yoga Centre, with Brother Chew from Singapore. I remember noticing the missing transition of power as Jothi had left Kuala Lunpur, the seat of BK power politics. Even Tom lost being the Head of BK Malaysia when he moved and opened the first Penang Centre. I remember while being driven in a car by Brother Letchu, I advised him to “keep his nose clean” unlike Tom and I, that I would put a good word to the upper BK leaders for my endorsement of Letchu.
No clear super strong “pakar” Chinese BK Leader after the “Tom & Robert BK Years” period of 1981-1987
In hindsight which is always 20/20, what I noticed was the BK service became heavily favoring local Indian-bodied BK leaders, which then attracted more Indians, unlike during the Tom & Robert BK Years, there was a really healthy mix of Chinese, Indian, foreign BK student visitors, and Malay VIP service. I am not sure could it be a combination of Brother Letchu and Sister Meera and their hidden, unconscious intentions, if any, that attracted more Indians.
From my understanding of Organizational Karmic Debt, because of what happened to Tom and I, and that both of us, “The original Chinese BK Jewels” had left BKs, the Chinese BK service did not fly like during the Tom & Robert BK Years period. The senior BK leaders made a Karmic Lesson mistake of not getting the Chinese Brothers’ blessings which unconsciously ended after the Silver 25th Anniversary of BK Malaysia on May 2006.
That is why throughout over the 3,400 year written history of Chinese culture since the Shang Dynasty circa 1,600 BC, through many Chinese Festivals such as Hungry Ghost Festival, ancestor worshiping, Feng Shui placements of ancestral graves, there is a deep respect for Chinese Elders. Unfortunately most non-Chinese BKs don’t understand that principle, which I think lead to stagnation and decline in Chinese BK service. BK service in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and other Chinese populated cities like Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Yangon, Hanoi, Jakarta, and Phnom Penh, did not reach its full potential as a direct result of Organizational Karmic Debt.
Then I recalled the very painful personal incident when I was bypassed to succeed Tom as the (second) local head of BK Malaysian service, although I had more years in BK service but Jothi was given the position, and I never became the Head of BK Malaysia, even though I co-founded BK Malaysia with Tom. In fact, I never became the Head of BK service for any division or country. I have forgiven Jothi for that as it was not his fault or his decision.
This is the untold pivotal story in Brahma Kumaris Malaysia – in this BK Memoirs eBook.
Depending who you ask, the story is a story perceived as betrayal by the victim (Tom), perceived as a hidden agenda cover up mutiny by outsiders, perceived the head giving up this position by the zone in charge (Didi Dr. Nirmala), perceived as “something happened but it’s not for you know or ask” by normal Malaysian BK students (centre-wasis, or residents of BK Raja Yoga Centres), and lastly, perceived as simply a letter of clarification to the zone in charge by the three complainants (Robert, Jothi, Tony). I’ll keep the record straight.
In 20/20 hindsight, I should have seen through the potential malicious rebel intent by the ambitious Brother Tony who returned from Europe to Kuala Lumpur and ended up as centrewasi at the main Bangsar centre. Tony instigated why Tom was not working as all BK brothers and sisters were working full time jobs while doing service in the evenings and weekends. This point of Tom not working was always been bone of contention and conflict throughout Tom’s career in BKs.
But this was never an issue with me as he is my eldest brother and my centre in charge. I trusted Tom like my life depends on him. I willingly used my car for godly service, and gave half of my income working in a top advertising agency and as a Marketing Manager with a very high salary of RM2,500 pm in 1982. But the family grew and Tony came along, and stirred up the politics pot. So Tony, Jothi, and I wrote a P&C letter to Didi Dr. Nirmala. I can’t remember whether we mailed her the letter and then she visited us to solve the issue, or we gave the letter when she was visiting us. I think it was the former.
A few days into Didi’s visit, I remember it as if it was yesterday, we were in Malacca, 2 hours drive from Kuala Lumpur, there were no BK centre yet. Didi pull me aside privately. This was the conversation that I remembered.
“Brother Robert, I showed Brother Tom your letter. He seems upset and wants to leave Malaysia. He is thinking of going to Hong Kong to do service with Sister Maureen.”
I was so shocked! I didn’t expect that, or maybe I was too naïve and young.
As a leadership and change expert Didi should not have showed the private and confidential letter but should just discussed about his not working, how it was affecting the team morale, and ask him what he thought and what he wanted to do about it.
More shocks to come. In corporate jargon, it’s called “earthquake news”.
“Brother Robert, you will not be the new Head of BK Malaysia. You are too immature and too young. Brother Jothi will be the new Head. You want name and fame.”
What? I did not respond but in my mind I had 3 years more BK experience than Jothi. I perceived him as not a courageous leader, at that time.
“Brother Robert, you have two choices.
First choice, you can be in charge of the brothers in Singapore under Sister Bharati. The Singapore family needs lots of sustenance, especially the bigger Chinese BK student group.”
It’s true. Tom and I would regularly visit Singapore centre in their first two years. Apparently Tom revealed years later that my words saved at least one BK sister for suicide. The Singapore family admired Tom and I a lot, we were their role models.
“The second choice, you stay in Malaysia but you will not be the Head, Jothi will be the head. You are too immature and too young. Let me know your decision in a few days.”
I beg to differ. Yes, I was too young to say handle BK students’ personal or family problems as I have much less life experience, but in any case, most of such BK student personal problem counseling was usually handled privately by Didi or the Dadis in Madhuban.
No, at 24 years old, for one and half years, I was personally trained and groomed to run a BK Raja Yoga Centre by Didi Dr. Nirmala and Brother Charlie in Melbourne and in Sydney for three months.
Being the world’s second BK Chinese, I was super fast-tracked to go for my first pilgrimage to Madhuban headquarters, after only 3 months in gyan or BK knowledge. I was treated like royalty as Madhuban saw their first Chinese-bodied BKs.
I met Bapdada both personally and as a brothers team several times. They told us “Charity begins at home.” I had the most wonderful experience in my first stay in Madhuban, the “forest of honey” in Hindi.
I visited my Mum right after Madhuban, and my Mum smelt a rat. She confronted me if I had gone to India. I confessed. My Mum made me promise her that I would complete my studies at Swinburne University, Melbourne. I promised Mum.
Two months after coming back from my first trip to Madhuban, I was left my lokik (physical) university studies for good because I really believed that the world would end in 1986, and I had only 7 years left. This principle was way more important than the promise I made to my mum.
I told Didi I wanted to open the first BK Raja Yoga Centre in Malaysia. She discussed with Tom, and a simple plan was made to make it happen.
I had a great fun time year in Melbourne Centre and Sydney Centre. I stayed at the brothers house, near the Melbourne centre. I worked part-time as a waiter, and other odd jobs while learning BK service at the centre. I remember driving several times for Didi talks in Victoria in my classic Fiat 124S Coupé Sportscar, a poor man’s James Bond Aston Martin DB5.
I am not sure was it Tom who thought I was immature, or was it Didi, or both. Anyways.
Although being bypassed for leadership was a massive killer of my confidence, the choice was obvious. Singapore was not as challenging as Malaysia, and charity begins at home. I told Didi my decision.
“Okay, Brother Robert. I need you do this very important thing.
Sister Meera will be stationed in Malaysia. Sister Bharati and Sister Meera don’t get along at the Singapore Centre, and she is not that popular with the Singaporeans.
Sister Meera will be in Charge of Malaysia, with Jothi as the local Head of BK Malaysia.
Remember Dadi Chandramani, the Lioness of Punjab? They have a similar politic situation. But when the second in charge openly supported Dadi, the service flew. Now you do the same with Sister Meera.”
Wow! Now I have three bosses, and Dadi bosses higher up in India.
I felt I was like Ganesh, the Elephant God, who has to stomach everything, especially the ego, and remove obstacles, I remember Bapdada giving me a double thumbs up, and addressing my “personal sacrifice” when I met them in Madhuban at the end of that year.
Yes, Bapdada knew, and that is all that matters!
My efforts were very worthwhile, and Bapdada’s words of encouragement sustain me through the years in times of trouble and in my own self-doubt. I always is a Doubting Thomas, even as an Angel Whisperer to Angel Brenda.
Yes, many thanks to Didi, service did fly, and the ball was hit out of the park.
Sister Meera wisely left me alone to do the operations and marketing. The way I saw it – I was never the CEO, the figure head, I was always the COO and CMO in BK Malaysia – spearheading marketing, branding, PR, VIP service, operations, sales of books and cassettes – the informal leader, while I let other Seniors shine upfront. It was similar when I put Brenda upfront for her to shine as my Co-Coach.
Robert was “the power behind the power”. “The teacher of teachers”. “The informal leader.” “The Ganesh”.
And, the power behind the power behind that power was …. Bapdada.
BK Malaysia experienced the first wave of the biggest expansion.
BK Jagish Chander came, the KL centre, a single-storey bungalow house, was packed with nearly 400 people inside and outside when he talked about reincarnation.
The biggest ever public program was Dadi Prakash Mani, with 2,000 audience. One of my dreams came true to have a public program in Wisma MCA hall.
“You want name and fame.” This statement by Didi Dr. Nirmala haunted me for years, even after I left BK in 1989, and until recently.
Yes, there is some truth in it. My character type does enjoy being at the center of attention. I do live and like a high profile life. My life is an open book.
But on 21st February 2021, I let go of my 6 Ego Identifier, especially letting go of who I am is what other people think of me. I changed my name from Robert Chaen to Robren, and dedicated my life, skills, and resources as to the Robren Foundation as the head. I became a Surrendered Host to the Angels and God.
A fortune teller told my Mum that Robert will come to a major crossroad at his 10th year with BKs, where he will decide to either stay on forever with the BKs, or walk away from a “high ranking status equivalent to a Roman Catholic Bishop”, in BK, to a totally different world. At the 10th BK year, Robert choose the road less traveled, the new road. Now 32 years later, on 21st February 2021, a totally new road opens up for the reborn Robert…
The untold sad story of Tom disappearing for around 10 years.
I felt that my eldest brother never fully recovered from the perceived betrayal-mutiny incident. Tom moved to Hong Kong, returned and opened the first Penang BK centre, then he returned to Australia and ended up in Melbourne BK centre, after I left for Hong Kong in 1987.
I can’t recall the full details about the time when he left the Melbourne centre, and spent a year camping in Melbourne caravan park. He had little money, bathed from a cold communal tap in winter. For nearly 10 years he did not communicate with my physical family. My parents felt they lost their eldest son. Tom and I made a soul agreement that we will go out of the way to ‘rescue’ each other if the other was in trouble. I tried but he was thousands of miles away and would be trying to find a needle in a haystack.
Suddenly around 2001 – 2002, he communicated. He flew to our hometown, our family and my late wife Brenda took him to Langkawi Island, hired a van, and also dropped by in Penang Island. It was a wonderful reunion. Then he moved around in Australia, was with Sister Maureen in Coffs Harbour, and then in Cambodia, where he is now residing and running a vegetarian cafe in Siem Reap, near the Angkor Wat, with his second wife who is from Cambodia.
C’est la vie. In my opinion, Brahma Kumaris lost two very good, most loyal, “the original Chinese Jewels, surrendered BK leaders – from mishandling by some seniors.
I confessed to Jothi about my biggest downfall in my BK career which only Dadi Janki, Didi Dr. Nirmala, Sister Maureen, and a few Senior BKs knew about. That story later.
He was deeply touched by our intimate conversation that he felt as if the Kalpa or the 5,000 cycle is ending soon. You see for Jothi it felt like it was a completion, a return of the good old days, a healing for the Malaysian BK family. For me it was more of a closure of a series of long chapters of my youth life with Brahma Kumaris from 20 years old in Melbourne to 30 years old in Hong Kong. He wanted to call Tom too. I gave him Tom’s mobile number.
Then Brother Charlie wanted to talk me. I had go “time out” as I have a lot of work and writing to do, one project was to talk the media and some US talk shows about the three untold stories of MH370 on the seventh anniversary on 8th March 2021. That story maybe later.
‘Old’ Robert was accused of all sorts of villain and evil things when he wrote his past BK articles and videos from 2017 to 2020. But Robren has no axe to grind, but a cross to bear.