International Sahaja Public School

The International Sahaja Public School in Dharamsala, India is a school run by the Sahaja Yoga movement. The school was founded in 1990, its stated mission to "develop self-respect which leads to respect for others, a love of Nature, care for the environment, gentleness, nobility, honesty and wisdom" [ ISPS, Dharamshala ] ] . The school teaches around 250 international students annually and demand for places has outstripped availability. [ [] , ISPS website, viewed 25 November 2007.]


The school is located in the Himalayas, above Dharamsala in the Kangra district, near McLeod Ganj, at an altitude of more than 1700m. Children coming to the school must have previously been brought up in Sahaja Yoga culture and understand the importance of meditation. [ [ ISPS, Dharamshala ] ] Their education is based "on the teachings of Her Supreme Holiness Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi" [ [ Prospectus] ] and one journalist reported seeing many photos of her at the school. A newspaper article from the Indian Express reported that students "learn the basic principles of Sahaja Yoga ... the tenets of Hinduism and worship the school’s patron - Mata Nirmala Devi." [ "A School for tradition"] , The Indian Express, December 24, 2000, by Sukhmani Singh] The article quoted a director of the school as saying that the students, upon coming to the school, "transcend all religions... [and] become more Hindu than Hindus themselves." The school website reports that there is a full-time doctor in residence. In case of illness, Sahaja treatments and Ayurvedic medicine are given in preference to antibiotics. []

The medium of instruction is English. Subjects (as followed by the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education curriculum) include standard courses as well as English, German, Indian Classical Music (including instruments), and Indian Classical dance. [ [ ICSE syllabus] ] The school has a science lab, library, art and craft halls, music and dance rooms, and sport facilities including a gym, skating ramp, basketball field, cricket pitch and soccer fields. There is also a computer lab with broadband access to the Internet. [ [ Isps Prospectus ] ] The school website states that: "Internet access is available for one hour per week per class in the senior section, as an afternoon activity." [] One video per week is normally screened for juniors and one for seniors at weekends. [ [ ISPS, Dharamshala ] ] There is a restriction of video watching to Sahaja Yoga material and suitable classics.

Mixed views

Judith Coney reports that the school has accepted children from the age of 4 and notes that "often very young children are separated from their natural parents for prolonged periods, as they usually stay in India for nine months" [Coney, Judith (1999) "Sahaja Yoga: Socializing Processes in a South Asian New Religious Movement", (London: Curzon Press) ISBN 0-7007-1061-2 p159] . An Indian newspaper article published in 2000 reported that students at the time were aged 6 and above.

An official school statement said that the villagers bring presents to the students and enjoy looking after them. A 1995 report on the school by the Austrian Ministry of Justice has said that uninvited visitors 'dropping in' have been refused entry [Report on the Sahaja Yoga School, May 1995, Ministry of Justice, Republic of Austria, cited in "Growing Up As Mother's Children: Socializing a Second Generation in Sahaja Yoga" by Judith Coney in "Children in New Religions Susan" J. Palmer, Charlotte Hardman, Rutgers University Press (July 1999) p.117 "It is clear, too, that in contrast to the British children of Sahaja Yogis living in the United Kingdom, those attending the India school have little access to outside influences. A statement made by Sahaja Yogis about the school in India says that 'many women from the village come to see the children, bring presents for them and look after them. The whole village enjoys looking after these children' (Sahaja Yoga 1992b:3). But the Austrian report on the school in 1995 stated: 'People dropping in at the door are— [in a] more or less unfriendly [manner] —refused. Because of that refusal of contact, the domestic and foreign population nearby does not know anything about the teachers, pupils and the daily routine at the school, which is-regarding the rustic surrounding-an astonishing fact.'13 The school takes no children other than those belonging to Sahaja Yoga. Access to television and radio is not allowed, and 'the children seem to lack further information of or about their home countries.'14 Contact between the children and their parents has been limited. The children have been allowed to write home once a week and receive packages from home twice a year; parents may telephone from time to time."] meaning that the domestic and foreign population nearby does not know anything about the teachers, pupils and the daily routine at the school, which is-regarding the rustic surrounding-an astonishing fact." [Report on the Sahaja Yoga School, May 1995, Ministry of Justice, Republic of Austria, cited in "Sahaja Yoga: Socializing Processes in a South Asian New Religious Movement" by Judith Coney (1999) p161]

A 2000 article in the Indian Express noted that "an aura of secrecy envelops the school and entry is strictly forbidden." The article quoted a director of the school as saying "...we don’t like the vibrations to be polluted by outsiders. Sometimes we even tell parents not to come here." Students are schooled in 'vibratory awareness' which practitioners say enables them to detect and treat subtle imbalances in themselves and others. [ [] Sahaja Yoga Australia - benefits of Sahaja Yoga.] This is part of the school's vision of fulfilling the students' physical, emotional, intellectual and, above all, spiritual potential. [ [ Vision and Mission] , ISPS website, viewed 22 November 2007.]

According to the school website, Sahaja Yoga education "envisages the development of the child in an atmosphere where the innate qualities, such as innocence and wisdom, are protected and enhanced; where the students imbibe the timeless and unchanging values which come from inner awareness, and are not subject to the vagaries of fashion, religion or national culture." The Indian Express article noted that the "dormitories are austere, even monastic in appearance".

They are realised souls, there is God who is looking after them, why are you so much worried about them? Leave them alone! Send them to the Indian school. Then the mothers are sitting there, teachers don't like it, no one likes it. They are just gone there. The mothers. No school allows such nonsense! But in Sahaja Yoga they think they have the right. What right have they got? Have they paid for the school? Have they done anything for the school? What right have they got to go and sit in the school? So the discretion should be, we have to bring up our children according to Sahaj culture. The first of the principles of Sahaja Yoga is fortitude. Sahaja Yoga is not meant for such .... dainty darlings. You have to be soldiers of Sahaja Yoga. - Nirmala Srivastava [cite speech
title = Hamsa Puja
author = Srivastava, Nirmala
first = Nirmala
last = Srivastava
authorlink =
date = 1991-04-28
location = New York City, USA

The Austrian Ministry of Justice's 1995 "Report on the Sahaja Yoga school" comments that "Despite the altitude, eight months of sunshine a year and outdoor activities and sports in the open, the European children appeared pale which was unexplainable to the visitor" [cited in Judith Coney (1999), "Sahaja Yoga: Socializing Processes in a South Asian New Religious Movement" p243] . Coney reports that another child arrived home having lost a stone in weight, and so changed in appearance that his mother could not recognise him, although the school had consistently reported that he was 'doing fine' [Judith Coney, "Sahaja Yoga: Socializing Processes in a South Asian New Religious Movement" (1999) p164 "One child arrived home from the school having lost over a stone in weight and was so changed in appearance that his mother failed to recognise him at the airport. The school, however, had consistently reported throughout the year that he was 'doing fine'."] .

Coney reports that, "whilst there is evidence that some children have enjoyed their time at the Sahaja Yoga school in India, a number of children have expressed unhappiness at being returned to the India school." [Judith Coney, "Sahaja Yoga: Socializing Processes in a South Asian New Religious Movement" (1999) p166] The school advises parents not to enroll their children until they are ready.

Regarding discipline, Sukhmani writes that corporal punishment is taboo at the school. Nirmala Srivastava has advised that parents are allowed to occasionally slap 'extremely difficult' children, but forbids teachers from slapping children or punishing "in such a way that the child gets hurt."Her Holiness Mataji Shree Nirmala Devi, "Sahaja Yoga" (1989) p44 "The Sahaja Yogis must respect their children. The teachers must also respect the children. If the children are extremely difficult then the parents can sometimes slap them, but not the teachers. No teacher is allowed to in any way punish the child in such a way that the child gets hurt."] Coney reports that due to instances of children having been beaten, the Headmaster was temporarily dismissed. [Judith Coney, "Sahaja Yoga: Socializing Processes in a South Asian New Religious Movement" (1999) p164] . The Supreme Court of India banned corporal punishment in schools in 2000. [ [ "Spare rod or be punished, teachers told"] , "The Times of India", 10 August 2007]

In Austria, a mother's guardianship was partly substituted, after legal intervention of the grandmother, as she was not willing to take her boy out of the Sahaja Yoga boarding-school in India. [Brigitte Schinkele, "Rechtsprechung in Österreichisches Archiv für Kirchenrecht" 45 [1998] , ibid., pp. 306-317, cited in Eva M Synek, [ "The Limits of Religious Tolerance - a European Perspective"] ] A French Court of Appeal allowed another mother custody of her children on condition that she did not send any of them to the school, again a result of grandparental intervention. [Judith Coney, "Sahaja Yoga: Socializing Processes in a South Asian New Religious Movement" (1999) p162-3] The enrolment form used in the admission procedure now asks for details of any resistance from family members to the child studying at the school. [ [ ENROLMENT FORM] ]


External links

* [ Official ISPS website]
* [ Panoramic view of ISPS]
* [ Testimonials from alumni] (positive, official Sahaja Yoga website)
* [ A school where students learn to give] Article in the Tribune of India, April 21, 2001.
* [ A School for tradition] Article by Sukhmani Singh in The Indian Express, December 24, 2000.
* [ Extracts from Education Enlightened]

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