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Natural Awakenings Space & Treasure Coast Florida

Ma Jaya Spiritual Leader Dies

May 16, 2012 01:56PM

ROSELAND, FL, APRIL 23, 2012 -- Internationally-known spiritual teacher and humanitarian Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati lost her battle with pancreatic cancer on April 13th at her home at Kashi Ashram in Sebastian, Florida. She was surrounded by family and several hundred of her students who came to visit Ma shortly before she passed away. Ma spent her life inspiring people to serve others. Her capacity for unconditional love enabled her to share her message of kindness to thousands around the globe, who honor Ma by serving in her name. She founded Kashi, an interfaith, spiritual community 35 years ago, and it has since grown into an international spiritual and service outreach organization. A memorial will be held in Ma's honor, on her birthday, May 26th, at Kashi Ashram. The public is welcome to attend.

Beloved spiritual teacher, leader, and guru to many, Ma Jaya grew up in an impoverished Orthodox Jewish family in Brooklyn where her first teachers were homeless folks who lived under the boardwalk at Coney Island. She remembered her first teaching from Big Henry who told Ma, "Girl-child, there are no throw-away people."  While she was raising a family with her Roman Catholic husband, she began yoga at Jack LaLanne Fitness Centers and soon after had a vision of the Christ, who taught Ma to "teach all ways for all ways are Mine." Thus, her interfaith teaching was born.

A Gandhi Foundation award winner, Ma is widely known for her humor, compassion for the sick, suffering and dying, and fight for human rights, especially for those with AIDS and the GLBT community.

"There are a few people in one's life that create only the warmest and most powerfully positive impact imaginable. Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati was one of those people to me and my family," said actress Julia Roberts. "She was a beautiful person who shined with love and understanding in all ways. Her transition was deeply sad news and yet, as with all she did, it has brought me even closer to her words and her teachings."

When asked what her own legacy would be, Ma simply said, "non-judgement."

Founded by Ma in 1976, Kashi Ashram blends Eastern and Western philosophies.

The ashram sits on 80 acres at the banks of the St. Sebastian River and has dozens of temples and shrines to many diverse religions and spiritual paths.

People from all walks of life are welcome and embraced at Kashi and encouraged to worship and coexist in harmony. Kashi spiritual and service centers have also opened in New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago, and Santa Fe.

Ma Jaya leaves a legacy filled with selfless service. Her most notable honors include:  Interfaith Visionary Award, 2010 from the Temple of Understanding in New York on their 50th anniversary; Humanitarian Service Award in 2007 from the Gandhi Foundation USA, Martin Luther King Center and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; Recipient of the title of Mata Maha Mandaleshwar from the Ma Yoga Shakti Mission in 2006, the first American woman to be bestowed this honor; Interparliamentary Paradigm of Peace Award, by 26 parliaments and governments around the world; Inducted into the Martin Luther King Jr. Board of Preachers, Morehouse College, Atlanta, in 2002, where her oil portrait was later revealed alongside those of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela in their International Hall of Honor; United Foundation for AIDS Award; Universal Way Award; and Woman of Peace from Sikh Dharma of North America.

Ma founded numerous institutions, among them Kashi Church Foundation, The River School, The River Fund, Kashi School of Yoga, the Village of Kashi, and By the River affordable senior living community. Her present and past affiliations include Trustee Emeritus of the Council for the Parliament of the World's Religions, Advisory Board Member of Equal Partners in Faith, Advisory Board Member of the Institute on Religion and Public Policy, Delegate to the United Religions Initiative, Member of the Board of Directors of the AIDS care organization Project Response, and member of the Parliament's General Assembly. Ma also founded orphan centers in Uganda and India.

As a gay rights activist, Ma Jaya blessed the unions of hundreds of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender couples. As Ma often said, "the soul knows no gender." When the AIDS pandemic began, Ma led and spoke at rallies and marches around the country. As National Book Award winner Paul Monette wrote, "Ma is our warrior angel."

As Southeast regional coordinator for the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, Kashi  brought parts of the Quilt to Africa for the first time and presented it at the Parliament of the World's Religions in Cape Town in 1999. Ma was the only spiritual leader at the Parliament to bring an AIDS agenda to the table, within a continent where so many were being ravaged by the disease.

Through this work, Ma gained an international reputation for her teachings on death and dying and for her hands-on approach to service. Inspired by Ma's example, her students all over the world have integrated service into their spiritual path through such programs as The River Fund's Feed Everyone program,  Under the Bridges and on the Streets in Los Angeles, Kashi Atlanta's Street Meals, and the New York River Fund's Feed Everyone that feed and take care of hundreds of people each week.

In addition to her regular teaching schedule, Ma lectured at spiritual centers and addressed gatherings at Harvard Divinity School, the Christian Buddhist Conference in Chicago, the Sikh Dharma Peace Prayer Day in New Mexico, the National Cathedral in Washington, the Centers for Disease Control, the Martin Luther King, Jr. International Chapel at Morehouse College and the United Nations Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious & Spiritual Leaders.

Ma Jaya was a prolific artist whose paintings have been exhibited in more than thirty galleries and one-woman shows around the world, including art venues in New York City, Milan, Barcelona, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, and Santa Fe.  Her paintings were an expression of her teaching; many designed to guide students on their own spiritual paths.

Ma was the author of the recently published The Eleven Karmic Spaces:

Choosing Freedom from the Patterns that Bind You. In it, Ma teaches how through awareness, intuition and grace, it is possible to choose freedom from karma.

Ma was the founder of Kali Natha Yoga, a unique practice originating from yoga's ancient roots. The Kashi School of Yoga's Teacher Training program has been certified by Yoga Alliance, the national governing body of yoga. It is the only yoga school on Florida's Treasure Coast with this designation.

Ma's vision, teachings and service work will continue through the efforts of her students and affiliated charities. In lieu of flowers, donations to Kashi are welcomed and appreciated. Kashi is a non-profit, tax exempt

501(c)3 charitable organization. Please visit  to learn more about Ma Jaya, Kashi and its programs.

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