In Eastern traditions, spiritual teachings are handed down from teacher to student, or guru to chela.
At Kashi Atlanta, our guru is Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati, whose guru is the Indian saint, Neem Karoli Baba. This is our lineage. Baba’s two words, “Feed Everyone” form the foundation of Kashi’s teachings. In addition to Baba, Ma had many other teachers who greatly impacted her spiritual life.
Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati
Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati grew up in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, just a short walk from the famous Coney Island boardwalk. The homeless people who lived under the boardwalk taught her that, “there are no throw away people,” and inspired her to begin a life of service. When she was in her thirties, a weight loss class led her to learn a simple yogic breath that would ultimately bring about her spiritual enlightenment.
From there, her personal spiritual journey moved quickly and, at times, chaotically. As a modern urban woman, she tried to live a normal life and raise a family; at the same time, as a person of rare spiritual gifts, she daily opened herself to a series of mystical visions and experiences. She had an experience first of Jesus Christ, then of Bhagawan Nityananda of Ganeshpuri, and finally her guru, Neem Karoli Baba. Over time, her teaching expanded to express many spiritual lineages.
In 1976, Ma Jaya moved to Florida and established Kashi Ashram. In the 1990s, she became known especially for her passionate advocacy for people living with HIV/AIDS, and for her support of the LGBT community. Among her other accomplishments are developing Kali Natha Yoga, a modern yoga system drawn from ancient roots; guiding the River Fund, a service organization with projects in India, Uganda and the US; founding By the River, a model community for low-income seniors; and creating a large body of sacred art and writing.
Ma Jaya is considered by many to be a spiritual master who attained inner realization. She embraced an interfaith approach, believing that all paths of love lead to the truth. Emphasizing individual spiritual growth, she did not ask her students to follow any particular set of doctrines or beliefs. Rather, she encouraged her students to use what she taught within their own faiths or traditions. She asked them only to practice kindness.
Ma Jaya left her body on April 13, 2012 when she lost her battle with pancreatic cancer. She was surrounded by family and several hundred of her students who came to visit her shortly before she passed away.
Ma Jaya’s Guru and Teachers
As Ma’s personal journey unfolded in the early 1970s, several saints and teachers came to teach her starting with an experience of Christ who told her to, “Teach all ways, for all ways are mine.” This established Kashi as an interfaith path of life.
Her personal journey then led her to her teacher, the great Indian saint, Swami Nityananda of Ganeshpuri, whose influence created a foundation for her teaching.
A few years later Ma Jaya’s guru, Neem Karoli Baba, appeared to her. This began another chapter in Ma Jaya’s life. Through her work, Neem Karoli Baba’s blessings continuously graced her students’ lives. His presence is felt in every aspect of life at Kashi.