"Jimmy," Ma Jaya told him when they spoke, Molly remembers, "you're my eyes. You're my life and soul."

But the whispers inside his head only grew louder.

"I can't imagine being a family member of Ma," says 20-year-old Ganga Devi Braun, who was born into the church and raised by Ma Jaya, whom she loved fiercely. "It would be such a terrible thing. You want your mom to be there. Ma had so much love and energy, but it wasn't focused on her children... It was hard for her family to understand the love she was giving to other people."

Ma Jaya celebrates her birthday in the late '80s. Her clothing reflected her interfaith teaching.
Courtesy of the DiFiore Family
Ma Jaya celebrates her birthday in the late '80s. Her clothing reflected her interfaith teaching.
Ma Jaya and her daughter walk in procession toward a night prayer at Kashi Ashram.
Courtesy of the DiFiore Family
Ma Jaya and her daughter walk in procession toward a night prayer at Kashi Ashram.

The week before Jimmy slit his wrists, he was checked into a hospital in Staten Island, wracked with drug addiction and melancholy. Every night that week, he called Molly, who says she phoned their mother. "Jimmy needs help," Molly told her.

"You selfish bitch," she recalls Ma Jaya saying. "I have people dying of AIDS and a student dying of cancer on Kashi and have much more important things to worry about."

That weekend, Jimmy left the hospital and called Molly. "He only talked about our mom and how could she ignore us," his sister said.

After the suicide, Ma Jaya was shattered by grief. The morning of June 9, the guru wrote an email to her followers. "So many of you know how close Jimmy was to us, especially His Mommy. He proudly sat by His Mom watching Her take care of so many. All he had to say over and over is, 'I AM PROUD OF YOU MOMMY.' His last words to his Mom were THAT 'I LOVE YOU MORE THAN ANYONE MY MOMMY. I just want to sleep, Mom. I just want to sleep.'"

Jimmy's 13-year-old daughter, Alexa, discovered the note and was sickened with anger. The evening of June 12, she responded with an email. Her father, she wrote to the congregation, never said those last words. "I just want to show people what a terrible 'thing' Joyce is," Alexa typed. "What a bitch. This may be hard to hear or believe, but as long as you have lived on the ranch, you have been LIED to. My grandmother didn't care about my dad when he was alive, and she definitely doesn't now... My dad had a lot of mental problems, and Joyce just added to them. She helped to kill him."

Then the girl signed the note: "I have heard of many people Joyce brainwashed. One day, she will get caught, and I can't wait."


Weeks ago, the night of Ma Jaya's commemoration, the chanting spread like hayseed in wind. A mass of white-clad Kashi followers encircled a fire and a portrait of Ma Jaya beside an open-air Hindu temple. Chimes and drums pulsed. The blaze burned higher and higher. The droning built to crescendo. Individual consciousness evaporated.

From across the nation, more than 100 followers came to this recent anniversary of Ma Jaya's death. A billboard bearing the guru's countenance clung to the side of the ranch's main house. Her black eyes, crinkled with mischief, looked upon her monks below. They lay before her and, one by one, kissed the ground.

Then there came a Brooklyn twang. "And this dance between night and day goes on," Ma Jaya's recorded voice echoed across the pond and grass. "And this night I dedicate to all of humanity. Let the calmness come over you. The sweetness. Let joy of life embrace you. For this is Kashi."

Attendants wept with the memory: On a Friday night in April 2012, Ma Jaya died in her bed at age 71 of pancreatic cancer. She'd wanted to "leave her body" on the ranch and had forbidden any attempt at resuscitation.

After she died, scores of people streamed down the streets of tiny Sebastian. Folksinger Arlo Guthrie, who followed Ma Jaya's teachings for decades, mourned her without reservation. "I've met a lot of people that were very important," he told reporters. "But I can honestly say no one I ever met in my entire life was as funny and as sincere and as courageous and as unapologetic as she was."

Actress Julia Roberts was next. She had discovered Ma Jaya while preparing for her role in the 2010 movie Eat, Pray, Love. "There are few people in one's life that create only the warmest and most powerfully positive impact imaginable," she emailed the memorial service. "She was one of those people to me and my family."

Meanwhile, hundreds of miles north, in a bedroom nestled inside a brick house in Bradford, Pennsylvania, Molly's iPhone chirped with a fresh message. "Yes, Molly, it's true," the message said. "At 9:49 p.m. last night."

Molly, then 44, with hair dyed blond, put down the phone and felt relief flecked with sadness. "I pushed the emotion way down inside," Molly says now. "And then my husband came home, and I lost it. I cried. A weight was lifted off of me... It was the happiest day of my life."

Later, she wept in bed beside her husband, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh-Bradford. "I had memories of a man groping me," she recalled. "I said to my husband, 'I think something happened to me as a kid.' It was a picture show."

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9 comments
gr8life05
gr8life05

Terrence McCoy hit the nail on the head.  I lived in Vero Beach next to Sebastian for 25 years.  I have friends who left the ashram and friends who still reside there.  This is a tragic tale of a woman who ultimately let spiritual pride overcome the goodness she achieved.  I will never forget the abuse she doled out to a shaven head follower in my presence at my one and only visit to her Sunday "open" service.  After a lengthy waiting period, Ma was escorted into the service hall by her robed and shaven followers.  She was seated, then exclaimed, "Oh, I see there are visitors, I must be on my best behavior!"  Hardly.  After her less than inspiring monologue (nothing new or profound was shared), she asked for a two year old to be seated on her lap, and the child proceeded to perform as toddlers do, disregarding hierarchy, seeking entertainment, completely dissatisfied with the selection of toys presented by Ma.  Ma took her wrath out on the closest follower to her by hurling the toys directly at the shaven follower and stating her displeasure at the followers lack of ability to produce adequate goods for the child!  The female.shaven follower cringed and cowered in response, it was horrific.  Ma then, unapologetic, continued with her monologue, in which she referenced the death of her son, and in that moment I felt compassion for her, as a mother to a mother.  I learned soon after that her son's death was by suicide.  Then, following her death, to have her daughter come forth with rape accusations, more horror, more tragedy... There are many lovely people who have left the Kashi Ranch (for good reason), and also some who have stayed.  Hopefully the legacy of Ma/Joyce's good works will live on, and the trauma she created and perpetuated will be forgiven and laid to final rest.  God bless her surviving children.   

nepafollies
nepafollies

I was assigned by a newspaper I worked for in Vero Beach Florida to write a piece on Ma Jaya and Kashi in 2004. Ma was an inviting, loving, funny, bright, petite woman who welcomed me and my photographer with open arms. (My photographer, Cliff Partlow, was a no-nonsense man who was a walking history book of the area, and he had no problems with or reservations about Ma) I was instantly comfortable with her. I am also a native New Yorker (Long Island) and I noticed no overly thick Brooklyn accent, although she did sound like a fellow New Yorker. (It sounds to me as though the writer has some sort of prejudice against those with thick accents) Ma was involved directly with caring for cancer patients, AIDS patients, and loved and nurtured those from all walks of life. The Ashram was not hidden. It was a lovely, serene place where likenesses of deities from many religions (including the Virgin Mary and Jesus) were present around a body of water that was originated with water from the Ganges River in India. The ashes of those who Ma cared for, many AIDS patients, rested in Ma's Ganges, where she now rests. Many of the town officials in Sebastian were friendly with Ma, as she was a community-minded woman. Before her death, she was intent upon building senior housing on the Kashi property, to serve independent seniors to those who needed constant care. She had the city of Sebastian's support. I met Anjani Cirillo, who was kind but business-like, and also a familiar figure in Sebastian among the community and the city council. I met young couples who were very much in love, and one couple who was pregnant. The pregnant young woman's mother (not a kashi follower) was welcome at the Ashram and was present at the birth. The parents named the baby boy Emanuel, and Ma did give the baby a Hindu name, as all of her followers were given Hindu names, not unlike Catholic popes, nuns and brothers who take saint names. I attended Ma's birthday and had a blast. No alcohol or drugs, but lots of fun and friendship and celebration into the night. The Kashi followers were normal people who believed in their religion and philosophy. They were not empty-headed cult followers. They planned projects to enhance the community and participated in the community's (Sebastian city) every day life. They once had a school on the Ashram that was well-known and approved of in the area.  Council people and non-Kashi friends of Ma's were at her birthday celebration and welcome at the Ashram. I attended Darshan and yes, the young people and some of the older ones swayed to the music and the words. I suppose the writer has never been to a Baptist Church during a service or to a charismatic Catholic or Christian service; all involve swaying and verbalizing (humming, singing, chanting) along with the words and the music.I attended yoga classes and was never a member. My children had recently lost their father, and I had a 7-year-old son and teenage daughters, and no one at Kashi ever suggested that my children become members, although the primary friend I made at Kashi did, as any friend would, ask how my children and I were doing when we would meet socially for lunch outside of Kashi. Kashi members were in touch with their non-Kashi family members, and were able to get on a plane and visit relatives or friends or take trips. Ma accepted, loved and nurtured gay people, sick people, and all people. I felt wonderful when I was at Kashi, and after leaving Florida, I always wished to g back and see Ma and my friends there, Anjani and Sita Ganga, once more. Unfortunately, that never occurred. I believe that when a person rises from poverty to become a leader and a caregiver, many people become jealous. Any Mother who leaves her children is ridiculed, but our society accepts fathers leaving their families. No one is perfect, and Ma did have a dry sense of humor that could easily be misunderstood by a person without a similarly dry sense of humor (regarding saying she was God, etc.) Her words can be taken out of context and twisted to accommodate an attack, as can anyone's words.  I have a very good sense of people. I always have, and I do not believe that Ma was cruel or vindictive. I  contacted Kashi (as a news reporter) when her son chose to end his life, and they were open and honest regarding that tragedy. I can only say, in closing, that the world would be a better place if there were more people like Ma, Anjani, Sita and those at Kashi Ashram. Folksinger Arlo Guthrie, who followed Ma Jaya's teachings for decades, mourned her without reservation. A quote about Ma from Arlo Guthrie: "I've met a lot of people that were very important," he told reporters. "But I can honestly say no one I ever met in my entire life was as funny and as sincere and as courageous and as unapologetic as she was."

God and the Mother Bless Ma and us all. Namaste.

nepafollies
nepafollies

I was assigned by a newspaper I worked for in Vero Beach Florida to write a piece on Ma Jaya and Kashi in 2004. Ma was an inviting, loving, funny, bright, petite woman who welcomed me and my photographer with open arms. (My photographer, Cliff Partlow, was a no-nonsense man who was a walking history book of the area, and he had no problems with or reservations about Ma) I was instantly comfortable with her. I am also a native New Yorker (Long Island) and I noticed no overly thick Brooklyn accent, although she did sound like a fellow New Yorker. (It sounds to me as though the writer has some sort of prejudice against those with thick accents) Ma was involved directly with caring for cancer patients, AIDS patients, and loved and nurtured those from all walks of life. The Ashram was not hidden. It was a lovely, serene place where likenesses of deities from many religions (including the Virgin Mary and Jesus) were present around a body of water that was originated with water from the Ganges River in India. The ashes of those who Ma cared for, many AIDS patients, rested in Ma's Ganges, where she now rests. Many of the town officials in Sebastian were friendly with Ma, as she was a community-minded woman. Before her death, she was intent upon building senior housing on the Kashi property, to serve independent seniors to those who needed constant care. She had the city of Sebastian's support. I met Anjani Cirillo, who was kind but business-like, and also a familiar figure in Sebastian among the community and the city council. I met young couples who were very much in love, and one couple who was pregnant. The pregnant young woman's mother (not a kashi follower) was welcome at the Ashram and was present at the birth. The parents named the baby boy Emanuel, and Ma did give the baby a Hindu name, as all of her followers were given Hindu names, not unlike Catholic popes, nuns and brothers who take saint names. I attended Ma's birthday and had a blast. No alcohol or drugs, but lots of fun and friendship and celebration into the night. The Kashi followers were normal people who believed in their religion and philosophy. They were not empty-headed cult followers. They planned projects to enhance the community and participated in the community's (Sebastian city) every day life. They once had a school on the Ashram that was well-known and approved of in the area.  Council people and non-Kashi friends of Ma's were at her birthday celebration and welcome at the Ashram. I attended Darshan and yes, the young people and some of the older ones swayed to the music and the words. I suppose the writer has never been to a Baptist Church during a service or to a charismatic Catholic or Christian service; all involve swaying and verbalizing (humming, singing, chanting) along with the words and the music.I attended yoga classes and was never a member. My children had recently lost their father, and I had a 7-year-old son and teenage daughters, and no one at Kashi ever suggested that my children become members, although the primary friend I made at Kashi did, as any friend would, ask how me and my children were doing when we would meet socially for lunch outside of Kashi. Kashi members were in touch with their non-Kashi family members, and were able to get on a plane and visit relatives or friends or take trips. Ma accepted, loved and nurtured gay people, sick people, and all people. I felt wonderful when I was at Kashi, and after leaving Florida, I always wished to g back and see Ma and my friends there, Anjani and Sita Ganga, once more. Unfortunately, that never occurred. I believe that when a person rises from poverty to become a leader and a caregiver, many people become jealous. Any Mother who leaves her children is ridiculed, but our society accepts fathers leaving their families. No one is perfect, and Ma did have a dry sense of humor that could easily be misunderstood by a person without a similarly dry sense of humor (regarding saying she was God, etc.) Her words can be taken out of context and twisted to accommodate an attack, as can anyone's words.  I have a very good sense of people. I always have, and I do not believe that Ma was cruel or vindictive. I was contact Kashi (as a news reporter) when her son chose to end his life, and they were open and honest regarding that tragedy. I can only say, in closing, that the world would be a better place if there were more people like Ma, Anjani, Sita and those at Kashi Ashram. Folksinger Arlo Guthrie, who followed Ma Jaya's teachings for decades, mourned her without reservation. A quote about Ma from Arlo Guthrie: "I've met a lot of people that were very important," he told reporters. "But I can honestly say no one I ever met in my entire life was as funny and as sincere and as courageous and as unapologetic as she was."

God and the Mother Bless Ma and us all. Namaste.

beingmenow_99
beingmenow_99

We're very proud to announce that Ma's book, The 11 Karmic Spaces, has been awarded a Gold Medal in the 2013 Independent Publisher Book Awards!


The book was entered in the New Age (Mind, Body, Spirit) category (scroll down to #59). Ma's daughter, Denise, will be receiving the award on her behalf at the award ceremony on May 29 in New York. See press release.

The 11 Karmic Spaces was published in November 2011, just five short months before Ma succumbed to pancreatic cancer. Ma continues to touch people's lives as more than 2,000 copies of the book have been sold to readers of all backgrounds and situations.

The 11 Karmic Spaces is available through all major booksellers on line, as well as in ebook format.

pavo1994
pavo1994

Great story. I'm amazed i never heard of her.

brokerverde
brokerverde

There's a word for this: "sickophant".


brokerverde
brokerverde

there's a word for this..."sickophant"     ;)

CheckpointCharlie73
CheckpointCharlie73

People that join cults get what they deserve. It is Darwin's Law of Evolution. 

 
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