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Kashi Ashram: Claims of Rape, Child Abuse, and Kidnapping

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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."

Molly claims in that moment — only after her mother had died and couldn't defend herself — did she recall what had happened 30 years before. When she was age 14 in 1981, she says, her mother married her to a 25-year-old church member named Kevin Brannon so he could impregnate her.

Earlier this year in state court in Miami, Molly sued Kashi, Brannon, and Carolyn Hutner, who represents Ma Jaya's estate. "Beginning in 1979, she was 'groomed' by Ma Jaya into believing she must engage in sexual intercourse with an adult member to give another child to Ma Jaya," the lawsuit says. "Such 'grooming' included... drugs and alcohol in an effort to normalize [Molly to the idea] that girls her age were supposed to have sex with adults of the Kashi cult, get pregnant, and give their babies to Ma Jaya."

This preparation, the civil suit charges, also involved Brannon repeatedly raping her with Ma Jaya's encouragement. "I remember zoning out [during sex] and going somewhere else," Molly said in an interview. "It was what was expected of me."

On December 10, 1981, Molly says she squeezed into a white wedding dress at a 5,000-square-foot house on Old Cutler Road in Palmetto Bay. That afternoon, she claims her mother married her to Brannon — then called Datta Das ­— at a small ceremony inside the house. "I remember my mother's hair," Molly said. "Her hair was always long and normally jet-black, but then it was gray. I remember it was in the living room, and there were mirrors behind us, from floor to ceiling. To the right, there was a bar. I remember sitting around the bar afterward and eating cake."

The lawsuit is more specific: "During the 'marriage' ceremony, [Brannon] was instructed by Ma Jaya and did grope, fondle, and sexually stimulate [Molly.]" Two people who say they stayed at the Palmetto Bay house and spoke to New Times on the condition of anonymity, said they witnessed Ma Jaya announce Molly's marriage to Brannon later that night. (In a motion to dismiss filed in March, Brannon denies he married or had sex with Molly, calling the allegations "reckless" and "inherently false." Both he and his attorney, Elizabeth Boan, declined further comment.)

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Terrence McCoy