April 19, 2012

A Tribute to Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati.

Photo: Swami Dhumavati

Ma Jaya used to say, “I asked to teach the hard ones,” and we came to her.

She embraced us all. Now she is gone, only three months after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. We gather in little groups and tell each other stories that make us laugh and stories that make us cry.

Some stories come from people who met Ma almost 40 years ago and never left, like me. Others come from those who rushed home to Ma’s beloved Kashi ashram, knowing there was no other place they could be as our beautiful Ma lay dying.

I can look around the room and see people of every race, every gender, every religion, every age. Ma never cared about any of that because she could see our souls, and to her they were all perfect. And yet, everything we brought to her became part of her play—she could discuss hairstyles with her gay guys, or explain the Ramayana to a scholar, all with the same enthusiasm. In the space of an hour with Ma, we could watch for ourselves the dance of form and formless, or see directly into the mysterious union of human and divine because it was all happening right in front of us.

She would say, “I had a choice, to teach the scriptures or to live the scriptures. I chose to live the scriptures.”

Then she’d make that into a joke, something about not wanting to do all that reading. And yet that’s exactly that she was doing, and we got to watch.

Listening to all the stories, I realize that each person she ever touched—and there have been many thousands over the years—holds a little piece of her. Like many of us, I never wanted to join an ashram, I just wanted to be with my Ma. Now I finally get it—the better we treat each other, the tighter we weave our stories together, the more closely we will hold her. (She told us that, of course, but we didn’t always listen.)

Then what? Ma often repeated something she was told by her guru, Neem Karoli Baba: “God is in the sharing. Share me.”

She’s been gone four days now, and I’m still feeling waves of grief that make me gasp for the next breath. There are too many words that come when I try to share what it is to have Ma Jaya as a guru, and no words at all to say what it is to lose her.

So I’ll just start here, with a weak beginning to a very long story.


Editor: Brianna Bemel


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