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LGBT History Month: When the saints go marchin’ in – people who have made the leap of faith 4 Hindus

January 21, 2016

LOFGareth Marshall, who designed the logo for LGBT History Month 2016, said he was inspired by “the phrase “leap of faith”. I chose this phrase because I believe it is a very powerful and personal message. It is about believing and having faith both in one’s religion, and in oneself. It represents a risk we take for a better outcome and future, a push forward in acceptance and tolerance within and towards to LGBT community, and the strength it can take to come out…”

The accompanying booklet talks of: we need to recognise that most people who belong to a faith group have religion to bring peace and understanding to their lives. We also need to acknowledge that there are some who use – or abuse – religion to justify their own prejudices and bigotry. …….each of the Abrahamic religions has something in its scriptures that can be interpreted to suggest that homosexual relations are sinful. We recognise that religious doctrine has brought harm to many in the LGBT community and that at its worst this has led to despair, suicide, murder and statutory murder; both in the past and the present. …..we also recognise that many in the LGBT community will hold prejudices towards people of faith. …..Religious orthodoxies continue to exclude us …….LGBT people of faith have made great strides to makes their own places of worship inclusive ……brave campaigners who stick their heads above the parapet to challenge …”

Ma JayaMa Jaya Sati Bhagavati was always a fearlessly outspoken and unapologetic gay activist. Even before the beginning of the AIDS plague, she actively supported the gay community, never hesitating to embrace those who society sees as different and promoting openness and honesty about being gay.

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 “There are no throwaway 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 to a series of mystical visions and experiences. She had an experience first of Jesus Christ, then of Shri Bhagawan Nityananda of Ganeshpuri, and finally her guru, Shri Neem Karoli Baba. Since then, her teaching has expanded to express many spiritual lineages. She has followed Christ’s instruction to “teach all ways,” going beyond religious differences to give a contemporary voice to the great truths that underlie all spiritual paths.

Who Is Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati Video With photos from her early childhood days in Brooklyn, then her early teaching years in New York, this video brings us the essence, breadth and depth of Ma Jaya’s life.

In 1976, Ma Jaya moved to Florida and founded Kashi Ashram. In the 1990’s, 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 has attained inner realization. She teaches that divinity is ultimately beyond words and without form, and yet manifests in countless ways to lead us to liberation. She embraces an interfaith approach, believing that all paths of love lead to the truth. She offers the example of a spiritual path alive with love, faith, creativity, service, and the rituals of many traditions. Emphasizing individual spiritual growth, she teaches seekers at all levels and does not ask her students to follow any particular set of doctrines or beliefs. Or, as Ma Jaya puts it when she describes her own teachings, “This is not a religion!” Rather, she encourages her students to use what she teaches within their own faiths or traditions. She asks them only to practice kindness.

Ma Jaya died 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.

Swami DSwami Dhumavati was born in England as Lucy Horne. Her family attended a Brethren Church and during school years she attended Anglican services. As a young adult, she traveled and worked around the world. She studied and taught in Japan, ran a guesthouse for women and started a preschool in Nepal, photographed for an international youth project in Chile, and developed housing for single mothers and operated an Asian import business in Taos, New Mexico.

In 1992, she went to the Kashi Ashram in Sebastian, Florida, to study with Ma Jaya. Kashi Ashram is an interfaith spiritual community, rooted in Hindu philosophy, that embraces sacred practices of many traditions and teaches practices of kindness, compassion and service. Swami Dhumavati is a kirtan wali and a pujari for Durga Puja fire ceremonies and took vows of sanyassin from Ma Jaya in 2005. She teaches yoga classes and facilitates workshops and intensive retreats. She also operates the Ashram’s spiritual gift store and coordinates communications for the Ashram.

Swami Dhumavati has been deeply involved in service work in the HIV/AIDS community for a number of years and oversees Kashi Rainbow, the Ashram’s gay and lesbian organization. She is a member of the National Religious Leaders Roundtable, a project of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force. She is an advocate for tolerance and justice for all persons.

Queer Dharma is an open community of meditation practitioners led by and for LGBTQIA [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual] people. Join us at the Shambhala Meditation Center of New York for meditation practice followed by discussion, light refreshments, and fun!

Gay & Lesbian Vaishnava Association, a nonprofit religious organization offering positive information and support to LGBTI Vaishnavas and Hindus, their friends, and other interested persons.

GALVA-108 is an international organization dedicated to the teachings of Lord Caitanya, the importance of all-inclusiveness within His mission, and the Vedic concept of a natural third gender. Its purpose is to help educate Vaishnavas, Hindus and the public in general about the “third sex” as described in Vedic literatures. This knowledge will help correct many of the misconceptions people hold today concerning LGBTI people–lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders and the intersexed. In addition, GALVA-108 hopes to provide a friendly and positive-oriented place where third-gender devotees and guests can associate together, discuss issues, address problems, encourage one another to learn more about Krsna consciousness and advance in spiritual life.

GALVA-108 is mostly a cyber-organization with few if any offices or centers. It is nonsectarian and encourages members to attend their local temples, devotional programs and gatherings for spiritual inspiration and service. Most of our members are from ISKCON or other Gaudiya Vaishnava groups but all stripes of Vaishnavas and Hindus are welcome. We have been online since 2001 with members all over the world but especially in North America, India, Europe, English-speaking countries and Latin America. Please feel free to browse our website and learn more about the traditional Hindu/Vedic approach to people of the third sex.

The purposes for which the GALVA-108 corporation is organized are:

  1. To inform and educate all people about the Vedic concept of a natural third sex or gender known as tritiya-prakriti.
  2. To inspire and encourage people of this third gender (i.e. gay males, lesbians, bisexuals, transgenders, the intersexed, etc.) to study, follow and embrace the Gaudiya Vaishnava teachings of Lord Caitanya as enunciated by the six Goswamis.
  3. To promote the spirit and practice of all-inclusiveness within each and every Gaudiya Vaishnava mission, so that all people are genuinely welcome to visit, participate in, and join Lord Caitanya’s movement regardless of sex, gender, race, class, position, etc.
  4. To open up dialog and improve relations between third-gender Vaishnavas and their heterosexual peers, and to identify and correct any instances of discrimination or unfair treatment towards the former within any Gaudiya Vaishnava mission.
  5. To encourage and provide communication, contact, support, association, friendship, fellowship, etc. among third-gender Vaishnavas.
  6. To spread and to share Lord Caitanya’s sankirtana movement with everyone, and especially in regard to other third-gender communities, through the public chanting of “Hare Krishna,” distributing literature, books and prasada (sanctified foodstuffs), establishing centers, temples, etc.
  7. To offer practical guidance and help concerning celibacy, householder life and it’s third-gender equivalent, physical and mental health, and other issues relevant to the gay, lesbian and third-gender devotee community.

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