History of Kashi Ashram
A Brief History of Kashi Ashram
Inherently, the history of Kashi Ashram begins with Ma Jaya’s spiritual awakening in 1973, and her starting to teach yoga and meditation to small groups in Brooklyn, New York. Before too long these students started living together in communal houses, and Ma Jaya was teaching in several locations in both Brooklyn and Manhattan. By 1976, there were many more seekers who had come to hear Ma Jaya’s teachings, and what was to become Kashi Ashram was purchased in Sebastian, Florida.
It was in 1977 that Ma Jaya and a small group of students traveled to India, and on their return the main ashram got its name, Kashi Ashram, after the ancient city now called Benares where, for thousands of years, people have come to seek liberation at the time of death. Ma Jaya began to travel from Kashi Ashram in Florida to her ashrams in Boulder, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and back to New York to teach a few times a year. When Ma Jaya was diagnosed with a pituitary tumor in 1979, residents from the ashrams around the country moved to live with Ma Jaya at Kashi Ashram.
With the growing number of kids in the Kashi Ashram community, it only made sense for Ma Jaya to found the River School in 1979, a private school serving students in pre-k through grade 12. Students received a college preparatory education with an emphasis on service. One particular highlight for the high school students and staff came in 1999 when they traveled to the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Cape Town, South Africa, bringing parts of the NAMES Project Quilt to be displayed on that continent for the first time. With the increasing presence of Charter Schools in the county, the River School was dissolved in 2005 after 25 years of educating hundreds of kids.
In 1990, with Kashi Ashram’s ever deepening involvement in the HIV/AIDS community, Kashi Ashram’s service arm, Ma Jaya established the River Fund, to coordinate and fund our humanitarian activities. During the peak of the AIDS epidemic in the US, the River Fund organized Ma Jaya’s quarterly trips to visit AIDS wards in hospitals and hospices in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York. The River Fund also operated The River House respite, which took care of over 100 people with AIDS for the last weeks and months of their lives, and was very active in the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt. Currently the local arm of the River Fund, the Feed Everyone Program, visits nursing homes and feeds hundreds of needy people.
While residents of Kashi Ashram have done yoga with Ma Jaya over the years since ‘the early days’ in her Brooklyn back yard, it was in 2005 that Ma Jaya started introducing specific yoga asana flow series, which she has called Kali Natha Yoga. At this time the Kashi School of Yoga was started, growing to its current full schedule of classes including several forms of yoga, meditation and breath work as well as 200 and 500 hour Kali Natha Yoga teacher trainings.
In 2003, Kashi Ashram’s development plan was approved by the County Commission. Now residential homes have begun to spring up in the Village of Kashi, and there are still lots for sale. By the River, an affordable senior housing facility and a demonstration project of the Florida Department of Elder Affairs, opened in 2009.