Maha Mandaleshwar, literally 'one who has crossed the ocean of bliss' or 'senior Abbott, ' is a title usually reserved for men. Ma Yoga Shakti, who was the first female recipient of this honor in l974, said it had created quite a stir in India at the time.
Swami Shambhavaanand from Boulder, CO, was also bestowed the male version of the title, Rishi Maha Mandaleshwar at the event.
According to Ma Yoga Shakti, who was named Hindu of theYear 2000 by Hinduism Today, this marks the first time that an American has been given this great honor in the Hindu tradition. The title of Maha Mandaleshwar originated from the Niranjee Akhaara of India, a large organization of teachers, masters, swamis and holy people who are known for organizing the Kumbha Melas, the largest religious public events in the world.
'Words fall short to describe her mission of selfless service to the most needy people. Ma Jaya has a world reputation for her compassionate relief work with AIDS patients. It is very befitting that she is awarded the title of Maha Mandaleshwar, an Indian spiritual way to honor real spiritual motherhood,' Ma Yoga Shakti said in a release. 'My job is to be the gate-opener and to let others in; someone has to initiate.'
'I am truly honored to receive this title. It will only deepen my service to humanity and to all spiritual seekers everywhere,' Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati said according to a statement.
Ma Jaya is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Parliament of the World's Religions and was named Woman of Peace in l994 by Sikh Dharma International. Her Kashi Ashram, headquartered in Florida, has three other fully operating centers in Los Angeles, New York and Atlanta. Through its network of volunteers, the Kashi Foundation serves approximately 300,000 worldwide annually.
Ma Jaya grew up in poverty in a Jewish family in Brooklyn. In 1972 she was awakened to spirituality by an experience of Christ who told her to 'teach all ways, for all ways are mine.' Her personal journey led her to her teacher, Swami Nityananda of Ganeshpuri, whose influence created a foundation for her teachings.
Swami Shambhavaanand was a student of the late Swami Rudrananda and Baba Muktananda, who personally initiated him as a Swami. According to Swami Shambhavannand, the tradition of this honor has been existence for l,200 years.
'It is quite an extraordinary thing that Ma Yoga Shakti is trying to do and I feel extremely honored to be among the first Americans to receive this title.'