The service is set for 6 to 8 p.m. at Kashi, 11155 Roseland Road. It will take place at the Kashi Ganga, the pond on the 80-acre grounds. Bhagavati's remains were cremated April 19.
Bhagavati was an eclectic teacher who combined Hindu, Christian and spiritualist approaches. She taught a system she called Kali Natha Yoga, meant to reduce stress. She also emphasized service to AIDS patients and activism on their behalf.
In the 1990s, she often visited South Florida, especially nursing homes in the West Palm Beach area. She also spoke occasionally at Unity on the Bay in Miami-Dade. And she gave a darshan, or teaching, in 2004 at Florida International University for its Program in the Study of Spirituality.
"She was dramatic, charismatic, inspiring, entertaining," says Nathan Katz, director of the FIU program. "She was a significant spiritual teacher of an Americanized Hinduism."
Friends of Bhagavati remembered her colorful combination of spirituality and earthy talk from her Brooklyn hometown. Detractors, including former members of her community, accused her of abusive treatment.
Born Joyce Green in Brooklyn, she said she started her spiritual trek after visions of the late Indian gurus Swami Nityananda and Neem Karoli Baba, as well as Jesus Christ. She founded Kashi in 1976 on the bank of the St. Sebastian River and set up shrines for several religions, including Buddhism, Christianity, native American religion and even a labyrinth.
She outlasted controversies in the 1980s and early 1990s, with members and ex-members making conflicting statements about her alleged domination over followers. However, the flaps seemed to fade over the last decade.
Bhagavati had advocates, too, including singer Woody Guthrie and actress Julia Roberts. The Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions, for which she was a former trustee, carried a fair-size tribute to her on its website.
Swami Anjani, spokesperson at Kashi, says there are no plans to pick a successor for Bhagavati. Teaching sessions are already being handled by the dozen leaders she trained, Anjani says, adding that Bhagavati hadn’t taught in public since January.
"It was never about worshiping Ma," Anjani says. "It's about honoring and being inspired by the teachings.When a teacher has done a really good job, the students are not dependent on her."
Besides the memorial service, the May 26 events will include opportunities for guests to try yoga, meditation and devotional chanting from 2 to 5 p.m. that day. A vegetarian buffet will also be served.
the organization is asking a donation of $108, to benefit Ma's Legacy Fund. For information, visit the memorial service webpage or call 772-589-1403.
James D. Davis