The Hindu Way: Compassion for People Living with HIV and AIDS

The Hindu Way: Compassion for People Living with HIV and AIDS

A Story of Love and Care – The Story of Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati

Since 1981 Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati has been working with people living with AIDS in Kashi Ashram in Central Florida. Ma is a spiritual teacher is Kashi Ashram in Florida. She works with all kinds of people who are having an unfortunate life – the homeless, the sick, the very poor, drug addicts – but she proudly states that “AIDS is my heart – because many people have no one. AIDS is not a death sentence. With proper care and proper belief in oneself, it doesn’t have to kill. With proper medication, supplements and vitamins, a person can live. But they cannot live if they are not loved.”

Because of her extraordinary love for all and her care for those living with HIV and AIDS, she has become a legend both with the gay and straight community in her community.

Ma Jaya feels it is urgent to remove the myths about HIV and AIDS, especially among Hindus who don’t know about the disease, and think it can be easily contracted by giving care to a person with HIV or AIDS.

She grieves that, “Many people are dying in shame, without dignity. Young Hindu girls and boys come to me and say, ‘Ma, my mother can’t touch me, my father can’t touch me, because they think I will give them HIV.’ This must be stopped. Hindu children are leaving home after they are infected because they are afraid they will infect their family. Children are hiding in shame because there is so much wrong information about HIV and AIDS that people think is true. Many people believe that you can catch HIV from a mosquito or by being in the same area with a person who has HIV. It’s so sad”

Ma gets emotional talking about people abandoned by friends and family. “I am doing this since 1981, and there’s not a day that I don’t shed a tear. I know death is nothing. I am not shedding tears for the death of so many, but for the lack of dignity that they suffer while they are dying. I will fight for the right of any human being to be able to die with the greatest amount of dignity.”

Ma’s mission is not only to make those who have HIV and AIDS comfortable and loved, but also to prepare them for death. She guides them, “When a person is dying of AIDS and there is no hope of making them well, I teach them the great, wonderful beauty, the light of God and the light that is inside one and how it is time to acknowledge that great light. If they are Hindu, during the last week as they are dying, the children will gather around and sing songs of Krishna or Govinda Gopala. If they believe in Hanuman ji, then I will bring murtis of Hanuman ji and the children will sing Hanuman Chalisa.”

Ma even provides for those who are not Hindus. She says, “You know, whatever a person is, I will enhance it. I will make sure they learn how to die.”

What concerns her most is the lack of understanding and kindness that many Hindu parents show when one of their children get HIV. It’s total disbelief and a total abandonment of the principles of compassion and tolerance.

She declares, “I will like a Hindu mother and a Hindu father to remember the moment of birth, when they cherish that child and that child is everything. When that child goes to the parents and says, ‘Mother, father, I am HIV positive,’ the loving Hindu parents must say, ‘Come here, my son, my daughter, for we as Hindus love you very much. We would never betray you and never abandon you, and we as human beings will hold you and show you to live until you die.’ By standing behind their children these parents can prevent their children from roaming the streets or getting deeper into despair, free sex, or exchanging needles, thus infecting hundred of other teenagers.” She then adds, “Instead that child goes to the warm breast of Mother Kali or Mother Durga, through his own mother.”

Ma believes it is best for teenagers to be celibate [practicing Brahmacharya], but since it is not always easy to control the sex life, it is advisable to prepare them with education, giving them knowledge to protect themselves, “So what I beg Lord Shiva in my own way to do, is to open the heart of every single person who deal with AIDS and say, ‘This is not going against God.’ We are taught as Hindus that everyone is God’s child. Whether the child is gay or straight doesn’t matter.”

Story Adapted from Hinduism Today Magazine

 

You too can be a source of love and help to those living with HIV or AIDS. Giving your care and showing your love will not cause you to get HIV. People living with HIV or AIDS are in a weak position and can get depressed easily. They need love and support if they are to continue living and living a good and productive life.

How can you help someone who is living with HIV or AIDS?

  • Be a friend – you cannot get the virus by being around a person with HIV – talk to them a lot and listen to their story. Read for them or find good books, poems, or movies for them and do similar things that will make them happy.

  • Take them to temple if they so desire. Spiritual activities such as worship, meditation, and yoga assist a lot in coping with stressful situations and help improve health.

  • Remind them to take medication on time and to exercise. Go with them for walks and be an exercise buddy. This will encourage them to stay healthy.

  • Encourage them to attend clinic, counselling, and support groups.
  • Help them to find things to do that will make them happy and keep them from getting depressed thoughts

  • Be aware of your own feelings – if you are angry or scared you will not be able to provide loving support and may cause more harm.
  • Be genuinely interested in helping.
    If you are not a relative, then offer emotional support to the family – help them to find resources to provide a good life for the person living with HIV and to assist them to cope.

  • You can also find other ways of helping them to stay healthy and feel happy.

Swami Vivekananda said, “The poor, the illiterate, the ignorant, the afflicted – let these be your Gods; know that service to them alone is the highest religion”