Jenna Mahraj, best known as "Sister Jenna," came to the United States from Jamaica at age 4. She now runs the Meditation Museum in downtown Silver Spring, where visitors can practice raja yoga, a form of meditation promoted by the neo-Hindu religious movement Brahma Kumaris.
Do you consider yourself to be of a specific faith?
I'm not quite sure if it's a specific faith, but we are on a specific path. The name of the path is Brahma Kumaris, and it's from the East, and it's fairly new, shy of a hundred years, with now thousands of branches in 120 countries. It's also rooted in there is one source and one God, and when we can begin to remember that supreme source, then we begin to move in a way that defines divinity.
Does the Washington area need more meditation?
That's a big Y-E-S. This incredible nation and specifically D.C. has attracted very compassionate, caring people. They tend to come here marrying their jobs. So I recommend D.C. residents to incorporate meditation because we're so influential where the world is concerned; to incorporate a practice like meditation is to enlarge the quality of our work and the influence it will have. If we can't be comfortable with being inside our own thoughts, how are we ever going to be able to connect to God, who is always pure and loving?
How did you become a follower of Brahma Kumaris?
My father is a Hindu who loved Krishna, and my mother is a Roman Catholic who loved Christ. I used to watch my dad coming home from the temple all happy, singing, "Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna," and my mom would come home from church saying, "Mea culpa, mea culpa." I thought, "How interesting this God is to make his worshippers so different!"
My mother eventually remarried a wonderful man from America, and they went to a program in Miami, Fla., where they met Dadi Janki, 4 feet 11 inches of a woman who's now 96 years old and head of the Brahma Kumaris. They went to that talk and meditation and came back different people. That became my trigger to explore that maybe the spiritual way is the way. Ten years later, I started to practice meditation with the Brahma Kumaris. I went to India for a month, and that changed me.
At your core, what is one of your defining beliefs?
At my core I know the 7 billion human beings on this Earth are all souls. We left God, from a place some call heaven, and we started to play out our parts, but we're all going to go back there. The thing is we don't know where it is, because there's so much drama since we got down here. We know there's a source; we know there's a place within ourselves that we can connect with to remove those issues. God, the supreme mother and father, is the supreme source of our soul's strength. If we keep thinking of that supreme source, then our issues will reduce. And we'll begin to feel liberated and happy once again. We will feel that we know where we're going back to.