THE RAMALA CENTRE
The following talk was given by Yaani Drucker to an audience of Sai Baba devotees who had gathered for the annual Sai Spring Retreat which was held at the Lord Wandsworth College, Long Sutton, Hants, in the UK over the weekend of April 14th/16th 2000. It has been edited but only for the purpose of reproducing it in this Newsletter.
From the unreal, lead me to the real.
From darkness, lead me to the light.
From death, lead me to
What Is Real and
What Is Unreal?
I would like to share a story with you that is not real, that never happened, and that had no effect on Truth. It did, however, serve me deeply as a wake-up call, as a classroom for discerning that which is real and eternal from that which is unreal and has no power over me. It revealed to me the truth of who I really am.
Fourteen years ago, I had a most intense experience, which at first seemed incredibly brutal and which I now see as a true spiritual turning point. Up to that moment in time I had been Sai Baba’s ardent devotee, living a simple life as a Montessori teacher, residing by myself, spending six months of every year in India with Sai Baba. Life was beautiful. Then, one night, everything changed. It was Mahashivaratri in India, the holiest day of the year. I was staying in a Sai Baba centre in California. We were scheduled to celebrate with an all-night bhajan session the following evening. I was fast asleep in a room adjoining the bhajan hall. The time was 3.00 am. It could not have been a more auspicious time or setting.
Suddenly I was jolted into awakening by a threatening voice ordering, “Scream and I’ll kill you”. I felt a knife at my throat, and saw a massive menacing figure looming over me. Still groggy, I instinctively screamed, and to shut me up he pummelled me in the face with his fist. I was drenched in blood. He gagged me and tied me up and ripped my bedclothes off me. In total terror I cried out to Sai Baba to come and save me. Somehow, in my heart of hearts, I fully expected Sai Baba to physically appear and dispel this horrendous nightmare that had suddenly overtaken me. Sai Baba did not come. And yet he did. Even while I was being brutally raped, within me all fear and horror of the situation had left. Quite inexplicably I became very calm and to my astonishment discovered an incredible compassion welling up in my heart.
As he was leaving, I managed a muffled “God bless you.” He hissed back “God hates me!” and he disappeared into the night. I struggled to untie myself and went to get help. The police were called and the man was caught. He had a long criminal history; he had been in and out of jail. And yet, this time, something had changed for him. From his jail cell he made a considerable effort to get a message to me. And that message was “I feel bad about what I did. I’m real sorry I hurt you. Please pray for me.” So even in that horrible scene God was present and even the rapist was affected. To my surprise, I could muster no anger toward the man. I found myself focusing not on my personal trauma but on the tragedy of the human condition that could lead to such a desperate state.
Although my body was badly beaten and bruised, I remember absolutely no pain. Yet it was not like I wasn’t traumatised or bewildered. I remember walking outside in the night and feeling afraid that somebody might be lurking behind a bush. When anyone entered my room I was startled and jittery, feelings that were completely uncharacteristic for me. In my being I felt tainted and my familiar sense of security, knowing that I was always in the protective hands of the divine, had been badly shaken. My confusion centred entirely on Sai Baba. In my mind, Sai Baba, in whom I had put complete trust and whom I regarded as my saviour, had not helped me, though I had desperately called out to him. Why hadn’t he? I kept praying to Sai Baba, imploring him “Why did you let this happen to me? Please help me to understand.” As I was praying thus, I distinctly heard Sai Baba’s voice gently asking, “What happened to you?” “I was raped, brutalised, robbed, and my very life was threatened” came my response, “and I called out to you, but you did not come!” Again Sai Baba asked, ever so tenderly, “What happened to you?”
Suddenly, I understood. Nothing had happened to me. I remembered one of my favourite passages in the Bhagavad Gita where Krishna taught Arjuna, “You are not this perishable body. You cannot be destroyed by weapons, you cannot be incinerated by fire, you cannot be drowned by water, you cannot be blown away by the raging tempest. You are the indestructible, eternal Atma, the one Self.” Suddenly this mystical pronouncement of Lord Krishna was no longer a conceptual thought but a direct experience for me. My bewilderment, my fears and feelings of abandonment, all dissolved in the light of that incredible realisation. Far from failing me and abandoning me, Sai Baba revealed to me the truth of who I am, the immortal Self, and there is nothing in the whole universe that can ever threaten me now. I knew myself to be invulnerable, indestructible, eternal. I exploded in joy and exhilaration. What a surprising outcome for such an intense and fearful happening! It turned out to be the quantum leap into the discovery of who I truly am. I am so very grateful. Thank you God!
Over the fourteen years that have ensued, many more revelations unfolded from that powerful experience. I have come to understand that not only nothing happened to me but, even more profoundly, nothing really happened at all. I started this talk by saying that I would like to share a story with you that is not real, that never happened, and that had no affect on truth. What do I mean by that? Did anything happen at all? Was any of it real? The story wasn’t real, the rape wasn’t real, the brutality wasn’t real, the fear wasn’t real, but the peace that I felt was real, the compassion that I felt was real, the presence of God was real, the Atma, my true Self was real.
If none of the horror was real, and yet I felt so deeply affected by it, what was going on? I wanted to find the cause. Only in uncovering the cause of a problem can I hope for a solution. Some of you may believe that the whole thing was God’s Will. After all, isn’t everything that happens God’s will? When I prayed to Sai Baba, “Swami, how could you let this happen to me?” it was clearly my belief that it could only have happened because it was God’s will. But this created a real problem for me. In my mind nothing untoward could happen to me because I loved God and He would protect me. I had been a good devotee, I did my sadhana and I felt God’s love. In my mind God’s love for me had manifested in many ways, in Sai Baba materialising a ring for me and in presenting me his robe for the Centre’s altar, and in many deep inner spiritual revelations, dreams and visions which I experienced as tokens of God’s love. Then how could God let this horrible thing happen? Of course, this assumes that God did let this happen. If He did, wouldn’t that make Him cruel? What kind of a God would permit such horrors to happen? Certainly God does not wish us to suffer. God is pure love. He loves us so incredibly. There is simply no way that God could have wished this for me.
The other obvious alternative is that there was a rapist out there over whom I had no control and who the divinity could not prevent, who caused this to happen. Certainly this is how the world would see it. Isn’t personal security a major issue for us? So much effort goes into protecting ourselves from hostile forces outside of ourselves. But is that really how it is? How could I possibly return to normalcy, if this were so? Then, at every turn, I could expect another incident. There could be no peace if this were true. Could the divinity be that impotent? I simply can’t accept that a rapist randomly breaking in and assaulting me could be the full story, particularly on Shivaratri night in a Sai Baba Centre.
Well then, if God is not the cause and if the rapist is not the cause, the only other possibility is that I am the cause; that I did this to myself. That’s a tough one. Not only did this nightmare happen to me, but now I am owning that it was my own doing. I arranged the whole thing. Wow! It was I who arranged this horrible thing? But that’s impossible. Why would I do something so utterly insane? Why would I do something so hurtful, so humiliating, so devastating? What purpose could it possibly serve? If I’m the author and the director of this movie, and let me tell you that I have known myself all my life to be so positive in every way, a real Pollyanna, then something must have gone badly wrong. But was this script really so unreasonable?
Think about it. If I’m desperately attempting at all cost to maintain my individuality and autonomy, which is what we all have been doing for countless lives, then doesn’t this story dramatically keep the belief intact that I am a body separate from other bodies who can hurt me, that I am vulnerable and subject to dying at any moment, and that even God himself and all the protection of his temple could not save me? What I am admitting to myself is that I would even be willing to hurt myself so drastically, to the point of death, to hold on to my belief in separation and make the unreal real for me. And so this whole drama was put there by me to verify my own self-identity. This is the insidiousness of the ego thought system, with which I have allied. But once I recognise that I am the cause, I can see that I am also the solution. If I did this to myself, then I can also undo this. How?
Is it by seeing that I was paying off some karma? Some well-intentioned friends told me that now I had removed a big chunk of negative karma. It provided a possible explanation but no solution, and it certainly didn’t make me feel good, because it left open the question of how much more negative karma I might have to undergo, whose effects I might experience at any time. I wanted a solution that would guarantee the end of all suffering, and that solution hinged on my discovering why I would do such a thing to myself. Karma does place the responsibility on me. It considers whatever happens in a situation to be an effect of a previous cause for which I am responsible through my past actions. Karma will attempt to heal a specific incident, specific actions of one body doing something to another, but it does not address the one purpose for all my actions. And so the Law of Karma cannot free me. It does not address the real underlying purpose of the body, which is to maintain my separation.
Karma is based on the ego thought system which sees another body outside of me that can hurt me or that I can hurt, which then leads to future retribution, in line with the idea of ‘as you sow, so shall you reap’. But once I realise through direct experience that there is nothing outside of my mind, and that the world and the body that’s within it are all part of a dream that I am dreaming, which is not real, then the Law of Karma has no power over me. I now know with certainty that I am not bound by karma, and nor are you. Karma binds only as long as I retain the purpose of separation and body-consciousness, within which it applies. But I am not a body. I am as God created me, whole and perfect. My mind joined with God is all-powerful. In the past I misused my mind to make a meaningless world of illusion. I imposed an idea of time and space on the seamless eternity which is the omnipresent now. But I cannot be bound by the past. I can choose to totally let it go. Sai Baba teaches “Past is past. Forget the past. There is no past. All there is is the ever-present now.”
To be free of karma the idea of separation has to be rooted out in its entirety, and that will happen only when I realise that all of it, without exception, is playing out only in my mind. It is my dream of death, the nightmare I made up to prove to myself that I can be a little being separate from others, with friends and enemies and a wide world out there, that define me and affect me night and day, and that whatever in this short lifetime I manage to accomplish in this world, I inevitably end in death. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. My mind is all-powerful and it is my dream. Whatever story I make up and whatever world I fabricate, I place it all there to reflect my wishes, my purpose and my thoughts. There is no rapist outside of my mind. If I accept suffering as a way of paying off a karmic debt, I have stated a purpose for suffering. As long as I have that purpose there will be the suffering. But this need not be. Fortunately I was ready to see another purpose.
Everything that happens to me is because I want the purpose that it serves. Think about it. What is your purpose right now? Undoubtedly your first thought will be that you are here in a spiritual retreat, diving into the experience of Sai Baba’s presence and imbibing his teachings. But go deeper. Are you a body sitting there listening to me? Is there someone else sitting next to you? Or is there just you and is everything you experience only happening in your own mind and is orchestrated by you? Could you even conceive that the person sitting next to you is an image you made up to keep your reality of separate existence alive? Or can you see that you as a body and they as bodies are all within your mind, not separate from you? And I am just a part of you speaking to you within your mind? Even if you cannot immediately accept all this, do you see that you can always have only two possible purposes? It is either to abide in the One Self, the truth of who you really are, or it is to maintain a separate self-identity. One is of God, the other is of the ego. One is real, the other is unreal. There is nothing that will not be undone instantly when I see no further purpose for it. I am all-powerful because I am not separate or different from God. Can we imagine God being victimised? No. Well, then neither can I be victimised, unless I want to be, because He created me just like Himself. I am not a helpless victim of circumstances beyond my control.
I once had a dream which came to me at a time when I had been struggling with the question of free will. In this dream Arjuna and I were chatting like brother and sister. “You know Yaani,” he said, “I saw the whole Mahabharata war from start to finish before it ever began.” Upon hearing that I threw up my hands and exclaimed in dismay, “Oh Arjuna, does that mean that I have nothing to say about what happens to me in my life, that I have no freewill?!?” “No, Yaani, it is not like that” he replied. “When your consciousness changes, your destiny changes” In other words, it is my dream and I can change it from a dream of death into a happy dream of eternal life. All I have to do is change my mind from body-consciousness to God-consciousness, from untruth to truth. Every thought that I think is either real or unreal. My real thoughts are thoughts I think with God. All the other thoughts are unreal, yet they will have their consequences. There are no neutral thoughts. That is why Sai Baba constantly reminds us to watch our thoughts.
Today I can say with total conviction that I am certain of who I am, and who I am not. I can speak to you freely about my rape experience, because I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that in reality it never happened. It has no charge, no juice, no power over me. But first I had to look at it and take full personal responsibility for all of it, without guilt or self-condemnation or judgement, holding Spirit’s hand and asking to be shown. When I am willing to fully expose to myself my willingness to hurt myself in order to keep my belief in separation alive, and see that I no longer want that, the truth reveals itself and shows me that none of what I think has happened was real. In truth, there could never be anything but God and God’s love. Please don't misunderstand me. I’m not advocating denial of your negative experiences. Denial gives energy to the darkest fears by attempting to hide them and put them out of the consciousness. Exposing our fears or negative qualities undoes them and reveals them as the nothing that they have always been.
I am deeply grateful for the classroom that this episode has become for me. What have I learned? That I am the indestructible Atma. That what is real cannot be threatened, and what is not real does not exist. That only God’s will is real. And that whatever I experience will be what I choose. As long as my underlying purpose is to maintain my separate identity it will not be real and I will not be real. All suffering is self-inflicted, and is over when I no longer see any value in it. Once I see no value in my separation thoughts they will simply fade away. Then my will is one with God’s will and I experience only the constant extension of love and joy. That is awakening from the dream of death.
The experience I recounted turned out to be a great gift and a blessing to me, for it impelled me to change my mind. But this was an extreme example, certainly not one you or anyone has to undergo. You can change your mind right now. Use my experience, or any other extreme example such as Jesus’ experience of the crucifixion, to motivate you to change your consciousness and see that separation, and you will see that this world of duality and death that you made to maintain your separation consciousness is no longer what you want. You don’t need to use pain to wake up. It can certainly serve as one of the ways. But why not wake up laughing? Whatever you do, WAKE UP! The time is now! Don’t put it off. Choose now to die to your old way of thinking in separation and body- consciousness and to be reborn in God-consciousness. Turn your life and will over to God, and ask for help. There is no way you can manage it by yourself.
Sai Baba says the spiritual path is easy. It requires no effort at all. Making what is unreal and non-existent real requires tremendous effort. On the underlying basis of the unchanging eternal peace and serenity of God’s love, I can choose to manufacture an incident of such magnitude and intensity as this one just recounted, in order to keep an insane belief system intact and make it real for me. But how much easier it is to simply allow what is real to be real, and to abide in perfect peace, love and light, and be who you naturally are and always have been, one with God! You don’t have to do anything to make the truth real. Just let yourself be who you truly are. You cannot fail. You are perfect and whole as God created you. Be happy!
Postscript from Yaani Drucker
Two years ago Sai Baba asked me “What is your seva?” When I replied “I serve my husband” he said
“That is very good, but you must do some service in society also.” That nudge inspired me to create a website on
spiritual consulting. Because of the
nature of my article I believe that some of your readers would appreciate the
opportunity to contact me for e-mail satsang,
comments or questions.
Please feel free to contact me