“NOTHING IS REAL, STRAWBERRY FIELDS FOREVER”
or ‘How nothing was turned into nothing, by no one’
by Reidun Priddy
Not real, never happened! This is what Yaani Drucker says of the story of the brutal beating and rape that happened to her right in the Sathya Sai Baba sanctuary. How could something that didn’t happen “serve (…) deeply as a wake-up call”? It’s like saying that I got woken up by the alarm clock which didn’t ring.
Not identifying with the body might help to alleviate the feeling of having been cruelly abused, but to pretend therefore that the “intense experience” never happened is entering the never-never land of make belief, rather than approaching the essence of truth.
She says the rape, the brutality, the fear wasn’t real, but the peace, the compassion, the presence of God, etc. was real. To claim that only the positive experiences are real, is to me a sure sign that something is wrong, for if one has truly reached the stage where nothing that happens in the world is ‘real’, that it is only illusion created by the mind, then what is there to distinguish the good (experience) from the bad? Advaitic philosophy would say that the peace, the compassion, etc. was just as unreal or illusory. When we are not one with God, we will experience duality, good and bad, or the presence of another, i.e. people or things apart or separate from ourselves. Experiencing the presence of God also means we are in a dual reality, otherwise we would not experience the presence of anything outside or besides ourselves. So when she experiences the good as real, it is fooling both herself and others to claim that the bad is unreal. When we move permanently beyond all dualities, there can be no other, no good, no bad, no characterising and no more life as a human being.
She is trying to understand how or why such a thing could happen:
1. “What kind of a God would permit such horrors to happen? Certainly God does not wish us to suffer. God is pure love. There is simply no way that God could have wished this for me.”
2. She wonders about the probability of a rapist out of hers or God’s control: “How could I possibly return to normalcy, if this were so? Then, at every turn, I could expect another incident.”
3. “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.” “…I would even be willing to hurt myself so drastically, to the point of death, to hold on to my belief in separation…” “(…) this is the insidiousness of the ego thought system with which I have allied.”
She rejects the idea that it was a working off 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.”
Here she again expresses her anxiety about having to live with the uncertainty that this might happen again. She can’t really deal with the fact that it happened at all, because that means it might happen again, and because it doesn’t fit in with her belief in the nature of her God. So the only option, as she sees it, is to conjure forth a conviction that it never happened because the whole world is unreal. I would like to express my sympathy with Yaani Drucker. I have never met her, and have no desire as such to criticise her way of dealing with her problems. My concern is that she sets herself up as someone qualified to counsel others, which she is definitely not in my view. Quite on the contrary, because I think she herself needs help from someone with proper insight.
“… the real underlying purpose of the body, (…) is to maintain my separation.”
Some would say exactly the opposite: that being born as a human gives us a unique chance of realising our innate divine nature.
“I am as God created me, whole and perfect.” Wasn’t that the case before as well, when she suffered through identifying with the body, or as she would say, while she “dreamed” her unreal life in the physical world? Wasn’t she God’s creation then, too?
She quotes Sai Baba: “There is no past. All there is, is the ever-present now.” Does that mean shutting out the past, or rather seeing it as included in the present?
Her article reads as a big confusion of advaitic (non-dualistic) philosophy with the dvaitic (dualistic), like vigorous mental gymnastics that ring hollow. What would happen if she were raped again and failed to experience it as not happening?
She says it is a nightmare she made up, but why did she need: “.. to prove to myself that I can be a little being separate from others,” when this is how she had always experienced herself anyway?
Her claims of suddenly only experiencing God and the good as real and all bad things as unreal sound like spiritual hubris typical of many devotees, both of Sai Baba and others. I have heard people in Sai Baba ashrams claim to see nothing but good in the world, creating an incredible illusion about their own spiritual state which is completely obvious to anyone able to discriminate the true from the false. People imagine that they experience what their gurus tell them or what they read in books. But the lack of substance in such claims is mostly so transparent that it is painful to see, or as in this case, read, for it just sounds like parroting Sai Baba talk!
In his book “After the Ecstasy, the Laundry”, Jack Kornfield wrote: “Enlightenment does exist. There is one further truth, however; [these experiences] they don’t last. Our realizations and awakenings show us the reality of the world, and they bring transformation, but they pass.
Of course, you may have read traditional accounts of fully enlightened sages in Asia or wholly unblemished saints and mystics in the West. But these ideal narratives can be misleading. In fact, in the awakening of the heart there is no such thing as enlightened retirement. That is not how it happens to us.” (page xiii).
Yaani Drucker says, “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… “
I never thought of God-consciousness as being exclusive and negating. Yes, many speak of the world as being unreal, but I think this has to be understood as relating to the way we experience it as being apart from God. I always understood God-consciousness to mean an incredible expansion of consciousness to include everything into itself – to see that there was nothing unreal, because there is nowhere where God isn’t, rather than writing off everything that doesn’t fit into our picture of what God is or isn’t, as being unreal. That cuts God out of the picture rather than seeing the divine manifested in all creation. So the prayer “Lead me from the unreal to the real” doesn’t mean to relegate the world and everything in it to being fabrications of our own minds. To see God in the good – where’s the difficulty in that? The world is full of rapists, torturers, murderers and other horrible evils galore, and to explain why God created a world of both good and bad by saying the bad part of it is just a dream, doesn’t work. Who is dreaming, anyway?