In the last part of this interview, Lani talks about her life after Pune 2, and her mother Hanya’s death.
One day during the evening meeting in Pune, I again heard this inner voice saying, “It’s time for you to go.” I am asking myself, “Where are you going to go?” “Charlotte.” “Charlotte? Are you crazy? What are you going to do in Charlotte?” I have a brother in Charlotte, the only one of my family except my dad who is NOT a sannyasin. Next day I called him and asked, “Would you be open if I came to live with you?” “Sure!” was his answer. I had no idea why Charlotte came up but I listened. Kavyo with whom I had been together for the last three years came over from Germany and we met there. We started doing White Robe every night and offered a meditation day once a month which we called, ‘Zorba & Zen’. Only very few people came, so it became clear, “This is not really our place.”
Around that time we went back to visit Pune. After David, Kaveesha, Yogi and Avirbhava had experienced the earthquake in LA, in January 1994, they got in their car and traveled East and decided to settle in Sedona, Arizona. Upon returning from Pune we went to visit them; this was back in May 1994. I immediately said, “This is my place!” Kavyo and I packed up all our belongings from Charlotte and drove West to join the Mystery School.
And so I lived in Sedona for twelve years.
There again I became the Director of the Welcome Center and manager of our restaurant. Again I did public relations; we had festivals; I had a full life. When Kaveesha died in 1998 the nature of the School changed – for me and for everyone – it became more insular; we had less visitors from abroad. Also the restaurant closed – for many people their businesses had become their laboratories how to live Osho’s vision; it was the beauty of the School. But, quite frankly, I didn’t know where else to go. I didn’t have a calling; I was waiting.
In 2005 I saw Avirbhava; she said to me, “Do you think we don’t know that you are not happy here? You are the biggest elephant in the room.” And I replied, “I don’t know what to do, Avirbhava. I feel I would let down the buddhafield if I were to leave, but by staying here I am not total either.” To which she said, “Just so you know how right it is for you to go, we are ready to help you pack your bags and take you wherever you want to go,” gently nudging me. At that time – it’s funny we are talking about this here in Greece – Deva and Miten invited me to their meditation holiday on Corfu. I had organized their concerts in Sedona and I had a very strong connection with them. And so I said a clear “Yes!”
You might know that after Osho left the body Deva and Miten started traveling around Osho centers giving music groups. When I heard them I said to them, “This is too precious to be heard only in the Osho World; we need to take this bigger.” So I started organizing concerts at the Sedona High School. Deva and Miten came to Sedona the first time in 1997 and then kept coming until I left in 2005. For 8 years they came every year; the hall seated 270 people. When it became too small we had two nights. That was the biggest hall at the time – today there is a much larger hall that holds 800 people and Deva and Miten were there in fall 2014.
Because I had organized all these concerts Deva and Miten invited me to come to Corfu for the summer holidays. While making preparations for the trip I said to myself, “Let me see if I have enough mileage, maybe I can get a free ticket.” I had so much mileage. “Maybe it’s time for me to go back and visit Pune?” I got a ticket all the way to India with a stop-over in Europe. I came to Corfu, went to Cologne to learn Ayurveda with Komala, continued to Ibiza with her and then flew to India. I hadn’t been back to Pune since I left in 1994. When I arrived I even participated in the Welcome Day which I had helped create when I was in charge – I attended like a new visitor. I could still feel Osho in the trees and the energy was amazing.
At that time Hanya was sick; she discovered she had cancer. I said to her, “I’ll come back and take care of you but I need to take care of myself first if I am going to be with you.” So I did Mystic Rose, for the third time. I called her every night to check in with her and – it was almost the last day of the workshop – she asked me to come and be with her. I immediately got on a plane straight to Charlotte. When I arrived she was already on oxygen in bed at home.
I will never forget when she said to me, “I hope I have been a good mother to you.” “It has been an honor to be your daughter,” I replied. She asked two things of me. First thing, to never leave her alone; and secondly, to keep a high vibration around her so that she could leave as consciously as possible. I was with her around the clock and made sure she had the medication as scheduled. She was sometimes worried I would give her too much; she did not want to be loopy. Her plan was to go as consciously as possible.
One morning, around 5 o’clock she said to me, “Call everybody, I think I am going to go soon.” I called my brothers and sister and we gathered around her. We were all aware that her body was going, but her life force energy was still strong. She would say things like, “Do you hear the death rattle?”
Hanya had been living in the mountains of North Carolina and my brothers had brought her to Charlotte to be taken care of. We had prepared a special room for her in my brother’s house and painted the room purple as that was her favorite color. She loved animals so we brought her aquarium and her dogs. We also hung a beautiful photo of Osho on the wall and made a collage of photos of her home in the mountains.
My brother had as a housekeeper a beautiful black man, Ray. It turned out that he was a gospel singer and we asked him to sing to Hanya. We were all sitting around her king-sized bed with purple sheets, when Ray took her hand, burst into tears and said, “I have never felt so much love in my life.” Suddenly the bed frame broke from all of us sitting on it. It felt like existence was choreographing the whole thing. The men lifted the box spring – with Hanya on the bed – pulled the frame out and put the bed down in the center of the room so that we could make a complete circle around her.
The rabbi came to visit one day to talk with Hanya, my brothers and sister. He asked if there was anything keeping her here that was preventing her from leaving. Hanya said she was concerned about my younger sister – they were very connected; my sister used to call her daily and they visited each other often.
Then separately from Hanya, the rabbi described the preparations for once Hanya had left her body. In Jewish religion, a group of people, called the chevra kadesha, are responsible to wash the body and wrap it in a white cloth. Hanya’s request was to be cremated. My brother who is not a sannyasin suggested we give her a Jewish funeral. “We will need to ask her what she wants,” I said.
Another morning I called everybody again because Hanya had told me that she was leaving very soon. My brother nudged me and said, “Now talk to her about the funeral.” As I am the oldest, that was my task. I said to her, “We have been discussing how to celebrate you once you have left the body and we want to know if you are OK if we take you to the synagogue for a ceremony before being cremated. Your body will be washed and we will put you in a casket.” “What am I going to wear?” was her immediate concern. When she heard that her body will be in a white shroud she asked, “Do I deserve that?” “Of course,” I replied.
After a few days the nurses helped move her in a position to lie on her back and informed us that she was going to go soon because her breathing had changed. All five children came and sat with her for three hours until her last breath. My sister, my mother’s friends and my cousin helped the chevra kadesha (who are all women) to wash her. We brought the casket and placed it in the air-conditioned living room; my brothers lifted her into the casket and we covered her with violet rose petals. My mother loved football – so we had the TV playing a football game – while people came to visit her body. The next morning was the funeral. It made death a natural event.
My brother had invited Ray to sing during the ceremony. The rabbi was OK with it as long as he did not use the word Jesus. Ray wrote GOD on his hand as a reminder. Afterwards we took Hanya’s body to the crematorium and played ‘Magnificence’ when we put her in the fire.
A few days later we drove to her property in the mountains where we had a beautiful celebration. We let purple helium balloons fly into the sky to send her on her way. We had a champagne toast for her and friends shared ‘Hanya stories’. She had touched so many people’s lives. We dug holes on the outer corners of the house, filled them with some of the ashes and planted bushes in each spot, then scattered the rest of the ashes on top of her mountain. It was the most amazing lesson in death. The way she surrendered to dying – she was in total acceptance.
After traveling to Pune, Corfu, Cologne, Ibiza and Charlotte I was not ready to go back to Sedona, so I returned to Europe and participated in another Ayurvedic course with Komala and decided to go to Ibiza with her with the intention to check out if I would love to live there. But that wasn’t my place either. So I became a gypsy for a couple of years trying to figure out where to go. When I again visited India many Israelis kept talking to me in Hebrew as they thought I was Israeli. Then I met a beautiful Israeli woman who invited me to come visit her. I said to myself, “You know what? Maybe it’s time for me to go back to Israel,” and I went for a visit in 2007. I got an apartment and thought, “I have to see what it’s like to live here.” It felt like I had made a full circle.
Here I am today, still living in Israel.
I often ask myself what it means to be Osho’s World Ambassador. Miten and Deva were so beautiful the way they introduced me in their group, they said I am an ambassador of light. I feel honored to share, to live my light; it challenges me to live it and share it. I have a tendency to want to frame it or define it, but how do you define light? So maybe it just means to relax more, and it doesn’t matter what I do. I feel insecure when I am asked what I do; I don’t know how to explain it. Hence it was such a gift to be recognized by Miten and Deva. I love that my life unfolds that way. It’s a gift for me, because I would get bored if I had to work 9-5, doing the same thing every day.
It’s the first time I am verbalizing this! To be Osho’s ambassador is a koan. Because Osho for me is much more than just his words. I can say it’s a transmission of living sacred simplicity. How do I bring this into my daily life? I find that, for me, being around his people is a constant reminder because we are mirrors for each other. That’s why I love coming to buddhafields, to feel this amplification, if you will, of his vision, to live this meditative quality with aliveness. Living in balance, living in integration, not just one thing but the whole. That’s what I love, the vastness of his vision.
And I think that’s why I don’t want to define it and that’s why I get excited when I can be involved in so many things. As his ambassador I never think, “Now I have to do…” Impossible. Osho had answered my question with, “You go where the energy is needed, you follow your energy.” He gave me permission. Can you imagine if he had told me what to do? It would be the antithesis of his teaching. He didn’t give me a script where I could become robotic and parrot-like. This is the gift that he gave me, to encourage me to be myself even more.
In Israel I am involved in the Osho Festivals a few times a year, often leading Heart Meditations and Dynamic. I also teach mandala painting. I look at mandala painting as a meditation. I became a Watsu therapist while still living in Sedona and worked in one of the resorts there. Hence I now give Watsu sessions in an ecological pool near Tel Aviv. I offer Osho’s meditations at my house once a week. I am a volunteer, once a week, in an Arab elementary school in Jaffa teaching English. Another thing I am involved with is juice-fasts, a spiritual cleanse, with Gabriel Cousens from the US twice a year at the Dead Sea.
I don’t call my home Osho Embassy like I did in Sedona, now people just say, “Let’s go meditate at Lani’s place.” I have anywhere from 5 to 10 people that show up for the meditations; it is very intimate. For a while I was also running meditations at a center called Lilly and Bloom, but that is now closed. I am involved in organizing concerts for Deva and Miten in Israel.; the first time they came was in 2008 where I took care of them and we toured Israel together. In May 2014 we rented a beautiful amphitheater where we had 1250 people. They also did a one-day workshop with 150 people in a beautiful dance studio in the middle of Tel Aviv. Then they came again in October 2015 and played at the Tel Aviv Opera House with a little over a thousand people. The Israelis loved them. We are planning another concert next year.
I am open to projects. That’s how my life unfolds. I don’t usually initiate things; I respond to things. Who knows what’s next.
Lani (Facebook: Mandalani) spoke to Punya on Corfu
Part 1: Ants in My Pants – Lani talks about events during her young adulthood and seeing Osho for the first time
Part 2: Osho’s World Ambassador – Ma Shantam Lani where she speaks about her life after leaving Rajneeshpuram; her travels (Israel, Greece, India, Korea and Russia during Gorbachev’s time), to promote Osho’s books at fairs and to find suitable publishers and, of course, about how she ‘became’ Osho’s World Ambassador