An Informal Collection of Correspondence Transpiring from the Avatar Meher Baba Perpetual Public Charitable Trust compound, located in the city of Ahmednagar, 15km north of Meher Baba's Samadhi in Maharashtra, India

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Rustom's Book

Tonight Rustom, Meher, and I were editing the first few chapters of Rustom's book, the working title of which is something like "Life with Meher Baba's Mandali." Here follow a few interesting pages from that book which is still a work in progress:



Working Title: "GIFTS FROM MEHER BABA'S MANDALI"
by Rustom Feramji

INTRODUCTION

Meher Baba proclaimed Himself as the Avatar of the age and is regarded as such by millions of His followers, all over the world. According to Meher Baba, the Avatar takes birth from time to time to give the weary world His message of Love and Truth. In our history He has come as Zoroaster, Rama, Krishna, Buddha, Christ and Mohammed.

During His life, (1894-1969) Avatar Meher Baba traveled extensively throughout India and all over the world for His spiritual work. In the early 20’s He established a base of operations near Arangaon village, some six miles north of Ahmednagar, in Maharashtra, India. This was called Meherabad and it is here that Meher Baba’s Tomb, or Samadhi, is located. It is also now the home of the Meher Pilgrim Centre, Dharamshala, and Hostels which accommodate hundreds of pilgrims who come to visit Meher Baba’s Samadhi each year.

It is here too, that staff quarters have been built to house those who have come to live and work under the auspices of the Avatar Meher Baba Perpetual Public Charitable Trust. These workers are sometimes referred to as residents. The Trust Office is located in the city of Ahmednagar in what is known as the Trust Compound.

During Meher Baba’s life, those close ones who lived with Him and dedicated their lives to Him, were called His mandali. A few of the mandali, like Padri and Mansari, were living at Meherabad when Meher Baba dropped His body in 1969. Most, however, were living with Meher Baba at a home that He established in the 50’s, named Meherazad. This is located south of Ahmednagar, about 15 kilometers from the centre of town, next to the village of Pimpalgaon.

Meher Baba is commonly referred to by His followers simply as Baba. After 1969, drawn by some irresistible pull, pilgrims from all over the world, also referred to as Baba-lovers, began to flock to Meherabad and Meherazad to visit Baba’s tomb and to talk with His mandali. The attraction of these places, redolent with Baba’s presence, and the personal appeal of the mandali, was so strong that many people decided to live there and, over time, some were allowed to do so under the spiritual training program set up by the Meher Baba Trust. I had the good fortune to live and work as a resident in all three places, which include Meherabad, Meherazad, and the Trust office, at different time, thus giving me the opportunity to interact with most of Baba’s mandali. What follows is the story of my life as a resident.

Only Remembrance Matters

Bal Natu, a long-time disciple of Baba, lived at Meherazad. He had not lived with Baba the way the others at Meherazad had. Baba instructed him to look for a job and live in the world. So, he had been a school teacher at Kurduwadi for many years. However, Baba gave him the rare privilege of being able to come any time he wasn’t working to spend his holidays with Him, an offer Bal took advantage of at every opportunity for some 30 years.

I felt drawn to Bal because he had a chronic health problem which was similar to the one I suffered from and yet, unlike me, he was always cheerful and his fragile health never seemed to come in the way of his remembrance of Baba.

In fact, most pilgrims never even knew that he was not in good health. But, as someone who suffered from a chronic digestive disorder, I knew how difficult it is to do anything when you are in its grip. Every time you sit down for a meal, it becomes an agony. Stomach ache and diarrhea become part of your life. There is a constant sense of unease throughout the day and when things flare up, then you can experience a discomfort and an anxiety that can cloud your mind and make thinking about anything else almost impossible.

Bal’s health had been extremely fragile ever since his acute tuberculosis in the 1930s. On top of that, he had digestive problems for decades and now suffered from amoebas which only made the problems worse.

Knowing this, I asked Bal, “You are one of His close ones, so what do you have to say about your health? Why does Baba keep you in such a state?”

Bal said, “Anything that helps you to remember Him, no matter how painful or uncomfortable, is good for you. On the other hand, anything that comes in the way of your remembering Him, no matter how good or sublime it may be from the worldly point of view, is spiritually bad.”

Bal then added, “In one of my Conversations with Baba [Bal wrote three books of inner dialogue with the Beloved, all of which had ‘Conversations’ in the title] I was complaining about my bad health and Baba said, ‘Do you remember the time when your health was not so bad, when you were okay? Tell me, was your remembrance of Me as intense?’ I had to admit that in good health I remembered Him less as my dependence on Him was less. Baba then said, ‘So you are better off being in bad health.’”

Bal laughed and said, “He is constantly thinking about what’s good for you. So why worry, leave it all to Him.” He then added, “One can do yoga, meditation, and other things that make the mind feel blissful and sublime. However, more often than not, the ego gets strengthened and the person affirms, ‘See what a great yogi I am, or I am above the common people because I meditate.’ So something good, as in this case, can become spiritually harmful as it creates more binding.”

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