Baba's Irresistible Call
Baba's Irresistible Call
Image copyright © Tony Howell, www.tonyhowell.co.uk
Baba's Irresistible Call
One's coming to Meher Baba is His loving act of bringing one to Him. Baba once conveyed that He rings the bell in the hearts of His dear ones and the sound of it leads them to Him. One cannot be proud of doing work in His name or even loving Baba, for it is Baba¹s grace that allows us to live and work for Him. This reminds me of Rumi¹s line: "I never knew that God, too, desires us." Here are two stories that convinced me how Baba¹s wish can change situations around, clearing the way for me to reach Him.
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In mid-July, 1948, I learned that on the 23rd of that month, Meher Baba was going to have a small darshan program at Meherabad for some of His devotees from Sholapur. At that time I was working as a teacher in Kurduwadi, which is in Sholapur district. I wrote to Adi Sr. asking if I could avail myself of this glorious opportunity to be in Baba¹s divine physical presence. Adi wrote back that I could come, but that I should inform Shri Jaju, who was the head of the Sholapur group, of my wish to attend. I did so by letter, informing him of my intention to join the group at Kurduwadi when their train stopped there. That same day I put in an application to the headmaster for a day¹s leave, but he denied my request on the grounds that a school inspection was due on any one of the coming days. He was newly appointed and I was not well acquainted with him, so I did not tell him that I wished to visit Meher Baba. I stated that I had some urgent work and requested that he please grant my leave. My last words ended on a pleading note, but he flatly refused. Something inside me crumbled, and it was hard to pull myself together. "Will I not have your darshan, Baba?" I implored inwardly. I approached my headmaster on each of the next two days asking him to reconsider my request. As he was in the habit of taking snuff, I thought to myself, "Maybe if he is having his snuff and in a good mood, he will change his mind." I was taking a chance in asking, but he remained adamant in his decision, saying, "What! Did I not tell you twice before? Join your class, sir!"
The passenger train carrying the Sholapur group was to pass through Kurduwadi at midnight. Greatly disappointed, I went to the station in my house clothes to inform my friends that I would not be able to accompany them after all. With extremely low spirits I bid them welcome and farewell. They sympathized with my ill luck in missing this rare opportunity to have Baba's darshan, and I asked one of them to convey in silence my salutations to Beloved Baba. As the steam engine train was about to leave, an elderly member of the group asked me, "Aren't you coming with us?" I said, "No." He asked why, and I explained that my headmaster had not sanctioned my leave. With a surprised look he remarked, "Has the headmaster any right to deprive you of the darshan of a Perfect Master? Who is greater, the headmaster or the Perfect Master?" And then spontaneously, he ordered, "Get in the train, our Beloved Master will see to your headmaster!" The driver had blown the steam whistle and the engineer had shown the green flag and whistled that he was also ready. As the train started, impulsively I jumped in. When the train was moving out of the station I had the thought, "What will my family members think about me? They won¹t know where I have gone." Just then the train passed by the water column, and I noticed that the man who turned the wheel to disengage it from the train was my neighbor. I called out to him, "Please tell my brother that I have gone to Ahmednagar, and not to worry about me." At the time I didn¹t even think about it, but the coincidence that I just happened to see the one railway employee who lived next door to me and could easily convey my message was typical of the hidden help Baba has always given me. In my early years with Baba, His help came in such a natural manner that I didn¹t even recognize Baba's loving touch. Now I have come to see such moments as Baba¹s personal way of conversing with me.
Anyway, at the time I felt greatly relieved that I had been able to deliver this message and sat back to enjoy my time with the others. Although I had no ticket, no money, nor even a change of clothing, I was not worried. Beloved Baba had become my refuge. Really in those days, Baba blessed me with a freedom from anxiety which is completely foreign to my nature. By early morning we reached Dhond junction, where we had to change to the train for Ahmednagar. I was able to send a telegram from there to the headmaster regarding my absence. At Dhond we met the Baba bhajan party from Poona, led by the late R.K. Gadekar. It was an added joy to hear them singing with such devotion, even in the train compartment.
One of the pilgrims knew a railway employee who arranged that the train would stop at Meherabad for us to get down, even though there was no station or manned crossing there. This was wonderful for me, for now I did not have to face the ticket collector when disembarking. With cheers of "Meher Baba ki Jai," we left the train. Upon hearing the cheers, a few people from Baba¹s ashram came out to receive us and give us the good news that Baba had already arrived at Meherabad. The handshakes and embraces continued until we reached the main building.
We were asked to assemble in the new hall at Lower Meherabad by 9:00 a.m. There were about 250 Baba lovers from Sholapur, Barsi, Poona, Bombay, and Ahmednagar. Everyone stood up as Baba entered the hall exactly at 9:30 a.m., and all called out, "Sadguru Meher Baba ki Jai!" With divine decorum Baba took His seat in a corner, opposite where His chair now stands in the hall today. To see Baba was to see beauty enformed, and He looked radiant as He sat there. In His vibrant presence, our senses, particularly seeing and hearing, were made active and alert. Every eye was on Baba to catch His loving glance or gesture. He had a handsome countenance, with delicately chiseled lips. One may say that His form reflected a charming Persian heritage‹a straight nose, thin and shining skin, and a broad forehead‹yet He appeared to belong to no race in particular. Baba looked very gentle and radiantly graceful. His eyes sparkled with a heavenly light which was piercing yet soothing. They reflected a quality of timelessness. Hence, they seemed so knowing, yet so oblivious of everything, as well.
When all had settled down, Baba allowed the visitors from Poona and Sholapur to pay their individual respects to Him, though no one was allowed to touch His feet. Some had brought beautiful garlands for Baba, and others nicely wrapped boxes of sweets. Whatever was given to Him, Baba accepted with great love. I had nothing tangible to offer Him, so I was shy to approach Him. Without going closer to His seat, I stood up and folded my hands to Baba and lowered my head. Just at that time, Baba turned His head to someone else and remained busy conversing with him. For a moment I felt hurt at being so ignored, but quickly resigned myself to His will.
After these personal meetings and greetings, all were seated, and we started singing The Seven Names of God: "Hari, Paramatma, Allah, Ahuramazda, God, Yezdan, Hu." In the 1920¹s Baba had told His close ones to repeat these names for a certain length of time every day. The chanting seemed to heighten the heartwarming atmosphere and despite efforts of self-control, a few sobs escaped now and then from some of His lovers, such as Gadekar. Subhadra Bundellu from Poona sang bhajans, and Dr. Ghani gave a short speech commemorating the occasion.
As this was only an hour-long darshan, at 10:30 a.m. Baba got up from His seat, blessed all with a smile, returned to His cabin and later proceeded to Rusi¹s bungalow, His residence at the time in Ahmednagar. I returned back to Kurduwadi that night, and the next day I went back to school as usual. With some trepidation I approached the headmaster¹s office. I felt duty bound to explain the circumstances affecting my decision to be absent. As he had specifically denied me leave on three separate occasions, I assumed that he would, understandably, be quite angry with me and that I would find him in a bitter fury. I gathered up my courage and went inside. But as I entered the room, he was busy reading some official letters, and before I could open my mouth, I was amazed to hear him say, "I received your telegram. You were absent in spite of my explicit refusal to grant leave." After a brief pause, he opened his snuff box, inhaled a pinch and continued, "But now, as I look back, I think you must have had a really strong reason to leave; otherwise you would not have gone!" I could not believe my ears. My spirits rose even higher as he concluded, "So I have officially sanctioned your leave. Now, go and attend to your work." My fear and worry were instantly replaced by high spirits. Baba had come to my rescue. The fact that my headmaster didn¹t know anything about Baba, or that I had left to see Baba, and wouldn¹t have approved if he had known, only made Baba¹s hand in all this that much easier to see. At Meherabad I had been a bit sad when Baba had not outwardly acknowledged me. But now, as I came out of the headmaster¹s office, I felt that his willing sanctioning of my "unsanctioned" leave was Baba¹s secret gift to me in response to my loving salutations to Him the day before, which I wrongly felt He had ignored. Over the years I have noticed that Baba seems to delight in humorously using those who do not know Him as channels for His grace to flow to those who try to love Him.
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While Baba was staying in Satara in 1955, I was working as a teacher in Kurduwadi. The academic year was to end by the last week of April, and the school would then be closed for a six-week period of summer vacation. Naturally, I was thinking about whether I would have the opportunity to see Baba during this time. Baba was leading a secluded life at Satara, but I was allowed to correspond with Eruch. About this time, I received a letter from Eruch which showed me that Baba knew the longing of my heart. He wrote, "Baba wants you to be in Satara on 23rd April evening, if it is absolutely convenient and if you can safely and easily get leave."
I was overjoyed to get this call, but there was a slight "catch" to it. Eruch had underlined the word "if" each time he had used it, and to reach Satara by the evening of the 23rd I would have to leave my home that same morning, which happened to be the last working day of the school year. According to school regulations, anyone absent on the last day forfeited all of his six weeks of vacation pay. Although I very much wanted to see Baba, the petty thought of losing six weeks¹ salary weighed on my mind. Was it "absolutely convenient" for me to forgo such a sum of money, given my meager finances? I wasn¹t sure what to do. Naturally, I turned to Baba internally and called on Him for the right decision. But I never imagined that Baba would arrange the situation so that I would see Him, without losing "mammon" in the bargain!
I made up my mind to leave the morning of the 23rd, regardless of the results, and went to see my headmaster to explain the situation. To my utter astonishment, he told me that our particular school was going to be on a special schedule and had been assigned the job by the government of collecting census data, which happens only every ten years. Consequently our summer vacation period had been postponed for one week. This meant that the 23rd was no longer the last working day of the school year! So I had to seek the permission from my headmaster to get excused from this census work. To my surprise he did grant me leave for that day, graciously excusing me from having to work on the government project. Isn¹t it true that whenever Baba gives, He gives with both hands!
I could not have imagined such a thing happening. It was only because of Baba¹s wish, that I was able to attend one of the important meetings at Satara where Baba clarified His Final Declaration that He had given at Meherabad in September, 1954. Baba blessed me with some very intimate moments with Him at that meeting, which are etched on my heart even to this day. He is indeed the All-Knowing One, the Avatar.