Grace Of The Master

Image copyright © Tony Howell,
Image copyright © Tony Howell,

Grace Of The Master

Baba’s natural, effortless authority no doubt inspired many to try to follow Him. But often, as soon as one expressed the wish, Baba would ask if they were willing to obey Him. Baba put a lot of emphasis on obedience and yet this was not a reflection of authority as it might be in the world, but a natural expression of Baba’s compassion for those whom He would accept. Because Baba gave orders only to help those who followed them to eliminate their selfish desires. Thus, wholehearted and explicit obedience helped them in their journey to Him, while anything less hindered them. Baba’s way of teaching the sort of wholehearted obedience which He wanted was done in a gentle and subtly humorous manner. The following is an example of this.

In 1948, a friend of mine, named Mauni (because he kept silence), and I came to see Baba at Meherabad. Baba asked Mauni, “Tell Me, Mauni, what you want." Mauni wrote on a piece of slate, “Sadguru kripa" ("the grace of the Perfect Master"). Baba's smiling face wore a profound expression, and He spelled out on His alphabet board, "What a wish! Even seeing God is less important than the grace of the Perfect Master. But mind you, grace is not a cheap thing. It's a rare, spontaneous happening. It is an unconditional benediction. To receive it, you have to prepare yourself to obey Me wholeheartedly one hundred percent. Are you ready?”

Mauni moved his fingers over his neck, meaning that he was ready to cut his throat. Baba gestured and spelled out on His board, "But that is very easy! I am not asking you that. Cutting one's throat, leaving family and home, are very easy things compared to obedience of My orders, which may at the outset appear very simple. Are you really ready to obey Me? Think well before you say yes." Mauni, with a new-born ardor, shook his head, “Yes.” Baba then conveyed, "If so, for one month beginning tomorrow, have a non-vegetarian dish every morning and evening." As I translated these words in Marathi, there was a marked change on Mauni's face which reached the climax as Baba added, "and a bottle of wine at noon."

Mauni was an ascetic type. He would eat only once a day and did not take tea or coffee. He didn’t even like to drink water at public places. With such a background, the very thought of having a non-vegetarian diet shocked him deeply. Instead of frankly confessing his inability, Mauni wrote on his slate, "Baba, I keep no money. I am a poor person. How can I buy a meat dish and pay for a bottle of wine every day?"

"That is your lookout,” Baba replied, “You agreed to obey Me one hundred percent, and I have given you the orders. Just tell Me if you can follow them willingly or not. I know that in this state of Maharashtra there is prohibition and wine cannot be had without obtaining a permit on medical grounds. If you obtain wine in some other way and drink it, you will be put into jail. But that is your problem."

Mauni appeared even more puzzled. But then Baba gestured to one of the mandali who was a business man and asked him if he might be able to obtain the necessary permit for Mauni to buy liquor legally. The man answered, “Yes Baba, very easily.” Baba smiled at him and then looked at Mauni.

At this juncture Baba added, "However, as you have expressed your inability about money, I assure you that it shall not be your problem. I shall arrange for it. But is that the main issue? Be frank. Say whether you are ready to obey Me voluntarily and happily."

After Baba's assurance about money, there was a fresh surge of thoughts in Mauni's mind. He was on the point of conveying yes, but just then Baba intervened and explained, "Remember one more thing. Ninety-nine percent readiness with one percent hesitation is not desirable, much less expected. In that case it will be better for you to express an honest no. The obedience has to be unadulterated, total. Be frank; be quick. There are others waiting and I have to call them."

Now there arose a fresh countercurrent of thoughts in Mauni's mind--he felt nearly lost in that tempest. Presently, he nodded no. Baba flashed one of His penetrating looks at him and conveyed through the board, "Did I not tell you that you have aspired for the best, but that it is not so easy? Yet I am happy that at the end you have been honest enough to express no. Now forget completely these orders. Here are some fresh ones for you which you must obey. No choice. For one year, go on a pilgrimage, visiting the holy places in India. Don't ask for money; don't touch money. Be careful not to touch any woman. In trains or on crowded streets, if you happen to touch any woman, remember your dear mother. Beg for food; don't cook food. Take darshan of saints you meet, but don't run after anyone." Mauni felt relieved and very happily agreed to obey Baba's orders. He had been, in fact, leading such a life for years. Fasts, physical hardships and travel were no problem for him. We folded our hands to Baba with due reverence and left the room.

We then had a discussion as to whether it was right on Mauni's part to convey "no" regarding the non-vegetarian diet. "What on earth led me to such foolishness?" Mauni thought. He felt that it was just a test and he had miserably failed. He realized that whatever order the Master gives brings the highest benefit to the person concerned. We agreed on this point, and I was to tell Baba that Mauni was ready to obey the first set of orders.

We were about to reenter the room when impulsively I felt that before going inside to Baba, it would be advisable to tell one of the mandali about this situation. I do not recall the person to whom I told this, but I remember very well the gist of his reply: "Past is past, and that game is lost! With the Perfect Master, every moment has an ever-renewing significance. As for eating meat, even if Mauni is now ready to devour a live lamb, Baba should not be expected to reconsider the matter! In a way, that would be against the spirit of the next orders."

He further explained, "It was Meher Baba's wish that Mauni ask for Sadguru kripa, and it was equally His wish that Mauni prefer the second set of orders. Everything happens according to the divine will of Meher Baba. He knows His game well. It holds a deeper significance of which we are not aware." Obedience can be a stepping stone to wholehearted surrendrance to the Master at the opportune moment.

Edited from Glimpses of the God-Man, Meher Baba, Vol. I

By Bal Natu