Symbols of the world's religions



William Donkin

On the afternoon of 1st July Baba and his men went out to Mahim, but they found Ali Asghar inside his room with the door shut. Baba explained at the outset that he must either contact Ali Asghar or wait until he got his leave to go away. He did in fact come out of his room for a moment, but as soon as he saw Baba, he turned back again into his room and shut the door. Although request after request was lobbed through the window, Ali Asghar stubbornly refused to allow contact, but he said, after about an hour and a half, that Baba might go away.

Baba and his men therefore left Mahim and made their way back to Ahmadnagar. Before setting out for Ahmadnagar, however, Baba made it clear that he would have to come down to Bombay again to make an ultimate contact with Ali Asghar. He explained, also, that Ali Asghar would not allow contact at this time because he was subject to phases when jalali characteristics became exacerbated to such an extent that he neither ate nor slept, and was therefore irritable and aggressive.

A few days after his return to Ahmadnagar Baba sent a wire to two of his disciples in Bombay that they should go to Ali Asghar's house and find out from his eldest sister, who looks after him, whether there was any change in his mood. As soon as Ali Asghar was reported to be coming out of his aggressive phase, he was to be asked if he would allow their brother (meaning by this Baba, whose name was kept secret) to contact him. When or if Ali Asghar agreed to allow contact, they were to send a wire to Baba at once.

Just over ten days later Ali Asghar agreed to allow contact, and a wire was sent to Ahmadnagar. Baba sped down to Bombay by car, reaching there in the early afternoon of 12th July. He told those who went with him that the link made on 1st July must not be broken, and that there must be similarity of "route and routine". He therefore explained that he must reach Ali Asghar's house at the same time that he had reached it on 1st July, and must also not stop anywhere on the way except to pick up his two men in Bombay at a pre-arranged place in the city.

These directions were followed to the letter, and Baba drew up outside Ali Asghar's house in the early afternoon. Things looked unpromising at first, for the found that Ali Asghar was inside his room with the door shut. You may imagine, then, the anxiety of those of Baba's men who had set up the machinery for this contact. Ali Asghar's sister and Baba's men poured forth every kind of enticement and exhortation, and at the end of half an hour Ali Asghar, to everyone's relief, agreed to see Baba and came out of his room. Baba and he went together into the room, and for five minutes the two sat within. The contact completed, Baba and Ali Asghar came out side by side.

A few seconds later, Ali Asghar turned about and went back into the house. His reason for doing so, however, became apparent within less than a minute, for he strode out of the door, a pair of scissors gleaming in his hand, and went straight up to a mulberry bush in the garden, from which he snipped off seven small leafy sprigs. He then dissected a slither of bark from the same bush and bound the sprigs into a little bunch, which he gave to Baba. His final touch was to slap Baba on the back, as pal might pal, and say to him gently, "Now you can go."

The men present on that day will perhaps often look back upon the memory of the joy that overflowed from Baba and intoxicated body, mind, and soul of his very earthly companions. Baba was not only supremely happy at this contact, but explained that his work had been accomplished to such perfection that there would be no need for any further meeting.

Now what of these seven sprigs that Ali Asghar gave to Baba? A graceful social gesture, you will say; a trifling courtesy not worth remembering; at the most, perhaps, a token to convey to Baba a sense of the spiritual comradeship of this last contact. But the men who have seen much of Baba's work with the God-intoxicated will tell you, in one way or another, that the funny things that a mast sometimes gives him have a kernel of meaning that is beyond the normal range of insight, a meaning so profound and intimate that it will remain in perpetuity the property of two people only — the giver and the receiver.

If someone dear to you or I were to give us, shall we say, a primrose, we might carry it with us for half a day, and before midnight imprison it for ever, and perhaps forget it for ever, between the leaves of a favourite volume. Our action, as likely as not, would be prompted by little more, and perhaps much less, than an urge to cherish the memory of a romantic experience. This may sound cynical and quite beside the point, but it serves to emphasize that although we may not understand the deep secrets that lie behind the extraordinary destiny of these things that a mast gives to Baba, we may be quite certain that they are not tied up with any milk and water sentiment — and I think no one will be disposed to dispute this when he learns what happened to Ali Asghar's little bunch of twigs.

As soon as Baba left Ali Asghar's house he handed the bunch to Eruch, telling him to keep it, leaf and stem, as he might keep his own life. Thus, the first thing that Eruch did when he reached home in Poona was to stick the seven sprigs into a potful of earth. Within a few days the leaves became dry and brittle, and so the pot was put away in a place where no servant or stranger might damage, or perhaps even throw it away.

Two weeks later Baba called Eruch to Pimpalgaon, telling him that he must bring these sprigs with him. As soon as Baba received them he ordered every leaf to be plucked and ground to powder, and he then ate this powder. The seven stems that remained were preserved and are still kept in Baba's room.


(Second Supplement to WAYFARERS, p. 427)
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