Symbols of the world's religions



Eruch Jessawala

It seems there was a Master who was living with his mandali in a certain area of India. The life of the mandali, because they were living with a real Master, was comprised of mundane chores and activities. From dawn until night they were kept busy seeing to various things at the Master's behest. They did this without complaining and everything was fine.

But as the years passed, there began to be a certain lack of enthusiasm amongst the mandali. Not that they were unwilling to do what the Master said — they still obeyed Him one hundred percent — but some of the former zeal, the zip, was missing. Life seemed flat and uninspired. The Master noticed this and one day he called his mandali to him and said, "You all have been working very hard for years now without a break. What do you say we have a vacation?"

"A vacation? What sort of vacation?" the mandali asked, somewhat bewildered by the Master's suggestion. "A vacation," the Master explained. "Twenty-four hours when you are free to do whatever you like. No work of any kind except the duty to see to it that we enjoy ourselves to the fullest."

"Enjoy ourselves to the fullest," one of the mandali grumbled, "that means we can have two servings of rice and dal instead of one."

"No, no," the Master insisted. "I mean a real vacation. No restrictions of any sort on us in any way. We can eat whatever we wish, we can..."

"And drink?"

"Yes, didn't I say no restrictions? We can have whatever you want. The only condition is that you all have to agree amongst yourselves what you most want to have then we'll have that."

When the mandali realized that the Master was completely serious, they began to take an enthusiastic part in planning their twenty-four-hour vacation. After much discussion, it was decided that a sort of picnic outing would be ideal and all started making suggestions. Some were very concerned with the food and drink, others didn't care much about that but wanted to make sure that they had the picnic in nice surroundings. Others protested that they didn't want to have to go hiking for miles to find a nice spot. And so on and so forth.

The Master took an active part in all this and listened to the suggestions with great interest and occasionally made some of his own from time to time. Finally, it was decided that on a certain date, at the time of the full moon, three weeks from then, they would spend the day playing cards. They would have music and good food and drink and then, as evening approached, they would walk to the nearby river and get on the Master's boat that was kept there so they could get across to the other side to go into town for supplies and such, and spend the night rowing up and down the river under the moonlight, enjoying themselves with wine and chicken and patties and all manner of delicacies. Then, at dawn, they would return to shore, walk back to their quarters and so would end their glorious twenty-four-hour vacation.

One of the mandali was put in charge of the music, making sure the gramophone was in working order, selecting the records. Another was in charge of the food. Each mandali was deputed a specific duty.

Everyone got very excited at the prospect, and the Master always seemed to be looking forward to it. For the next several weeks, he would remind the mandali about it. If someone wasn't feeling well, he might say, "Better start taking some medication, you want to be well for our vacation." Or he would ask another, "Don't forget to order enough wine, we don't want to run short. Are you sure that will be enough patties? Do we have a big enough bagulla to carry everything? Will it stay hot if we have it cooked right before we leave, or should we make arrangements to cook on board the boat?"

In short, the Master oversaw every detail and kept everyone's interest in the upcoming vacation at a high pitch. The spirits of the mandali picked up once more, and once again there was a lot of good-natured teasing and liveliness predominating in the Master's camp. Before long, they were all so involved in their day-to-day duties that it was something of a surprise when the Master remarked one morning, "The moon will be full in two days."

Of course they hadn't forgotten about the vacation, but they had been so busy with their usual chores that they had lost track of the time. Now that they realized their vacation was coming up in only two days, they all became very excited.

And finally the day itself arrived. They got up and had a good breakfast, which, for the first time, they could enjoy at their leisure. There were no duties so they could relax and enjoy themselves. Some even slept in, but for the most part they were so eager for their vacation that they were up bright and early.

After baths and breakfast they went into Mandali Hall and began their card game with the Master. Meanwhile, the mandali member in charge of the music set up the gramophone, while those in charge of the food brought a basket of sweets into the hall so they could eat while playing cards. And so it went.

The Master was true to his word, and there had been no skimping. As the day wore on, there were cutlets and patties and kababs. Everything they had wanted was there, and in copious quantities. They had sherbet and iced drinks and, in the afternoon, they started opening the wine. Some of the mandali got out a harmonium and tablas and began to sing along with the record. In short, they all were enjoying themselves to the fullest, and the Master was in the midst of it all.

By the time evening came, they were already a bit tipsy as they walked down to the river and boarded the boat. Then a discussion cropped up. Should they keep some food for a meal later that night, or have their dinner then and there and then spend the night drifting down the river under the stars and moon, listening to music and having more wine? It was decided they might as well finish the food then so they wouldn't have to be bothered about trying to serve in when it was dark. So they sat on the boat and had their dinner.

Now it was dark and the moon was rising over the horizon as they finished. It was truly a magical setting, to be on the river, to hear the water lapping against the side of the boat, to see the moon peeking through the leaves of the trees which lined the bank and to see it rippling on the water itself. More wine was opened, and again the harmonium and the tablas were brought out they began to sing bhajans. Meanwhile, other members of the mandali took turns at the oars and rowing the party downstream.

Everyone there was delighted with their vacation. After working hard for so long, even this little bit of a break was considered something great, and with the Master to keep them company, with the night and the river, the songs and the wine, no one had any complaints.

Just as dawn was breaking, the Master clapped and said it was time to return now. So, somewhat reluctantly, they set to turning the boat about and returning, when suddenly a commotion broke out. "What is it?" the Master asked. And what it was, was that now that it was beginning to be light and they had been brought out of their dreamy reverie by the Master's clap and ordered to return, they were astonished to see that they were still tied to the shore! They had never cast off the previous night, and the whole time they were rowing the boat and admiring the beautiful scenery, they were sitting the same place without moving. They all had had the illusion of having spent the night drifting along the river with the Master, but in fact they hadn't gone anywhere.

Baba then turned to us and gestured, "And with all your talk of leaving the world behind, of having given up everything, in reality none of you has cast off your lines. You are still firmly anchored to the world."


THAT'S HOW IT WAS, pp. 264-267
1995 © Avatar Meher Baba Perpetual Public Charitable Trust


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