Symbols of the world's religions



William Donkin

An idiosyncrasy of Chatti Baba was a distaste for having his hair dried. He had an impressive head of tousled black hair flecked with grey, thickly matted, and long enough to reach over his ears.

Every day, usually following his bath, he would sit in any place where loose earth was to be found, and raising cupped hands laden with soil, would release it over his head. It affected one strangely to see this old man toss handful after handful of soil over his bowed head, and watch the crumbling fragments of earth tumbled over his shoulders to the ground.

It seemed as if he must be suffering in a way that we might never fathom, and that this apparently childish play soothed and gave him comfort. In view of this habit, Baba had instructed Krishna, who was his personal attendant, to put fifteen baskets of earth in Chatti Baba's room every day.

Prior to his spiritual awakening, Chatti Baba had apparently been a station master, and the memories of his earlier profession would be revived from time to time in disjointed ways.

He used, for example, to tap out morse messages with the hook that held his window, and at irregular hours of night or day he would shout orders in English or Tamil to imaginary railway subordinates, as if he were digging some rusty relics out of the depths of his memory. At other times, he would call out "Allah hu Akbar, Allah hu Akbar" (God is most great, God is most great).

He used to say that Baba was his elder brother, and he one day told Krishna that Baba was a great and rich man, and that there was no one like him in the whole world.

The period at Meherabad in 1940 was the black hour of the devastating and terrible occasions in Europe, when France fell....

For several weeks in Meherabad, Chatti Baba had repeatedly told Krishna that the people of Europe were undergoing great sorrow and suffering, but that they would survive to enjoy happy days again.

Chatti Baba, though literate, never, as far as anyone knew, read a newspaper, and he was apparently quite out of touch with current events of any sort, but in spite of this he seemed aware of the terrible things that were then going on in Europe. He said, one day, while pouring earth over his head, that there would be much anguish and privation, and that many would die of starvation, but that Baba would finally assuage the suffering of the world....

Baba, who is all too rarely communicative about his masts, told the mandali one day in Ranchi that there was no equal to Chatti Baba in the whole world, and that he was inestimable for the help he gave him in his work.

The moods of this great man were extraordinary, and would fluctuate from a sunny expansiveness to a truculent attitude, without apparently much provocation. He was like a child, quick to change for a very little thing, but he had a bewitching enchantment about him that made him loved by all.

The other important masts have all had their charm, and some sort of disposition that made them attractive, but there has been no one who has so unanimously commanded the affection of others.

In this way Chatti Baba was unique, and today [1948], years after he has been separated from Baba, the mandali, and Baba himself, often recall with delight his little ways, and especially the lightness and captivating spell of his laugh.

Baba has since explained that Chatti Baba was a perfect jamali mast, with a few traits of a jalali, and was a very high mast of the sixth plane....

In March 1941, in Quetta, he said, "There will be so great a calamity in the world that no one can imagine it, even brother will kill brother and there will be great tribulation; then all the world will think of my big brother (Baba); at that time Baba will draw aside the veil, and all will pay obeisance to him."

In June or July 1941, in Ajmer, he told Krishna, who was in a bad mood at the time, "You want to leave don't you, but what's the good of it; all the world is in Baba's power, so where will you go to? Serve him now, he is the Ocean, because, one day when lots of people throng to see him, you may never get the opportunity of meeting him, so take your chance now."...


November-December 1992
Excerpted from THE WAYFARERS
1988, 2002 © Avatar Meher Baba Perpetual Public Charitable Trust


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