THE EAST-WEST GATHERING
Sometimes Baba would speak quickly and directly to a man or a woman, enquiring if they had slept well, asking about their health, or their families at home. He told one young American woman not to worry about her baby 'Give all your worries to Me,' Baba said. 'If you keep on doing the worrying I can't take over the burden. Give everything to Me, and I look after everything.'
Sometimes He joked with someone; sometimes with just a smile He seemed to convey a loving, deeply personal message to another.
I remember that while Baba was speaking to different ones, I could not help wishing that He would ask me something, or take notice of me in some way. But He did not do this.
Much later I realised that Baba often ignores such wishes, and then, when least expected, He does notice one. (This happened for me, and in its relevant sequence I have described the occasion at Guruprasad when our small Australian group was called to sing to Him several days later.)
Some of the Americans and English had produced and printed a new booklet called Sparks from Meher Baba. They presented a copy to Baba who touched it and gave it back. To the Australians Baba then entrusted the job of publishing and world-wide distribution of a new set of His discourses titled The Everything and The Nothing, a sizeable undertaking for the comparatively small group in Australia.
Dr Denis O'Brien from Melbourne was to give initial financial assistance to the project, and Bill Le Page's responsibility was all the detailed work of carrying out the printing and distribution of the book. Baba called both men to come forward and handed the typescript to them with instructions for it to be published as soon as possible.
Somewhere about 11:30 the morning session ended. Throughout these few hours Baba just radiated love to His lovers. As on all the other mornings, the big room seemed absolutely filled with the warmth and light of His love; and the gathered love of all seated before Him seemed to well up and flow to Him His love, first-given, being offered again in love to Him.
It was a deeply moving experience: entirely, indescribably, beautiful ... I have never known anything like it before or since, and even now, 37 years later, the memory of the power of that all-pervading love is still so fresh, so strong, so overwhelming for me that tears flow involuntarily whenever I think of it, or try to speak about it.
After lunch the truly East-West gathering began. The Easterners were already assembled in the huge pandal at the rear of Guruprasad when the Westerners arrived to take their seats in front of the wide platform with its small dais and deep armchair ready for Baba in the centre.
Baba Himself had said that because the Westerners had come such immense distances to be with Him they were to sit in the front rows to be close to Him. Several microphones were installed near the edge of the platform, and these were used frequently by Eruch and other mandali when messages and instructions from Baba were read out, always in English and also in translations, to the six and a half thousand lovers gathered there.
As is customary in such gatherings in India, the women sat on one side and the men on the other. Folding chairs arranged in wide rows were set up throughout the huge pandal, with an aisle on each outer side and in the middle. The floor was of packed earth and gravel.
Except for wide entrances on both sides near the platform, the cotton 'walls' of the pandal came low down. It was like an enormous tent. The top covering was of striped cotton material, thin enough to let plenty of light through, but the sides were of heavier fabric.
The whole was stretched over a huge framework of poles, the long colorful strips of the cotton awning material being lashed together with twine. The ceiling over the platform was solid to afford effective protection for Baba, and set into this were four fluorescent lights forming a square over His head.
All the poles on the platform and throughout the pandal were brightly decorated, and the general effect of light and colour was greatly enriched by the vivid shades of the women's saris and dresses.
Baba came out onto the platform through the wide curtained doorway which led directly from the house, and steadied by the mandali, walked slowly forward to the front of the dais, stood for a moment while the joyous cries of 'Avatar Meher Baba ki Jai!' welled up from the crowd, then was helped gently into the big chair. Cushions were settled under His elbows and feet, and the afternoon began.
Baba's message 'MY DEAR CHILDREN' was read over the microphone:
MEHER BABA'S LOVE MY STORY, pp. 36-39, Judith Garbett
1999 © Avatar Meher Baba Perpetual Public Charitable Trust