Symbols of the world's religions



Eruch Jessawala

Meher Baba gave us the prayers that have become known as the Parvardigar or Master's Prayer, and the Prayer of Repentance. At times Baba asked us to recite these prayers, but when we were with Baba we did not have the urge to say them on our own. His presence, as I have told you, is something quite different from the concept of God. Baba has told us, "My work is greater than God," and, although we cannot understand this, and I do not know what God is, yet His presence is really overwhelming and everything — prayers, God, everything — fades into insignificance before Him.

But sometimes Baba would want us to recite the prayers, and He would ask me to say them. Baba would stand as one of us, in our midst. He would first wash His hands and face and then join His hands together in prayer; His appearance and His gaze would be that of one deep in the act of adoration, totally absorbed in participation in the prayers.

Because Baba would ask me to recite the prayers, I tried to learn them by heart. But as soon as we started praying, I completely forgot them. I became so absorbed in the first line, "0 Parvardigar, the Preserver and Protector of all," that after that my mind became completely blank. Baba would look at me with displeasure and gesture for me to go get the book in which the prayers were written. So after that I stopped trying to say the prayers by heart, and every time Baba wanted them recited, I would go get the book and simply read them out.

Baba would wash His face and hands, using that blue basin and small pot you see by His chair. Water from the pot would be poured on His hands; He would wash His face, then dry Himself and stand up and worship with us standing around Him.

Time passed by, the seclusion work increased, and Baba became weaker and weaker, and He wanted the prayers recited more and more frequently. It became an everyday matter during the seclusion, and Baba, especially in the last year, could not stand without difficulty. Eventually the stage came where He needed to be supported on each side by two of us, and there He would stand as a worshipper. The Lord Himself prayed.

But because it was such a strain on Him, Baba would have me read the prayers faster and faster. I have already told you the story about the time I was reading the prayers so fast I started laughing because the prayers sounded to me just like an express train rumbling through a station with no time to stop. I could not understand why Baba was subjecting Himself to such physical strain. Finally I said, "Baba why do You do this? Can't You sit down?"

Baba gestured, "Why should I sit down? Do you know what I am doing? My participation in the prayers will help every individual saying the prayers after I drop the body. My body is so weak I cannot stand. But it doesn't matter how you pray. The important thing is My participation in the prayers. After I drop this body, whosoever recites these prayers will be helped, because of My participation now. And when anyone repeats the prayers, I am there with them. My presence is there."

Now, this reminds me of a very good incident concerning Dr. Deshmukh. Deshmukh was a professor of philosophy, a Ph.D. and a brilliant scholar. He was also completely devoted to Baba, and whenever he had vacation, he would come to spend time with Him. In the earlier years Baba would not have us repeat the prayers regularly as He did in the last years. He had the pleasure sometimes and would ask me to recite them, but this was not an everyday occurrence. So it was that Deshmukh, who was one of Baba's close ones, did not know about this practice at all. He did not know that every now and then Baba would ask for the prayers to be read out. Or that afterwards, Baba, would have the mandali file by, stand on a little stool, and He would bow to us, touching our feet with His head. As He did so, we had to call out a certain name of God, a name dear to one according to one's religion.

Thus some of us would say, "Ya Yezdan," others, "Ahuramazda," or "Parabrahma Paramatma," or "Allah-Hu," or, "God Almighty," depending on what religion we had been brought up in. But we were not allowed to say, "Baba." I remember when Baba first told us to repeat the name of God most dear to us, one of the mandali said, "Baba, Yours is the name of God most dear to me." But Baba instructed us not to use His name; to repeat one of the traditional names of God.

Now, one year, Deshmukh arrived for his vacation just as Baba had asked for the prayers to be read out. Baba had washed His hands and face, and we were all standing at attention, and I was just about to read when we heard someone jiggling the door latch. It was Deshmukh trying to open the latch to come in. As soon as he stepped inside Mandali Hall, Baba gestured, "It is good that you have come. You are fortunate, you are blessed to be with Me now. Come in and stand there with the others and be quiet."

Poor Deshmukh did not know what was happening, but he came and stood with the rest of us and I began reading the prayers. During the Prayer of Repentance, Baba would follow the common Eastern practice of tasubah, which means making the gesture of repentance, of softly slapping one's cheeks with one's palms, signifying, "Oh God, I will not do that," or "I repent, I repent."

Deshmukh was stunned at all this. In his heart he had always enthroned Baba as the Lord of Lords, the Highest of the High, the one who is prayed to, the one who redeems us when we repent, not one who prays Himself or repents like an ordinary man. He was very confused by this. His philosophical mind could not reconcile Baba's status as Highest of the High with His behavior of praying like an ordinary man. Deshmukh thought, "I take Baba to be God incarnate, but then who is it that Baba is praying to? If Baba is praying, then doesn't it follow that there is a God who is higher than Baba? But how can this be?" Deshmukh was very upset and confused, but he never said anything to any of us. We noticed that he was more withdrawn than usual, but none of us had any idea what was going through his mind.

Well, not long after that Deshmukh's mother died. In India we have the custom that when someone dies, the family will take their belongings and wrap them up. Then on the anniversary of the death, a year later, the eldest child will open the bundle. So it was a full year later that Deshmukh opened the bundle and came upon a book which he remembered his mother was fond of reading. It was a book on Krishna.

Being a philosopher and scholar, it was natural for Deshmukh's attention to be drawn first to the book. So he picked it up and decided to see what it was that had caught his mother's interest so, and he opened it at random. He looked down and saw the chapter heading was, "The Lord Prays." The Lord prays? Deshmukh's attention was immediately caught and he started to read.

The chapter told how Narada, one of Krishna's close ones, came one day to the palace to give Krishna a message. But as he approached, a watchman stopped him and said, "You cannot enter."

"What do you mean I cannot enter? I am Narada. I have access to Krishna's bed chamber." Which was true. Narada was so close to Krishna that he had permission to come anytime, anywhere, to see him.

But the watchman replied, "I know who you are, but on this particular occasion you must remain here. The Lord Himself has ordered me to stop anybody from coming just now."

"What do you mean on this particular occasion? What is the Lord doing that I can't go see him?"

The watchman replied, "He said he wanted to pray."

"Pray? My Lord is praying? To whom does He pray? Who is greater than my Lord?" Narada demanded and accused the watchman of blasphemy.

But the watchman persisted in keeping Narada out, saying, "I am only telling you what He told me. He said He wanted to pray and that I should not let anyone in because He did not want to be disturbed while He is praying." Narada had no choice but to wait, and all sorts of confused thoughts were going through his head, just as similar thoughts had gone through Deshmukh's head when he had first seen Baba pray. Deshmukh read on with avid interest — how would it end, to whom was Krishna praying?

After half an hour or so, Krishna came out of his room and saw Narada waiting outside the door. He greeted Narada warmly, but Narada was so agitated that he made only the most perfunctory of greetings. "Whats wrong?" Krishna asked. "You seem upset."

Narada was so upset, in fact, that he totally forgot about the message he had come to deliver, he totally forgot that that was why he had come in the first place, and he blurted out, "The watchman said You were praying."

"Yes, that is so," Krishna affirmed.

"But to whom do you pray?" asked Narada, whose confidence in the Lord was shaken by Krishna's admission.

Krishna laughed. "Do you really want to see to whom I pray? Come with me." And Krishna led Narada to His prayer room. "Here, here is My God," Krishna said. And what did Narada see? He saw little figures, little images of Krishna's mandali. There was a little figure of Narada, of Arjuna, of all the close ones. "These are the ones I pray to," Krishna explained. "I pray to My lovers. You see, the whole purpose of creation was so that My love might flow. I eternally love my creation, but periodically I take birth to receive the love of My lovers. My lovers worship me and I worship their love for Me."

When Deshmukh read this, he felt very much relieved. Now he knew why Baba prayed. All his confusion vanished. The next time he came to Baba, he confessed all that had happened, how the doubts had started in his mind and how they had been dispelled, and that was how we came to know of it.

THAT'S HOW IT WAS, p. 378-382
1995 © Avatar Meher Baba Perpetual Public Charitable Trust


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