Symbols of the world's religions



William Donkin

Baba and his men were surrounded, as they always are in puny towns like this, by a knot of people jostling one another like pigeons around a man with a bag of corn. One of these pigeons was a poor wight [unfortunate] of a youth with a palsied arm, who observed that the top pocket of one of Baba's men (let us call him X), had that smug look of a pocket with money in it.

While X was taking an active part in the campaign by which it was hoped to convince the boy disciple that he would have to arrange a contact with Prasananad, this disabled youth edged up to X's side and laid his palsied arm on his shoulder. X felt the arm but thought that the youth had merely propped it on a convenient support. Some moments later, however, hearing a crisp noise over his pocket, X looked down to see this twisted hand in the act of pilfering a ten rupee note.

This, as you may guess, was the signal for a rumpus, and X, as you may also guess, was angry almost to the point of apoplexy and was itching to lay about the youth or send for the police. Baba, however, brought the whole episode to a sudden halt by insisting that X should do absolutely nothing about the theft.

We should mention, by the by, that this money in X's pocket was Baba's, and although we may allow X's indignation to have been the most natural thing in the world, we must also concede that by any standard — but especially because X was Baba's disciple — the decision of what to do with the thief rested with Baba. Baba, as we have seen, forgave the youth on the spot, and his only punishment was to twist his ear with loving gentleness and admonish him never to try to steal again.

One should perhaps curb any tendency to dilate on this trivial drama, for there is a danger of drawing false conclusions or, worse still, of giving birth to a ridiculus mus. Let us, however, take the risk, and commit one or two notions to paper, after warning the reader that none of them are based on any statements by Baba.

The most obvious feature of the episode is, incontrovertibly, a practical demonstration in the very difficult art of forgiveness — we must learn to forgive people, however much we feel we are in the right.

The second feature is bound up with the question of why people do anti-social acts. Psychologists and others are beginning to insist that delinquency is a symptom of a psychic disease that is not necessarily the fault of those who suffer from it, and they say that we should seek to heal delinquents rather than punish them. It seems probable, from the way Baba handled this youth, that his outlook accords, to some extent at least, with that of contemporary psychologists.

The final feature is a spiritual one, and is bound up with the fact that all Baba, because he is a Perfect Master, is one with the Divine Ground of all living beings. He therefore knows the fons et origo of this young man's palsied arm and the full course of his psychic malady, and he feels his torment as he stands exposed as a thief. But though he feels this torment, he is its master also, and having allowed the youth to suffer this first vicious cut to his self-conceit, he now catches him off his guard and gives him a more than human absolution, and a draught of Divine Love that he will remember for the rest of his days.

Baba's mandali are well acquainted with this technique, for it is one that Baba has used on each one of them times out of number.


1949 © Avatar Meher Baba Perpetual Public Charitable Trust


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