Symbols of the world's religions

               

MASTERY IN SERVITUDE

Charles Haynes

 
Meher Baba's life of love and service was symbolic of the inner work of awakening he came to accomplish. Baba has explained that every action of the Avatar, who is one with all, has a profound impact on all life:

As a rule each action of an ordinary person is motivated by a solitary aim serving a solitary purpose; it can hit only one target at a time and bring about one specific result. But with the Avatar, He being the Centre of each one, any single action of His on the gross plane brings about a network of diverse results for people and objects everywhere.(1)

According to Baba, God periodically brings about a forward movement of consciousness by personal participation in the world as the Avatar. His every action has a universal impact. When, for example, Baba cared for the untouchable boys and cleaned their latrines, he indicated that he was working in human consciousness to break down the caste system. For Baba, his many hours bowing down to the feet of the poor and lepers, distributing cloth and grain, were not simply acts of charity benefiting a few; they were acts initiating inner changes that will eventually benefit the poor and helpless everywhere. Similarly, gathering disciples from many races and religions, and travels throughout the world, symbolize the inner transformations that characterize the Avatar's universal work.

From this perspective, Baba's simplest action could be interpreted to be of great import for the world. This can be illustrated by citing an incident that occurred during Baba's 1952 visit to Meher Spiritual Center in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. On the day Baba opened the Center to the public, a large number of people came from the town to meet him, entering the room individually or in family groups and then leaving by another door. The mandali present noticed that whenever a black person or family entered the room, Baba, in an unusual gesture, stood and walked across the room to greet them. Baba did not explain this or similar gestures, but many around him felt that this action was an outer sign of Baba's inner work on behalf of American blacks, work that has been manifested in the American civil rights movement.

Baba indicated that by working with a few representative people, he was working for large segments of the world's population. For this reason, it was crucial for him to have around him people of diverse personality types, nationalities, races and religions. He brought together, for example, Eastern and Western women to live in his ashram. As one observer has expressed it, he appeared to be working through these women to reshape the role of women for the future:

He was sowing the seeds of a unity between East and West. He was stressing the importance of woman for the coming age; and he was helping to develop a pattern of what kind of woman she would be — one in whom the talent, the energy and practical capacity of the Westerners would be blended with the devotion and spirituality of the women mandali.(2)

In whatever he did, whether in the midst of intense activity or in deep seclusion, Meher Baba appeared to have a specific timetable and a definite plan for his work. As noted earlier, he frequently arranged to be taken incognito to places where large numbers of people congregated in order to move silently through the crowds. Often he went out of his way, at times travelling great distances, to visit a specific spot or contact a particular individual unknown to all save Baba.

There are countless stories about Meher Baba illustrating how his apparently random actions or sudden changes in plans turn out to be a part of some inner purpose. Typical of these accounts is an incident that occurred in Hamirpur during Baba's first visit to that remote district in India. After Baba agreed to visit Hamirpur, the people prepared for his coming by building roads and bridges so that his car could reach the rural villages. While walking through one such village, along the route carefully prepared for him by his hosts, Baba suddenly halted and asked to be taken another way. At first his hosts objected, pointing out the many preparations along the planned route. Baba insisted, however, and began to lead the crowd to a remote area of the village. There he found and embraced an old couple who had faithfully readied their hut for days in order to make it worthy to receive the Avatar. Although mocked by their neighbors and told that Baba would come nowhere near their hut, they had steadfastly maintained that he would find them. Overjoyed, they had Baba as a guest in their simple hut that had been so lovingly prepared for him.


(1) Meher Baba, The Everything and the Nothing, (Berkeley, Ca: Beguine Library, 1971), p. 111    BACK

(2) Dr. A. A. G. Munsiff, "The House of the Master," The Glow, Vol. 10, No. 4, (Nov. 1975), p. 7    BACK

 

MEHER BABA, THE AWAKENER, pp. 69-71
1989 © Charles Haynes

               

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