Symbols of the world's religions



Meherabad Young Adult Sahavas

Cindy Blohm

Close your eyes (but keep reading!) and imagine you're back on Beloved Baba's walking ground, Lower Meherabad. Young grass lines the path from His neem tree past the MPC and under an explosion of hibiscus flowers. You arrive at Hostel C to find it transformed not only by colorful streamers, rangoli mandalas or the many Baba photos and quotes, but even more by the contagious smiles of 80 young Baba lovers, excited to spend a week of 'intimate companionship' with their Lord. You quickly unpack your suitcase, glance at the photo of Baba resting on your pillow, and follow the tabla's rhythm into a room strewn with flowers. New and familiar faces are spread throughout the hall: a group from Hamirpur sings spiritedly; a long, snaking line of hands strings flowers into a giant garland; some ladies compare designs of their fresh henna. You sit facing the larger-than-life photo of Baba twinkling from the end of the hall and begin pushing flowers along the string. Now, before you open your eyes — how big is your smile?

The 2009 Meherabad Young Adult Sahavas began something like that on June 29th this year. And it passed too quickly in a flurry of activities that deepened our love for our Beloved. This is just a glimpse of that glowing week for those of you who found it impossible to get time off or to make the age on your birth certificate agree with your heart.

That evening we carried our excitement and the giant garland to the Samadhi for arti under a pink and orange, monsoon-season sunset. The singing continued through a nighttime dhuni where each of us was to light a candle, walk it back to the hall and place it under Baba's photo for candlelit prayers. The 100-meter walk from the fire to the hostel was a film-worthy personality test: some strode with natural confidence, some walked slowly and sheltered the flame with a cupped hand, and others inched along with intense concentration. But that mischievous One added a twist to the spiritual metaphor of carrying His light. Frequent gusts of wind forced all alike to stop every few meters, huddle together and rekindle their candles from a surviving flame. We started again. Some switched tactics while others attempted to perfect their original method. Another ten meters and — whoosh! — we laughed at Baba's joy in disrupting our simple ceremony.

Baba's humor featured as one of the topics in the following afternoon's variety of workshops and discussion groups. In the visual art workshop, participants worked together on a large mandala painting featuring Baba's face, and individually on Baba pillows, filling the studio with sweet song as they stitched and painted. Outside, the rhythmic clapping and stomping of the Flamenco dance workshop drew curious passersby, no doubt equally attracted by the loud laughter which came more naturally than the challenging dance moves. A chorus of guitars, drums and voices floated from the music workshop where the participants learned the English version of The New Life Song, while the video workshop group planned their documentary. They filmed snippets of the dynamic discussion of Baba's humor, but missed the sharing of original divine love poetry from the inspired and aspiring poets among us. Covering such a wide range of topics, the afternoon sessions allowed each sahavasee to deepen his or her personal connection with Baba. And while most were walking up the path to the Samadhi for evening arti, another group emerged from the MPC — they were so engrossed in the discussion of Baba's words that they had lost track of time!

The next morning we split into groups for Selfless Service projects. While others cleaned Baba's Jhopdi and Table House, washed His car, or whitewashed pathway stones, my group trekked to the fields between the Samadhi and MPR to plant trees. Our hands were busy but our minds were free to think about the incredible love and devotion Baba embodied. The tremendous physical suffering He happily endured in order to care for His masts, the poor, and His lovers became a natural point of meditation as we dug and planted and covered, and dug and planted and covered, bending and standing and bending and standing, sweating in the hot sun — some of us for four or five, others for eight or ten and still others, in inspiring devotion, for fifteen long minutes before having a water break. In the shade we chatted and shared coming-to-Baba stories with our new friends from all across India, the United States and Australia. By lunchtime, we had welcomed some 300 saplings home to Meherabad. And though aware that we can transform any type of work into Selfless Service through devotion to God, we were happy to serve Him so directly by caring for His land and providing shade for His future lovers.

It's that sun-speckled shade of the tree-lined road to Meherazad which says so sweetly, "Welcome Home." We went the next morning to that peaceful place where Baba spent His later life with His closest companions. Even with the 100-odd pilgrims bustling between Mandali Hall, His room, and the porch where Meheru sat smiling, the gardens retain some of His quietude. Our brief visit filled us with clamoring excitement and we sang bhajans all the way to Happy Valley where we picnicked in the same spot Baba had walked and picnicked with the women mandali over fifty years ago. The final destination of our day trip was Imampur, a nearby mosque. Here we heard the story of Baba's last night in The New Life:

Lying down to sleep in that mosque, Baba was pestered by a sound that Eruch eventually located in a bird's nest. Just before Eruch took the bird from its resting place on orders to throw it out into the night, Baba clapped. Eruch came and was remonstrated for not reminding Baba that the selfish action — by expressing anger and cruelty — would have violated the conditions of The New Life, and nullified all His work of that difficult period. In the morning, Baba ordered the mandali to punish Him severely — slapping Him with shoes and spitting on Him — to rectify the previous night's intended action.

Though the wanderings in the New Life officially ended the following morning with a four kilometer walk from Imampur to Meherazad, Baba explains that "this New Life will live by itself eternally, even if there is no one to live it." Since October 16th of this year marks the 60th anniversary of Baba's first steps in the New Life from the Ahmednagar railway station, the 2009 Sahavas focused on the inspiring humanity Baba displayed through His utter hopelessness and helplessness. The evening quizzes, games and movies all featured trivia, stories, quotes and songs from the New Life, and at the week's end we left with yet another aspect of Baba in our hearts.

How impossible it is to share all the magic of those six days! It wasn't limited to the scheduled activities, but overflowed into the sports and games, the spontaneous music and the casual conversations over tea. We spent more than one morning listening to stories of life with Baba, and more than one teatime asking Meherabad residents and our guest speakers — Cyrus Khambata, Pratap and Prashant Ahir, Amrit and Dara Irani — personal spiritual questions. It's impossible to compare all the inspiring expressions of love — the song, the dance, the poetry, the comedy — that formed part of our Celebration Program. And equally difficult to describe Mandali Hall full of young lovers listening intently to the refined lilting of the Ahmednagar Baba Centre Bhajan Group.

So what to do? Maybe next year you can warn your boss of your frequent July fevers or forge a birth certificate (1975 and after!) that agrees with your heart. I don't know how else you could get such a unique, 'intimate companionship.'

Link to further information about the Meherabad Young Adult Sahavas

TAVERN TALK, 25 August, 2009


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