REMINISCENCES, part 5:
FIND GOD AT ANY COST
In contrast to the life at Manzil-e-Meem, the mandali now had to do everything without the help of hired labor. They had to draw water, cook food, wash clothes, carry loads and work all day as common laborers, as well as carry out promptly the various instructions I gave them.
[Although Baba came initially to Arangaon (Meherabad) with the mandali ostensibly to settle there, they stayed only four days on that occasion. The second stay lasted eleven days, and the third only two. The longest stay before 1925 was the fourth, which lasted three months. This period (March-May, 1924) was known among the mandali as "Ghamela Yoga" (the practice of regular hard labor). This was the period when the camp was largely restored. ed.]
By that time (May) the abandoned camp was almost shipshape again. The first new building was called the Agrakuti (also called jhopdi, a small square room solidly constructed of stones and mortar and made insect proof by screen placed over all openings where I have sat in seclusion and worked on a number of occasions for various periods of time.
Other than for one paid mason, all the construction, clearing, repairing, etc., was done by the mandali who worked like coolies for six hours each day. They worked so hard that most had blisters on their hands.
After several months (January, 1925) we settled down and the place gradually became known as Meherabad. For almost two years (until November, 1926) it was like a small model town. In it lived about five hundred souls, working in the hospital, the dispensary and the schools. There were also ashrams for boys, men and women, and shelters for the poor and for lepers, all of which were established here in connection with my work.
At that time nearly a thousand rupees a day used to be spent for the maintenance of the various services, while the mandali often lived on plain dal and rice for lunch, and milkless tea or a thin soup of methi (bitter spinach) leaves and coarse bread for dinner. During that period I remained generally on liquids or on limited meals taken once in a week or a fortnight.
Weekly rations were issued to the most helpless of the Arangaon villagers. They were so needy that later, when the ashrams were shifted some scores of miles away to Toka, they used to travel on foot or by bullock-cart all that distance rather than miss the weekly quota of coarse grain.
Hundreds of people from the villages near Meherabad benefited from the free hospitals, and thousands utilized the dispensary provided for out-patients. Boys of all castes and creeds including untouchables soon began to live, eat and intermingle freely.
From dawn to dusk I would move about the place and take an active part in every phase including the cleaning of latrines. Each day I spent three to four hours bathing the school children. When the number boarding became considerable, I allowed the mandali to share this service with me. All the mandali also had to grind grain for one to three hours each day, depending upon their assigned duties. I also shared in the daily grinding for an hour or more.
Despite my silence (starting July 10, 1925) I continued all my usual activities. At that time I communicated by writing on a slate, and also for more than a year wrote for a number of hours daily on a work which remains unseen and unpublished to this day. I did most of my writing work in my small cupboard-like room constructed underneath the big wooden table which stands near the dhuni (sacred fireplace). It was at this time (November, 1925) that we began to light the dhuni each month.
At certain fixed hours I saw visitors freely. Hundreds came daily for my darshan, believing in my spiritual status, but most sought my blessing only for material benefit. On special occasions the stream of visitors would continue unbroken from morn to night and their numbers would run into the thousands. (At least twenty thousand people had Baba's blessing in 1926 on his thirty-second birthday. ed)
Once an old man offered to dedicate everything he had to me, and then he would begin, he said, to lead a life of service and renunciation. However, on investigation, it was found that what would be dedicated to me was a wife and seven children to be taken care of.
On another occasion a yogi called and sought my instructions as he said he was determined to find God at any cost. I told him to wait for my instructions under a certain tree. He remained there for seven days and walked away on the eighth, unnoticed by anyone.
Manzil-e-Meem: Here the training involved rigorous mental discipline rather than actual physical hardships. BACK
LISTEN, HUMANITY, Appendix II, pp. 252-254, ed. D. E. Stevens
1982 © Avatar Meher Baba Perpetual Public Charitable Trust