THE AVATAR'S HUMOR
I did not immediately accept Him as the Avatar Formless God descended into human form. But in a most natural manner, my feelings about His status progressed through a series of changes: I went from regarding Him as a good man to taking Him to be a great man. Then I came to recognize Him as a true saint, and still later, as a Perfect Master. In the end, thanks to Meher Baba's unconditional compassion and patience, my heart was awakened to His true status as the Avatar, and I accepted Him as the Ancient One. When God comes amongst humanity, on this earth as the Avatar, Infinite Consciousness manifests with an express purpose to quicken the spirit of the whole creation. So Meher Baba's Avataric life is the "active functioning" of Formless God through finite human form.
The joy and bliss experienced in Meher Baba's physical presence will ever remain indescribable. How can one explain the presence that is at once overpowering, and yet not the least oppressive or domineering? In Baba's profound purity the whole burden of self-identification seemed to fall away, and the mental mechanism of assessment and comparison was stilled. The result was a feeling of lightness and trust in Him.
Whenever I used to gaze upon Baba's face, it would sometimes appear that the entire drama of humanity, with all its joys and woes, was being expressed through its features. Along with the bliss that He radiated, there was a sense of detachment, and when He was visibly suffering, there was an expression of compassion.
In my inner journey with Baba, through all the changes in my life, my longing to be in His physical presence became more and more intense. In July 1948, through a letter written under Baba's direction, I was permitted to visit Him during school vacations or whenever I was granted leave, provided I was also free from any family responsibilities. Many times I took advantage of this blessed opportunity to be with Baba, and yet, somehow, I took this privilege for granted and did not realize its deep significance or regard it with the profound gratitude with which I should have.
My last stay with Baba was at Meherazad in November 1968. Before leaving, I folded my hands to Baba, who was sitting in His chair in the corner of Mandali Hall, and asked His permission to go. Baba nodded His consent and raised His right hand in a gesture that meant, "Be happy." As I reached the door, however, Baba called me back, and with a tender intimate smile, He looked at me and gestured, "Kiss Me, then go." At the time, I never imagined that He would soon veil His body from our sight, but Baba knew and, in His loving compassion, He saw to it that my last farewell should be sealed with a kiss.
That touch of my lips on the Avatar's cheek became the everlasting wellspring of my love for Him. In later years, when I went through some physically and emotionally trying times, that kiss sustained me and helped nourish my ever-increasing trust in Him as the Ancient One. Such is the grace of the Avatar!
In the last week of January 1969, I received a postcard from Meherazad conveying Beloved Baba's love on my birthday. There was a casual mention that Baba's health was not at all good, but I did not ever dream that He was seriously ill. I was still looking forward to being with Baba again in Pune during my summer school break in April-May. But Baba suddenly passed away from our sight, and His body was lowered into the crypt at Meherabad and covered with a wooden case. This opened a totally new chapter in my relationship with Him.
After the crypt in which Baba's physical form rests was sealed, the structure covering it was referred to by many of His lovers as the Tomb, and by some of His Hindu lovers as the Samadhi. The use of these words saddened me.
Samadhi is a word that has numerous meanings in Indian languages, usually denoting a trance or a state of deep absorption in which the individual is oblivious to his or her external surroundings. Deep sleep is sometimes even jokingly referred to as it "going into samadhi." Samadhi also generally refers to the place where a loved one has been buried, or to the shrine where someone's memory is honored and where, perhaps, their ashes have been interred. It did not seem to me that this word was appropriate to Baba's state in any of these meanings, because Baba could not be said to have slipped off into some final trance or ceased to exist. His universal spiritual work, I believe, continues unimpeded from the top of Meherabad Hill.
Yet, as uncomfortable as I was with the word Samadhi, "Tomb" seemed even more objectionable. Literally, a tomb is a place where someone who has died is buried, and Meher Baba, to me, is alive and active as the Avatar of the Age. How, then, can the place where the body that housed Reality is be called a tomb?
I did not accept that Meher Baba had "died" in the usual sense of the word. I had read an expression that seemed far more apt Meher Baba, for His own spiritual reasons, had chosen "to put a veil" over His physical body. I recalled a statement Meher Baba had made in the '30s: "I am not limited to this form. I use it like a garment to make Myself visible to you, and I communicate with you. I am Infinite Consciousness."
So when talking with pilgrims visiting Meherabad, I would go to great lengths to avoid using either of the words "Tomb" or "Samadhi" and would instead say things like, "Have you been up the Hill? Have you offered your homage to Baba?" No one suspected that I was deliberately avoiding the use of the word "Tomb." This went on for quite some time until finally Baba had pity on me and used His supreme sense of humor to pull me out of my hesitation to use this word.
I can best relate the change that transpired within me during the early '70s by putting it in the form of a dialogue with Baba. However, I want to make it very clear that what follows is not based on a vision of Meher Baba or an actual conversation I had with Him. This is just a way of sharing my thoughts and feelings on this subject.
"Baba," I complained, "why do You allow people to use the word 'Tomb' for the place where You are so alive? It is the place from which Your work is being carried out most naturally as ordained by You."
And I felt Baba asking me in turn, "What's wrong with the word 'Tomb'?"
"What's wrong with it! What's right with it? I don't think a worse or more misrepresentative word could be suggested! Are You not so alive, so active here in dispensing Your unbinding love? So how can this place be called the Tomb?"
"All right! If you don't like the word 'Tomb', what other word can you suggest that would be better?"
"The Center of centers! The Source of Sahaj Samadhi!" I answered, wondering how these words came to me! I felt You chuckle deep within me at my offhand reply.
"Big words and big ideas, but rather clumsy!" You continued, "Don't you understand that the use of this particular word is one of My ways of simultaneously concealing and revealing My divinity to those who visit Me here?"
I remained silent for a while. You said, "Tell Me, were you not present when the English newspaper was read out to me?"
"Do you not read the newspaper now?"
"Sometimes," I replied, wondering at the question.
"Then you must have come across phrases like, 'The UNO [United Nations Organization] has decided such and such . . . (This is an acronym used by the Indian English dailies.)
And I recalled that when a newspaper was read aloud to Baba by one of the mandali, UNO would be pronounced as "you know."
"You understand that 'UNO' doesn't mean 'you know,'" You continued. "It means the United Nations Organization."
"Yes, right," I agreed.
"In the same way, 'Tomb' is not just a word; it's an acronym T.O.M.B."
It was no trouble for me to recognize the last two letters of the acronym as standing for "Meher Baba," but what about the first two letters, T and O?
Then in a flash it came to me: T.O.! Timeless One!
"Timeless One Meher Baba!" I exclaimed.
I felt Meher Baba's charming smile, indicating that I had guessed correctly, yet I asked, "You're not just humoring me, are You, Baba?"
"Why should I? Go inside the Tomb and see for yourself!"
I did so and was immediately struck by the first words, shining with gold leaf, engraved at the top of the white marble slab: "Eternal Beloved Avatar Meher Baba." That is "Timeless One Meher Baba."
I felt that I had received the answer to my question. Avatar Meher Baba's methods in reaching the hearts of His lovers and cleansing even their smallest doubts about Him are matchless. His responses to the needs of His dear ones are offered in the most personal way so that they can be wholeheartedly accepted. He is able to do this owing to His infinite sense of humor. I now use the word "Tomb" in conversation, but with what a difference!
Meher Baba, the Timeless Avatar, is ever-present there.
(1) Three Incredible Weeks with Meher Baba, pp. 25-27 BACK
THE SAMADHI * STAR OF INFINITY, pp. 17-23
1997 © Sheriar Foundation