By Ann Conlon
This is a topic that gets a lot of discussion from time to time, most of it when a person new to Meher Baba is involved. It can get confusing until one realizes that the terms “lover” and “follower” are not necessarily interchangeable.
I remember a time, when I was editing a newsletter devoted to Meher Baba, and Elizabeth Patterson didn’t want me to refer to people as either one, since how can you know? Good question, actually, but we finally came to the conclusion that one could, and should, assume that a person loved Baba because he certainly was easy to love. Following him, however, was a different question. Doing that certainly wasn’t easy, but again, Baba would be the only one who would know if someone was following him. Making judgements about it would be a waste of time and most likely would just lead to endless wrangling over what “follower” meant.
So I’m not going to wrangle about it, but just express some thoughts and a comment I remember being made by someone whose opinion and insight I came to respect.
How does one respond when a newcomer asks what you mean by Baba lover and Baba follower and is there a difference? The lover part is easy, right? The follower aspect is trickier. It calls for a commitment, certainly, and it’s a serious one. As Kitty Davy once said to a relative newcomer to Baba, “If you’re not serious about this, don’t get too close.” Getting close, she said, meant having your life turned upside down and if you weren’t prepared for that – if you weren’t committed – it was going to be a rough ride, and probably one that would soon throw you.
Making that commitment means obeying him – or at least trying to – and apparently there’s the rub for some people. I can understand that it probably feels safer to stand back and just love him, and try not to get involved in anything as sticky as commitment. And that is what he asks: “Just love me.” But he also said obedience is greater than love.
When it comes to commitment, it’s sometimes tentative, amounting to sticking a toe in the ocean. Some say they are committed but they like to pick and choose what aspects of Meher Baba’s orders or wishes they’ll observe. I even heard one young Baba lover say that obeying Baba literally was all right for older Baba lovers but “we younger ones just follow our intuition.” I hope for their sakes that their “intuition” actually is intuition, and not just some instinct to go with what’s comfortable or convenient. Because Meher Baba is not comfortable or convenient. And he warned us about dashing down a path on our own. “Don’t get ahead of me,” he said, “I know the pitfalls.”
He expressed his wishes for his followers many times in many messages. It wouldn’t hurt to read some of them. Try Discourses and The Path of Love, both full of pointers. Try the two messages given at the East-West Gathering: “My Dear Children” and “My Dear Workers.” Try his “Final Warning to My Lovers.” Try “My Wish” and “How To Love God.” And then there’s this one, from the East-West Gathering: “Don’t worry, if you obey me and hold on to my damaan, where I am you will be.” If all that doesn’t give you an idea of what he wanted from his followers, might it be that you just don’t want to know?
As for myself, I can say I love Baba. As for following him, I hope I do. For others who say they love Baba but wouldn’t call themselves Baba followers, I hope with all my heart that they eventually know the joys — and the difficulties — of trying to follow him. It’s an adventure unlike any other.