A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough (excuse me, Bal Natu) to stay on the Meher Center for a while. It turned out that there were a couple of people there who had attended the ’69 darshan in India and, with a little prompting, they regaled us for hours with their stories. As I particularly enjoy hearing Baba stories, I had a blast, but it also got me to thinking.
Fewer and fewer people are still alive who met Baba in His physical form. Even my generation–those who got to spend a lot of time with the Mandali in the ’70s and ’80s–are now “senior” citizens or close to it. And there is a new generation of Baba folks who never got the opportunity to spend much time, if any, with many of the Mandali. Does this portend anything for the future?
I used to think that meeting the Mandali and hanging out with them was the next best thing to being able to be with Baba in person. And I wondered how people could possibly get by once the Mandali were gone. I see that there were at least two fundamentally wrong assumptions in that.
First, I assumed that if it was important to me to spend time with the Mandali, then it must be important for others as well. Yet I am slowly coming to see–unfortunately (excuse me, Bal Natu) everything I learn comes slowly to me–that just because I needed the Mandali’s guidance doesn’t mean that others automatically do as well. Just because I like listening to Baba stories, doesn’t mean that everyone should, or that it even serves any purpose for others to do so.
And secondly, I totally overlooked Baba’s ability to do His work on His own, in His way, whether He is physically present or not, or whether His Mandali are alive or not. I have no doubt, and Baba has said this very clearly, that the Avatar works directly through His Mandali as if they are an extension of His physical body. But the Avatar, as the Eternal Perfect Master, has never been confined to just doing His work through His physical form.
As the numbers of the Mandali dwindle, as the time people can spend with them evaporates, Baba’s ability to touch people’s hearts and reduce them to tears (Mani used to call it “melting in His love,” not crying) remains unaffected.
The same phenomenon occurs at Myrtle Beach. Baba is still palpably present to many, even though it’s been 50 years since He was here last in physical form, and quite a few years since Kitty and Elizabeth carried on in His name.
Instead of feeling sorry for folks who didn’t meet the Mandali, or worrying about how they will find their way, I have come to acknowledge that many have a more intimate inner connection with Baba than I have. The outward form of this connection is not important.
It doesn’t matter if they don’t enjoy listening to Baba stories. It doesn’t matter if they don’t like meeting in groups or reading the Discourses. It doesn’t matter if some of them interpret following Baba’s directives in a way I do not, because they are on their own path to and with Baba and that’s all that does matter.
The Perfect Master, Ramakrishna, used to say that if you wanted to reach a distant city, you couldn’t wait until you had a perfect set of directions to begin your journey. If you did that, not only would you never arrive, you would never even leave. The key was to simply start walking and, as you went, to ask for directions. At the beginning, most of the people you asked wouldn’t have a clue how to get there and they would send you in lots of wrong directions. If you persevered, however, you would eventually get closer. And, as you got closer, more and more people would actually know the way and be able to give you good directions. We are all starting out from different places, so our paths will all be different. But as long as we are honest enough to admit to ourselves the possibility that we might be temporarily lost, and willing to ask for directions then, eventually, we will be given the right advice and will find God.
So I have concluded that I don’t need to worry about the future, as I would have known if I had paid attention to the Mandali to begin with. Bal Natu used to avoid ever using the words “fortunate” or “unfortunate.” He felt that this showed a lack of faith that everything that happens is determined by Baba’s will. There is no question of good or bad luck, there is only His will and the way we react to it. I might be following a long and winding road to His door while others are on the express superhighway, but He is directing it all.