In the early 70s, when I used to volunteer at the Meher Baba Information Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, people would often drop in and tell me stories about how wonderful their own masters were. And back then there seemed to be a lot of “Masters” that people were following. (Perhaps there still are and I’m just no longer in the loop–at any rate in rural New Hampshire you don’t hear much about other “Masters” these days.) I would try to listen politely, with some semblance of interest, but tended to be skeptical when they recounted the great inner experiences they had had following Guruwhatshisnameananda. And I remember I would feel annoyed when, after asking some questions and learning a little bit about Meher Baba, they would exclaim, “Oh, he’s just like my master.”
I would think, “No He’s not. He’s the real thing. He’s God in human form. He’s the Avatar for Pete’s sake. He’s not at all like your master.” This may have even been the proper reaction because Baba says somewhere (I’m counting on one of you to find the proper reference) that it is good (perhaps even necessary?) that devotees believe their Master is greater than any other, even if the Masters in question are imperfect. There is even the famous anecdote about one of Baba’s early disciples who was bitten by a scorpion one night and called on Baba to help him. Getting no relief, he called on Sai Baba, and then Upasni and then Babajan, and then started back with Baba again. When the disciple saw Baba the next day he complained that he had suffered all night long and no one had come to his aid. Baba said he happened to have been in a meeting of the Perfect Masters that previous night and they had heard him call for help. When he called out Baba’s name, Baba had gotten up to go to him, but before He could do anything, the man had called on Sai Baba, so Baba sat down and Sai Baba had stood up and so on, all night long. Baba said this illustrated the importance of holding one-pointedly to one’s own Master.
The problem is that sometimes, when we think we’re holding on to Baba, we are actually only holding on to our beliefs about Baba. I say this because I’ve noticed that, believing Baba to be the Highest of the High, and therefore accepting His teachings as the most definitive, I tend to take the belief systems of others less seriously. This might be okay but I’ve noticed that when I do this, I also, in a subtle way, take the other people less seriously too. Instead of empathizing with them with my heart, my mind is making judgements and I end up feeling separation instead of unity. To me, this is a sure tip off that I’ve lost hold of Baba because it seems clear to me that my “job” as a Baba person is not to judge others, or to correct their beliefs, but to make them feel as loved as Baba would.
Of course, as anyone who knows me even a little can readily attest, I don’t do a very good job of this. In fact, many times it seems it is all I can do to be pleasant, much less loving, but I do find that it is a little easier for me when I forget such distinctions as “Baba lover” and “non Baba lover” and “bad Baba lover” and just try to see everyone as an opportunity to get closer to Baba by treating them as Baba would want them to be treated.