Often, in my conversations with other Baba lovers, we end up sharing about how the same tiresome issues seem to keep surfacing in our lives, how certain patterns and faults continue repeating themselves. Just when we think we’ve left behind some annoying weakness in ourselves, it will suddenly rear its familiar and unappealing head, staring us intently in the face, yet again. This reminds me of a story Eruch used to tell about himself:
“One day I was feeling very sort of disgruntled and low around Baba and He asked me about it. I said that, well, nothing is the matter. I am fine. But He kept after me until He got me to spill the beans. I said that when I was younger I used to be such a sweet fellow. People used to like my personality and I was well liked. But now I feel all these things in me – as if I’m not a nice person. Then Baba said, ‘Yes, it is true, but what you feel is a good thing. You have seen how the sugar cane juice is processed? You are like a cane of sugar in my sugar cane field. I have cut you and put you through the press. Now you are simmering over the fire and all the impurities – the scum is coming to the top to be scraped off. It is like that.'”
In the same way, Baba stirs up our ego so that we can face what comes to the surface and make the right choice based on what would please Him. Sometimes, when I become frustrated or weary about having to face what appears to be the same conflict again and again, I turn to Baba’s discourse on the nature of the ego, where He explains:
“The ego is like an iceberg floating in the sea. About one-seventh of the iceberg remains above the surface of the water and is visible to the onlooker, but the major portion remains submerged and invisible.” (p. 168) In the same discourse, Baba says: “…conflicts have to be brought to the surface of consciousness and frankly faced before they can be adequately solved.” (p. 164)
Margaret Craske would often tell a story about how Baba made her face a weakness in herself that, at the time, she was completely unaware of – spiritual pride. This was a frequent theme in Margaret’s talks with people at the Center during the 70’s and 80’s. In her first days in the ashram with Baba, in the 1930’s, Margaret confesses that, while she had come to India to stay, she wasn’t really sure she wanted to be there. Before long, feelings of pride began to grow, and she began to think what a good disciple she must be, making this effort to remain in India. She writes in her book, “Still Dancing with Love”:
“One day Baba sent for me and said lovingly, ‘You are a jewel of a disciple, staying here when you don’t really want to.’ I, however, was not yet ready to see what He was trying to show me and smilingly accepted the comment.
“A few months later He again sent for me and again said, ‘You are a jewel of a disciple, staying here when you don’t really want to.’
“Immediately I remembered that once before He had used exactly the same words to me, but this time I was ready for it and was overwhelmed when I saw the ridiculous pride that had been growing in me. I burst into tears and said, ‘Oh, now Baba I understand what You mean.’
“He sat there smiling, loving, and finally after my outburst and recovery from same we laughed together, but I can assure you that that particular piece of pride did not return. Others did, of course.”
I’ve gradually come to recognize that remembrance of Baba sets the stage for so much in the spiritual life. Remembering Baba inwardly not only helps me feel connected to Him, but His name and presence also provides the intuitive basis to begin to figure things out. Remembering Him provides the courage to face the conflicts and weaknesses He stirs up in me. Mani once said that Baba could do one of two things with our weaknesses when He brings them to the surface. He either wipes them away and, in doing so, makes us stronger or He uses our weaknesses for His work, which can also draw us closer to Him. And, in addition to all this, Baba tells us, that by having His name in our hearts whenever we act on something, the active presence of His name prevents any new sanskaras from forming. It’s kind of like having a magic ticket on the lover-and-Beloved train Home! There’s only one catch – I have to make that effort to remember Him!
One of my favorite stories of Eruch’s is about a morning in Mandali Hall when a small group of close ones, gathered around Baba noticed there was a jar of sweets in His lap. Baba began twirling the jar in a mischievous way while listening to the “bogus” news (as it was jokingly called) of the day.
Suddenly, His mood changed and He became very serious. He slowly and purposefully opened the lid to the jar, reached in and distributed one sweet to each disciple. Once everyone had received their prasad, Baba said: “The sweets of My love are always here for you but the effort to open the lid to the jar is in your hands. And that effort is to remember Me.”
It seems, then, that Baba’s task, in His role as Awakener, is to both enliven love for God in our hearts, and to create situations designed to provoke our subconscious to push the garbage to the surface. In other words, He awakens the mire of our lower self to use as stepping-stones to gradually awaken our higher self. He does this by asking us to examine our inner lives honestly in the light of His love. Then, with His help, try to make intelligent decisions, putting them through, what He calls “the fire of intelligent consciousness“, decisions that will guide our thoughts, words, and actions, step-by-step toward the Beloved.
This, after all is said and done, seems like the most worthy of all of life’s pursuits: to make the best effort I can to please Him. And, by His grace, I may feel Beloved Baba reaching out to me with the most loving smile and a sweet in His hand.
Meher Baba, Discourses, Seventh revised edition, 1987, Sheriar Foundation.