I look back at the time in 1956 when I first heard Meher Baba’s name and I am stunned that he’s been consciously in my life for forty-eight years. I suppose that should make me feel old, but oddly enough it just makes me feel younger than I know I am.
There’s something about this person, this Avatar, that has that effect on me. I expect it had the same effect on other longtime followers, judging by the glow, the vitality that emanated from people like Kitty Davy and Margaret Craske and Elizabeth Patterson and, of course, all the Mandali in India. Their hair may have turned gray, their steps slowed, but they were youthful up to their dying days. I would hope that turns out to be true for me.
Do you remember your early contacts with Meher Baba, the effect on you of simply hearing his name or of being told who he was? For me, it was being told that he was “the Christ.” It made the whole world turn upside down, take on a magical look and feeling, and never seem ordinary again. When I heard who he was and accepted it as fact immediately, I did not want to run off and meet him. That came later. In the beginning I was content to know that he was alive in the world again. How incredible, I thought, that what I always wanted as a child had actually happened. Even though he was on the other side of the world, he was here, walking on the same earth as I was. Colors were suddenly stingingly brighter, objects stood out from each other, trees that usually formed a mass of green were suddenly sharply clear as individuals. That didn’t last, of course, but it was extraordinary while it did.
I was living in New York then, an hour by train north of Manhattan. Almost every Monday night I took the train into the city to go to the Monday night Baba meeting. It wasn’t so much that I enjoyed having someone read to me at those meetings, it was the people who were there, who had met Meher Baba and could tell me what he was like. People like Beryl Williams who would go to a coffee shop after the meetings and tell stories about Baba until it was time for me to run for the 1 a.m. train back to Westchester. Precious times, and also a wonderful learning experience. Beryl could tell me what Baba did in certain situations and also why. I absorbed more of who Baba was from her stories than I ever could from books.
There were also more characters per square foot in that meeting room than any other room I’ve ever been in. Among the ones that stand out in my memory were “the little old ladies in sneakers.” There were four or five of them, dressed in their Sunday best, who came every week and sat together on the sofa. I don’t remember any of them ever speaking, but they smiled and nodded through the entire meeting. Apparently, they attended one spiritual group meeting or another every night of the week. This was their entertainment.
I went to those meetings religiously and also managed to take part in the group’s social occasions; dinner out where toasts were made “to the Boss,” and joint picnics at a state park with the Schenectady group. I was convinced that having great quantities of food around was a required part of following Baba. And I waited. And waited. And waited some more, hoping we would hear that Baba was coming again or we would be allowed to go to India. When I finally gave up that hope, it happened.
In the spring of 1961, Baba decided to open a crack in “the door of his seclusion” and let his lovers come for one hour on any one day over a two-week period. Just to make things more interesting, we heard about the opportunity when there were only nine days left out of the two weeks. Most people in New York thought it was meant only for Easterners so there was no rush out the door. But on the theory that this was my one and only chance, and with the incredible help of my two Baba contacts, the Passport Office and Air India, I got out the door in three days and got to Poona when there were still five days left of the darshan.
I was fully prepared to stay only an hour and return immediately to New York. But Baba told me to go to him at Guruprasad on each of the remaining five days of the darshan. I am still overwhelmed by the luck of that gift. I was ready to settle for one moment, one look at his eyes, but he gave me five days to sit and fill my eyes with him and store it all up in my memory, convinced that this would be the only time I’d see him. When I tell the story of that first meting, it usually takes an hour, but I can sum up its impact in a few words. I had never felt so at home, never so loved, never so safe, as I did during those five days. Certainly, they were the most exciting days of my life.
My relationship with Baba then was very new, very young, and I think he was very understanding of that. I could see that understanding in his smile and appreciated it. I know I did some dumb things, but he passed over all of them.
As the years went by, that relationship changed. I knew he was with me every moment, could even imagine that he walked beside me, on my left with my hand in his. More and more he became my personal Baba, my best friend, the one I could say anything to and know he still loved me.
And now? Now, it’s like a good old marriage: quiet, comfortable and familiar, but he can still totally surprise me every day. And those surprises are like bouquets, whose scent — of jasmine and roses — lingers on the air for a long, long time.