By Steve Klein
In Jenny Keating’s recent column for All (Baba) Things Considered, she referred to a cable that Baba sent in 1967 in which He said that He wanted Jenny and her sister “to pursue singing . . . to make it our life work.” But when she tried to do this, she discovered (in her words) that she was “not that talented” and that “learning to sing turned out to be hard work.” I was struck by this because I had always really enjoyed the quality of her voice when she sang.
It made me realize, not for the first time, that there can be quite a disparity between how we consider someone else, and how they consider themselves. But this then led me to a related thought.
It started me thinking about how we can sometimes look upon some and consider them talented or blessed with various virtues or qualities to the point where we start to envy them. Then we don’t just stop at saying, “She has a beautiful voice,” or “He’s a great athlete,” but we go on to ascribe other virtues to the person as well, as if having one automatically means that there must be others as well.
So, it is sometimes an easy step, especially when the talent involves Baba, to go from thinking, “_____ is a talented poet and a great song writer,” to “I wish I could be like _____,” or even, “I wish I loved Baba the way _____ does.”
There are two things wrong with this. The first may be obvious—we can’t ever really know how much someone else loves Baba.
Bhau used to tell a wonderful story about the time, during a sahavas program, where he was given the duty of supervising the public display of Baba’s kamli coat. There was one old man who seemed overcome with devotion, and he just kept repeatedly bowing down to the coat, over and over again. Bhau was touched at this man’s love until he noticed that the reason the old man kept bowing down was that he was trying his best to pull out some threads from the coat so he could have a souvenir for himself. Which is not to say, of course, that the old man didn’t love Baba, but just that the nature of the love was a little different from what Bhau had first assumed it to be.
Maybe it is easy to overestimate another’s love because most of us don’t feel we love enough ourselves. One time, on the blue bus tours, Katie expressed her admiration for the incredible austerities that various sadhus they saw were performing in their quest to find God. Baba brushed these aside and told Katie she had no idea what she, herself, had already undergone in past lives to reach the present life, where she seemed to have no such similar dedication, and yet had earned the right to be with Baba.
And it is also possible to underestimate someone else. Baba used to greet, with great affection, someone who made a big pretense of loving Him. Outside of Baba’s company, this person behaved very differently. Eruch knew this and was astonished that Baba was “taken in” by this man’s posturing. But when Eruch tried to inform Baba about this man’s true nature, Baba said to Eruch, “What do you know?” And He held His hand out so that its shadow was cast on the wall. “That’s all you see,” Baba said. “You just see the shadow but I can see into the man’s heart and I tell you he truly loves me.”
Eruch couldn’t say a word after that and, as time went by, this man’s outer behavior changed. But, even if it hadn’t, the lesson would have remained the same for Eruch—you can never judge another’s heart.
Still, watching the mandali bowing down at Baba’s Samadhi, I would find myself thinking, “I wish I loved Baba the way they do.” And in this case, all logic would tell one that I was not misjudging their love, mine, or their relative worth. In this case, my assessment was accurate and yet my wish was still misplaced. Which brings me to my second, and ultimately the real, reason why it is a mistake to envy another’s love. Not because it is difficult to judge, but because any judgment perpetuates the false ego. Whether I judge myself superior or inferior, whether everyone else would agree with my assessment or not, I am only reinforcing my false sense of self. And it is the false or separative ego which prevents us from loving Baba as He should be loved in the first place.
Or, to put it another way, there aren’t really innumerable souls in the universe all loving God to varying degrees. There is really only one soul. And comparing and contrasting yourself with others only sustains the illusion of multiplicity. Therefore, it never makes sense to want to love like someone else, as there is no one else. Of course, even if I can, from time to time, grasp that all other souls are really just Baba, I don’t seem to be able to shake the erroneous notion that I do exist. So now, instead of wishing I loved the way another does, I can only pray, “Baba, let me love You more and more, and still yet more, until,” as Eruch would say, “I am no more.”