By Jenny Keating
Francis Brabazon lived with Meher Baba as one of His mandali from 1959 until Baba dropped His Body in 1969 and his correspondence with Australian Baba lovers and our family in particular gave details of the various activities and moods of the Avatar and the experiences Francis had living with Him. They also chart the development of an extensive body of poetry and songs that were Francis’ effort to entertain and please His Divine Beloved.
He sent copies of his songs to my mother who had a good ear and singing voice and she proceeded to teach us our first “Baba songs.” This became a highlight in our family life, a way we remembered Baba and entertained each other, with each one of us learning the songs and attempting to sing them. I still remember the excitement on receiving the handwritten music and words for what was later published as The East-West Gathering. There were so many songs to learn and Baba had listened to them all being read to Him by Francis.
My sister Maree and I developed a repertoire of these Baba songs which we sang accompanying ourselves on the guitar. In 1967, our father was invited to India to spend two weeks with Baba at Meherazad to discuss Avatars Abode and its future, and Francis suggested we make a tape of our singing, just in case there was the opportunity for it to be played to Baba. This opportunity arose and the tape of our singing was played to Baba on the morning of His 73rd Birthday in Mandali Hall. A cable arrived soon after with the message that He “was touched by our wonderful voices and wanted us to pursue the art of singing . . . to make it our lifework”. He sent a further message saying: “. . . I am the only Real One and they should sing about Me to awaken the hearts of all who hear them to the knowledge that I am the Only One . . .”
I don’t recall exactly how I felt about this message at the time but I had a strong sense of duty and I knew from the training I received from Francis and my parents that if Baba asked anything of you, you must try to obey Him, try to do as He asks. But instead of His wish for us bringing me joyful pleasure it became a constant source of angst – of on-going frustration and disappointment. As I began to take singing lessons, I discovered I was not that talented, I had to struggle, I needed to be disciplined and determined – qualities that don’t come naturally to me – I wanted things to be easy, for life to be fun – learning to sing turned out to be hard work. Procrastination was my daily companion: “I’ll practice tomorrow when I have more time, when I feel stronger, when the mood is right . . .” on and on. Sometimes I would practice, but more often I would find reasons not to.
I became so despondent that at one point I stopped singing all together. But every day I would think of His wish for me and feel badly that I was not obeying Him. Discovering how hard it was to actually obey Baba and how incredibly skilled I was at procrastinating made me recall a story from the Ramayana which my father used to read to us at night after dinner.
It’s towards the end when Rama had finally defeated Ravana and he lies dying. Rama aware that Ravana, despite his evil deeds, might have some words of wisdom concerning the affairs of state asks him for his advice on how to rule wisely. Ravana says to Rama: “if thou wishest to do any good work, do not delay, but do it at once otherwise it will be difficult to achieve thy task – a good deed deferred may never be done” and on the other hand, he said: “do not hasten to do evil deeds as they will be one’s undoing”.
Eventually, I got over my despondency and wanted to sing again, to sing anyway, even if I wasn’t talented. I wanted to try again, because that was His wish for me. I started to get a sense of what He has so often said that it’s the trying that matters, that the results rest with Him. Many stories from His life indicate that He never gave you something to do that was easy and that you were good at – what would be the point? I’ve come to understand that it’s in the struggle to please Him that we remember Him and that’s all we can do. I may not be talented at singing but I can still at least try to do what He wants, take singing lessons, and practice when I can.
I recently came across a letter from Francis to my mother written from India in which he addresses this same theme and which I found immeasurably helpful: “. . . we can never afford to wait for ideal conditions in anything; we must always start with how things are, with what we have. If we use what we have as well as we can, better conditions and things will be given to us.”
I am still trying, still struggling, but now I take it as the journey that’s important not the end result of singing well for Him – that will only happen when He wills it.