By Bruce Felknor
“And you shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that you be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.” (Matthew 24:6 Holy Bible, King James version)
Last night began with poignant, but mistaken news; today dawns with lightness, humor . . . and a reminder to be alert to the Now. As I write this, it is Silence Day — the day in the year 2013 in which Baba’s mandali member Bhau Kalchuri did not pass from this earth — and I have made yet another entry in my never to be published journal “Things That Did Not Happen.”
For something that didn’t happen, Bhauji’s non-passing got a lot of press in the Baba world — and no wonder, since we have all experienced the passing of the mandali, one by one, whether we were present at the time or not. Depending perhaps on one’s personal connection with a particular mandali, one felt acutely each of their deaths. But each of us takes special note of these events that give rise to a contemplation of our own lives with Baba and his mandali and things that did happen.
I remember when Mehera died. When I heard the news, I was with some close friends from India and I distinctly remember hearing, almost audibly, but deeply, “she is my real friend.” What I felt at the time was: her perfect love for Baba helped illumine my path in a real and tangible way. Meeting Mehera, especially for men (as we were kept at a physical distance from her), was a heartwarming and also somewhat startling experience. The last time I saw her was not too long before she passed. As I was leaving Meherazad on my last day, I went to say goodbye. She, and the other mandali as well, had an uncanny way both of being alive to the moment and of zeroing-in on one’s personal matters. In our goodbye, she said many things which were often said by her: remember to take Baba’s name when getting in and out of vehicles; how to tell someone who might have difficulty accepting Baba as the Avatar about him, etc. . . But then, she moved quite close to me and gave me some rather personal advice in terms which were not often heard from her (at least, not by me!). I cannot adequately describe the experience, but it was at once completely intimate, tender and delivered with such love and clarity. I can also say it was as if the particulars of her statements left her completely unaffected when they were delivered to me, who was completely affected.
I was in India when Pendu died. In his later years, he would sit in the most fantastic sort of easy chair (the arms of which could extend providing a place to rest your legs) outside where the Blue Bus was kept. He was a great storyteller and a bit mischievous and full of love; he had been crippled from a stroke, and walking was a real challenge for him. When he wanted to use the toilet, he would get up with his walker and, if you asked him where he was going, he would say: “going to Bombay!”
It was warm the day he died, and a sudden and unexpected rain fell on Meherabad. It was a beautiful late afternoon and evening when he was buried; many people took turns hammering the final nails into his casket.
He was a tireless worker — one of the four pillars of Meherabad, Baba said — and the Samadhi, water tank (where Baba’s flag is flown,) Dharamshala, Mandali Hall and other buildings, the pathways and wells all bear witness to his sweat and sweet labor of love. I had the distinct experience that Nature itself acknowledged his passing. The moon rose as the sun set — it’s the only time I remember clearly seeing Baba’s image in the moon, which was big and closely drawn to the earth.
When Mani died, we were at home in Chicago. Mani, like all the mandali, was whole-hearted in her actions and did not give half-way measures in her work, whatever it might be. On Baba’s birthday one year, she was distributing sweet ladoo to children from Pimpalgaon village, near Meherazad. The children would line-up for Baba’s darshan, passing through Mandali Hall and exiting to the veranda. There, Mani and others distributed the ladoo, placing one (they’re large, about the size of a tennis ball) into the cupped hands of each child. It was such a simple act, to give prasad and say “Jai Baba” to each one, looking into their eyes, yet the completeness of that action, the care and love that went into each gesture was beautiful to behold and demonstrated for the rest of us there how to do our own work. On another occasion, while I was doing a stint in the pilgrim reservations office at the Trust compound in Ahmednagar, I was taking a smoke break on the veranda. I used to enjoy observing this compound and its inhabitants, watching arrivals and departures — just drinking it all in. Just then, Mani popped out of her office and made a beeline down the veranda in my direction. She was often very animated and full of fun in the midst of her work and it was always delightful to observe her. She stopped when she was right in front of me, and wagging her index finger in an admonishing way said, “It’s a woman’s world, my boy!” And without missing a beat, proceeded to wherever it was she was going. Pure fun.
I had had a particularly wonderful last meeting with Mani, a year before she died. I was at Meherazad in the early morning, come to join Shelley Marrich to escort Goher to the United States. Our interaction was personal and powerful. I can’t tell you what transpired, but her last words to me were, “We don’t say goodbye here, Bruce. Just farewell, until we meet again.” This is part of my treasure and my pleasure!
When the day does come that Bhauji leaves our company, I will recall time spent with him and the generous sharing of his life with Baba with me and many, many others who were the happy recipients of his stories, lovingly and humorously given — just as I’m doing now. Bhauji spent so much time in Chicago over the years — he wrote a rather lovely song for Chicago, called “Wake-Up!” (which advice should be heeded!) I will also remember and enjoy what I know to be the truth: how fortunate we all are to be members of this Baba family. Until then, “You fool, keep silence after nine!”
In closing, and to return to the headline, here’s a little sample of some other things that didn’t happen in my lovely Baba Life:
I did not enter and leave this life without my dearest hope confirmed: that God is real and his beautiful Avatar Meher Baba walked the earth and awakened the hearts of all his children.
I did not fail to spend my treasure making pilgrimage to my Beloved’s Samadhi.
I did not miss the opportunity of having the company of His close ones.
I did not fail to meet my brothers and sisters and enjoy the presence of my Beloved.