Getting scolded is part of childhood, and growing up I got my fair share. And not without good cause, as I was mischievous by nature and daring to a fault. Further, I had no understanding of physics and the flesh; that rocks and fists when hurled had the capacity to hurt, as did unfiltered words. Nor did I understand grammar, that possessions were called possessions because other people actually possessed them.
The result of these characteristics was a lot of time in trouble with just about everyone in authority.
And then I came to Baba.
And the experience of coming to Baba and receiving his beautiful, healing love washed away, to a greater part, the underlying source of these antagonist traits and almost completely ended their expression. I walked around in a pink cloud of harmonious coexistence with any and all; avoiding conflict directed at me with a smile, calmly resting in Baba’s words, “humility disarms antagonism.” Smiling. Avoiding. Smiling. Avoiding.
And then I became a boss.
And as a boss of, at times, up to 50 people, I was responsible to ensure things went right. And when they didn’t go right, I was to find the cause or the culprit. If the cause was organizational deficiencies or simple human error, I would correct them. If things didn’t go right because an employee had willfully failed to do an assigned task, I was forced to confront the individual. Early on, the confrontations would range from smiling assurances, like “Gosh, you can do better!” all the way to slightly less smiling assurances. “Gosh darn it. Gee, can’t you do better?”
And then I met my match.
A highly talented, much valued employee who was impervious to my gentle admonitions. After much handwringing and many failed “sit downs”, I lost it. I mean big. Yelling, threats, name-calling and even, he remembers, a phone message pad aimed at his head. I remember it aimed more at his feet. Regardless, I lost it just the same. Pure, organic, unfiltered anger. Wow.
And then I felt bad.
Really bad. Guilty. Ashamed. I’d lost control. Said hurtful things. Behaved “unspiritually.” Embarrassed Baba. Displeased Baba. Accumulated sanskaras, whatever they are. You name it, I felt it. And I struggled. Really struggled with the guilt of having behaved as I had in my not so distant youth. Ugh. Ouch. “We repent O God most Merciful . . . “.
And then I remembered something. The Mandali.
During my visits to India I had the occasion of being scolded by the Mandali. By several of them. By Adi K. By Mani. By Eruch. By Padri. By Elizabeth. By Mansari. By Margaret. Usually for what I thought were minor offenses; sometimes for apparently nothing at all. But they were scoldings nonetheless. And they were something to behold. They were spontaneous, forceful, direct, and sometimes even harsh. But strangely they were . . . what would be the word . . . .? Respectful? There was something in their scoldings that wasn’t personal, that didn’t hurt the heart. Didn’t really hurt at all. Not even a little. And you know what? They worked. The behaviors the Mandali sought to correct were determined to never repeat themselves.
And then I asked myself a question.
Is this a reflection of true spiritual maturity? To be able to give someone a dressing down without hurting that someone’s heart? Is this the culmination of all those years of obedience, service, remembrance, and prayers? Really?
Well, maybe yes, if it’s something you’re unable or unwilling to do.
Homa Dadachanji used to joke that following Baba is the process of learning to do the things you don’t want to do. And if forcefully checking another’s behavior is something you don’t want to do, Baba will repeatedly put you in the position where you must. And, likewise, if smilingly walking away from conflict is a challenge, get ready to be confronted until you learn how to do that.
Perhaps Baba’s Work on us is more about balance than bliss; to become a fully functioning human, capable of every human behavior required for life on Earth. Loving, comforting, celebrating, grieving, acquiescing, surrendering, confronting, scolding, and, when necessary, fighting. To be able to do everything.
Decades ago Mansari would greet me with, “Jai Baba!” then asked a curious question, “Balanced?” I would always respond with “yes, Mansari, all balanced,” not really knowing what she meant.
Now I’m starting to see. I spent the first twenty years of my life reacting emotionally to all stimuli around, which caused a lot of hurt for myself and others. Then I came to Baba, and to avoid that hurt wouldn’t allow myself to react to anything. At all. Except with remembrance and a smile, blissfully trading one imbalance for another.
In the early years we badgered the Mandali with one question: “How? How do we obey Baba? How do we serve Him? How can we love Him as He should be Loved? How? How? How?”
I’m not sure I know . . . but being a person seems a good place to start.
And today if dear Mansari were to ask, “balanced?” I would say, “I’m working on it, Mansari.” “We’re working on it.”
Published September, 2018.