Visits To The West
Visits To The West
Meher Baba had by now spent 15 years in India, one and a half decades spent in preparing his eastern group of disciples. It was time to go to the West. He came to the West for the first time in 1931. There he laid the foundation for the new phase of his work when he gathered around him an intimate group of western disciples.
In 1927 Baba had sent Rustom Irani, a close disciple, to England to bring back a few English boys so that the West might be represented in the school. While in England, Rustom met an Englishman named Meredith Starr. Shortly after this meeting Rustom returned to India without any English boys, but Meredith came to India and stayed with Baba in his ashram in Toka for six months. He returned to England after a happy stay with Baba. On his return Meredith founded a retreat in anticipation of Meher Baba's visit.
On July 17, 1931, Baba sent a cable from Karachi saying that he would go to England. During August, his sailing was repeatedly postponed. Then on September 4, 1931, Baba sailed for England with three of his disciples. He had made a prophecy nine years earlier that he and India's political leader Mohandas Gandhi would meet on the boat on his first trip to the West. Now, when Baba's party boarded the S.S. Rajputana, they discovered that Gandhi was also a passenger. Later, Gandhi's secretary relayed the message that Gandhi would like to meet Baba. A meeting was arranged in Baba’s cabin where they talked about spiritual matters. During the voyage Gandhi read a chapter on 'Creation' from Baba’s hitherto unpublished book. Gandhi was most impressed by what he read. They met several times on the boat as well as in England and Bombay. Gandhi had several meetings with Meher Baba, on board the ship as well as at the Knightsbridge Hotel in London and Mani Bhavan in Bombay. Gandhi discussed with Baba several political and social problems and Baba readily suggested remedial measures. During their meeting in Bombay in the forties, Gandhi declared, placing his hand in Baba's, that on completion of his political activities he would join Meher Baba’s ashram and translate Meher Baba's Message to the world.
At their first meeting Gandhi asked Meher Baba to describe his spiritual experiences and explain spirituality. Baba told him that it had to be felt, seen and realized. However, he explained in brief the significance of divine experiences on the path. He told Gandhi,
I enjoy every moment of bliss unfathomable, I experience that all this is illusion and that there is only one Infinite Existence. And now it is my mission in life to impart this Experience and Knowledge to all who come and seek it.
Gandhi sought Baba’s advice on political subjects as well.
As long as civil disobedience in India is non-violently carried out, matters will work out successfully, otherwise India will have to continue suffering
Use your influence to bring the Hindus and Muslims together
At a meeting in Bombay, Gandhi told Baba that he longed for Ishwar-Darshan (God-realization) and promised Baba that he would quit politics and come to live in Baba’s ashram at Meherabad. Later correspondence indicates that Gandhi was unable to quit politics, a precondition put by Baba before adapting to a spiritual life. Gandhi was assassinated in 1948.
While in England, many people came to see Baba and many reporters wrote sensational copy. But the important meetings were with those men and women who were destined to become his first Western disciples. Margaret Craske, who had danced with the Diaghilev Ballet and later had her own dancing school in London, gives her impressions of her first meeting with Baba:
As I entered the room I was completely won over by the love which seemed to permeate his whole personality. The whole time was invested with a dream-like quality of pure love, timelessness and great beauty. It was as if the curtain had been drawn aside and we were privileged to know and feel from our hearts who Baba is.
Another Englishman, Quentin Tod, said of his first meeting,
I was so engrossed in looking at this wonderful man for the first time that everything else faded away. What impressed me most was his rather wild quality, as of something untamed, and his truly remarkable eyes. He smiled and motioned me to sit beside him. He took my hand and from time to time patted my shoulder. We sat for several minutes in silence and I was aware of a great feeling of love and peace emanating from him; also a curious feeling of recognition came to me, as if I had found a long lost friend.
And yet another who was drawn to Meher Baba was Delia De Leon who said,
I was stunned with the wonder and beauty of him. I had seen his face before in my dreams; the eyes were startling in their beauty; the face seemed of luminous honey color, framed by a halo of long dark hair. His hands were most noticeable; they were strong, slim and sensitive.... Everyone and everything faded from my mind except Baba. He alone seemed real — the Perfect Human Being. From that moment I gave my life into his keeping and I knew that my spiritual search was at an end.
Of the scores of interviews that Baba gave while in London, two instances are quoted here. A woman asked Baba how she could develop the realization of the divine within her soul. Baba answered:
True spirituality can be attained not by the intellect, but by heart and feeling - by inner experience. I might explain for hours, but that would be as nothing compared to one second of my internal help. Do one thing. Every night, just before retiring, think for a moment: 'The infinite God is within me, and I am part of the infinite.' This will strengthen your inner contact with me.
Someone asked Baba why, when he was the Christ, did everyone not accept him. To this Baba replied:
It is the human form which I must take that stands in the way of their recognition. Jesus was not acknowledged in his time, even by some of his own intimate and immediate companions, such as Judas. Though none of you understand me externally in my physical form, I am within you - within everybody - as the Real, Infinite Christ.
During his stay in London he went to a Promenade Concert, to several theatres, to the Zoological Gardens, to several museums and to the Unknown Warrior’s grave at Westminster Abbey. While he was staying at Kensington, London, in the house of the Davys, on a certain day, he sent for Mrs. Davy and asked her if there was anything he could do. She replied shyly,
We have a home for old folks over eighty and I would like you to visit them, but you have no time.
It was lunchtime then. Surprisingly, Baba sent for his secretary, told Miss Kitty Davy to order a taxi at once and set off for the home.
Later in the day, Mrs. Davy asked Baba, "How can I understand and love you?" Baba replied, "When you pray, have my picture before you." "I have always the picture of Christ," she said. "Keep looking at the Christ’s picture. It is the same," replied Baba.
From England Baba went to Constantinople, then to Milan and Genoa from whence he sailed for New York. His stay in the United States of America was for one month, three weeks in Harmon-on-the-Hudson, New York and one week in New York City. During Baba’s stay at Harmon-on-the-Hudson, Harry Barnhart, a mind-reader, tried to probe into Baba’s mind. To his utter amazement he found that he could read nothing. He felt that Baba’s mind was an absolute blank and he explained later, “Yet all through the interview I was knowing that Baba was reading every thought and feeling!” When Harry’s remarks were mentioned to Baba, he answered:
I have no mind in the customary sense of the word — only a universal mind; which to read, requires a universal mind.
He returned to India in early 1932, but soon thereafter, on March 24 of the same year, he left India for his first world tour. He again visited England where he gave this message to the West. Here is an extract:
I have not come to establish any cult, society or organization — nor to establish a new religion. The Religion I shall give teaches the knowledge of the One behind the many. The Book which I shall make people read is the book of the heart, which holds the key to the mystery of life. As for ritual, I shall teach humanity to discriminate, express, and live rather than observe it. I shall bring about a blending of the head and the heart. Societies and organizations have never succeeded in bringing truth nearer. Realization of Truth is solely the concern of the individual.
The darshan during his London stay would start at 9:00 in the morning. Every day at least 100 people would come to see Baba. Baba spent an entire day at Kew Gardens, a few hours at the British Museum, an afternoon on different underground railways and visited a few theatres. People were media; he had to work through people. On this particular visit Baba was extensively interviewed by all leading newspapers of London; he also gave personal interviews
He has a gentle, affectionate manner and welcomed me with a graceful inclination. His large, black eyes are very observant, lit up with a pleasant expression as his thin brown finger moved swiftly across the alpha¬bet board on his knee." - Daily Mirror April 13, 1932
Baba conveyed to me the impression of intelligence and power, and a curious feel¬ing as though all one’s thoughts were being read almost before one had thought them." - Daily Mirror, April 21, 1932
Message To America
Meher Baba continued his journey to Paris and further to Lugano, arriving in New York amidst a blare of publicity. Here Baba gave this message:
America has tremendous energy, but most of this energy is misdirected. I intend to divert it into spiritual and creative channels.
My work will arouse great enthusiasm and a certain amount of opposition - that is inevitable. But spiritual work is strengthened by opposition, and so it will be with mine. It is like shooting an arrow from a bow - the more you pull the bow-string towards you, the swifter the arrow speeds to its goal.
While Meher Baba was away to the West, his father Sheriar died on April 30, 1932 at the age of seventy-nine.
At Hollywood in the Paramount studios Baba was received by some of the directors and shown their place of work. Baba attended a reception given in his honor by Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks and on another day a reception of about a thousand film celebrities, where Baba gave a message, a part of which is reproduced here:
The root of all our difficulties, individual and social, is self-interest .... But the elimination of self-interest, even granting a sincere desire on the part of the individual to accomplish it, is not so easy, and is never completely achieved except by the aid of the Perfect Master. For self-interest springs from a false idea of the true nature of the self, and this idea must be eradicated and the Truth experienced, before the elimination of self-interest is possible.
From America Baba sailed for China and made a second visit to Europe, a trip to Egypt and returned to Bombay. An important feature of this trip was a visit to Assisi where Baba stayed in a special cave connected with St. Francis. Here he did his universal work in seclusion.
In the winter of 1932, Baba sent certain of his disciples to travel through Germany, Austria, Italy and Hungary, and some to China and America, to carry forth his message of love and peace. Earlier in the same year he had sent two disciples to Australia and New Zealand on a similar mission. In mid¬ November he sailed for Europe and before his departure sent a message to India in which he stated,
India is a spiritual country. It possesses the most fortunate and unique position in the world of being the land of saints and spiritual masters, since ages. Therefore the spiritual atmosphere of India must be kept up even at the cost of being in bondage and materially unhappy.... It is only after experiencing bondage and misery that the true value of freedom and happiness is really appreciated.... The world will soon realize that neither cults, creeds, dogmas, religions, ceremonies, lectures, and sermons, on the one hand, nor; on the other hand, ardent seeking for material welfare or physical pleasures, can ever bring about real happiness — but that only selfless love and universal brotherhood can do it.
Baba returned to India after a second visit to Egypt and a brief stay in Ceylon. In Ceylon he went into seclusion for some time in a temple in the hills.
How The Master Works
On his fifth visit to the West in 1933 Baba visited Rome and Portofino. He returned to India in July and made a sixth visit to Europe in September of the same year. He stayed in London for thirteen days and left for Spain and, after nearly a month, returned to India.
Baba's seventh visit to the West was in the summer of 1933 when he visited Paris, London and Zurich, where he stayed for six days. During his stay in London, Baba met a number of people. In the course of an interview Baba was questioned on his ways of working. Baba replied,
There are three principal ways in which I work: 1) individually, 2) collectively (for crowds and masses), and 3) universally.
When I work individually, it's with persons a) who are with me, b) who are away from me, and c) who are connected with me.
In some cases, I work through their material downfall; in some cases through their material welfare, in some cases I deliberately bring about material downfall, but always having in the background their spiritual upliftment at heart. In some cases, I use them as ‘mediums’ to efface their own ‘mayavic’ qualities for their own salvation and that is where I am misunderstood. But I do not mind it. I know why I do it. That is sufficient; because, when carried to the extreme, love and hatred both have the same results. For example, A loves me extremely. It means he thinks continually of nothing else but me and is perfectly lost in me. B is extremely against me, i.e. hates me, but always thinks of me and is lost in me though with antagonistic feelings.... I always use the medium of thoughts...it depends upon the qualities that readily respond to the push.
When I work collectively, which is generally in theatres, picture houses, sporting grounds and in games, etc., where people collect and concentrate on a particular object, it is easy for me to have my spiritual effect on their minds collectively.
When I work universally — through agents — my mind being universal, it is linked up with every individual mind.... Even with advanced minds, who are my agents, and so in every part of the world, I am present and working through agents. That is why at times; a) while speaking to one person, my mind is working elsewhere. People have seen and marked me stopping suddenly in the midst of conversation as if absent and always away from the spot and engrossed in something else; b) at nights, on many occasions, I make some of my devotees sit beside me and press the soles of my feet (i.e., to have a physical touch); c) sometimes my personal attendant experiences unusual phenomena of lights and sounds. This pertains to bodiless spirits who seek my physical contact at the time of my rest, to get themselves released from a state of suspense and to reincarnate in human form. This is, in short, how I work.
During his stay in Switzerland, Baba spent a day on the mountain, Fallenfluh. He sat in a hollow on the northern side of the mountain for two hours, no one being allowed to go near him.
In the later months of 1934 and in early 1935, Baba made his eighth visit to Europe and his second world tour when he again visited London. He was to continue his journey to America, and then on to Hollywood for Vancouver, to return to India via Hong Kong and Colombo. On November 23, 1936, a reporter from the Associated Press of India, asked Baba, “When will you break your vow of silence?” Baba answered,
"There is no vow of silence. My twelve years of silence is no ascetic vow, but a period of working in silence for the spiritual upheaval preceding the manifestation of my universal work. But I shall speak. As the surgeon’s knife cuts the matured cataract and restores sight, so when the world is ripe my message shall restore the drooping spirit of the world."