I only just finished properly editing the previous entry last night. Writing at this frequency, I know that many of these won't be read; but I know that whichever one a site visitor lands on will be good, and there are always the Archives (linked at the bottom of the page) to poke around in. I would definitely recommend the 23rd.
Today is my Guru, Meher Baba's, birthday. Usually I am oblivious to dates, holidays and topical subjects in general, but I think I'm going to make an exception in this case. This is the first time I can remember ever having made Baba, and my discipleship, the subject of a blog entry, going back to when I launched this over 15 years ago. That's right, this blog has been going since well before there were blogs. Maybe, come to think of it, I did write about Baba once, years ago.
This time, I think I'll focus on what that discipleship has meant specifically to this project. I've written a more comprehensive article about Meher Baba which remains quite popular. Rarely do I bring him in, otherwise, except by way of passing mention. One reason is that I have always felt that I would scare everyone off thereby. I am already scaring them badly enough as it is. But really-speaking, I have nothing to lose. I sell no books, create no buzz, and am all but ignored by my ostensible colleagues. So who, exactly, is left to scare off? Therefore I am free to speak my mind. (And what a delicious breeze freedom is!)
You do realize that I am totally off the grid, as far as commercial and social acceptance is concerned. I don't have to please anyone except myself, and my Guru.
But I'm warning you--I'm Will Hunting, and my belt is J.C. Penney, $3.98.
Why would such an independent thinker become the follower of a Guru? Ah, but such a Guru. I have caught a few of the specials about Scientology lately, and their use of mind control. If you go to the Meher Spiritual Center, which is a few miles down the road from where I live in North Myrtle Beach, you would find the opposite situation. There, you find characters of all descriptions, who have one thing in common--they are all deeply inspired by the person and the life of Meher Baba. Otherwise, you would never see some of these people in the same room. The rules at the Center are very, very simple and common-sensical. You are supposed to wear closed-toed shoes (because of snakes); you are supposed to use a flashlight at night (for the same reason); you are not supposed to feed the alligators in the lake (because they may learn to associate people with food, and bite someone). You are supposed to refrain from talking about drugs or politics while on the Center. You are not supposed to bother other guests with your cell phone.
You can also believe anything you like. I suppose if you start preaching some other cult, or pressing your views of any kind on anyone, you might be politely asked not to. The idea is that it is a retreat, for spiritual and personal rejuvenation, and one is supposed to respect that for others. It is hoped, in other words, that following Meher Baba's example, one will be thoughtful.
That's about it. If you donate for the year you get a membership card, which doesn't really mean much else. If you want to come on to the Center, as a new person, you are given a tour. The tours are not standardized. I used to give them, myself. The tour is basically what the tour guide feels inspired to say and to show. Each tour is as different as the guide giving it. No-one ever asks for money (though someone tried to tip me with $20 once, and I had to gently refuse it).
One's personal experience at the Center is entirely individual, as well. One person might just see a nice park. Someone else may encounter God. I remember one family I gave a tour to. There was the mother, and the father, and I think there was a sister, and then there was the adolescent boy. He wore a T-shirt with an angry skull on it; he looked cynical, and like he didn't want to be dragged along on that excursion. He was silent for most of the tour, but finally he asked me a challenging question--I can't remember what it was, now, something about why did Baba allow people to do things for him like hold the towel when he washed his hands, or something in a similar vein. I said, as I recall, that indeed, he was perfectly capable of doing those things for himself; and that my guess was, his followers were so eager to do something, to serve in some capacity, that Baba gave them a little job to fulfill that wish. That it was actually a burden to him, personally, but he let his lovers (as he called them, rather than followers), have this little opportunity for intimate contact and personal service.
The young man kind of registered what I said, without saying anything. I had the feeling that he was the reason for the tour. He got a contact.
Perhaps somewhere there is a reader wearing one of those angry skulls. Perhaps that's why I feel like I should write, this morning?
My involvement with Meher Baba--not to repeat what I've written in my article--began in 1971, when an intern in my high school psychology class was given 10 minutes to talk about Baba to the students. I was an avowed atheist, but like the boy with the skull shirt, I was impacted. Something about the literature handed out--the "Universal Message" that had been approved by Baba for the 1964 World's Fair in New York City--struck me. Three years later, in 1974, at a point when I was finally off drugs and had been studying spiritual teachings in earnest, I became a follower, after having read a book entitled "Listen, Humanity." The first half of this book is a personal account of having attended a group meeting with Baba in India, written by a former researcher in the oil industry, named Don Stevens. Many years later, I would interview Don for my documentary, "In Another Life: Reincarnation in America." The second half of the book contained several of Baba's own discourses, including one on death. Immediately, I sensed that Baba wrote with the same authority as the great spiritual figures I had been studying, such as Jesus, Buddha and Krishna. I just knew.
Forty-three (did I count that right) years later, I remain convinced I was right. He wrote with the same spiritual authority, because he did, in fact, have that same spiritual authority, as an incarnation of the Avatar.
In 1975, my parents (I was still living with them at this point) moved from Miami, where I had grown up--and where there were weekly meetings--to Ft. Myers, where I was isolated. Later, I would meet by accident--if there are, in fact, any accidents--one of his direct followers, who had met him at the Center in Myrtle Beach, during his 1956 and 1958 visits there. But at this point, so far as I knew, I was the only one in the city. I set up a photograph, mounted on a little wooden oval, and would meditate on it. One day, that picture became alive. At that moment, lasting I-don't-know-how-many seconds, I was given the full conviction that Baba is the Avatar. I can remember the incident, but other than this admittedly paltry description, I would be at a loss to convey it. This "coming alive" experience is not without precedent, by the way. You can read of it in the lives of many mystics. For Sri Ramakrishna, for example, the statue of the Divine Mother came alive. Of course I am no Sri Ramakrishna--but God can choose to vouchsafe an experience to anyone, when it is deemed necessary. This never happened again. Presumably, it was never necessary, again.
But you only need once.
Now, Meher Baba incorporates the idea of reincarnation extensively in his teachings. Not the way the Theosophists do, as an important topic in-and-of itself. But as part-and-parcel of his larger teachings. In other words, it is a necessary but not sufficient element. I won't say his "cosmology," because he has no cosmology, per se. He has Gnosis. But to explain that Gnosis, inasmuch as it can ever be explained, reincarnation is part of that.
That means, that a prejudice against reincarnation forms a blockage to understanding Meher Baba's teachings. Perhaps it forms a safety blockage, for some who aren't ready for them. But that stopper has to be taken out of the bottle, before the wine of deep understanding can flow.
This, in a nutshell, is how I see my mission. I am trying to take that stopper out of the bottle for as many people as will listen. I then make Meher Baba available for those who may be drawn to him. Baba said something to the effect of, "From your lips to their ears is your business; from their ears to their heart is my business." So my job as I see it, is to try my best to remove that stopper; make Meher Baba available; and then he draws whom he will to the deeper truths, and perhaps even to himself, if the person is supremely lucky.
There is so much more I could say. It all hinges on whether I am deluded, or correct about this. If I am deluded, it is worthless. If I am correct, on the other hand...
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
Music opening this page: "The Gujerati Arti" written by Meher Baba,
performed by Julie Rust, from the album, "Leap of Faith"