ONE MONTH IN BENARES
THE NEW LIFE
Mehera & Meheru with Don Stevens
Don: These were the ones who found Dr. Nath, the eye doctor?
Meheru: Yes, and you see it wasn't easy for them, because among other things they weren't to spend any money on transportation. They had to walk from place to place to try to contact people, and in a region where they weren't known. It was only with Baba's help that they were finally able to arrange for the place where we then stayed.
After two days' journey by train, changing at Bombay and Moghulserai, the rest of us arrived in Benares. Baba had said that none of the people from the old life was to come to see him when we changed at Bombay. It was a very strict order.
Don: Did any of the old life followers know that he would be in Bombay, or was this kept secret as were most of Baba's moves?
Meheru: I don't know the exact details, but I think one or two people knew about it, maybe Nariman and Meherjee.
Don: They obeyed Baba's instructions?
Meheru: Yes. When we arrived at Benares station it was about two or three in the morning, and we were bitterly cold as we waited for a conveyance. Finally we arrived at the house where we were to stay at about four o'clock. As we stopped at the gate before we entered, through the iron gates we saw two sentinels standing half asleep beside the staircase. We wondered what sort of house we were coming to, but when we came inside we saw they were only statues of guards. Inside the house we found it quite comfortable. One room we entered was very large, like a hall I think, and full of chairs.
Don: This was the arrangement made by Dr. Nath?
Meheru: Yes, this was the place that was arranged by Dr. Nath for our use. We passed first through one room, and the next was one which looked like a lecture room and was full of chairs. We all felt we couldn't possibly stay there, so we went to another one beyond which was luckily empty except for a cushion on the carpeted floor.
We all gravitated to it, groggy with sleep and chilled by the cold. The cushion was one of those big thick bolsters, and the four of us promptly rested our heads on it, clinging to it for warmth. In the morning when we woke up and saw our headrest in the light of day, we saw that it was not at all clean and we wondered how we could have rested against it for comfort!!
Mehera: That morning we were very, very cold and hungry, so although it was still very early we said, 'Now it's morning and we'll have nice hot tea with some bread and butter,' and we were up and quickly washed and waiting.
Baba was arranging for our needs so he came and asked us if we wanted tea. We said, 'Yes, Baba,' and he went to the mandali telling them to hurry up. Then he came back to tell us, 'It won't take long, you know, just fifteen minutes.' 'Yes, Baba,' we answered, and we got busy preparing our cups and saucers. So Baba went back and forth he loved to walk up and down like that, you know.
When breakfast came, what do you think it was? We wanted just bread and butter with tea, but no, it was hot spinach with pepper and other spices in it, and chapatis. Such a meal in the early morning! I said, 'What kind of breakfast... ?' And Goher said, 'Probably this is the kind of breakfast they have here that's why they've sent it. We'd better eat it and be grateful for it.'
I never liked spinach.
Don: Spinach for breakfast! Oh, that's something to take!
Mehera: I don't like to eat spinach. This was the first time I had ever had spinach in the morning for breakfast. Yet, odd to say, we all enjoyed it, cold and hungry as we were, and the hot tea afterwards was very welcome.
Don: So you spent your first morning in Benares.
Mehera: Yes, our first morning. But then to arrange where Baba would stay. The room had a few sofas and tables in one part, and as Meheru said, the rest was full of chairs piled on top of one another so no one could move in there. We wondered how we could stay in such a room because the other was to be Baba's.
We told Baba about all this and he said, 'Nobody must sit on chairs or sofas. You must not use the chairs. You mustn't use the furniture.'
Then we said to Baba, 'But the room is full of furniture. What should we do?'
Baba said he would have it all removed, and meanwhile we were all to wait in the room where we had slept. Then the mandali came and they all helped to put the furniture out on the terrace. Finally the room was empty and the terrace was full of furniture.
Meheru: We stayed about one month in Benares. What Baba planned with the mandali there we did not know, but each went to procure bhiksha in the city. It was a training period. Pendu, Eruch and the other companions would know about this.
Two companions would go together one day, another two the next and so on. They had to accept whatever they were given and bring it to Baba, and he divided it amongst all. If they were given dry material like chapati or flour, it was to be placed in a jholi (cloth sack) which was strung from the shoulder, and if a vegetable was given it was placed in a brass bowl which each carried.
Baba also went one time with two companions. On his jholi, written in Hindi by Mehera were these words: 'Give bhiksha with love.' They wore the white kafni and green turban which was their dress. Baba looked very beautiful in his kafni and turban.
Only once did the women go out with Baba. He took us walking through the city to some of the ghats that have steps leading down to the river. We could feel the atmosphere of piety which emanated from the people there, for the devout Hindus would go down to the river to bathe in the sacred Ganges to be purified. Benares, now called Varanasi, is one of the holy cities of the Hindus.
TALES FROM THE NEW LIFE WITH MEHER BABA, pp. 151-154
ed. D. E. Stevens, Rick M. Chapman, James M. Hastings, and Gary & Patty Freeman
1976 © Avatar Meher Baba Perpetual Public Charitable Trust