Symbols of the world's religions


Don E. Stevens

"Preserving Baba's Word" is used in the broadest sense, in which are included not only his written words as given and checked by him, but also the composite of many addresses and conversations which he gave and carried on and which have been faithfully recorded by his mandali in most instances. This is a formidable body of records, largely now available in print. The key works in the printed record are those given by Baba himself and carefully checked by him before they were published. Baba spent long hours in the assembling of this body of work, and clearly and emphatically described to me the importance these words would have in the spiritual ongoing of his devotees in the future. Because of their clear manner of describing many important truths both in the structuring of Creation as well as the progress they offer to the spiritual disciple in the future, they must not be tampered with, either directly in editing and translating, or inadvertently through collections of later resources which appear to be well founded, but which in fact may seriously warp or change the clear original meaning of words given to us by Baba during his lifetime in the body.

While the statements I have just made will be accepted and perhaps even lauded by most devotees of the Beloved, I have been astonished at this early date by the liberties already being taken with Baba's word. The earliest to start making their appearance were humorous stories, or accounts of conversations which, on closer examination, are seen as almost certainly never having occurred. A third category, and these have been going on since Baba left us physically, have been the quoting of parts of Baba's statements which best suited the purpose of the writer or speaker, but leaving out any reference to other equally clear words from Baba establishing additional modifying factors. Even later there is also a large body of inspirational messages which in important aspects risk a major confusion concerning key principles described by Baba in his clear and carefully chosen words.

Unfortunately, these later additions and confusions respond largely to our very human need to have very simple, clear-cut and totally dependable guide-lines for our decisions and actions in important areas of our life. I have rarely met a spiritual seeker who was not largely motivated by an often expressed wish to have such simple, dependable guidelines for his actions. Whenever someone, in the name of Baba, offers such words, a great wave of welcome greets his pronouncement. But, unfortunately also, it is exactly here that the roots of fundamentalism in religious movements are created and, in extreme cases, even a cult of dooms-day guidelines for preparing for the end. A great deal of this has appeared in recent years in Western culture, and it is absolutely imperative that the love of Baba should not risk degenerating in some manner, nor in some areas, into such a crippled offspring.

It has been only recently that the hints of developments in these directions caused me to wake up and take stock of where I am and where we appear to be together. As I do this, I am a bit startled by the statistics I see at once. This may seem egoistic, and perhaps in part it is, but the kernel must be mentioned. There have been four people deeply and intimately involved by Baba himself with the heart-core of his directly given written word. The first is Eruch, the second is Mani, the third was Murshida Ivy Duce, and the fourth has been Don Stevens.

Needless to say, others who have been deeply involved by Baba in very important literary works, but not generally in Baba's directly given and personally corrected words, have been Francis Brabazon, Dr. Deshmukh, Bal Natu and Bhau Kalchuri. Of all these, now only a tiny minority remain, and as I reflect on the many occasions and the very great expenditure of time Baba put into involving Don Stevens in specific projects and clarifying them to him and checking with him on progress, plus in several instances giving Don very specific and important instructions regarding usage of Baba's word, then I have to tie up my shoelaces and ask myself if I am fulfilling properly the trust Baba placed in me.

As I have done this over the past several days, I have to admit that, while I think I have done a reasonable job in the immediate direct assignments Baba gave me, I am far from happy with my later contributions which, I fear, have been governed more by a sense of diplomacy than realism. And that is precisely why I am writing this overview intended for my fellow companions in Baba's love. I intend now to put on warning as clearly as I can the tendency all of us have of choosing automatically from Baba's words the statement that pleases us most, and then closing the shop door. This has reached alarming proportions and needs, at a minimum, an honest salvo of "take care." I also intend to address perhaps in too blunt terms the great problem which we all confront, regardless of great personal sincerity, of the inevitable danger of our intuitive revelations being shaped in great part by our sanskaric predispositions. This is largely the consequence of our naiveté in making no allowance for their possible presence, and eventually failing to recognize the results they produce.

The problem of over simplification and the door it opens to fundamentalism is so important, especially at the present time in the development of group mechanics for Baba devotees, that these issues must be pursued further at this point. This is especially important now due to the basic transition in manner of utilization that the word of Meher Baba is currently undergoing.

Of course the greatest change was the dropping of the physical body by the Avatar. But this brutal fact was considerably softened by the provision the Avatar makes of leaving for some time these key human beings who are the close disciples and apostles of his choice and who have benefited by his direct training. It takes no imagination to realize that a second shock, but spread over a longer period of time than the first, is the gradual disappearance of these close disciples and apostles. They have afforded an important measure of continuity as well as that all-important factor of continuing in their own inimitable manner the sweet ambience of the Avatar himself.

However, by their very closeness to the Avatar, these individuals are rarely well founded in the written words left by the Avatar, which inevitably have been carefully given and maintained during his lifetime by the Avatar himself. This occurred, of course, because they had the Avatar himself and thus did not need the words intended largely for succeeding generations. As a result the very closeness of the disciples to the person of the Avatar largely removed them from use as a vehicle to the period of the real use of the Avatar's written words, which he repeatedly made clear were intended as an important tool for the future of his message. Although Eruch was the principal mouthpiece through which these words emerged, and both he and other mandali were assigned the task of recording them for posterity, they were not given the primary responsibility by Baba with respect to preserving these words. Baba did, however, give others such as Murshida Duce and myself such responsibility as editors and publishers. This assignment given by Baba continues to this very day, since he included in it not only the task of editing some of his major works, but also what has become the very lengthy continuation of overseeing their translation into other languages.

Baba underlined repeatedly to me the importance these words would have in the future, and that to tap their value, it was necessary for his devotees to work with those words. Make no mistake here, WORK is the term Baba himself emphasized to me. He promised no miraculous transference which was to happen with delightful ease while angelic harps accompanied the transit of the message.

All this does not mean that there will be no continuation, after the disappearance of the last close disciple, of the atmosphere of love and containment the Avatar gave in person, but it will inevitably be supplemented greatly by a something which Baba clearly indicated - of an inner absorption of spiritual energy coming from his own spiritual attachment of energy to his very words and which he promised would be absorbed by his devotees who work with them. Let us be very clear that working with Baba's words is far from an intellectual process, although some attempt at understanding what Baba is saying is called for initially. More centrally, though, this working with Baba's words becomes after a period of painstaking work highly intuitive, and begins to make its fruits evident only after stubborn application of not only time and energy, but also after trying out a succession of approaches to find one's own point of entry.

Herein lies the rub of the present transitional phase, for it is precisely here and now that the period of the greatest danger of distortion of Baba's words arises. The close ones realize their mortality and inevitably move towards an effort to define and clarify concepts of Creation and how to make progress on the spiritual path, all of which Baba has already laid out in his own clear words. Obviously the danger of confusion is very great.. Even the close ones are also dependent upon intuitive processes in this phase, and the tragedy is that they are not at all familiar with the traps that beset the intuitive road of verbal discovery of spiritual truth.

I am not going to try to write a treatise on what even I have observed in the field of intuition applied to Baba's words, but I must express as clearly as I am able, that the major danger I note constantly is one's intoxication as the insight occurs, combined with a sense of Divinity as being the source of the intuition. The net result is that it is well-nigh impossible to stand back and observe critically what intuition has brought. Unfortunately, intuition, to emerge into the conscious level, must pass through a complexity of the subconscious mind's routings which, to put it simply, is mined with our still enduring sanskaras. Their ability to influence and bend our intuitions to the purposes of our own ego, are monumental. Furthermore, our own resident sanskaras themselves form not just a major source of unsuspected warping of our intuitions, but also of outright total blockage that can persist indefinitely. This can be the most prodigious blockage to the functioning of intuition that I have observed.

While the foregoing thumbnail sketch of the sanskaric problem is only suggestive of the formidable barrier these impressions represent to the devotee's use of intuition with Baba's words, I want now to return to the emotional structure of many seekers of spiritual truth. Perhaps the most apparent of their strong needs is that of warmth and assurance of safety in their explorations on the spiritual path. As I mentioned above, this manifests itself almost universally through a deep need for simple assurance through a person or a few simple and unchallengable formulae. This is where the roots of fundamentalism lie, and if a few simple and appealing statements are available, the forming devotee clings to them with an automatic fervor and tenacity that are impossible to explain logically. These are very deep forces which express needs so basic that they are rooted in the very nature of Creation itself. My own conclusion is that the source is the inevitable and fundamental search for the original oneness from which the drop-soul is now cut off. I have seen Baba give this assuredness and warmth to a deserving seeker, and observed the incredible reaction of the recipient.

To say that this same need can transform itself into fundamentalism and terrorism is shocking in the extreme even to infer, but these extremes that can manifest in humanity certainly have their roots deep within the structure of Creation itself. We must be diligent in our honesty in recognizing that such tendencies can arise in our inner search, and especially in a time of delicate transition from one resource system for inner support to another. We must be watchful of our own reactions and demands during such a change in order not to fall inadvertently into simplistic and fundamentalist traps.

While it is a fact that the Avatar gave us a number of simple rules of thumb to guide us, he never implied that they were the total story, nor above all the end of our individual responsibilities. Truth and Perfection obviously have great central principles involved in them, and it is possible to give a beginning idea of their form in a few words. Baba was a great master of that, but then he always followed up with a far more complete instruction manual that is highly nuanced. If we ignore the nuances or pretend the further instructions simply do not exist, then we involve ourselves in serious consequences.

But the tragedy is that, owing to our desire for security we are often biased toward simple solutions that seem sure, and we are also very likely, because of the human need for simple and incontrovertible assurance, to involve others who will accept our incomplete version. As a consequence, instead of finding a well-based security, they will go through much pain before the full picture becomes apparent.

Now I will leave this very topical subject of fundamentalism and pursue in greater detail the use of intuition in regard to specific resources of Baba's printed words.

It is above all in the domain of the use of intuition in connection with Baba's words that the most delicate of the problems lie during the present transition period from the direct ministry of the Avatar and the close ones trained under his personal supervision. Although one can speculate that the latter received the special and personal attention of Baba as the consequence of their spiritual preparation, still it is also clear that they have functioned for several decades now in a very important role in continuing the personal presence of the Avatar himself. However, as already suggested, this training almost without exception was void of contact in depth with Baba's written words. Eruch was the chief exception to this general rule, but even Eruch rarely used or referred to Baba's written messages. And of the remaining mandali who spent considerable time with Baba personally, there is not one who spent major time and effort in handling Baba's words in either an editorial capacity or other rigorous manner.

All this comes down to the fact that there is now a distinct break with the tradition of leaning first on Baba himself, and then on the close mandali as being those most familiar with Baba, for one's spiritual needs. As those who were in contact with Baba join their Beloved, the day of the written word and its importance inevitably is at hand, and new techniques and problems are bound to arise.

As I reflect, I find that I divide Baba's written words into at least three fairly distinct categories. The first, and for me the most powerful, are those he dictated in the manner he carefully explained to me twice: firstly, to a mandali, who took his notes of Baba's words, wrote them up in detail, and then submitted them usually the following day to Baba for word-by-word correction by Baba himself. Baba also explained this correction process to me in detail, so there would be no question that the decisions and the final words were his own. It was in this careful context that Baba then added a further fact of the greatest importance to the spiritual seeker. To these carefully dictated words intended for release or hearing at a public ceremony, he attached something like an atomic bomb of spiritual energy, which would be available to and absorbed by devotees who worked with these words. Such words I am certain are now to become a major source of the continuing spiritual push of the Avatar to and through his devotees. In fact, this is exactly what Baba said to me, and charged me with telling his devotees.

The chief bodies of such words as described by Baba are the first eight chapters of God Speaks, Part II of Listen, Humanity, and the Song of the New Life. I would personally add O Parvardigar and the Prayer of Repentance. It is completely possible that careful research, preferably carried out while the last remaining close ones are still here to give their help, will definitively establish other public addresses given by Baba especially on his visits to Group Centers, as falling into this top category of Baba words. As such research is carried out, however, it is of key importance that absolute honesty and critical observation of good research principles be followed. We cannot afford to become victim of personal wishes and hopes which are based on personal factors and not exhaustive and accurate observation of resources and their reliability.

My personal work to date indicates strongly that the most reliable and massive of this class of resource is the first eight chapters of God Speaks. I have had personal experiences with this material which have led to my conviction that here is the principal resource for the future. But at the same time, I must admit that there is already a considerable body of results indicating that in order to mine this major resource, the devotee must be a real hero of the Path. It calls for a type of concentration and determination that is rare, even among the most devoted. We are in a results-oriented age, and if results are slow in arriving, our interest and application flag. But even among those rare persons who command the necessary dedication, the major problem often lies in the fact that almost certainly these resources of God Speaks must be accessed by intuition which is subject to the perils of the deformations and blockages that may be produced by the sanskaras, as discussed before.

All this is likely to be more of a barrier to working with Baba's words than can normally be successfully overcome. In such case, the result may be the abandonment of the project and settling for second or third best, or even nothing. But Baba knows, and provides. I suggest the first line of defence be an attempt to mine the contents of Part II of Listen, Humanity. The styling is much closer to that of the Discourses, and so much more acceptable and digestible by many. And it was Baba himself who, as he handed over the papers to me which are Part II, indicated very clearly to me, that these also had been given and corrected by him in the same meticulous manner that he had earlier described his giving of the first eight chapters of God Speaks to Eruch.

After this very special category of Baba's words, the next level, but distinctively having followed a considerably different avenue of birth and appearance in public form, are the Discourses, Beams and Life at Its Best. There is no doubt of the closeness especially of the Discourses to Baba and his work, especially with Westerners, in the middle period of his ministration. Also, they have a special accessibility to us, as they largely concern the problems of daily life with which we are so very familiar, and the manner in which these fit into the scheme of Creation and the mechanics available to us for our return to Reality.

Despite the greater accessibility of the Discourses, though, it is surprising how few people have read them completely, and far fewer who have returned to them for the enriching action which follows each such return. They profit enormously by time and experience, which then reveal deeper and deeper layers of worth and insight. This enormous trove is relatively accessible, and it takes no superhuman act of decision and then dedication to read them. They are bound to be a practical bible for the future for the seeker. Even the requirements for use of intuition are relatively modest.

However, it should be pointed out that one needs to take very seriously Baba's Last Message on the Alphabet Board, wherein Baba comments on his having established his internal connections with us, which were the reason for his having maintained his external contacts with us. Then Baba continues, that the termination of those external relations by him does not mean the termination of those internal links, and that the time has now come for his devotees to be bound in a chain of internal connections, thus enabling all persons to realize Truth by being bound to each other with internal links. Intuition is deeply involved in the realization of Truth, and the submittal of one's own intuitions to a group truing process saves untold false turns and demolishing of barriers that one has created for oneself. And, too often, these barriers are created in our firm conviction that any and all parts of an internal intuitive insight come direct and infallibly from God.

There are other important resources, of course, such as The Everything and the Nothing, that were published with Baba's knowledge and approval, which we are fortunate to have available in the collection of Baba's words. In addition, there is the large body of Baba's words in the Trust archives, such as the notes of various mandali like Baba's secretary, Chanji. Some of these have been interwoven into the narrative of Lord Meher given by Bhau Kalchuri. Much of the working in of the relevant quotations is due to the efforts of David Fenster. Unfortunately, however, the quotations have not yet been documented in the references. The Trust has acknowledged the importance of this for creating an authentic historical document, and both Bhau and David have agreed that it be accomplished as soon as practicable, given their other responsibilities.

The third resource for the future lies is that plentiful outpouring of words from various close ones to Baba. I think these are very appealing and relatively easy to absorb, and they will undoubtedly be a great resource for the future as well. However, Baba never gave me any reason to believe that this resource was capable of providing that supply of spiritual energy which, he has repeated many times, is necessary for real progress on the spiritual path. Moreover, devotional outpourings must be distinguished from writings designed to interpret Baba's teaching, and are also likely to have a large impressional content contributed by the author.

Nevertheless, the secure heritage of Baba's words is enormous and represents a treasure such as has never before been matched in an Avataric coming. But it is our great responsibility to protect carefully this incomparable Avataric treasure.

November 4, 2001

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