All (Baba) Things Considered

Burned by Beauty

Coming to Baba in the early Seventies was a wild, heady experience. The Mandali were many, and the folks who met Baba abounded. It was Baba. All Baba. Everywhere. All the time. Baba, Baba, Baba.

And the Center, in Myrtle Beach, was the hub of it all. Beautiful and serene. It was where everything stopped and started. The place. The only place. A place of the deepest rest and restless yearning. It was, the Center. The best-kept and most precious secret on earth.

And the people? A whirling cavalcade of the most interesting, eccentric and simply beautiful people I had met in my 20 short years. ‘See her?’ She lived with Baba’. ‘And that one drove Baba’s car in Oklahoma.’ ‘She danced with Nijinsky’. ‘He can feel the things Baba touched’, ‘She reads your thoughts’, ‘A blind painter??! An actress. A stained glass artist. An oil exec. A balalaika player serenading 100 chiropractors.

There was so much that was new, fascinating and drenched in Baba that each day brought an extra helping of exhilaration. Every day.

And most importantly. It was mine. All mine.

And being mine, I did what I do. Stand a bit on the outside and watch and marvel. And standing on the outside was particularly easy with the Mandali because, well, I just didn’t know who they were. What they were. Were they saints? Were they people? Were they both? Regardless, whatever they were, I was not. I was not fully comfortable. I was not confident. I was not myself. I was happy, yes, and felt Baba’s love in them, yes, but I felt separate.

I was so busy projecting stuff onto these lovely souls, I could never really just be with them.

And this separation was most keenly felt in the presence of Baba’s dearest one Mehera. She was His. His alone. The one who loves Him as He should be loved. His beloved. The purest soul of the universe. And the feelings of separateness were stoked and pitched high even before meeting her by 100 divine injunctions. Don’t talk about this. Don’t ask about that. Don’t be sad, she’s still in mourning. And for God’s sake, don’t touch her!

Okay. I won’t.

I met Mehera in December of 1973 on her porch. And she was, projections or not, exquisite, delicate, funny, and possessed of an active, visible longing for Baba.

Here I was. At Baba’s house. With Baba’s Mehera. Stillness. A garden. It was perfect. Then an American fellow next to me started singing. An achingly beautiful rendition of Hafiz rich with roses, wine and nightingales. And . . . well . . . felt something, very deep within, and it hurt. A lot. And the hurt was Baba. His beauty. His breathtaking beauty. It hurt me in a way and to a degree I had never known. With the injunction ‘don’t be sad in front of Mehera’ repeating, I put my face in my hands and just tried to hold it together till the song ended. But the only technique I knew for holding it together was to think of Baba which, as you can guess, just magnified the terrible longing and beautiful hurt. More and more and still yet more.

So burned by Baba’s Beauty was I, that finally I just lost it. And cried. Sobbed, really. Uncontrollably. For a long time. Deep, wrenching cries that seemed piled up from lifetimes. In front of Mehera, before whom we weren’t to be sad. Much less create a scene.

Instantly, four hands lifted me and guided me to Baba’s room, placed me in a chair and wiped away my years. The hands were soft and sweet. They were Naja’s and Goher’s. And, as they brushed away each tear they made little kissing sounds with their mouths which, after a while, calmed the sudden storm. Slowly. Slowly. Slowly. Without words. None. Clearly, they had done this before. Many times.

A few moments later I rose and, with the ladies by my side, returned to the porch. Embarrassed. Humiliated. Ashamed. The festivities were in full swing, and when I, with great trepidation, caught Mehera’s eye, she quite simply nodded, ‘are you okay?’ To which I nodded, ‘yes’.

For many years, when reminded of that day, I would groan in regret and embarrassment. I cried in front of Mehera. Created a scene. Made her sad. Or did I? I really don’t know. All I know is that whatever I felt then and feel now, she had probably forgotten a few moments later, and increasingly all I remember is four, soft, sweet hands wiping away tears.

Published June, 2017.