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25

 

went in training to become hospital nurses or even doctors. One family group remained by Baba's order on Meherabad Hill in the part known as "hospital quarters." Other family groups took up their quarters in Arangaon, the village at the foot of Meherabad Hill. Those who were going with Baba, his "New Life Companions," consisted of four women and sixteen men, pledged to a life of privation and hardship with no permanent abode.

 

After the start of Baba's "New Life" phase, we saw very little of him; some of us, nothing at all. I, with one or two others, was fortunate to be called twice by Baba, for short periods only, whilst he was in Mahabaleshwar and Satara. It was a joy indeed to be so unexpectedly called by Baba, though under such very different circumstances, but it was a joy in which happiness and sadness intermingled, for, during this period, Baba endured much physical and mental suffering. His face often wore a faraway look tinged with suffering.

 

I remember, while in Mahabaleshwar, that in the evenings between 6:30 and 7 p.m. the mandali assembled in Baba's room for prayers, which were read aloud: Zoroastrian, Muslim, Hindu and Christian. Through the glass-paneled door was silhouetted Baba's figure, clad in his long white sadra as he stood erect, hands folded in front, facing the bare wall as the prayers were recited aloud.

 

When again I was called to Satara, the mandali used to assembly in Baba's room around 10 in the morning for the reading aloud of extracts from the different Scriptures, the Zend-Avesta, the Koran, the Gita and the Bible. The women were allowed to sit near the curtained doorway. We could hear the readings and occasional pauses when Baba, through the medium of his alphabet board, explained certain of the passages. There was something so intimate, so beautiful in these half-hour gatherings! During the New Life, no one was allowed to address Baba as Master, although we were to obey him as such. Yet, in its place, you felt that wonderful relationship of true friendship. I can only explain it in the words, "Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you."

 

The final months of the New Life, Baba spent in Pimpalgaon. A few, including myself, were called back from our jobs in October, 1951, for its closing period which actually ended on February 12, 1952, when Baba came out of his important "Man-O-Nash" Seclusion.*

 

Although we saw little of Baba, still it was a great privilege to be in the same spot and know Baba was on the other side of the wall in the enclosed quarters which had been especially prepared for this seclusion period.

 

As Baba came over to our quarters at 5 a.m. on the morning of February 12th, exactly to the minute, bells and gongs were rung, drums beaten and guns fired, and in the midst of all this tumult, the voices of the mandali rose clear and loud repeating the different names of God. The evening before, prayers were intoned and the dhuni (sacred fire) was lit and kept burning for twenty-four hours.

 

*Man-O-Nash: Literally, "annihilation of the mind."

 

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