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30

 

When she returned to America in '41, she, together with Norina, began her search for a property for a spiritual center, as Baba had requested. He had prophesied that there would eventually be five centers in the United States. One would be virgin land, with a freshwater lake beside the ocean, and be a gift from the heart. Of the other four, one would be in a big city, one in the mountains, one in the desert, and one in the center of the United States. So far, only one has materialized — Meher Spiritual Center "on the lakes” in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina — 500 acres of secluded woodland which embraces Long Lake, Alligator Lake and a fabulous mile of beach. It also, being opposite Bermuda, has the temperate climate Baba wished. Simeon Chapin, Elizabeth's father, was a wealthy stockbroker and sportsman who had purchased this property and others in the sleepy little town of Myrtle Beach primarily for the good duck hunting on the lakes, and the golf links close by. He gave it to Elizabeth, who, after fruitlessly searching throughout the U.S. recalled this gift; it was on Easter Sunday, 1943, that she and Norina first viewed it. When she dedicated it solely to Baba's cause His requirement that it be a "gift from the heart" was fulfilled.

 

Together with Norina, Elizabeth turned this raw virgin jungle into a beautiful spiritual retreat. Only one who has lived through those nine years of hard work can appreciate what a task she accomplished. She poured both her personal fortune and her love into it. Above all, at every decision point, she consulted Baba. It was totally His. It is this dedication and purity of purpose that I believe made it a success. Others have failed to create viable centers because of mixed motives but in Meher Center there was always a blending of head and heart: Elizabeth's immense practicality and her devotion to her master. The biggest legal problem or a detail like a broken light bulb could claim her whole attention.

 

She also very generously let others share in its development. I was lucky to be one, and spent a great deal of time at the Center and at Youpon Dunes, her home in Myrtle Beach proper. The story of the Center has been told many times elsewhere and would be too long to record here; sufficient to say, when Baba came at last in '52, He was well-pleased with His Dilruba's gift. Now 31 years later, it is still functioning as she planned and a road through Briarcliffe is appropriately called Patterson Drive. Her love for the Center extended to the whole community of Myrtle Beach, which she served in many ways. She helped found Ocean View Hospital, and Community Volunteer Services; was a "pillar” of the Methodist Church, etc.

 

Elizabeth's love of animals is well known. Her pets take their place in Baba history, especially Kippy, the miniature Boston terrier and Foundy, a Newfoundland dog deserted by his master in India and which Baba gave permission to keep. She brought him back to America in '41 and returned with him to India in '46 (Foundy rode in a carrier specially built by Abercrombie and Fitch). One day in January, 1948 Elizabeth was crying. Baba queried “Why?" on His board. "Foundy is dying," she replied. Baba answered "He will live longer than Gandhi". Gandhi was shot the next day and Foundy lived two days more. In the ashram, the pet animals were usually in her care. Baba once said, a person who had met the Avatar many many times and skipped many human incarnations may feel very close to the animal world.

 

Besides her love of animals, Elizabeth had a strong literary side. In India Elizabeth edited the Meher Baba Journal. She said the staff pinned Baba down to "contributing" one article a month; the first discourse was, naturally, on the Avatar. It was from these articles the collected Discourses evolved. She wrote up her Spiritual Journey with a Modern Guru in the Journal. In a section called Follow Love , she writes:

 

"Love often stirs the heart through a little thing in life, and at the same time has the possibility to end with the greatest thing in life. As much as we all desire love, it is rare to find one soul who dares even the thought of its ultimate completion, rising above all duality and play of opposites to become truly One through God-realization. The personification of Divine Love on earth is the God-Man, who is Love, Lover and the Beloved."

 

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