MEHER SPIRITUAL CENTER
Meher Baba's Home in the West
November Newsletter 2021
ECPPA photo collection
"Divine love, as sung by Hindu masters like Tukaram, as taught by Christian masters like St. Francis, as preached by Zoroastrian masters like Azer Kaivan and as immortalized by Sufi masters like Hafiz, harbors no thought of the self at all. It consumes all frailties which nourish the illusion of duality, and ultimately unites the individual with God. The awakening of this Divine love in the heart of the aspirant and the cleansing of his being is one of the functions of the God-man and Perfect Masters."

Meher Baba 

Listen Humanity, p. 165
Dear Meher Center Family and Friends,
 
Greetings from Meher Center in Meher Baba’s love.

We are happy to announce that the Center will be holding a virtual holiday sahavas on December 31. Details will be available in the coming weeks.  

In this issue, we share the stories behind two sacred devotional practices that Meher Baba presented to His lovers: the dhuni fire and the Prayer of Repentance. Each is an articulation of the importance of moving away from the false self toward the True Self in remembrance and love.

We look forward to seeing you at Meher Center soon.
 
In Baba’s love and service,
 
 
Buz Connor
For Meher Center board and staff

Center Program Note: There will not be an outdoor concert at the Center this Saturday due to weather.
Avatar Meher Baba In Sakori
On September 20, 1954, Meher Baba took His 20 western guests and members of His Mandali to Sakori, to show them the Ashram of Upasni Maharaj, one of His five Perfect Masters, and to meet Godavari Mai, the Kanyas and others. This event was captured on 16 mm film by Lud Dimpfl, with still photographs by Panday, Darwin Shaw, and others.The following day Baba told the men about the rich history of His connection with Upasani Maharaj and Sakori. This 22 minute film, just produced this year, beautifully chronicles those moments with a musical backdrop.

Video, 22:07
Sakori, India, September 1954
Courtesy of Bob Fredricks
The Fire of Divine Love
By Preeti Hay
Meher Nazar Publications collection
After the first dhuni was lit in Meherabad in 1925, Meher Baba asked each of His Mandali to write a poem about the dhuni. Many poems were written; however, the poem that continues to define the power and nature of the dhuni was composed by Baba Himself. Baba personifies the dhuni as if she were a mythical creature holding great power even over God Himself. Like all legends, she has a magical flair that elicits mystery, awe, and ancient reverence. 

Baba writes,

My pen has not the strength to sing your praise.
At the first glow of your flame there was rain!
How marvelous is your gift!
To cool your radiant blaze, God Himself, in honor of you,
Showered rain for hours on end.

In the early monsoon of 1925, there was a scarcity of water in the areas neighboring Meherabad. If further rain failed, the prospect came with a danger to the livelihood of the farmers. Padri explains, “This secondary—September rains are very essential, for, during this period the major crops of jowar, (milo) wheat, gram etc. are sown. These crops are most helpful to the farmers because they give the farmers their staple grain plus animal fodder in plenty. And since the primary current was feeble, the crops had failed in many places, in fact the primary crop was almost lost. Now, if the secondary current also failed there would be drought.” [1]

Some farmers from far-off villages came as a group in a bhajan party, singing bhajans to Baba invoking Him to do something in His power. In all His compassion Baba heard their plight but advised them to be patient and go home.

Baba ordered for a dhuni to be lit. Preparations were made—sandalwood and ghee (clarified butter) were accumulated, and a shallow pit dug in the ground. The concept of dhuni fire was not new in India. “Dhuni fire has always a very shallow pit to receive the glowing coals which, ultimately turns to ashes which has its own value for the devotees, to be applied to the forehead and to be taken home to be distributed amongst others as it comes from a saintly abode,” Padri clarifies. [2]

Upasani Maharaj’s arti was sung by the Mandali as the flames rose to the clear blue skies. When the arti was almost half over, it began to drizzle which in turn developed into a very good shower, cooling the earth and drenching not only the Master and the Mandali, but also the villagers who were on their way home. The showers lasted for fifteen hours and the crops were saved—prayers of love and faith answered.

The whole region of Ahmednagar was without water.
But at the perfect time you rewarded the labor of the farmer.
In the form of fire you were hot.
By becoming water you were cool.

On December 12, 1941, Baba indicated that this time the dhuni was being lit for His internal work and not to bring rain. A month later, on January 12, 1942, Baba ordered for the dhuni to be lit every month at Meherabad. Since then, His wish has certainly been kept. Rain or shine, the dhuni is lit at sundown in Meherabad. The current platform around the pit was built in 1948. 

At the Three Incredible Weeks in 1954, Baba explained that a stick of sandalwood should represent a particular desire that one wishes to consecrate and burn to ashes. During the 1955 Sahavas, Baba said, “On the 12th of every month a dhuni is lit, and today at six o’clock we will be present there. The human mind is full of infinite thoughts. This mind is finite, but its thoughts are infinite. So, burn your desires and thoughts in the dhuni today. At least let one thought of either lust, greed or anger be burnt in it.” [3]

Fire has spiritual significance in various world religions leading to fire rituals that have evolved over time. One of Baba’s Perfect Masters, Sai Baba of Shirdi, was famous for the inextinguishable dhuni he lit upon settling in Shirdi. Zoroastrianism and Hinduism hold fire as key symbols. Baba’s dhuni is unique in its natural focus on the sacred, consumptive power of fire. It is a symbol of the fire of divine love and its power to burn the false self in order to unite with the real Self.

When you have surrendered to Baba, let your lips be sealed.
Brave are those who serve at the feet of the Sadguru.
Limitless is your greatness,
O Dhuni! [4]

Eruch captures the true essence of the dhuni when he says, “But the real dhuni is the human heart. And the real fire is the fire of love for God. And if we had the courage, the daring, every day, every moment, we would be attempting to throw our attachments on this fire. Not just attachments, we would be throwing ourselves onto this fire. That would be the real dhuni.” [5]

[1] Letters from the Mandali of Avatar Meher Baba, p. 115-116
[2] Ibid.
[3] Lord Meher Online Edition, p. 3777
[4] Lord Meher Online Edition, p. 623-624
[5] That’s How it Was, by Eruch Jessawala, p. 340
Caring for Meher Center: The Rewards of Raking
Every overnight guest on Center has at some point noticed the beautifully raked entrances to their cabins. The Cabin Crew rakes these entry pathways before new overnight guests come to stay. However, the meticulous and beautifully raked paths all over the Center seldom go unnoticed. This dedicated act of clearing the walking paths for Baba’s lovers is done by half a dozen volunteers and staff.  
 
Paths on occasion get used as channels for rainwater that can cause erosion. Raking can both address this issue, and add to it. Because of this, there are many strategies involved in the task, one of many examples would be the direction in which the raking is done. These decisions involve planning and teamwork which provides an opportunity for mindfulness.

Mindfulness in this job is multifold. For the volunteers, raking on Center is a type of meditationto turn the chaos of footprints and leaves into fresh and clean paths. After her beloved husband, Curtis (a raker at the Center) died, Carole Wood wanted to try to take his sacred obligation on. Ever since, she has turned into an avid raker. “The nature of the work is silent yet extremely repetitive which leads to a magical self-forgetfulness. I think it’s the best job and its reward is a well-kept secret,” says Carole. The secret is out!
Repentance
by Jamie Keehan
There are days we might feel the Prayer of Repentance is more applicable than others. But after dictating the prayer seventy years ago this month, Meher Baba demonstrated how important repentance is, again and again, for all of us.  

Baba wrote the Prayer of Repentance in November of 1951, during the New Life, when He was playing the role of a seeker. Maybe that was part of His demonstration of what it means to seek God—repenting for everything that keeps us from Him. As Baba put it in 1952, “Maybe some of you, or many of you, have no bindings of desires and attachments; but here today, as I am in the state of a devotee, I would like you all to join me and encourage me in asking God's forgiveness.” Of the rest of us, Baba said, “The ordinary devotee, no matter how sincere his devotion, remains bound by the law of karma, and so his best course is to apply this law to his own spiritual advantage by the constant practice of virtue and the constant abstention from evil. And when he fails in virtue or falls into sins, he must throw himself on the boundless mercy of God and ask His forgiveness.” [1]

Over the years, Baba frequently used the Prayer of Repentance at pivotal moments. During quiet ceremonies, pregnant with meaning. At mass darshans, in front of a teeming, expectant crowd. At the East-West Gathering, after which He made a gesture as though he were “taking away the load and burden of His lovers’ collective past.” [2] In Meherabad, Meherazad, Andhra Pradesh, Poona, Australia, California, Myrtle Beach. 

Sometimes, Baba used the Prayer of Repentance as a distinct remedy for a problem affecting some of His lovers: for example, while dealing with a harrowing tiff between the dedicated leaders spreading Baba’s name in Andhra Pradesh. In 1954, Baba brought these workers together for a serious heart-to-heart. As the intensity of the disagreement reached a fever pitch, Baba asked them to leave the hall for five minutes, wash their faces and hands, and return to say the Prayer of Repentance together. 

The conversation continued—about money, honesty, leadership. And then Baba said, “Now, once again, I will confess before God, Whoever He be, our weaknesses on behalf of you all … After the confession, if you really love me even a little, I want your hearts toward one another to be clean. Forget your past differences, clean your hearts, and live for Baba, if you love Baba.” [3]

Before the meeting ended, He had them say the prayer a second time. There were many questions from the group moving forward, especially since Baba made practical and substantial changes in how His work was being conducted in Andhra. But it appears the heart of the issue was captured in that scared prayer—repentance and forgiveness. Doing our best, stumbling, repenting, trying again together. 

Each of these times, Baba, God, did not ask His devotees to pray to Him—He prayed with them. During that meeting in Andhra, He said, “I became the confessor on your behalf … Even when I appear to act, not only do I act the part but I become the part. I confessed now wholeheartedly, and I not only did it for the whole universe, but actually became the one who confesses. I do not break my own principles. I am free, but the principle must be maintained.” [4]

Since the time He gave the prayer, even when He was older and frail, Baba would stand, despite all the pain of doing so, and say the prayers, often gently slapping His cheeks as a sign of contrition. He indicated that He was putting power in these prayers so that His presence would be there for all who said them in the future—that God would be there, repenting and forgiving, whenever we stopped and took the time to do so ourselves.

In Meherazad in 1958, Baba often had the Prayer of Repentance recited for the Mandali’s mistakes—and would sometimes take the offender’s hands and use them to slap His own cheeks. He would tell them, "I have done it, don't worry. What can you ever do? Not a leaf moves without my will!" [5]

On the Center, you can see the Prayer of Repentance hanging in the hush of the Lagoon Cabin. And maybe you can still hear it reverberating in the Barn from Baba’s visits. On May 19, 1958, at the beginning of His final visit to the Center, Baba asked if anyone knew the Prayer of Repentance. Nobody did. “Then we will read it,” He gestured—but nobody had a copy. Jane Haynes described that He looked sad as He asked Kitty Davy to go run and get one. He then asked Jane to read the prayer, and while reading it, she said that He “let me know how much real prayer means.” At the end of the prayer, He said, “Remember, a life of prayer is ever-essential.” [6]

A few days later, on the morning of May 24, Baba entered the Barn and asked what time it was. Then He gestured: "It is nine o'clock, Baba's time. Join me again today in the Prayer of Repentance, with all sincerity, and God in His infinite compassion will forgive all your sins, weaknesses, shortcomings and failures up to date. Let the prayer sink deep into you and concentrate on me." [7] They prayed:

We repent, O God Most Merciful, for all our sins—
For every thought that was false, or unjust, or unclean,
For every word spoken that ought not to have been spoken
And for every deed done that ought not to have been done.
We repent for every deed and word and thought inspired by selfishness,
And for every deed and word and thought inspired by hatred.
We repent most specially for every lustful thought and every lustful action,
For every lie, for all hypocrisy, for every promise given but not fulfilled,
And for all slander and backbiting.
Most specially also, we repent for every action that has brought ruin to others,
For every word and deed that has given others pain,
And for every wish that pain should befall others.
In Your unbounded mercy, we ask You to forgive us, O God,
For all these sins committed by us,
And to forgive us for our constant failures 
To think, and speak, and act according to Your will.

[1] Lord Meher Online Edition, p. 3173
[2] Lord Meher Online Edition, p. 4879
[3] Lord Meher Online Edition, p. 3509
[4] Lord Meher Online Edition, p. 3507
[5] Lord Meher Online Edition, p. 4462
[6] Letters of Love, ed. Jane Haynes, p. 36
[7] Lord Meher Online Edition, p. 4373