Twelve years have now passed since Don E. Stevens wrote ‘Journeys to the Source’, charting the genesis and ongoing development of the Beads on One String Project.
Don intended for this manuscript to be published, asking Ralph Lewis (who has now written its history…below), to be directly involved in this process. Sadly Don died in 2011 before this publication could be realized. The index at the beginning of the manuscript also includes ‘‘PartThree: The Future’ and ‘Appendix 1. Schedule of Beads Visits’, this section was never completed. However, ‘Journeys to the Source’. remains a vital narration of The Beads on One String Project, the primary focus for Don in the last years of his long life, dedicated to Meher Baba.
-Jane Hoskin, September 2022
A History of Don E. Stevens “Journeys to the Source” -Ralph Lewis
Others know the history of the Beads on One String Project far more than I do. However, I was blessed to be involved in discussions with Don before the 2009 Pilgrimage to India when the Steering Committee was debating the role of the Beads on One String Project. As Don says in ‘Downloading Spiritual Energy”
“Then finally, one day we had the forming meeting of the Research and Development Committee of the Beads Projects. As we roamed the wide planes of Creation, we tried to divine what were the limits of what we might be expected by an ambitious hierarchy to open up to new homesteading. At one point my good friend Ralph said he had Googled on the word Pilgrimages, and found the earth was covered with them, and all types and categories. I have to admit that I had already suspected that, but having it said and confirmed by someone I felt as akin to as Ralph put it into ‘the no questions necessary’ there category. Even so, we still found room for two or three trial projects to be reported at the next meeting.”
This included of course the preparation for the 2009 Pilgrimage to the many sites of spiritual significance Don had made with Baba. As Don explained what had happened and how vital and important these visits were it seemed to me to be key to have a record of this. Hence, to quote Don again from ‘Downloading Spiritual Energy’
Then Ralph really hit the jack-pot by suggesting that he felt the first job to be done urgently was to write a careful history of the sacred Indian spots and the characteristics of the visits made to them. And guess what. Who do you suppose got hooked for writing it? Don E. Stevens, again. Now look, if you want to locate a guy who is a sitting duck to become the next object of over-identification, just look up Stevens, and then say a prayer that in some way he will put up an impenetrable barrier and emerge a whole human being. All joking aside, and I loved Baba for his wonderful sense of humour and his ability to have fun and get you into the middle of it.
Don then wrote “Downloading Spiritual Energy – While Minimizing Over-identification of the Ego” which then became ‘ Journeys to the Source’. This is such an impactful, clear and important explanation of the genesis of the Beads Project that I almost immediately suggested to Don that it be published as a book. He agreed and my memory, perhaps slightly faulty after so many years, is that along with the film of the Pilgrimage we should put together the feelings and impressions of those who were involved. Hence as Don wrote in an email after the 2009 Pilgrimage; I want Ralph Lewis to have access especially to those Manonash interviews as he is finalizing an
account of the history of the Beads saga for general use. The Manonash interviews were carried out by the film crew on the 2009 Pilgrimage with some of the
pilgrims after a visit to the cave in Hyderabad where Baba experienced Manonash – the annihilation of mind.*
We decided to include Jane Hoskin’s writing on “The Oneness of God on the Beads Pilgrimage” as it added to Don’s writing and then, as I got emails from the Companions on the Pilgrimage, I included these to try to give a feeling of what it was like – the difficulties and obstacles as well as the joys… Most of all however, on rereading Don’s writings, his voice, his humour and his modesty and love for Baba shine through – and I do believe he wanted to share his thoughts on why Beads was formed
and what it is accomplishing.
*Note; For more information on Manonash please see; Bhau Kalchuri, Lord Meher, the Biography of
Meher Baba-Online Edition-https://www.lordmeher.org/rev/index.jsp
Beads on One String – Journeys to the Source – Don E. Stevens
- Part One: The Genesis of the Beads Project by Don Stevens
- Downloading Spiritual Energy While Minimizing Over-identification of the Ego
- How It Started
- Early Visits
- The Steering Committee
- Why Anonymity?
- The Oneness of God on the Beads Pilgrimage (by Jane Hoskin)
- Part Two: Experiences of the Pilgrimages – During and After
- Part Three: The Future
- Schedule of Beads Visits
- Power Points
Part One: The Genesis of the Beads Project by Don Stevens
- Downloading Spiritual Energy While Minimizing Over-identification of the Ego
One of the greatest and recurring tragedies of civilized man has been the intensity of warfare and the spilling of blood arising from the competition between various forms of religions based on differing concepts of the reality of the One God. The recent spreading of terrorism based on mass killings has shocked the innermost sensibilities of a greater part of humanity, and yet the frequency of such mass murders seems only to increase despite the utter revolt of the majority of mankind to such actions.
I have read with increasing attention reports of various meetings and religious conferences aimed at erasing the underlying causes of this rabid competition and intolerance of varying viewpoints, and have long suspected that in some manner we must have misidentified the root source of the cause of this insanity afflicting so many persons in a so-called civilized age. In recent years I have come increasingly to suspect that the important unsuspected cause is and has long been the susceptibility of a seeker of Truth to over-identify his own ego unconsciously with the source of his inspiration.
No doubt I should explain in greater detail what I mean by over-identification of one’s ego with the source of one’s inspiration. Having taught for some time in schools after graduating from a fine university, I am well aware that the efficiency of teaching depends not just on the professor knowing his subject and being able to find words that express clearly what he understands, but also there is at least one more exceedingly important factor affecting efficiency of teaching. That is a sense of sympathy and bonding between the teacher and the student. It is an odd fact that perfectly good material expressed in clear and understandable terms can be largely rejected by the student if the human relationship involved is poor or even antagonistic.
While this factor is clearly involved in almost every situation involving the passing of information from a knower to a questioner, still it is carried to still greater heights of skill in fields dealing with what we call the spirit. Especially in an area affecting the long-term good of the questioner, such as a religion or a mystic school of thought or a methodology which sensitizes and expands inner qualities which are the bases of a realization of great truths governing the creation in which we live, then the questioner is frequently asked to cooperate in forming a questioner-guru relationship of great openness and trust and above all, of love. This has long been known in the fields of the spirit as being of perhaps critical importance, without which the passage of the necessary doctrine is impossible.
All of this is well known and recognized for its importance in producing good results in the flow of information and absorbing something that can only be called spiritual energy. The greatest masters of developing and giving messages for humanity have always had a command over the art of communicating that produces extraordinary results in this area of human values and wisdom. However, it has apparently never, or at least rarely, been considered that this human values communication might in itself be susceptible in extreme cases to results that could be deeply damaging to other human beings. One has always assumed unconsciously that the ingredient of love has to have been present in saving amounts to protect others from any possibility of misuse of human force to further the headcount of the body of philosophy being exploited by the devotee. Hence a destructive war would necessarily be the furthest possibility to occur as being automatically risked in a devotion based finally on one’s concept of God.
Yet, what is there even in deepest love that, in itself, unassisted, protects one from taking a course of action which can harm bodily the person standing nearby? One even has heard or read of situations which are treated in mystic oriented literature which command even the devotee to use physical destructive means if necessary to protect one’s loved ones. And who is it who defines the criteria of what and when and how? All this is abysmally open to highly subjective paths of judgment, and who has taken a course in such judgment and is prepared even then to interpret what is harm and what is necessary for the protection of a good which has very dubious boundaries and spheres of rights pertaining thereto? All this gets awfully hairy, and very rapidly, if one has the honesty to open the subject to rational judgment.
It is a great characteristic of these fields of spirit and ultimate Truth that they often have very colourful and appealing environments attached to them. Often the person has certain facial or gestural charm which is attractive and is brought up and used to enforce the strength of the lines of communication. And all this is defined as a spiritual good and to be added to the inventory of things that further the truth. There are many other factors that frequently become part of the helping paraphernalia, such as locale of birth, special circumstances of the birthing, words produced and treatises of Truth associated with the person communicating, and all this can produce a depth of loyalty which becomes increasingly able to justify even physical acts of greatly damaging potential, and yet all appears completely logical and justified by the inner processes of loyalty.
I believe from a slow process of seeing at close first hand various of the factors operating when it is the deep mystical part of human nature which is being dealt with, that forces are set loose and even stored up which have a frightening potential for harm when mishandled, either deliberately or inadvertently. And I think this happened to an unexpected degree even in prehistoric times, and continued into modern day civilization, and I also believe from what I have witnessed that the highest echelons of the spiritual hierarchy began to observe these unexpected results and decided that even basic modalities of handling spiritual truths and power must be re-examined and modified in order to lessen the potential for the destructive personal ego to become involved in the very basics of the spiritual progress of the individual human soul making its return to the Oneness of God.
I realize that these words may be considered to be dangerous and heretical in themselves, and I have long realized that here one is really dealing with fie. But fire has been loosened for a long time, and it had apparently only increased in its destructive furnace of human heat. High time, for the spiritual hierarchy to take remedial steps and to find and begin to employ methods of handling resources such that in their use they are given in a manner which risks less the attracting of our individual ego into an unconscious identification capable of supporting a destructiveness certainly never intended, nor even suspected, evidently, of being anywhere remotely connected with what is being achieved in God’s infinite Oneness.
I am convinced that an important part of the hierarchy’s corrective scenario has already been placed within Creation and started on its path of trial. I believe there are already a goodly number of human beings who are connected into this process, and a considerable number even who suspect what the major outlines of that corrective plan are. I am quite certain that, naively and in good faith, I have been involved all unwittingly in some parts of the mechanics of the process, and I feel there can be only good in describing the history of that largely unsuspected adventure I have undergone, and continue to try to furnish with my little bit of relative worth, So now I will go back to the beginning of what I see as the logical development that has been spinning out for several decades of an already over-long life.
- How It Started
“Don, if you don’t take a camera to India with you, I will never speak to you again,” were Andy’s words to me, and although he had never addressed a harsh word to me in all the years we had been close friends, I knew he meant them. I knew I was in trouble, so I borrowed his Brownie 8 mm. and although I had never even touched a motion picture camera in my life, I took it to India with me, and that simple little contraption opened doors that even Meher and Mani had not been able to pry open for several years at that time. This was to get Meher Baba to agree to be filmed in Mehera’s garden and in the house doing things that had never been even photographed, and he did all of it, so he said, because Andy had asked for it.
Now if you do not know Andy, suffice it to say that one simple smile from Andy was enough to open just about any heart that came across the horizon. He was honesty and a big heart personified.
On each day of the visit, after Baba stood still figuratively and let Meher and Mani have their ways in the garden in the morning, he would retire to Eruch’s cabin with Eruch and me and say, “Now Baba will tell you what Baba wants Don to do for Baba.” On that first visit with the Brownie, it was something near and short, but the second visit the “Baba wants Don ” scenarios became longer and more complicated. Mostly they were to film temples and remains associated with the great names of Indian mysticism. My favourite of all was Kailash Temple in the Ellora Caves near Aurangabad. But a close second was the Jain temple of Dilwara at Mt. Abu, and a close third was the remains of Shivaji’s fort above Satara with the night watchman who loved blowing on his horn for me even though it was daytime; we had struck a dumb friendship from the start.
Now the curious thing about those places Baba wanted me to film, for him, was that he never told me then nor ever afterward what he wanted done with those films, so I just assumed this was Baba’s thoughtful way of breaking his own rule that when you came to visit Baba, you came direct to him and returned direct afterwards to your own home; no sightseeing and no visiting of saints’ tombs, of which there were always plenty. If that was Baba’s game, then he certainly never tipped his hand, but that did not surprise me. For some reason I knew instinctively you did not ask Baba questions, certainly not light heartedly about things that were out of curiosity.
In those days of my international petroleum life I was stationed in London and travelled constantly all over the Eastern Hemisphere. That meant quite literally from London to Tokyo to Australia and all of Africa. I was constantly in motion, and Baba let me know that telegrams and letters arranging visits were a pain to him, so considering my travels everywhere constantly he made the rule that when I was to be one day jet travel from him in India, I was to consider myself as invited to come see him, and no warning necessary ahead of time. I was welcome when I came. Of course, I forgot that part and always gave him some advance warning of when I would be arriving, and he always had plenty of time to cancel if he needed to, But he never did, during all the years that the special arrangement was in force, which was the rest of his life on earth.
When I would get back to home base in London I would always give a report of my India visit to my favourite group of young people who were studying The Discourses of Meher Baba, for which I had a special soft spot in my heart. Baba had asked me to edit the old edition for him, and I loved it as my own child. Always the London Group were deeply curious as to whether I had any news on the places Baba was asking me to film for him. Always I had to say no. Finally, one day, a German girl who could occasionally exert her Germanic characteristics and ask a question no one else for some reason was willing to put, said simply that if these places were important enough to Baba to ask me to film them for him, then they must be important for some reason to Baba himself. And that necessarily meant that they had to be important for people who took Meher Baba and his viewpoints on Creation seriously, too.
This then became formulated into a formal request, that one day when my petroleum travels allowed a bit of free time, would I take them on a visit to the places I had filmed. Of course my mathematical mind calculated that this would occupy three to four weeks at least, so I made the promise knowing full well that I could honestly keep postponing that trip indefinitely as that sort of free time just did not exist for me. So, I did it that way, and so it continued until Baba’s death, and I continued the same excuse with no slightest sense of guilt through the succeeding years. I wondered later how I had managed to square all that with my conscience, which has a habit in most such matters of raising its head to voice some sort of blunt objection, But not for the filmed spots for Baba.
After decades of this comfortable arrangement of Don with his conscience, I finally spliced the films together and made a couple of quite beautiful video-cassettes for group showings. They were very well received, and no one asked any sort of embarrassing question about Baba’s intent, or why not?
Then one day out of the blue I had a telephone call from Eruch telling me that he had finally seen the video-cassettes showing the places Baba had me film, and that Eruch was surprised to find that the filmed sites were identical with places Baba had asked Eruch to take him to, repeatedly and anonymously. Eruch said that he had known of Baba’s filming requests to Don, but had never known what the locales were. But now, for the first time after all these years, he had discovered that they were identical to the places Baba visited repeatedly with Eruch and never explained to Eruch why he had done this so many times, never telling even the closest mandali a word about the visits. Always, when Baba arrived with Eruch, Baba would go, Eruch said, into a profound meditation for some time. Then, when he had finished, without any discussion they would leave and return home. Eruch had never discussed this with anyone, but when he saw the identity with the places filmed by Don under instructions from Baba. Eruch realized that I had a right to know about the visits with Eruch.
Shortly after all this Eruch died, and I found myself with a rather extraordinary piece of secret knowledge in my possession, and not knowing what to do with it. Of course I told the London Discourse study group about the conversation with Eruch. The German girl who was now a middle-aged charming mother, asked immediately, “Don, isn’t it about time for us to take that pilgrimage now to the places Baba had you film?”
When she asked me that, I felt a sort of shame such as I think I have never felt in all my life. Without even opening my mouth I asked myself/”Don, how could you possibly have put these sincere people off all these years without any gesture or explanation?” Of course I had no answer for my own question. I felt covered with a thick and viscous layer of dripping shame. I found the voice to say, ”Yes, it is about time, and let’s do it!”
- Early Visits
Although there had been two preliminary visits made to many of the sites Meher Baba had had me film for him, it was not until 2004 that I led a group of seekers to the actual sites in India. Then we began to taste the flavour and unexpected events that seemed in some manner to flow from these surroundings. I must say that the totally unexpected was a constant companion from the very beginning.
Of course, architectural beauty was an outstanding treasure at many of the sites, but also natural beauty of the location was also very much a part of many of the places visited. After our visit in the Delhi area where we admired the Qutub Minar and two locations associated with Mahatma Gandhi, we left for Ajmer and the tomb of Moinuddin Chisti who almost single-handedly introduced much of the teachings of Mohammed and also of ancient Sufi mysticism to the area of his residence. From there it seemed to fly of its own energy to the far corners of India and beyond.
Although the tomb is literally in the heart of Ajmer and surrounded by the old original city, it is Indian life in its most delightful essence and the streets have a population and a natural charm which is bewitching in its very nature. I have visited the locale now many times and always its inner peace and simple natural beauty charms me into a deep kinship with laughing brown humans and God Who fills every nook and cranny of the crowded buildings, which breathe the distilled love of God and His Truth.
From Ajmer we went to Mt. Abu, the famous hill station for retreat and vacations for much of India. Here are the Jain temples collectively known as Dilwara. This is an exquisite combination of superb architecture and marble carving that defies all description. This is also the spot where many of the regal families of |India have their summer homes, built around a lake of soft whispering movement and life accumulated from the centuries of living of this great mystic land.
While all this panorama of brooding mystery and splendid beauty was unfolding around our little group of pilgrims, events in daily life were busily at work within the inner sanctum of the self and began detaching old habit patterns from the individual and family life of a number of the travellers. When this began to happen, I was amazed that old devils had been reborn unexpectedly in this improbable environment, and I could see that it was both unexpected and embarrassing as well to those experiencing these old reborn family heirlooms usually so carefully hidden from public view. But here they were, big as life and certainly full of energy.
After the entire trip was over and I had private conversations with virtually everyone, almost all dwelt at length on these unexpected public airings which had occurred to so many in the group. Also, bless their observancy and honesty, in most instances the individual remarked that this old family devil which seemed unchanging and immortal, had in some manner taken an unexpected shift of expression and in fact now for the first time, a possible route to solution seemed to have opened up. It was as if the journey itself had taken on the role of trusted guru and started a movement where it had long been sought but never seemed to arrive. I do not want to pretend that miraculous cures were affected, but something very close to that did occur in two or three instances, and that I certainly had never expected from our trip together.
This brief history of our visits to these doubly identified locations is not intended to be exhaustive, but I have wished to describe several characteristics which I feel have great importance to modern mankind Two or three of these key clarifications arrived via the intuition route, and I want to pause now in the telling of the story to interpolate perhaps the first of these intuitive arrivals.
I have been for some years deeply intrigued by the subject of intuition and the role it is clearly playing increasingly in modern civilisation. At one point in my life I had to rise rather regularly in the early morning hours to relieve myself in the bathroom, and then would rush back to bed trying not to have cooled off too much during the answering of nature’s needs. But soon I noted that as I rushed back to bed, a very clear thought or two would form in my head, often on a subject I had not touched for perhaps even months. These thoughts that appeared in my head, I noted, were very clear and represented a progressed understanding I had not consciously achieved before, so I got used to making a few notes even before I went back to sleep, and then tried always to write up the nocturnal experience in a computer notebook. This soon became a rather regular occurrence, and continued even after the physical problem which had been the original source of the occasion had been resolved.
On this occasion I woke up somewhere on our India trip and I understood rapidly that I had made a mistake in assuming that the pilgrimage we were making was an obvious following in the footsteps of the Master, In fact, it had not been the intent in establishing the series of locations being visited, that later visits by devotees of the various faiths they followed, should regard the visits to be such a footsteps exercise of the classic type. Rather, it was the intent of those establishing the locations that later visits by devotees of various faiths become a part of the integral delivery system which would tap and make available the deposits of devotional energy that existed at each locale, and were intended to be used in connection with the great world problems such as terrorism and religious warfare.
When I woke up I felt at once that this was a very important intuitive contribution to the present pilgrimage trip being undertaken. I informed the group and have done so for later groups. Always the matter seems apparently to be self-evident or at any rate as completely acceptable, although several clearly felt some disappointment in their own areas of spiritual fidelity. Still, the unity of religious faiths principle that clearly underlies the entire project has become increasingly evident and is stressed in various manners at various points in the progress of planning each journey of this type.
I must make a confession at this point for my own situation. When the first major planned pilgrimage was carried out in 2004 I myself had been under the distinct impression that taking people to visit these sacred sites was in some manner fulfilling a responsibility I had to my own master, Meher Baba. This continued for some time, and it was not completely and finally resolved until I had to go directly into the hospital on landing in England, suffering from acute dehydration and salmonella poisoning. My hospital stay was only three days, and I had a lot of fun, so it was more enjoyable than physical penance.
As I came out the hospital doors in London, it hit me suddenly and very clearly that what I was involved in was clearly the fulfilling of a statement made by Meher Baba to the London press in 1932, that he had not come into the world to start a new religion nor build cathedrals and such like, but to help revivify the world’s existing great religions, and to make their Truths more readily available to the sincere seeker after truth, and to gather the (warring) religions together like beads on one string.
This had always struck me as a wonderful aim, but frankly, I thought, Meher Baba had clearly died before being able to add his contribution to that great ideal. But, NO!. Clearly instead he had had me filming some of the great religious points of devotion of the world and he had clearly also made repeated, anonymous visits to these same spots to add a store of his spiritual energy to the deposits already placed there by the sincere devotees who had been visiting the place now in some cases for centuries. And what he wanted any of his devotees visiting these places in later years, was for them to become sort of the fire department men who get out the fire hose and attach it to the fireplug capping the energy at each of these spots, and help the spiritual hierarchy to direct the neutralizing spiritual energy onto a place where the spiritual hierarchy had identified an especially dangerous fire burning fiercely away.
In a flash it all appeared completely logical and as the clear and solid way to start to get these increasingly destructive religious battles calmed down.
- The Steering Committee
The two small earliest visits, as well as the larger visit in 2004, were all planned and the various reservations for lodging and transportation were made with volunteer workers from principally Marseille. The name Marc became a byword for naming the resource of a great deal of the enthusiasm, conviction and energy that went into keeping the ball rolling around these special places in India. It was Marc who seemed to have the constantly renewing resource of energy and enthusiasm which seems necessary in Creation to get something important through the early stages of birth, first infant steps and then drilled into the consciousness of a few kindred souls so the baby can become a functioning, producing entity with its own creative forces.
However, it was clear that a larger, better organised and advancing next journey to the vital spots would need a larger, more formal group of organizers, so a Steering Committee was appointed, I would say, virtually by acclamation, as this heavenly project seemed to have arrived virtually without a heaven appointed Peter. Marnie Frank of Portland, Oregon became its chairman, and all involved in the proceedings from that point were well satisfied that Marnie was easily recognizable as the individual endowed with the traits needed to get the necessary done. She and Marc are owed a special engraving in the annals of what became known as the Beads project, a term derived from an address Meher Baba had given to the British Press in 1932 in London.
This committee had several intense forming meetings and in those some trial principles of group conduct were worked out. The principal one of these was the procedure to be followed by the group on arrival at each of the sites selected by Meher Baba’s double identification process with Eruch and Don. After much soul searching, the agreed formula was to stand together in the principal meeting space of the site and remain in silence for a few minutes focused on one’s own symbol for God.
Then a group leader selected for each site by the Steering Committee would lead the group in out loud repetition of the name of God utilized by those responsible for the founding and any construction done at the site at its inception. This would continue for about ten minutes, followed by a silence for some minutes during which each member of the group would focus on their own silent prayer to God, and then the group would leave the site quietly and proceed to a close visit to the principal gathering quarters in which they had been standing, and then to any other points of interest.
Contact with other devotees from other religious groups was not encouraged, but it was suggested that they not be avoided either. If one was asked by such a member of some other religious group who you are and where your loyalties rest, you should answer honestly and unhesitatingly the question. However, one was not encouraged to prolong such a conversation.
One may well feel that such a simple procedure to follow at such a distinguished religious relic was not especially inspired. I would like to offer my own feeling in that matter, and that is that I have come to feel that decision on the part of the Steering Committee was inspired, and I want to give my reasons for feeling that way.
When I first met Meher Baba face to face in New York City in August, 1952 I found that when he addressed a first question to me, all I could do was make a queer guttural noise at the base of my throat. Although I was by that time an experienced public speaker and had never known anything comparable to stage fright, now, at that moment, I found my vocal chords had failed me totally. I was astounded, but I could not make even a sound to express that astonishment/ And it continued for about fifteen minutes while Meher Baba recovered from his look of curiosity and made polite talk for him and for me as my substitute. It was a most curious occasion, but astonishingly also, no one seemed surprised in any manner one could see. But it was only the beginning of one of the most remarkable days of my life.
Now let us switch over to 2004 to the grave of Moinuddin Chisti in Ajmer. I was late arriving at the congregation site for the group, and as I entered the grave compound I saw Marnie standing before the group as the site leader for the day, and ready to begin to repeat out loud “Allah, Allah.” I joined in without explaining my tardiness and all went well for the first several Allahs. Then my vocal chords froze up, and I was back in New York City in August, 1952. Same experience as the first time I was ever in Baba’s presence. It had never happened to me again in all those years.
Now I ask you, sincerely. What would you conclude at that point? Well, yes, that in some manner I was again on a very important occasion in the presence of my own Master. And that I knew this was certainly the case, and he had given me the password by which I would know that he was there, and all was well.
To return to that memorable visit to the sites in January, 2009 when the Steering Committee took over preparations at about the midway point in the arranging of transportation and hotels, one would have thought that certainly all was in order in both heaven and on earth. Well, not at all, to be frank. There was almost constant chaos and crisis following hard on the heels of the previous crisis. The earlier arrangements made by an almost unknown travel agent in Delhi had been allowed to stand in all good faith, and, as things often tend to go in India, things changed without notice and one was constantly left improvising at the last minute, or , in fact, a bit after the last minute.
Can you guess what the outcome was? No one died, no one was left lost in a strange city. No one but Don suffered a trip to the hospital at the end of the journey. But even more amazing, do you know, many people said very simply that crisis had been one of the greatest creators of the incredible values that everyone felt they had gained on the trip. And the sense of comradeship and oneness that was produced has been the base of a considerable number of new and deep relationships of great intensity and value. One thing, though, it did not create any new faculties of keeping in touch, that watch-word of real inner links.
Before leaving the lessons learned in those first pioneering visits to places sacred in the hearts of several of the greatest world religions, I have to bring up two more keywords that have surfaced and been the cause of many intense discussions, and we are all convinced they have some central importance in the process that we feel the Spiritual Hierarchy and the Avatar himself have launched. These are unconditional forgiveness and anonymity.
I confess to being the one who raised the words unconditional forgiveness, and for good reason, I felt. I had been much impressed some years ago reading editorials in the International Herald Tribune by one which was discussing a new brush-war that had broken out between two states in the Balkans. The editorialist gave some of the ancient history of the incidents which had originally produced an intense hatred between the two territories. It was a grim case of human cruelty at its classic heights, and had been the cause through the centuries of further mutually committed atrocities. The editorialist had ventured his own formula, which was simply to find the will to forgive completely and try to forget completely also.
Anyone who has ever made a deliberate attempt to forgive another person knows how very hard that is to accomplish even to a small degree. Even when one thinks to have made a bit of progress, usually soon something happens to fan the old flames and surprisingly enough they seem to have been lying in wait for just this propitious situation.
When we began dealing with some of this heritage from sincere people trying to find a method of decreasing religious intolerance and wars, I became convinced that this time it has been the avatar and the religious hierarchy who have decided to take the matter in hand and have provided undoubtedly helpful archetypes and collections of spiritual energy which are aimed at this plague of civilisation. My reasoning then is that there are vitally helpful resources at hand this time which are waiting to be identified and the proper methods developed for their use. This does not now, in my opinion, mean that the solution is going to be easy nor certain nor rapid, but if that is the case, and I am completely convinced that from what I know personally now, this is the case. Thus, resources never before assembled are at hand. I recently told a group of young seekers that the doorbell of forgiveness is in front of them and all they have to do is ring the doorbell and go inside for the big adventure of this lifetime
- Why Anonymity?
Probably more man-hours have been spent discussing the significance of Eruch’s two words he used in describing Meher Baba’s visits with him to the power points in India: “repeatedly and anonymously, “ than any other words and concepts dealing with this destructive and continuing competition and even bloodshed that goes on between various religions. Let me be clear on the context of Eruch’s usage of anonymously. He assured me in our last telephone conversation that Baba had advised him that no one should be informed of what Baba and Eruch were doing when they disappeared on one of these trips. Not even the closest mandali at Meherazad were ever informed of anything concerning those trips. He made it clear that I was now being informed only because Eruch had recently seen a video-cassette of the films Baba had had me make back in the 60s, and Eruch saw at once that those locations were the identical ones that Baba chose for the trips he and Eruch made. Therefore, Eruch concluded, it was clear that Don had the right to know this fact and the major extent of those visits they had made.
Meher Baba was not unknown for giving instructions on occasion that in a travel outside his normal range of movement, that he did not want it to be known who he was. In fact he often said that if someone insisted on knowing, they were to be told simply, “He is my elder brother.” That formula had never been known to fail, so anonymity was not unknown to be used as a policy by Meher Baba.
When we started the small group visits to these places, it was quite soon when I made the connection between them and key parts of his address to the Press in London in 1932. To be precise, that he had no intention of forming a new religion, nor build great monuments, but to work on the vitality of the existing world’s great religions and make their Truths more readily accessible to the sincere seeker, and to gather those religions together and place them like beads on one string. In other words, resting harmoniously next to one another without exploding like atom bombs.
Of course, having it become public that one had any such intentions would doubtless set off the deep suspicion that all this fellow was doing was trying to find a big publicity stunt and become both famous and infamous. That of course had occurred to me immediately, but for some unknown reason I rejected it as not being pertinent to the situation. As I sit here and relive those days of early discovery of a fantastic creative project, I find that the important thing to me was not psychological reactions that might occur, but simply that it had been Meher Baba himself who made a very clear and total rule of conduct, and he had carried it out far longer and with far less efforts from here and there to chip it away, so it called from me an equivalent total response, which was to do everything possible to see that that precedent be observed and completely respected in every way.
Let us be honest with each other. Several times in succeeding months, my logical mind insisted on opening the door to the closet where I had stored anonymity, and logic and the habit thereto calmly put together that anyone who wanted to set up a counter-current force to begin to correct a problem of over-identification with certain figures, names, geographical locations, specific bodies of philosophical thought and mystic energies, should be extremely careful not to put oneself in a position to become such an object of over-identification oneself. But for some reason I found that logic did not satisfy me, so I returned to my haven of “it was Meher Baba did it,” and because he did it, he could undo it, as he always had for even the most carefully worked out plans. They were either cancelled without ceremony or they were fulfilled and consigned to the “work completed” pile and not brooded over endlessly, which is the fate of far too many grand and even divine proposals.
I gave the poor film crew a lot of bad times about not observing the anonymity of Meher Baba, and they sweated and slaved to try to keep me happy while still doing their utmost to turn out a documentary which was logical, understandable, honest and carrying a push that would register with the general public. Then finally, one day we had the forming meeting of the Research and Development Committee of the Beads Projects. As we roamed the wide planes of Creation, we tried to divine what were the limits of what we might be expected by an ambitious hierarchy to open up to new homesteading.
At one point my good friend Ralph said he had Googled the word Pilgrimages, and found the earth was covered with them, and all types and categories. I have to admit that I had already suspected that, but having it said and confirmed by someone I felt as akin to as Ralph put it into the no questions necessary there category. Even so, we still found room for two or three trial projects to be reported at the next meeting.
Then not long after, Ralph hit me anyway with a completely unexpected boulder square between the eyes, and that was his statement that any real anonymity had already been blown for the project during the course of forming and executing the January, 2009 itinerary in India, which of course had the name Meher Baba written large all over it. And guess who had done that thorough job of blowing the cover? Don E. Stevens. The first guy Baba had ever gotten involved in the real labor of identifying and whetting the appetite of some sincere seekers intent on following in the footsteps of…. Then Ralph really hit the jack-pot by suggesting that he felt the first job to be done urgently was to write a careful history of the sacred Indian spots and the characteristics of the visits made to them. And guess what. Who do you suppose got hooked for writing it? Don E. Stevens, again.
Now look, if you want to locate a guy who is a sitting duck to become the next object of over-identification, just look up Stevens, and then say a prayer that in some way he will put up an impenetrable barrier and emerge a whole human being.
All joking aside, and I loved Baba for his wonderful sense of humor and his ability to have fun and get you into the middle of it.
We need to spend a few moments together to dream about where and how this major idea of neutralizing at least some of the over-identification that has gone on through a great many centuries now. I think we finally have a place where people can really collect together and organize gradually in many places on the earth a series of power points which are both natural deposits of either true devotion or just stark, wonderful beauty. I am sure the Avatar and the spiritual hierarchy and still later devotee arrivals, will have stored a great quantity of spiritual energy, and very likely also, personal messages for pilgrims who are due to arrive at those spots and will greatly appreciate that they were thought of and graced with a stored message.
I think such an activity could well be based on the present legal structure which has been created under the name of the Beads Projects, and that the central headquarters for the organization could be the beautiful parcel of land just outside DehraDun in India not far from Delhi. It was given to Meher Verma who now lives in Mumbai, and the day she formally received the gift and was saying she was sure it would be greatly loved and used for God’s work, but she had no name for it yet, I suggested immediately, “Beads on One String,” and she loved the name. Let’s all meet there soon.
The Oneness of God on the Beads Pilgrimage
‘The face of the Beloved wears neither a veil nor covering
To glimpse it for yourself, just let the dust of the road settle.’
When the first pioneering ‘ Beads on One String Pilgrimage’ group returned in 2004 with stories of their adventures my initial response was ‘I wish I could have gone too!’ It sounded like such a marvellous trip, seeing the beautiful places in India that Meher Baba had visited, incognito, with Eruch, to meditate and permeate with His divine Avataric presence. I was captivated by the story of Don Stevens subsequently being sent by Baba, again with Eruch, to film these places, then years later realising that these places were integrally linked with Baba’s mission to revitalise all religions and bring them together like ‘Beads on One String‘. Luckily this initial trip was not to be a one off, so it was with delight and a certain amount of trepidation that in 2006 I found myself with Don and a group of companions visiting the places in Europe connected with this project and a year later with another group that was to repeat the first Indian pilgrimage. We had an extraordinary and challenging time on both journeys, I felt a very new and inner connection to Baba and came back with an awareness that He was here for the whole world, all humanity, not just the relatively few lovers that had the good fortune to be devoted to Him, that God was also in all the other people I passed in the street, even if they were not aware of this and however deeply hidden He appeared to be.
Now something very dynamic and radical is evolving within the Beads project. This should though not come as any great shock as Meher Baba is radical and dynamic, encouraging us to step out of our own comfort zone. ‘‘The deeper secrets of a spiritual life are unravelled to those who take risks and who make bold experiments with it.’ (1)
However, it is important to note that all the ideas expressed here are almost entirely from the experience and thinking of Don Stevens and fellow pilgrims.
Ralph Lewis and others in this book were on the trip in 2009 and 2010, so were witness to the inspiring experiments that have now become an essential element of the Beads pilgrimage.
Avataric Power Points
We are now familiar with the background and format of the Beads pilgrimage from Don’s proceeding chapter and excellent articles in Neti and other publications. It is essential to grasp that this pilgrimage is clearly not intended as a nostalgic journey following in Baba’s footsteps but involves a far deeper challenge and experience for the individual pilgrim and the group of companions. The specific sites visited include some exceedingly beautiful and ancient places of worship of different faiths and also sites specific to Meher Baba, including the Manonash and Panchgani caves. All the places visited on the pilgrimage were visited by Baba, incognito, where He meditated and ‘re-activated’ the sites and it has also been suggested that He was clearing the sites of sanskaric debris left by the millions who have visited them. These places have been identified by Don Stevens as ’Avataric Power Points’. Don has likened these sites to the ‘spiritual atom bombs’ that are connected to specific words of Meher Baba found primarily in God Speaks, The Discourses, Listen Humanity, the three prayers and The Song of The New Life. So although it is not necessary to repeat a description of the Indian pilgrimage, what does appear to be necessary is to take stock of the developments and the unfolding implications of the pilgrimage as a whole.
These ‘Avataric Power Points’ which as well as being the places visited on the pilgrimage throughout India probably also include sites in Europe visited and named by Baba as being important spiritually, including Avila, Assisi, St. Marks in Venice, Portofino on the Ligurian coast, Fallanfluh in Switzerland and places in the Middle East that Baba visited including Egypt. Other sites in America and England are also being looked at with the potential of being important global power points. It is intended that a working party will research all of these places in the near future, investigating and formalising these ‘Points of Avataric Power’. There does appear to be an emerging principle particular to the places that have been identified; that they are not necessarily specific to any one particular Avatar, i.e. Meher Baba, Mohammed, Jesus Christ etc. but are centres where the Avatar has focused His presence and spiritual power of the One God; ‘which is the Allah of Sufis, the Ahuramazda of Zoroastrians, the Paramatma of Vedantists, God the Father of Christians, and the Over-Soul of some philosophers…absolute, unlimited and infinite-the One without a second.’2
This realisation has resulted in a very significant development for the Indian Pilgrimage, that when visiting these ancient places the group must not refer to Meher Baba publicly by name but instead take and repeat the name of God used by the devotees of that faith i.e. at the Sufi Tomb of Moennidin Chisti the group intone the name Allah, a Jain prayer at Dilwara and so on. This seems a radical step for a Baba lover and also for those of other faiths that are also invited to join the trip. Hafiz exemplifies this Unity of faith in God when he says;
Would you think it odd if Hafiz said,
“I am in love with every church
And any kind of shrine
Because I know it is there
That people say the different names
Of the One God.”
The Beads Pilgrimage planning committee thought long and hard about this new development and deemed it of utmost importance to be aware that these sacred sites are specific to an already established religion and that to repeat Meher Baba’s name here would at the least be insensitive but more crucially not in keeping with Baba’s original plan for the revitalization and joining of the beads. The beads’ being the different faiths and the unifying string is God in His non-personalized aspect. The metaphor ‘spokes on a wheel’ has also been coined as a picture of how each religion is but a path leading us to the hub of Oneness at the centre. As we get closer to this centre we discover we are all of course on the same journey, from an imagined, but necessary, separation to the reality of oneness in union with God. This can only help to prise us loose from an often fixed, dogmatic and disastrous belief that our own personal Prophet, Avatar or Messiah is the only way.
This concept is possibly the essence of Baba’s revolutionary ‘Beads on One String’ statement to the world in 1932 and that He also placed very significantly at the beginning of ‘God Speaks’.
The work that Baba was doing with the different faiths was integral throughout ‘The New Life’. At the beginning of this Baba Himself prayed to ‘God the Absolute ‘ and had the prayers of all the different faiths read out. He insisted that The New Life Companions neither bow down to Him nor refer to him as the Avatar or Meher Baba but as their elder brother and for them to rely only on God. This culminated in the Manonash phase where Baba worked intensely with the alabaster models representing the different religions and also had a dhuni lit and cast a piece of paper into the fire on which was written;
“All rites, rituals and ceremonies of all religions of the world are hereby consumed in the flames.”
Making the inclusion of the Manonash cave on the present pilgrimage so important. Remembering and praying to God in His Absolute and Beyond State as well as to one’s own personal Avatar is essential for the aspirant’s journey toward the Divine Goal. Don Stevens in a memorable seminar in 2003 reminded us that Meher Baba is the ‘bridge‘ to this Union with God. Therefore, what may be misconstrued as betrayal to Baba, by not saying His name at the pilgrimage sites, is no betrayal at all. It must not be forgotten that Baba is more than His physical body, more than His earthly personality that we love so dearly and it seems appropriate here to recall His last recorded words on January 31st 1969; ’ I am not this body -Remember that I am God’. (2)
To return to and examine Baba’s message ‘I am not come to establish any cult, society or organisation; nor even to establish a new religion. The religion that I shall give teaches the Knowledge of the One behind the many…’(3) This is Baba’s mission, to establish this essential Unity of God in the minds and hearts of all humanity, not to create a new religion. There are differing opinions among the Baba world already, some saying that a new religion is inevitable, others pretty sure that this was not what Baba had intended and therefore is not part of the divine plan. There is of course no reason to give up ones individual love and attachment to any one Avatar, be that Meher Baba or any one of His Divine Manifestations that appear on earth, however it is essential to all ways keep in mind the essence of the Oneness of God, this is our individual and collective responsibility.
‘We have no religion, nor care for physical or mental fads.
The Sheikh and the Brahmin (typifying all castes and creeds)
Are now sailing in the same boat.’ (4)
Without this realisation there is no end to the disastrous situations that have and continue to plague the world because of each religion vying for superiority and exclusivity. In a simplified view it is only a problem of language, as of course all names of God whether in Arabic or English, Urdu or Japanese mean exactly the same thing. Let us, for God’s sake, get over the language barrier and more importantly the dreadful and dangerous religious dualism and hypocrisy. The answer seems so glaringly obvious, there is only One God, there is no other, this is not a new concept, but it has never before been stated so emphatically as now by Baba. This is so important and why this new development for the ‘Beads on One String’ pilgrimage has such striking relevance for humanity, for the world as well as for the individual pilgrim.
Companionship and Individuality
Although the pilgrimage is of tremendous benefit for the individual seeker, being part of a sizable group is also a crucial element and has some distinct advantages. The size of these groups of companions has fluctuated since the initial trip in 2004 but it is becoming apparent that to function at its optimum level the party needs to comprise at least 10 to 20 individuals but probably no larger than 40.
So why is travelling as a group so important? One vital advantage appears to be that here a more diverse collection of sanskaric patterns will be represented, balancing and truing the individual and group experience. Don refers to this as ‘taking up the snagging points’ or the paradoxical ’Oneness through multiplicity’. By having a group of people with different impressions, seekers from other faiths included, our tendency to see the world through our own sanskaric lens can be challenged, and our possible exclusive, over attachment to the personality of the human manifestation of God can be transformed to at least ‘a glimpse of the essential Oneness of God.’
Personal habit-patterns or sanskaras are also challenged and inevitably brought up to the surface during this extraordinary journey across India (also apparent on the European trip). Although eventually liberating it can be challenging, at times even a painful process, speeding up awareness of personal prejudices and unhealthy attachments, often in frightening rapidity. However, one is sustained by the relationships formed in the group and of course by God, who is unmistakably present. Resulting in a deeper understanding of one self and others, even enabling us to discover, change and sublimate long held and often unrealised aspects of our personality. This process continues to surface when returning home, however with this sometimes disconcerting churning up new insights are gained and remarkable resolutions formed, and much inner-stuff has definitely shifted and wonderful new inner-areas awoken.
It is also true that the presence of the Avatar /God can often be more readily evoked in a group, as Jesus once pronounced ‘ when two or three of you are gathered in my name, I am there.’
This has been the experience on the recent pilgrimages that there is a power in numbers in which the group together evokes a very strong and tangible electric presence of the oneness of God that then radiates in ripples and waves throughout the world.
Travelling together and sharing profound and often moving spiritual experiences as well as going through the challenges of this pilgrimage forge priceless bonds of warm and lasting companionship. The first pilgrimage had to deal with extreme monsoon weather; the 2009 trip had enormous difficulties due to unfortunate travel arrangements and so on. All pilgrimages will probably have to deal with unexpected hitches, general exhaustion through the stress of travelling and the inevitable pressure that this places on individual and group relationships. Ironically all this hassle seems to be a necessary part of the pilgrimage process, bringing inner problems and strengths to the surface and enhancing the intensity of the experience of inner-links and companionship. Again, this parallels ‘The New Life’ and, one has to remember, Baba’s insistence that the companions not react to the very often-trying conditions with moods or complaints!
‘We have taken to this life,
in which we rely only on God;
In this, our will (to do or die)
is strengthened by the oath taken;
We are merrily singing the song of hopelessness;
We are inviting all calamities and difficulties.
This ‘Song of The New Life’ appears so relevant here that perhaps it is also an anthem for this evolving and ongoing ‘Beads on One String’ project. No one ever said it was going to be easy but the out come is pure gold!
1-Meher Baba, Discourses-6th edition vol.11, p.191.
2-Although often reiterated by Meher Baba, see Lord Meher Vol.20 p6710.
3-Message given for Paramount newsreel 1932 and at the beginning of God Speaks.
4-‘Song of The New Life.’
Part Two: Experiences of the Pilgrimages – During and After
Jane Hoskin has written about some truly significant ideas coming from the Beads Pilgrimage. These have immense power for us in our lives and I would like to add some personal experiences of mine from the last Pilgrimage in January 2009 in the light of these thoughts. Although my experience was from one Pilgrimage it feels very strongly to me that all those other pilgrimages in Europe as well as India are of a oneness – and future pilgrimages will also connect us all in an ever widening circle of inner links. It is also critical to understand that in the light of their own sanskaric patterns pilgrims will all have very different reactions – so my thoughts apply to myself and not necessarily to my companions.
Although I had been to Meherabad and Poona before this was my first trip to Delhi and I was overwhelmed by the poverty, the dirt and the sheer overpowering full on noise, colour, smell and richness of life, especially inside the Tombs – not at all like the quiet reverence and “spiritual” atmosphere I was expecting. Constant demands for money even inside the tombs, pushing, shoving – again noise, smells, colours, beggars etc. Where was the spirituality? This was a constant underlying pattern throughout the visit – with the exception of Meherabad and other specific Baba places and caused me an enormous amount of inner discomfort. On seeing yet another billboard advertising a weekend meeting for enlightment run by yet another guru I began to have serious doubts about my own commitment to Baba. Surely I was fooling myself? At one stage I texted my wife in England that the trip was having the reverse effect on me than I had hoped for. I was becoming a Baba agnostic and it didn’t help with my companions focusing on Him the whole time. In fact I felt more and more alienated from Baba.
But my companions on the journey were truly delightful and an enormous pleasure to be with – and staying in the Baba Centre in Delhi, sleeping on a mattress on the floor and meeting some of the Delhi Baba lovers who were wonderful human beings was in sharp contrast in my growing disillusionment with the whole project!! The journeys on trains and buses throughout the night (and days) didn’t help either in terms of comfort but again having the other companions as friends relieved so much tension – and the organising committee were superb. I felt I could trust them totally and I did. So I counted the days to the end of the Pilgrimage and tried to get through one day at a time.
So the themes emerging were internal discomfort (not so much external) with the point of the Pilgrimage and certainly doubts about Baba yet a trust in my companions and trust that Don did know what he was doing and a strong reaction against what I saw as the materialism of India!
Visits to the Sites – Avataric Power Points
As Jane has pointed out we were visiting the Avataric Power Points where Baba was supposed to have left universal and absolute energy not relating to any particular Avatar- even Himself but to the one God in His Absolute and Beyond State – be there many different names for this. And at the same time as my mind was rejecting Baba I was beginning to feel a sense of something nameless to me – some Reality whatever that was. At Dilwari myself and another companion went three times to the Jain Temple and we both were very moved by some energy, which did appear to be in the place where Baba had spent the night. Maybe there was something in this after all. And this continued to be repeated – even in specific Baba places like the Panchangi Caves it did feel like we were reaching out to a connection with some absolute truth.
And the discussions went on between us.. and on.. and on until it felt like saturation to me. Here I think is a major component of the Pilgrimage – your companions. Don talks about the importance of living with discomfort caused by the interplay of different sanskaras between people. The reason we need a good sized group is that “snagging points” – our own deeply held assumptions and patterns can be tried and tested (sometimes painfully) by this sharing – and we can then see them as unique to us but not cling to them as the Truth. And out of this interplay comes a respect and even joy in seeing the differences in others beliefs but realising that we are here to help and support each other in our life’s journey. As I said earlier I found all my companions to be people I loved and respected – sometimes this took a while because my initial impressions had to be modified but in the end I was deeply moved by all – and loved them greatly (and still do). One of our companions is a Buddhist and the many discussions with him about his interpretation of the world and his view of spirituality, although different to mine, began to break down my somewhat fixed ideas about what spirituality should be – and especially what following Baba meant. These and other discussions tested and retested my deeper sanskaric patterns.
And what were these patterns? I return to the themes I talked about earlier. India not being “spiritual”, doubts about Baba, a sense of “superiority” in terms of my own beliefs. All nonsense of course. For me the trip began to break down a sense of separation both due to my personal isolation (and here is where being with companions is vital) and a certain “spiritual”
(it isn’t spiritual needless to say) aloofness and judgement. Ending the Pilgrimage in Meherabad at Amartithi was truly a homecoming but one that the Pilgrimage had enabled me to see with different eyes.. For me the earlier doubts about Baba had gone but it felt that it was right for me to go through those doubts. A clearing away of some of my blockages in focusing on Baba as a limited being in space and time and not understanding His Universal Godhead. Getting to the universality and Oneness of God through His Manifestation rather than being stuck on the outer form – as can happen with all religions. We don’t need to change or argue about these outer forms but do need to go through our own patterns and attachments to them as the “Truth” to reach what lies in everyone’s hearts.
And the Pilgrimage continues…
And back home. Time to reflect, recover and absorb? No, what was stirred up can’t be put away. Baba’s energy, his spiritual time bombs carried on working away. I was struck by the way that a number of books and films (Slumdog Millionaire) kept imposing a less than flattering view of India – there is even a comedy TV series on as I write. My image of India as a spiritual nirvana where all was peaceful and living was easy (why I had this I don’t know!) was assailed on all sides. In other words there was no escape or prospect of retreat from life. The novel, White Tiger painted a picture of a servant class being abused by their Indian masters – and in many ways I felt that I too had that servant/servile fear – it felt as if some lifelong almost unknown sanskaras were being dredged up into the light. And it wasn’t much fun!! On the other hand, thanks to the Internet the contact with the other Beads was maintained and deepened and we could discuss our issues and offer support to each other – with disagreements and some emotions. Part of this was realising that everyone’s experiences were different. Part of this was an agreement to connect in prayer/meditation for thirty minutes on the last Sunday of every month –a true focus on Inner Links.
And Lessons Learnt?
Where to start? So many! But the most important is a feeling or sense that Baba has led me to a deeper connection with the Universal Reality of God. I saw this in the interplay of love between Don and the Hyderabad Baba Lovers – truly magnificent to watch. And Baba is here to help us experience that Oneness – part of that is to acknowledge and love Him as the Avatar of the Age but also to take His Love and to understand that He is here as God who is beyond all paths to Him and that we need to acknowledge and celebrate all paths to Him – Buddhist, Christian, Moslem, Jew, Jain, Hindu whatever – they all lead to that great mystery and the mere fact of understanding that and appreciating other paths takes us away from out limited vision and opens us up. The Beads on One String Pilgrimage with the focus on the Avataric Spiritual Power Points is so key in this. In other words my view of what is spiritual or not has changed enormously – spirituality isn’t an escape to a mountain retreat but an involvement with life in its fullest sense.
And the Inner Links! I am profoundly grateful to my dear Companions – the other Beads. They have helped and are helping in moving me away from the comfort of my own sanskaras to a wider world of love and Oneness. And India? Well my experiences have taken me away from the ease of remaining a “ servant” and waiting for Baba to do it all for me (which He does of course) to a place of understanding that I can’t run away from life no matter how I’d like to – there is no choice but to step up to the challenge of living fully and wholeheartedly as so many do in India – and we can and do do that here in the West. We are God and we have no choice but to accept and live in that experience. And best of all life can be fun with the Avatar as your guide and some wonderful companions.
As I said at the beginning everyone has had different reactions – all based of course on our individual sanskaras and this is just a glimpse of what has been happening to me. So would I recommend a Pilgrimage – yes but only if you are prepared for the ride of your life!!
What has changed since the incredible 2009 Beads on One String pilgrimage? Outwardly, not much. The day-to-day responsibilities and activities of my life are much the same as before. But inwardly, a great deal has changed. Basically, what it amounts to is that Baba has been and is killing “me”! Mostly I am aware that a great deal of life review has occurred–i.e. memories of events, situations, conditions, thoughts, and feelings have come forward (again), spontaneously and randomly, for examination (again). I say “again” because I have done this work before! This time, however, I have known to offer all to Meher Baba for transformation.
The result of this dying of my old self is that I have not felt like my old self. This has left me feeling disoriented much of the time. In some ways I have felt immobilized–adrift might be a better word–feeling somehow not able really to tackle and accomplish much of anything of importance (for example, with a major project). Although sadness perhaps has been a predominant emotional state, joy has been a part of it too, because my heart has become more open to Baba, to love, I feel his presence more and more, and I have been blessed with wonderful inner and outer connections with 49 lovely Beads companions. Humor has been a part of it too, because I have seen Baba’s hand in all of it–ceaselessly stirring the pot! That trickster! That mischievous chicken!
The main feeling I have is that a loving workforce has been forged as we have made strong innerlinks as a whole group. I feel the power of going to the sites in turn as a group has had a major cleansing effect on me personally- washing away lingering fears and doubts I had and fueling a fire of devotion and joy for life that I have had within but that has struggled with really setting alight. I feel from the trip Baba has got the fire in my heart burning bright and strong! I’m guessing it’s similar for many others too- Id like to know. I LOVED the tour and feel the changes in my life and the life of the universe because of it run very deep
I heard it said that it is only after you leave the convent that you discover slowly but surely that your entire closet has been rearranged. That pretty much sums up my own experience. Recovering from the arduous journey was one thing but readjusting to an old way of life with a new set of ideas, beliefs and fresh experiences was another all together. Having discovered Meher Baba only 15 months
before the trip, I was very eager to learn as much as I could. Being afforded this unique opportunity to visit all the sacred sites on my very first trip to India was a real blessing. I felt so lucky to see
so much in just a couple of weeks and I was like a sponge absorbing as much as I could. It took a while to integrate all this and I have only begun the process. But a year and a half later, I can look back and see that my way of life has drastically changed. For one thing, my daily routine is increasingly focused on Beloved Baba, whether in remembrance, prayer, meditation, singing or reading. For another, I look forward to any chance I have to reconnect with my Beads brothers and sisters and I have been very blessed to see a number of you in person whether in the States or in Europe, and to talk to others on the phone. Last but not least, Baba seems to have been pushing me into a musical direction. My journey with playing mountain dulcimer began in 2007. In May 2008 at the Northeast Gathering, I was asked to play something. I said Yes but backed out at the last minute
pretending to be sick. The truth is I was too frightened to play in front of an audience. So Baba in His infinite compassion gave me plenty of opportunities to grow in that area. First during the pilgrimage it took a lot of courage to play in Hyderabad in front of the Baba community. I was shaking like a leaf and totally fell apart right afterwards. But it was a step in the right direction. Other opportunities came, first at the Samadhi a number of times, and then finally just before the end of the trip, playing on the porch for Katie Irani. So many sweet memories. On my return to the States, I made a commitment that I was going to learn the Gujarati Arti with my dulcimer. It took me 3 months but I finally did it. Then I learned other Artis and now, more and more Baba songs. And during our last
Northeast Gathering in Upstate NY, I was finally able to play a couple of songs in front of the audience. These are obviously Baba’s precious gifts and they certainly have been shaping my life. Who knows what He has in store for me next? I am most grateful for the love and support of our Beads Community. I feel these connections are strong and reliable and getting deeper with time. Thank you Baba for giving me this wonderful family!
The trip is a powerful and important transformational tool, and an opportunity to access and celebrate the name of God as a group in those places that were double-identifed to both Don and Eruch by Meher Baba. I found the energy in those places quite varied and powerful.
I got back home late on the 25/8 and started work at dawn the next day! I had a 2 day lay over in Delhi and felt the separation from the group/experience very strongly there. Incredibly vulnerable. Delhi was flooding with heavy monsoonal rain and it was impossible to leave the hotel and the traffic was gridlocked – so my plans to visit Inayat Khans tomb and another Sufi saint were canned. and i just had to sit there and be with myself! Hah!
On my return over the last week i have been just consumed with an intense longing – for nothing concrete mind you – just burning. I tried to explain it to my partner – Its for God. I’m burning up for God! – was all i could manage. Lots happening and so grateful i signed up for the journey!
Of my three trips to India, this one made the biggest impression on me. Probably because the work towards religious unity that we did at each site prepared my mind to receive something new ; a pearl of Divine love ? along with an energy that I was not yet familiar with. Moreover, bathing in Baba’s presence day after day in communion with 50 other companions from far and wide was a huge spiritual boost. Almost two years later, where am I now ? and what is left of it ?
I must admit that during the first two months after returning home, I was in a euphoric state. Daily life seemed easier to live in the direction I had chosen. Negative impressions were easily swept away without any effort with a simple thoughful intention. Now this ease is less evident and this energy has taken a different form, more internal but still present underneath. I hope that the seed that was planted during our BOOS pilgrimage has began to take root through my tender loving care. Even though it needs regular watering it am beginning to sense that something is growing. As Dan Sanders said in one of his emails «Many fo my ideas about my personal limits and resources have been shattered». From time to time, when life is rough or obscure, it is the memory of the feeling that keeps me going and allows my intuition to give it an appropriate spiritual meaning. Personal contact and internal links established with other companions are still alive and keep getting stimulated on the last Sunday of each month during our Beads Prayer during our chain of prayer connecting all of us from the four corner of the earth and lasting from dawn to dusk. Has the BOOS pilgrimage allowed me to get a glimpse of God’s reality of total love, uplift, wholeness through actual experience rather than with words ? That is my wish. Jai Baba.
How can one summerize an experience that was as intense as this and on uncountable levels is yet emerging? Impossible. However, so far, I think I have begun to gratefully internalize that I can be friends with the unknown, and that I can never really know or control how things will turn out. (This has certainly taken a beating.) I must practice taking refuge in the moment to moment of “what is” rather than holding onto an erroneous belief of what may or may not be.
Living in the mystery requires an optimistic warrior-like strength of heart that only Baba is able to develop within each of us so personally (the beating). Faith is not a noun, it is a verb (this is a quote from somewhere) and living that verb means trusting that somehow things are already all right which gives me permission to allow the questioning, the “deep inquiry,” to let life unfold without judgement so that I can let love bloom more fully. It has given me the capacity to create the meaning that connects me to the flow of grace and purpose and full humanity which cannot come from an outside source and which seems also to BE the meaning. I can experience pain and promise and all that is life itself from love. This is what I get to rehearse at times with fluency but more realistically less often with that sting of embarrassment or faliure.
Here’s a quote that was inspiration to me from Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke:
I would like to beg of you, dear friend, as well as I can, to have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing
everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experienceing the answer, some distant day.
People expect that on a pilgrimage -even going to Meherabad- they have to be ‘hit’ by instant reactions that stand out from normal awareness. In my case, this never happened; neither during two visits to Meherabad, nor during the trip of 2009, and to be truthful, nor was I looking for effect.
The trip was normal by these standards; full, varied, exciting, moving, etc… and I guess that I was soaking a lot of what I was experiencing which will no doubt come back later, with further understanding.
Each time, I left with an open mind and an open heart, and each time, this allowed me to take in the trip with a lucid mind and a lucid heart, and most importantly, a heart ready to receive. It is also well known that the disciple is the last person to know how he develops spiritually! It could well be that in some years from now, I’ll be more able to understand what was happening beneath the surface; as it is, if there has been some developments in me spiritually, it was certainly under a veil.’
The 2009 Beads pilgrimage has left me with a residual itch. I squirm to answer the inner command ‘Now know myself’. Because of our love and commitment to Baba, we are gifted by Him with all the right information, beautiful words, plainly written. I have incorporated Baba’s words intellectually as automatic truth. Since returning home, I am asked to LIVE these truths. It’s in my face! Intuition has no patience with hiding behind the intellect.
Since our time together the progress of my meditations has gone from… ‘we are one’… to ‘I am that’… to ‘I am one’. In saying ‘I am one’, there’s no room for judgment or anger. Like I said, we all know this intellectually, it’s a no brainer. I feel the fire as these truths burn into the cells of my body. I notice I’m even more quiet than usual. What use are words when compared with that?
I ask Baba to fill every space in me that I can clear of I, I, me, me, mine, mine. As I’m an impossible case, I ask that He shine a spotlight on these insidious qualities. So when you see a bright light on the horizon, think of me!