Judith Garbett, Avatar’s Abode, Woombye
The Great Darshan
Guruprasad, Poona – May 1969
One of the things we always looked forward to very much was the arrival of a Family Letter from Mani. While there were still only a small number of Baba lovers in the earlier years, I used to type two or three runs with carbon copies to send out; but from 1967 with the influx of many new names on the mailing list the copies were done by instant printing. What a treat it was to have more news of Baba, and Meherazad, and Guruprasad, and everything else contained in these wonderful letters.
Our joyfulness knew no bounds when in November 1968 the announcement came of the 1969 Darshan, to be held from 10th April to 10th June at Guruprasad, Poona. The years of waiting to come to Baba closed up, His promise of ‘sometime, somewhere, somehow’ given with the cancellation of the December 1965 Darshan, was now to be fulfilled. Baba gave a long list of conditions for those coming. Western lovers could stay in Poona for one week, and would see Baba from 9 to 11 AM on four days only. All were to return home immediately after the week, and any sightseeing was to be done before coming to Poona. Westerners were to come in small groups spread over the two months. Dates were fixed for the Australians from 14th to 21st May, and bookings for the group were put in hand. Arrangements were also made for us to make a brief visit to Ellora Caves at Aurangabad on our way to Poona.
Christmas 1968 came and went, and holidays being due from my living job, I spent the last two weeks of January 1969 at Avatar’s Abode, staying as usual on the property with Robert and Lorna Rouse in the farmhouse. It proved to be a rather strange time in many ways. It was very hot, and dry too. That in itself was out of the ordinary, as January is usually part of the “wet” season for the area. The three of us were sick most of the time and felt thoroughly exhausted. A severe gastric complaint affected the other two, and I developed a distressing rash all over me which was thought to be an allergy to mangoes.
I was booked to fly home at midday on 31st January, and naturally went to spend time in Baba’s Room before leaving. I clearly remember sitting there on the soft grey carpet in front of Baba’s bed, eyes closed, and feeling desolate, drained of all energy. Suddenly tears came, and quite desperately I called to Him: ‘Oh, Baba, Baba, please help me!’ Immediately I felt His Presence most strongly, and to my amazement, at the same time I began to feel a little better and calmer. He was there, comforting me: it was a special, intimate moment. I did not see Him, just felt His great love in the warmth of His immediate response. The feelings stayed with me. I was in the air, thinking about Him, at 12:15, and finally reached home at about 5 PM, by then feeling exhausted and low in spirits.
Early in the morning on Sunday 2nd February, the cable from Meherazad was telephoned to Meher House. Bill rang me, himself in shock, and without any preliminaries said, ‘Take this down, will you,’ and asked me to type enough copies to send out to everyone:
‘Avatar Meher Baba dropped His physical body at twelve noon 31 January at Meherazad to live eternally in the hearts of al His lovers. Beloved Baba’s body will be interred at Meherabad Arangaon on 1 February at 10 AM in the Tomb He had ordered to be built long ago.’
The impact was overwhelming, I couldn’t really take it in, and felt quite numb. Sitting there by the phone I shed a few tears, then went to my desk and began to type mechanically. It took time to do everything. Maybe Baba gave me that to concentrate on. Having to get it all done that day didn’t allow me to sit there and weep for Him.
Life went on, of course. I went back to my living job the next day, and like Baba lovers all over the world waited for more news, but it still seemed difficult to take in and adjust to. And often, in amazement, I would remember how, early on the very morning Baba physically left us He had answered with so much love my cry to Him in His Room at Avatar’s Abode.
On 13th February another cable arrived at Meher House:
‘Despite Baba’s physical absence those lovers who desire to visit Guruprasad Poona to honour Baba’s invitation for Darshan up to 10th June can still come abiding strictly to the scheduled dates and conditions as per Family Letter dated 1st November. Journey will now include half day visit to Meherabad to pay homage at Baba’s Tomb. After 10th June anyone can make pilgrimage to Poona and Baba’s Tomb individually or collectively, understanding that all arrangements must be made on one’s own. Inform all concerned in your area. Jai Baba! Adi K Irani.’
Again copies went out to everyone, and eventually all arrangements were made for the group of 47 Australian lovers to go to Poona.
It was not until 24th April that I finally managed to write to Francis:
‘This letter has been written many times in thought but such a lot of things seem to have needed doing that the weeks have just disappeared, and your letter hasn’t been put down on paper and sent to you. I am sorry about this, dear Francis, and will make it fairly short as in only a couple of weeks I will be over there and seeing you again.
It may seem strange, but it was actually several weeks after beloved Baba dropped His body that it occurred to me the restriction on letter-writing probably didn’t apply any more and I asked Bill who of course said it would be OK to write to you. Even then I still felt unable to write spontaneously, for although I had accepted the news that Sunday as being Baba’s Will and kept going with the usual daily occupations, yet the shock remained and a kind of numbness slowed down the ability to do certain things for a long time afterwards.
After the first days of waiting for news it was indeed good that we could all hear it in beloved Baba’s Room at Meher House on 8th February, and on His birthday night when dear Bill read to us from his letters your most beautiful account of 31st January through to 7th February. In the bond of Baba’s love, His Presence there with us, we sat in silence and listened, and for myself it was almost like being there and seeing the events unfold – the perfect simplicity of your writing, its clarity and quietness and the love pervading it, was most moving and entirely beautiful.
Soon now we will be in India for beloved Baba’s Darshan, each one, along with all the thousands who have come and will come, helping to fulfil His words. And then the journey home, by His Grace holding Him in our hearts, and through His love learning to love Him as He should be loved. Francis, I have so much wanted to come, indeed I couldn’t imagine not coming at this particular time, and so I am feeling very happy as the time draws closer for us all to come to Him, and especially happy for the ‘new’ young ones. It seems wonderful that so many of them are able to come this time, and no doubt others will go later, but I do feel particularly happy for those coming now.
And also, dear Francis, I am very happy that you are coming back with us, and delighted to know that you will arrive at Avatar’s Abode for this year’s Anniversary.
Jai, Jai Baba.
With much love, Judith’
We left Sydney by Air India in Saturday 10th May, stayed a few hours in a hotel in Bombay, flew to Aurangabad on Sunday 11th arriving 8 AM, and checked in at the Aurangabad and Printravel Hotels. It was extremely hot, 110 degrees. I was among those staying at the Aurangabad Hotel. It had high ceilings and marbled floors, but only a few of the rooms were air-conditioned so some of us took it in turn to share a brief relief. Even the cold-water tap in the bath gave out hot water because of the sun on the pipes all day. The two nights were nearly as exhausting as the days as it was still too hot to sleep much. I recall going out onto the long wide veranda upstairs about 3 AM, and watching the sun rise soon afterwards. It immediately became a huge ball of fire in the glaring sky, the heat even at that hour enfolding me unrelentingly.
But it was all worthwhile, for the visit to Ellora Caves all day Monday was indeed a marvellous experience. We travelled by bus, and spent much time first of all in superb Kailas, then went on to the Carpenters Cave which has a high rafter-like ceiling reminding one of some great cathedral. It has the large and beautiful seated figure of Buddha which we walked round, and then gathered in a group to sing the Australian Arti, a very moving experience, the music rising to fill the whole space: it was truly a singing to the Beloved, to the One who had so often visited there Himself. We went on to see about eight or nine other Caves including the Jain. It was very hot, and time to see so much was comparatively short, but I remember being amazed at the beautiful and dedicated workmanship which had gone into creating such wonderful monuments for the world to enjoy.
Tuesday morning 13th May saw us back in Bombay for two days at the West End Hotel, and we finally reached Poona by plane 6 PM on Wednesday 14th for our week’s stay. I shared a small room at the Amir Hotel with May Lundquist and Maree Le Page. It was rather noisy being over the main road, but quite comfortable and there was a small air conditioner which helped a lot. Nothing mattered really: at long last we were all in Poona, waiting for the next morning and Beloved Baba’s Darshan.
Just before 9 AM on Thursday 15th May we were in the bus on the way to Guruprasad. This time, instead of hurrying on foot up the long driveway as in 1962, we were driven right up to the building, so had only to walk in under the covered portico and go up the wide marble entrance steps onto the veranda. Coming into Guruprasad again after more than six years caught at my heart, and vivid memories of meeting Baba there, being with Him in the East-West Gathering came flooding back. Now it was not the form of the Beloved seated in His armchair who waited for us, but a large and beautifully garlanded photograph leaning against the cushions. Yet Baba was so much there, His Presence very, very strong.
Eruch greeted everyone, and soon all were seated facing Baba’s chair. After the Master’s Prayer was read, Mehera, Mani, Meheru, Goher, Rano, Khorshed, Arnavaz and the Maharani came in from their rooms on the left-hand side. Mehera softly and shyly greeted all with ‘Jai Baba!’ This was the first time we had seen her participating in a large gathering with men as well as women present. They sat in a group near the wall, not far from Baba’s chair and partly facing us to our left. Mani gave a few words on Mehera’s behalf, then they all sang the Gujarati Arti, composed by Baba years before.
Next came Francis’ talk ‘The Mighty Beloved,’ which he read out over the microphone, standing facing us to our right of Baba’s chair. Eruch, Pendu, Aloba, Bal Natu and Bhau Kalchuri were on that side also. When Francis had finished, Eruch gave a few announcements, and provided the link from one item to another as the programme proceeded.
On the first morning the long-awaited moment of taking Baba’s darshan began about 10 o’clock. Baba’s armchair, covered in a plain blue-green fabric, was set on a small square dais covered with a dull green printed material. The chair was placed a little towards the back of the dais. In front of it where Baba’s feet would have rested, and draped down over the edge, was a small rug of colourful wide stripes, something like His flag. It appeared to be hand-made. On the floor immediately in front of the dais was a small Persian carpet, and a few feet away from that the very large main carpet extended across the room. Pink floral curtains were fastened together over the wide doorway which led out to the back rooms, and the strong morning sun seen through the thin fabric highlighted Baba’s chair.
The framed photograph of Baba’s head and shoulders, leaning back in the chair, was almost life-sized, and a garland of fresh flowers hung round it. One by one all came to Baba, bowing down to Him in their own way, just as it was when He was there in His physical form. Each then left the room quietly to go along the veranda to visit Baba’s bedroom.
For myself, taking Baba’s darshan at His chair was sweet, but somehow that morning with people still standing by or watching, it was not perhaps as intimate as I had hoped. It was in His bedroom that Beloved Baba really gave me darshan, and it remains in my memory as the most beautiful time with Him during those four days.
Baba’s bedroom was not noticeably large, but it had a very high ceiling. On the left going in from the doorway there were two armchairs side by side, the first covered in a light green material, and the other in yellow. Behind the green one was a wooden clothes-rack with one of Baba’s pink coats, a sadra and a towel on it. In a corner beyond the chair was a small table with some flowers, a clock, and other items. On the right-hand side of the room was His bed with a pink floral cover and a plain pink canopy over the high wooden framework. On the floor beside the bed was a small rug and a footstool, with a pair of His sandals to the left of these.
Mani had told us earlier in the morning that Baba used the green chair when relaxing and the yellow one when He was working, and that He was always most insistent that no one should touch the yellow chair when He was in it, that they must all continuously guard against even the tiniest touching it while He was sitting there. Once someone’s skirt came very close to the chair, and Baba told them they had no conception of what she had escaped.
I can’t really imagine what it must have been like when Baba was physically in that room, whether working or otherwise, but for me that morning His Presence was just so incredibly strong. I felt He was there with me. I am not sure whether I can find words to describe it, or even whether I should attempt to write about it. But perhaps it is time to try:
As I stood there glancing around the room, suddenly my head went back and I was as though transfixed, looking up to the ceiling, my eyes filling with tears. I felt as though my heart was bursting, and that involuntarily and rapidly it was soaring upward to Him. It was like being poised as a dancer with arms outstretched in a spontaneous, ecstatic, upward movement, and there was also the strong feeling of being drawn out of myself, beyond myself. At the same time I was aware that there wasn’t any outward movement: it was all within me, my soul was crying out to Him, and He was drawing me to Him. I turned to the bed and went down on my knees, hands holding the edge, head bent to the flowered cover. A perfume wafted up, so overpowering in its sweetness that again tears spilled over, and in my heart I was trying to talk to Him.
....Then somehow I was on my feet again, and still blinded with tears, stumbled out of the room to stand for a while further along the veranda, remembering the intensity of those moments, re-living that total giving of my heart to Him.
After regaining some composure, I walked along to the other end of the spacious veranda with its pink marble columns and black and white tiled floor, and around to the small mandali room where we had sung to Baba that afternoon in 1962 after the East-West Gathering was over. The well-remembered armchair and small side table were there as before, but an addition on the wall was a large copy of the Hafiz couplets ‘Befitting a fortunate slave...’ Several of the group were sitting on the floor with albums of photographs of the days at Baba’s tomb from 31st January to 7th February. Over someone’s shoulders I looked at a few of the pictures but did not feel like seeing them at all. (In fact, even now, so many years later, I still do not find it easy to look at photographs of Beloved Baba lying there in the crypt.)
I walked back along the veranda and was near Baba’s bedroom once more when Dr Goher came and said that Mehera was on her side veranda and would like to see us. I went round straight away. It was rather a small area, and Mehera was standing there with two or three women so I waited nearby. Soon my turn came and she embraced me. Mehera remained standing and I stood facing her with my hands resting on her arms. She allowed me to continue doing this while she talked of Baba, also of the 1962 Gathering and this Darshan. Mehera told me how much she still missed His physical presence – she knew that He was in the heart, that He was everywhere, but she missed Him so much. While she was speaking tears were running down her cheeks but she went on talking gently and in a calm manner. I felt that although she had accepted Baba’s Will, yet at the same time, being very human and loving Him as deeply and devotedly as she did, it was natural that her tears still came.
She spoke about Baba’s long and strenuous seclusion, of how tired He was after a work period, His body covered with perspiration, and His thigh bruised from the constant hammering with His fist which He told them was to keep His link with the gross plane. She said they all felt orphaned, and when she broke down in tears the others would remind her of Baba’s last message to her to be brave, and set an example for everyone. ‘Baba helps us and encourages us,’ she said.
While she talked I was in tears myself part of the time, and could only manage a word or two. I had met Him over just five days – yet she, whose whole life was centred totally in Baba, stood there quietly in her immeasurable grief giving out so much love in speaking of Him, demonstrating so perfectly the strength and beauty of her one-pointed devotion for her Beloved.
Finally she said to me, ‘How fortunate you are to have been here in 1962 and to have seen Him then. And you are fortunate to come now, because you have obeyed Baba’s wish in coming, and He would be happy about that because obedience shows your love.’ These few minutes surely showed something of Mehera’s own obedience to her Beloved, a tiny glimpse of the depth of her love for Him in giving time and energy, despite her immense grief, to talk about Him to His lovers, many of whom she had never seen before.
This time, seeing more of Mehera than in 1962, I began to have an inkling of how very beautiful she was in the true sense of the word. She embraced me again, I moved aside and others came to greet her. Then remembering a message from Lorna and Radha Rouse I waited nearby, and just before we had to leave at 11 o’clock was able to give it to Mehera. She said, ‘Tell them that Baba is with them.’
As listed in the programme, that same evening all the women in our group went to Guruprasad at 5 PM to be with Mehera and the women mandali until 7:30. It was a relaxed atmosphere in that lovely room so filled with Baba’s Presence. As in the morning, they all sat together near the wall, facing us.
Mani asked Mehera to begin by telling some anecdotes, and held the microphone for her – but Mehera shyly kept leaning away from it, with Mani still holding it for her.
Mehera said she had come to Him when she was 16. She remembered His love of songs in the early days. On one occasion at the old Post Office at Meherabad where she and the women were staying, Baba asked her to sing. The only song she knew was ‘Swanee’ which she had learned at school. Baba asked her to sing it several times so that He could learn it, which He did very quickly, and next morning they heard Him singing it nearby. Baba had a very beautiful voice, Mehera said.
Soon she asked Mani to take over the microphone and tell us some stories. Mani did so in her own inimitable way, with comments or reminders now and again from others. She was so vital, spoke quickly and easily, with much details and expressive gestures to illustrate different aspects.
There were stories from the New Life. She made us laugh over the trouble she and Meheru had in getting the donkeys to move, finally becoming desperate as they lagged further and further behind Baba, who was walking ahead. After noticing that truck horns seemed to have an effect on the animals, when the next truck passed by honking loudly they both yelled as well, and the donkeys took off with such speed that they were soon ahead of Baba!
Mani talked about the begging and the different reactions of people who were asked for bhiksha (charity, alms or anything received, especially food). Some refused to give, but one very poor woman had Eruch wait while she went and borrowed flour and then cooked something for them.
Recalling earlier times when the women were living in the East Room on Meherabad Hill, Mani then told stories of various birds. There was the Mynah which Mehera had taught to say ‘Baba, Baba darling.’ One day while in her cage near the high ventilator in the East Room it caught a chill from the cold blast of a sudden storm. Soon afterwards, while it was being attended to, with Mehera, Mani, Naja, Khorshed and Valu around it, the sick bird managed feebly to croak ‘Baba,’ and then died.
And there were three baby parrots at Meherabad, Mani continued, very ugly with outstanding red beaks, pot tummies, stubby quills for tails, and plucked-looking flesh. These baby birds had fallen from their nest, were picked up by Baba while walking up the Hill, and given into the women mandali’s care. They were always hungry and fed and fed until bulging. Baba loved to see His pets well fed and said ‘Give them more, more!’ Then of course they needed exercise, so Baba told the women to make them walk, which they did by nudging them across the room at every step. It was very funny. Then He said they needed a laxative! But eventually when the birds grew up they were very beautiful. One day Baba took them outside perched on His hand and let them fly away.
The much-loved cocker spaniel Peter was the next story. There is a photo of him in the small porch at Meherazad cottage, Mani told us, with two chipmunks climbing over him. Chipmunks are lively creatures, and Peter usually loved chasing them and barking at them. But these two were orphaned when very small and the women mandali rescued them, kept them in a little box and fed them. Watching all this, Peter appointed himself their ‘mother.’ He would watch over them and let them play over him, pinch him, cling on to him, and he even tried to eat their food so that he could be one of them. As with all the other stories, Mani’s telling was a delight for us all.
Then it was time for some music. Mani played her sitar, sang a song for us, and then began ‘Baba Bhagavan.’ Maree and Jenny said, ‘Oh, we know it,’ and after exclamations from the women at this fact we all sang it together, as well as the American Arti of which there were copies of the words for us to follow.
After all this we moved about to greet and then to farewell one another, and I was able to have a few words with each of the mandali. They were so loving, so gentle. Sometimes when we embraced there would be some talk, or a little story and a laugh, but at other times we would just look at each other, holding arms or hands, and words were not really needed. Their eyes were so beautiful, and looking deep into them I felt I was looking straight into their hearts, full of love.
In the morning Mehera had wept, but in the evening she was mostly bright and smiling, though serious at times. I must have been standing with her ten minutes or more in the morning, but just briefly later. It was very sweet to spend a few minutes with each one. Goher said they were so happy to see us, and that they all felt Baba was very much present. Mani, Naja, Meheru, Rano, Arnavaz, Khorshed all spoke in similar fashion, very lovingly, with many Jai Baba’s, and making little kisses while talking.
Shantadevi, the Maharani of Baroda who owned Guruprasad was also there: I found her a very quiet and unassuming person.
By 9 o’clock on Friday morning the 16th we were again seated in the main room at Guruprasad, and during the first half hour enjoyed the group’s performances to entertain Baba. One item was Bill and Michael Le Page acting out ‘The Horse and the Rabbit’ – a song from the small book Let Us The People Sing by Francis. I remember them practicing it at Meher House before we left Sydney, and again on arrival in Poona. A lovely doll’s tea set was one of the props brought with them, and they also had some very simple costume effects to enliven their performance for Baba.
When this and the other items by various ones in the group had been given, Francis read some of his poems, followed by a talk from Adi Senior. Everyone in turn took Baba’s darshan, and we left at 11 AM, visiting Babajan’s Tree at Bund Gardens on the way back to the hotel. Again this was a heart-touching time for me, bringing back clear memories of that final love-filled farewell to Baba when He and the mandali left for Meherazad after the East-West Gathering was over.
Late in the afternoon we boarded the bus with Baba’s brother Jal who took us to the special Baba places from 5 to 7:30 PM. The first visit was to Sassoon Hospital where Baba was born. At the time of the hospital’s centenary on 9th December 1968 a special message from Baba was read and also published in several newspapers reporting the occasion: ‘I give My blessings to the administrative, medical, worker staff of this hospital in which I, the deliverer of the world, was delivered to the world.’ We were shown the small plaque which had been unveiled on the wall outside, and then went upstairs to see the wards, although it is not certain now in which one Baba was born.
After going to Babajan’s shrine, we were taken to Baba House. We gathered in the small courtyard around the well, and in turn went into Baba’s room where set into the floor in the tiny alcove is the stone on which in 1921 Baba would repeatedly knock His head. Years later He explained that this physical pain helped relieve the spiritual agony He was experiencing at the time.
Saturday morning at Guruprasad included another short entertainment for Baba. This time it was singing by some of the group, and some amusing stories given by John Bruford of Avatar’s Abode.
Afterwards there was an opportunity to be with Mehera and the mandali. Mehera told me, ‘Hold onto His skirt, daaman, whatever happens. He used to shake the hem of his dress to show how only the true ones would hold on through everything.’ She then said, ‘You love Baba very deeply. Make sure you hold onto Him. There is no need to tell you that. Love Him more and more. He loves you.’ She went on: ‘I didn’t see you yesterday,’ and asked if we went to the Baba places. When I said we had done so, she continued, ‘Baba’s Room? You felt His Presence there?’ and I remembered how strong it was and very beautiful. She said again, ‘It is good you have obeyed Baba’s wish and come now.’ Then she said something like, ‘You have to love Him to obey Him,’ or ‘Obedience shows your love for him.’ I wasn’t sure later exactly how she put it, but obedience was the main word.
I talked to Meheru. She was very lovely, very quiet. Each of them looked straight deep into one’s eyes. I felt as though I had known them before, and love and peace and gentleness seemed to flow from them, wordlessly. Next I was with Khorshed, and Naja; then Goher who each time greeted me most lovingly and by name. I asked if she had liked the singing and she said yes, and that they had felt Baba’s Presence more strongly then. She said the Australian Arti was very beautiful, and agreed when I said I thought it the best of Francis’ songs.
To Rano’s question I answered that I was still doing secretarial work. She told me she had learned to type to help with all Francis’ work, and had taught herself but was a bit slow. She added that she felt painting was useless and typing was needed so she had done that. Kitty taught Mani to type. Rano and Naja said they remembered me clearly from 1962, and Rano commented that I was thinner. ‘You and I are the two tall skinny ones so we should stick together,’ she said smiling warmly, taking my arm.
Late on Saturday afternoon it was the turn of the men in the group to go to Guruprasad to spend a couple of hours with Eruch and the men mandali. In the evening we all went to Avatar Meher Baba Poona Centre to share in their usual Monday night meeting.
Sunday 18th May was the day for our visit to Meherabad and Meherazad. We left Poona at 6 AM in the bus and did not get back until after 8 PM. Joan Le Page had hurt her back and was unable to go, so Bill took her in a car the day before we departed. I think everyone else went on the Sunday. My copy of the programme gives a list of where we would go and what we would do at Meherabad, Meherazad, and Ahmednagar, but I have only hazy recollections, or none at all, about some of these events. Apart from the intense heat, it was an exhausting day, physically as well as emotionally.
We went straight up the Hill to Baba’s Tomb for darshan. I seem to remember that a sheet of some kind was spread over the earth of the crypt, but I am not really sure -- perhaps the earth was at that time still uncovered, and it was not until a short time later that the protective cloth began to be used. A roof, much smaller than the one there now, had been erected over the open-sided paved area outside the door of the Tomb. My photographs show some of the group standing in line there during the morning, waiting to go in again to Baba before leaving, while others were sitting in the shade of the ‘Mandap,’ the large covered platform close by. The few old meditation cells were still there between the Tomb and Baba’s Cabin.
The stretcher used to carry Baba’s body from Meherazad was on the floor in the Cabin and I remember thinking how narrow it seemed. On the wall was a copy of the Hafiz quotation ‘Befitting a fortunate slave...’The Cabin was not painted at that time and the open door looked weather-worn. Nearby in the compound Baba’s flag spread its colours in the wind high up on the tower of Meher Retreat. Everywhere the earth was dry and dusty in the shimmering heat, and except for the established trees along the Hill road, only a few small spindly shrubs struggled to survive here and there down the long grassless slopes. A mile or so away the dark buildings of Arangaon village seemed almost merged into the general brownness of the heat-filled midsummer landscape.
After eating our packed lunch, and making a last visit to Baba’s Tomb, we were driven down the Hill to Lower Meherabad where we were shown round the various buildings and taken to see Mohammed the mast. I felt quite unhappy about what seemed to me to be the rather insensitive, inquisitive way many of the group crowded round him, so I moved away -- but perhaps I was just not in a fit state to judge properly.
I have no recollection of travelling to Meherazad but was certainly happy to be there again. Here too the effect of the summer was evident, but it did not feel as harsh as at Meherabad. The gardens on the women’s side, though wilting in places, were a welcome sight, the bougainvilleas trailing splashes of colour wherever they grew. The trees were not as thick and tall as now and allowed Seclusion Hill to be seen clearly on the way round to Baba’s Bedroom. On the men’s side two or three slim trees grew near the front of Mandali Hall and against the Blue Bus itself, but the long wide sheltering veranda which everyone appreciates so much today was not yet built, and the New Life Caravan was also in the open.
While walking in the garden I took a number of nice photographs, and picked up a tiny green stone to keep. Meherazad was very quiet that day, much of it closed because the mandali were away in Poona, but Baba’s Presence was there with us, the imprint of His love all around.
On an earlier day at Guruprasad we were asked to write a letter to Baba before departing and give it to Mani or one of the mandali. As usual I had difficulty in finding words for my deepest feelings and it took a long time to put them down on paper:
In the beautiful faces of your lovers and deep in their shining eyes I see you, in the warmth of their loving embraces I feel you, and in sweet speech and the outpouring of their songs of praise and devotion I hear you. You are everywhere, your love surrounds me, holding me closely, tenderly, drawing me nearer and nearer to you.
So much have you given me – yet this outward knowing of you trembles before the power and sweetness of the love which wells deep within my heart – your love, awakened anew in the precious moments of taking your Darshan – your love, silently singing sweet calmness and peace.
Beloved Baba, as I go from here I take you with me: let me ever keep your love, let me ever hold you in my heart.
Monday the 19th was to have been our last day at Guruprasad, but unexpectedly we were invited to come also on the following morning, Tuesday 20th, to take Baba’s Darshan once more, and to say goodbye to each of the dear mandali. I can recall talking a little with different ones, finding it hard to realise we would be leaving the next afternoon for the long journey back to Australia.
I still have a picture in my mind of that beautiful room at Guruprasad, so filled with Baba’s Presence, with His love. I don’t think it occurred to me to wonder wether I would be able to come again, whether there would be any opportunities to have the companionship of Baba’s dear men and women mandali in the future. My heart and mind that morning stayed in the present and were just filled with Baba’s love which was also expressed in the eyes, actions and words of each of the mandali – it was all overwhelming.
In the late afternoon light of Wednesday 21st May we left Poona by Indian Airlines for Bombay, stayed again at the West End Hotel, and finally flew home to Sydney by Air India on Friday morning 23rd.
In writing about the Great Darshan I have used my few notes about the first three days which I was able to make while still in Bombay; and also some details from the copy I kept of a long letter written to the Rouses at Avatar’s Abode soon after my return home. My descriptions of Guruprasad, Baba’s Darshan chair in the main room with the men and women mandali seated beside it, as well as our visits to the Baba places in Poona, the Tomb, Meherabad Hill, and Meherazad are all as I saw them, faithfully recorded through the eye of my camera.
There are many gaps which memory cannot fill now of the wonderful darshan days, and I seem to have given mostly personal items with not much of the general picture such as I was able to tell of the East-West Gathering. But this is natural, because to me the Great Darshan was an intensely personal time.
The 1962 Gathering was a vigorous coming-together of thousands of His children with their Father; there were new and long-time lovers present; and hundreds upon hundreds of the general public whom Baba also allowed to see Him and file by Him in the day-long procession.
In contrast, Baba had said that the Darshan would be only for His lovers; it would be the last given in silence; and it would be unparalleled. It was truly so.
Large crowds, His physical form, His outward embraces were no longer there. Instead of these, Baba’s Presence and His love manifested silently, privately, deep within the individual lover’s heart, creating the beginnings of a new and intimate companionship with Him, which in His love and compassion He has continued to nurture and strengthen as the years go by.