Nationality : Swiss
The following is from The Awakener Magazine ; Vol.21, No.2
Letters from India
by Walter Mertens
translated from the German by Mathew Breindell
Letter I — Meherabad, Dec. 6, 1938
I have been now ten days in India and do not find words to express rightly all of the inner and outer happenings, which exceed my expectations a hundred times. I must try, with the help of my diary, partly in telegraphic style, to describe the essential.
Nov. 26, Meherabad!!! Everything too overwhelming to be able to describe it just now!
Nov. 27, And today also so deep and crucial. I am still not able to write. Now I am happy and peaceful in the deepest knowledge. Everything will turn out well, ordered and blissful. And Baba is the most real Reality: God-Man like Christ.
Nov. 28, Now I really must get notes on paper, otherwise I'll never catch up, since gigantic, inner, new mountains of experience are looming on the horizon. So looking back:
Nov. 25, Arrival in Bombay 5 o'clock in the morning. The luggage is carried off, don't even have to open it. Kaka, Baba's faithful companion, garlands me on the ship, then Chanji arrives, Baba’s secretary. Post office, city tour by auto, native-quarter with the most primitive huts under palm and banana and giant bamboo trees, colors, colors! Beach, Malabar Hill with the towers silence of the Parsis! The vultures fly after a meal on the dead to the slaughter house for further eating. A visit at the family of Chanji's brother, white flowers patterns* are strewn on the floor in welcome, with flour. Shopping, drink a pick-me-up. I feel bad, up and down, as usual, whenever I come together with Baba. Departure, a cocoa in the train station at Poona puts me on my feet again, arrival 8:30 a.m. in the morning in Ahmednagar.
Nov. 26, Baba's hut in Meherabad, "princely" furnished for me: dressing table with mirror, wardrobe, large and small table, large bed, supplies wardrobe with fruit cakes, jams. Walls painted sky-blue, wall boards and window sills in silver, little silver vase and little tablecloth. How these dear ones have taken the trouble to house me in "European" fashion. Hedi comes! Neat and thin, with beautiful expression, looking fragile but healthy - Baba comes: how do I like it? like a princely palace. The other men are housed in very simple barracks at the foot of the hill. They sleep on the floor on thin mattresses, which one rolls up for travelling.
In the afternoon Hedi pays a visit to the women's house on the hill. Here all the women live in a building, which had served as a prisoners' camp in the first World War. In a long hall there are about 6-8 beds spaced at 1-2 meters apart for luggage and all belongings. But even spoiled European women are happy to be allowed to live here. A little higher in the garden is the "hospital", where sick people are treated for free. To the side stands the dome, a sort of chapel, about 5 meters high and wide, which was erected over a trench-like hole in the ground, in which Baba in earlier days used to stay in order to fast. Baba shows us around, shows also the house. In a touching way a new garden is being made, the women dig little trenches around every little plant: it is like in a little garden of a cloister in Umbria. Helen Dahm has painted the "dome," in Biblical groups with Baba. The clouds on the horizon, the peaceful expanse of the sparse landscape, the colors of the women's clothes - everything gives a powerful impression.
Today is an unscheduled feast day. Disputes of many years' standing among the natives been settled by Baba.** Now there come the parades of Hindus approaching the mountains, an event like in the Bible; they group themselves in the garden, play music, dance in rhythm up the mountain, form loose groups of color of unbelievable finely nuanced tones, added to the dark faces, the flashing eyes, the white teeth, the expression of pious submission to Baba. Baba is sitting upon a sort of chaise lounge next to the dome; everyone, including us, groups around Him. The constant melody is taken up by countless arrivees - here red colors, there blue, violet, white turbans, knitted caps, small and smallest children carried by the women - everyone and everything pious, singing, everyone and everything in devotion. The Arti-song for Baba begins; an "uncle"-like fellow, swimming in impersonal happiness, burns wax pieces upon a tablet. Baba is garlanded, greeted, hugged; elegant Parsi families with imposing women in imposing clothes arrive. The "Darshana" begins, the passing before of the hundreds. Each bends to kiss Baba's feet or to hug Him, or even just to touch Him. The women bend forward with the little children, each child is touched by Baba, to each He gives a ball of spiced rice. Many small children want to bow by themselves, hands raised in greeting, kissing His feet. Baba's Mandali urge everyone on, press forward one after another, everything goes like clock-work. Baba keeps getting many flower garlands, or some small thing from a poor woman. Some of the former antagonists receive from Baba an encouraging slap, others whisper sweet nothings in His ear during their hug, everything is so serious and real, so full of devotion and belief in the God-Man - How our churches are just white-washed walls! My eyes, my heart have drunk in so much, - I can hold no more!
I wake up at two o'clock in the middle of the night. My inner being is clear, calm, of shining energy. I know, Baba is the Truth . And He is the Truth in me. In this truth I can live a wonderful, creative life. And work for His work. For about two hours I am in this pure happiness, freed of all the give and take of polarities.
Nov. 27, Visit to the Mad Ashram. Baba is hugged, He jokes, takes into His arms these ones who are separated from reality and know only God. Everyone begins to glow. His radiant Mahomet hugs even me, and another tries to kiss my feet. I hug these good brothers. Baba gets to work, cutting hair and beards, assisted by the Mandali, everything goes efficiently and snappy, by the numbers. Then the bath. Baba soaps each one all over, washes him, pours lots of bowls of water over him, and the next one is ready to go. Then the emptying of the chamber pots by Baba. Gloves, emptying the pots, carrying to the trench, cleaning, etc., at the end Himself washing His arms and legs. "This is what being God means . . . this continuous work," says Baba. Who would contradict Him!
In the afternoon Baba has a serious and long talk with Hedi and me. I bring up all my concerns. Everything is handled in a very detailed and most thorough way. To my statement that I don't want to become an Eastern holy man or a monk, but am a European and believe in a spirituality which can express itself anywhere and in any activity, Baba answers: "I stand over East and West, I am no yogi and no saint, but a God-Man as Christ was. You, Hedi, and I are one. You two will have great tasks and were always with me." Hedi and I are supposed to travel for five days to Panchgani, where Baba has a cave. He wants us to be happy together. I walk back down the hill. Am filled with a sense of the extremely precise truth which lies in all that is happening. Now I know that Baba is the Truth, will never forget it again, even if He tests me with the game of temptations.
Nov. 28, Am reading today with Hedi the Meher Baba Journal and translate. And then comes Baba with an itinerary He has worked out for me personally: Pleader, His favorite disciple, the one tested to the utmost (lived 6 years only on milk, 2½ years in a dark room without reading and talking, 8 months in Baba's cave, 1½ years traveling through India without means, poverty, sickness, then caring for possessed people, getting to know well the play of the world, now living in Baba's cave in Panchgani in Tiger Valley) is supposed to come with Hedi and me, show us everything, we to sleep in a hotel, he in the cave. Then we are supposed to return to Meherabad for a few days, then travel to the south . . . Hedi with the women and Baba, I with the Mandali. Then Pleader is supposed to go with me alone! to Benares, Agra, Delhi, then for a few days to the south again, then to Bombay and on Jan. 7 return trip to Europe. I can hardly comprehend this richness, everything is arranged on a grand scale.
Here the crickets sing the whole night, at home is perhaps frost and snow. The new moon is a reclining bowl, at home a sickle. And I have my own servant, who sits in front of my hut full of willingness to serve. For the simplest work he in turn has a small boy. And my own bathroom with sitzbath, mirror-sink, watercloset, little towel hooks, water jug, etc. - My heart, what more do you want!
Nov. 29, Today with Adi, Baba's cousin and excellent worker in Ahmednagar. Visit the Sarosh-factory, his female cousin offers us lemon squash and sweets, we walk through the city, towers of silence are here also, some vultures are flying in front of us over the street with heavy wings. Then Happy Valley. A hushed, deepened valley, into which one descends via a stairway. Under an old tree stands hewn in rock a Hanuman-god with bullock and club. It is supposed to watch over the village. Here Rama is supposed to have dwelled with his Sita during their migration. A passage through the rocks: Sita's bath. In a crevice a stone bull with small figure between the front legs. Romantic, rocky valley with a small river and many interesting trees. High in the mass of a tree hangs a beehive.
Nov. 30 to Dec. 5, Trip to Panchgani with Hedi and Pleader. Everything so large here in India: earth, vegetation, the people as simple as mammals and good-natured. A female can walk for miles in a lonely region without having to be afraid. Panchgani is like the Lenzer Meadow back home and not much above sea level. We go with Pleader into Baba's cave. Hewn in the cliff, it is about 2½ by 4 meters and 2½ high, brushed with mortar. Here Pleader lived once for 28 days only on water. His faith is limitless, he is filled with deepest longing for "realization." He is Baba’s trusted worker and carries on himself the list of the Circle-members. In the moment of realization one knows one's purpose and works like the unison of the clockhands and the bell that tolls at the stroke of 12 o'clock.
In the afternoon to Mahabaleshwar. Wonderful scenery, mountainous, jungle: a week ago a Nabob shot a tiger here. Old Hindu temple, wonderful view of a panorama of mountains, clouds and effects of light in greatest plenty. The many points lying spread out by miles have names, from Bombay Point one sees right to the sea at Bombay. Here, at the old temple five rivers originate, among them the Krishna and Savitri-River. The foreground is dark, then reddish tones, light blue nuances, the sky orange, infinitely receding, majestic. Somewhere I have seen this grandiose panorama before; it reminds me of my picture of the four different states of the old Gnostics. It makes one pious, uplifted, happy. And the people here are so gentle and good. Hedi, Pleader and I speak in the cave about the deepest human questions. A sentence is begun by one, finished by another. Right to the most innermost part of the soul and at the same time, so-to-say, physically palpable, we experience the absolute unity of the soul's basic element. Nationality, race, etc., are circumstances of outer shells of the soul, the fundamental substance is in all humans all-one. Hedi spends this night in the cave; I will spend tomorrow night there.
Dec. 3 . Excursion to the Table-Land, a large plateau, barren, grass burned off; shepherd with goats, sheep, another with cows and oxen, everything is far and large. White eagles and swallows fly around, I take photographs. Pleader tells how Baba was a Jain-saint in the last life, in the life before that King Shivaji. As that person He was a great King, had many forts and fought the Mogul King Aurangzeb (Persian, Mohammedan), and his general Afzulkhan, whose grave is in Fort Pratapgarh, and whose head is buried there where the walls meet. Today Afzulkhan is supposed to be again with Baba, namely as his disciple Bua Saheb.
When we got back I asked Baba how reincarnations on a low level fit in. Baba answered, Avatar is always on the 7th plane and always is the same One. But just as Harin al Raschid was the King and always on the throne even though he often disguised himself as a beggar, craftsperson or even as a thief on account of his work, so an Avatar might sometimes take an outwardly lower form, though he is always consciously behind that form, on account of his work. In the cave I tried to put myself inwardly completely in contact with Baba. It doesn't happen for me today, I have dreams of a hundred, changing forms. It makes me most aware of my veil of maya, and there awakes in me the burning desire to get through it to clear, pure consciousness of the spirit in truth. This has to be earned and reached with all sorts of sacrifices, which are of course not those sacrifices in the European sense of suffering.
Dec. 4 , Right after breakfast I drive with Pleader and a Hindu friend to Fort Pratapgarh, while Hedi, who has convalesced quite nicely up here, gives herself a day of rest. After 24 miles we come to the foot of the mountain, upon whose top the fort is located. Hindu carriers with sedan-chairs are standing by, but we choose to work our way up the mountain by foot, in part traversing jungle, but on a passable though stony path. Up above are huge old walls, an old Hindu temple, steps, lying there is an old cannon barrel on the ground, rigid priest is standing there with naked torso, a thin female carrying water comes out of the temple, beggars are standing around. On the way down we meet gypsies with livestock, dogs and all sorts of belongings just like at home. Everything is carried on the head, even chicken-roosts. After returning, I have an interview with Baba. This whole time has been so perfect. I know most precisely that we have to go through the veil of the material and through its webs, in order to reach a clarity of the soul and to arrive at truth.
I show Baba a sketch which I had made for Him showing the layout of a college of life. He likes it, Baba takes it with Him. We'll see if we can find a suitable place, and so on, for it. Perhaps in Hyderabad, which is where the trip is going next.
Letter II - Hyderabad, Dec 17, 1938
Chapter Hyderabad has only just ended, and the ladies have already departed this morning with the usually full bus, we also packed, and in about two hours our train will leave. The ladies have three days of bus travel, and we one-and-one-half days train travel of about 1,150 km to Jubbulpore in eastern middle India. This is supposed to be a large city in a very beautiful landscape. A high magistrate is Baba's disciple and will take care of our lodging.
Hedi tells me how every time Baba undertakes such meaningful tours "maya" works against him to block the movement. In Hyderabad for example we were invited (about 35 persons) by the first prime minister and a couple of other influential persons of this rich state. The first minister, who had put a palace at our disposal, became seriously ill. Then the second minister offered us his palace (they all look like white "oriental fairy-tale castles"), whereupon his son-in-law died. Then he put a bungalow at our disposal, whereupon the black plague broke out there. A sort of gentleman's house with beautiful cloister-courtyards in an old park received us then on the first day (meanwhile the wife of the first minister suffered a heart attack), until the palace where we presently are, which belonged to the dead brother of the Nizam, was ready at night-time.
It's been a week since we moved in here, to stay for a month. On the trip south the landscape became evermore fertile, many parts reminded me of the Greifensee-region, then more and more boulders of strange, round form appeared (giant plastic sculptures by Arp), and in the area around Hyderabad one finds oneself transported to a fairy-tale-like, unreal primitive landscape, with giant hills and fields with boulders as high as a house, which are often balanced three and four on top of one another. The grayness lies still and heavy in the beige-yellow, dry fields, and little lakes with light-and dark-green grasses are as refreshing as a morning vision as they mirror the radiant sky.
Corbusier-houses, oriental palaces, giant trees and villas in Italian style show the proximity of the rich city. In between are located the villages of the poverty-stricken natives like hidden stalls or areas walled off naturally.
Baba sets the people here in motion. He comes with the idea to create here (or somewhere else) a "spiritual world center". A Major C., a small man, who, as the right hand of the first minister, takes himself to be most important, has provided for our lodging. He and his wife practice occultism. When I was there on the first evening, (in order to accustom myself slowly to the oriental way of lodging), he told me mysteriously of the healings of his wife, spoke of the ten masters of the Deccan, of the old diamond mine Golconda, where in its day the Koh-i-Noor diamond was found, and of his ability to make a pearl out of a pea, to conjure up fresh California apples and other things out of the air. He played himself up to me as a master, one who wants to put one over on the naïve "Westerner". The whole "Major" episode is a funny-interesting intermezzo showing Baba's work. I have noted everything in detail in my diary and can give here just a few highlights.
The next day Norina has to go under Baba's orders to the Major, in order to "snob" him. Again he wants to brag, but she tells of her own earlier healings and spiritual adventures, all of which she has long since put behind her in order to dedicate her whole existence to Baba, who is the incarnation of truth and spirit. The Major takes himself to be a master. Then it follows that she must also be a master, she says. But neither is a master, that is all deception and child's play when compared to the true transformation into life lived under the guidance of the Master.
The next day the Major and his wife go to Baba. He plays with the two of them like a boy with balls. He lets them puff themselves up (the Major could become his right hand), and lets them fall, (he knows more about him then he himself). The Major says one couldn't say anything bad about him. Baba answers, whether he wishes that one might only say good things about him? (In real existence pure deeds grow out of a state-of-balance of "good and evil").
The Major tells of his achievements. Do we both find it necessary, to talk about our achievements? answers Baba. In short, the game goes this way and that, Baba unveils his project of the "Centre", the Major would be his right hand (the little fool is very industrious). In the end the Major declares to his wife, "This is the man who will wind the whole world around his finger" (what an enlightening image!?). He offers his true and loyal services.
In the afternoon Baba gives me a sketch, which is drawn according to the format of my centre-plans and contains the designations of the various divisions (Baba and his main people, advanced souls, saints, male and female followers, Mad-Ashram, meditation-ashram, spiritual academy, ashram for touched souls, etc.).* I am supposed to have made a beautiful plan made out of it by tomorrow morning!
We look through the whole city for drawing paper, a primitive compass and a ruler. At seven in the evening I have the things and can begin after dinner. By about ten-thirty the black-white plan is done and on the following morning it is colored in, and given over to Baba at nine o'clock. Baba is satisfied with it and happy.
At ten o'clock the Major comes. He begins by saying "This morning I sent my wife to Venice to see something that will happen there today." (Baba and I look at each other and smile: when it is eight o'clock here it is two in the morning in Venice). Baba explains my drawing to him, the Major is enthusiastic. "We need about 40 acres of land." says Baba. "Let's make it 1000 acres," answers the Major.
It will cost about 25 laks (two and a half million rupees). says Baba. "Let's use 30 laks," brags the Major. In a few days he claims he will have the situation in hand by speaking with a few rich people. In the meantime the rector of the university and the chief engineer of Hyderabad come. They talk more carefully, smile covertly about the Major. From 600 acres one slowly works one's way back to 100 acres, from the stone houses to mortar and tile constructions (which material one can recycle - here the largest universities are at first built in this way!), from 25 laks to I lak to begin with.
Baba asks, how one would feel about a leper colony here, he would care for, feed and wash their wounds personally, (makes fitting hand gestures). "Oh, I've done even more," the Major jumps in with, "I have cooked, dusted and cleaned for them." The others are a little embarrassed. A leper colony is very questionable. About 500 westerners intend to come, Baba says. That is fine, the others say. One has to imagine the dimensions of the buildings. A terrain needs to be looked at in a hurry. Baba drives out there with these gentlemen and upon return is satisfied.
As "his right hand" the Major is supposed to take care of money and land, the engineers prepare plans, when everything is ready in about a month, Baba should be notified, then he will come with N., Ch., and D. for details. - That afternoon the Major said to Norina, he intends to do everything for Baba under the condition that Baba give him "realization". (He probably imagined, that he would be a sort of super-magician, while realization, being-one-with-God, means the laying down of all ambitious Me-plans.)
Starting the few days prior I had to drive out on excursions into the surrounding regions to land and hills which would be right for the "central dwelling".
The women were meanwhile taking excursions with the bus. A wonderful installation is the fortification in Golconda. There were diamond mines there earlier, in which in its time the famous giant diamond Koh-i-Noor was found. If I'm not mistaken, it is now in the British crown in the Tower of London.
The walls of the fort stretch away for miles, perhaps 100 times larger than the Munot in Schaffhausen. Between the walls are old temples, secret dungeons, underground passages, old city-quarters. Golconda was once larger than Hyderabad. It is probably similar to the relation between Auegst and Basel, which once was a Roman camp of over 100,000 inhabitants while Basel was just a village.
In the vicinity of Golconda are the huge mausoleums of the Kutub-Shas, who ruled the region for centuries around the year 1000. In the middle of the empty rooms of the temples, which can only be entered without shoes, stand the sarcophagi hewn in stone, which are covered with writing. About two dozen such huge graves are spread out there in the gardens. I think that pictures of them are even to be found in Professor Zimmer's book on Indian cult forms.
In Hyderabad lives a woman who is on the sixth plane and spiritually "Holds the key to all of Hyderabad in her hands." Pleader had to find her and say to her, Baba was here. People think she is crazy. Baba sends Hedi and me there, in order to make photos of her. We find her in a narrow, very busy little street, where people offer their goods for sale through low openings in the houses. She is about 60 years old, large, with grey ruffled hair and her upper body naked, large mouth half-covered eyes. Michelangelo could have painted her into his ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
We take photos as best we can in the direction of the dark compartment, where the old woman is sitting on the ground. Then she stands up, large, drags herself almost naked across the little street, where a ruckus ensues because of it. A policeman comes, she looks him in the eyes, we take photos within an inch of our lives and can just get out of there in time without further complications.
Now I am sitting in the train to Jabalpur. I have to go second class, Pleader, Chanji and the good Mad-man Mahomed with two female servants and Walu, the woman with the stern Beethoven countenance, went third class. A night is gone, the grey-yellow-green fields lie there in the sun, tomorrow morning at two in the morning we are supposed to arrive. I hope Hedi survives the three-day drive in the bus.
The vehicle has much too weak springs considering the overload; one feels every bump in the poor Indian roads.
I say to Baba he should have double the springs put in Jubbalpore. Hedi has in the short time since I've been here further convalesced very well. Concerning all the inner happenings, which around Baba are constantly in motion and oscillation, and which mean a continuous striving forward toward spiritual understanding and strength. I cannot very well give details here since of course they reach into the deepest personal inner being.
Letter III - Jubbalpore, Dec. 17, 1938
Here in Jubbalpore so far it's been a sort of vacation. I had to draw yet another variation of the diagram for the "Spiritual Ashram". Then we went for two days (over Christmas) to Marble Rocks. This is a village wonderfully situated over the river Nurbudda. The river flows slowly, in many twists and turns, through rocky cliffs of white marble.
The bizarre form of these marble walls, the lighting and the plays of shadow are all of fantastic beauty. One can not bathe here, because there are alligators in the water. On a flat area the native women haul water in round brass containers, which they then carry with raised arms on their heads, looking themselves like vases. And when they stand in the river to bathe, all of the scrubbing and washing takes place under their hanging sari, which they know how to move and carry masterfully.
On a hill an old Hindu temple stands under some old trees in the middle of a circular boundary wall. A cornice of 64 Devas - sculptures of ancient goddesses - encloses the whole under the stone walkway. Unfortunately these beautiful sculptures have all been damaged at some earlier time. I have taken good photos, even of the inside of the temple. In the year 1926 everything was flooded. The river, now about 30 meters wide, went from about 30m and became a lake of 20 miles width! (about the width of the Rapperswil in Zurich!)
Since Christmas is not celebrated here, and since Hedi had to sleep in the women's bungalow, I was alone downstairs in my sleeping quarters among the men. I have thought of every single person back home, or rather I have tried to put myself in contact with them. From some of them I received a more or less definite answer.
For tea Baba had sent us a small cake, upon which was written in sugar: Baba is love.
After two days of staying in Jubbalpore we drove 64 miles here to Mandla. Here the same holy river Nurbudda*, although nearer its source, is much wider, i.e. 150 m. wide. It flows peacefully along among stones and sedge, where goats are grazing. On the banks are standing many small elevated temples. In a few places steps lead down to the water, in which, as in Benares, holy baths are taken.
Here in India one senses how rivers, temples and people have a spiritual connectedness. The whole country is saturated with temples, holy graves and signs of God, to which the people have a living relationship (flowers are everywhere), so that one can understand that in this milieu is the cradle of all religions and the backdrop for a new Avatar.
Early this morning we drove (Chanji, Gustadji and I) in a tonga to Shastra-Dhara. This means "thousand waterfalls". The river floor consists of wide bands of rock, and at high water the river falls over the ribbons of rock in a thousand places. Two temples are standing there, both are not decorated inside, except for the Maha-Deva symbol. The smaller temple has been hewn from a cliff. Chanji explains: if the intellect stiffens, it is like a curtain between man and God, standing in front of the vision of the heart. If intellect is permeable, then it can serve the understanding and clarification. "The higher the tree, the more it is subject to the storm." “The higher the position, the more the responsibility." Baba, for example would not "show" a reporter (lots of them ask) his work in the Mad-Ashram. This was actually undertaken for the purpose of a spiritual mandali. Then others joined those: Baba is now occupied with the development of his Circle.* "He needs special types for his work. Even the separation of males and females is part of the development of discipline." His exact purposes we do not know. But since he has no ego, everything serves his spiritual mission.
The day after tomorrow we go "home" again, to Jabalpur, then it will be my hour to depart.
There are still two interesting episodes from Mandla to relate. Hedi received a letter from a girlfriend in Zurich, who among other things wrote that a close family member was in the hospital, just skin and bones, had been taking for the last three weeks neither natural nor artificial nourishment, and one didn't know whether she might survive. Since the air letter had taken six days, I didn't know if the person in question was even still alive. In my anxiety I went to Baba, who had me read out slowly the relevant section of the letter. While I was reading he was into the distance, then smiled, and said: "Don't worry, everything is OK." On the one hand I was happy about this answer, and on the other hand as an intellectual European still a bit anxious. Therefore I asked Baba whether I could send a telegram with return answer, which he smilingly agreed to. The very next day the answer came, everything was OK. (But after my return home I learned that the patient had been for some five hours “on the other side" so-to-say, had been quickly operated upon and had recuperated nicely in just a few days, so she had, at the time of my question to Baba, already been saved.) On the automobile journey back from Mandla to Jabalpur we four were driving at a terrific pace in order to catch up with the bus which had left with the others two hours earlier. Baba had gone in the first bus. Near to a small village in the jungle I saw in the distance a number of dark figures like small men in frock coats sitting by the road. It was about 20 lamb-eating vultures with a wounded animal. Two of the vultures were fighting on the road over a piece of meat; we came zooming along, a bump, and the one vulture was run over and killed, while the other slumped over hurt. When we arrived in Jubbalpore Baba told us that at that very moment the bus with the others, which was about 20 miles ahead of us, had met a two-wheeled wagon pulled by a buffalo on a bridge over a river. The buffalo had reared and fallen over with the driver and wagon into the river. Because we had at the same moment, twenty miles away, driven over the vultures, Baba said, thus the life of the driver had been saved, he had been able to work himself and the buffalo and wagon out of the river! Such related happenings occur very often in Baba's presence.
*The British Raj called it the Nerbudda River; In Gujarati it is The Narmada River
In the morning on December 27 Baba, Hedi and I drove with a taxi to Madan-Mahal near Jubbalpore . This is an old palace of the Gond-Kings on a mountain. The whole landscape is filled everywhere with such round, giant rocks, in part balancing, as in Hyderabad. I photographed an unbelievable example. Monkeys are hopping and swinging on the rocks and trees. An old temple stands under a large tamarind tree alongside a still lake between the cliffs. The old palace is built on rock on top of the mountain. One has a wide view across the surrounding landscape of stone, across the outer belt of green and right up to the far-off city of Jubbalpore, which is dominated by the hills with the English garrison.
The trip on the day before yesterday, about 64 miles to Mandla, led us more and more through giant jungle landscape. This is a place of about 1,500 inhabitants, situated on the conflux of three rivers. Mainly the river landscape is large, peaceful and friendly. One sees many people with small spinning wheels sitting in front of their houses, then there are more smoking mounds of earth in which round pots of the simplest type are made. Even vegetable growing is undertaken on the banks of the river. The whole day people have to carry water for watering.
The plateau over the river is dominated by a wreath of decayed ruins of the old fort of the Kings. Between the ruins are old temples. On the banks of the river are steps and terraces with women who are fetching water or washing clothes. A man is leading horses to drink, on a rocky overhang of meadow monkeys are jumping around with their young, on the old ruins are sitting black and white vultures, and huge, old trees tower over the walls and towers.
Next to a group of old temples is a hollow tree, which consists only of roots in the air, upon which a young plant has sprouted up. Sculptures and relief-figures are set up; whenever there are prayers a bell sounds so that God will be sure to be awake and listen. The old keeper at the temple of the river goddess Nurbudda has a clear, happy face, and one is really taken by the harmony and unity - perceivable everywhere - of the river, temple, trees, animals, people and gods. Baba loves this place and says it is especially spiritual, for it is blessed by the three surrounding rivers. But a colony here could not be considered, since usually cholera breaks out when the mango harvest ripens, for the poor people drink water instead of milk along with the mango fruit, and at monsoon time there is malaria.
Now I will have been only five weeks with Baba and Hedi. Little for a trip to India, and much, a whole life, for inner development. I must learn to be satisfied, and a final talk with Baba is yet to come.
If I am successful in Europe at putting away my "ego" and letting the "Him ” in me act and think, then I will have grasped the meaning of this trip.
Letter IV - Arabian Sea, on board the "Corfu", Jan. 9, 1939
I am in the train. Have the feeling everything has come around full circle. Baba has given me clear directives for everything. And I have seen his universal power, his Love and wisdom. It is now up to me to do my part.
There is a dining car on the train (17-hour trip). Hot soup, warm plates, "real cooking" beer, dessert, coffee, cigarettes! Damn, I'm getting civilized again! And in Bombay "real bathing", haircut, room service in your room for breakfast. Clean, wide streets without dust, large really beautiful office buildings, automobiles with starters (in the country all the cars are started by hand or by pushing them down inclines). Beautiful stores, for example, the "India Art Museum", where my wallet was noticeably lightened by the purchase of many "little things for the folks back home".
Feel like a tree, which outwardly has gotten new leaves, inwardly feels the sap of new life. Life with Baba was externally so spartan, but how strong the inner nourishment through the energy of his close proximity.
It's not until early the next morning that a light goes on for me concerning being "happy". I have to keep my "mind" clear. Have to be free and happy in Baba's spirit. Cooly throw off the temptations of thoughts (worries, wishes, longings, self-pity, etc.), which squelch the spirit and don't let me go into myself.
Drove with Pleader a good hour away on an old steamer to the Isle of the Elephants! Distinctive vegetation, high palms, cactus hedges, thickets and trees on meager, rocky soil are discernable from far away. One is put on land with an antediluvian boat and it takes about 40 minutes walking on a hot path to reach the caves. But what a surprise!
Huge arches, over 1000 years old, are chiseled into the rocks. Giant 4 to 5 meter tall "gatekeepers" watch a "Mahadevi" in a special temple. Alongside is a high relief of the same size showing the marriage of Shiva and Parvati. Magnificent sculptures. Unfortunately everything is heavily in ruins and in part covered by scaffolding for renovation.
The greatest and most sublime piece of mortal art that I have ever seen is the threefold bust (4-5 meters tall), the "Trimurti" of Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva. In this overwhelming sculpture mortal India and the eternal touch. One should be able to sit for hours and absorb this wonderful experience fully. To create such an unparalleled work it takes centuries of tradition, a creative sense of the highest degree and hands directed by divine guidance. Next to this work Venus de Milo, the Mona Lisa and Michelangelo’s creations are somehow only matters of aesthetics.
In Bombay we visit (in addition to Amexto, Kodak, Agfa and the family Kotwal and the family of Chanji's brother) two saints. One of the saints, named "Ummer-Baba", is an old man on a sort of couch. He is only half conscious, stares a long time in one direction, moves himself convulsively, turns his head and glowing, half-mad eyes towards me and away again. I am not allowed to photograph him, since he is watched and cared for by people hungry for money. Evenings there are many people sitting there, they bring garlands of flowers, presents and pieces of money. The other saint, "Tipoo-Baba", is also an old man, also on the sixth plane and lodged also on a couch, in a room which is open to the street. Baba says he rules Bombay spiritually. He moves his hands constantly, sucks on a sort of cigar holder, drinks tea and is always mumbling to himself. We brought flowers. The people know Pleader, I am allowed to enter (without shoes), give the saint my hand, which he holds a minute with his loose grip and then shoves off energetically. That's his way of giving his blessing. I put one rupee on his little table and am allowed to photograph. He sends greetings to Baba.
This saint also seems to me to be only three-quarters normally conscious. Pleader says, he would sense that the fellow is a saint, even without knowing it beforehand.
The evening is wonderful. Bombay lies in the bluish haze of the evening sun. The sky behind Malabar Hill is red-orange, slowly changing into a light green. India! The mood wanted almost to "steal" my heart away and make me nostalgic. I don't know, but is it because I have to leave this great, wonderful land with its very strong spiritual atmosphere and fear that other countries will be more barren, more rational-intellectual? Or is that just a matter of inner attitude?
One thing is certain, that every step of the way in India one feels such a living, religious spirit flowing through everything. Here is really the hub of spirituality. India, and Baba as the embodiment of the universal spirit, have given me inwardly and outwardly so much, much more than I could have expected.
My ship departs at 1 o'clock. Pleader, and later the family of Chanji's brother, come to see me off. Also going onto the ship is a large, elegant Parsi family, older married couple, younger married couples, beautiful thin, large women, mountains of flowers are brought to them. The old man is supposed to own half of Aden. And the saris of women sit against the delicate coffee-brown skin of their arms and faces with such a kind of subtlety of color and beauty as I have never seen before. My cabin is large! Baba really fixed me up! I have a double cabin for only me. I came alone and now have to go back alone. It’s all just the way it should be. Be relaxed and happy and preserve your energy! The tasks have been given, large and hard enough, and later there will be even more important tasks for me in Europe when Baba speaks.
Look for a long time on slowly receding Bombay, India! The ocean sits there still and infinitely large. Primordial black color, rolling surface shimmering like steel. Not even the slightest bit of cloud in the sky. The horizon shimmers white-grey, fading into the light azure of the firmament. The evening sun warms me, a wonderfully pleasant wind wafts around me. In front of my eyes the vision of the giant piece on the Elephant Isle. That three-faced bust has the same magnificence and infinity of heavenly breath as the sea. Now I understand when Baba says: "I am the ocean of Truth and Love." Whether it is the trinity Father-Son-Holy Ghost, whether it is Christ or the trinity Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva: it is all one, the manifestation of God-Spirit in its many aspects, in its unending unity and magnificence.
The wind sings on the sea, back and forth in eternal repetition:
It is the same fundamental melody of the Indian songs to God. And it is the same thing as the word "Ohm". Or: "Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory - forever. Amen."