06 November 2015

In Which I Learn the Gujarati Arti

The story of the Bujaawe Naar Arti, written and composed by Meher Baba in 1925, is currently being recounted in a series of Tavern Talk articles by Cindy Lowe. I am reminded of the time, many years ago, when I decided it was time I learned to sing the Arti by heart. Having a degree in languages, as well as being a stickler for exactitude, I was determined to learn the precisely correct pronunciation of the Gujarati words. 

I was not satisfied with the existing prayer card from India that gave the words in phonetic spellings, some of which I considered highly ambiguous. At that time, Jane Brown’s lovely Westernized rendition was the only recording available to me. But even though rationally I knew that Jane—a trained singer—must have learned it properly, no doubt from the women mandali, I hesitated to accept the recording as the perfect model, since Jane was not a native Gujarati speaker. In a couple of places on the recording, I thought the words did not sound like the spellings on the card, which confused me.

Then I got the loony idea to use an actual Gujarati version, printed in the Gujarati alphabet, which I would learn to pronounce and thus I would learn it perfectly. This idea isn’t as totally far-fetched as it sounds, since I had made a study of the alphabets of various languages (such as Sanskrit, Arabic, Hebrew, Yiddish . . .), in connection with systems of transliteration into our Latin alphabet. Weird, I know, but it was not unheard of for me to learn an alphabet and how to pronounce words in it, even if I did not know the language thoroughly or at all. I can read or sing aloud from the Hebrew prayer book, for example, without understanding more than a few words of the ancient Hebrew and Aramaic in which it is written.

I began to search for my fantasied Gujarati version of the Bujaawe Arti during a pilgrimage to Meherabad. Both Indians and Westerners greeted my inquiries with astonishment. Eyebrows were furrowed in puzzlement. Why on earth would I want such a thing? Several people were absolutely certain that nothing of the kind even existed. How can that be? It was composed in Gujarati; why wouldn’t it be printed on a card or something, for Gujarati speakers? Okay, never mind. I finally understood there was no point pursuing this, so I dropped it.

After I was home, I set the search aside, but my discontent persisted as I stumbled through the text on the prayer card whenever I sang the Arti. Then one day something incredible happened. It was one of those synchronicities that leave no room for doubt that Baba knows one’s every thought and feeling.

I left work early on a Friday, feeling a little under the weather. I decided to skip that evening’s Baba meeting, even though it would be held just a couple of blocks from my place, at (the late) Margaret Brennan’s home in Cambridge, MA. As I trudged home from the subway, who should I see heading toward me but Margaret Brennan herself! From a bit of a distance I could already see her broad smile as she prepared to give me a big hug. Oh no. Now she’ll ask me if I’m coming to the meeting tonight. She did ask me, and I promptly heard the words coming out of my mouth, “Yes, of course! I’ll see you there!” Damn, now I had to go, even though I didn’t feel like it.

I arrived early, to find a couple of friends seated at Margaret’s kitchen table, finishing up some tea before the meeting would begin in the other room. Margaret gestured for me to sit in the one vacant chair.

What the—? Right in front of me on the table, like a placemat, was sheet music for the Bujaawe Arti, with the words in a new, improved phonetic spelling (I recognized that right away). I demanded to know what this was, and Margaret casually said, “Oh, I brought that back from the L.A. Center. Would you like to have it? I have a few copies.”

Soon after, I was able to sing the Bujaawe Arti by heart with no worry about about whether my pronunciation was exactly correct. I now knew what was the important lesson—not a singing or an elocution lesson, and not even the lesson that Baba knows all hearts. Since that day, I am 100% convinced that when our wholehearted desire is to do our best to please Meher Baba, he quickly responds. We may pray for all manner of desires to be fulfilled. But when we sincerely desire to be closer to Meher Baba, when we desire something to help us love him more and more, that desire will be fulfilled, sometimes immediately. Also, Baba’s response, in my experience, is always a surprise.


For two alternative phonetic guides to the pronunciation of the Gujarati Arti, see the article at the Mischievous Peeps site.

16 March 2015

Kind Keeper Animal Rescue | Nonprofits - YouCaring.com

Kind Keeper Animal Rescue | Nonprofits - YouCaring.com

Check out this new Animal Rescue in the Myrtle Beach area--under construction and needing your contributions of any amount. See the fundraiser page for more pix and news. The website has recently been revamped: kindkeeper.org.

19 December 2014

News of “The Japanese Man” — A Mystery No More


I was thrilled to receive an e-mail from a person who had googled "Meher Baba Japan" and as a result read my post “The Japanese Mystery Man,” about a hitherto unknown person who met Meher Baba at the 1954 “Three Incredible Weeks” gathering and was recorded as “K. Hitaker” in the Baba books. My correspondent identified him as Professor Kazuteru Hitaka, who, I learned, has been called “a well-known figure in Japanese intellectual circles.” I don’t know his academic field, but he translated Bertrand Russell’s works into Japanese and corresponded with Russell under the name “Ikki” Hitaka.

The professor was a passionate worker for world peace, genuinely believing that people of all cultures, nationalities, races, and religions could live together in harmony (which Meher Baba has predicted will become a reality). He was a member of  the World Federalist Movement, formed in 1947 to advocate a global federalist system with the motivation of preventing a third world war. (See “World Federalist Movement,” Wikipedia, where it is interesting to read about the history of world government movements, with a prominent role played by feminists, and a 1947 meeting of five small world federalist groups from Asheville, NC, a city where today many Baba-lovers live, not to mention feminists.) The Movement survives today in the form of the Institute for Global Policy, founded in 1983.

Professor Hitaka was one of 50 Japanese participants at a World Peace Prayer gathering of 150 Christians in China in July 17, 1990:

“Professor Kazuteru Hitaka of the United Church of Christ in Japan called for societal reconstruction, the creation of a new human community and for everyone to work against the barriers of religious prejudice and racial discrimination.” (UCAN, Union of Catholic Asian News)

Writing of Bertrand Russell, Trevor Leggett, an author of books on Eastern philosophy and a specialist in Japanese culture,  said:

 “… all his life, at times of deep emotion, [Russell] had been terrifyingly overwhelmed by what he himself called 'a Satanic mysticism'. He believed that Joseph Conrad was familiar with the experience and this attracted him strongly to the author of Heart of Darkness.

“For a view from the sidelines, there is the book by Kazuteru Hitaka [Ningen Baatorando Rasseru (The Man Bertrand Russell), 1970]. Professor Hitaka, a well-known figure in Japanese intellectual circles and President of the Bertrand Russell Society of Japan, translated a number of Russell's writings, and worked with him for various causes (noting the dislike of Japan as of the USA). He says that Russell loved humanity and was, in the Chinese phrase, 'a seeker of the Way for men to live'. But he was furiously prejudiced against religion (especially in a robe). His gibes at the religious faith of Socrates and Galileo are instances. He had had some semi-mystical experiences, but later was haunted by a sort of demon of doom, more real to him than a bad dream. He tried to meet the attacks with courage, but Hitaka cites a number of passages showing how it could cast him into deepest depression and despair.” 
(From Trevor Leggett, Realization of the Supreme Self: The Bhagavad Gītā Yogas [1995], p. 103)

The only two works by Kazuteru Hitaka that I was able to find were the one cited by Leggett and one other:

  • Ningen Baatorando Rasseru (The Man Bertrand Russell). Tokyo: Kodansha, 1970.
  • Russell's Peace Appeals, edited with notes by Tsutomu Makino and Kazuteru Hitaka. Tokyo: Eichosha's New Current Books, 1967. This is edition is in both English and Japanese.

Jim Hastings has found some further titles (see Comments), including translations of the Dalai Lama's work. There is a Japanese Wikipedia page as well.

Hitaka at Meherabad in 1954. Displayed by permission.
Full image of Hitaka greeting Baba at Meher Nazar Publications.

“When it is recognized that there are no claims greater than the claim of the universal divine life which, without exception, includes everyone and everything, love will not only establish peace, harmony and happiness in social, national and international spheres, but it will shine in its own purity and beauty.”

                  —Meher Baba (“The New Humanity” discourse)

All quotes of Meher Baba © Avatar Meher Baba Perpetual Public Charitable Trust unless otherwise indicated. Writings by Kendra are © Kendra Crossen Burroughs unless otherwise noted.