21 May 2007

Highlights of an Amartithi Talk by Irwin Luck

On the 31st Amartithi, January 31, 2001, we heard a talk at Meher Center by Irwin Luck, who attended the first Amartithi—the seven days, February 1-7, 1969, during which Meher Baba’s body lay in the crypt in his Tomb, surrounded by flowers (with just his face exposed), while thousands of pilgrims came to pay their last respects. Among the masses of Easterners was a handful of Westerners, including Irwin and his brother, Edward Luck, Allan Cohen, Rick Chapman, Don Stevens, and Delia DeLeon.

January 31, 1969, the day that Baba dropped his body, was an unusual day for Irwin. In those days he was driving a taxi in New York City. On the 31st he drove around the city all day, yet not one single passenger got into his cab! And after that he never drove a cab again.

When the news came that Baba had dropped his body, his lovers around the world were eagerly preparing for the Darshan that was to take place in April-June 1969. Irwin and Ed, however, had not signed up for any of the group flights going from the United States. Instead, their plan was to go to India earlier and wait until the Darshan began. After all, Baba had said that his lovers could travel anywhere they wanted to before the Darshan —but after the Darshan, they were to go straight home, without stopping to visit other places or sightsee. Well, Irwin and Ed reasoned, since they could go anywhere beforehand, why not go to Poona a month before the Darshan? They of course would not want to disturb Baba, but if he should just happen to want to see them, they would be there.

And so, when the telegram came announcing that Baba had dropped his body, Irwin and Ed’s money was not tied up in the group flight set for later that spring. Although group heads were at first advising people not to go in April-June—because they assumed that such pilgrims would be a burden to the mandali—Irwin and Ed felt that they could take care of themselves and would not bother the mandali. The primary consideration, as Irwin expressed it, was this: When a father passes away, where should his son go? The Luck brothers felt that they were Baba’s sons, and so of course they must go immediately to India to attend his funeral.

Until they arrived on February 7, the Lucks assumed that the body would already be interred and had no idea that they would still be able to see Baba’s face. This was the last day when anyone was able to do so, because Mehera, recalling that Baba had told her on January 31 that his suffering would last for seven more days, said that the interment should take place after seven days.

The atmosphere that Irwin experienced at Baba’s Samadhi was replete with Baba’s love and presence. He recalled Dr. Harry Kenmore exclaiming in his booming voice, “This is intoxicating!” It was a love feast where one was drunk without wine. Despite the profound sense of loss—suffered in particular by those who had lived in such intimate proximity with the Beloved—Irwin could feel Baba’s presence even though the body was no longer alive. And he recalled how many times Baba had emphasized, “I am not this body.”

Several people that Irwin met in India had the miraculous experience of seeing Baba open his eyes and looking at them from the crypt. One of these was a Zoroastrian priest who told Irwin and others how he had been traveling and saw a vision of Zoroaster rising straight up in the air. He saw smoke in the sky of a particular color that was believed to indicate the death of a great soul, and so he followed this smoke. And that is how he arrived at Baba’s Samadhi. (There was no actual smoke coming from Meherabad Hill—that was just part of the priest’s vision.) Standing on line to pay his respects to Baba, he had trouble seeing over the heads of those in front of him, when suddenly he saw Baba lift his head and look right at him. What a remarkable gift Baba gave to this priest, who normally would be the last person on earth to go to Baba.

Baba’s body had been placed on top of a coffin lid; around him blocks of ice were positioned to keep the body fresh in the intense heat (and remarkably there were no signs of decay or odor during the seven days), and these were sprinkled with sawdust to absorb any melting water, and then covered with an abundance of beautiful flowers. On the seventh day, the ice blocks were removed. In a film taken at the scene, which had been shown at the Center the previous night, we saw Irwin and Edward among those on the “bucket brigade” line, passing the ice from hand to hand. At 12:15 P.M. the inverted coffin was lowered over Baba’s body by means of ropes, and this was covered with earth and flowers. (For a long period, the earth was simply covered with a cloth, until sometime later a marble slab was placed over the crypt. Irwin described humorously how, when the marble arrived up on Meherabad Hill, although no instructions had yet been given, some Arangaon villagers picked it up and carried it into the Tomb—causing Padri to come running, as there was concern over the fragility of this marble that had been made specially by a master craftsman in Italy. But the trusty villagers safely put the marble in its place.)

Irwin and Edward spent four months in India altogether, attending the Great Darshan in Poona at the end of that period.

In connection with Baba’s passing, Irwin addressed the question of Baba’s silence and the breaking of his silence. Most people expected that Baba was going to literally utter a word or words before shedding his physical form. Noting that Baba’s silence had many meanings, Irwin recalled some of Baba’s statements: “I am never silent. I speak eternally. The voice that is heard deep within the soul is My voice--the voice of inspiration, of intuition, of guidance. Through those who are receptive to this voice, I speak.” “When the Word of my love breaks out of its silence and speaks in your hearts, telling you who I really am, you will know that this the Real Word you have always been longing to hear.” Such statements suggest a deep inner meaning to the breaking of his silence.

Baba once said that when he would break his silence, his word would have the effect of an atom bomb. Such an atom bomb, Irwin said, would produce a tremendous shock—but it would be a “love-shock.” We all know about the destructiveness of the atom bomb—but just think of the constructiveness of the infinite power of love as the divine presence of Baba continues to grow in the world. One day this presence will be so powerful (Irwin reports Baba as having said) that some will even attain illumination through seeing Baba on film.

Irwin remembered that even when one was with Baba, one didn’t see him every minute. At times Baba would retire into another room or the visitors would have to leave his presence. Yet they could still sense his atmosphere even when he was not before their eyes. In the same way, we must learn to tune in to Baba’s presence now that his body is no longer on earth. Once we develop this ability to feel his presence, we can carry it with us wherever we go.

When Irwin's talk was finished, an interesting comment was made by Phyllis Ott during the question-and-answer period. Phyllis said she had heard that before the coffin was put over Baba’s body, a handkerchief of Mehera’s was placed over his face. Although no one present was able to verify this, it’s intriguing to think that a future “shroud of Turin” or veil of St. Veronica may have been created.

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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.