24 May 2007

Lud Dimpfl on Video

Several years ago, before a series of four taped interviews with Lud Dimpfl was released in Wendell Brustman’s Witness Series, the videos were shown at Meher Center, and I wrote up accounts of as many of the stories as I could take notes on. Now that Lud’s interviews are available on video, under the title My Experiences with Meher Baba, I strongly recommend viewing them, as I could not cover everything, and of course on the tapes you get it straight from the horse’s mouth. I hope from this summary you’ll get a taste of the fantastic lessons and stories that Lud provided.

[1: 1952]

In 1985 Wendell Brustman recorded an interview with the late Lud Dimpfl, telling how he met Baba and recalling some of the events at the Three Incredible Weeks in 1954. We have seen the interview at Meher Center, and I initially wrote up summaries of the videos to share with the members of the Meher Baba Listserv. (Of course, Lud’s own accounts have also been published in various places.) The first one covers Lud’s first meeting with Baba.

The camera focused on a relaxed, smiling Lud appearing considerably slimmed-down compared with his appearance in films of the 1950s such as Meher Baba’s Call. Lud explained that he was a chemical engineer who had worked with Don Stevens at Standard Oil. After being a religious churchgoer in his youth, he turned to atheism with a vengeance because he had become fed up with the clergy. In discussions with Don Stevens, in which he tried to convert Don to atheism, he instead was intrigued by Don's
thoughtful comments and ended up joining a Sufi class and eventually becoming a member of Sufism Reoriented.

The name of Meher Baba first came up when by Murshida Ivy Duce's request, Don began to teach the Discourses in his class (which up to then had been studying Inayat Khan's writings). When Don told Lud that Baba was the Avatar, Lud became highly excited and wanted to go to India immediately. Murshida calmed him down and explained that he would have to wait, since Baba was then in the New Life. When Baba stepped out of the New Life for a period, Lud had the opportunity to write Him a letter. He received a reply, and while I can't recall the wording of the reply, I do recall Lud's emotion in telling it—and I couldn’t help responding with a few tears on seeing Lud so profoundly moved by this contact with Baba.

When Baba was finally to come to the U.S. in 1952, Lud followed his instinct to fly to Myrtle Beach to meet Baba instead of waiting for Baba to come to San Francisco. When, as it turned out, Baba had His automobile accident in Oklahoma on the way to California, Lud was grateful that he had followed his intuition and gone to see Baba in Myrtle Beach, despite the opposition of his family.

Lud's first glimpse of the Beloved was when Baba's car crossed paths with the car that Murshida Duce and Lud were in. He was struck at how Murshida leaped out of the car and ran to Baba with such joy. Later Lud met privately with Baba in the Lagoon Cabin. Murshida had warned him that one doesn't waste time with a Master, and knowing that he'd have only a few minutes with Baba, he had prepared what he was going to say while on the flight to Myrtle Beach. He told Baba he had a good career but that it meant nothing to him and he just wanted to go to India and live with Baba. Baba embraced him and said that He was happy with what he'd said. He called Murshida in, and when she heard what Lud had said, she told Baba that Lud couldn't go to India because he had a wife and three children (and I think he said one on the way). Lud had not mentioned this to Baba because he assumed that Baba, being God, already knew everything. Now, on hearing about the children, Baba gestured by pointing to His own eyes, meaning that He had seen the children, and He said, "They are my angels." A chill went down Lud's spine, as he interpreted this to mean that the children would die—and he, Lud, would be
the cause of it.

Baba concluded the interview, having given Lud the instructions to always tell the truth, and not to leave his job or sell his house, and that Baba would call for him in a year. Lud went home and, confident that in a year he would be in India, began telling the truth to his co-workers rather recklessly. Twelve months passed, and no word came from Baba. It wasn't till Baba called the men to India for the 1954 sahavas (the "Three Incredible Weeks") that Lud realized that three weeks was all he would get. (When he had told Baba that he wanted to live with Him in India, he hadn't specified "for all time," again assuming that Baba knew what his thoughts were. Gradually he was learning that you do have to tell Baba things in a normal way and not depend on Baba to read your mind. Baba wanted people to be at their ease and natural with Him.) Now Lud would have to clean up after his careless "truthfulness" at the office. Baba, he said, allows us to get into predicaments of our own creation and then get out of them as best we can—that's how we learn.

An even more important lesson for Lud was his understanding that he really was not ready to live with Baba in India. He had realized that Baba's comment about the "angels" did not mean that the children would die; but Lud's misreading of that comment showed that he didn't have the necessary detachment to live with Baba. He was still very much attached to his family.

In 1954, when Lud met Baba in India, he was shocked when Baba asked who he was. He thought Baba would remember him immediately. When Baba was reminded, then He recalled "that boy in Myrtle Beach." This helped Lud to understand that Baba really is fully human and forgets things just as we do. Baba lived His human life to perfection without ever "stepping down" from His Divinity or demeaning His Godhood in any way. The first video ended with this important observation. We were promised a further installment in two weeks and looked forward to it eagerly.

[2: 1954]

The second video was concerned with the Three Incredible Weeks. Baba had invited Western men age sixteen and up to be with Him in India for the three weeks in September 1954. Scenes from this period are shown in the film Meher Baba’s Call. In addition to meetings between the Western men and Baba, there was a mass darshan in Ahmednagar at Wadia Park, a smaller darshan at what is now the Trust office compound in ’Nagar, and a visit by the men to Upasni Maharaj’s ashram in Sakori.

In all there were twenty participants, as listed in Lord Meher: Charles Purdom, Will Backett, and Fred Marks from London; Bill Le Page, John Ballantyne, and Francis Brabazon from Australia; Max Haefliger from Switzerland; John Bass, Fred Winterfeldt, Philippe Dupuis, and Darwin Shaw from New York; Alexander Markey, Fred Frey, Lud Dimpfl, Joseph Harb, and Malcolm Schloss from California; Frank Eaton from Myrtle Beach; Dana Field from Florida; Ben Hayman from Texas; and Frank Hendrick from the West Coast. Lud marveled at the diversity of personalities among these men. He seemed particularly struck by the fact that some were highly educated or intellectual, others “all heart.” Perhaps Lud counted himself among the “head” types, since, as we see in the first anecdote below, he appeared baffled by the feeling expressions of the other men.

The following are some of the stories Lud told on the tape. They carry lessons of honesty, obedience, and Baba’s omniscience.

Baba would meet with the men in the water tower building on Upper Meherabad Hill. At their first meeting Baba asked each of the men to say how he felt about being there. Everyone was speaking in superlatives about the heightened experience they were having, and Lud felt as if he must be very unspiritual, as he was not having such strong feelings. When it was his turn to speak, he told Baba he didn’t understand what the others were talking about. He felt that “we” were not really having such lofty experiences. Lud could sense that the other men were reacting angrily to the way he was characterizing the group’s feelings. When he was done, Baba said He was happy with Lud’s honesty, but that he should say “I,” not “we.” This was an important lesson in honesty. Baba brought home to Lud on several occasions that the truth is the most powerful thing there is.

The dormitory where the men stayed was also in the tower building. Joe Harb kept putting his suitcase on Lud’s bed in order to go through his stuff, and then he would leave it there. After this had happened several times, Lud angrily took the suitcase and dumped the things out onto Joe’s bed and left the dorm. Then he realized that he couldn’t meet with Baba after having done that, so he went back and put the things back into the suitcase and stowed it under Joe’s bed. He entered the meeting room just in time to hear Baba tell Francis, “And if you get angry at anyone, don’t empty his suitcase onto his bed!” Francis was baffled and said, “Why would I do a stupid thing like that?” Lud’s facial expression was pure joy as he laughingly recalled how Baba revealed His awareness of Lud’s anger.

Baba told the men to feel at home—if they felt like smoking or stretching out their legs, they should be at their ease. So Lud lit up a cigarette and took his shoes off. Later Meherjee told him he shouldn’t have smoked in front of Baba, that Baba hated cigarette smoke. So the next time he saw Baba, Lud told Him that he didn’t need to smoke if it bothered Baba. Baba asked him who told him not to smoke, and he said “Meherjee.” Then Baba scolded him for listening to Meherjee instead of Baba.

Each person had a fifteen-minute private interview with Baba. Lud had meant to use his interview to ask Baba about coming to India to live with Him. But when he got to the interview, he forgot all about it. Toward the end, when Baba asked him if there was anything else he wanted to talk about, Lud told Baba there was something but that he couldn’t quite remember what it was. Baba gave him a few more minutes to think about it, but he never did remember—until after he was home. Again Lud laughed with good humor at the way Baba had outsmarted him.

When they visited Upasni Maharaj’s shrine in Sakori, each one was to put his head down at Upasni’s tomb. Lud had the thought that it was a good thing his religiously Christian father would never witness Lud bowing down to an Indian master’s tomb—and just as he put his head down, a flash went off—an Indian Baba-lover had taken a photo. (Of course, Lud’s father never saw the photo—Lud himself didn’t see it till many years later—but the fact that it was snapped did seem to be Baba’s response to Lud’s thought.)

There were some of Upasni’s books for sale, and Lud and some others wanted to buy some. Meherjee came in and said that Baba wanted to see the men. Instead of going right away, Lud took two more steps to get his books and then went to Baba. Meherjee told him he should have come immediately. (The mandali had learned the importance of dropping everything as soon as Baba called.) When they came before Him, Baba collected all the books they had bought and told them He would decide later whether to return them. He never did.

Baba had them play marbles—each man was given a marble and had to try to strike another marble with it. No one came even close, so they were given a second try. This time it occurred to Lud that he didn’t have to actively throw the marble—he could simply release it. When he did it that way, his marble struck the other marble right on. It was a great lesson for him to see how little effort he had to put in, realizing that Baba was behind it all. He had a similar lesson in 1956 at the Delmonico Hotel in New York when Baba was throwing grapes to people. He gestured to Lud to hold out his cupped hands and keep them still. When Baba tossed the grape, it looked as though it would miss his cupped hands, so he extended them in order to catch it; but the grape fell just where his hands would have been if he had kept them still. Baba asked him to try again, and to keep his hands still. Again he could not resist trying to position his hands so as to catch the grape, and again the grape missed his hands. Finally on the third try he forced himself to hold still, even though he was sure the grape would not reach his hands—and yet it fell precisely into them.

[3: 1956]

When Baba came to the U.S. in 1956, Lud’s wife, Bea, wanted to come along on the tour with Baba. Lud said with a wry smile that one of the tasks or lessons given to him to work on in this lifetime was his relationship with his wife, which was sometimes difficult because they had very different views of spirituality. Now, he figured, Baba would take one look at Bea and grasp the nature of the difficulties Lud had been having. They approached Baba hand in hand, and when He saw Bea, Baba’s face lit up. He said to Lud, “Where did you find her? She’s perfect for you!”

Baba was asking people whether they loved Him. When it was Lud’s turn, he said, “Not enough, Baba.” Baba affirmed, “You love me.”

Lud wasn’t sure he knew what love was. He complained to Murshida Duce that he didn’t feel anything around Baba—he was emotionally wooden. She brushed this off, saying it didn’t matter—people are all different in their responses, and just because you don’t feel a lot, that doesn’t mean anything. Lud thought Murshida didn’t understand. He got so frustrated feeling that he couldn’t get through to her that he started to cry. She commented to the effect that a grown man who cries can hardly be said to be wooden.

I was struck in watching these videos that although Lud was obviously a keenly intelligent person, he also seemed a very feeling person, and the play of emotions on his face and in his voice appeared very evident to me. I think it’s significant that although many people don’t experience that they have strong feelings, this doesn’t mean that they are unfeeling or lack the capacity for deep feeling.

In the back of his mind, Lud was worried about what would happen if an order from Baba conflicted with an order from Murshida. Which should he obey? He felt it would be gauche to actually ask this question, so he kept it to himself. But Baba answered it in His own way. They were in L.A., preparing to go to San Francisco. They were two days ahead of schedule, so some new plans had to be made. Baba laid out the plans of what they would do in S.F. Lud was glad to hear Baba’s plan, because it matched his own ideas exactly. Baba said to go and call S.F. and explain the plan to the secretary at the Sufism Reoriented center. He went to Murshida and asked to use the phone in her hotel room. She asked what it was about, and he explained the plan Baba had given. Murshida said, “Oh no, that’s wrong—that can’t be what Baba told you.”

So here was exactly the situation Lud had worried about: Murshida was contradicting Baba. He told Murshida that he felt strongly that he had to do what Baba had directed. She said, “Well, if that’s how you feel, go ahead and make the call.” So he did. As soon as he was done, Meherji came and said Baba wanted to see Lud and Murshida. Baba asked Lud if he had made the call, and Lud said yes. Baba asked Lud to repeat what he had told the secretary. When he did, Baba said that it was not what He had ordered. Lud began to realize that when he had listened to Eruch interpreting Baba’s gestures, with Eruch’s Indian accent Lud had allowed himself to mishear what was being said so as to make it fit his own preconceived ideas about what the plan should be. So from this incident he learned that masters know what they are doing and do not contradict one another—if there appears to be a contradiction, one’s own ignorance is at fault.

Baba asked Lud how he was feeling, and Lud said he thought he was coming down with something. Baba had him go to bed, and a doctor was called. Lud was feverish, and the doctor said he had pneumonia. Baba told Lud he’d be up in three days; the doctor, however, thought that Lud would be laid up for two weeks. But in three days, Lud was better. He found out that while he was sick, Baba had told the other people that Lud just had a cold and didn’t feel like attending the meetings with Baba. So the others were very disapproving of Lud and let him know that they would never have let a little thing like a cold keep them from Baba. Lud commented that people are often quite eager to teach us lessons that they think they don’t need themselves.

Baba told Lud, “Do you realize how fortunate you are to have fallen ill in My presence and be visited by Me?” With a rueful smile Lud recounted his reply: “No, Baba, I don’t realize how fortunate I am.”

Lud still had in mind that he wanted to go to India to live with Baba—a desire that he felt he had not succeeded in impressing on Baba in 1952 or 1954. When there was the opportunity for an interview, he planned to ask Baba about it. Right before the interview, Bea said something to Lud about her wanting Baba to straighten out the mess Lud had made of their finances. Immediately after she said that, Meherji called them in to meet with Baba. In Lud’s mind, then, there was some connection between what Bea had said and the fact that Baba had called them in. In fact there was no connection (apart from the fact that Baba was setting the stage for a lesson). When they came before Baba, Lud wanted to talk about going to live with Baba in India, but he figured he’d better get this other question of finances out of the way. Baba asked him what he wanted to talk about. He started, “Baba, there’s this problem about money…”

Baba said, “What? You’re asking about money?” Lud realized he’d blown it. “No, I didn’t really want to talk about money, but…” But it was too late—now Baba said he had to talk about money, since he’d started it. He could ask only one question. Baba said, “You will talk about money and be happy about it,” and Lud realized this was an order. “So, disemboweled as I was, I picked my bowels off the floor and stuffed them back into my abdomen.” He explained about how Bea wanted a new house, but if they paid for that, there wouldn’t be enough money for the children’s college. Baba asked Bea if she wanted a house, and she said yes. Baba told Lud to buy her a house. So Lud said, fine, we’ll buy the house and the children won’t go to college. Baba said, What do you mean? Of course the children must have the best education possible. Baba asked Bea if there was anything else, and she said she wanted Lud to buy her more insurance, because she felt insecure. Baba told Lud to buy her all the insurance she wanted. Lud was sure Baba was failing to do His arithmetic, because it just didn’t add up.

Finally Baba told him, “I don’t usually tell this to people, but I will tell it to you: You will never have to worry about money in this life.” Despite this, Lud was still convinced he was headed for bankruptcy. But later his company sent him to work in Iran for a few years, with a fifty percent increase in salary, which paid for the house he built and other expenses. (Baba eventually came and stayed overnight in that house.)

Baba also said that if Lud continued to worry, Baba would stop worrying about him. Only one of them could worry. Lud would have to stop worrying if he wanted Baba to take care of everything.

In 1958 Baba came directly to Myrtle Beach. There wasn’t enough room on the Center, so Lud and his family were going to stay in a hotel across the road from the Center. People were gathering on the Center in anticipation of Baba’s arrival. Lud ran into Murshida driving out, and she told him that she was about to go pick up “a friend of yours”—Baba! He then went to register at the hotel and returned to sit on the fence to watch the road and catch sight of Baba as He first arrived instead of meeting Him with the crowd on the Center. He waited along with a couple of other people and his daughter, 3-B (Diane). Traffic was going by, and sometimes as trucks passed, they obscured the sight of vehicles moving from where Baba’s car would be coming. Time passed and dusk started to fall. Lud started to have the thought that this was hopeless and they might as well go. But then he realized, no, he would stay until it got pitch-black; he wouldn’t miss the chance to see Baba. About ten minutes after he had this thought, Baba’s car arrived, and Baba waved to them from the window. Then they saw the car stop, and Baba got out. Oblivious to traffic, they raced across the road and embraced Baba.

This last story touched me especially. In San Francisco, people had arranged for their friends and relatives to meet Baba. After Baba had met two of these people, He asked Lud whether the remaining people who had appointments were going to be similar to these first two. Initially Lud thought he couldn’t possibly know whether the people were the same—how could he know anything about their inner thoughts and feelings? But since Baba was asking him the question, he felt he had to try to reply, so he reached within himself for the answer. He realized that yes, they were alike in that they were not people who had sought out interviews with Baba of their own accord. They had been persuaded to accept appointments made by Baba-lovers who wanted them to meet Baba. Lud told this to Baba, and Baba directed him to cancel the interviews. Lud called the people and discovered that they were all glad to hear the appointments were canceled—either they didn’t really want to come, or they had another engagement, or they’d forgotten all about it anyway.

Lud realized that no matter how much we might like our friends and relatives to come to Baba, if they don’t have the connection with Him and don’t have the love and the longing, it just won’t happen. Baba did not come for such people—He wants to be with His lovers. The Avatar incarnates for the whole universe and gives a push to every being in creation. But His lovers are special to Him—He comes to love us and to receive our love.

[4: 1958]

The last of the four Lud videos covers 1958, 1960, and 1962. This account is just of 1958, since this video is long. I guess you’ll have to watch the videos themselves for the complete story!

Lud picked up his narrative at the point in 1958 when Baba became his houseguest in Kentfield, California. Baba had just visited the Center, still displaying the painful aftereffects of His 1956 accident in India, when He shattered His hip. Now Baba walked only with great difficulty, using two canes.

Lud was the only one allowed to accompany Baba and His mandali (Eruch, Adi, Donkin, Nariman) on the flight from Myrtle Beach to San Francisco, where Baba would catch His flight to Australia. It would stop at Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles before finally landing in San Francisco. Some change in the airline schedule led to a situation where Baba needed a place to stay overnight in San Francisco. Nariman explained to Lud that they could insist that the airline put them up at a hotel, but Baba would prefer to stay in one of His lovers’ homes, and Lud was asked to find a suitable place. Lud’s face lit up and he said, “Baba can stay at my house!” (This was the house that Lud built after Baba told him, in 1956, to comply with his wife Bea’s wish for a new house.) Nariman then warned him that there were conditions—there must be a separate room for each of the four mandali; there must be a secluded part of the house for Baba alone; there must be no one else staying in the house. Lud assured Nariman that his house met all the conditions, and he drew a floorplan to prove it. And so it was decided.

During the flight, Lud sat next to Baba, who kept asking him, “Where are we?” Lud pulled out the airline’s flight map that was in the seat pocket and managed to identify where on the map they were at the moment. Since Baba kept repeating the question, Lud was kept busy figuring out their exact progress in the flight. For whatever reason, Baba wanted this information. I wonder if it was connected with some work He was doing with the people in the areas they passed over.

Lud recounted two stories or comments of Baba’s—during the flight, I think. (I forget some of the details.) One was about a time that Krishna was in seclusion and a well-respected sixth-plane yogi wanted to see Him. Krishna would not allow it, so the yogi tried to get Krishna’s disciples to intercede. When Krishna’s mandali pleaded with Krishna, then permission was given. The yogi came and fell at Krishna’s feet, and the moment he touched the feet, he was God-realized in that instant and dropped his body.

The other story that struck Lud was Baba’s remark that when He was on earth as Shivaji (one of His “innocent” incarnations, in which the Avatar does not realize He is the Avatar), all of them—meaning, I inferred, the four mandali and Lud too—had been His warriors. Lud began to reflect how different life was these days, when he felt that he could do nothing significant for Baba while living an ordinary life.

Baba suddenly asked Lud what he was thinking. Lud replied, “Two things, Baba.” He explained that he was thinking about how they had all been Baba’s soldiers yet they could not do anything definite for Baba in this life, like take a fort. Baba looked at Lud with disgust, as if to say, “Haven’t you learned anything from your time with me?” Then He asked Lud what was the second thing he’d been thinking.

A little apprehensive as to how his answer would be received, Lud said that he’d also been thinking about the yogi who dropped his body upon meeting Krishna, and “how fortunate we were to be in Baba’s presence instead of yogis on the sixth plane.” This time, Baba beamed and made the symbol of perfection (joining His index finger and thumb in a circle). Lud said this exchange with Baba was like a little discourse, showing in a nutshell what was important and what was not.

When they arrived in San Francisco, it was nighttime on Memorial Day 1958. They drove to the Kentfield house. There was nothing much to eat in the house, and it was too late to shop on a holiday weekend. But Baba wanted food and Seven-Up. So Lud and one of the mandali got into the car to go searching. The mandali went into an all-night fast food place called “The Eat and Run” to get dinner while Lud looked for the Seven-Up. He came upon a liquor store owner just closing up his shop and persuaded him to let him buy the sodas. When they returned home, they found that Baba had poked into all the cupboards and found some items so that Eruch could start preparing some food for Him.

Baba decided to sleep in Lud’s daughter’s room—that’s Diane Dimpfl Cobb, whom Baba called 3B. (Lud’s wife and children were presumably still in Myrtle Beach at this point.) A dividing line was established, and Baba would be on one side and Lud would stay on the other and was not to cross it. Now, while Lud and his family had been in Myrtle Beach, the hot water heater and furnace had been shut off. Lud got permission to enter Baba’s side of the house in order to turn on the water heater; Baba said not to turn on the furnace. At about 1:00 AM, Adi shook Lud out of a sound sleep and told him Baba was cold, so he got up to turn on the furnace and instruct Adi in how to use the thermostat, and then went back to bed. Lud recounted this episode with a smile. I think that lovers of Baba such as Lud, who have begun a little to understand His ways, can appreciate the discomforts, inconveniences, and changes of plan that are a typical part of the way Baba teaches us how to love and serve Him.

At breakfast in the morning, Lud was having his customary toast with butter. (He was also having some leftover hamburger from Baba’s fast-food dinner of the night before, which Baba had saved for him.) Baba asked him, “Do you like butter?” Lud replied in the affirmative while continuing to “trowel” butter onto his slice of toast. Baba then stated, “You must have butter only once a week.” Adi said, “That means you can have butter once a week and margarine the rest of the time.” Baba said, “No, that’s not what I meant. You can have butter or margarine once a week.” “Oh,” said Adi, “then that means you can have a week’s worth of butter all at one sitting.” Baba again said that this was not what He meant. “Two pats only.” Lud subsequently realized that Adi was voicing all the questions that would later arise in Lud’s mind as he started analyzing Baba’s order. This way Adi helped him get it straight from the start.

Lud initially thought that this order was simply a matter of health, of the proper amount of fat intake. He approached it with the idea that he would plan the use of his two pats so that he could have them with, say, corn on the cob or some other food that he liked to eat with butter. But eventually it dawned on him that this was not the point at all. The order was Baba’s way of arranging to give His prasad to Lud each week. With this new understanding, Lud had his two pats of butter with his Sunday morning toast and ate them with the wonderful feeling of receiving Baba’s prasad. He said that he continued this weekly practice “to this day.”

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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.