14 June 2007

Don Speaks: Highlights of an Evening with Don Stevens

Looking natty in his red sweater and tan sports jacket, Don Stevens sat before a crowd at Meher Center on Tuesday, January 9, 2001. In the course of telling us about the “atom bomb” of Meher Baba’s message to humanity, he very pleasantly dropped a little bomb of his own as well.

Don centered his comments on God Speaks, which has been the subject of a series of seminars he has led around the world. He began by asking our indulgence while he repeated a story that some of us may have heard before, because it makes such an important point. Don was finishing up some editing that Baba had wanted him to do, and Baba asked whether they were ready to publish. Don replied, “Yes, Baba—but I don’t know what good it’s going to do.” He realized almost at once that this comment was a mistake, as Baba demanded, “What do you mean by that?” Don explained that many people feel that words cannot embody mystical truth and that reading books can even be an obstacle in the spiritual path. “People say that about My words?” Baba wanted to know. Don answered that in fact there were people deeply devoted to Baba who prided themselves on never having read His writings!

Baba then made the statement that Don feels is so important to reiterate: that when Baba gives out words intended for His devotees, He has tied an atomic bomb of spiritual energy to His words. As a consequence, individuals who work with these special words given to His devotees will absorb part of this energy—even if they don’t understand a word intellectually.

So that is Baba’s bomb, and His gift to us. Now, what was Don’s little bomb to which I alluded? It was his conviction, no doubt controversial to some, that only certain works of Baba’s qualify as carrying this powerful energy capable of transforming even a person who doesn’t comprehend what he or she is reading. And the Discourses are not among these works.

Don explained that this category of special words included only those writings which Baba dictated and then patiently and meticulously polished and corrected to make sure the words expressed exactly what He intended —sometimes even having someone recite the alphabet over and over, stopping them at specific letters so as to spell out the intended word. This is true of God Speaks, chapters 1 through 8, which were dictated and corrected by Baba in this special manner. (Chapters 9 and 10 were written by Eruch, and the supplement was prepared by Dr. Ghani; these sections were not corrected by Baba and so they are not included among the “special words.”)

Another work that fits into this category is part 2 of Listen, Humanity. The first part is Don’s account of the four-language sahavas of 1955, at which Don and Francis Brabazon were the only Western attendees. On the last day of that sahavas week, Baba met with Don in the water tower building on Meherabad Hill and, pointing to a stack of papers by His side, asked Don to edit them into a book. These papers, which contained messages dictated at various times and carefully corrected by Baba, became part 2 of Listen, Humanity. The job of editing the papers seemed challenging at first, but Don discovered that they fit together almost miraculously, and he barely had to add a connecting word here and there—it was as if Baba had already organized and composed it all on His divine computer. The only difficult thing about the work, Don said, was “refraining from putting some of Stevens’s bright ideas in the middle of it.”

A third example of what Don considers “special words” is the Song of the New Life, originally written by Dr. Ghani--in Hindi, I believe based on notes given by Baba and corrected by Him. When Charles Purdom published the English version in his book The God-Man, it was later realized that one line was in error. Purdom’s version reads, “Let not despair or disappointment ravage and destroy the garden of your life; / You beautify it by contentment and self-sufficiency.” It should have read, “Let despair and disappointment ravage and destroy the garden of your life.” Don confirmed this by consulting Adi K. Irani and looking at Ghani’s original notes (after Baba had dropped the body). Don interpreted the ravaging and destruction as representing the necessary destruction of sanskaras before the garden of life can flourish in Truth.

According to Don, Baba never said that He had dictated and corrected the Discourses in the meticulous way these other, special texts were prepared. Don emphasized the tremendous importance of words as a principal tool in the coming phase of the Avatar’s work, specifically the special words chosen by Baba for the works mentioned above. Does this mean that the Discourses “don’t count”? Don certainly didn’t say that—he affirmed that the Discourses are invaluable as a key to practical daily life, and he would always urge people to read them. But based on what Baba told him, he feels that the “bomb” is not attached to the Discourses.

God Speaks in particular has a unique significance and effect. Don feels that the key to mining this significance is the use of intuition. In his work with various groups studying God Speaks, people have found that intuitions and insights come about as a direct result of their focus on Baba’s special words. And when the intuition or insight came, it was so personal, so closely related to the particulars of one’s life situation, that resolution of problems seemed to just fall into place. This was so even if the reading of God Speaks appeared to have no logical connection to one’s personal situation. So the energy of the atom bomb is not raw energy that we have to convert into something useful for ourselves; it is fully personalized and individualized by the Avatar for each one — like an e-mail coded just for you.

Kind of makes you want to run for your copy of God Speaks, doesn’t it?

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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.