18 October 2007

Baba's Fragrance: Story Told by Larry Karrasch

photo of Larry with Baba by V. Sadowsky/D. Eaton

Meher Baba drawing in the sand at Meher Center, Myrtle Beach, SC

This is an account of the story told by Larry Karrasch at Meher Center on 6 October 2007. It’s a combination of the notes I took and the corrections made by Larry after I wrote it up.

God’s Fragrance

Larry Karrasch’s parents first heard of Meher Baba in 1950. His mother, Annarosa, was a Sufi under Murshida Ivy Duce in New York City. When she heard that a living “Perfect Master” was coming from India to Meher Center in Myrtle Beach in 1952, she was eager to meet Him, since Hazrat Inayat Khan, the founder of the Sufi order, was deceased.

The family drove down to Myrtle Beach to meet with Baba for about a week. Larry (who was four years old in 1952), along with his parents, grandmother, uncle, and aunt, all met Baba. In addition, Larry also saw Baba after His accident in Oklahoma, when He was recovering at Murshida Duce’s apartment; in 1956 at the Hotel Delmonico in New York (for several days, not just at the filmed Delmonico banquet); at Myrtle Beach in 1956 and 1958; and at the East-West Gathering in India in 1962.

During the 1958 visit, Larry’s mom and grandmother were invited to tea at Baba’s House (Meher Abode) on the Center. By the fireplace in the living room, there was a tray of gifts sent by Mehera, and people were assembled to receive them from Baba’s hand. Annarosa received a silver stick pin with Baba’s face. Then Baba asked, ‘Where is the little lover?”—meaning her son, Larry. She asked, “Did you want me to bring him?” Baba shook His head, meaning no, then reached over to a tray of gifts and felt among them. Finally He pulled out a small snuff box. Baba remarked that it was filled with His Love, and handed it to Annarosa to give to her son. When his mother gave him the gift, and remarked that it was filled with Baba’s Love, Larry didn’t know what that meant. He was surprised and disappointed to be given a snuff box (about 2 1/2 inches long and elliptical in shape) when the other children got toys, like dolls for girls or toy elephants for boys.

When Larry pulled off the lid of the snuff box and took a whiff, it had a fragrance all its own, emanating as sandalwood does. Once the family returned home, Annarosa put the snuff box in her special cabinet for Baba treasures. Every once in a while Larry would take it out and smell the inside.

In 1967, Larry left home to attend college in Chicago. On January 31, 1969, he received a call from his mother that Avatar Meher Baba had dropped His body. Larry was so devastated that he would find empty classrooms in the evenings to cry so his dorm roommate and friends would not see him and he could have privacy in his grief.

After returning home to New York for spring break, Larry took out the little snuff box one day to open it, hoping to find some comfort—but the special perfume was gone; it merely smelled like a wooden box.

Larry didn’t realize the meaning of this until Mani told the story of the “gong that died.” This was a gong that was sounded at Meherazad to summon the mandali to come to Baba’s room. After He dropped the body, it was found to have expired, producing only a dull sound. Since metals are part of the sentient universe (described as one of the evolutionary kingdoms in God Speaks), it seems that this gong, once its service to the God-Man was no longer needed, simply dropped its body too.

Larry went on to describe the fragrance he remembered inhaling when embracing Baba. At first, as a young boy, Larry thought it was special cologne that Baba wore. He reminisced, that when he embraced Baba he would bury his nose into Baba’ neck and smell this fragrance. But it was only after returning home from the 1962 East-West gathering—a sahavas gathering of all Baba’s Eastern and Western disciples in Pune, India— that he finally associated this fragrance as actually emanating from Baba himself. Larry described it as a combination of roses, gardenias, and lillium (a type of day lily), and in later years when these flowers were placed together in the Lagoon Cabin, Larry told his wife, Rita, that their fragrance was just like Baba’s scent.

After Annarosa’s death in 1994, Larry inherited many Baba treasures, including some sacred clothing items: three sadras and two coats. Baba’s pink coat had been sealed up in a plastic bag since the late 1960’s. When Larry and Rita opened the bag to check on the condition of the coat, this distinctive fragrance was released. Larry immediately said to Rita, “Quick, smell this—this is what Baba’s fragrance was like.” The fragrance lingered in the room for just a brief moment and then it was gone.

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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.