06 June 2007

Questions for Baba

I decided to come up with a question for Baba and write it down. I wrote two questions:

“When will we meet? Where will we meet?”

During the day I thought of the questions a few times and repeated them to myself.

The next morning I got up before dawn and fed the cats. Then I sat in the living room to meditate a little, silently repeating Baba’s name. Every once in a while my mind wandered. I thought about my dog, and how he wouldn't eat certain foods, and I wondered what I could feed him that he would eat consistently. Then I realized my mind had strayed and I started repeating Baba’s name again.

Next came a kind of dream. I was aware of sitting in the chair, watching the image unfold before my closed eyes. I saw a new dog snack in bright red cellophane packaging. Six individual packets were connected, to be torn off one by one, each containing a biscuit similar in appearance to shredded wheat. I turned the packets over to read the small-print instructions. They said:

“Anytime. Anywhere.”

I knew Baba had answered my questions.

04 June 2007

SAY GOODBYE TO WORRY: Or, How I Solved the Problem of Free Will

"The moment the intensity of your faith in My Will reaches its height, you say goodbye to worry forever. Then, all that you suffered and enjoyed in the past, together with all that you may experience in the future, will be the most loving and spontaneous expression of My Will; and nothing will ever be able to cause you worry again." —Meher Baba1

Decisions, decisions. Alternatives, choices, possibilities, potentials, dilemmas, and conundrums. Does Baba want me to do this, or does Baba want me to do that? Is this Baba’s Will or just a desire of my ego? Such questions have raced through the feverish mind of every Baba-lover at one time or another.

“Want what I want,” Meher Baba says.2 But how do we know our choices are in keeping with His Wish and Will? Is it even possible to take any course of action that would go against His Will?

It is the age-old question of free will versus determinism. Free will and the moral responsibility that goes with it are stressed in most religions. According to Judaism, we are born free, because we are made in the image of God, who is infinitely free. In the Bible (Deut. 30:19) God says, “I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life.” The Almighty could force us to obey Him—but what value would there be in that? There can be no coercion in the realm of spirituality. It is His Wish that we follow His Will out of our own free choice.

Christianity, too, takes the side of free will, except for a few Protestant theologies, such as Calvinism, which asserts that no matter what you do, God has already decided who gets salvation: either you’ve got His grace or you ain’t got it. This doctrine, called predestination, is not exactly the same as determinism, which simply says that events happen in the only way they can happen.

Determinism holds that free will is only apparent, for we merely enact a script already written. Typical of this view is the Islamic belief that nothing can happen without the divine permission. The pious add the phrase “God willing” to virtually every utterance, acknowledging their own inability to ensure the outcome of their efforts.

Hinduism emphasizes the law of cause and effect, which to some people suggests fatalism. Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita (18:61): The Lord dwells deep in the heart of all beings, by His wondrous power [Maya] making them all revolve like puppets on a carousel.”3 It is all part of His Leela, the divine play or sport of creation. Yet the principle of karma does allow for the individual to alter the chain of events by making certain choices. The kind of life experience you are having right at this moment is prarabdha karma, the already ripened results of your past actions, which cannot be changed; yet how you choose to respond to your current situation can affect what you will experience in the future, whether in this very life or in your next incarnation.

Even those who expound divine determinism admit that we must live our lives on the relative plane as if we had free will. In essence, the only real choice we have is whether to willingly go along with God’s Will (thus pleasing Him) or to struggle and complain about it every step of the way.

But wait a minute—if everything that happens is God’s Will, aren’t our struggles and complaints also expressions of God’s Will?

We have just entered the realm of paradox, a place of mystery and creativity where we had better drop the religious dogmas and abandon the babbling monkey mind while we proceed merrily with Meher Baba’s daaman firmly in hand.

Follow the logic (I said we would leave the monkey mind behind, but we can still use our discriminating intellect as a tool for understanding). According to Meher Baba:

1. “The fact is that God alone is real, and everything is in God. We all are one with Him, but owing to our ignorance, we feel ourselves separate from God.”4

2. “Except God, everything is illusion. This world and its affairs are so insubstantial that it is meaningless even to say that they have no substance.”5

3. “Whatever happens, happens due to impressions or ‘sanskaras.’ Sanskaras make the Dream of Creation appear to be real and lasting, and they create undue worries.”6

4. “Whatever is to happen will happen. This is the principle, or as I call it, the Law of 'Must,' the law on which universal illusion thrives. It is as if the ready and complete film of illusion, from the beginningless beginning to the endless end, is being projected continually.”7

5. “It is in God's plan to awaken everyone from the Dream of Creation and make him live in Him and experience His Infinite Bliss. The Law of Opposites operates unfailingly to stage the so-called ‘good’ and ‘bad’ times; and in His compassion God leads everyone and everything towards Himself, Who is beyond good and bad. So, there is really nothing to worry over.”8

6. “Law deals individually and also in multitudes of the same type. Your taking birth at a certain time, your giving up the body at a certain time, is all according to law which shapes your actions. You are not responsible. But what about those who all die at one and the same moment like thousands in earthquakes? Law gathers all of the similar types in one country and ends it in one time.”9

7. “All this world confusion and chaos was inevitable and no one is to blame. What had to happen has happened; and what has to happen will happen. There was and is no way out except through my coming in your midst. I had to come, and I have come. I am the Ancient One.”10

8.Think of Me more and more, and all your worries will disappear into the nothing they really are. My Will works out to awaken you to this.”11

9. “When I draw the curtain you will understand all and smile at My game. It is all illusion. The pain of yesterday is no more—the joy of a week ago is no more—only the present exists and the love you feel for your Beloved.”12

For me, the solution to the “problem” of free will has become quite simple. Meher Baba wishes us “to lead a normal, worldly life… in the midst of your day-to-day duties, responsibilities, likes, dislikes, etc.,”13 in remembrance of Him and with the understanding that everything that happens is His Will. If we are to live a normal life, we have to behave in the way that is natural for us, making choices just as if we did have free will, since that is how most of us experience our lives. We should thus make whatever decisions we feel like making, knowing that both our decision and its outcome are His Will. This approach will not necessarily make us irresponsible, because the consequences of our actions must also be accepted as His Will. But of course, whether we behave “responsibly” or “irresponsibly” is according to His Will. Suppose we decide to take a certain course of action (“Gee, I think I’ll take some LSD”), but then, owing to His Will, we learn that Meher Baba warned against it. That might make us change our mind—but only if it is His Will.

Whether we enjoy good health or get sick is His Will. Whether we seek medical treatment (and can afford it) is His Will. Whether or not the medical treatment cures us is His Will. If we recover, it is His Will. If we remain sick or die, it is His Will.

If we obey His Wish, we do so because it is His Will. If we disobey and feel guilty about it, that is His Will. If we try to improve and succeed later, that’s His Will. If we have to keep disobeying in order to learn obedience, that’s also His Will.

If we tell our friends that we made a certain choice because we felt it was His Will—that’s His Will. If our choice does not produce the wonderful results we expected but leads to disaster, and if, instead of accepting the consequences as His Will, we blame someone else—that must be His Will too, because He is the only One that exists. There really is no separate “we” performing willful actions. Everything just happens in the Totality that is God, and we have no control over the consequences of our acts. If we “renounce” the fruit of our actions, we are not giving up anything that was ever really ours; we are simply acknowledging that there is no individual “doer” of the deed here to receive praise or blame for it.

Meher Baba tells us to allow thoughts of lust and anger to come and go, but refrain from putting them in action. Yes, we should do this—but whether we are able to is His Will.

The only way out is through His coming in our midst—yet even the Avatar’s spontaneous, creative intervention in our destiny is “planned”:

“Everything in the universe is, and from the beginning has been, a materialization of the divine Original Whim working out irrevocably without default, deflection or defeat. It is the unfolding upon the screen of consciousness of the film of creation, sequence after sequence, according to the pattern that issued from the Original Whim. However, when God as God-Man plays the role of Audience, He can alter or erase at His avataric whim any thing or happening which was destined from the Original Whim. But the very arising of the avataric whim was inherent in the Original Whim.”14

Does this statement evoke in you a feeling of faith in His Will? Whether and when we achieve such faith and surrender depend on His Will. So be resigned to every situation and content with your lot. Go ahead and try to improve your lot if you feel like it; whether or not your efforts succeed is up to His Will.

We cannot know ahead of time what will be Meher Baba’s Will, because no one knows the future until it arrives in the form of the present. Eruch Jessawala said: “You cannot make rules for the Avatar. Do not try to limit Him by saying He always will do this or He will always do that. That would be to make Him a normal person, enslaved to habits and routines. Baba was not that, He was always most natural, and for us to become natural, not normal, we must simply learn to dance to His tune.”15

There is nothing to do but relax in the Eternal Present as a witness to His inscrutable Will, which arises out of his Whim and is His Leela. Krishna convinced the warrior Arjuna that he could not escape his destiny of killing others on the battlefield, because in reality Krishna had already ordained their deaths: “Already I have struck them down; you are just my instrument” (Gita 11.33). Meher Baba said, “All beings and things are my toys in My divine Game—compared with My being and power, all are inanimate toys—but they are toys which I inspire with My life-giving love.”16

So give in, give up, and say goodbye to worry forever. God willing!

Notes

1. The Everything and the Nothing, p. 62.

2. The Everything and the Nothing, p. 42.

3. Gita quotes are from the Stephen Mitchell translation.

4. The Path of Love, p. 42.

5. Life Circulars, p. 82.

6. Darshan Hours, p. 64.

7. Life Circulars, p. 82.

8. Darshan Hours, p. 66.

9. Glow International, August 1996, p. 13.

10. “The Universal Message,” in The God-Man, p. 344.

11. The Everything and the Nothing, p. 62.

12. Delia DeLeon, The Ocean of Love, p. 121.

13. Listen, Humanity, p. 43.

14. The Everything and the Nothing, p. 106.

15. Eruch Jessawala, That's How It Was, p.141.

16. The Everything and the Nothing, p. 71.

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.