Samadhi line etc at morning arti
                                                                                                                                                                                                             photo by Norith Ladner

On "Re-Entry" After Pilgrimage: from the Sublime to...??


Now Pilgrimage is over (though life itself is a Pilgrimage, if one is wise and fortunate), book-ended by my returning this morning to one of my early morning coffeehouse haunts, Peets of Walnut Creek, after 36 hours’ recovery from jetlag, an abstract-sounding word for being trundled into a bus for a further journey of up to six hours, then strapped into a tiny seat and flown halfway around the world.

As always, the question is “What Now?” Is it just return to same old/same old? Or can I/will “I” be different, a little freer in some knotty area or areas; a little more open and loving; a little happier; a little less constricted and conflicted?

There was/is a reason one goes halfway around the world to lay one’s head down upon a tile floor in front of a slab of marble in an elegant little domed structure. And the reason is not to see or take part in a colorful, "exotic" culture, or to see the sights or the landscape (although all these have their charm). It is not for the cuisine. It is not (hopefully) “escape”. One submits oneself to considerable discomfort in flying to India, Economy class, and then traveling overland to Meherabad.

It is all for LOVE. And, to add a touch of sober honesty, it is also in the fond hope of getting a push in unwinding—in divesting oneself of some troublesome habit-patterns, in coming a little more out of one’s ego-shell and into one’s true, divine Self—in being freed more to live a life of love, obedience, and service.


What passes between lover and Beloved,
Beloved and lover, in those joyful, timeless moments of laying oneself down at God-man’s final resting place—symbolically, still, at His Feet? For me, life has lately been easier, simpler, and therefore more joyful in India, in proximity to Your Samadhi, BABA. The act of surrender here is concretely displayed in the simple prostration of the body. The act of devotion is expressed in participation with others in morning and evening prayers and Arti. And a more personal, individual heart expression can be made afterward, in the sublime hour of Wine-Shop Music following Arti, an Absolute Democracy of Love, when any lover from East or West (visitors seemingly given high priority) can, at a nod from brother Hardeep, the current wallah who loosely administers this hour, hold forth in a plaintive lament, a celebratory hymn of praise, a lyric or an excerpt from an epic poem—in the presence and with the loving support of the other lovers whose hearts have been pried open and brought to a fine pitch by the momentousness of the Presence at this Place of places.

One offers his/her draught and then watches it become part of a glorious Pattern, the Love-songs of East and West all melding into the morning and evening’s unique vintages. Timeless peace blends with ecstatic devotion…harmonium with guitar or the wonderful Persian “daft” drum, or the solo a capella voice. Spanish mixes with Hindi and English and Persian, even Japanese on one morning, beloved Mehera’s birthday. Trained voices are followed by rough-hewn ones, both reduced to the common denominator of LOVE. Jim Reeves and Tukaram, Hank Williams and Hafiz.


And oh, God, the experience
of walking back to the MPR after Arti, that twelve-minute walk across the stubble-gold fields above the silent or near-silent Maharashtrian valley, under the blue canopy that itself is always ecstatically singing, you realize, the glory of God, as those wonderful human voices too still echo in one’s heart. Suddenly one realizes there is no distance left. This moment is paradise. In the utter fulfillment, there is nothing left to want. This joy has effaced all desire.

It is not God-Realization, maybe, for if past experience is any guide, this state will soon be diluted by the petty annoyances, compromises, and frustrations of a human day, a day that will be lived through like most as a mixed bag of separation and relative union and contentment—to be followed, however, by yet another morning in the Tavern, all cares transmuted yet again to bliss.

How can all this be transmuted into life back home? What equivalent can there possibly be? The Divine Beloved, Avatar Meher Baba, has said about Pilgrimage: “I may give you more, much more than you expect, or maybe nothing, and that nothing may prove to be everything. So I say, come with open hearts to receive much or nothing from the Divine Beloved. Come to receive not so much of My words but of My Silence.”

Perhaps the only result of the pilgrimage will be the longing that eventually results in yet another pilgrimage. One simply has no clue, and it is difficult to gauge transformation when a) the idea of loving Meher Baba is not gauging oneself, but forgetting oneself, and b) all of one’s life since illusory birth consists of an identification with a false self or personality whose welfare one has gauged one’s future by; and it is the eclipse of this bogus self that is the fruit of LOVE.

Oh, God, may “I” be only a crescent in the sky of Your Effulgence. And may I return to You until that slice as well has been eclipsed by You, and whatever “I” may or may not be, that being is but an expression of Your Being—living, moving and breathing not only closer to, but more and more hidden in, You.

back to Adventure on the Pune-Mumbai Expressway
Title page

portal of Max Reif's Website, "What Remains Is the Essence"