|The Spiritual Training Programme|
RITUALS AND CEREMONIES
Spiritual Trainees must truly understand one very, very important thing. When the Avatar comes back again to Earth in His next Advent, He will give His Wish according to humanity's situation at that time, not according to its situation in the 20th Century or for the several centuries that will follow it. When He comes in His next Advent, in one way or another, the Wish of His previous Advent as Meher Baba will have become misunderstood with the passing of time. Whether through rituals and ceremonies or by some other means, the beauty, love and power of His Wish in the advent of Meher Baba will be nearly lost to the general population. However, there are always those who love for the sake of love, like St. Francis, who lived 1200 years after Jesus, and whose love for Jesus,.Baba pointed out, pleased Him.
Rituals and ceremonies, created by humanity in order to try and remember the previous Advents, end up becoming obstructions on the road to the abode of God. They are like many thorns placed on the path of love that restrict spontaneity of action. Nobody wants to walk down such a thorny path. But pure love for God wipes out the restrictions and creates longing to become One with God. Actually, pure love for God is required, and nothing else.
Beloved Baba has said very emphatically that religion should be like a flowing river, carrying its followers to the Ocean (God). But when rituals and ceremonies are created and followed, they dry up the river so that the followers cannot flow to the Ocean (God). They remain stranded in the dry sand. He said that He would flood the river beds with His Love so that humanity will spontaneously flow towards the Ocean.
I will relate an incident that occurred during Baba's physical life that shows how He helped His Mandali put aside their continued interest in rituals for the love of God. When He was at Manzil-e-Meem in Bombay, the first ashram, Beloved Baba allowed His disciples to follow their own religions. Muslims would go to the mosque, Hindus to temples, Iranis and Parsis to the agyari (fire temple), Christians to church, etc.
When Baba came to Meherabad and established His ashram there, His followers were still from different religions. But He would apparently take interest only in the rituals and ceremonies of the Hindus. When there was any festival, such as the birthday of Ram, Baba would encourage them. He would accept whatever they wanted to do and would show His pleasure. He would tell all the Mandali members, "Just see how Hindus work day and night and make all sorts of preparations to celebrate Ram's birthday! And because of their interest, I encourage them."
The Hindus would feel very, very happy. They would go to the extent that, as prescribed by Hindu religious rituals, they would bathe Baba as He sat outside on a wooden plank. Not only would the Hindu Mandali take part in this festival bath, but also thousands of people who had come for the celebration. With each one pouring a small pot of water on Baba's body, the bath would take hours. Throughout it, Baba would show His
joy! Afterwards, a big feast would be given to the thousands of people, and then singing would take place. The programme would go on continuously, day and night, with everyone keeping awake and Baba would praise the Hindus throughout.
Because Hindus have many festivals, this celebration did not happen only once a year. For each birthday festival - Ram, Krishna and other Masters, Baba would permit a celebration. His other followers - Parsis, Iranis, Muslims and Christians - felt annoyed by these celebrations. Neither would they work with the Hindus to organise the celebrations, nor would they keep awake. In fact, they would complain amongst themselves, "Baba is only for the Hindus. He is not for Muslims, Parsis, Iranis, Christians, etc."
On one occasion, the Hindus were working day and night preparing for the celebration of Krishna's birthday. The Parsis, Iranis, Muslims, Christians, etc., felt so bad, thinking that Baba only favoured Hindus that they held a nightlong meeting to discuss how their religious festivals should also be celebrated at Meherabad. During a sleepless night, they sat together and wrote down proposals that they wanted to submit to Baba. The next morning, Baba came and sat in the old Mandali Hall at Lower Meherabad (previously the military mess quarters during World War I). All Mandali members gathered around Him.
Baba asked one of the Muslims, "Did you sleep last night?"
"No, I could not sleep," he replied.
Baba said, "You did not sleep? Why? Were you helping the Hindus with their preparations?"
"Then why did you not sleep?" Baba asked.
He said, "We were holding a meeting."
"Meeting? What meeting?"
And the Muslim said, "You just favour the Hindus. All their celebrations are celebrated. What about our celebrations? We were preparing a proposal to submit to you for celebrating our festivals."
And Baba said, "Good that you opened My eyes today. I was thinking that these Hindus are interested only in the rituals and ceremonies of their religion, and that you are interested in God. But now I find that you are also interested in the rituals and ceremonies of your own religion. So, I will give you rituals and ceremonies. I wanted to give you God, but now I have come to know that you are also interested in the same thing as the Hindus. So all right, now you just celebrate your rituals and ceremonies!"
All of them cried out, "No, Baba, we don't want rituals and ceremonies! We want God!"
And Hindus also cried out, "Now, no more rituals and ceremonies. We also want God."
Then the celebrations of the remembrance of God through rituals and ceremonies stopped.
This incident in the Avatar's life shows how He patiently and lovingly brought home to His Mandali the critical point that what is important is love for God, not celebrations of God through rituals and ceremonies as advised by a priest class. People wrongly give importance to rituals and ceremonies
instead of giving importance to the expression of love that should be behind them. God does not require any ritual or ceremony. He requires pure love. Remember what Baba has told us, "God does not listen to the language of the tongue, which consists of mantras, tantras, japas. God does not listen to the language of the mind, which consists of meditation and concentration. God listens to the language of the heart, which is love."
Really speaking, the real depth of your love for the Beloved is always kept as a secret in your heart. You, as Spiritual Trainees, must be very mindful that the only value any action has is the love behind it. Otherwise, the beauty of love will be lost, and your actions will be reduced to mere outward show in order to conform to the expectations of others.
An example of the difference between acting out of love and acting in order to conform to others is what easily might happen at Baba's Tomb.
Passers-by on the road, seeing people from different countries coming here, become interested in this place. They walk up the Hill out of curiosity. They watch as each person bows down to the Tomb; they hear the prayers being performed and arti being sung. So they think that by coming here, they also must bow down. That it is the traditional thing to do out of respect for this sacred place. So they also go to Baba's Samadhi, also stand in a queue and also bow down.
Now the behaviour of the passers-by and the pilgrims is just the same, but there is a great difference in their acts. Those who love Baba bow down because of love, and those spectators who see people bowing down, though they do likewise, bow down out of respect to tradition.