(Standing second from left in white shirt. Others are Bal Natu,Jal, Pendu, Bhau Eruch, Aloba)
Pankhraj was born on the day of Ramnavami in the year 1922 at Kamptee a place near Nagpur. He was thus named Ramchandra by his parents. His earlier education was done at Kamptee High School and later at Patwardhan Higher Secondary School, Nagpur. Later he joined Morris College Nagpur during 1938-39 for his graduation.
At the Morris College Nagpur Pankhraj met Dr. C. D. Deshmukh who was one of the disciples of Meher Baba and the entire college knew him for his commendable knowledge of Spiritual teachings of Meher Baba. All his students in a way or other knew well about Meher Baba, but only a few developed genuine interest in Meher Baba. Pankhraj was one of those dear students for whom Dr. Deshmukh had great affection as he felt more and more interested in Meher Baba. Young and curious Pankhraj desired to go to Meherabad and meet Meher Baba one day and test for himself the stories about Baba’s omniscience.
In the year 1941 it so happened that he left Nagpur for Meherabad without giving any prior notice to the mandli. Baba was in seclusion at that time inside the room at the top of the Meherabad hill. Non was thus allowed to meet Him, just when 19 years old Pankhraj reached Meherabad hill with a list of questions in his mind, to be asked to Meher Baba. He was attended by Vishnu who readily told him that Baba was in seclusion and could not be seen or communicated with.
Pankhraj did not move back but remained at Meherabad underneath a tree waiting for another opportunity to convey his request for darshan to Meher Baba. All the Baba’s mandli observed this young man who was sitting under a tree and repeating his request to be conveyed to Baba. His consistent reminders were conveyed to Meher Baba. On knowing that Pankhraj from Kamptee had come to seek Baba’s darshan, Baba through Vishnu sent a massage to Pankhraj. “Pankhraj should instead first go and have the darshan of Sadguru Narayan Maharaj, if his purse permits”.
With the very specific instruction Pankhraj could immediately understand that Meher Baba was omniscient and was pointing to one of his errors. He fell in tears and begged Vishnu to kindly convey to Baba his apologies and let him kindly have a darshan. Vishnu however was surprised at the instance as what could be the story behind Baba’s massage for Pankhraj and politely inquired. Pankhraj told him that before knowing about Meher Baba he was completely prejudiced about such Saints and Masters. His prejudice had given way to arrogance in openly criticizing them.
It so happened that Shri Narayan Maharaj was often coming to Kamptee the place where Pankhraj was born and brought up and visited His disciples and a temple which was close to their residence. While the people of Kamptee visited the house where Shri Narayan Maharaj was giving darshan, Pankhraj sat on the verandah of the opposite house and always criticize Shri Narayan Maharaj for being a fake Saint as Maharaj always wore silk cloths and diamond rings, which was contrarery to Pankhraj’s idea of a Spiritual person.
As a young boy at that time Pankhraj could not understand what he was doing under the impulse of prejudice, held by him in criticizing a real Perfect Master in His physical presence. The pinch of salt in Baba’s very first order made Pankhraj understand the omniscience of Baba, as there was otherwise no obvious reason for Baba to ask Pankhraj to submit to Shri Narayan Maharaj’s, first.
Through Vishnu Master Pankhraj prayed to Baba for forgiveness and darshan. Pankhraj was however allowed to have darshan and Baba came out of the room for a few minutes. Pankhraj with his long sustained opinion about Saints and Masters expected the Sadguru in rags but was astonished to see the divine beauty of Meher Baba, and fell at his feet , thus transforming his life and self to a altogether amended and different path, for the rest of his life.
Transformed from within, Pankhraj returned to Nagpur and resumed his normal hardships of life. Although outwardly every thing was in the same fashion, but deep within him a fire was burning and a longing to be in communion with the Master persisted and continued through letters and correspondence. Dr. Deshmukh, a remarkable philosopher and disciple of Meher Baba, was holding the key to the communication between Pankhraj and Baba. Pankhraj exchanged through him letters which were rewarded with Meher Baba’s replies.
Pankhraj, after meeting Baba, felt absolute change and while implying his fullest strength to the work and duties, his inner voice to renounce the world and join Baba, as one of His mandli persisted. His desire to acquire a passport for Meherabad became stronger and stronger from within. Baba in His most acclaimed fashion, always kept Pankhraj’s request finely balanced between materialization and post-ponement. Although Pankhraj was always asked to wait for the appropriate time, the good lad was never tired of pursuing Baba for granting such visa to the Ashram.
One fine morning perhaps in 1944, as Pankhraj was hurriedly preparing for his regular morning routine, the doorbell rang and reluctantly he opened the door. He found standing on the door one of the mandli and a close disciple of Baba, Murli Kale carrying a letter from Baba, for Pankhraj which was instructed to be personally handed over at his residence.
Pankhraj asked this pleasing personality, Murli Kale standing in the door. Whom do you want, he said?. For a moment Pankhraj thought, it was someone approaching to make certain inquiry. Smilingly the young man on the door asked, are you Pankhraj. I have a letter for you. Pankhraj for a moment thought ” it must be some appointment letter”. He opened the letter carelessly. This letter was from the One without a Second, Meher Baba.
In his mixed reaction filled with surprise and happiness Pankhraj read the news from Baba, which contained a small note which changed his life at once. The letter instructed Pankhraj to :-
“Be in readiness to leave everything and come to Me”- Meher Baba.
Those who knew Baba and His ways would not be surprised to learn that actually it never happened but, it was one of His famous vaccinations for detachment that was used once again to keep Pankhraj always prepared to leave everything, when called, and join Baba.
Pankhraj often told me that this gave him immense strength and confidence, as he always felt that he was never made for this world but was always Meher Baba’s. In this readiness Pankhraj remained always prepared to leave everything and join Baba. And however it is equally true that Pankhraj did everything possible in his life for spreading Meher Baba’s name in all corners with the gift of his excellent narration skills. Off-course he did everything as an ardent disciple, except joining the Ashram, as a permanent resident.
The message in the letter was clear. It was more important to be in readiness than to actually leave anything. Meher Baba’s words were always from in His divine foresight. They conveyed the truth of truths. But Pankhraj had gained one more thing from the letter which was a band of trusted friend-ship with Murli Kale, the bearer of the letter, which continued and later cherished in Jabalpur. It was long after Murli Kale’s death, that Pankhraj’s daughter Meera married Murli’s son Niket Kale.
Baba was very specific with Pankhraj and had issued certain orders to him. One of which was to repeat Baba’s name twice a day for a certain number of times, as instructed, and the other more significant order was for celibacy and observance of a strict physical distance from any women above seven years of age. In course of time the understanding and his love for Baba had grown manifolds, and Pankhraj had become a familiar face at Meherabad, acquiring a status of a regular visitor for the darshan programs.
Pankhraj availed an opportunity to come, stay, and see the fine ways in which Meher Baba worked during the various darshan and tour program, held from time to time . During the year 1947 when the freedom movement in India was at peek and the dream of an independent country, free from the British rule emerged as a early possibility, it was then in April 1947 that Baba decided to give darshan at Madras, and thus after a pause of long 13 years Baba stayed at the house of Sampath Aiyangar. Dr. C. D. Deshmukh and Pankhraj joined the close group from Nagpur, at Aiyangar house, and spent the days with Baba.
– by Meera Kale
Proxy Bride Story
Pankhraj respected much one of his school teachers who was also staying in their neighborhood at Kampti. This school teacher, Mr. Raje had a large family and the eldest of his daughter was Tara. She was working in one of the Govt. Departments. Pankhraj and Tara developed mutual respect for each other and in course of time began thinking of tying the wedding knot together. Tara always knew that Pankhraj was a devotee of Meher Baba and has always been asking Baba for permission to join his ashram. But in spite of this uncertainty that Baba may call him for good and he may leave the worldly belongings, Tara decisively kept the fire in her heart intact.
With mutual understanding the Raje family also came in contact with Baba and Tara also felt drowned towards Baba and accepted Baba’s instructions as a key to their life. Pankhraj and Tara often requested Baba for permission for their wedding and guidance. Meher Baba however always kept postponing the issue regarding their marriage. As Pankhraj had the orders not to touch any women above seven years of age they thus could not marry until permitted by Baba.
Both of them repeatedly raised the issue humbly before Baba as the pressure from the parents was consistently increasing for Tara to enter wedlock, as being the eldest daughter. Even due to this uncertainty in their life Tara’s younger sisters wedding was performed by their parents. On persistently making efforts to contact Baba Pankhraj received a Telegram from Meher Baba:-
16th Oct 1949 Telegram Pankhraj Darjee Mohalla Kamptee – CONTACT COMMUNICATION IMPOSSIBLE STOP LIVE YOUR USUAL LIFE WITH ASSURANCE OF MY DEEP LOVE – BABA
Later when the issue regarding Pankhraj’s marriage became much delayed Baba sent a letter to Pankhraj which said
” In the year 1950 both you and Tara Raje should go to Baba. In the presence of Baba both of you should shake hands with each other and subsequent to this meeting you should return home and enter into wedlock.” Baba sends His love and blessings to you both.” Yours brotherly, Adi K. Irani.
During the year 1950 on October the 16th Baba stepped down from the New life, to the old life for a few hours and wanted all gathered there to write down on a paper the things that they wanted to discuss with Baba and to seek His guidance.
Pankhraj wrote about his impending wedding with Tara Raje ordered by Baba to be only performed in Baba’s presence. As the gathering was for the men mandli only Pankhraj had not brought his fiancée with him and this was another of his problems. Baba in His humorous ways, as ever sorted out a solution, for the problem and commanded old Gustadgi to stand near Pankhraj as Tara, or a proxy bride.
In the presence of all Baba blessed the couple and performed the wedding of Pankhraj, by Gustadji standing as a proxy Bride. Meher Baba called Kalemama, one of Baba’s senior Mandli to stand behind the couple and chant some mantras to make the occasion realistic. Kalemama who often read “Bhagwat Geeta” for Baba, read a few couplets as Mantra’s for the occassion. The “proxy bride” represented by Gustad ji and the groom Pankhraj garlanded and embraced each other and bowed down to Baba. Meher Baba expressed to Pankhraj that “I have performed your wedding with Tara and you may go back to your home and get married to her in any fashion you like”.
It was a delightful experience for the mandli before they were back to the New life. Every one congratulated the couple. Meher Baba had reaffirmed His commitment to the New life once again, and here the poor couple forgot to beg to Meher Baba for exemption from His orders “Not to touch a women above seven years of Age”. Although, Pankhraj and Tara wedded each other before the marriage registrar on the 3rd of December 1950 at Nagpur.
They had already realized that they had forgotten to ask Baba to relax one of the orders for Pankhraj “Keep strict physical distance from any girls above seven years of age.” Meher Baba created such situations in the life of their disciples that put their faith and obedience to the hardest possible tests. But Baba’s love so prevailed that even the toughest conditions were easiest to obey with His grace. The new couple had already suffered humiliation from their families as their wedding had been postponing for Baba’s suitable orders. Even the younger sister of Tara had married with due permission from the parents, by availing the benefit of the uncertainty of this divinely planned wedding.
Meher Baba had re-entered the New life and was unapproachable for being asked to allow any further relaxations. The newly weds however could not help but wait for a moment of earliest communication with Baba, while without any question implicitly obeying the Masters orders they kept absolute physical distance with each other while staying in the same house, for a number of months.
It was how the life and the surrendarence to the Guru was tested in companionship with Meher Baba. In such times, when people compete for more and more material pleasure, the exemplary abstinence of a newly married couple for an indefinite period while staying in the same house, in order to obey and please their spiritual Teacher was an example of the paramount order and will certainly be remembered for centuries for exemplary obedience.
Meher Baba returned back from New Life in the January of 1951 and Pankhraj had an opportunity to communicate and get an amendment to the standing orders and was allowed to touch his wife. Baba was however very compassionate towards Pankhraj and his family and often remembered them.
In the year 1953 Pankhraj was staying in Qr. No D/12/4 , Govt. Staff Qrs., Amravati Road, Ravi Nagar, Nagpur, which was allotted to his wife who was work ing in the Education Dept. at DPI office. Meher Baba’s visit to Nagpur was scheduled and Pankhraj managed to get Baba’s acceptance for a personal visit to bless their house. Baba instructed Pankhraj that He wanted rest and no one should be told about the visit. Pankhraj agreed and reached the place where Baba was staying to escort Him to his residence.
To their surprise when Meher Baba reached Pankhraj’s house they found that the news had some how already broken that Meher Baba is visiting the place and several persons had already gathered and were eagerly awaiting. Baba smiled at Pankhraj who had promised Baba good and quite rest in his house. Any way, Baba happily came to the house and was welcomed. Meher Baba gave darshan to the gathering of persons accumulated at Pankhraj’s house and also allowed His prayers and Arti to be performed.
Meher Baba stayed in Pankhraj’s house for a few hours and after the distribution of prasad, proceeded. During this visit of Baba Pankhraj’s son Anand was nearly one year old and was only taking milk. Mrs. Tara Pankhraj wished that Anand should start eating food with Baba’s hand and during the same visit at Dr. Kher’s house at Nagpur when all gathered for darshan, Baba called her near and lovingly gave the child prasad with His own hands as a divine blessings, as his “Annaprashana”.
Baba called Pankhraj’s son Anand as little Gustadji as Baba performed the wedding of Pankhraj and Tara by proxy of Gustadji standing in place of the Bride. Baba always remembered to mention this wick in His correspondence with the Pankhraj family. This little Gustadji often went to darshan programs of Meher Baba along with his parents. Once during 1957 on the 18th of March when Pankhraj had been to Sakori to meet Baba, at Sakori this little Gustadji was allowed to even sing Baba’s Arti in Marathi in the presence of Baba. Pankhraj had the opportunity to be with Baba during the Andhra tour program from 18th to 20th Jan 1953. The reference and photographs of Pankhraj and his family are available in most of the reference books on Baba.
Later Pankhraj family moved to Jabalpur and another girl child was born to them. Pankhraj sent a photograph of the new arrival to Meher Baba and to which Baba replied by naming her as MEERA. Anand and Meera had the opportunity to visit Meherabad or Pune as little children and received Baba’s blessings. They attended Madhusudhan’s wedding in 1959 and the East-West gathering and also the final darshan of Meher Baba during January 1969. Once Baba dictated a letter to Meera. Some portion of which is represented below though translated in English.
“Baba’s very dear Meera, Your sweet song dt. 15th Septem ber reached today and was read out to Baba which made Him very happy. You are Baba’s Meera and you have a fire in your heart alike Meera. The rays of this flame will spread through your songs in the future and you will become illumined like Meera. You are very dear to Baba and Baba is ever present in your little heart. You should sing songs and please Baba. Baba sends His love and bless ings to His dear Meera and wants His Meera to convey His love to daddy, mummy and Anand”.
At Jabalpur Pankhraj became the Secretary of Avatar Meher Baba Center, and widely traveled for Baba’s work in several parts of Maharastra and Madhya Pradesh. While working in the State Electricity Board, he retired as Regional Accounts Officer, and later passed away in 1988 on December 14th. Mandli sent a Telegram to Jablalpur after receiving the news of the passing away of Pankhraj.
“UNEXPECTED NEWS OF OUR DEAR PANKHRAJS DEMISE SHOCKED MEHERAZAD MEHERABAD MANDLI. OUR HEARTFELT CONDOLENCES TO BEREAVED FAMILY WE WILL MISS OUR DEAR PANKHRAJ. WE SALUTE HIS STEADFAST LOVE AND DEVOTION TO HIS BELOVED LORD AVATAR MEHER BABA.
In the Convocation Hall
(Reproduced from “Glimpses of the God Man” – by Bal Natu. With kind permission of the Sheriar Press)
The Baba people with whom I became acquainted at Nagpur were Pankhraj, Kapashe, Lokhande and a few others. Pankharaj had been caught in the divine net two years earlier and was one of Baba’s active workers. When Baba came to Nagpur He gave Pankharaj a specific duty. Baba had instructed Vishnu to wire him every day in care of Dr. Deshmukh regarding the welfare of the men and women mandali at Aurangabad. Pankharaj was to collect the telegrams and hand them over to Baba. A simple thing. For three days it all went well, but on November 14 Pankharaj did not get the expected telegram. In the afternoon Baba called him and inquired about the wire. Baba looked a bit annoyed to learn that the telegram had not arrived. Considering Baba’s huge correspondence, this telegram was a small affair; however, I wish to narrate this episode in detail for it revealed something of Baba’s relationship with His lovers and His keen interest in every instruction that He gave. Baba said, “Vishnu won’t fail to send the telegram.” Pankharaj replied, “Baba, these are days of war, and top priority is given to military and not public communications.” This was his common sense point.
Baba persisted, “Go to the post office. Inquire well and bring me the telegram. There could be a mistake somewhere.”
After a short time Pankharaj set out for the post office, and Baba proceeded to the Convocation Hall with the mandali. The program in this hall was one of the grand functions in Nagpur. Justice W. R. Puranik, Vice-Chancellor of Nagpur University, had arranged this program. Principals, professors, judges, lawyers and mostly educated people had gathered to hear Baba’s message and have His darshan. Baba looked very radiant — there was a loveliness and beauty about Him. Some prominent persons were introduced to Baba, and a few delivered short speeches in His honor. During this solemn program Baba spotted Pankharaj standing near the far end by the door. He looked at him and gestured to ask if the telegram had been received. Pankharaj shook his head to express no. Later in my life with Baba I witnessed other such silent communications, which were carried on with the persons concerned without disturbing the public programs.
During this darshan program the Honorable Justice Sir Niyogi read Baba’s message, “The Unity of All Life,” a part of which is given below:
In the one undivided and indivisible Ocean of Life you have, through ignorance, created the pernicious divisions based upon sex, race, nationality, religion or community; and you allow these self-created divisions to poison your heart and pervert your relationships … Slowly but surely must you imbibe … Truth at the feet of the Masters of Wisdom; slowly but surely must you shed prejudices and get disentangled from the superficial distinctions, … slowly but surely must you tread the Path to the formless and the nameless One …
When you enthrone the nameless One in your mind-heart, you do not necessarily put an end to the game of duality. You have to play your divine role in the drama of creation without being caught up in duality … The unity of life has to be experienced and expressed in the very midst of its diverse experiences … All life is One and all divisions are imaginary. Be ye established in this eternal Truth which I bring.[i]
A Wonderful Way of Replying to a Letter
The program in Convocation Hall was one of the best. The next day Baba was to visit Saoner. Special cars and buses were reserved to take the mandali there. After supper Baba called Pankharaj and said, “Tomorrow I am visiting Saoner. You should not join the mandali in the morning but come by a later bus after today’s telegram is received.”
Then Pankharaj was again called at about 9:00 P.M. for the same inquiry. In exasperation he answered, “No telegram. I have made the necessary inquiries. What else can I do in this matter? I can’t help.”
At this Baba asked Adi Sr., who was standing by His side, “Had Chanji been alive to attend to the correspondence, what would have been his reply?”
Adi promptly replied: “Definitely not like that of Pankharaj. He would have humbly said, ‘I will try once more, Baba.'”
This served as a reply to the letter Pankharaj had addressed to Baba two months earlier. He had expressed his desire to work in place of Chanji, who had dropped his body in August 1944. Baba called Pankharaj near Him and twisted his ear and remarked, “Do you now know how competent you are for Chanji’s work?”
Pankharaj felt very sorry about his reply but was happy, too, with that “pleasing punishment” which, in fact, was an
expression of divine intimacy. Was this not a wonderful way of replying to the letter?
At about midnight Kaka Baria woke Pankharaj up, for he was being called by Baba. Pankharaj hesitatingly went into Baba’s room but felt at home on finding Baba in a very happy mood. Baba conveyed through the alphabet board: “Someone handed over the telegram to Kaka on his way to the bathroom. He placed it in a drawer of a mirror-stand and then completely forgot about it. A little while ago when Kaka went there again, he chanced to open the drawer and found the telegram. Go. Have a good rest. Do join the mandali going to Saoner without fail.”
In a minute Pankharaj came out of Baba’s room wondering about His ways — so exacting, so loving!
[i] Messages, pp. 74, 75.
Pankhraj gets Married
(Story reproduced from “Glimpses of the God Man” – by Bal Natu. With kind permission of the Sheriar Press).
The previous night all the Baba people staying in different hotels were advised that if anyone had had any difficulty in obeying Baba’s orders which had been given to him in the Old Life, he should bring that point to Baba’s notice. Such people were to write their problems on separate notes which were to be handed over to Baba the next day. After a short break the morning session continued. Baba inquired whether all had come back. Then He allotted time to attend to these problems. As Baba learnt the contents of each note, He spontaneously offered concessions or suggested adequate changes in the previous instructions. All these little alterations expressed Baba’s deep spiritual insight, tempered with His sense of humor. This was most evident in the case of Pankhraj, who was earlier asked by Baba to get married in His physical presence. Before coming to this topic, I wish to relate a short account of Pankhraj’s previous contact with Baba which reveals Baba’s omniscience in drawing His dear ones to Him.
In 1940 Pankhraj was studying in a college at Nagpur. During summer vacation, he chanced to read some spiritual literature which impressed him so much that he decided to discontinue his education, much to the displeasure of his father. Instead of having a degree to lead a so-called rich and respectable life, he resolved to be a simple aspirant and seeker of Truth. He commenced leading a life of strict spiritual discipline. He took vegetarian food without salt, slept on a rough bed, maintained a day-to-day diary in which he wrote about his own weaknesses and made confessions. He formed a small group and prepared a code of conduct. He became a sadhak (an aspirant). This was not only a sudden but also a complete change from the life he had led in college. During his college days Pankhraj was a good sport and keen participant in college activities. He did not then have any interest in spirituality. In fact he used to criticize the lives of the saints. However, years earlier as a child there had been a time when for days and months he used to repeat the name of God, Rama, continuously for hours. Perhaps the seeds of spirituality had thus been sown in his childhood.
In July 1940, he attended a talk by Deshmukh on “The Need for the Awakener”. The Awakener’s (Baba’s) message of love touched his heart. As he read and heard more and more about Baba, he felt that Baba was the personification of love and the embodiment of beauty. The more he became one pointed in his allegiance to Baba, the more he severed his connections with his former group of semi-ascetics.
In 1941 he got a temporary job in his father’s office filling in for a clerk who had a 20 day earned leave. The day he received his first pay envelope, he decided to spend the money on a visit to Meherabad to see Baba. Dr. Deshmukh told him that Baba’s whereabouts were not known. He suggested to him that he get an appointment. But in his fervor to see the Beloved, Pankhraj was not ready to wait any longer. He boarded a train at Nagpur and got down at the Ahmednagar railway station. He had not been to this place before; however, in one of the books on Meher Baba he had seen a picture of the Meher Retreat on the hill and remembered that it was by the railway track.
With this meager information he started walking along the railway lines until he reached the top of the hill. There he saw Pendu supervising some construction work. From him he learnt that Baba was not at Meherabad and he felt very sad. Pendu, who was the manager at Meherabad, nevertheless permitted him to stay in the ashram, down the hill. It was here that after so many months he drank tea and slept on a mattress. He gradually realized that Baba expected His devotees to lead a normal life of love and service, in His wholehearted remembrance, without imposing unnecessary restrictions. If you get a plain meal don’t grumble, if you have a feast don’t indulge. Parading of spirituality vitiates the core of spiritual life.
Coincidentally the next morning, Baba arrived at Meherabad and was busy calling different members of the mandali. They were meeting Him after a year’s absence, resulting from His extended mast tours and seclusion. As they were called to receive specific instructions, Pankhraj, through Vishnu, conveyed his request for darshan to Baba. But it being a phase of seclusion and special spiritual work, Baba refused to see him.
Pankhraj had come to Meherabad with the intention and mental preparation of staying permanently near Baba, but he found that he was not allowed to have even a glimpse of the One at whose feet he wanted to surrender his entire life. This was quite shocking. Instead, Baba sent a message that if Pankhraj could afford to, he might pay a visit to Kedgaon for the darshan of Shri Sadguru Narayan Maharaj, one of Baba’s Masters. This was quite an unusual instruction. But it carried hidden significance. Pankhraj loved Baba but he was very skeptical about His Masters, especially Upasni Maharaj and Narayan Maharaj because of the perverted information published in a few Marathi journals. He had neither the urge nor the money to spend on this visit to Kedgaon. This message, though not acted upon, nevertheless helped Pankhraj to shed his misgivings about Baba’s Masters. To be able to accept Baba as BABA on his terms, needs not only inner guidance but also His grace.
The denial of darshan greatly upset Pankhraj. In obedience to Baba’s instructions he left the ashram, but remained sitting under a tree by the roadside asking each of the mandali going up the hill to place his “case” before Baba for reconsideration. He could not refrain from sobbing and weeping bitterly. After his going through a period of agony and restlessness for a fairly long time, Vishnu came with heart-warming news from Baba. Pankhraj was summoned by the Beloved, and in raptures he followed Vishnu up the hill. He was asked to stop at a distance of about 50 feet from Baba who was then standing on a cement platform under a tree. He wore a silk coat and looked very radiant. In the period of “special working”, Baba would not allow anyone other than the resident mandali to come closer to His person. Pankhraj saw Baba; and His divine splendor stirred his soul to its depth. His joy knew no bounds. He stood gazing at Baba. Nothing was asked or conveyed orally but his heart communed with the Beloved’s. After a few minutes, Baba gestured, “Isn’t it enough? Now leave.”
On the way down the hill, Vishnu asked Pankhraj some personal information about him and his family members and especially inquired as to why he wished to stay near Baba. According to Baba’s instruction, Vishnu said to him, “If Baba gives you sufficient wealth to provide for all the amenities of life, will you be happy?” “I have not come here for this,” was Pankhraj’s reply. When this was conveyed to Baba, He was pleased and He called Pankhraj again for a second darshan. At this time Pankhraj was told that he would be called after a year or so and that Baba might then give him certain instructions which he should wholeheartedly follow. He was also instructed to return directly to Nagpur. However, before he left Meherabad another message communicated to him was that Baba’s nazar (protective blessings) would be on him. With Baba’s initial refusal to see him, Pankhraj found himself in the valley of dejection, but Baba’s subsequent intimate concern and loving messages lifted him up to the skies. Baba, at times, used and is still using this “pushing away and drawing closer” technique to awaken the hearts of His dear ones to His love.
With a very warm heart Pankhraj left Ahmednagar. He had a passing thought to get down at Chitali, to see Upasni Maharaj at Sakori. But Baba’s instruction to go straight home made him drop the idea. When he got down at Bhusaval, he saw the connecting train for Nagpur standing on the next platform. Instead of directly getting into it, his mind lured him into walking round the city before catching the next train. What a vain thought! It was the trick of the Devil tempting him to swerve from the spirit of obedience to the Master. Poor Pankhraj succumbed to it and after roaming about in the city he returned to the station but boarded the wrong train. Only after great inconvenience did he reach Nagpur but at least the lesson he learned stayed with him for the rest of his life: never to alter with selfish motive any of Baba’s instructions. After Baba’s darshan at Meherabad, he witnessed a considerable change taking place within him. The rigidity of sadhana was replaced by liveliness. He realized that Baba’s guiding hand had been silently at work during the so-called good and bad times of his earlier life. They had all been designed to lead him to Meherabad for the darshan of the Eternal Beloved and the opening of a new chapter in his life.
In the summer of 1942 Pankhraj was specially called to Dehra Dun. Baba directed him to follow a few specific instructions and this gave him a strong feeling of being accepted by Baba. The years passed by and he came into closer contact with Baba. He wished to remain a bachelor but circumstances took such a turn that he had to ask Baba whether he should get married or not. Baba permitted him to remain engaged to a girl, another Baba lover. The marriage, however, was to take place in Baba’s august presence. Time rolled on and Baba entered the New Life. In this phase, no one from the Old Life was allowed to see or correspond with Baba. So Pankhraj refrained from getting married. In the meeting at Mahabaleshwar, Baba permitted His dear ones to put forth their difficulties, if any, with the previous instructions given by Him.
In the course of the notes that were read out to Baba, Pankhraj’s case was also brought to His notice. Only men were invited to this meeting so Pankhraj’s fiancee, though a Baba lover, had not come. With a smile Baba asked dear old Gustadji to stand up. He was to play the role of Pankhraj’s “bride”. Amidst laughter, Baba asked Pankhraj and Gustadji to come closer to Him and to shake hands as husband and wife. They did so and Baba blessed the couple! He then instructed Pankhraj to go home and get married in any way he liked. Pankhraj wished to perform the wedding without any pomp or traditional ceremonies. So he visited the Registrar’s office with Tara Raje, the bride, and in Meher Baba’s loving remembrance, Rama Pankhraj and Tara signed the register. It was a human attestation to the Divine Registration! To this day, in their united love for Baba, the Real Beloved, Rama and Tara are leading a happy married life.
Baba thus attended, very lovingly, to one and all the questions brought before Him by His disciples and devotees. Rama Pankhraj’s case is enough, I think, to give an idea of the magnitude of the other problems presented as well as of the love and loyalty with which Baba lovers obeyed and still obey Baba’s instructions. When this item of dealing with the difficulties was over Baba looked relieved and switched to the next subject.
Decisions about Accompanying Baba
Baba first asked the servant companions about their decisions. He made it clear that if anyone or all of them wished to stay behind, He would provide for each good boarding arrangements plus some pocket money! Baba of Himself asked Vishnu to attend to the lodging and food arrangements of the women staying at Hyderabad. Nilu was sick and so he did not attend this session. Murli decided to stay behind. Donkin very devotedly said, “Baba, my heart will go with you but my body shall stay at Hyderabad.” The remaining six servants, Pendu, Gustadji, Baidul, Eruch, Kaka and Kaikobad, decided to be with Baba.
Then turning to the visitors, Baba asked those to stand up who were willing to go with Him for four months, accepting the conditions laid down by Him. Out of 75 Baba lovers, 15 showed their readiness to accompany Baba through thick and thin. They were: Minoo Kharas, Nana Kher, Pankhraj, Goma Ganesh, Sailor Mama, Todi Singh, Kishan Singh, Daulat Singh, Pritam Singh, Gadekar, Babadas, Shripat Sahai, Kain, P. D. Nigam (Pukar) and A. C. S. Chari. The Arrangementwallas were not to consider anything about this subject as they were given certain duties from the beginning of the New Life. Baba concluded, “Today you have decided for yourself; tomorrow I will decide for each of you. As for me, whatever I have already declared is final.” Baba continued, “In fact, this New Life [phase] is only for me. I began it on October 16, 1949. Till now, although I am leading the New Life, I have not been able to live it as I wanted to. In the coming period of four months, I want to live the whole of the New Life and end it for me.”
But as it turned out, Baba did not call anyone to stay with Him. However, in April 1947, He visited Madras and held an open darshan program. One of the conditions of attending this program was that the visitors could have Baba’s darshan and personal contact only once, after which they had to leave. Three Baba lovers from Nagpur — Kapse, Nana Kher and Pankhraj — duly reached Madras and arrived at Meher Bhawan, in Saidapeth. Because of the condition of having darshan only once, the three did not join the line of those waiting to see Baba, but instead continued to feast their eyes on Baba’s graceful, radiant figure by looking at Him through the windows of the room where Baba was sitting on a specially adorned seat. Soon the morning program was over without the three having ever entered the darshan room.
Later, when Baba was resting in His room, He sent a message to the three to present themselves before Him. When they were ushered into Baba’s presence, He joked with them about their method of observing His order. He asked each one if he had anything special to ask Him. Since the period of two years was over, and since his parents were pressing him to marry, Nana opened the topic with Baba. Baba conveyed, “If you wish to get married, I give you my permission and blessings.” Nana explained that it was not a question of his wanting to get married, his only interest in the matter was to do as Baba wished.
Hearing this, Baba asked if he was in love with anyone or if anyone was in love with him. Nana’s reply was, “No, Baba.” Then Baba asked him to confess if he had touched any girl with a lustful intention. Nana again answered, “No, Baba.” These replies pleased Baba very much. He gestured, “Then why don’t you marry me?” Nana, not knowing how to respond, mumbled, “Yes, Baba, that is best.”
At the close of the interview the group feared that Baba would ask them to leave for Nagpur at once, but He graciously permitted them to attend all the programs during the darshan days in Madras and they felt overjoyed.
Ransack a Good Bank
Baba’s earlier plan of holding a meeting of one month in February, 1946 had been canceled. However, in His message for spiritual workers, Baba assured them that He would give certain instructions which would help them to lead a life of Love and Truth. Nana, having resolved to totally surrender to Baba, sought an opportunity to ask Baba if he could volunteer as one of Baba’s workers.
In December, 1947 he visited Ahmednagar and through Adi conveyed his intention to Baba. Though in partial seclusion, Baba asked Adi to bring Nana with him to Meherazad. Baba asked him, “Why have you come?” Nana explained that he had come in response to Baba’s circular — to receive instructions from Him. Baba looked happy. The first and foremost condition to be His worker, Baba explained, was to obey Him implicitly. Nana said that he was willing to do this.
Baba continued, “Will you do whatever I ask you to?” Nana answered, “Yes, Baba!” “Will you cut the throat of your father as soon as you go home, if I ask you to?” Nana unhesitatingly replied, “Yes, Baba.” With a smile on His face Baba continued, “Leave that aside. But can you give me 4,000,000 rupees within two months?” Nana again replied, “Yes, Baba.” “How?” Baba countered. Nana told Him that he would go from door to door and do his best to collect the required money. Baba interjected, “You won’t be successful if you follow that method. But if you ransack a good bank you can come off well! You can give me the money and then go off to prison for a number of years. Are you prepared for this?” Nana, with devout obedience, responded, “Surely.” “Go and do it then,” Baba gestured. At this Nana turned and began to walk away. Just then Baba called him back and expressed His happiness over Nana’s readiness to follow His commands and added that He neither wanted money, nor the life of Nana’s father. Time and again, Baba has brought to the notice of His close ones that what He really wants from them is their lives in complete surrender to Him and nothing else.
Baba continued, “If you want to dedicate yourself to my cause, you must be free from any personal liability.” Nana brought up the problem of disposing of the shop that he owned. Baba permitted him to transfer ownership into the name of his mother. He then asked Nana to visit Ahmednagar again on an appointed day. He was told to walk the distance from Nagpur to Ahmednagar barefoot and beg for his food. He was to carry no extra clothing, only the shirt and pants he had on. Baba also told him that without hurting the feelings of his parents he had to tell them that he was going to stay with Baba permanently.
On his return to Nagpur it was hard for Nana to convince his old and loving parents to permit him to walk barefooted. They requested Baba to withdraw this order and also the order of begging for food. Baba agreed. Then there was a change in Baba’s plans. He soon commenced the New Life phase and Nana’s hopes of meeting Him and leading a life under His guidance seemed to have ended. But then, after a year and a half, Baba called him for a two-week stay at Meherabad in November, 1952 and then asked Him to accompany Him on His Fiery Free Life tour.
Through the sharing of such stories, our evenings were spent happily in Baba’s loving remembrance. As the days passed, the momentum for the Fiery Free Life was building.
Baba Leaves Mahabaleshwar for Hamirpur
In the third week of January 1954, Eruch informed Adi of the final dates for Baba’s darshan tours in Hamirpur and Andhra. Adi wrote Baba asking to be excused from these tours as his health was not good and, in addition, he had to attend to a lot of correspondence. Baba, however, directed Adi to report to Mahabaleshwar immediately.
So, on January 26, Adi was in Mahabaleshwar. Baba gave Adi some general instructions about work at the office and also at Meherabad. Baba concluded by telling Adi that although he could miss the Hamirpur tour, he had to accompany Him when He went to Andhra, no matter what. Not only that, but he was ordered to come to Mahabaleshwar on February 19, the day Baba was to leave for Andhra, to drive Baba to Poona where they would board the train for Vijayawada.
For the Hamirpur trip, Gustadji, Ramjoo, Jal (Baba’s brother), Pendu, Eruch, Aloba, Kumar, Bhau and Kishan Singh were to accompany Baba from Mahabaleshwar. Baidul had been previously sent to Poona by Baba for some work and was supposed to rejoin the group there. In addition, Sadashiv Patel (also known as Patil), along with Dhake, Chhagan, Sidhu, Savak Kotwal, Yeshwantrao and Krishnaji were also to join the party at Poona. Meherjee was to meet and accompany them from Bombay onward, while Nana Kher and Pankhraj of Nagpur were allowed to join the mandali at the Itarsi railway station.
Before leaving Mahabaleshwar, Baba told the mandali that in the upcoming programs, thousands of people would come for His darshan and hundreds of them would rush to get closer to Him, to touch Him, especially to bow down at His feet. Baba also conveyed that His health was not good and that it would be the responsibility of those traveling with Him to carry Him as if He were a “flower” so that after the darshan tours of Hamirpur and Andhra, He would arrive back in Mahabaleshwar still fresh and blooming.
The crowd surged around Baba’s car and, despite requests from the mandali, refused to budge. In fact, those closest to the car probably could not have moved even if they had wanted to as so many others at the back of the crowd were pressing forward to try and get a glimpse of Baba. Seeing their enthusiasm, Baba agreed to come out and give darshan if they would all sit in an orderly fashion. Within five minutes about fifteen hundred people were sitting quietly around a platform in front of the dispensary. Baba, with His glowing eyes and a soft radiance about Him, sat on the platform so all could see Him.
At such times, there often appeared on Baba’s face a serene sweetness which is impossible to describe but which melted the hearts of all who were fortunate enough to witness it. Baba’s compassion and love were so divinely blended that the poor villagers felt themselves immeasurably enriched at having His darshan.
Baba dictated on His board:
If you have rock-like faith in God and flame-like love for God, nothing in this world will affect you. Flattery will not touch you, happiness will not humor you, misery will not trouble you.
I give you all My blessings to love Me and find that God alone is Real, and that will make you rise above this imaginary phenomenon and make you understand that BABA alone is Real.
At the close of this program, Nana Kher and Pankhraj sang Baba’s arti in Marathi, which had been composed by Dr. C.D. Deshmukh. The refrain was, “Meher Baba, Sri Guruuraya … ” (O Meher Baba, glorious majestic Master! Bowing down to your feet, O Purifier, we perform your arti with the flame of love.) This arti was sung throughout both the Hamirpur and Andhra tours of 1954.
Manik was greatly alarmed to hear this. He requested his officer, Mr. Amritraj, “to do something, for God’s sake” and to prevail upon the officer at Waltair to get the bogie fit enough at least to travel as far as Vijayawada where it could be replaced with another bogie. Mr. Amritraj promised to do his best. So it was that Manik was still anxiously awaiting word on the bogie situation when Pankhraj and I arrived.