DR. WILLIAM DONKIN (Don)
(British-born Dr. William Donkin)
Dr. William Donkin was born of a distinguished family in Wimbdon England in 1911. He was educated at Prep School in Kent Rugby School and Bartholomew’s Hospital London; qualified doctor from “Brats” in 1939. His youthful love of adventure proved to be great preparation for his part in Master’s search for masts. At the age of twenty he crossed Sahara Desert in the hottest months May to September covering 1400 miles by camel and last 300 on horseback. As a member of Alpine Club, London, he went mountain climbing in Alps, Norway: High Altas Corsica.
Many of his Life time incidents and conversation with Meher Baba are produced as under:
William Donkin, was a medical student at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, had made a trip on camelback across the Sahara Desert the year before and was unconsciously drawn to search for the aim of life.
He was also interested in “spiritual healing” and had visited several centers in London investigating different approaches to relieving pain through meditation, hypnotism, and the use of magnets.
Donkin first heard of Meher Baba when he happened to purchase a recent copy of the Occult Review in which Baba was mentioned. He contacted Harry Strutton and learned of an office dedicated to Baba at Charing Cross, where he met Will Backett and others.
On 9th October, 1933, Baba reached London and stayed in Hygeia House. William Donkin a medical student met Meher Baba in London, and Baba expressed His great happiness at meeting this particular young man and remarked to him, “A follower of Mine in India is studying medicine. I have asked him to be a doctor. His name is Nilkanth and he will come to stay with Me after his studies are completed. A large hospital will then be opened on the ashram premises, but I will need another doctor who knows surgery.”
Donkin said, “I am studying medicine at St. Bartholomew’s. Should I specialize in surgery?”
“That would be good,” Baba answered. “Study it, if you wish.”
Donkin replied, “I find surgery interesting and will definitely study it.”
Baba appreciated Donkin’s intent. As Donkin left the room, he received a sudden shock as he placed his hand upon the door handle. In that instant, he later said, he knew that Meher Baba was God. For a week after meeting the Master, this young man continually had divine experiences. He was so full of joy, he saw Baba everywhere.
This joy is deep, so deep that it can only be experienced, not described. But the experience brought William Donkin to Meher Baba’s feet, for he was destined to become a permanent member of the mandali six years later.
William Donkin again came to see Baba, and Baba instructed him to concentrate on his medical studies. He was with Baba most of the time and became closer to the Master during his six-day stay.
In 1937, William Donkin, who was also staying with the group in Cannes, was apprised of Baba’s wish to find a boy, and he left for England to look for such a youth. Donkin returned to Cannes on the morning of the 28th with a young Spanish refugee named José Luis. Baba, however, did not completely approve of him but kept him at the villa anyway.
On 24th September 1937, the day after Baba’s return, William Donkin returned to Cannes from London with another Englishman, the taciturn Tom Sharpley.
On 7th October 1937, during Donkin’s interview with Baba, Baba told him, “Try to be happy — under all conditions. There is nothing but bliss. It is everywhere. Love Divine. Misery exists in the minds of priests who preach heaven and hell. In reality, there is no hell. No God ever created hell. And to hell with the God who creates hell!”
Baba added, “I love all. Love the heart but damned be the mind! It is this mind that creates heaven and hell.”
In a letter to Donkin on 8th December 1937, Kitty wrote:
Baba told this interesting fact the other day — that all four aspects of four great Avatars were embodied in the present Avataric period. The Buddha — with his poise, peace, calm exterior, and renunciation — is present in all Avatars, whether it shows externally or not. Today, however, the work of the Avatar has to be active. He is Muhammad in his strict discipline with the boys [mandali]; Krishna in his life up here with the group [women], and Jesus in his work with the mad-men [masts], washing them, feeding them, healing, et cetera, at the dispensary.
After passing his medical examination in England, Dr. William Donkin, arrived in Bombay on 27th July 1939. Kaka and Chanji met him, and the next day took him to Alu Khambatta’s hospital, where he had been invited. Kaka and Chanji then brought him to Meherabad, via Poona, where he joined Baba’s mandali on the 29th. From that day on, Baba and everyone else called him Don. “The Wine Don had tasted at the first sight of his Beloved in London,” Age observed, “compelled Don to give up all worldly pleasures and pursuits and brought him to Baba’s feet forever.”
On 28th August 1939, during the usual talks with the men mandali, Baba abruptly started asking each one in the room, “Where is God?”
All replied spontaneously. Jehangir Wankadia said, “Everywhere.”
Nilu pointed to His chest and said, “In the heart!”
Vishnu said, “In the soul!”
One expressed his inability to give the proper answer, saying, “It is the eternal question.”
Finally, Baba asked Don, who pointed to Baba sitting on the bed, “In Baba! Baba is God.”
For a moment all were taken aback. Don’s answer was so simple, so natural. Baba then spelled out, explaining:
If you take Me as your Master and believe Me Perfect and one with the Infinite, if you believe this in all faith, then Don’s is the only correct and logical answer.
God is where you are not! By you is meant your false I, your illusory life as Kaka, Adi, Eruch, Baidul. Where you are, God is not! To think yourself separate from God is all imagination. Your false ego makes you think you are such-and-such and leads you to believe that God can never reside within you! When your false ego disappears and your I goes, God comes!
Once, in Bangalore, Baba assigned some duty to Don and Nilu which they carried out. But Baba found some fault with their work and bitterly took them to task. Both doctors wondered why Baba was so displeased with them for such a seemingly small thing.
Baba called them on 12th January 1940 and explained, again using the analogy of a drowning man:
Just as an expert lifeguard uses different methods to save a drowning man — often hitting the person so that he may not cling to his rescuer, making the task impossible — at times, I have to treat my lovers in an apparently cruel manner. Onlookers, having no idea of the real situation, are apt to think that I am unduly harsh at times to particular people. Actually, as in the case of the expert life-saver, I do everything to save the spiritual life of the particular person whom I know to be “drowning” in illusion. I do all for his own good.
You both have received My arrows and feel pain, but you have no idea of the favor I have done you.
No one understands that I do not do anything without cause. Whatever I do, I do for the benefit of others.
Don said, “Forgive me, Baba. I thought you were being cruel. I was wrong.” Baba embraced him and also Nilu.
The next evening, Don was sent for and Chatti Baba readily let Don lead Him by the hand to His room, where Baba sat with him. (You have some deep connection with him,” Baba informed Don.) At times, Baba worked with Chatti Baba several times a day, and sometimes during the night, also.
Baba sent word to Don through Vishnu to proceed to Ankai and see how the mandali there were faring. He was to ask them whether they would prefer to stay at Ankai or return to Meherabad. Don left and returned the same evening with encouraging news. Pappa had told Don that all were happy and that he was caring for them well, saying they would of course continue to stay at Ankai until Baba Himself sent for them. Poor Savak, Gustadji, Pleader and Bhabananda were silent, so they could not tell Don the real story.
For His mast work, Baba wished to stay in Hyderabad for six months. Don was serving as a doctor in the military hospital at nearby Secunderabad, and at the end of January 1945, he was cabled to start looking for suitable bungalows for Baba and the mandali. Don saw a few in Hyderabad and reported to Baba about them when he came to Ahmednagar on 8th February for a three day stay.
About the war, Baba had told Don previously that although the Allies (America and England) were going to win the war, they might lose the peace, because Russia would dominate peace negotiations. During Don’s visit at this time, Baba commented further, “America and England are going to suffer a very severe diplomatic defeat at the hands of Russia — a diplomatic defeat even more serious than a defeat in war, the effect of which will last a long time.”
Baba wished to do some preliminary mast work in the Hyderabad area, and on 21st February 1945, He left for Hyderabad by train with Pendu, Baidul and Kaka. Don met them at the Secunderabad station the following morning, and took them to the Rock Castle Hotel. Pendu was sent with Don to see the bungalows Don had selected, while Baba went out with Baidul and Kaka for mast contacts.
In 1949, chalking out their schedule for the next two weeks in Benares, Baba stated:
Don is to go to Sarnath to see the bungalow there and give his opinion as to the feasibility and possibility of a ten-day stay there for the langoti-life training
Don proposed that a committee be formed with Pendu, Eruch, Adi, Vishnu and Ghani as supervisors. No one liked that idea and, setting it aside, Baba remarked, “You people fail to grasp that I really want to be free to look after other details of the New Life. You did not trust me when I said that I would be pleased if you make some independent arrangement for food. My conscience is clear. Now your disgruntled dissatisfaction and other complaints about food will have no place in the New Life.”
In 1950, Don suggested that if Nilu joined him as a doctor, and Pendu and Murli served as their assistants, in establishing a large clinic in Delhi, there would be a possibility of maintaining the companions in this way. Baba seemed to like the idea and stated Don’s idea would be kept pending, until the companions had sufficient funds to establish such a medical clinic, which would be a source of livelihood for all concerned.
Baba instructed Don and Nilu bring the Blue Bus from Calicut to Jaipur, and they endured countless hardships in carrying out Baba’s instructions. The tires and tubes on the bus were completely worn out, and it was extremely taxing to drive it in that condition over hundreds of miles. Don had to stop often for repairs. One time, when they had a flat tire, he had to stuff a blanket inside the tire until they found somewhere to fix it. At one point, the back wheels fell off on one side. Whenever they would stop, a crowd would gather to stare at the strange vehicle — piled high with all sorts of odd baggage, but no passengers! At times Don had to wash and clean the bus himself. They subsisted on whatever meager food was available along the way. Thus, after much hardship, Don and Nilu brought the bus to Jaipur at the end of December, and Baba was very pleased with them. Both were given the duty of looking after the mandali’s health.
In Jaipur, Don received his notice to appear for an interview to join the army, and he left temporarily for Hyderabad. He was told to report for duty on 1 st March at Poona. His wartime postings were to be in Poona, Secunderabad and Bangalore (where he was in charge of a 160-bed hospital for Italian prisoners of war, because he spoke Italian). Don would come to see Baba whenever he had leave.
One day, in Niranjanpur Don voiced these thoughts to Baba: “Your work with the masts is so important, fascinating and significant, yet there is no record of it. If an account were compiled and written down, it would be most useful and interesting to future generations.” Baba conveyed that He would think about it.
Two days later He came to the gardener’s hut where Don, Nilu, and Vishnu were resting. Baba remarked to Don, “Your suggestion about a book on masts is excellent. Why don’t you write it?”
Don had not expected this. “Me? I’m no writer. I’ve never written a book. I’m not fit to write it.”
But Baba assured him, “You are the only proper person to write it. I will help you.” Thus, Don was encouraged, and the book The Wayfarers was born. Baba began giving him explanations, detailing the various types of masts and explaining about them in general. Don wrote studiously and with devoted labor and attention to detail, collaborating with those who went on the mast tours with Baba. Years later, Don related about the book:
So I did it (The Wayfarers), my aim being only to try to make a faithful record of Baba’s work with masts and others — His external and visible work, that is. His real inner work He would just not tell us about — but then why should He?
As Age noted, “Baba’s mast work forms a singularly important part of His work in this advent. By contacting masts, Baba has shown the world that the Lord of the universe is also the slave of His true lovers, whom He allows to share in His work. And the statements of these intoxicated ‘witnesses’ to His Glory, recorded in The Wayfarers, are testaments to the reality of Meher Baba’s Avatar hood.”
During this seclusion period, Don received a telegram from London informing him that his mother was seriously ill. He did not tell anyone about it and appeared his usual congenial self. No one else knew of it and, even if they had, no one would have told Baba. Don also did not wish to inform Baba. On one occasion, Baba sent for him and in the course of conversation asked him, “Is there any news from home?”
Whenever Don received mail from his family in England, according to the conditions of the New Life, he did not open it. But in this instance, he did not know who had cabled him and so had read the telegram. He was worried that he had inadvertently broken Baba’s order.
After remaining quiet for a few moments, in answer to Baba’s question, Don said, “Yes, news has come from home.” He could not tell a lie, so he acknowledged his mistake and told about his mother. Baba directed him to pack a suitcase and start for London immediately. On 5th March 1951, Don left for Bombay and from there flew to London two days later. He returned to Mahabaleshwar after a short visit.
In 1952, Don had consulted Dr. Reginald Watson-Jones, a famous orthopedic surgeon, about Baba’s leg. Baba was taken to see him along with Goher and Don. That day His cast was removed, and His leg wrapped in an elastic bandage. Just a few days before, the doctors in New York had said he would have to wear the cast for two months. Dr. Watson-Jones advised Don that Baba could start weight-bearing exercises after a week.
Don was a gifted, diligent doctor, but after the New Life Baba had not given him any specific duty, and it was therefore difficult for him to pass his time. Baba’s inner work for him was of course for the best, but outwardly Don remained ill at ease. For him, to be without work was a penance.
Baba asked Don to go out and wash his hands. Baba paced up and down until He returned. Don read the Prayer of Repentance and, at its conclusion, Baba touched his forehead, then the floor and bowed to His picture. Baba ordered the doors and windows opened. Resuming His seat, He explained to the Westerners, “Today you have joined God praying to God. I and God are one. Now, we go up the hill.”
The Western men were deeply moved by the simple ceremony. As Dana Field later wrote: “It was a very impressive ceremony without priests or temples; When Baba does anything, it takes on life and meaning; the old familiar songs we heard had a new flavor.”
In 1954, on the way up the hill, Baba stopped to show the mandali Don’s medical facility. “This is Don’s dispensary,” He stated. “And I have nothing to worry about regarding health, because here is the doctor, and he is most dear to Me. The faith and love with which this dear son of mine has stuck to Baba is unique. As I told you yesterday, if anything bothers you, if even the slightest thing is wrong with you, tell Don.”
In 1956, Don had sent Baba’s X-rays to Dr. Sir Reginald Watson-Jones in London (who had examined Baba in London in 1952). The famous doctor wrote back, stating that Baba’s hip appeared dislocated, and unless it was operated upon, it would never be all right.
Don read “The Law of Karma” a second time, and Baba asked him again to give the gist of it. Don replied, “Baba, I understand from this that it is quite true that the entire universe is governed by laws. The material world may be less understandable in terms of being governed by laws, but the whole universe is governed by law, just like a good business.”
Although the whole universe is illusion, yet it is governed by a law, a definite law; and that law deals with every detail. We cannot escape from the law of karma. But when we transcend illusion, the law does not bind us any longer.
Krishna said the same thing to Arjuna, “Kill your relatives! Kill your friends!” in the battle of Kurukshetra. You must have heard about the famous battle. Arjuna refused, saying, “How can I kill my own kith and kin?” Krishna then declared, “I am above the Law. The whole creation is from Me, and you will not be bound.”
If here and now I tell you there is an ant, and suddenly Don kills it, of course, a binding is then created — the impression of the act of killing. You cannot be free from that binding. You are bound because you killed one ant. Every action that you do binds you -every action, every little action, whether good or bad. The good action also binds you, but you are bound then, let us say, by a chain of gold. And, if the actions are bad, then you are `bound, say, by a chain of steel.
Christ said, “Leave all and follow Me.” What did that mean?
Don replied, “I assume it means literally to leave everything and follow Christ within yourself.”
But the meaning behind it was not to leave all these things; not to renounce the world, it was to obey. Leave all thoughts, your selfish thoughts, and simply obey Me. Then, you are liberated, you are free. But if you cannot, then more and more bindings are created, for every action creates a binding.
You are very old, Don, ages old! And you are bound. And you will be bound and you will go on getting bound age after age. Age after age, the same bindings will be created; you’ll try to free yourself and in so doing, get re-bound. But once you are liberated completely, then you will realize that there was no binding at all. It was just imagination — a dream; you were seeing and experiencing only a dream.
Don Stevens arrived in Bombay from Europe. Don (Donkin) was sent to meet him, and they drove directly to Poona. On 11th February 1962, according to Baba’s instructions, Don accompanied Don Stevens and Joseph and Kari Harb to Satara and Mahabaleshwar to see the places connected with Baba’s work there.
On the morning of the 13th, Don brought Don Stevens to Ahmednagar in Meherjee’s car. In Ahmednagar, Adi and Francis joined them at Khushru Quarters and the four men left for Aurangabad. This was the second time Baba, for His own purposes, sent Don Stevens and Francis to the Ellora Caves, the first time being the 1955 Sahavas program
One day Baba, making certain that Don Stevens was not getting bored during his stay, instructed Donkin to take him out for a drive. Thinking Stevens would be interested in seeing a band of wild monkeys, Don drove him to the nearby forested canyon, Happy Valley. While climbing, Don warned Stevens to be careful of a poisonous vine indigenous to the area that sticks to the clothing and gives a terrible rash if touched. Bent on locating the monkeys, Don hiked on ahead, and soon Stevens lost sight of him.
After a while, Stevens decided to return to the car when all of a sudden he found he could not move. He looked down and saw that he had become entrapped in the poisonous vine that Don had warned him about. Cautiously lifting the end of the vine off his trousers and arm to unwind himself, he finally got loose and met Don by the car. When they arrived back in Meherazad, Baba immediately wanted to know if they had spotted any wild monkeys, but they had not.
The next morning, Don Stevens woke up and found a small rash on his hands. Baba came to mandali hall as usual in the morning of 21st February. Stevens had forgotten about his hands, but all of a sudden in the course of talking with him, Baba stopped gesturing and looked at him. As Baba watched him, Don Stevens noticed that he was unconsciously scratching his right hand.
“Don, what is that?”
Trying to evade the issue to protect Donkin, Stevens replied, “I don’t know, Baba, just a little bit of a rash.”
Baba pried further and soon found out about the incident. “But where was Don?” Baba asked, raising his hands in dismay. Again, Stevens tried to be evasive. But, soon after, he had to admit that they had gotten separated.
Baba was even more upset. “Go fetch Don,” he gestured angrily.
Furious, Baba asked Don for all the details. He was extremely annoyed and lashed out at Don for his carelessness. This was one of the first times Don Stevens had seen Baba take anyone to task so severely and perhaps this was the reason Baba had brought about the entire episode. “I wanted to crawl right underneath my cushion and disappear,” Stevens related. “I liked Donkin very much and hated to see him being raked over the coals for my own carelessness. I felt sick at heart.”
Soon after breakfast on 2nd April 1967, Baba left for Poona with the women and men mandali. Don had imported a new maroon Wellesley automobile from England and drove Baba, Mehera, Mani and Meheru in it. During the journey, Baba repeatedly remarked how comfortable He felt in the car, and he instructed Don to be at Guruprasad on 1st July to drive Him back to Meherazad.
Dr. Donkin relates that when it was suggested to Baba at Dehradun that somebody should try to record His work with Masts, Baba gave the task to Donkin. But he told Baba, “I have never written a book in my life”, “Never mind,” said Baba, you do it.” He did only try to make a faithful record of Baba’s work with masts and others in his book titled “The wayfarers”
Many years of fact-gathering, research trips to England and India, and four years of writing produced the 350-page volume which includes 60 photographs. The book covers the early years of William Donkin’s life, his move to India in 1939, and his spiritual dedication to Meher Baba.
For 30 years, he lived with and travelled the world with his Spiritual Master,
Demise-19th August 1969.
Baba said, “Dr. Donkin’s deep love for Me, unshakable fain in Me and unparallel and unparallel service for Me are beyond praise. Don comes from a wealthy family. His faith and love in Me are unique. His service in the army for Me alone, serves money Me and always gives Me help.
References/Images from: Various Lord Meher volumes, discontinued website's ambprasarkendra & love-remembrances, images and dates, stories etc from respective copyright owners websites or publications used with permission - i.e. In His Service, Glow International, MeherBabaTravels, MSI and MNP Collections, from AvatarMeherBabaTrust, BelovedArchives websites and from various other website sources, Books, journal etc. More information where ever available with us like letter scans, stories etc are added. Kindly feel free to Contact us with any updates, photos or corrections etc.
- Adi K. Irani (Adi Sr.)
- Anna Saheb Kale
- Bal Natu
- Bhau Kalchuri
- Don Stevens
- Eruch Jessawala
- Francis Brabazon
- Gustadji Hansotia
- Jal S Irani
- Kaikobad Dastur
- Murli Kale
- Ramjoo Abdulla
- William Donkin