An Historical Archive Project
Presenting the Life & Times of Vista Clinton
Sometimes there would be special occasions—a birthday or an anniversary—and the person celebrating would bring a treat. Vesta Clinton describes one such occasion, her 25th birthday. Earlier in the day Mehera had gotten a sari and dressed Vesta in it. And then finally, it was tea time:"After Mehera's nap we had a happy tea time! Look at the sweet and tender expression on Mehera's beautiful face! And she loved this photograph because it looks like Baba has His Hand on my shoulder. It was my best birthday ever as joy flowed freely and happiness filled the air. Baba's Presence and Pleasure was palpable. His Beloved Mehera was having fun and enjoying to the fullest! It truly was 'High Tea!' at the dining table of the Highest of the High!"
I arrived in India in 1973. I was young, spiritually immature and naïve; I was obsessed to meet the Mandali. Meeting them had become my purpose in life. If you drew a line down my body, this was the side of me that had not been scorched by life. The other side was quite different. The other side felt hopeless, helpless, and saw no reason to live. This was my scorched side. What saved the creature that held these diametrically opposed traits in one body? The answer is simple: they were both on fire with love for Meher Baba.
Immediately prior to coming to India I had suffered an event that left me deeply traumatized. So traumatized that I had devised a plan to visit my friends in Calcutta, travel across India to Meherazad and Meherabad for Darshan, and then leave for the Himalayas. I would search for a secluded cliff and jump off into the abyss. My thinking had become disturbed; I was certain that Baba would understand why I had to end this life, and be happy I at least had His Darshan before it was over. I convinced myself I would be one He would pardon for this grave mistake.
And then I landed in Ahmednagar; I met them, the close ones of the Avatar.
Since Bhau’s release from this life, I have reflected so much on my love for him and how much love for Baba he shared so openly with everyone. When he spoke of the Beloved it was with the sweet fragrance of the spiritual intimacy he was given from Baba. Bhau was quite different in those early years in both his outward appearances and behavior. He did not ‘talk and talk and talk’ as became his trademark as the years rolled by; he was more reserved and quiet. He appeared so simple, wearing cotton pants, was often times shirtless, or wore loose shorts with a T-shirt. He had that beautiful cocoa brown skin color, was stout in body, possessing what we teasingly referred to as a ‘Buddha Belly’.
Bhau was vibrant, alert, and indefatigable in the work the Lord had asked him to do. My first impression of Bhau was that of a man of simple means, few needs; he was also a man of serious contemplation and possessed a good measure of humor. His outward appearance as a simple man was deceiving; Bhau was highly intelligent, well versed in a myriad of subjects, deeply devout to the Master, and remained His humble servant until his last breath escaped his lungs.
For years Bhau was completely immersed in the scribing of Lord Meher. He would sit for hours together in his room at Meherazad going through stacks of diaries that were written by those who were with Baba. How he labored to pen those intimate recollections of life with the Avatar, translating into English from Hindi, Gujarati, and other languages. I marveled at his work ethic, and became enthralled by this man who worked relentlessly, in such solitude. Bhau was possessed with unstoppable energy.
I never heard Bhau complain even though I saw him moving his neck to ease the pain from leaning over the volumes of manuscripts. I watched from a distance as he would flexi his fingers from the cramping that came from holding a pen for hours together, days on end. Bhau would stretch his legs to ease the spasms from sitting so long in his chair, bent over that table. He would remove his glasses and rub his eyes, indicative of the strain he experienced from the intensity of reading hundreds of thousands of characters and words. The volume of the work of this man’s life is a testament to the fortitude of his spirit and his love for Meher Baba.
Bhau was particularly interested in the pilgrims who came. He would call them to his room and ask how they heard of Baba. He asked where they were born, and to tell him a little bit about their life. Then he would ask, “Your birthday! When is your birthday?” And once he got that date and year he would search for the journal or diary in the cupboard from that year, find the date, and tell them exactly what Baba was doing at the time they took their first breath. I’m sure it became an unforgettable moment to those so hungry to learn of the life of the Man who was God.
Several nights a week, all of us who lived in Ahmednagar would visit Adi in his office. Eric and Heather, Lindsay, Jako, Bob Street, David Fenster and I would enjoy this repartee with Adi as he spoke of his life with Baba, recited from Hafiz, or sang a Quwal which he would then translate. Adi recited stories that brought us to tears or had us rolling on the floor with laughter. And when Bhau was in town for Trust work, he joined in, sitting cross-legged on the chair, pan (an Indian digestive) tucked in his cheek that stained his lips red. We all shared in the merriment that can only come when one is in the Tavern and the Inn Keeper is pouring with a heavy hand.
Bhau’s laughter was something to behold! We concluded it had something to do with his stomach because his abdomen would bounce like a beach ball when he was enjoying an uproarious moment. And sometimes he would place both hands on his stomach while laughing and I used to tease him to hold tight or surely that tummy would grow feet and run away! How he enjoyed!
In those early days, Bhau was so much fun to listen to. Not only what he was saying was fascinating, but how he spoke added an additional measure of delight to the mix. We used to tease him to “…spit out the marbles from your mouth, Bhau!” Or we would laugh and tell him he sounded like Don Corleone from the movie the ‘God Father’. And then Adi would break in, “You all laugh now, but one day Baba will send this man all over the world spreading His Word and His Love. Bhau will be the one who makes that journey!” And this would set us off into fits of laugher again, and Bhau the loudest of all! But how true those words of Adi, spoken in 1974!
In 1976 my parents came to visit India for a couple of months. Mehera had arranged for them to stop off at Bindra House where Eruch’s mother and family lived and Baba had visited on numerous occasions. This was to break up the long journey over the Gatz Mountains from Bombay. Bhau was at Bindra House as well as he was in Poona on Trust work. My parents had come from Norway and were exhausted. They were also feeling the pain of my grandmother’s passing away a few days earlier. At Bindra House they had hoped to have some tea, a little bit to eat, and to rest before getting back on the road to Ahmednagar. Baba had different plans for them!
Bhau expressed such happiness to meet my parents. He was eager to give them an accelerated course on how all of creation began! Hence, Bhau spent the next two hours, with my parents sitting on the cot, explaining in detail the Original Whim of God! Bhau talked and talked about this Whim of God. My parents listened, eyes glazed over. No matter how I tried to change the subject, or bring them to the table, Bhau said, “Few minutes, Soldier. I will be finished in few more minutes.”
Later we came to know Bhau was going to return to Ahmednagar on a bus in the evening; we invited him to join in our taxi ride. This provided Bhau with
sufficient time to explain to my parents all about the Soul; the formless soul, the drop soul, the over soul and so on. He explained all about the planes of consciousness, the Beyond and Beyond-Beyond States of God. He tenderly described the state of a Mast. Bhau listed all the Avatars in order, and explained how Baba was now the conclusion of this Cycle of Cycles. It was classic Bhau! My mom still remembers the overwhelming joy of that trip with Bhau because he was so excited to share about his Beloved Meher.
We all have learned so much from Bhau. He so beautifully served his Master and what a tremendous volume of work he left posterity! He did not engage in gossip or backbiting. He was good about asking for forgiveness and to apologize when called for. Bhau was not one to criticize the behavior of others; however, he would lovingly offer corrective advice to those who needed it. He so eloquently spoke about pleasing the Master, and would urge forgiveness of those who had caused us pain or harm. “Why do you bother with what they say? Baba knows the Truth!” Or he might advise, “Forget about it. You must embrace them and kiss each cheek.” And he was known to tell us, even when we might not have been at fault, “Go to them. Please Baba. Ask for them to forgive you after apologizing for hurting them! Be done with all that stands in the way of harmony!”
While staying in Meherazad I was often sent to Poona for work. One night I returned late and rather than return to Meherazad at that hour when I knew Mehera and the women had already gone to sleep, I stayed in the Trust Compound. In the morning I got up early and went out to Meherazad for breakfast. When I arrived I was met by Mani and Eruch who were very upset with me. “How could you do this!?” “Is this how you behave when you are away from here for a night?” “What were you thinking, that we wouldn’t find out?” You see, Adi had sent a messenger by bicycle with a chit to them in the middle of the night that informed Eruch I had been dancing and drinking late at night on the roof of a house of the man who owned the canteen. Someone from the town had come to Adi and reported seeing me behaving like this. Adi was furious and wrote: “Your Golden Girl came to stay here for a night, telling me she did not want to disturb all of you at Meherazad. And what did she do but use this ruse to go out drinking and dancing in town at a party! You better take her to task or I will!”
And take me to task they did! Mani shook her finger at me; Eruch told me how disappointed he was in me. Then I got fed up; I was so hurt they would think I would do such a thing. I began to argue, pleading my ‘case’. “That’s a lie!” I said. “I never did such a thing!” It was to no avail. “Are you saying Adi is making this up? Do you want us to believe Adi is just stirring up the pot for no reason?” Then Mani dismissed me with a wave of her hand, pointing toward the house, and saying, “Go to Arnavaz! She wants a word with you! And don’t you dare mention this to Mehera!” I was shocked and stunned, and with each step I took as I headed back to the cottage where I stayed in the room with Naja and Arnavaz, I became angrier. I was no longer insulted or hurt; I had moved beyond being indignant. I was flat out angry to be falsely accused, to not be given a voice. I was mortified they would believe I would do such a thing as go drinking and dancing in town when I was staying at Meherazad.
When I got to the cottage Arnavaz was sitting on the bed. I knew not to stand over Arnavaz as I loved her so much and had immense respect for her. So I sat down and looked at her; I could see she was upset with me, also “What is the matter with you? After all Goher and I have poured into you, are you so stupid you would go drink and dance in public like this! Are you mad (crazy)?” Arnavaz cut me to the quick and I exploded. “I didn’t do this, Arnavaz. I can’t believe Mani and Eruch were so nasty to me. And Adi had no business sending out that chit without asking me if I did what I am being accused of. He saw me leave this morning and said nothing!” And then it happened; I got such a tight slap on my face and the shock literally paralyzed me wagging tongue.
I was stunned. The wind had left my bellows and the fire that engulfed me was barely an ember now. I was completely deflated and felt like my world had collided with a deadly asteroid and collapsed in on itself. Again I was dismissed harshly. “Now go see Mehera. She is waiting to have breakfast with you. And keep your mouth shut about this until we figure out what to do here.” And with that we both got up, I headed to the house, and she headed to the men’s side to see the Trust Car off to town.
I stewed all day. That evening at the dinner table, Mani was telling everyone about the lawsuit the Trust had filed. Rano also recited the legal aspects to Mehera. There was no small talk at all during dinner that night; everyone listened intently to Mani and Rano, agreeing with decisions made, understanding the serious nature of the case. Mehera was so sweet with Mani and Rano and lovingly assured them Baba would protect His Trust. (As an aside, the person they filed suit against died before it went to trial.) I, however, continued in my turmoil, yet nothing was ever mentioned to me about the previous night and Adi’s note. Mani was acting as if there had been no confrontation at all that morning. It was as if nothing had taken place that was upsetting.
When I climbed into bed, Arnavaz said, “Mani and Eruch were told you were not at the party, and the man who made the report to Adi made a mistake. You are lucky.” I was incredulous. I was ‘lucky’? Certainly what happened to me upon my return to Meherazad warranted an apology from Mani and Eruch. “Good!” I said. And lacking all self-discipline I was compelled to add: “I was right and they were wrong!” After this rude outburst, Arnavaz said to me, “You would never have lasted a second with Baba!” snapping her fingers in my face. “Now stop taking all the covers and be quiet and read your book.”
After a restless night, I awoke still crest fallen. I moped through the clinic day and in the afternoon, I went to see how Bhau was doing. I liked bringing him a lassi when it was summer time or some sugar cane juice when it was brought to Meherazad. He enjoyed when I brought him a nice cup of hot tea and a biscuit. Bhau immediately sensed my mood was off. “My Soldier. Why so melancholy? What has happened?” He must have known I was looking for some sympathy, a kind word, or reassurance this 24 year old neophyte to Ashram Life was still loved by her ‘family’. I could always depend on Bhau to comfort me with just the right words when needed. He was the best! And then the dam broke. My tears flowed like waterfalls and my nose began to drip; I was a blubbery mess.
“Soldier! What is this? Tears? Are they tears of love for Baba or tears of pity for your plight?” Bhau began wiping my nose and drying my tears. All of the sudden the drama turned comical and I burst out laughing. “Now that’s better” he said, “You’re not a baby, you’re His Soldier! Soldiers don’t cry, they do battle to the end! Now tell Bhau what is going on.” All of a sudden my upset seemed so ridiculous, yet I told him every detail about how indignant I was, how unreasonable Mani and Eruch were, how Arnavaz had even slapped me. And after all this, I explained how everyone was acting as if nothing happened. “And, Bhau!” I exclaimed, “I was right and they were wrong!”
Now it was Bhau’s turn to laugh. “You got ensnared in the trap of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’.” He slapped his thigh, continued laughing, declaring, “My Soldier, you let your false self catch hold of you. You were invested in ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ and not pleasing Baba. Had you wanted to please Baba you would have just said to them ‘I am sorry. It won’t happen again’, and be done with it. And if they continued to abuse you, you just keep apologizing until they are finished.” It was all so simple to Bhau. “Baba knows the Truth. So why displease Baba by being rude and argumentative with Mani and Eruch and then taking your anger back and give it to Arnavaz who loves you?” I was taken aback, quite humiliated by my childish behavior.
“But Bhau,” I lamented, “they should apologize to me for being so mean!” Bhau smiled as he took my hand in his, “You want they should apologize to you for protecting Baba and for loving you enough to scold you like they did?” It was in this moment I understood the obligation of love between companions, the duty we have with each other to care enough to lovingly correct errant and destructive behavior. But most importantly, I learned in that moment the incident was over. It was I who had lengthened my suffering by the choices I made. I had chosen to not let go at the dinner table the night before, even though I had experienced Mani had no ill will toward me. I had chosen to remain emotionally distraught a day later; I chose to not leg to of the past. At dinner Mani behaved lovingly with me, leaving her displeasure and upset from that morning in the past. Why did I hang on to the anger I experienced, my anger born of self-righteousness which stood in the way of my feeling the love I craved? It became clear; I was unaware of the concept of consciously choosing to please the Master in all I do.
“Oh, Bhau, I understand. Just because someone is upset with you it does not mean they don’t like you! They don’t stop loving you do they?” Bhau looked at me with such tenderness in his eyes, “Soldier, you are quite right about love. It comes from Him, goes through us and then continues its journey back to Him. It is not so fragile that it breaks so easily. And if we did not care for you we would not make the effort to keep you here and protect you like we do.” How Bhau took the time with me to make sure I understood this. But there was more to come. This was to be a day I would remember my entire lifetime.
The early 70s, Meherazad
“Soldier, arguing over such small things is unnecessary and leads to
complications. We all do it. And it never leads to anything good. Baba does not like arguing and upset and ill will from one to another.” Bhau had gained my attention. “You don’t argue, Bhau, do you?” I asked exposing my erroneous impression the Mandali are perfect people. He was serious as he replied, “Yes. I am weak. We all are weak. But we have to try to please Baba and Baba did not like when we did not get along. He was very particular with how we behaved with each other. When we would fight He would call for us and have us embrace in front of Him, make up, and forget about the upset.”
For me this was a profound discussion with Bhau. It is a conversation which happened repeatedly with Arnavaz, Mani and Eruch throughout my stay with the Mandali. The subject matter was ‘Harmony!’ In this moment Bhau explained how Baba’s Love for us is His Gift to us. He elaborated how our love for Him is also His Gift to us. Even our obedience to His Orders is Baba’s Gift from Him to us. “Soldier, the only thing you have to give Baba that is truly yours to give Him is your effort to promote harmony. This pleases Baba so much. And once you see the smile on His Face when you please Him, you only want to find His Pleasure in all you do.”
What a tender moment with Bhau. Although so absorbed in scribing ‘Lord Meher’, he took time to soothe an aching heart. He shared such wisdom in a ‘simple’ manner so I could understand. This quiet man, with that beautiful brown skin and the Buddha belly, was so kind in my moment of despair. Although Bhau led a simple life and wore simple cotton India pants, he was rich in his love for Baba. His heart was big and his spirit so tender. Bhau knew the real treasure was found in Harmony! Harmony is the key to pleasing the Master. Harmony is where the Divine Bounty is found!
Bhau exemplified how grand life can be when we live our life at the pleasure of the Master. He intimately knew the joy of behaving in a manner that promotes harmony in all we do, especially with all who cross our path in life. Harmony is that rare, sometimes unpolished, stone that outshines all the jewels in the crown on the head of the Lord. Harmony is the most precious gem that catches His Eyes!
Avatar Meher Baba Ki Jai!
There you have it...those who take His Order and His Pleasure seriously
You are named Ezad
The Only One Worthy of Worship
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