Wednesday, May 17, 2023

The New Life


                                                                                The New Life 

The savage winds struck quickly in the night and in the wake of their triumphant retreat, the air was damp, and limp, and fragrant with the odor of dead and dying trees. I remembered that in my half sleep the night before, I heard howls and screams. Tumultuous thuds shook the earth. I heard loud snapping sounds, like guns at war, but this in no way prepared me for what I saw when I stumbled into the garden that morning.

The corpses of ancient, mighty, trees, no match for their merciless and invisible enemy, lay broken and twisted apart, slain, and scattered on a battlefield scared with huge craters — where powerful roots were ripped from the earth.

I was stunned and silent, I recognized but couldn’t see, and within me and without, no thought or feeling conveyed from any place to any other. Surely, I would have wept — had I could.

Hours passed in seconds; days stretched into eternities. I wandered aimlessly through the garden, my beloved nowhere to be found.  Exhausted and confused, I sat down in some unfamiliar place and disappeared into the memory of an ancient song he had once sung to me. Upon recalling the words, “Let not despair and disappointment ravage and destroy the garden of your life…” I felt a soft rustling around me and then the soothing sound of my Beloved’s beautiful voice. At first, I couldn’t discern whether it was within me or without.

“’Let despair and disappointment ravage and ruin the garden of your life.’ That is how the song goes.”

I turned and he was there, suddenly, like he never had gone at all. My gaze fell to his feet and the hem of the white garment that draped his graceful form.

“This garden will live and die and live again,” he said softly.

I looked up into his gentle smiling face and for a moment, the entire firmament was eclipsed by his effulgence. His dark, luminous, eyes were warm and filled with love’s dew.

“You beautify the garden by contentment and self-sufficiency. Protect and love it. Nurture it as you would your very self but worry not if it is taken from you and you are left with nothing at all. Remember my silent words.

‘Even if your heart be cut to bits, let a smile be on your lips. Here I divulge to you a truth: Hidden in your empty hands is treasure untold. Your beggarly life is the envy of kings.’”[i]

“How can I not worry?” I begged. “I am attached to everything.”

 A fragrance of sandalwood and jasmine swirled around him as he seated himself on the ground beside me. Silence enfolded and caressed me. The rhythm of his breath became my own.   

“My Will is beyond you. My Wish is within you. Be happy. Do not worry,” he said.

“I am so tired and exhausted I can hardly think, yet your presence consoles me. I am so happy to be with you.”

“Rest,” he said and placed his hand lightly upon his leg.

My face fell into the soothing coolness of his garment and in its sanctuary I began to drift through strange dreams into a silent sleep. When I awoke in some unknown place, I instinctively reached out for him.


“Where are we?” I asked. “Is this still the garden? And am I even awake, or is this all some kind of dream?”

“Yes — and no,” he said. “The garden you know, your garden, is but a single flower in my garden. My garden is eternal and infinite; nothing exists outside of it. You may think that you can come and go, but in truth, you only move within it—from place to place.” “Where are we?” I repeated.

“Look!” he said.

We were standing in a small courtyard with floors and walls and benches of white marble. All around us were dark skinned men dressed in white linen. Wooden beads adorned their naked chests.

“Where are we?” I asked again. “I don’t recognize anything.”

“Another part of my garden.” he said with a gentle smile.

“And these men — who are they and what are they doing?”

“Come,” he said, and guided me through the courtyard and up a marble stairway to a large open verandah. I heard singing—a kind of chant— accompanied by drums and cymbals.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Guiding me toward the sound, he steered us through a crowd of people to a large central hall where men and women were engaged in what seemed to be a cacophony of various activities.

I looked around. Several other smaller rooms adjoined the hall at the back and on either side. These rooms were also filled with people. The atmosphere was charged with devotional fervor.

Taking me by the arm, my companion led me through the throng of people to a place in the middle of the verandah just adjacent to the central hall. Directly in front of us was a small enclosure that enshrined a large metal bell.

My Beloved looked thoughtfully at the bell and then back at me. “This bell has an interesting history. Listen carefully.  Can you see that large red fortress in the distance?”

 I followed his gaze to a majestic looking structure — like an ancient medieval castle — with impressive turrets and winding staircases.

“A powerful and greedy ruler once lived there,” he said. “His rule was very strict and without compassion. He made war on his neighbors and terrified the subjects of his own kingdom. One day, while gazing from his window, he saw this temple and decided that he would conquer and destroy it.”

“Why would he want to do that?” I asked incredulously.

“Man is ruled by his nature, and it was his nature to exercise power and control. And so, he dispatched a mighty army with thousands of soldiers, horses, and chariots of war. There were terrible weapons; the beating of drums was like thunder.                                                                                      

The army began to make its way across the plain and its tumultuous thunder was heard miles away by the people in the temple--even the ground beneath their feet shook with their mighty approach. But then, just as the soldiers were about to invade the temple, a magical event occurred. This bell began to ring and all the other bells in the temple began to ring also.”

“What made them ring?” I asked.

 “It was not rung by a human hand,” he said slyly, and then paused before continuing his story.

“The bells rang and rang—the sound was deafening. Frightened and confused, the army stopped advancing and their general sent a message back to the ruler informing him of the situation. The ruler, interpreting the event as a sign that the temple was under divine protection, recalled his army and the temple has stood undisturbed ever since.”

“Who rang the temple bells?” I asked.

“It was my order.” He replied.

“You must love this temple very much.” I said.

“I love all equally, no one temples or mosque interests me more than another, I was only executing the Divine Plan which includes everything and everyone.”

He turned and faced the main hall and in a voice distinct and clear he said:

“Come all unto me.”

‘Here, here is your Beloved! — the very object of your devotions, standing among you,’ I thought as I gazed upon the very pole of divine beauty. He looked deep into my eyes, as if he had heard my thoughts; his face wore an unfathomable expression.

“Though among them I stand at the very center of their devotions, they see me not, for they have come to worship their own worship and have made it their Lord. Look around you, you can see they have all fallen asleep.

“Real love is very rare; it is a gift from God to man. Only love can open their eyes and only love can reach my ears. They cannot see me, and the only prayer that I can hear is the prayer of the heart.”

My mind filled with questions — it seemed so profoundly sad, but before I could utter a single word, he took me by the arm and began walking through the hall to a recessed area behind one of the smaller rooms. The space was divided into three sections. We entered the first. It was a kind of chamber with only one man who left as soon as we walked in.

White and yellow flowers had been placed around the room and on the walls were some old-looking charts, carefully lettered in a script I could not read.

“What are these charts?” I asked.

“They are teachings and explanations that I gave to them hundreds of years ago.”

“What do they say?” I asked.

“It is not important—anymore; everything has its time and place,” and gently pushed me in the direction of another room.

This room was obviously a shrine. Beautifully painted murals rich in gold and silver adorned the walls of an alcove dominated by a large statue of some saint or god. An energetic procession of worshipers filed past the statue speaking and gesturing in devotional ways.

“Who is portrayed in this statue?” I asked.

“I come again and again; I have lived many lives,” he said simply.

He continued to view the procession as we spoke, sometimes appearing to take particular notice of one or more of the devotees.

“Of the many, there are always a few sincere lovers of God,” he said.

“When they pray, their prayers are heard.”

“If they are your real lovers,” I asked, “then why is it that they still do not notice you?”

“To see me and to know me is a gift that I bestow — when the time is right.”

He looked at me with such love that for a moment nothing existed but the two of us.

“It is time for us to leave here,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.”

He took my hand and for what seemed like only a moment a kind of curtain was pulled around me and then disappeared.  


We were standing in the middle of a walkway that led to a very large mosque. A sea of people surged around us.

“Where are we now?” I asked. “Are we here to see this mosque?”

“No,” he answered and began walking in the direction of the great building. We took no more than a few steps and he stopped.

“Look over there,” he said, and pointed to the side of the road. I looked but could not see what he was trying to show me.

“There,” he pointed. “There, on the ground — the man.”

And then I saw him, a thin nearly naked man lying flat on the ground. His face was turned to the side, and he was breathing in a strange, very rapid, rhythmic way. He was making sounds, but I couldn’t tell if he was saying anything. Even more strange was that he had no arms, just two short stumps, one of which he continuously beat or flapped ferociously in the air. I was shocked and appalled by the sight and quickly turned away.

“I don’t understand.” I said. “Is he a beggar?”

“Not a usual beggar, but a wayfarer,” he replied.

“What is he doing?” I asked.

“He is in a very high state of spiritual intoxication,” he said. “He is totally unconscious of the physical universe, not even conscious of his own body.”

“How did he get like that?” I asked.

“When he was just a child, he was given to a spiritual school. This school had knowledge of many ancient practices. You can say that this man is the result of certain experiments.”

“Experiments!” I said. “What kind of experiments?”

“Jesus referred to such practices when he said that there was once a time when the kingdom of heaven could be attained by violence.”

“So, what will become of this man?” I asked.

“I will help him,” my companion replied. “Now walk with me in the direction of the mosque, there is another man I want you to see.”

He gestured in the direction of a small gathering of people attending a man sitting on a platform in the middle of the road. He had no arms or legs, but unlike the first man he was carefully dressed in clean white linen.

“Is he spiritually intoxicated too?” I ventured.

“No,” my companion said. “This man is very advanced, but he is salik.”

“Salik?” I asked.

“Sober.” He replied.

“And is he the result of an experiment too?”

“No, he is this way because of tremendous personal efforts he has made. He has undertaken great penances and made many sacrifices. His work has been intentional and conscious.”

“Is there any connection between him and the other man?"

“Yes, this man is the first man’s spiritual master. He is his guide.”

 I was very interested to know why my Beloved had taken me to see these two strange men, but before I could even formulate a question, the man on the platform had taken notice of my companion and began gesturing to his attendants. They picked him up and turned him in our direction. He and my Beloved stared into each other’s eyes. For a moment, they were completely still and totally absorbed. Then just as quickly as it began, it was over.

“Come,” my beloved said. “This work is complete.”

“That man seemed to know you,” I said.

“He is one of my few direct agents,” he replied. “He is the Spiritual Chargeman for this part of the world and he is responsible for all of its affairs, come.”


He took my hand, and again a curtain of darkness was pulled around me, and then, just as quickly as before, it disappeared and we were standing on a painted wooden floor in a large open hall in a temple or monastery. Colored silks and tapestries adorned the walls. There were statues of Buddha and other deities. Smoke from incense filled the room.

“Where are we now?” I asked.

“A Tibetan monastery,” my companion replied. “Come.”

He steered us to the back of the hall where a group of monks in cranberry colored robes were performing some sort of ceremony. The leader was standing before a large square table that held an elaborately colored design.

“It is beautiful,” I said.”

“Look closer,” he replied, “it’s a painting made of sand.”

We took a few steps closer. Some of the monks noticed us and smiled.

“Look!” my Beloved said.

Standing closer, I could see that the painting was made of a variety of vividly colored sands. The design was very complex, and the sand had been piled up in a way that gave a sense of dimension and relief. Meanwhile, the monks were singing, bells were ringing, and a venerable old man moved forward and stood before the painting. He quietly began to intone a prayer.

I was unable to take my eyes off of the painting and found myself being drawn into some unique and strange feeling in which I experienced myself as being within  the space of the painting itself, wandering through a magical maze of glittering lights.

I had entered another world, more internal than external, composed

of pure feeling and pure thought. Wandering through its shining corridors, I experienced an endless array of sights and sounds and was drawn deeper and deeper into some pristine and subtle joy.

I was transformed. My body became light, and the painting was a prism that scattered me into a shimmering rainbow dancing with the rhythm of my own breath. Time disappeared into eternity. I laughed and cried, wishing only to be drowned forever in the tears of my own bliss.

But then something began to happen. My magical world was becoming undone — the patterns were breaking down. Colors swirled into each other. The shining corridors collapsed around me. I was terrified, shaking all over, and then, like out of a dream, I saw him. It was the old man standing over the painting. His hands were immersed in the sand and he was swirling it all together. The lines and patterns disappeared. It was becoming — just piles of colored sand.

“Why is he destroying it?” I cried, and then felt the hand of my Beloved on my arm.

“All creation lives and dies,” he said. “Life is transitory and only God is eternal. In the end, the painting is always destroyed — but it is honored. The sand is carefully collected and respectfully used again in other ways. This ceremony is about liberation from the illusion of suffering. It honors the journey-less journey to eternal reality. Destroying the painting in the end is a reminder that the ceremony itself is illusory and transitory in its nature and should not be maintained beyond the fulfillment of the purpose for which it was created.”

I watched the monks begin to fill containers with the sand they scraped from the table and wondered if my garden, and indeed my very life, was just a picture made of sand.

“Everything passes, nothing remains the same,” he said, as the curtain of darkness was again drawn around me. When it was lifted, I found myself once more in the place I had fallen asleep, still lying on my beloved’s lap.


I looked around. Everything was changed. The chaos and destruction were gone, but so was the garden.

“The garden is gone,” he said, answering my thoughts, “Because it is now time for your

 journey to continue. It is time for you to enter the New Life. Remember, everything


changes on your journey to the changeless eternal, but I am always with you. Do not


worry — be happy.”



This New Life is endless, and even after my physical death it will be kept alive by those


who live the life of complete renunciation of falsehood, lies, hatred, anger, greed, and


 lust: and who to accomplish all this, do no lustful actions, do no harm to anyone, do no


 backbiting, do not seek material possessions or power, who accept no homage, neither


 covet honor nor shun disgrace, and fear no one and nothing; by those who rely wholly


 and solely on God, and who love God purely for the sake of loving; who believe in the


 lovers of God and in the reality of Manifestation, and yet do not expect any spiritual or


 material reward; who do not let go the hand of Truth, and who, without being upset


 by calamities, bravely and wholeheartedly face all hardships with one hundred per cent


 cheerfulness, and give no importance to caste, creed and religious ceremonies. This New


 Life will live by itself eternally, even if there is no one to live it.”[ii]               

© copyright 2002 Michael Kovitz






[i] From Meher Baba’s “Song of the New Life.”

[ii] From Meher Baba’s New Life message.

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Saturday, March 18, 2023

The Four Stages of Duality


Shri Shankarro Chhapavale came alone for worship; on this Sri Baba asked, ‘You are alone today? Is your wife angry or what? If so, on whom; you or me? Anger is one of the means of effecting unity.’”


What causes a Perfect Master to speak? On many occasions Upasani Maharaj has said that if He were alone, i.e., not conscious of the world—of illusion—, He would not be seen to speak or act in any way. What would He need to say or do while experiencing Perfection in Perfection? The consciousness of others—of the world—of illusion—causes Him to speak—to act—actually, to appear to speak and act, while in Reality, He does nothing, for what is it for Him to do? This appearance of doing is prompted by the needs of others—of the world—of illusion—and is always motivated by Unconscious God’s lahar, i.e., whim, to know Himself.


Husband and wife are two Jivas who are opposed to each other both from within and without. The union of these two means the union of the husbandhood and wifehood, i.e., the male and the female state, and with this union the object for which marriage is effected is achieved.”


An objective and impartial look at creation, as the average person sees it, cannot be divorced from duality. Everything seems to have its opposite, every stick has two ends, every state has two sides, etc. The human form consists of both the male and the female forms. Normally they seem to be attracted to each other—to seek completion in each other. What is the motivation? The motivation—the drive—is union with God. When all opposites are joined together, i.e., when duality merges in union, the final merging, i.e., union with God is effected.


When two such opposites are joined together, then the pair of opposites in the form of ourself and God are seen to unite. One who has attained this state, whether a man or a woman, takes the whole world to be his abode, like Parameshvara (God as the Supreme being).”


Upasani details four stages of union that are achieved through the process of dissociation from opposites, from duality. The union of the male and the female duality constitutes an important stage. If a pendulum were envisioned swinging back and forth, the male and female forms are on either side. The pendulum swings back and forth over countless lifetimes, sometimes male and sometimes female, until identification with the two opposites ceases and the pendulum comes to rest.


But this pendulum is just one of countless pendulums that characterize gross consciousness and its projections in the gross world that is experienced by the vast number of souls in creation. This gross creation, with its universes and worlds, is that which science tries to understand and explain, and it is this gross creation which evolution and reincarnation finds itself mired in.


The male-female pendulum is just one of countless pendulums we see outside ourselves—like rich and poor, Christian and Jew, Hindu, and Muslim, healthy and sick, strong, and weak, smart, and dull, etc. Upasani Maharaj is telling us that all these gross dualities must be extinguished in unity—in oneness, and the key is love, the way is love, and the goal is love, but this love is not what we think it is, and the pendulums that comprise gross consciousness and the gross world are just one of the four stages that need to be crossed. Once all the dualities of creation are united, the next stage, the duality of external and internal, of me and you, i.e., the duality of the state of within and without the world needs to be united.


After the union of the male state and the female state, representing the union of dualities exhibited by and throughout the whole of gross creation, there still exists the duality of internal and external. In other words, there still is the sense that one exists in creation, but that creation itself is something other than oneself. I believe that when Upasani Maharaj speaks about the union of within and without the world, he is speaking about the shift of consciousness from gross consciousness to subtle consciousness—from the state of evolution and reincarnation to the state called involution wherein lie the subtle and mental worlds with their various planes and heavens. These worlds do not have a physical location outside of oneself. They are all inner states of consciousness.

The mental and the subtle worlds, consisting of six planes of consciousness and their heavens, and the gross world, consisting of all stars and planets, etc., and all forms and beings from stone to man, etc., can be said to encompass the Divine consciousness of the soul, as it were, like three bubbles. But how, since the soul and its consciousness are eternal and infinite, can it be encompassed by anything? So, when it is said that the soul and its consciousness is encompassed by three bubbles, this apparent encompassing must be false and is the result of gross consciousnesses’ attempt to explain and understand that which is beyond itself. [1]


Meher Baba explains that the sixth plane is the final plane of consciousness before union with God. In this state, one sees God everywhere and in everything and yet does not experience oneself as God. The experience of oneself as God is the Goal. There is no goal beyond this Goal. This union is the final stage that Upasani Maharaj is speaking about.


Upasani Maharaj then goes on to explain, “Thus there are three pairs of opposites; one, a man and a woman; two, man and God; three, within and without the world. Once the union of the first is effected, union of the other two become automatic in the course of time. When within and without the world the world are harmonized—united—then one is able to see the world anywhere, even in ‘(the) beyond the world (state)’ or ‘‘(the) beyond the world everywhere in the world (state).’”[2]


In other words, one is able to see everywhere and everything without any distinction between within and without, because if the external ceases to exist, then it follows the internal ceases to exist as well. One can only imagine what this state would be like, or as Kabir once said, “Until you experience it, it is not true.”


Upasani Maharaj once recounted the occasion when he woke up in Sai Baba’s body. (Sai Baba was the Perfect Master who precipitated Upasani Maharaj’s God Realization). He said that Sai Baba simultaneously woke up in his body. This was significant because Sai Baba had Muslim followers while Upasani Maharaj had Hindu followers. So, the Muslim followers actually were bowing down to a Hindu Master in their Master’s body while Upasani’s followers were actually bowing down to Sai Baba in his body. He went on to say that all this might seem quite strange because we are so attached and identified with gross forms, but, in fact, if we could see beyond the gross, we would observe how consciousness is constantly migrating among different gross forms in its journey to Realization.


When you’ve seen beyond yourself then you may find,

Peace of mind is waiting there,

And the time will come when you see we're all one,

And life flows on within you and without you.” – George Harrison (Within You, Without You)


In short, when two opposites are harmonized into one, one first experiences himself to be within and without the world, that he is born of the Infinite, and then, as everything disappears, he experiences himself to be nothing. This means that originally one was not conscious of one’s own existence, and then, having gone through these stages, he becomes conscious of it all. This peculiar cycle of experiences goes on coming into existence and disappearing.”- Upasani Maharaj


So, it all comes back to the three states of God, i.e., God in the state of deep sleep, God asleep, but in the dream state, and God in the fully awake state. Just as the average human experiences the cycle of deep sleep, dreams, awake state, dream, and deep sleep, etc., and just as the average human being must pass through the dream state from the deep sleep state to the awake state, and vice-versa, God too, must pass through the dream state on His journey from His deep sleep state to His fully awake I am God state. The dream state of God is what the average human being experiences as the ’awake state’ in creation.


This dream state of creation is diametrically opposed to the Unitarian state of God, and hence, is characterized by duality—opposites. When these opposites are harmonized—unified— within an individual consciousness, duality disappears and all of creation ceases to be for that consciousness, and what remains is God, the same original God that was before creation, but with one difference—the most important difference—In the original God state consciousness was only latent, while in the God state after creation, full, perfect consciousness is now manifested, i.e., God is now conscious of being God, “I am God!” Creation consciousness was the mechanism by which this consciousness was manifested and perfected. This was, is, and will be, the only real purpose of creation.


But how to emancipate oneself from all dualities—from creation consciousness? As G.I. Gurdjieff once put it, “It is like trying to jump over one’s own knees.” The harder one tries, the more enmeshed one becomes. But God is all merciful and eternally benevolent, He would not leave us without a way.  All religions, all the yogas, and all real spiritual teaching, have been provided to help us, but the most efficient and quickest path of all, is the Path of Love—love for God. But how to love God?


God in the Original Infinite God State is called impersonal God, “…without color, without form, and without attributes; unlimited and unfathomable, beyond imagination and conception...” – Meher Baba (Parvardigar Prayer)


But for most people, love of this impersonal God is very difficult because it is, well, impersonal, and so God also manifests as personal God in the human form of a Perfect Master or the Avatar, and through that form loves us, speaks with us, jokes with us, and becomes the Perfect recipient worthy of our love for Him.

For love, there must be a relationship, and so to love God in the most natural way, one must put oneself in a relationship with a personification of God, and the best way to do this is by winning the opportunity to be in the presence of and to serve a living Perfect Master or the Avatar. To win this fortune can take many lifetimes, or it could happen in a flash. But, in either case, God in the form of Infinite Intelligence is always working behind the scenes, directing the drama and guiding each and every step of the Way. All religions and teachings, with all their efforts and sacrifices and studies, in fact, all of life itself, are merely steps that lead to His door.


It really is quite a drama we are all caught up in. It is sometimes a comedy, sometimes a tragedy, sometimes heaven and sometimes hell, but in the end, Meher Baba has told us, it is always a mighty joke, because it is a drama that never was, is, or will be. It is a drama that took no time at all because time itself was just part of the drama—the illusion. But, until we reach the Goal, it is a drama that is for us, for the most part, totally incomprehensible.


Therefore, until then, until the end, we go on living our lives and experiencing the drama and not the Reality and acquiring more and more thirst for that Reality. This is perhaps the meaning of Rumi’s statement, “Cry out less for water, and cry out for thirst more!” For in the beginning, when life turns to God, it is always to make life better, to satisfy its desires, to quench it thirst, but for the one who has turned away from life’s hollow promises, but is not yet free of life’s clenches, the wayfarer—the seeker—the lover of God—realizes that the thirst itself is the reminder and the motivation to love God more and more, and so cries out less for water, and cry out for thirst more.


At this stage, the wayfarer—the seeker—the lover of God—still thirsts, but not for water, but for Wine, Divine Wine, and begins to sing a new song.


“For this Path of Love, so smooth at first account, but soon we saw how troubles pile, perplexities mount. Cupbearer ho, we pray relieve our soul, give us Wine for pity’s sake, pass round that bowl!” – Hafez

                                                                                                                                 ©Michael Kovitz 2023





[1] For the full explanation and elucidation of the three worlds, please see the book, God Speaks, by Meher Baba

[2] I added this parenthesis as an attempt to make clear this sentence in the translation. Still, there remain more questions regarding the significance of these state…

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Monday, January 23, 2023

Carlito and the Church of El Santuario


About an hour’s drive from Santa Fe, New Mexico, in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, in the little village called El Potrero, stands the church called El Santuario de Chimayo (originally named Tsi Mayoh by the Tewa Indians). Renowned for its reputation as a healing church, the Catholic Church considers it one of its ten most important pilgrimage centers in the United States.

Edna Lena and I first visited that church about six years ago—before Covid, before Trump, before the country and the world was becoming aware of the horrendous contradictions and divisions that were surfacing from the depths of its collective consciousness. That said, even then, the enormous suffering of the planet was obvious to anyone who had the courage to look.

El Santuario was not difficult to find, even for the directionally challenged like Edna and me. Everyone in the town knew where it was, and everyone was happy to give us directions. We parked our car on the side of the road and followed the sign to a little lane that led to church. For me, there was a sense of being on sacred ground and a feeling very reminiscent of rural India. There was also a sense that I’ve consistently experienced at sacred sites, of not quite being in my physical body. Along the way were a few very modest looking stalls and stands and simple domiciles.

The first stall we encountered belonged to Carlito. Carlito looked to be a man in his fifties, full of life and energy—and a real zest for selling his hot pepper powders that he arrayed on a wooden table before us. If memory serves me correctly, I believe he said that he was a descendant of Don Bernardo Abeyta, who two hundred years before was told in a vision that the ground under his plow had healing powers. 

“Take this in your mouth but don’t swallow it,” he instructed us as he broke open a pistachio nut with his fingers and handed their fruits to Edna Lena and then to me. Then, with the empty broken shells he scooped up one of his chili powders and handed it to us saying, “Take this in your mouth and chew it with the pistachio, and then swallow it.”

We did as he instructed. It was delicious, the heat and bitterness of the chiles was perfectly balanced and enhanced by the sweetness and the saltiness of the nut. There were at least five different kinds of chilis and chili mixes on the table. We repeated the process with each one and ended up buying almost all of them, which we later brought home and enjoyed for over a year.

Carlito was also an artist, a painter of mystical religious paintings. He invited us to view some of his works in a series of rooms that adjoined his pepper stand. A few of the subjects I can remember were the church, Catholic saints, and nature. Some of the paintings were rather large and most were displayed in heavy rustic wooden frames. If you asked him, Carlito would tell you about the paintings. The inspiration for most came from his dreams and there was an unmistakable otherworldliness about them.

When we took leave of Carlito and his paintings, we walked a few steps down the road to the broad paved plaza of El Santuario. To our right were a few church buildings and a gift shop, while to our left, just adjacent to the church, was a patio with benches and flowers and shrubs.

From the outside, the church building looked simple and modest. It was a weekday afternoon and there were not more than a few people inside the church. We sat down on one of the old wooden pew benches. Surrounding us on all sides were murals and statues of various Catholic saints and Jesus Christ. The feeling was somber, but there was a lightness too. I closed my eyes and began inwardly taking Meher Baba’s name.

After about fifteen minutes, Edna Lena and I got up and walked to the front of the church. It was then that we saw a little door off the nave that led to a smaller room with a hole in the floor. In the hole was dirt—the sacred healing dirt of El Santuario, while around the room were piled from floor to ceiling, old crutches, walkers, and braces of all kinds, apparently left there by the throngs who had been healed. I reached down into the hole, picked up a pinch of dirt and touched it to my forehead, again while taking Meher Baba’s name. I picked up another pinch and touched it to Edna Lena’s forehead. I don’t recall feeling anything unusual or miraculous.

After leaving the church we sat on the patio for a little while before making our way to the buildings to right of the church. I recall that the gift shop was small and rather crowded and that there was another building or room where one could leave donations. My memory is not very clear on this point, but I believe that there another room with a ledger, or possibly ledgers, where one could write something—some request, or prayer, or revelation. The ledgers were open for all to see. I read through a few of them. Most were pleas for relief from various forms of suffering—mental, physical, spiritual.

Being a follower of Avatar Meher Baba, I had already put my life in his hands, at least to degree that my ego would permit, and so I didn’t feel right about asking for relief from my situation. Instead, quoting from a prayer dictated by Meher Baba, I wrote something to the effect of, may God help us all to love him more and more... After that, we placed a small donation in the box and headed back to our car.

As I mentioned, that was about six years ago…

Now, in June of 2022 Edna Lena and I revisited Santa Fe and El Santuario de Chimayo. Much had changed in the world, though depending on one’s perspective, maybe not much had changed. Suffering is still suffering. History shows us that it has been with us for forever. On a personal level, Edna Lena was still managing her store and I was still teaching and playing music. The challenge for Edna Lena was helping the family to care for her aged and infirm mother—a situation quite common in the world today. As for my health, it had its share of ups and downs, but all considered, we were both doing quite well. I would often remind Edna Leana and myself that the world is suffering, why should we be any different?

We had gone back to Santa Fe for rest and relaxation. The idea was to plan as little as possible, let things happen, eat some good food, drink some nice wines, do some hiking and exploring and buy a few gifts for us and our friends. We also wanted to see the church again, but in all honesty, we mostly wanted to buy some more of Carlito’s chili peppers.

It took us awhile to find the place again, memory has a funny way of rearranging things, but by the time we stepped into the little lane in El Potrero, my memories of rural India began to emerge as well as the feeling of being on sacred ground. Also too, I began to have that sense that I was not fully in my physical body.

But what was different this time was a little chapel called Santo Nino (Holy Child). We had not seen it at all on our first visit, but this time, we noticed it immediately after stepping out of our car. Named after a much older chapel in Plateros, Mexico, it is dedicated to the Christ child, Jesus of Nazareth.  Santo Nino is more modern than El Santuario and much smaller, but its structure was similar in that there was a small room off the larger central nave with an altar. But in this room, instead of crutches and walkers, around the alter and on all sides of the room were children’s shoes stacked from floor to ceiling.

I immediately began to feel uncomfortable. It was a mixture of fear and suffering and desperation, but it didn’t feel like my fear and suffering and desperation, it seemed to be definitely coming from the room itself and especially all those shoes. I know Edna Lena was a little surprised at how quickly I wanted to leave but I recall that we didn’t talk about it then. Instead, we crossed the lane and headed for Carlito’s pepper stand.

We were happy to see him and, apparently, he remembered us too. The routine was the same. We tasted his various peppers mixed with the pistachios and served in their shells. We bought four kinds of peppers and I bargained for a fifth, a mixture he called Alfredo which Carlito had been pushing us to try almost from the beginning.

At first I wasn’t particularly interested in the Alfredo though it was tasty, but it was also sweet. I wasn’t sure how I would use it, but I must say that since we’ve been home I’ve used it in various sauces and it really is incredible. But at the time, I really wasn’t interested in buying it as a fifth item—you only need to buy four to get the discount—and so it was really an offhand remark that I made to him about just throwing in the Alfredo with our purchase.

Carlito didn’t respond at first and so I just let it go, but then he began to tell us about a dream he had many years before and it made me remember that on our first meeting he had also shared some of his dreams. It started to come back to me, at the time I felt that his dreams were not ordinary dreams but more astral—perhaps prophetic. At first, my recollection interfered with hearing what he was saying now, and it took me a moment to begin to track his story.

What I recall is that in this dream he was instructed to take a coin, I believe it was a nickel, and to bury it somewhere. A number was given to be multiplied by another number that would yield the number of nickels that would result from burying the first nickel. The numbers and the dream were very specific and Carlito asked us to do the numbers in our head, which neither Edna Lena nor I were able to calculate. Carlito supplied the number, which seemed to have great significance since the number was exactly what the voice had said it would be.

I found the dream to be very interesting and I remembered that in the dreams he had described to us years before, there were also a lot of numbers. Anyway, it wasn’t until we have finished transacting our purchase and Carlito placed the Alfredo in our bag with the other peppers that I realized he had told us about his dream in response to my asking him for the free Alfredo.

We stopped in to see some more of Carlito’s paintings. I especially remember one of a large tree in full bloom. He drew our attention to how the colors of the tree changed when viewed from different angles.

After we took leave of Carlito and while we were walking to the church I began to wonder if Carlito was not an advanced soul. He seemed to be close to, very in touch with, the sub-subtle sphere, what is typically called the astral world—the sphere of dreams. It was only a feeling, though a strong one, because his outer appearance did not exhibit anything that one usually associates with an advanced soul; but then again, what exactly do we think an advanced soul should look like or act like? In Sufism, the most advanced souls were merchants and craftsmen with mundane occupations. To follow them on the internal path of consciousness, one would begin by learning their external occupation or craft. The “apprenticeship” would sometimes take years, even decades. Think of the movie, The Karate Kid…

Anyway, it was just a thought, it really doesn’t matter much to me whether Carlito was advanced or not; I no longer feel any need to intellectually confirm the existence of advanced souls or higher consciousness, what matters to me is direct experience. As Kabir said, “Until you experience it, it is not (yet) true.”

So we turned off the road and entered the plaza that led to the church. It was a warm sunny summer day and the whole feeling was quite pleasant. We only saw a few people and there were only a few people in the church when we entered it. They were standing close to the nave and were talking. Their demeanor was serious but did not seem unduly heavy. I could not hear what they were discussing.

I asked Edna Lena if we could sit for a while. She nodded and we took a seat in a pew in the middle of the room. As we had on our first visit, I closed my eyes and began to silently repeat Meher Baba’s name. But unlike the first time, after just a few minutes, I had a strong feeling to stop and so I told Edna Lena I was done. We got up and she wanted to go into the room with the healing dirt, I told her I would wait for her outside. I still didn’t know what was motivating me, and I still don’t. It wasn’t that I was feeling uncomfortable, it was just a feeling that I didn’t have any reason for being there.

Edna Lena and I then went back to the plaza and headed in the direction of the gift shop and the other church buildings, but many of them were closed, I suppose because of Covid concerns, and so we walked back to our car and headed back to Santa Fe with our bounty of Carlito’s peppers.

We talked some about our experiences along the way.  We both felt that El Santuario brought us in touch with suffering, not specifically our own suffering, but the suffering of human existence. The few people we had seen seemed serious, resigned, and in need of some kind of solace. Of course, Carlito didn’t manifest that way. He seemed light and bright and happy—quite the same as he had years ago. But looks can be deceiving. We all bear or suffering in different ways and unlike the Masters, we can only see the outer manifestations of others. And perhaps this is a good thing, a compassionate thing, that we can only see so much, because to see it all and not be spiritually prepared would perhaps be unbearable. A Perfect Master of the late nineteenth century once said, “A time is coming, and it is not far off, when without spiritual preparation you will look out your window and you will go crazy.”

History shows us that suffering has always been life’s constant companion. But why? Is it because our thoughts, words, and deeds can never quite get it right? There are, I am told, at least twenty different words in the New Testament that are translated from the ancient Greek and Hebrew as sin. All these different words and their meanings amount to this, sin means to miss the mark.

Fair enough, but suffering exists in all forms of life, everything from insects to fish to birds to animals. Do animals suffer because they miss the mark? The motivation of all life up to the human form is motivated by instinct and not intellect. There is no reasoning per se as we understand it in the actions of animal, so how is it that an animal can miss the mark? Instinct itself is motivated by the need to eat, to keep from being eaten, and to procreate. What’s wrong with that? Yet, animals suffer.

   Hafez said, “Praise be to God, for he never ties his slave in vain.” Hafez also said, “About what you hear from the Master, never say it is wrong, because the fault lies in your incapacity to understand.” But what is to be understood? The role and meaning of suffering in life?


Driving through the high desert with the Sangre de Cristo mountains visible in the distance, Edna Lena and I began to reflect on our experiences at El Santuario.  We had both felt that there was an aura of the suffering surrounding El Santuario, like the Sangre de Cristo mountains in the distance as we drove back to Sant Fe, but there had also been an unmistakable sense of transcendental peace and light that pervaded the church and the village. It was a weekday and so there were not many people visiting the church, but the few we saw had seemed serious, resigned, and seeking some kind of solace. They did not seem to be locals. Of course, Carlito hadn’t manifested that way. He seemed light and bright and happy—quite the same as he had years before.

But looks can be deceiving and unlike the Masters, ordinary consciousness only perceives the outer manifestations of things in others and in other’s actions. And perhaps this is a good thing, a compassionate thing, that we can only see so much, because to see it all and not be spiritually prepared would perhaps be unbearable. A Perfect Master once said, “A time is coming, and it is not far off, when without spiritual preparation you will look out your window and what you see will make you go crazy.”

We took a brief detour to stop at Camel Rock. It can be seen from the highway and, as its name suggests, looks like a camel with a large hump resting on the ground. What is the old saying? “Death is a camel that lies down at every door.” As we walked along the little paths surrounding the camel and looked out over the high desert vistas, I wondered if someday that rock would actually take the camel form on it journey to God consciousness. And I wondered how many lifetimes and forms would it need to pass through before it achieved that animal form? Again we can wonder, but only the Avatar and His constellation of God realized Masters can say for certain…

History shows us that suffering has always been life’s constant companion. But why? Is it because our thoughts, words, and deeds can never quite get it right? There are, I am told, at least twenty different words in the New Testament that are translated from ancient Greek and Hebrew as sin. Their meanings seem to come down to this, sin means to miss the mark.

Fair enough, but suffering exists in all of life’s forms, everything from insects to fish to birds to animals. Is it even possible that these pre-human forms, guided by infinite Intelligence can miss the mark? Meher Baba tells us that Infinite intelligence is the light that guides all of life, but up to the human form it manifests as instinctive unencumbered by human reasoning and is driven by the basic needs to eat, to keep from being eaten, to sleep, and to procreate. What’s wrong with that? Needs are not desires and instincts are not reasoned. Yet, animals suffer, or at least they appear to experience pain.

When the Masters and the Avatar speak about human suffering, they seem to agree that most suffering is unnecessary. This suggests to me that the suffering caused by missing the mark is unnecessary, but the suffering that comes to us by virtue of just being alive, and life’s imperatives to eat and keep from being eaten, and procreate, is necessary and unavoidable.

 These imperatives are a legacy that the human consciousness share with all the lower kingdoms of evolution, but the suffering of sin is unique to human consciousness.

 Regarding the inability to understand God’s plan, especially regarding suffering, Hafez, a Perfect Master said, “About what you hear from the Master, never say it is wrong, because the fault lies in your incapacity to understand.”

But what is to be understood? Certainly, the meaning of suffering and its role in life falls into this category. Humankind seeks and has been seeking an answer to this question, and religions, ethical and moral codes, various philosophies, and teachings have always been happy to voice their opinions. But their various answers are as diverse as the religions, codes, philosophies, etc. themselves.  For me, their attempts remind me of the tale of the five blind men who seek to describe an elephant. The blind men all touch the elephant in different places and therefore one describes the elephant after touching its trunk, another after touching its ear, another after touching its side, etc., and therefore they can never agree, because no one can see the elephant in its totality.

The obvious question seems to be, is there anyone who can see the elephant in its totality? And the answer seems just as obvious, the one who is not blind is the one who can see the elephant in its totality. Of course, this leads us to the next most obvious question…


 Back at our vacation rental in Santa Fe, over a glass of wine and some homemade guacamole, and with the memories of our visit to the Church of El Santuario still vivid in my mind, I returned to the question of the meaning of suffering and its role in life. For me, the explanations of traditional religions, moralities, and philosophies just seemed to miss the mark, like the explanations of the five blind men’s attempts to describe an elephant after touching it in different places.

Unlike the traditional answers, the explanations of the Masters seemed to be quite consistent. By the Masters, I mean those souls who have achieved full and perfect consciousness of Self while retaining full consciousness of all of creation. Meher Baba has explained that there are five such Perfect Masters on the planet at all times, and that it is these five Perfect Masters, as well as the periodic Incarnations of the Avatar to whom I am referring.

And what do they say? They tell us that life is meant only for the evolution and involution of that consciousness which will enable the embodied soul to experience Self, i.e., God. This process of life is guided by an unerring Infinite Intelligence which is within everyone and everything. The Masters tell us that one’s life is always the perfect life for that soul at the time. The pattern of this life is commonly referred to as one’s Karma. Karma is the hand we are dealt, and Dharma is the way we play that hand. To play that hand at the highest level furthers the journey in the most expedient and merciful way.

Meher Baba spoke about those who are inspired to wholeheartedly make efforts to live life at this highest level and of those who are not yet able to embrace that life freely, consciously and with love. 

The spiritual experience that is to enliven and energize the New Humanity cannot be a reaction to the stern and uncompromising demands made by the realities of life. Those without the capacity for adjustment to the flow of life have a tendency to recoil from the realities of life and to seek shelter and protection in a self-created fortress of illusions.

Such a reaction is an attempt to perpetuate one's separate existence by protecting it from the demands made by life. It can only give a pseudo solution to the problems of life by providing a false sense of security and self-completeness. It is not even an advance toward the real and lasting solution; on the contrary, it is a sidetrack from the true spiritual path.

Man will be dislodged again and again from his illusory shelters by fresh and irresistible waves of life and will invite upon himself fresh forms of suffering by seeking to protect his separative existence through escape.” – Meher Baba


Certainly, few among us would intentionally invite suffering. As one of Meher Baba’s close disciples once said, “A kiss and kick from Meher Baba are one and the same—still, I prefer the kiss.” And who wouldn’t?

But pain and suffering are not the same and perhaps pain does not have to automatically lead to suffering. For are the Masters not saying that the source of suffering lies not in the pain itself, but from the attempt to perpetuate one's separate existence by protecting it from the demands made by life, in other words, from one’s attachments?

I tried to recall those people I saw at the Church of El Santuario. Illness, loss of loved ones and possessions—all the sources of pain and suffering on physical, mental, and emotional levels—who can blame anyone for praying for relief? Sure, we may sincerely aspire to the ultimate experience of God, but still, along the way, are we not mere human beings who seek pleasure over pain, success over failure, happiness over grief?

Christianity calls our state the state of the holy ghost. We our holy because, in fact, our reality is God, but our state is the illusion is man who, like a ghost, haunts life from form to form, lifetime to lifetime, mostly unconsciously, sometimes consciously, seeking and ultimately realizing the source of Truth which all the time was, is, and always will be, within us—is us.

Throughout history, man has sought a way to traverse the path and reach the goal. No doubt, if there was such a way, such a single one-size fits all way, it would have been found by now. And certainly I, who has yet to realize the goal has neither the experience, the authority, or the knowledge, to offer such a way. But there is one thing I personally have found to be helpful is that brutal self-honesty can help us to avoid many of the karmas that lead to unnecessary suffering. In other words, to not cloak selfishness in the guise of altruism, anger in the guise of righteousness, and personal motivation in the guise of compassion. I’m not talking about deceiving others, I’m talking about learning to not deceive oneself, and this is not so easy, for the limited ego through the mind is always trying to promote itself and justify itself and its ‘truths’ and does it so effectively that one does not even know it is happening.

And here is where the Masters and the Avatar come in. For the limited mind cannot help itself. Gurdjieff used to say it was like trying to jump over your own knees. And the help of another limited mind is at best limited. But the help of an unlimited, infinite mind, is invaluable. Hence the significance of Hafez’s statement, “The mind is spinning in all directions, like the needle of a compass. And inside that circle where the mind is wheeling everywhere, one foot is held in place by the Master.”

And, in fact, the Master, in the form of Infinite Intelligence, is always there, always holding the foot, but see his Knowledge and his Compassion; when he realizes you are pulling too hard away from him, he gives you just enough slack that you don’t break your own leg.

And so, the push and pull goes on and on within each lifetime and over millions of lifetimes until we come to the point where we freely choose for ourselves out of love and never out of fear or coercion to allow the Master to guide us one hundred percent of the way and to hold on to him until the very end.

There is nothing more powerful than love, for love is unconquerable and unstoppable. It will always win out in the end, and so as the great Masters said,

 Come, come, come, whoever you are—

 Wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving,

It does not matter, ours is not a caravan of despair.

Though you may have broken your vow a thousand times,

Come, come yet again, come.” – Shams/Rumi






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