Should Baba-Lovers Observe Silence Every July 10th?
A discussion by members of the “Baba-Lovers” Facebook group, edited by Kendra Crossen. All are invited to add their comments below.
After the following discussion, there is a quote from Eruch regarding whether the observance of silence as a spiritual practice, on days other than July 10th, is desirable for Baba-lovers,.
This article is based on a July 2012 discussion in the “Baba-Lovers” group on Facebook.
One person posted, “I’ve been wondering about this very topic, whether Meher Baba ever gave a general order to keep silence every year.” The view was expressed that Meher Baba did not expect his lovers to observe silence on Silence Day, July 10, every year, forever, following the dropping of his body. Some group members feel that to do so would be “ritualistic” or characteristic of “religion” (Shariat, as opposed to Tariqat, the inner path), while others believe that it is desirable to do so nonetheless, to please Baba. It was argued that the mandali had the view that Baba would want us to observe his Silence Day each year by observing silence.
Before we present some of the dialogue, here is a quote from Meher Baba himself on the general topic of rituals and the orders of a Master or the Avatar:
“For most persons, the outer ceremonies and rituals prevalent in the diverse religions are the established approach to God and Divinity. They are regarded as indispensable. However, they are neither essential nor necessary, though at times they have been allowed or given by masters by way of inevitable accommodation to human weakness. They may also be practiced with benefit when they are thus allowed or given by a master, but only during the period for which they have been prescribed, and in the context in which they are intended to be given effect. They have no lasting value nor can they be made eternally binding. They were never essential or indispensable; they are never essential or indispensable; and they will never be essential or indispensable.
“Let us take for example the stern discipline and fasts associated with Ramadan. No doubt they serve some spiritual purpose. But one way of looking upon it is to regard them as a sort of compulsory rationing of food and water in those areas where they were rare, and where such control was necessary in the interest of society. It is not necessary to convert the instructions of the Prophet into inflexible and eternal rules of discipline. In the context in which they were given they served both material and spiritual purpose. They cannot be regarded as inescapable or necessary in all times and climes. The same thing applies to any other disciplines given by other seers or masters.”
—Meher Baba, in “Prayer as Inner Approach,” Beams from Meher Baba on the Spiritual Panorama, pp. 73-73
Meher Baba began to ask those who loved him to observe the anniversary of his silence, July 10th, beginning in the year 1953. Silence was not part of the 1953 observance (see Lord Meher 12: 4184). But in 1954:
“Baba desires all those who love him to:
1) Observe fast and complete silence from 5 A.M. on July 10th, 1954, to 5 A.M. on July 11th, 1954 (Eastern Standard Time, U.S.A.).
2) To try to keep pure in thoughts and actions during this period of silence.
3) To repeat inwardly any one Name of God as frequently as possible during the 24 hours of fast and silence.
During this period of fast, tea or coffee is permitted thrice. Drinking water may be freely taken.”
—The Awakener Magazine, vol. 2, no. 1 (Summer 1954), p. 34
“This time no one should keep fast or silence but repeat seven times in a just audible voice (not shout) exactly at midnight between the 9th and 10th of July according to your local time: ‘BELOVED GOD, THY WILL HAS COME TO PASS.’” —The Awakener Magazine, vol. 5, no. 3 (1958), p. 36
For 1956-1968 Baba’s wishes for the observance are documented in 82 Family Letters by Mani S. Irani, a collection of letters sent out to group heads in the West (these letters began, by Baba’s direction, after his 1956 visit to the West). Mani mentions Baba’s wish for the observance of Silence Day in the years 1963-1968 (see Mani S. Irani, Family Letters, pp. 167, 198, 225, 258, 281, 320). For example:
“On the 10th of July 1967, the 42nd Anniversary of His Silence, Avatar Meher Baba wishes all who love Him and all who would want to do so, to observe Silence for 24 hours.”
Bal Natu wrote in his biography of Meher Baba:
“Meher Baba had begun observing silence on July 10, 1925, and His silence remained unbroken for over forty-three years, until He put aside His Man-form on January 31, 1969. From 1953 onwards, almost every year, a circular was issued at Baba’s direction giving specific instructions to be followed by His lovers on Silence Day, if they wished to do so. Sometimes He asked them to repeat a name of God, audibly or inaudibly, other times He wanted them to fast or keep silence, or both. In the last circular of its kind, issued by Adi K. Irani in May 1968, Avatar Meher Baba expressed His wish as follows:
On the 10th of July, the 43rd anniversary of My Silence, I want all My lovers to observe complete silence for twenty-four hours, from midnight of 9th July to midnight of 10th July 1968.
“Adi, Baba’s secretary, added the following lines:
Please note that Baba has given no option of a fast for those who may find it impractical to observe silence. None must write for further clarification (to Baba) concerning it. [Life Circular, No. 69, May 15, 1968]
“This was the last time that Baba gave a specific instruction to His lovers about July 10. Now that the avataric “cloak” (the physical form that Infinite God put on to become Meher Baba) is removed from our sight, it is natural for some to ask the mandali whether or not silence should be observed on this particular day. In 1979 Mani, Meher Baba’s sister, shared some of her thoughts in an informal talk on this subject in Mandali Hall at Meherazad. She said:
‘There should be no question in the minds of anyone [Baba lovers], whether we should observe silence or not. It is an opportunity that we should not let pass by! Every lover of Baba, to my mind, should observe silence on the 10th of July — Silence Day. You salute your Beloved Baba by giving Him a rose; you would not call that a routine or ritual. It is an expression of your love, a piece of your heart . . . Baba has observed silence for all — for each one of us — and if we cannot give that little response for one day — if we cannot keep our lips closed for one day of the year — then that’s too bad. I don’t feel that by keeping silence we are going to help the world or anything like that. That is not why we are doing it. It’s just a salute, in homage to His Love for us; an expression of our love for Him. Beloved Baba observed silence for all these years, and for one day He has “said” we can share it with Him too. How blessed we are!’
“In 1954, on July 10, more than seventy percent of those from a particular village in the district of Hamirpur (U.P.) fasted and observed silence for twenty-four hours. A blessed village indeed!
“The opportunity to observe silence on July 10 each year, as mentioned in the last Life Circular, remains an open invitation from Him to His lovers. To observe silence on this day is to invite Baba to revitalize one’s relationship with Him. In exceptional situations, however, I personally feel the decision rests with the individual. Whatever one decides each year will please Baba as long as it is honest and sincere.”
—Bal Natu, Glimpses of the God-Man, Meher Baba, vol. 6, pp. 77-78
Significance was accorded to Baba’s wish for 1968, the last time he gave such instructions for July 10th. Mani wrote:
“The 10th of July, a day for the world to observe in honour of the Silence observed by God as Man for men. As beloved Baba had wished His lovers to observe silence (without the option of a fast) for twenty-four hours on 10th July of last year, 1968, so we feel that all His lovers must observe silence from midnight of July 9 to midnight of July 10 of this year, 1969 — and for all years to come. There will not be any circular going out in regard to this — please do not expect or await any.” [82 Family Letters, p. 347]
Commentary from members of the Baba-Lovers group
(each paragraph represents a different writer or comment):
Someone said that when alive, Meher Baba did not ask for silence to be observed forever after on Silence Day, July 10, but that Mani had asked for it after Baba dropped the body.
♥ It seems that it was year to year; i.e., he did it for years but each time it was a new announcement. What I’d wondered was if he ever said, “This year and all years to come.”
♥ There is a difference between a request and an order. There is also a difference between an order given to particular individuals for one that is universal and one with a time frame on it and one with permanent standing. An order that is universal, that is, applicable to all Baba’s followers for all time is a “commandment.” Did Baba ever indicate that he was establishing silence on Silence Day as a commandment, as he did with no use of drugs by his followers unless professionally prescribed?
♥ “I have come not to teach but to awaken. Understand therefore I lay down no precepts.” It is not mentioned in his “wish” but it is in the grand scheme of things a rare privilege indeed to make the feeble attempt to share a miniscule part of his silence when prompted by the love of the lover for the Beloved
♥ Pleasing Baba should be a dictate from within from our love for Baba, and in appreciation of His mission to help us onwards in our journey. Just like reading God Speaks, which Baba also ordered or requested of numerous, but not all, lovers.
♥ Mani says there that keeping silence on July 10 thereafter is “an opportunity” rather than being an order to all Baba’s followers for all time to come. I agree it is a tremendous opportunity, but it should not be represented as Baba’s order to all forever, either.
♥ So Baba expresses it both as wish and a want And Mani describes the “opportunity” in terms such that it is unthinkable not to keep the Silence.
♥ A circular was always sent out by Adi K as a directive to observe silence on Silence Day. In 1968, Baba added another Silence Day in May of that year. We felt compelled to write to Baba if we could not observe Silence and requested His permission to fast instead. I feel it was a privilege to keep Silence along with Him. Naturally we assumed to continue, just as we assumed to go for the 1969 Darshan after He passed away.
♥ There were some who had personal instructions about fasting. I once talked to Mani and Eruch about it and my understanding was that it was not a directive or order, but a privilege to do if you could and were inclined.
♥ The best answer I have found for this question is to go to Meher Baba directly, each Silence Day, and ask Him how he wishes me to behave on that day, as I find He is present and will advise in the moment. That is why I don’t believe he laid down any “rules” about what to do after His passing.
♥ I am thinking about the time Beloved Baba said there will be soooo many Baba lovers/or-and/followers. When Silence Day will come, soooo many of them will be silent on this day around the world, it would be an Awesome Silence that will reverberate the world over. . . . I appreciate how Beloved Baba was and still is so personal in His relationship with each and every one. With me Baba definitely wanted me to be silent on Silence Days, and yet not take time off from my work. This day is always a humorous and Baba adventure because of: (1) experiencing even minisculely what Baba went through for us; (2) remembering that Beloved Baba didn’t make any sound at all — in His pain, in laughter, coughing, sneezing (impossible for me); (3) seeing all the funny breakings of the silence that occur; (4) experiencing how the world sees and behaves with a “dumb” person . . . etc. But I can completely see how Beloved Baba in His personal relationship with another, would give a different, even contrary suggestion. Just as not all take the time to do Arti and prayers.
♥ I wear my notepad necklace and am silent just whenever I feel like it. This generates tremendous spiritual energy which can be used to show Love to others and help them overcome obstacles to their own Love Alone Prevailing. Definitely clears things up and even helps generates a little more internal silence.
♥ I think most people do what they want or feel they are capable of, and rationalize it. I can analyze Baba’s words to death, but that might impede my accessing the intuition of the heart. Despite the absence of a command to observe silence on July 10 forever after, it is not reasonable to conclude that this is a command not to do so. A preoccupation with what I “should” do (as when people also debate over whether the correct word to use in the Repentance Prayer is “wish” or “will”) does not seem to me the way to genuine guidance. There is no ban on observing Silence Day and many things to recommend it, including the opportunity to keep Baba’s companionship in a special way along with your fellow companions, drawing support from their silence practice on the same day, a way of sharing Baba’s silence, and time out from habitual everyday behaviors and extraverted attention. I think these outweigh the potential drawback that you might be doing it out of “religious” motivations. At the same time, since he did not command it, it is still a choice and I am not forced to do it or condemned for not doing it.
♥ I think the fundamental issue here is more objective than subjective and it is not about keeping silence. Don Stevens was very insistent on preserving Baba’s actual words intact, and the issue here is what Baba gave specifically as orders. Some orders were clearly to be followed by the individual to whom the order was given. The question is whether any of these are to be generalized and on what basis. Did Baba gave any general orders to be followed by everyone who follows Baba for all time, as most normative religions represent of their founders, for example? Baba indicated that everyone is free to interpret his words as long as one makes clear that this is a personal opinion rather than Baba’s intent and that no one speaks for him.
♥ Offhand, one of the few things that comes to mind that fits the above description (though not what could be called an “order”) is the sequence of instructions contained in Baba’s message “My Wish.” So far as I can see, it’s been textually established that Baba did not give a generalized “order” for everybody to observe silence on Silence Day forever after. Certainly, he never “ordered” that people not keep silence on Silence Day. That said, the practice of keeping silence on Silence Day was “modeled” by Baba’s sometime-orders to many devotees, and one may certainly elect to follow that likeable model, if possible.
♥ After Jan. 31, 1969, Baba gave no orders, nor did he establish the rite, ritual, and ceremony at the Samadhi. But there are still Catholics that do not eat meat on Fridays. Three hundred years from now the holy sacrament of observing silence will be taking place by billions of Babaites worldwide.
♥ If Baba speaks to any individual after he passed away physically, and gives that individual an “order” and they hear and understand it as such, how can you say he did not? More than once in a dream Baba gave me an “order” or instruction. I obeyed. So, I am speaking about myself and any others who have direct spiritual experience of Meher Baba after 1969.
♥ If you were to ask me the same question, I would say, (if you are asking for absolutes) one really can’t with certitude. However, through applied discretionary thinking, one could rule out many fanciful scenarios. Inner dialogues are hardly challengeable…but the outer form and framework of such orders and instructions specifically and generally, ended when He declared His work was 100% complete before He dropped the body. One may retroactively resonate with, and apply secondhand, any old orders any old time one wishes…for as long as one wants.
♥ Yes, I too have had very obvious orders from Baba and/or clear happenings that indicate His presence in my life. Thank you my darling Beloved.
♥ I agree, our inner connection to the Divine Beloved may open the door to direct orders or instructions, and I have had this experience. For me, at least, any such message, order, or instruction is for me alone.
♥ Your subjective experiences are your subjective experiences. They do not constitute “orders” for anyone else.
♥ Agreed, agreed, agreed. Baba still speaks to the individual, at least this individual lovingly and always clearly. If only I could remove my own earplugs more often, to hear Him more clearly. And, each order is for the individual, and only that individual. To try to institute that order to another individual who hadn’t had that unique experience, is like trying to copy an individual’s tattoo by simply pressing forearms together and hoping the ink transfers between arms!
♥ It is up to each individual to be attuned to Baba’s wish on the issue. To observe silence is a unique opportunity to honor Him, remembering Him as our Beloved as Mani pointed out, but it was by no means a specific directive indicating it was to be for “all time.” It was a request to His lovers and it was done on a year to year basis. Personally speaking, after Baba’s passing, if that particular “silent” day conflicted with my work schedule as has happened on occasion, and if there was no other alternative to be found, I never felt keeping silence was imperative to the point of jeopardizing my job. Baba would want us to be practical. Repeating the Master’s Prayer and Prayer of Repentance every day out loud beginning in November of 1967 as per Baba’s request until the day Baba finally came out of seclusion (May 19th, 1968), the day that was designated to be a day of silence, was a joyful privilege (we were asked to mentally repeat the prayers silently on May 19th). BUT it was my understanding and I think Baba made it fairly clear that this was solely to help Him in His internal “universal” work. On the evening of July 30, 1968, Baba declared: “My work is done. It is completed 100 percent to my satisfaction. The result of this work will also be 100 percent and will manifest from the end of September.”
♥ It’s not a question of “following Baba’s order” to keep silence, it’s a question of observing a (so to speak) remembrance practice of one’s own volition, in tribute to Baba’s silence — or that’s how I would think of it. (This time around, I fasted rather than keep silence, due to work demands.)
♥ I feel Baba’s most important order to His lovers is to remember Him. That’s one day I get to remember Him a lot by trying to remember not to open my gob!
THE REMEDY FOR ALL ILLS IS TO REMEMBER ME
CONSTANTLY AND WHOLEHEARTEDLY
YOU WILL COME TO REMEMBER ME WHOLEHEARTEDLY
AS YOU REMEMBER YOURSELF LESS AND LESS
by Eruch Jessawala, reprinted from the Glow International
New Yorker Douglas Braswell wrote a letter in 1985 to Gustadji, one of Meher Baba’s mandali, who passed away some forty years ago. However, Eruch Jessawala replied to Douglas and we [the Glow] reproduce the letter verbatim:
Concerning your silence, we were touched that your love for Avatar Meher Baba has prompted you to observe silence for 14 years. We know it is not an easy thing to be silent and the fact that you have persevered for so long testifies to your eagerness to please Baba.
Observing silence, however, is not what Baba wants of His lovers. Meher Baba never asked us to observe external silence, except for the 24 hour period of July 10th. In fact, Baba never used to enjoy that day and often told us what a burden our silence was to Him. He would always be very happy on the 11th when once again we resumed speech.
Meher Baba told us time and time again that to honour His silence we should not observe silence ourselves, but we should strive to silence the clamour of our desires, we should strive to silence the demands of our lower self, in short, we should strive to silence our minds so that His love could speak eloquently in our hearts.
It is true that sometimes, for His own work, Baba would order one or more of His disciples to observe silence for a limited period of time, but, with the exception of Gustadji, Bal Tambut, and Daulatmai, none of the disciples was ever given silence as a habitual routine. And even in the above cases, they observed silence only because Meher Baba specifically ordered them to.* Without such specific direct orders from Baba it is presumptuous on our part to take on this work ourselves.
Of course, short periods of silence, done on your own as a type of meditation, or to help others can be helpful. But even here, just as with fasting or any ‘spiritual’ discipline, we should not confuse the technique with spirituality itself, or delude ourselves that we have to so such things to follow Baba. Baba wanted only one thing from us Ñ our loving remembrance of Him. No more, but not less.
I hope this letter does not sound as if I am judging you. No doubt it was Baba who inspired you to observe silence for so long and it is good that you have done so faithfully. But Baba has also inspired you now to write to Gustadji and thus to learn inadvertently, that He does not wish us to observe silence. Baba is now giving you the opportunity to demonstrate your love for Him by showing your willingness to abandon this long established habit of yours (which will not be easy) to begin a new life of inner silence and outer speech.
Baba used to sometimes repeat the famous Persian couplet:
To love God you must renounce this world, you must renounce even the next world,
and finally, you must renounce renunciation itself.
This is very hard but we are confident your love for Baba will give you the necessary strength and courage.
*Mani: “It was silence in the midst of activity, not in the cloister. Gustadji, Dowlat Mai, they were not told to lock themselves up, but to keep silence in the midst of activities.”
Eruch: “Baba must have had some reason for giving them silence.”
—The Awakener Magazine, vol. 13, nos. 1-2 (1970), p. 61