Earthquake Shakes Our Hearts
by Kendra Crossen
Someone called me at 6 AM this morning to tell me that Chile had been struck with an 8.8-magnitude earthquake, with tsunami warnings for the South American coast, Russia, and Hawai’i, and perhaps other Pacific areas. I asked, “Did you call me because you think that this is the ‘end of the world’ or a sign of Meher Baba’s Manifestation?” They said yes, that a phenomenon like this is part of the Manifestation Watch.
My first thought was Baba’s words, “Keep the mind quiet, steady, and firm.” I don’t feel comfortable with a reaction that is overexcited or even elated (at the idea of Divine Manifestation upon us), from someone who is not directly affected by the disaster in this moment. It is important to take events within the perspective of the larger picture of the purpose of life as Meher Baba has explained it.
In 1940 Baba foretold that “a time will come when people will even forget the war and the terrible destruction it has caused in life and property, for there will be further disasters, more voracious in their destructive power, like plagues and pestilences, fire and famine, floods and earthquakes of immense magnitude and force, all of which will take more toll of life and property than machine guns and bombs.” There has been no shortage of wars and disasters since he gave that warning. Yet we snap to attention at such words because on the gross level the events they describe stand out as being highly important, with large numbers of people killed or injured and tremendous visible chaos and destruction. In speaking of war, Baba reminds us that “suffering is generally symbolized by scenes of war: devastated houses, broken and bleeding limbs, the agonies of torture and death; but war does not embody any special suffering. People really suffer all the time. They suffer because they are not satisfied — they want more and more. War is more an outcome of the universal suffering of dissatisfaction than an embodiment of representative suffering. Through his greed, vanity and cruelty, man brings untold suffering upon himself and others.”
In times of such frightening events, even if we are not living near them, most of us feel upset for the people involved and the fear that we, too, might be on the receiving end of Nature’s wrath, sooner or later. But our perspective tends to be distorted by the illusion of the materialistic worldview and the belief that physical events are more important than invisible suffering — or more powerful than the subtle forces of divine help and healing that are always present at such times. The realm of duality is bound to upset us in ways large and small, especially if we are not centered in the faith that God is at work in whatever happens, and that whatever happens is part of a divine plan to awaken humanity to the true meaning of our existence.
Compassion and empathy, prayer, help, service, and solace to those in need — all these are right responses to disaster and good ways to put aside fear. Thoughts and prayers do help others, even if one can do nothing else, because in reality we are all one, and there is no separation. We also need to reassure ourselves when the world seems so unstable because of dramatic negative events. It is at times like these that we must especially turn to Love: love for God, and God’s love for us. Part of loving God, Baba says, means that we suffer in the suffering of others and feel happy in the happiness of others. Moreover, “if, instead of worrying over our own misfortunes, we think of ourselves more fortunate than many, many others, we are loving God.” And “if we endure our lot with patience and contentment, accepting it as His Will, we are loving God.”
I think of Baba’s characterization of the Avatar as one who “is interested in everything but not concerned about anything. The slightest mishap may command his sympathy; the greatest tragedy will not upset him.” We may not be able to equal that perfect equanimity, but it is an ideal to hold up before us as we remember Meher Baba and thereby draw strength from his divine qualities. (“By allowing the mind to dwell upon the divine qualities of the Master, the aspirant imbibes them into his own being” — from the discourse “Types of Meditation: V.”)
Are calamities like the Chilean earthquake signs that Meher Baba’s Manifestation is speeding up, that more is to come, possibly culminating in some apocalyptic worldwide collapse? I don’t know the answer — a scientist asked on CNN whether anything “crazy” is going on said no, it’s just a coincidence, the incidence of earthquakes is not increasing. I don’t necessarily believe everything scientists say; but I do believe that, just as there are certain dangerous neighborhoods in the city that a wise person does not enter, there are certain chains of thought that we should not and need not entertain. Mental discipline is necessary. We need to keep focused at all times, whether external events are “good” or “bad,” on what is truly important: remembrance and love of the God-Man and the Truth that he brings for the benefit of the entire human and nonhuman world. With that foundation, if we are in a position to help others in any way, then we must try to do so as a way of loving God. According to Baba (in the discourse “Selfless Service”), to be spiritually valuable, service at best should be based on understanding and free from attachment to results. And the most important form of help is giving others spiritual understanding and the opportunity to realize their own potential perfection. The person who is in the best position to offer that highest form of service is someone who is him- or herself spiritually perfect. And that is why longing for and striving for our own Self-realization is not a selfish endeavor but actually leads to real service to others, who are in truth forms of our own Self.
Meher Baba says:
“For most persons the idea of service is inextricably bound with securing certain definite results in the objective world. For them service consists in the removal of human suffering or illiteracy or other difficulties and handicaps which thwart the flourishing of individual or social life. This is the type of service rendered by aspirants, politicians, social reformers and other good persons. Though this type of service is of immense spiritual importance, it is in its very nature unending. In spite of what any individual might attain in these fields, there always remains much that is to be achieved. Therefore, as long as the idea of service is thus tied to the idea of results, it is inevitably fraught with a sense of incompleteness. There can be no realization of Infinity through the pursuit of a never-ending series of consequences. Those who aim at sure and definite results through a life of service have an eternal burden on their minds.
“On the other hand, service which comes after realization of the Truth is a spontaneous expression of spiritual understanding of the true nature of the Self; and though it also brings about important results in the objective world, it is in no way complicated by any longing for them. As the sun shines because it is its nature to do so and not because it wants to achieve something through shining, the God-realized person also lives a life of self-offering because of the basic structure of the divine life which is at the heart of Reality, and not because he longs to achieve anything. His life is not a reaching out towards something with the hope of some kind of attainment. He does not seek enrichment through attainments, but is already established in the fullness of the realization of the Infinite. The overflow of his being is a blessing to life in other forms and actually brings about their upliftment from the material as well as spiritual point of view.” (“Selfless Service” discourse)
May Baba’s Infinite Compassion reach the people who are suffering from the effects of this latest calamity. May they experience that God is with them, no matter what the outcome.