In Love with Meher Baba, by Pete Townshend

Page 5 of 7

Treated As A 'Baba Celebrity'

Big deal? I know a lot of lucky people are born with that poise and balance that seems to get them through even the most terrifying periods in their lives without scars. It's no secret. That is the very best way to go through life. How can you expect to be of any use to yourself or your people if the sight of blood reduces you to a jibbering idiot? If the mere sound of music sends you off into a dream-like delirium? If you can't evaluate life as life, without being constantly astounded.

I just wrote a song called, "If You're Turned On By Praise, It's Gonna Hurt When They Put You Down." Long title, short message. The pendulum always swings back in the opposite direction. You hang on it and keep it from swinging for maybe a few years, or even a few lifetimes, but in the end, as it gets heavier and heavier, it's going to tear you off your feet and drag you to your own private judgment day.

That's a theatrical way of describing karma, but it's effective. All of life's higher forces are reflected in physical ones. The longer you have to put off what has to happen, the heavier it will be when you finally face it. Life is not as simple as, "You only have one life, live it to the full." It's as simple as this: there IS only one life, but in order to live it to the full you've got to find it first.

When the Who play in the States, I am constantly reminded of Baba by the many, many people that I meet there who are also Baba followers. Obviously it is fairly common knowledge among them that I am a Baba follower also, and despite the fact that I owe my fame ostensibly to physical and not spiritual efforts, I am treated as much of 'Baba Celebrity," like say, an Indian visitor who has been with Baba for many years.

The question that I get asked by these people, the majority of them young, and into rock, are usually the kind that are answered by what I've already written, like: When did you first hear of Baba; how is your life affected as a rock star? etc., but often they take pleasure in commandeering me (me willing) into long story-telling sessions. Many of the people I meet in the States have followed Baba far longer than I, many have met him and his intimate Mandali, and have hundreds of semihearsay stories to tell about Baba's dealings with the local people in his area and with themselves when they visited, or tried to visit Baba in India. Some younger ones look to me as some kind of spiritually together super star advisor, to be hugged carefully and regarded with awe. In fact, and this should be very clear, worldly success and spiritual advancement are totally unconnected. They are also fairly independent. Baba would always maintain to his Western lovers that they should stick to their responsibilities, work hard, and realize that before society could ever be improved it needed the grace of a Messiah like Baba.

Melanie, who used to be very interested in what Baba had done and said, became thoroughly repulsed by overly gushing Baba lovers. Perhaps, and I didn't go into it with her at length, it seemed to be too sore a point to labor, she saw hypocrisy in their eyes. Saw people that talk about love and the path, squabble among themselves and gather in centers like so many ministers of the church, forming a religion that would discolor and taint the words of The Master as sure as it had happened a hundred times before. She could be right, she's a lovely lady, and seems poised and balanced in her world. But I like Baba lovers. Perhaps even a little more than I like any other kind of people. It is only with them that I can talk about my love for Baba with complete abandon.

As for the enchanting Melanie's disenchantment with Baba lovers: it would be the greatest single achievement for any individual in history, if a Baba lover could really do Baba's will. Really surrender his heart and soul to him and yet at the same time, remain a man in a decaying society doing his best, like most people are, to keep it together.

Thus, I look at them, and see me. I see me writing columns like this, then going and kicking Abbie Hoffman's little ass in a proud rage. See me talk about Baba's words and people's inability to live by them and then feel myself doing the exact opposite of what I feel intuitively I should really do. I am my own worst enemy. I think perhaps this applies to all Baba lovers. And what makes them so vulnerable, so easy to accuse, is the fact that they too are aware of their shortcomings in their own eyes. They see the obvious sense and logic in Baba's words, and yet can hardly ever put the realizations into action. It's still better than blindness.

Darwin Shaw, a man who has followed Baba for many years, once said that finding Baba sparked off 20 years of spiritual struggle that he hadn't known was possible, that felt like even then it had only just begun. It's true. It's no picnic. Baba's discourses, now issued as a three volume paperback edition, are a complete and straightforward handbook for the seeker to live, cope with life and responsibility and simultaneously learn to find and love Baba, but the fundamental teaching that is put across is singular; love Baba and your troubles will be worthwhile, but they won't be over.

Baba says over and over again that the shortest route to God realization is by surrendering one's heart and love to The Master. Of his status he makes no bones. "In the world, there are countless Sadhus, Mahatmas, Mahapurushas, Saints, Yogis, and Walis, though the number of genuine ones is very, very limited. I am neither a Mahatma nor a Mahapurush, neither a Sadhu nor a Saint, neither a Yogi nor a Wali. I am the ancient One. The Highest of the High!"

It's only in fairly big cities that I meet Baba lovers. In New York there are several groups of old and new devotees, in Detroit there are a few, in Chicago a few, in Philadelphia a few, in L.A. there are a lot and even in Florida I have met Baba's suntanned silver surfers.

The biggest center is in Myrtle Beach in South Carolina. I've never seen it, but it was dearly loved by Baba himself, who said it was his main center in the West. Most people I know really dig it. Baba is not forced down anyone's throat, the air is clean and full of Baba's presence, the land is green and backs into the sea. It is about 400 acres.

Far and away the most intense area of Baba activity among the young goes on in San Francisco. I could be wrong, but that's the impression I get. In S.F. itself is the "Sufism Re-oriented" Center. This was originally a Sufi center working to help people on the path, seekers, to understand the problems and nature of discipline and carefully guided efforts. When Baba was heard of, the Center instantly re-oriented its attention and began teaching courses about him.

Previous to this they had been working under the wing of the Indian Sufi saint, Inayat Khan. I personally love Khan's writings. He wrote all kinds of stuff about music and vibrations and breath and so on. Before settling down to really helping others get it together he had been a famous virtuoso in India on the vina, an instrument a little like the sitar. He was dearly loved and respected both as a musician and as someone whose life reflected his spiritual conviction. Today the center is guided by a powerfully clear-minded woman of over 70 – she is known as the Murshida, and to those who initiate as Sufis, her word is final, backed up fully by Baba himself. She is also a lady of great vigor, adapting her center's activities to accommodate all kinds of people. And they come all shapes and sizes in San Francisco. The best way to describe the other Baba groups in S.F., mainly centered in Berkeley, would be to talk about a day I spent there with Rick Chapman last July.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

Music Main Next

blog comments powered by Disqus
Around the Web
Powered By ZergNet
Daily Newsletter

Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
marketing partners.


We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

Song Stories


The Pack | 2006

Berkeley, California rappers the Pack made their footwear choice clear in 2006 with the song "Vans." The track caught the attention of Too $hort, who signed them to his imprint. MTV refused to play the video for the song, though, claiming it was essentially a commercial for the product. Rapper Lil' B disagreed. "I didn’t know nobody [at] Vans," he said. "I was just a rapper who wore Vans." Even without MTV's support, Lil' B recognized the impact of the track. "God blessed me with such a revolutionary song… People around my age know who really started a lot of the dressing people are into now."

More Song Stories entries »