[Author – Peter Rowan]
Lord Meher, Bhau Kalchuri’s voluminous undertaking is a rich source of information on Francis Brabazon.
I have not so much made a précis of the information from these volumes but chosen relevant and pertinent episodes and occurrences between Avatar Meher Baba and Francis from the period 27th January 1959, the date Francis arrived in India at the Beloved’s request and up until our Beloved dropped His resplendent body on the 31st January 1969.
Francis was with Baba the whole time during this ten year period and did not move an inch unless his Beloved told or made him do so.
I have confined myself to Francis only in this commentary and have generally subordinated others for the sake of brevity and to elevate the knowledge of Francis Brabazon.
It should be told in a chronological way so as the reader can get a thorough grounding in the movements between Avatar Meher Baba and Francis.
It becomes obvious from the beginning of Francis’ novitiate with Baba that his tenure was not going to be an easy one as his Beloved had not told him in any direct way how long his stay was to be with Him in India, it was very much an open question in Francis’ mind.
As it turned out Francis never left India even once during these ten years.
What we mainly glean from the information available is that Beloved Baba knew not only his worth as a thoroughly reliable disciple but that he was a richly rewarding poet and author for His pleasure.
On arrival in India Francis laid his hand-written manuscript of Stay With God at Baba’s feet and Francis was honoured by his Beloved with the following: “The unique fact of this epic of the living Avatar being written during His lifetime and being heard by Him in physical form will have a great bearing and significance for posterity”.
Baba further remarked to Francis, “My love will touch the heart of all who read it as no book has ever done. It will appeal to the highest intellects and to those with simple hearts”.
From this point on in 1959 Baba set Francis to work not only with poetry but with other writing, i.e. He had Francis write to a man He was concerned with about obedience, Francis was to remind him to obey Baba; soon after Beloved Baba had Francis write an introduction to a booklet about Him published by some devotees in India.
By April of 1959 Francis was learning his Beloved’s ways in double quick time.
As Francis found Guruprasad in Poona somewhat noisy Baba allowed him to stay at a lover’s house for writing as it was quieter. Each morning Francis rode a bicycle to Guruprasad to be with Baba. Invariably, no matter what time Francis arrived, which was always on time, Baba would berate him for being late. Pained at Baba’s displeasure Francis eventually burst into tears, then of course Francis moved back to Guruprasad.
We can now clearly see from the foregoing that living with Avatar Meher Baba was not a bed of roses but an extremely serious and urgent business for Francis to learn.
Francis may have been a very high profile lover in Australia but here with Baba he was becoming a very knowledgeable servant and kept a low profile so as to fit in.
There was a period about mid-year of 1959 when it was Baba’s pleasure to give discourses and He had Francis collect and edit them for Him, they eventually became part of The Everything and The Nothing.
On July 18th the night of the full moon, known as Guru Poornima in honour of the Guru, Baba sent for Francis in the evening and told him very lovingly, “Your stay so far has been entirely fruitful for me”. At the time Francis was ill and the next day Baba emphasised the need for proper medical treatment. By this time Francis had been with his Beloved Avatar Meher Baba for six months and was 52 years old.
Early in August Baba issued a most unusual order to Francis, along with Eruch, to visit Babajan’s tomb and pray for her intercession that Baba may break His silence at the end of October and that Babajan should help in His work. Earlier in the day Baba had sent other mandali members to do the same.
In the same month, his Beloved benevolently ordered Francis to keep silence for several days and shortly after said to him, “Do not forget I am God”.
Around the same time it occurred to Francis’ watchful eye that the ‘blue bus’ and ‘new life caravan’ were in need of restoration and preservation as he felt they would be of historic value for lovers in the future. He mentioned this to his Beloved who said it was a good idea and gave permission for him to attend to the work; it was obvious that Baba was very pleased with the outcome, also Mehera appreciated the work done after inspecting it.
During the same period his Beloved complimented him again, “Your Stay With God is an unparalleled composition, you do not know how in the future it will influence the hearts of humanity”.
Francis’ humour shines out in the following ‘poem’ which Baba asked him to add to a letter to a devotee in August.
‘Krishna was Jesus before him,
Meher Baba is both of them now,
And whoever cannot believe this,
Hasn’t got the brains of a cow!’
In the month of September portions of Stay With God were read to Baba by Eruch, and Baba would comment occasionally how beautiful a passage was. At about the same time Francis was asked to read to Baba a discourse on the OM Point which He had dictated to be included in Stay With God.
A most memorable day for Francis was on October 8th 1959 when the first printed copy of Stay With God arrived. Baba was delighted and called it a ‘perfect’ book and signed 200 copies. In the same month Beloved Baba showed two close lovers the newly released copy of Stay With God and Francis was asked to read a passage from it. Baba also informed them that Francis had low blood pressure as he had undertaken many fasts.
It should be remembered that our Beloved Baba was continuously in severe pain and would most times when walking be supported. It would very often be Francis’ arm which Baba took to exercise Himself in and around mandali hall; a surprise came for Francis one day when Beloved Baba waved him aside and walked unsupported in the sun.
1960 had come around, and for Baba’s birthday Francis read to Him an ode he had written for the occasion.
One day Francis made a gigantic leap with Baba and told Him, “The more I see, the more I wonder why anyone wants God Realization –it is a big affair, God is just too big! That’s all I can say.” At this wonderful admission from Francis Baba chuckled and gave him a kiss.
As with most of the mandali, Beloved Baba would every now and then take Francis to task, and one time when being reprimanded by Baba Francis started weeping and felt a great deal of regret. Later Baba called him and gave instructions about some writing work and assured him “Don’t get discouraged; you are really doing well and I am quite satisfied with you. I only said what I did earlier so that your heart will be more comfortable”, Baba gave Francis a kiss, and then all smiles, Francis left bursting with gratitude and happiness.
On May 13th an event happened which gave a certain lover a little more than he bargained for. When questioned by Baba as to whether he had read Stay With God he told our Beloved he had no time for philosophy, which seemed to rile Baba who retorted sternly, “There is no philosophy in the book. The book contains food for the brain and a feast for the heart.”
In the months that followed Francis was busy editing discourses given by Baba for The Everything and The Nothing whilst at the same time collecting material, for what was to become a number of years later, The Silent Word. He was also kept busy in many other ways, including answering questions for a young American who had found his way through the Beloved’s seclusion.
During this seclusion period, which continued into 1961, Francis with other mandali would play ping-pong with the Beloved who would play perched on a stool due to His injured hip; Francis would also play cards and carom with Baba frequently.
As Baba was in seclusion He informed the mandali He would not be receiving any visitors unless ordered by Him. An Australian lady, Dianna Snow, had written to Francis in May 1961 wondering if she could see Baba and Francis indicated there was probably no chance as Baba was in strict seclusion. Nevertheless Francis contrived to let her letter fall out of his pocket in mandali hall in front of Baba who asked about its contents and Dianna was permitted to see Him.
In the month of July when Francis and Eruch visited the Bund Gardens in Poona, Baba was watching the river and surprised Francis by dipping His feet in the water, a little later the river came into flood.
Life went on generally unrecorded for the rest of the year as far as Francis was concerned as Baba was still in strictest seclusion and most mail was forbidden, but he had been kept busy writing songs for Baba, which now, in February 1962 had been printed in a small book called Let us, The People, Sing.
Whilst writing these twenty five songs Francis would sing a new one to Baba on each day of completion, and then, after they were printed Francis presented to Beloved Baba a copy for His birthday.
How Francis must have enjoyed what was to follow; Avatar Meher Baba took him outside with the mandali and others and had Francis sing one of the songs from Let us, The People, Sing and Baba accompanied him on a drum! Baba then told a very well-known American lover of His to purchase 100 copies!
Book business continued into the year with Baba convening meetings specifically about book publishing which Francis was asked to attend.
During this 1962 period Baba would often have kirtan and qawaali performances. During one of these kirtan programs Francis became irritated as he couldn’t understand the language, so he attempted to persuade one of the kirtan writers to compose in English.
Soon after this event another qawaali program was held at Guruprasad. Once again Francis was annoyed and so would ask Bhau in frustration what the song was called, even though Bhau didn’t know he would make up titles to appease Francis. Even this wasn’t enough for Francis as he would then question another for translations of the qawaal, again lines would be made up on the spot to appease Francis!
A great and wonderful event took place during 1962, ‘The East West Gathering’ at Guruprasad, and Francis was in attendance the whole time during this Darshan program.
Avatar Meher Baba, during the course of The East West Gathering, had Francis set up a large chart for the Westerners of Rano Gayley’s ‘The Four Journeys’ which she had painted and executed for the Beloved, and had Francis point to the various sections as Baba made explanations. Baba then had Francis read to the Westerners his rendition of Hafiz’s ode ‘Be Not Grieved’, which had been translated from the Persian by Baba for Francis to make his rendering from.
During The East West Gathering, Baba, whilst speaking with some Westerners, remarked, “Now Francis is with me, he knows how much I suffer,” and again during the course of the Darshan program Baba told lovers, “Instead of blood, let love flow through your veins!” and turning to Francis Baba said “Is it possible?”. Typically Francis answered “Nothing is impossible when You say it!” After The East West Gathering, arriving back at Meherazad with Baba, Francis was given the duty of taking the Westerners on a tour of Ahmednagar, Meherabad and Meherazad.
When all had settled again at Meherazad and life with Baba had resumed as normal, Francis’ Beloved had him write a full account of The East West Gathering.
To write this book, Francis would make himself a cup of tea at 9pm, write until 1-2 a.m. have more tea and then sleep.
In the morning as usual, Baba would call Francis to be with Him in mandali hall. Francis was so tired from his daily duties and late night writing that Baba would give him a stimulant to prevent him falling asleep.
This writing work of Francis was kept up continuously and in April 1963 was completed totally to the Beloved’s satisfaction.
During the period of the writing Francis would read a portion of it to Baba each day and when the first copy of The East West Gathering arrived in June Baba said, “It is excellent”.
Over a lengthy period a highly intelligent physicist would often visit Baba and Baba would be happy to give him explanations to his probing questions. Many of these explanations were written down and included in The Everything and The Nothing, edited by Francis. Toward the end of 1963, when the physicist entered mandali hall again, Baba signalled Francis to bring a copy of the book for him, as Baba said he was partly responsible for creating it.
Around the same time a poignant moment occurred, but not without humour. Beloved Baba was in great suffering and in the course of His communication with the mandali He told them, “When I break my silence…even the stones will be jumping,” ;hearing this Francis whispered to the person alongside him, “Then we fellows do stand a chance.”
When Avatar Meher Baba went to Guruprasad in April 1964, Francis and four other mandali accompanied Him. Baba was in strict seclusion as usual and after returning to Meherazad Baba would go to mandali hall twice daily and pass some time playing cards with Francis and the other men. Francis it seems had much fun in these games, if he had a poor hand he would typically exclaim “Nothing doing!’
Francis was a valuable go-between for many, in November 1964, a letter was received by him from a twenty one year old daughter of an Australian lover of Baba well known to him. She wanted to know from Francis whether it would be possible to see Baba as she intended visiting India. Naturally Francis replied to her that he didn’t think it would be at all possible as Baba was in strictest seclusion. After arriving in India in mid-December she was very fortunate as Beloved Baba allowed her His Darshan. When the young lady was asked by Baba if she would come again to see Him at a Darshan program planned for the following year she replied “You bet!” which amused Francis’ Australian soul greatly.
In 1965 Baba again went to Guruprasad, and this time, even though He was suffering greatly, gave Darshan to thousands for 6 days; this was the last physical Darshan program that Baba gave and was known as the Easterners Darshan of 1965, as it was for those from Eastern countries only.
I was most fortunate as Baba invited me to stay with Him in Poona for five days and receive His daily Darshan. Francis each day would come to visit me and we spoke together often. When I exclaimed to him my disbelief that I could be so fortunate to have my Beloved’s Darshan when it was for Easterners only, Francis in his most laconic and Australian manner replied “If you’re on the list to meet Baba, you’re on it!” When I further exclaimed “But Francis I never expected to see Baba even for a moment,” once again in his usual way he said “Well, that’s why you saw Him”.
In September 1965 in mandali hall, Avatar Meher Baba told the mandali that He was cancelling the proposed Westerners Darshan program in December of that year. Turning to Francis Baba asked him, “Will this cancellation affect or lessen the love of my Western lovers?” Francis replied, “I don’t think so Baba. It would be a queer kind of love if it did!”
During the course of 1965 a few young Westerners met Baba and invariably Baba would ask them if they had read Stay With God and as most hadn’t He would ask Francis to give them a copy. One young American man that met Baba at this time was quite tall and Baba told His brother Jal, who was short, to show him around Poona, and commented on what a sight they would make together. At this Francis said humorously “That’s the long and the short of it Baba.’
Francis well into 1966 was occupied with composing ghazals and songs as directed by Baba and the Beloved would often give him a line or two for inspiration. Every morning Francis would read one of his compositions to Baba, and one fine morning for Francis, as he was reading a couplet, the Beloved spontaneously dictated two more lines for him,
“He who seeks my pleasure
Finds the Divine Treasure.”
Usually after having Francis read a poem and sometimes The Masters Prayer, Baba would take Francis’ arm and walk across to the women’s side of Meherazad.
In August 1966 another young Western man met Baba and was introduced to Francis, Baba then asked Francis to read a recent poem of his which contained a reference to LSD.
“Don’t try to hold me up by offering
me a trip on LSD
I always travel unencumbered,
guided alone by love see!”
At Baba’s indication Francis read another poem, an exquisite ghazal he had written, which made Baba smile broadly and snap His fingers as certain finely honed lines came to a climax.
Moving now into February 1967, a prominent Australian lover of Baba was invited by the Beloved to see Him, and after telling Baba he slept well, Beloved Baba commented humorously whilst looking puzzled, “How can you sleep well with Francis alongside you, he talks in his sleep!” Another Australian lover had sent a drawing of Baba for His pleasure and a most unusual event occurred, Avatar Meher Baba kissed the image of Himself. Francis in a letter wrote he had never seen Baba do this before.
Francis Brabazon was an inveterate cigarette smoker most of his life. Baba would allow Francis to smoke and would send him outside mandali hall to do so. Not only would Francis want to smoke but would want to urinate frequently. Beloved Baba once commented as Francis walked out of mandali hall, “Francis is always going to the toilet, he always has to piddle”.
At one time, about June 1967, Francis would read one of his ghazals daily to Baba and Baba would ask him to repeat it three times; Francis received an embrace each time and later commented, “Every embrace contained the seed of the next line of poetry”. Also during this period a beautiful comment by Baba was made to Francis, “When I come back after 700 years I will quote from your ghazals, that’s why I am having you repeat them three times so that I will memorize them when I return.” One ghazal which Baba was particularly fond of was ghazal 35 now in In Dust I Sing, as He said it captured the gist and spirit of the ghazal form.
In July 1967, Baba put Francis to work jotting down page and line numbers from God Speaks. Beloved Baba said once he and Eruch had gone through the whole of God Speaks with Him, “Francis will be responsible for writing down my explanations and summing up further clarification”.
Francis would be engaged in his writing work until 1:30a.m. each morning and became extremely tired, and so Beloved Baba permitted him to sleep later than usual, but instead of this occurring, as soon as Baba arrived in mandali hall in the morning as usual, He would call for Francis. After a few days of this, Francis lost his composure and blurted out, “What kind of bloody God is He! What kind of bloody Avatar is He! He said He would be weak and come late, but now He comes earlier than before!”
Another task which Baba gave to Francis in August 1967 was to complete translations from phonograph records concerning ‘love of God’ and ‘God-intoxication’, Baba would give the explanations in English to Francis and he would finish them under His direction; and when a professional European film maker was making a film of Baba in September 1967, Eruch and Francis talked with him for some time, and Francis explained that Baba cannot be compared to any other personality in the world, no matter how great!
Francis’ work for Baba was not only very serious but quite humorous at times. An old mandali member, Kaka Baria, was having difficulty remembering the names of the mandali due to his illness, he would invariably call each of them by peculiar names which pleased Baba immensely. Baba would ask Francis to remember these curious names and later repeat them loudly so that Mehera and the other women mandali could enjoy the fun from a distance.
Francis continued writing poems and ghazals for Baba and at each new recitation Baba would beam with pleasure and compliment Francis, “This is the best you have done, this time you have surpassed yourself.” Early in 1968 Baba told Francis, “When I say Francis your ghazals will be read for 700 years, you do not pay heed to what I say, but I tell you it will be so.” In the latter part of 1968 Francis was specifically asked by his Beloved to write a ghazal on ‘The Dervish’ and Baba gave the last line He wished Francis to use.
In December 1968, as usual Francis would read for Beloved Baba’s Mehera a poem he had composed for her birthday, but this particular time it was before a large crowd of lovers at Meherazad as Baba wanted them to hear it.
Tumultuous and unprecedented times faced the mandali in early 1969 as Beloved Baba’s health deteriorated; since early morning on January 28th Baba was having severe spasms and Francis with others would hold Baba’s body down on His bed. The shock like jolts continued over the next two days and Francis with other mandali would hold firmly onto Baba’s arms and legs.
At 8 a.m. on January 31st Baba sent for the mandali including Francis, and addressing them said, “Dr. Goher is not responsible for my health. Remember this, I am God”. Again the violent jolts began and the mandali continued to hold Baba to His bed.
At 12:15 p.m. a violent spasm shook and jerked Baba up and His respiration stopped.
During the course of attempting to revive Baba, Francis and others were massaging Baba’s chest. Eruch had been giving mouth to mouth resuscitation and became exhausted and collapsed, Francis and another mandali member took over in the attempt to revive the Beloved. All attempts failed, Baba had dropped His body.
Not long after, the men assembled in Francis’ room at Meherazad and the question of informing all Beloved Baba’s lovers throughout the world was discussed, and finally Adi, Eruch and Francis prepared this telegram:
‘Avatar Meher Baba dropped His physical body at 12 noon 31st January at Meherazad to live eternally in the hearts of all His lovers. Beloved Baba’s body will be interred at Meherabad on 1st February at 10:00 a.m. in the Tomb He had ordered to be built long ago.’