From the Introduction to Growing Up With God
Growing Up With God chronicles a unique time spent in the company of Avatar Meher Baba by a precocious young woman who first met Baba when she was less than one year old. Sheela Kalchuri Fenster lived in Meher Baba’s physical proximity for twelve years, from the time she was five until Meher Baba dropped his body in 1969, when she was seventeen.
People often wonder what it was like to live near Baba and Growing Up With God gives a candid look at life “behind the scenes” with both the men and women mandali. There were plenty of humorous moments -- and plenty of fighting, too!
With an extraordinarily vivid memory, Sheela recreates incidents and conversations from her years spent in the close company of Meher Baba and his mandali. It is a tale rich in lessons for us all, demonstrating the enormous amount of suffering and sacrifices required to live near the Avatar of the Age.
Excerpt from Chapter Six: Guruprasad, 1959
Although I was young, I listened carefully to Baba’s explanations. Once, someone wrote, “What are my bad sanskaras in this lifetime that I’m suffering [physically] so much? What did I do to cause my present suffering?”
Baba explained that the person was suffering due to his past sanskaras. He went on to state: “If something bad happens because of you or is your fault, but your motive is not bad, take my name and I will forgive you. Your sanskaras will be wiped away.”
I said, “Mehernath [Sheela’s brother] hits me and it hurts — so naturally I tease him. I understand I shouldn't, still I do it.”
“Even when you lift your little finger, you are collecting sanskaras. But when you understand about sanskaras and you still do bad things, you suffer more. If you do something innocently, the sanskaras are not as binding.”
“How will I ever be free from these?”
“You have to be free from both good and bad sanskaras. When you do something bad, ask for my forgiveness. Before you sleep at night, stand near my picture and say, ‘Baba, I am giving you all my good and bad sanskaras.’ And then don't think about them again. You shouldn't have any doubts about it, whether or not I took those sanskaras. As soon as one doubt arises, I cannot help you be free.
“So don't think about them again. Once you give something to me, forget about it. I will take care of it. You are free from that. But you have to trust me. And don't think since I am taking care of it, you can keep doing bad things. Don't think, ‘Baba is taking care of my sanskaras, so it doesn't matter what I do.’ It does matter. If you do something bad with that feeling inside, you will suffer a thousand times more.”
I said, “Okay, I won't do something intentionally, but suppose something happens and it’s my fault. Suppose I don't mean to do it?”
“I will take care of those sanskaras.”
“Will you really do that for me? You won't suffer for that, if my sanskaras go to you? I don't want you to suffer, Baba. I collect them and then you have to suffer?”
“If you put filth into the ocean what will happen? Will it smell? No, it will be absorbed in the vastness of the ocean. So whatever you give me — perfume or garbage — is like a drop in the ocean. It doesn't affect me. I am the Ocean. Whatever comes into the ocean is absorbed, cleansed, wiped out. You don't have to worry about my suffering.”