Monday, March 4, 2013

"Will" and "Wish"

Final passages of the Prayer of Repentance
from Eruch's prayer diary, 1950s.

The Prayer of Repentance by Meher Baba ends with the phrase,
. . . forgive us for our constant failures to think and speak and act according to Your Will.
There has been some confusion over the phrasing of this line over the years. This is because Baba often differentiated between his 'will' and his 'wish.' Baba said that not a leaf moves without his will. Thus, how could one possibly not do something according to God's will?

A close friend of mine recently confided in me, when I brought this topic up, that this so bothered him that privately when reciting the prayer alone he used to end the prayer as follows:

". . . to think and speak and act according to your will. Amen
But in all honesty, I think it should be 'according to your pleasure.' 
But then again, what do I know? Amen."

What does Baba mean exactly by his will and his wish? As far as I can see (and please correct me if I'm wrong) Baba was never absolutely explicit about what the difference between his will and wish were.
"It is a fact when I say nothing happens but by my will. For you, it should be said by you thus: 'Nothing should happen but what Baba wishes.' This means that my will and wish are two different things."
Baba added he would explain the difference clearly one day when he was in the mood, but he added in cryptic fashion, "As nothing happens but by my will, your going against my wish is by my will." (LM 5529)
If anyone would like to add more quotes by Baba on the difference between his will and wish in the comments, please do.

But my interest here is not to settle the meaning of will and wish as Baba used them, but simply to settle the subject of how the word "will" got to be the last word of the Prayer of Repentance in the first place.

Baba originally dictated his Prayer of Repentance to Eruch Jessawala in Gujarati. [Gujarati appears to be a mistake. See update at the bottom of this post.] Below is a scan of the prayer as Eruch inscribed it into his prayer diary. It is in Eruch's own hand-writing. This is from the Meher Baba Trust Archive. (Click images to enlarge if you like)

Later, at Baba's request, Eruch translated the prayer into English. In an interview with Ward Parks, published in LoveStreet LampPost (January-March 2000, p. 45), Eruch explained: "In [Gujarati], the last word of the prayer was marji (marzi in Urdu), an etymon that does not differentiate between 'wish' and 'will' but encompasses both meanings." [See correction below]

It thus becomes interesting when we examine Eruch's choice of the word "will." For when we carefully consult a dictionary, we actually find that the same ambiguity in the Gujarati word marji is also found in the English word "will," though few realize it. For "will" definitely can mean "wish." Merriam Webster is quite explicit.

 noun \ˈwil\

Definition of WILL

: desirewish: as
a : dispositioninclination <where there's a will there's a way>

b : appetitepassion
c : choicedetermination
a : something desired; especially : a choice or determination of one having authority or power
(1) archaic : requestcommand (2) [from the phrase our will is which introduces it] : the part of a summons expressing a royal command
: the act, process, or experience of willing : volition
a : mental powers manifested as wishing, choosing, desiring, or intending
b : a disposition to act according to principles or ends
c : the collective desire of a group <the will of the people>

So it appears that at least some of the consternation over Eruch's choice of the word 'will' to represent the Gujarati word marji, given by Baba, may be over-felt. For Eruch has, it seems to me, captured the very ambiguity of Baba's original word. I think Eruch did a very nice job. It is also simply more poetic than it would have been as "wish," which to me simply sounds abrupt.

How do we obey Baba's wish? Perhaps the answer lies in these words by him.
Think thoughts you would not hesitate to think in My presence.
Speak words you would not hesitate to speak in My presence.
And do things you would not hesitate to do in My presence.

Correction 9-29-14:

An astute reader pointed out that marji does not mean 'will' in Gujarati. Rather it does in Marathi. If one looks at the quote itself above from LoveStreet LampPost, they will notice the word "Gujarati" was interposed into the text in brackets, either by the author of the article Ward Parks or the magazine editor.

See this link and this link for the definition of marji in Marathi, one of the languages Baba used in writing, though very rarely.

Another possibility is it was simply Hindi. See this Google translate translation for the same word, which detects the word as Hindi and translates it as 'will' or 'wish' just as Eruch said.

Once again I thank the anonymous commentator for pointing out this discrepancy.


  1. Good one Chris... Also one of my "favorite" Baba conundrums. Some Christian writers have also weighed in on the different kinds of divine "will". When I say the Prayer of Repentance (for myself) after the words "...your will" I add "or wish, or whim". Baba wishes the very best for each one, in every way. After all, we are all His forms. However, His will prevails and keeps the tamasha lively according to His knowledge of what is best for each one at any moment. It is what happens, and much of it seems very harsh at times...

  2. What about that small poster, "Baba's Wish for His Lovers"? In reading that it is clear to me that Baba's Wish for me (as one of His lovers)is more specific than His Will for me. Fulfilling the wishes of the Beloved (only Mehera did 100%)gave (and gives?)Him pleasure whilst disobeying His Will results in dire consequences!

  3. Forgive me, I am not exactly a follower and only recently began reading on the subject by accident and ended up here. I am a Gujarati and I always thought the word 'marji' translates in English as 'permission'.

    1. Thank you Anonymous. I simply trusted the information that was printed. I did some research and you are right. The article appears to be improperly written, as you will notice the word "Gujarati" is in brackets, added by the author Ward Parks who I do not believe speaks Gujarati. In truth the word that should have been there is Marathi. I will add this to an update. And again thank you for bringing my attention to this.

    2. The reason I prefer to use the published "will" version is that I consider that I am saying the prayer for all humanity ("we"). Baba's lovers may choose to please Him by carrying out His wish, but not all humanity, who instead are under His Divine will.