Saturday, March 8, 2014


It is wonderful to feel self-righteous. We all love the feeling. I love the feeling. It makes one feel alive, to be finally living, to be right! What better way to feel right than to feel that large numbers of others are wrong. If we can't know what we are, at least we can carve out a niche for ourselves in terms of what we think we are not.

And one of the best ways to feel self-righteous is also to imagine one belongs to a club of people who are also right, who share our disdain for the wrong people. We agree with one another, and this feels very nice.

So all this is a nice recipe for feeling nice about oneself, by way of hatred.

And as if all these emotions were not pleasant enough, born of something so easy as judging others, as feeling separate, as feeling superior, and as fitting in with a group consensus, a team, one also feels (mysteriously) they are being "spiritual."

Nothing of course, as anyone can see, could be further from the truth.

This is what strong allegiance to a political party does to people. It feels great. If it didn't, why would so many people do it? It is almost a balm for feeling deeply within ourselves that we are really wretches. So it is hardly mysterious that even discussing this topic may make some people hot under the color, defensive, and -- well, in a word -- self-righteous.

This is the kind of self-righteousness that people used to feel about their religion, and some still do, but which has slowly gone out of favor in our increasingly secular world. It is bad now to be fanatical about one's religion. It's called "fundamentalism." It is quite in fashion, however, to feel fanatically sure one's political party is the right one.

In short, such identifications as race, gender, religion, caste, class, and political persuasion are all forms of gaining pleasure by intensifying one's sense of separation (by way of team loyalty) -- and what in the world is an ego if it cannot say what it is that it isn't, and gain positive reinforcement from others that agree with it that it is right. And that is the secret behind this fad called politics.

Now one can already hear the objections, the so-called "arguments," why all this is wrong and misses the "reality" of the matter.
  • "But my party has love! Their party wants to destroy the world!"
  • "My party is for family. Their party wants to destroy moral values."
  • "My party cares about 'life.' Their party cares about 'death.'" [in America both parties use this very phrase, with different referents]
  • "My party cares about others, their party only about self."
  • "My party cares about the values that hold society together and upon which they are founded. Their party wants to tear down the values that bind the world and replace them with moral relativism - which is all about the self." 
  • "My party did this and that great thing, their party did this and that awful thing." [Almost never that clear when examined.]
  • "My party would have fixed X, but their party blocked them."
  • "My party is sane. Theirs is mad."
  • "My party is good. Theirs is bad."
But most disturbing of all these overlooked absurdities, is that all parties feel they are alinged with God.

However, here is what Baba, who said he was God, had to say about what side he was on. Quotes are from the 2012 new revised online edition of Lord Meher.
  • "What is politics but fraud?" (Lord Meher, online edition, p. 720)
  • "Let it be quite clear that I have nothing to do with politics."
  • "I have no connection with politics." (Fiery Free Life Message, 1952)
  • "I am not concerned with politics." (Lord Meher, 1986 print edition, p. 4993)
  • "I have nothing to do with politics." (Lord Meher, 1986 print edition, p. 1712 & 1757)
Though Baba countless times warned individuals and groups not to go into politics or discuss politics, some rightly point out that there were exceptions. However, this is what he said of those who feel it necessary to engage in politics.
"Baba never has had, and never will have, any concern with politics. He therefore desires that if any of you do political work, you must never involve him or make use of his name in connection with that work." (LM, revised online edition, p. 3006)
This is the most important point of all. I have an essay that I attach, written by Ward Parks, that goes into a detailed account of Baba's response to an early disciple who began the first true Baba journal, K. J. Dastur. Download the essay here. It gives a very clear example of just how serious Baba was about keeping his name removed from politics. The climax of this nine page essay is when Baba threw up his hands with exasperation when Dastur refused to cease associating his name with politics. Baba finally says, "Let him do as he damn well likes; he can go to Hades–I can’t be concerned with the likes of him! He will repent for this." That's a pretty strong position, and the story demonstrates in great detail just how difficult it is to not bring politics into Baba's work, just how great this temptation really is.

Baba was not partial to any party, and did not even identify with any of the aims of any of the world's political factions. The essay makes it a little clearer why this is. Whenever we make judgments, we do not really have all the facts, but believe we do. We are to some degree seduced by the attitudinal movements of the times, one or the other of the opposing convictions of what is the cure for our ills in every moment, convinced by modern memes and what the news tells us, and prisoners of the very finite perspective of our second in history -- not privy to the truth about the past and future and the role we play in it and the hidden dynamics of the world – both internal and external. We don't know the real news, but always think we do. We don't know the real direction of events, but think we do. We don't know the real outcome of our actions, but think we do. And we don't know who the real enemies and allies are, but think we do. Above all we don't know what God is doing, and we think we do.

Here then is the full article by Ward Parks, reproduced with permission.

K. J. Dastur and the Regime in Russia

By Ward Parks, Ph.D.

The history of periodical publication as it relates to this most recent Avataric incarnation has a curious beginning. It traces back, as do so many other activities connected with Meher Baba and His working, to the 1920s. At the turn of that decade there arose, briefly flourished, and soon disappeared again a monthly magazine, entitled the Meher Message, under the editorship of one of Meher Baba’s early followers, K. J. Dastur. A number of serial publications followed this one in later years–The Meher Gazette, The Meher Baba Journal, The Awakener, Divya Vani, Meher Pukar, The Glow, and of course, since Baba dropped His body in 1969, a rich new crop. But the Meher Message enjoys the distinction of having been the first effort in this line; and the somewhat equivocal relation between this magazine’s editor and the Master whom he used to shower with such titles as “His Divine Holiness” furnishes us with an interesting case study here.
The thirty-odd back issues of Meher Message provide a diverse fare. For a long time each issue featured a message or discourse by Meher Baba, or at any event attributed to Him; in addition, Dastur used to collect and publish under the title “Sayings of His Divine Majesty Sadguru Meher Baba” assorted short quotations and pithy statements of Baba’s. Close mandali, such as Chanji and Ghani and Ramjoo, were regular contributors. Yet Dastur clearly conceived his magazine not simply as a work of devotion to Baba and His lovers but as a larger presentation to the world and the general public. A new, progressive and enlightened vanguard was emerging within India, and Dastur, acting the role of self-designated intellectual and cultural ambassador, was situating Meher Baba and His movement within this context. Thus in addition to literary works of a purely devotional and spiritual character, Dastur would bring in quotations and snippets usually from Western philosophical and literary tradition (in a monthly section entitled “Thoughts Sublime”), as fit company for the Master to whom the magazine was dedicated. At the same time, Dastur embarked on editorial forays into topics of current cultural and sociological and political interest. One extended editorial, for example, was devoted to a passionate denunciation of the practice of sati. And in the last year of publication, Dastur wrote two articles vigorously defending the existing regime in Russia against criticisms emanating from England and Western Europe.
The tone and spirit of these two articles is well illustrated by the opening paragraph of the first of them, “Religion in Russia” (p. 5): 
When the malicious crusade against Russia conducted in the press and on the platform by shameless capitalists, vulgar imperialists and sanctimonious churchmen, was agitating the minds of the people in almost every country, we never dreamt that we would be driven to write on this theme. But as unfortunately not a few of our compatriots seem to have been bamboozled by the wicked propaganda against the Soviets, and as the poison instilled by the British press has begun to work upon their minds, we are constrained to expose the hypocrisy of the Russophobes and to place before our readers unquestionable facts in connection with the so-called religious persecution in Russia.
Jingoistic journalists, politicians, and churchman in England and Europe, Dastur went on to say, like “snarling beasts” who “would if they could drink the life-blood of the Soviets,” were maliciously leveling charges of the suppression of religion, when in fact the Soviets had done no more than to deliver the Russian people–much to their relief and happiness–from the oppression and burden of privileges that the czars had formerly granted to an ignorant and fanatical Russian Orthodox church. It is true, Dastur conceded, that “many priests and bishops have been severely punished, but they have been punished not for their religion but for their political crimes” (p. 8). At the same time, certain denominations were flourishing, and persecution of other groups, such as the Jews, had been brought to an end. In reality, much of the criticism of the Soviets (Dastur continued) was motivated by jealousy over their stunning economic successes particularly in the field of agriculture, where productivity, spurred on by efficient communal farming and lowered taxation, was increasing at an astonishing rate. “Instead of smiling away their chagrin,” the “capitalists and imperialists of England” were “making themselves more and more ridiculous by accusing the Soviets of diabolical crimes” (pp. 13-14). This is not to say that the new rulers were without their faults. “The Soviets are not angels, but they also are not devils. To say that they represent the spirit of anti-Christ is damnable nonsense and wicked falsehood” (p. 14).
Dastur’s editorial on religion in Russia was followed up seven months later by a second article on that country entitled “Education in Russia.” Weighing in, once again, in opposition to the detractors in Western Europe, Dastur maintained that the Russian government, in a noble effort to achieve universal education among its long-suffering masses, was effecting nothing less than a miracle. “It takes our breath away when we think of their enterprise. What power of organization they exhibited in their Herculean task of educating Russians?” (p. 8). The outstanding characteristic of the Soviet system was that it affirmed the highest ideals and highest aspirations. “It acknowledges the dignity of man and turns out free individuals capable of grappling with their difficulties, fighting the battle of life and doing their duty by the state” (p. 10). Though education was compulsory, “its characteristic is freedom.” The main defect, as Dastur saw it, was the failure to teach, not the dogmas of a single religion, but the greater, universal truths underlying all religions. “That children should be made to shout that there is no God and religion is opium seems to us utterly odious” (p. 11). Nonetheless, despite its imperfections, the Russian educational system offered much that was worthy of emulation, and Indians should not be too proud to learn from their Russian brothers, “following in their footsteps” (p. 12).
Taken together, these two articles represent a ringing defense of the Soviet government. Despite its atheism and materialism, both of which were understandable in view of the religious superstition and bigotry that it was up against, the Soviet regime was noble in its aims, achieving a beneficent transformation of Russian national life despite unconscionable resistance, especially from abroad. The true villains in the story were the capitalists and imperialists of Europe who were trying to tear the Soviet accomplishment down out of mere malice and jealousy.
Russia, 1929-1933
The Meher Message launched its inaugural issue in January 1929 and ceased publication three years later, at the end of 1931. “Religion in Russia” was published in October 1930 (Vol. II no. 10 pp. 5-15), and “Education in Russia” appeared eight months later, in the April-May-June issue of 1931 (Vol. III nos.4-6, pp. 6-12). Though the articles named few names, the regime under discussion, of course, was that of the Bolsheviks, founded in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution in 1917. And the head of the communist government, at the time that Dastur was writing, was a man by the name of Joseph Stalin.
When we look in retrospect, the years 1929-1933 emerge as noteworthy ones in Russian history. For it was at this time that Stalin and the Soviet government undertook and actually carried out the collectivization of agriculture. An authoritative history of this period is Robert Conquest’s Harvest of Sorrow, which has served as the basis for the account that follows.
The underlying motivation on the part of the Soviets was the attempt, in conformity with communist dogma, to abolish private property and to gather the means of production under the authority of the state. Since much of Russia was agricultural, from the outset the peasantry was a particular target of the Soviet leadership. An abortive attempt to abolish peasant ownership of farms and to bring all agriculture in Russia under the direct control of the government was undertaken by Lenin almost immediately after he seized power. In a deliberate effort to instigate class warfare within the Russian village, the Soviet regime launched attacks against what it styled the “kulaks,” attacks that amounted to the appropriation of much of the land holding and grain of the Russian peasantry. The measures were widely resisted, and civil war ravaged much of the country. In the end Lenin had to put his plans into abeyance, but not before eleven to twelve million of his people had died, some from violence, and many more from starvation and disease.
The last two years of Lenin’s life, and most of the remainder of the 1920s, saw a relaxation of the communist effort to enforce their economic vision; and in consequence, the countryside recovered to a considerable extent and began to return to something approaching normalcy. In fact, with the emancipation of the serfs in the previous century, and with most of the wealthy estates having been broken up and redistributed among the peasantry at large, the agricultural sector during the early years of communist rule was no longer characterized by great disparities of wealth.
Despite this, much of the leadership among the Bolsheviks was still determined to collectivize agriculture; and so the reprieve was short-lived. The beginning of a new phase was signaled in December 1929 with Stalin’s declaration of the impending “liquidation of the kulaks as a class.” Now though according to communist party dogma the kulaks were capitalist exploiters of the rural economy, in point of fact, by 1929, twelve years after the Revolution, such a class hardly existed. In one characteristic case, for example, a province in which some 4000 farms were “dekulakized” yielded about one horse per farm, a plough and a cow for every two farms, and a pig for every four farms. As Conquest says, “the average kulak’s income was lower than that of the average rural official who was persecuting him as a member of the wealthy class” (Harvest of Sorrow, p. 118). In most cases the kulaks were nothing more than somewhat successful farmers, and it was on their efforts that much of the rural agricultural economy depended.
Nonetheless, Stalin’s treatment of the kulaks was brutal beyond belief. The fortunate ones died quickly with bullets through their heads. The families left behind often found themselves in desperate straits, all their grain and livestock requisitioned by the government, doomed to slow deaths by starvation. Millions of such families, however, were deported to the infamous gulags of Siberia and the arctic regions. Conditions of transport were so atrocious that many (perhaps 15-20 percent) did not survive the trip; those who did often had a life expectancy of a year or two. Solzhenitsyn tells of 60,000-70,000 deported to the “icebound Siberian stream of Vasyugan, to be marooned on patches of firm ground in the local marshes without food or tools” (Harvest of Sorrow, p. 142). By the next spring all had died. With regard to the treatment of the kulak, as the philosophy was described in a novel published in Moscow at the time, “Not one of them was guilty of anything; but they belonged to a class that was guilty of everything” (Harvest of Sorrow, p. 143).
With the so-called kulaks exterminated or deported in numbers swelling to the ten-to-fifteen million range, the survivors among the peasantry might have had reason to expect some relaxation in the severity of the communist regime towards them. But such was not to be. Early in 1930 (some six months before the first of Dastur’s articles) the Soviet government embarked on a program of crash collectivization whose main object was to annihilate the private farm holdings of the peasantry and to shift them into government-controlled collectives. Although this initiative met with widespread resistance (including the slaughter of perhaps half the nation’s livestock), within a few years the vast preponderance of the nation’s land had fallen into government ownership.
But the real blow fell in 1932, when the government imposed requisitions on grain–essentially a form of taxation–which, particularly in the Ukraine, left the peasantry with no grain whatsoever, no seed grain for the next spring, not even enough to make flour for bread. The sheer inhumanity of this policy is underscored in many accounts of party officials ransacking the huts of utterly impoverished farmers, searching for buried reserves of grain or potatoes. The consequence was a famine on a scale seldom seen before. In the Ukraine alone, some five to seven million people died of starvation during the terrible winter and desolate spring of 1932-33.
For Stalin, of course, the extermination of the Ukrainian peasantry was just a warm-up act. Promptly upon its conclusion, as is described in Robert Conquest’s The Great Terror, Stalin embarked upon a program of purges, wave after wave, that wiped out the leadership in most arenas of Russian life. Through brutal and sadistic torture, accused persons were forced to confess to fantastical plots against the Soviet government, the shabby spectacle of which was paraded before an international audience in the show trials of the late 1930s. The Terror reached its climax in 1936-38, just before the onset of World War II; and though Russia bore the main brunt of the violence of this terrible conflict and the Nazi onslaught, some Russians who lived through the experience found the war a positive relief compared with what had preceded it. After the war the tyranny continued, with government-created famines, a miasma of government lies in every sphere of public life, and the gulags in the frozen northlands where millions of prisoners survived for a time precariously and often died soon.
Two last anecdotal details about the secret “Central Isolation Prisons” in the Siberian gulag system stand in my mind as emblems of Stalin’s rule. To one of these prison camps, as Conquest relates, 50,000 prisoners were “transferred” for extermination. “The victims were tied up with wire like logs, stacked in trucks, driven out to a selected area, and shot.” When another of these prison camps was due for closing, according to a camp veteran writing afterwards, the method of doing so was designed to obliterate even the memory that such a camp had existed. First, the remaining prisoners were executed. Then, special NKVD (secret police) squads rounded up and killed off the camp staff and guards. “Owing to the permafrost, it is impossible to bury the bodies, and they are piled into veritable hills and covered with truckloads of earth, the whole matter remaining unknown even in neighboring camps....” The camp site itself was later converted into a prison hospital (The Great Terror, pp. 322-23).
Such was the regime whose praises K. J. Dastur was singing in the magazine that he edited in the name and service of Meher Baba, the Lord of Love and Avatar of the Age.
Journalistic Whitewashing
Though Dastur’s assessment of the Soviets not only missed the mark but positively stood the truth on its head, he did not err alone. To the contrary, much of the dominant mainstream among the Western cultural elite (with whom Dastur seems to have attuned himself) shared in his views. Adulation of Stalin in the early 1930s was widespread in “advanced” circles; and even among reporters and intellectuals who were on the scene in Moscow and thus in a position to know fully well what was going on in that country, very few indeed were willing to send out honest reports, while many more denied the atrocities outright, making themselves complicitous in the big lie that Stalin was perpetrating.
Thus it is among a sorry crew that historical hindsight must place the unfortunate Dastur in the stands that he took regarding Russia in the early 1930s.
Conquest devotes a chapter in Harvest of Sorrow (pp. 308-21) to what he calls “the record of the West”; and the tale that he tells is one of massive, systematic falsification on the part of the Soviets and a largely willful self-blinding on the part of all too many Western reporters. One technique the Soviets deployed was to create model or “Potemkin villages,” stocked with fat cattle and well-fed peasants, in the midst of the famine; and these concocted spectacles, like movie sets, were used to persuade gullible delegations of foreign scholars and journalists that rumors of the famine were nothing more than politically motivated fabrications. Thus George Bernard Shaw, one of the most celebrated British intellectuals of the early 20th century, could assert in 1932, “I did not see a single under-nourished person in Russia, young or old. Were they padded? Were their hollow cheeks distended by pieces of India rubber inside?” (Harvest of Sorrow, p. 316). Sidney and Beatrice Webb, widely regarded as the leading social scientists of their day, published a book in 1937 in which they denied the existence of a famine and attributed such minor food shortages as may have occurred to sloth on the part of the kulaks and a refusal to sow and reap on the part of peasant farmers acting in the spirit of anti-government sabotage. The prestige and influence of celebrated writers and scholars such as these did much to confuse the public perception and to obscure Stalin’s crimes under an appearance of controversy.
Most infamous among these obfuscators, however, was Walter Duranty, distinguished reporter for The New York Times, who was probably the Western world’s most influential source of information through this period. In September 1933, in the immediate aftermath of the genocide, “he was the first correspondent to be admitted to the famine regions, and reported that ‘the use of the word famine in connection with the North Caucasus is sheer absurdity’. . . . He also spoke of ‘plump babies’ and ‘fat calves as typical of the Kuban’” (Harvest of Sorrow, p. 319). Yet Duranty actually knew what was going on; according to a dispatch from the British charge d’affaires of the period, “Mr. Duranty thinks it quite possible that as many as ten million people may have died directly or indirectly from lack of food in the Soviet Union during the past year” (Harvest of Sorrow, p. 320). Thus Duranty’s reports were deliberate falsifications. Despite this, in 1932 Duranty was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his “dispassionate, interpretive reporting of the news from Russia.”
There were, however, an honorable few who dispatched truthful accounts to the Western press. Foremost among these was Malcolm Muggeridge, a young man at the time, who subsequently proved to be one of the great figures of twentieth-century journalism. Arriving in Moscow, like most of his journalistic cohorts, as an enthusiast of the new regime there, Muggeridge, unlike his compeers, had open eyes and an honest mind, and quickly he realized the fraud that Stalin was perpetrating. Defying the prohibition on travel by foreign journalists, Muggeridge actually boarded a train and himself visited the famine-stricken districts of the Ukraine; his subsequent first-hand reports in the Manchester Guardian were instrumental in bringing news of this catastrophe to the West. Yet, extraordinarily enough, the Western journalistic mainstream was not prepared to accept the debunking of its illusions, and when Muggeridge returned to England, despite just having broken one of the most significant stories of the century, he was (in effect) fired from his job and found himself unable to secure a new one. He had been blacklisted.
In an interview many years later, Muggeridge recalled a moment in his visit to the Ukraine that impressed him deeply. “It was on a Sunday in Kiev, and I went into the church there for the Orthodox mass. I could understand very little of it, but there was some spirit in it that I have never come across before or after. Human beings at the end of their tether were saying to God: ‘We come to You, we’re in trouble, nobody but You can help us.’ Their faces were quite radiant because of this tremendous sense they had. As no man would help them, no government, there was nowhere that they could turn. And they turned to their Creator. Wherever I went it was the same thing.”
Those who turned to God or religion did so against the wishes of their rulers; for contrary to the professions of Western celebrities such as Bernard Shaw–who claimed that U.S.S.R., unlike Britain, fostered freedom of religion (Harvest of Sorrow p. 316)–in actuality the Soviet regime had been virulently hostile to all forms of spirituality from the outset, and under Stalin the attack had been greatly stepped up. As early as 1917 Lenin had written,
Every religious idea, every idea of God, even flirting with the idea of God, is unutterable vileness . . . of the most dangerous kind, “contagion” of the most abominable kind. Millions of sins, filthy deeds, acts of violence and physical contagions . . . are far less dangerous than the subtle, spiritual idea of God decked out in the smartest “ideological” costumes . . . Every defense or justification of God, even the most refined, the best intentioned, is a justification of reaction. (Harvest of Sorrow, p. 199.)
It had not proven possible for the Soviets to act on this view (and to bring their “reaction” into effect) in the first years of their regime, since the Russian Orthodox Church, with about 100 million members at the time of the Revolution, commanded a wide allegiance. In the late 1920s, however, increasing pressure was brought to bear, despite wide resistance from the people particularly in rural areas. Churches were pillaged, or torn down, or converted into granaries or government offices; religious activities were increasingly repressed; and thousands of priests were charged with conspiracy against the government and hauled off to prison camps, where many died. In 1929 even the Soviet Constitution was revised in such fashion as to further restrict religious rights; while the worst of the anti-religious measures, like other of Stalin’s atrocities, proceeded without constitutional sanction. In light of what was actually happening in the country, Dastur’s impassioned defense of the Soviets (as noble atheists alienated by religious hypocrisy but despite this defending religious freedom in Russia) seems particularly ridiculous.
Nor does Dastur’s paean to Soviet education take into account what was probably the main feature in a child’s education during these years–hunger. Conquest estimates that, of the seven million who died in the famine, about three million were children. Many of them died with their families; others their parents sent off, in hopes that they would survive by begging. Some wound up in hellacious homes for juveniles, or even in children labor camps (i.e. prison); others, escaping, joined gangs of hooligans who survived by petty theft. In sum: all three areas that Dastur singled out for special praise, Soviet education, Soviet treatment of religion, and Soviet agriculture, were scenes of unmitigated disaster. Like so many of his brothers in the world of journalism, Dastur’s naive enthusiasm for the Soviets and moral outrage at their critics served only to aid and abet in the obfuscation of the misdeeds of one of the most brutal regimes in human history.
Dastur’s Blunder
At this juncture we should pause to consider the nature of the responsibility that a writer and editor bears. When one writes an article, even the worst of articles, one does not through that act of writing or editing shoot a fellow human with a bullet or snatch food from a starving child. Writing operates in a mental domain. Effective writing persuades others; and through that persuasion consequences ripple forth into the material sphere. Yet though its means of operation may be subtle, its impact can be enormous. If one could truly trace effects back to causes, one might conclude that a war that physically kills millions is no greater a calamity than, say, an influential nihilistic movement in literary-cultural circles. Indeed, such movements might rank among the causes of such wars.
Much of Stalin’s success hinged on duplicity. A leitmotif of his biography lies in his having bamboozled friends and enemies and associates of all types, one after another, including famous foreign personalities who should have known better, such as H.G. Wells or Franklin Roosevelt. It was crucial to Stalin’s success to win over public figures from outside the Soviet sphere, “free agents” as it were, whose testimony would buoy up his credibility in the world scene as nothing else could do. This was especially so in the late 1920s and early 1930s when a curtain of Soviet government lies and denials kept the world from fully appreciating the magnitude and horror of the liquidation of the kulaks and the starvation of the Ukrainian peasantry that Stalin was bringing to accomplishment. Through his passionate defense of the Soviets, Dastur put his talents to the service of Soviet propaganda and aided and abetted in Stalin’s mendacity. What is worse, by publishing his polemics in a magazine entitled the The Meher Message, in the minds of his public Dastur ran the risk of associating Meher Baba with his own views. Going to bat for a genocide and implicating the Avatar of the age in the whole mess: it is hard to imagine how an editor could perform more badly.
Of course, one could say, on behalf of the hapless Dastur, that his mistake was unintentional. He sincerely believed that the Soviets were being slandered. Had he realized the truth of the situation in Russia, he would never have spoken out as he did.
Yet this does not excuse him, for even in his ignorance Dastur had grounds for knowing better: and now at last I come to the point of this article. He should have known not to involve himself in politics. Indeed, he did know, for Meher Baba had specifically told him so. According to Lord Meher, in December of 1928, just before the release of the first issue of Meher Message, Baba discussed the forthcoming magazine with him. “‘If Meher Message deals only with spiritual subjects, my nazar (sight) and blessing will always be on it’ [Baba said]. Baba warned Dastur to steer clear of social and political issues and not to publish such articles in what was supposed to be solely a spiritual journal” (Lord Meher, Vol. 3, p. 1126).
But Dastur disregarded Baba’s warning. A little more than a year later, shortly before the release of the first of Dastur’s articles on Russia, an interesting episode transpired that has not, so far as I know, been related in full by any of the histories or biographies of the period. This episode occurs against the background of Mahatma Gandhi’s civil disobedience movement against the British Raj, which in the late 1920s was in full swing. In the April 1930 issue of Meher Message (p. 15), Dastur published the following note:
Shri Meher Baba’s Devotees
The Civil Disobedience Movement
A good number of Shri Meher Baba’s devotees, the chief being Mr. N. Satha, Mr. V. S. Chinchorkar, Mr. R. B. Hiray, and the Editor of The Meher Message, have been taking active part in the Civil Disobedience Movement, inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi for bringing the oppressive rule of the British barbarians in India to an end and thereby achieving Purna Swaraj or complete Independence. If, as it is probable, the Editor of this Magazine is arrested and imprisoned, the publication of the next or some other future number or numbers of this Magazine will be delayed.
Apart from Dastur’s gratuitous self-promotion in presenting himself as a martyr in advance of the event–a martyrdom which, indeed, never materialized–this announcement creates the implication (though it does not actually say) that Meher Baba supported Gandhi’s opposition to the British “barbarians.” Dastur’s notice precipitated a response from Baba’s mandali, undoubtedly with the approval of Baba Himself. In the inaugural June 1930 issue of the The Meher Gazette (vol. 1 issue 1, pp. 1-2), the editor C. V. Aiyengar published an article by Baba’s disciple and secretary Chanji (F. H. Dadachanji) explicitly asserting that Baba “has nothing to do with the step taken by some of his disciples in the Civil Disobedience movement, or any organization.” The full text of Chanji’s article, a significant one on this subject, is published elsewhere in this issue. But in essence, Chanji affirmed what Meher Baba asserted many times over the following decades, that He “has no connection or concern whatever with any political, social or religious question or movement. . . . His Holiness never gives any order or instructions to any one in any matter of social, political, or religious propaganda, except in the matter of one’s efforts for his own spiritual upliftment. . . . It is therefore necessary to make it quite clear that the part that is being taken by some of His disciples in the present C[ivil] D[isobedience] Movement is being taken by them of their own accord and free will, and on their own responsibility” (p. 2). Baba refused to have anything to do with Dastur’s politics.
But the decisive moment seems to have occurred earlier, in May of 1930, when, as cited in Lord Meher (vol. 4, p. 1310), in response to Dastur’s declaration of his intent to participate in civil disobedience, Baba expressed His displeasure in unequivocal terms. Reiterating His wish not to be associated with any political position, Baba said, “I have warned Dastur so many times to stay away from politics but, in spite of his promise to me, he is going against my wish. Let him do as he damn well likes; he can go to Hades–I can’t be concerned with the likes of him! He will repent for this.” Chanji’s letter in The Meher Gazette followed the next month, which in turn precipitated a flurry of letters and articles from Dastur and his supporters. Shortly thereafter, in October of 1930 and again in May of 1931, Dastur published his screeds on Russia; at the same time, The Meher Message was becoming less spiritual in its focus and Meher Baba Himself was receding into the background of its pages. By the time the magazine ceased publication at the end of 1931, Dastur had repudiated his former Master. While many causes may have contributed to this, clearly his having disobeyed Baba on the matter of politics was one of them.
Over the millennia humanity has found the life of the Avatar to be a treasure house of exemplary episodes giving us guidance through the maze of our lives. We all know that Baba has enjoined upon us to stay out of politics. The story of Dastur provides a marvelous case in point. If he had not had Baba’s warning to the contrary, all that Dastur said and wrote on the subject of Russia in the early 1930s might have made perfect sense to a reasonable and progressive man of his time and place in life. Indeed, many would have thought his political stands to be morally upright and idealistic, even courageous. Yet the churning of time’s passage has brought into view bitter, unsuspected truths and set what Dastur wrote against a ghastly new backdrop. While no doubt he put pen to paper fresh from the inspiration of animated political conversations with friends, those discussions have all been swept away, and now we read his articles back to the hideous history of the gulags and the Ukrainean terror-famine. Dastur did not need to have implicated himself in this; indeed, he should not have done so. If he had only managed to overcome his passions and inclinations and obey Baba, Dastur could have avoided this blunder, and there would be no occasion seventy-five years later for his name to be covered with obloquy by me in this present writing.
If a single word of Baba’s were measured in the scale against ten million human lives, Baba’s word would weigh the more heavily. Indeed, He is the One who can bring about the downfall of an entire civilization and the annihilation of ten times ten million human lives–and who can prevent such an eventuality–with the flick of His finger. For He is the Real, and this vast phantasmagoria of creation does not exist. The warning against political involvement is one of the distinctive elements in this Avataric Advent. In times when passions run high, we can do no better than cling to His daaman and uphold what He has told us.
Works Cited
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror: A Reassessment. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990.
----------. Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.
Dadachanji, F. H. “A Denial and an Explanation from His Holiness Meher Baba.” The Meher Gazette, vol. 1 no. 1 (June 1930), pp. 2-3.
Dastur, K. J. “Education in Russia.” The Meher Message, vol. 3 nos. 4-6 (April-May-June 1931), pp. 6-12.
----------. “Religion in Russia.” The Meher Message, vol. 2 no. 10 (October 1930), pp. 5-15.
----------. “Shri Meher Baba’s Devotees and the Civil Disobedience Movement.” The Meher Message, vol. 2 no. 4 (April 1930), p. 15.
Kalchuri, V.S. Lord Meher: the Biography of Avatar Meher Baba. Vols. 3 and 4. North Myrtle Beach, SC: Manifestation, 1988 and 1989.

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