Chatting With Mohammed Mast, Part 1

Mohammed Mast* was first brought to Baba in the Rahuri ashram in 1936. Dr. Donkin in his book, The Wayfarers, wrote that of all the hundreds of masts met by the mandali, the most exacting was Mohammed, who “exhibited the most bizarre and capricious vagaries that put the patience of those charged with his care to the greatest possible test.” [p. 44] In spite of that, Mohammed became one of Baba’s five favorite masts. Mohammed also had the most contact with Baba of any of the masts (including a trip to Cannes, France), and eventually spent his life at Lower Meherabad.

Baba embracing Mohammed, ~1939.
(Photo courtesy of MN Publications)

Around 1970, after being bitten by ants in his room in the Old Dharamshala, Mohammed was moved into Meherabad Mandali Hall. When pilgrims began to come for Baba’s darshan in His Samadhi on Meherabad Hill, they would often walk through the Hall at Lower Meherabad. There, few could resist wandering over to Mohammed sitting on his bed against the south wall … or moving closer to him as he stood at his table fiddling with his mugs or counting his hoard of soap bars … or perhaps passing near him as he bent over outside the Hall doors putting down big pieces of flagstone to hold the doors open (which would take quite a while).

Mohammed sitting on his bed in Meherabad Mandali Hall, late 1980s.
(Photo by Bob Street using Padri’s camera)

It didn’t take long for such innocent people to become familiar with Mohammed’s primary public language, which was a ferocious “Jao!” (“Go!”), shouted in a way that scared people out of their wits.

I moved into the room next to Mandali Hall when we (husband and self) moved to Meherabad in 1976. Meherabad was very quiet in those days, and moving to a place so near Beloved Baba’s Samadhi felt ecstatic and overwhelming—not to mention the privilege of being near the Meherazad/Meherabad mandali and, of course, the mast!

However, my first night there, which was a solo venture (husband was up the Hill as night watchman), I became overly conscious of being in a room next to someone who, according to Baba, was on the 5th plane, and could read your mind. Thoughts such as: “Is Mohammed reading my mind right now?” “Can he also walk through walls?” “Why do Padri and Nana Kher and Sushila have to be at the other side of the building?” and so on, occupied the evening. Needless to say, it was impossible to sleep.

Mohammed muttered to himself from bedtime onwards (he was alone in the Hall), but suddenly, in the middle of the night, he started making incredibly strange sounds, the type that made you sit bolt upright in bed. “Bhaaaauuuu … bhaaaauuuu … bhaaaauuuu …” (rising and getting louder), “Riiiiiii … riiiiii … riiiiii …” (sounds up and down and all over the place), “YA YA YA…!!!!” (shouting echoing throughout the Hall), and then a sudden drop in pitch and timbre, and then a rising repetition of all of it … over and over and over. … All I could think was, these are as foreign and frightening as dinosaur noises.

Finally, after 20 minutes of terror, I heard the Hall door open (“Who was that? Was Mohammed opening the door?”) and the elderly watchman, who had been sitting on a bench outside, shuffle into the Hall. Immediately Mohammed calmly called out to “Bhauriya” that he wanted a drink of water. It was obvious that the name of the watchman was “Bhauriya,” and it suddenly seemed that Mohammed was amusing himself by saying this name in dinosaur noises, perhaps to keep Bhauriya awake!

—Heather Nadel, for Avatar Meher Baba Trust, 19 November 2015

* According to Meher Baba, a “mast” is a seeker of God who becomes so intoxicated with the experience of the Divine that he loses interest in the external world of forms. His behavior may resemble that of a “madman” although it is actually a reflection of an advanced inner awareness. (See The Wayfayers, by William Donkin, for more information.)

Mohammed looking fierce! ~1987.
(Photo by Bob Street)