“Don’t Take Shortcuts”
In 1947, Meher Baba wanted to sit in seclusion in a quiet and elevated spot. Many places were discussed, and it was finally decided to use Tembi Hill, behind Meherazad, which is now called Seclusion Hill. It was close enough to Meherazad for the mandali to provide support and steep enough so shepherds would not disturb Baba.
Baba could climb the very steep hill easily despite there being no established path at the time. Still, as a gift for Baba, Dr. William Donkin designed and built a path to the summit. The path took six months to complete and included several series of stone steps and two sharp switchbacks to accommodate the steepness.
Today, when pilgrims climb Seclusion Hill, they follow the same path built for and used by Baba.
In November 1955, Baba held a month-long Sahavas program for men from four language groups: Gujarati, Telugu, Hindi, and Marathi. Two hundred men from each language group were invited to stay at Meherabad for a week, and Baba concluded the week for each group by bringing them to Meherazad and leading them up Seclusion Hill.
Meherwan Jessawala was in the first group to go up the Hill. He recalled, “Climbing was rough then. There were no trees and it was quite barren. Baba climbed like a deer with graceful steps. It was hard to keep up. He kept saying, ‘Keep close to me.'”
Meherwan continued, “There were a few youngsters who decided to take a short cut up the hill. When Baba saw them, He clapped loudly and gestured for them to come down. He said, ‘You think this is a picnic you have come to? What do you mean by climbing like that? Don’t take shortcuts. If you go up that way you will get stranded. If you want to race, I can outrace anybody.’
“That was a lesson for all. We are not to take shortcuts on the spiritual path. Follow Him. It may look like a longer route, but it is safe and sure.”
As they climbed, Baba told the men how the path up Seclusion Hill is like the lover’s journey to the Beloved. Meherwan remembered Baba’s description of the allegory: “At first the Beloved showers the lover with encouragement and love, and the lover romps along the path renouncing the world and is free and happy.” Meherwan explained that the lover climbs the path for a long while with great enthusiasm, feeling himself being pulled along by a string held fast by his Beloved. “The Beloved has to take utmost care to make sure the link is maintained.”
As Meherwan recalled, Baba and the men reached the first switchback, where the path makes a sharp hairpin turn. “Baba said, ‘See what has happened here? The path has taken a change in direction.’ On this U-turn the Beloved has let the string slacken. The lover is ignored slowly at first and then to such an extent that the lover ceases to see the Beloved’s presence. The lover is completely bewildered [and] feels everything is lost to him. He does not realize that though the direction [of the path] changed, he was still climbing higher.”
This second section of the path up Seclusion Hill is the shortest—just 65 steps. Still, by the end of this stretch, Meherwan said, “The lover feels such despair he wants to jump and end his life. This has been the experience of most of the mandali.
“When the lover comes to [the next switchback], the Beloved gives the first bit of tug again. The Beloved then starts to gradually pull the strand more and more, and the seeker is suddenly welcomed and encouraged again by the Beloved. At the end of this, he has reached the summit.”
Baba pointed out the barrenness of Seclusion Hill to the group and said, “Why would people want to come here to perform pilgrimage? Because I have done great spiritual work here. All those who come here and bow down to Me will have great benefit spiritually. You are all so fortunate to be here with Me. As a token of this trip, take a pebble and keep it.”
As Meherwan concluded his account of that remarkable day accompanying Baba up Seclusion Hill, he sighed ruefully, “And like a fool, I lost my pebble. …”
—Clea McNeely for Avatar Meher Baba Trust, 22 December 2016