Prof. J.S. Rathore, Meherabad
The 12th of every month brings a day of mystic experiences in Meherabad. This is the DHUNI DAY, the day when the evening prayers and aratis are re-scheduled because of Baba's DHUNI that is lighted by pilgrims at what can be called as the DHUNI ABODE or the abode of Avatar's direct, living and personal radiation or TEJ or NOOR. Avatar Meher Baba has given His DHUNI TEJ a long life - a life of 1200 years at its Meherabad site. The DHUNI site is at Lower Meherabad adjacent to Meher Baba's big Table Jhopdi just beside the main road that leads to Ahemadnagar. The sight of DHUNI flames swirling high from the dhuni-pit, the long line of lovers waiting silently for their turn to offer sandalwood chips to the divine flames, the devotional singing by lovers and the spiritual ambience of Meherabad - all create an out-of-the-world experience on the Dhuni day. This experience imprints itself everlastingly on the consciousness of Meher Baba lovers and one gets an unmistakable feeling of a mystic aura enwrapping him or her. Until recently Mohammad, a fifth plane mast and one of the five favourite masts of Meher Baba, used to grace the Dhuni day by his presence. Being on the fifth plane, the spiritual status of Mohammad was that of a Wali. Mohammad dropped his physical body last year on 17th June 2003.
The word DHUNI was chosen by Meher Baba himself. On the night of 10th November 1925, Baba was in the midst of a discussion with his mandali near the table-cabin when the villagers of the neighbouring areas, who had earlier requested Baba for rain on account of a severe drought situation, came again and beseeched Him for rain. Upasani Maharaj's arti was sung and then Baba ordered a pit to be dug and a DHUNI to be lighted. The fire was lighted at eleven that night. Afterwards, Baba informed the villagers, "God has heard your prayers. Now go straight home." In spite of a clear sky, heavy rain started falling about an hour later and lasted for the next fifteen hours. The next day, Baba asked each member of the mandali to compose a poem on the DHUNI. This was done and Poems were ranked by Baba. Rustom won the first prize, Padri came second, Pandoba third and Kisan was fourth. In spite of their different religious and cultural upbringing, all of them used the word 'DHUNI' in their poems to refer to the sacred fire. Finally, Baba Himself composed a poem on His DHUNI.
There is some confusion about the date and the time of the lighting of the first Dhuni by Meher Baba. The above description is based on the account given in Lord Meher, Volume III, on pages 762-766. According to this description, the villagers from neighbouring areas had first approached Meher Baba with a request for rain in early November 1925. There was a scarcity of drinking water and a danger that their autumn crops might fail due to the prolonged drought. Baba advised them to be patient. They returned on 10th of November 1925. Jack Small, who wrote an article on the Meherabad Dhuni based on a narration given by Padri (Glow, 1982), one of Baba's close mandali, mentions that it was in the month of September that the villagers first met Meher Baba in Meherabad at the old bungalow where He was occupied with the mandali during the day. The first Dhuni was lit in the afternoon in the presence of Meher Baba who then told the mandali to sing Upasani Maharaj's Arti. The mandali did so, and when the Arti was almost half over, it began to drizzle which in turn developed into a very good shower, cooling the earth and drenching Baba and the mandali. At that time, "Dindi" or the bhajan party of the villagers, was on its way back (after meeting Baba) and also got drenched. Small, however finally stated in his article that "Baba first lit the Dhuni at Meherabad (according to Padri) on November 10, 1925". C.B.Purdom, in his classic biography of Meher Baba "The God-Man" published by Allen & Unwin in 1964, describes: "Another seat was made for him under a neem tree along the main road. On a portion of this seat or platform, a large wooden table was turned into a cupboard like cabin. From 11 October Baba began to retire for the night in the new cabin, and from 17 November the platform became Baba's central seat both at night and day. These still remain to be seen. On the 10th of the same month a dhooni (fireplace) was lighted near the seat at eleven o'clock at night, with due ceremony, by the mandali under Baba's instructions, and a significant phenomenon was witnessed on that occasion. There was a great scarcity of rain, so that a local famine was certain. Without any previous signs an hour or so after the fire had been lighted it began to rain very heavily. For nearly fifteen hours the rain continued, reviving the dying crops, and a serious famine was averted."
DHUNI is a samskrit word, which has different meanings. Jack Small, interprets DHUNI as meaning "Dhyani" or the meditator, or "Dhun" which means repeating God's name in a sing-song way. Etymology of the word "Dhuni" is quite confusing and scholars have traced it differently. Antonio Rigopoulos, the author of "The Life and Teachings of Sai Baba",traces it from the samskrit word "Dhoo" which means, "to kindle." G.S.Ghurge in his book "Indian Sadhus" describes the etymology of the word Dhuni from the samskrit word "Dhun" meaning "to waft" that is to "carry lightly and smoothly through the air or over water in a waving movement." Dhuni can also be derived from "Dhvani" meaning "sound that lingers". "Dhun" also stands for a "musical sound that keeps on haunting". Sound exists throughout all the planes of existence differing in its expression of feeling, ecstasy and bliss. "Naad" or original sound is the manifestation of the original breath of God - the original Word - together with space, time and the universe with all the paraphernalia of the limited finite ego mind, energy and the individual and multiple forms.
Whatever be the origins, Dhuni or the sacred fire kindles the fire of divine love and makes the Divine Name of the Avatar enshrined in the hearts of those, which bow down and offer sincere prayers to the sacred Dhuni.
Light plays a crucial role in Sufi cosmology and mysticism often in relation to dhikr practices. The "mysticism of light" by Shihaboddin Yahya Sohrawardhi [1155-91], with his description of the events originating in the Malakut sphere, is paradigmatic in this regard.
Maharashtra has a history of the Natha cult. There is a strong centre at of the cult at Tryambak. The history goes back to the 13th century. Jnandeva, the founder of Natha bhakti movement had been initiated into the Nath cult by his elder brother Nivritti who was a disciple of Gahininath, the fourth Nath in the Marathi lineage. We learn about the existence of a mountain named "Macchendragadh" and of a tamarind tree named "Gorakh chincha" sacred to the memory of Gorakhnath. The Dhuni has cultist association with the Nath Yogi cult. There are images of Natha gurus inside the Shirdi temple where Sai Baba's samadhi is located.
Hindu Gurus or Sufi Masters quite often keep a dhuni burning as a cult symbol and tradition. A Sadguru or a Perfect Master sometime keeps the dhuni as a mystic force operating as one of the channels of his work in the gross sphere. Dhuni, as Sadguru's or Avatar's mystic force, exists as a divine being who remains accessible to whosoever approaches it with respect and faith. The Avatar or the Sadguru fixes the lifetime of this divine being.
Meher Baba's Dhuni is the Avatar's Dhuni. It is a unique feature of His advent as there are no accounts of Avataric Dhuni in the lives of previous advents or Avatars. In His Dhuni poem, Meher Baba has addressed His Dhuni as a Wali, a fifth plane being:
"Chhe tujna gun wali jewa pade tuj ma bane tewa,
Ajab tari karamat chhe, ajab lila ajab kudrat."
Your qualities are those of a wali,
those who affiliate themselves with you,
become like you.
Marvellous is your work;
Wonderful is your play and your nature.
"Walini ej upma chhe, walina ej chhe gundosh,
Taraweli dubaweli, walini ej chhe khaslat."
Wali has the same type of good quality.
Wali has the same blemish.
Wali has the same quality of either a
Saviour or a destroyer.
Dhuni, in the eastern spiritual traditions, has a strong association with the Sufis. Arthur Osborne has traced its origins from the Parsi tradition. Sai Baba of Shirdi, one of the five Sadgurus of Avatar Meher Baba, had kept his Dhuni always burning. Sai Baba's dhuni was inside the dilapidated mosque where he lived. Quite often he would be found sitting in front of the fire, facing south and keeping his left hand on a wooden support - a typical aid used by Indian ascetics.
That the Avatar's Dhuni has divine and mystical qualities is expressed by the Avatar - Avatar Meher Baba - Himself. In His Dhuni poem Meher Baba has stated:
"Karu tari sifat kiathi, kalam ma te nathi takat"
Could I ever praise you enough?
My pen is not strong enough to do it.
"Agadh mahima teri dhuni, tujko jane rushi muni"
Vast is your greatness Oh Dhuni !
Sages and Saints alone can recognise you.
Avatar Meher Baba's Dhuni had two distinct phases - Sporadic Phase and the Continuous Phase. Meher Baba created this Divine Being in response to a particular situation. The unprecedented scarcity of water was making the lives of people miserable. Inevitability of a famine loomed large over them. Convinced of Meher Baba's divinity, some of them approached Baba with love and devotion. Avatar Meher Baba, being the ocean of love and compassion, activated the duality-pair of Fire & Water through the faith and devotion of the villagers, and created the Dhuni. It then rained heavily. The entire region was saved from the misery of a famine. Initially the Dhuni was kept alit for 24 hours of the day. But during the periods of Baba's absence from Meherabad, it was left cold. On 10th of November 1926, the Dhuni was lighted again at seven in the evening in commemoration of its first anniversary. Baba's Gujarati arti was sung and soon after it rained heavily as it had done the previous year when the Dhuni was first lighted. Again the mandali's makaan (quarters) was flooded and Baba told them to shift to the mess quarters which had been recently used for the hospital. Baba stood at the door to ensure that no one entered with muddy feet as classes for the children were still being held there. The two episodes of heavy downpours of rain connect Dhuni with the rain. But Avatar's Dhuni has no such fixed relationship.
From March 9th, 1927, Baba began spending the night in the Table Cabin near the Dhuni. The handmill was fixed outside its entrance and He again began grinding corn for a few hours each day. When Baba changed His seat to Table Cabin, He remarked to the mandali," I will stay here for one thousand two hundred years." Thus this unique Dhuni of Avatar Meher Baba has a lifetime of 1200 years irrespective of the physical status of the present Dhuni site.
On 17th October 1941, Meher Baba and Upasani Maharaj had an exclusive meeting at Dahigaon, a place about forty miles from Meherabad. Before this meeting Baba was at Panchgani. Baba and all the men and the women mandali left Panchgani in a car and the Blue Bus. When Baba returned to Meherabad, he gave instructions to start lighting the Dhuni every month from the 12th of December 1941. Everybody thought this was perhaps for the purpose of bringing down rain since Dhuni had previously been lighted with that intent. But Baba explained, "This time the reason for igniting it is not for rain; it is for a certain definite purpose of my work." This time Dhuni was connected with the Second World War, which was about to take a turn for the worse. The global situation in December 1941 was dangerous and bleak. Everywhere the battered Allies Britain, Russia and China stood on the defensive while the Axis Powers - Germany, Italy and Japan were triumphant. America was still neutral. On December 7th, Pearl Harbour was attacked. Japan declared a war on America and Great Britain. Four days later, Germany declared a war on America. The same day, Thursday, December 11th, Baba began fasting on water for a week, and informed all his lovers everywhere to fast on the 12th December, on only one meal. On this day Baba came down from Meherabad Hill at 6:45 P.M. and stood near the Dhuni underneath the neem tree. The wooden Table Cabin of Baba's previous seclusion had been moved there and his photograph had been placed on it. Gustadji knelt and kindled the Dhuni without any arti being sung or anything else done by way of ceremony. Neither did Baba allow the mandali to take His darshan. Baba did make some unusual remark. Seeing Pleader He said, "You will see God." After a while Baba spelled on the board, "God will take darshan of God." Then he added, "You - all of my mandali - will see God." Baba had come down the Hill completely covered with a white sheet and had taken His seat near the Dhuni in the same way. He went up the Hill in the same manner. Baba ordered that from that day on, the Dhuni should be lit on the 12th of every month. His order is accordingly obeyed to this day and will also be obeyed in the future. Avatar's Dhuni is a mighty but benign formation of Avatar's Tej or Noor. It is under the direct Will of Avatar Meher Baba and can gift a heavy downpour of rain, shape the global events and even make one cross the domain of Illusion and eventually attain God Realization, depending upon Baba's whim. Nothing is impossible with the Avatar's Dhuni.
On Wednesday, December 24th, 1941, a telegram was received that Upasani Maharaj had dropped his body. Baba commented, "I feel quite unconcerned and even happy at this news of Maharaj's death, since I know that he is now relieved of the burden of retaining his physical body after his work was over and the long awaited meeting with me had taken place at Dahigaon". In memory of Upasani Maharaj, Baba instructed the men and women mandali and his lovers everywhere to fast completely on 13th January 1942. He also ordered that the Dhuni that would be lit on 12th, be kept burning for 48 hours in Maharaj's honour. This was done and every one fasted on that day. Photographs of Upasani Maharaj and Meher Baba were placed near the Dhuni by the table cabin. Baba came down from the Hill at 6:45 P.M. He looked at the photographs. He sat on a wicker chair after being garlanded by Papa Jessawala, to whom He had given the privilege of lighting the Dhuni. Pendu, Padri, Sidhu, Papa and Vishnu each placed a stick of sandalwood in the fire. They also took darshan by bowing to the Dhuni. Baba remarked, "For me there is no pleasure in the uncertainties of life, as I know everything. The only pleasure is to lighten the burden of my appointed duties." He added, "Today is a day of great significance - today the tide of events is turning. Just as the fire is all ready and needs only the match put to it, now, it is as if it were a quarter to seven and it will soon be seven o'clock. And when that time comes, I will apply the match to my work. One great soul and one of my intimate men mandali will shortly pass away. Now that Upasani Maharaj has gone, henceforth, those devotees who used to go frequently to Sakori and who love me also, should not go there any further." Baba remained with the men at Dhuni for about twenty minutes, and then returned up the Hill. Two years later Dadachanji, Baba's intimate mandali and a great soul indeed died. Events thereafter did reveal that Baba was greatly involved with His universal work, particularly that which related with the second world war and He did apply the match to His work making the 12th January Dhuni as his medium. In February 1942, He dictated four messages: The Spiritual Significance of the Present War, Violence and non-violence, Action and Inaction, and the Need for Creative Leadership in India. This was the period when Baba looked thoughtful about the possible attack on India by Japan. He informed the women mandali: "If we are attacked, we must be ready to defend ourselves. We must have military training in self-defence." He appeared very serious and appointed Margaret Craske to give the women lessons in the martial arts. Three years later, in 1945, the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. About this war Baba had said, "Two kinds of forces are operative in the present war -first, the forces which make for love, justice, harmony and the well-being of mankind taken as a whole, and second, the forces which in alliance with narrow racial or national loyalties, work toward the selfish exploitation of others. ...Out of the chaos there will emerge a New World of freedom and happiness and understanding."
Events of early 1952 reveal that Avatar's Dhuni is neither site bound nor site specific. It cannot be and should not be approached through ritualistic and ceremonial attitudes. This was the period when Meher Baba made His Dhuni to play a significant mystic role in the Manonash phase of His New Life. Baba had ordered the dismantling of the two cabins on the Seclusion Hill and their reassembly into a single unit at Meherazad. On 15th December 1951, He retired to this reassembled cabin at Meherazad and continued His Manonash work there. For His work, Baba would sit alone in His cabin or in the Blue Bus from 7 to 11 P.M daily, spending the rest of the time with or without companions in his cabin. Eruch would be on guard from 7 to 11 P.M., Gustadji from 11 to 2:30 A.M. and Pendu from 2:30 to 6 A.M. At 6:45 on the evening of January 4th, Baba lighted a Dhuni fire in a pit behind His cabin in Mehrerazad. This fire was kept burning until seven o'clock the following morning, when it was extinguished. The Dhuni was lit at exactly seven o'clock every evening thereafter until the completion of Manonash work. On the evening of 23rd January at seven o'clock, Baba asked Gustadji to start the Dhuni. While it was burning Kaikobad repeated the ancient Persian prayer - The 101 names of God. Kaka and Kaikobad loudly invoked "Ahurmazda". Pendu invoked - "Ya Yazdan". Nilu, Krishna and Vishnu invoked - "Om Parabrahma Paramatma." And Baidul: "La Illah Illallah". Each man shouted the invocation seven times. Baba bowed his head to the Dhuni and then at the feet of each person present. He asked everyone to leave Him alone and He remained seated beside the Dhuni for some time. After a while He called back everyone and directed each one of them to repeat the invocation of the various names of God. This time three new invocations were added - "Lord of Life and Wisdom", "The Beyond God, the Infinite Consciousness" and "O God Almighty, Father in Heaven". Before the Dhuni fire began, Dr.Nilu wanted to examine Baba's heart and pulse so that he could check the deviation in heart and pulse rates before and after the work at the Dhuni. Baba did not allow this and remarked, "I appreciate your feelings for me, but it is not necessary. Come what may, after this period of seven days I may live or die - or the blood may rush to my head and crack my skull."
Baba's seclusion intensified from January 23rd and He sat alone for hours in His cabin and the Blue Bus. This continued till January 30th. On January 31st, Baba took a bath in the morning, and then sat alone in His cabin for sometime. Morning hours were spent by the mandali crying out the invocations - "Ahurmazda", "Om Parabrahma Paramatma" and "Ya Yazdan". Afternoon was spent in repeating the invocations - "Parvardigar", "La Illah Illallah" and "O God Almighty who art in Heaven." Baba then sat alone for half an hour and came out at seven o'clock, and the Dhuni was lit. Eruch read out the following as dictated by Baba: "O Source of Infinite Knowledge, Almighty God / You know that I did all / that was humanly possible for me / in this ordinary state / and I leave the result entirely to Your will and sanction / For its fulfilment, may the moment / the hour, the day, the month / the year, the yuga (age) / be as You have decreed and destined / From this moment You must guide me to declare / in all truth, by the the 16th of February, 1952 / what You have decided / From now on I free myself from external religious ceremonies / that I observed during the New Life and the Manonash period". Prasad was distributed and the pictures of the Avatars were handed to Adi Sr. to be returned to those from whom they had been borrowed. Baba had previously instructed Eruch to write these words down on a piece of paper: "All rites, rituals and ceremonies of all religions of the world are consumed in the flames". Baba had the paper in His pocket. He took it out, tore it into pieces and threw it into the flames and watched it burn. When the Dhuni fire died out, Baba filled two tins with its ash. He then instructed, "This ash should not be used by anyone for any purpose whatsoever". Baba then retired to His cabin.
Though the Dhuni was given a monthly continuity by Baba from 1941 onwards, there were only a few occasions of His presence at the Dhuni. On Monday, September 14th, 1954, Baba went to Meherabad in the morning to meet His Western lovers. This was the period, which was heading towards a climax - His "Final Declaration". A group of twenty western lovers had come on 11th September to participate in this very special sahvas of Baba with selected groups of eastern and western lovers. On this day Baba led the Westerners and the Sakori group to His Jhopdi Hut, Table Cabin and the Dhuni pit. When they came to the Dhuni pit, Vishnu narrated the incident of how the villagers had approached Baba for rain in the year 1925 and how after lighting the Dhuni, the rain had started. Baba remarked," People call it a miracle, but it was only a coincidence. I will perform only one miracle - when I utter the Word. It will be my one real miracle."
November 1955 was the month of sahvas of Baba with His Andhra lovers. One hundred and eighty one lovers from Andhra arrived in Ahmednagar on November 11th Friday. Baba arrived in Meherabad at 7:40 A.M. on November 12th. At 5 o'clock in the afternoon, Baba and the Telugu group walked to the tent opposite the hall where the Arangaon villagers had gathered to take Baba's darshan. Being the Dhuni day, there was a large crowd. They sang bhajans and kirtans and worshipped Baba by garlanding Him and offering coconuts and incense. Baba played on the drum for a while and became one with them. At 5:40 P.M., Baba sat by the Dhuni. The mandali and others present lined up and in turn, were given a small chip of sandalwood by Eruch, which they threw in the Dhuni fire after an embrace or pat from Baba. Baba had explained to them in the morning that the sandalwood should represent a particular desire they wished to offer and burn to ashes. Thus the Avatar's Dhuni can also be approached for the effacement of sanskaras and getting a spiritual push.
Avatar's Dhuni should never be taken lightly. Avatar Meher Baba has always treated His Dhuni with respect. Satya Mang was a notorious robber operating in Ahmednagar and adjoining areas. One day He came along with his gang for Meher Baba's darshan. Such was the impact of this darshan that he vowed before Baba never again to indulge in robbery. Transformed, Satya Mang became a lover of Meher Baba. It was in 1936, during the Rahuri Mast Ashram days, there occurred a theft of tin sheets and some wooden material from the Meherabad Hill. Baba called Satya and said, "This theft is done either by you or one of your old gang members. In case you did not do it, bring before me the real culprit". Deeply hurt by being treated as a suspect by Baba, Satya was desperate to prove his innocence. From his sources he came to know that one of his early accomplices, Fakira, was the culprit. Fakira vehemently denied this and finally both agreed to confess the truth before Baba's Dhuni. They went there and putting the Dhuni's sacred ash in their mouths vowed their innocence and prayed: "Whosoever has committed the theft shall die within eight days". Fakira was the culprit and he died within eight days.
Baba has given a lifetime of 1200 years to His Dhuni. This period would go beyond the physical lifetime of His next advent after 700 years. His Dhuni, therefore, is one of the most important active formations of His direct, personal and living radiation or Tej or Noor. Baba has given the status of a Wali or Mahapurusha to His Dhuni. There are no limitations of Time and Space for a Wali. He can know anything and everything about the gross, subtle and mental spheres. He can help less advanced souls and also ordinary human beings to come up to his own level of progress. He has the power to lead an aspirant "by hand" along the Path. When He does so, the aspirant internally perceives the continual presence of the master of the mental plane and feels being led by him along the path of perfection. Wali acts through sight or tawajjoh. But Meher Baba's Dhuni is a special Wali who is a slave of his master, Avatar Meher Baba. Thus any worthy aspirant graced by the Avatar's Dhuni for being "led by hand" will perceive internally the continual presence of the Avatar Himself and will be led by Him. That the Dhuni is His slave, is made clear by Baba Himself in His Dhuni poem:
"Tu Babane sharan rehje, gurune wandana kehje"
"Be remain surrendered to Baba
Keep offering your obeisance to your guru."
"Sadguru ka tu sacha das, hamesha rahena unke pass."
"You are a true servant of the Sadguru, stay with him always."
"Tu hai guruka sacha banda, mere thande hath kaa garam danda."
"You are the real slave of the Master, a fiery rod of my cool hand."
Avatar Meher Baba's Dhuni is truly universal and would remain as the most easily available medium of contact and communion with the Avatar, any time, anywhere. There are no prescribed ritualistic or ceremonial procedures for the Avatar's Dhuni. Avatar's Dhuni is a form of Meher Baba and can bestow spiritual and material benefits on anybody who approaches it with faith, respect and love irrespective of caste, creed, religion and nationality. Befriending Avatar's Dhuni, therefore, is not a reversal to cultist sacred fire worship. Avatar Meher Baba's Dhuni is Meher Baba's name & form spiritually encapsulated by Baba in the orb of His Tej or Noor. Baba says in His Dhuni poem:
"Hazaro ne shafa deje, gariboni dua leje,
Rahe tu aptoj jeje, koi tujthi kare minnat."
May you give relief to thousands; may you bless the helpless poor,
May you go on giving your grace to one who longs from you to receive it.
" Sambhale tujne je insan, kare taiyar sau pakwan,
Ne chhede tujne je nadan,tu tene mate chhe afat."
Anyone who befriends you can be benefited by utilising you for the
purpose of cooking hundreds of dishes. Any ignorant man who affronts
you, you could be a calamity to him.
Avatar Meher Baba Ki Jai
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