(Senior Employee of American Oil Company)
Don E. Stevens was born January 14, 1919 in Nevada. The youngest of three brothers, Don and his family moved to California when Don was four years old. In 1940, he graduated from Johns Hopkins University as a research chemist. His degree led him to work for oil companies such as Aramco and Standard Oil throughout his professional life.
In 1940, Don became a mureed (student) of Murshida Rabia Martin in the Sufi Order, San Francisco; Murshida Martin later became devoted to Meher Baba, sharing this devotion with her students. In 1952, Don met Baba in person. His life was changed forever. Amid travels, Don met with Baba in India and the US and maintained a close relationship with Him, taking every opportunity to be in Baba's presence. Since 1952 onward, Don worked incessantly on various literary projects and with groups of young people interested in Baba. Perhaps Don's greatest contribution to Baba was his service, at Baba's request, as co-editor of God Speaks. Don also worked on a revised edition of Baba's Discourses. Don has authored a variety of books including Listen, Humanity, as well as Meher Baba's Gift of Intuition, and others. In later years, he worked tirelessly with people around the world who were translating God Speaks into many different languages.
Many of his lifetime episodes and experiences with Meher Baba are written as under:
On 20th July 1952, Baba met with Don, Ivy and Charmian at Scarsdale. Baba explained and instructed them about the reorientation of the Sufi order and its charter, and added: "On November 15 and after will be My Fiery Life. There will be a great mess as never before. If My body does not fall off, I will be back in the United States by July 9, 1953. If My body does fall off, I will be back in 700 years.
"By December you will receive about 500 typed pages and $1,000 toward the publication of My book (God Speaks). How to publish it is up to Ivy and Don.
"Before November 15th, I will send the complete charter of Sufism Reoriented with My signature. It must be applicable to all other sects and equally throughout the world."
Don then asked a question privately, which Baba answered. At one point Baba dictated, "Intellectual knowledge backed fully by feelings is intellectual conviction."
Don Stevens' first meeting face-to-face with Baba had confirmed the wisdom of accepting Rabia Martin's example of accepting Meher Baba as her Spiritual Master, as is described in his following letter soon after he returned home to California:
Always when the human mind is faced with things which are beyond its capacity for the present to absorb, it escapes off into contemplation and absorption in inconsequential and trivial detail.
I remember your first, or one of your first, statements to me, "My Don, My boy." And then my mind goes along the inane and delightful reasoning that God is your Father, and therefore, He must be my Grandfather. That really delights me to think about, because I had never expected Him to be even a remote uncle removed three times by marriage!
Baba, while I watched in fascination as you told a story, and listened in thin-bladed anticipation and delight to your handling of business and abstruse matters of philosophy, and felt my heart grow great when you knew that I had not yet asked you about the things that lay deepest within it, while all these things occupied my mind and attention you slipped into the fastnesses and stillnesses of my soul and held the hand of the weeping child and played ball with the awkward lad who fell over himself and summed the column of figures that the mathematician added constantly and ever to different sums
Thank you, Baba. Can one possibly thank you?
Your loving son,
Don ! ...
Baba said: Don Stevens saw Me in America at that time. He, too, had no thought as to why the Avatar should get injured. Krishna died with an arrow in His body. Is it a fact? Yes, it is."
Baba asked Don, "Did you ever think about why My leg was in plaster?"
Don said, "I didn't think about your leg, but I often wondered if you were who you said you were!" Baba explained:
In 1955, this was first trip to India for Dion. As a Sufi, he had also met Baba in America in 1952. He had missed the meeting in September 1954 due to illness, so he had come to India to attend the sahavas for about ten days. Both men were accommodated in a small room (in what later became the library) on Meherabad Hill, and Savak Kotwal looked after their food, which Sarosh would send from his bungalow in Ahmednagar. Adi Jr. and his wife Franey would eat with them and assist in any way they could.
Baba walked to His cabin, where He discussed matters with Nusserwan Satha. Soon He came out and used His alphabet board for the television film. Several different angles were shot by the cameraman hired for the occasion, before Baba held up His hand signaling it was enough. Baba handed Don Stevens the alphabet board for him to take back to America and joked, "The next time Don says something will take ten minutes, I'll know he means thirty!" The 16mm black and white film was subsequently viewed by the public on the California television program "Cavalcade of Books," on which God Speaks was reviewed.
Mildred Kyle had died several months before in America, and her ashes had been sent to India by Elizabeth. Baba was driven up the hill in the blue Chevrolet. Don Stevens was called to witness Baba lowering her ashes into a grave near His Tomb, before the sahavas group arrived.
Baba visited Meherabad again, stopping as usual on the way at Khushru Quarters. At Meherabad, Baba had Don Stevens read out drafts of royalty agreements for God Speaks, and they discussed other matters, before Baba returned to Meherazad a little before noon.
In 1956, Don Stevens was informed that Baba wished him to be with Him during the entire American trip. Don proposed the idea of having Baba meet with university students in religious study classes. Baba replied (thorough Mani): "I do not mind who or how many people come to see Me but I am coming mainly to give My sahavas to My near and dear ones whose love draws Me once more to the land of America."
A boy named Charles asked Baba: "I would like to learn how to love."
Don Stevens volunteered to answer: "I would say to be with Baba or near Baba as much as possible. Or, if you cannot be with Baba, see Baba in people, love people. Because apparently it is only by loving people that one is loved by them in turn."
Baba's message "Divine Bliss and Human Suffering" was read by Don Stevens. In it Baba explained about the difference in suffering between an ordinary man, Perfect Masters and the Avatar, and ended by stating: "(A)n ordinary man suffers for himself, Masters suffer for humanity, and the Avatar suffers for one and all beings and things."
On Monday, 23rd July 1956, all visitors and close Baba lovers were called into the interview room. Cameramen from NBC television were going to take a short film. Don Stevens read Baba's message "Deathless Living," and afterwards Baba stated:
It is the birthright of every human being to be happy, but most feel miserable. It is due to the load of sanskaras or impressions gathered throughout evolution. In our evolution, through the entire forms— stone, worm, bird, fish, animal — we gather impressions. Once human consciousness is gained, then there is full consciousness. After that, it is only a question of directing one's attention to the I in order to become free.
Everyone can be happy, but some feel happy and some miserable. Those who constantly want something will never feel happy. Misery is bound to accompany wanting. Those who never want for themselves but for others, they can feel happy. Why? Because they want others to feel happy.
God, who is in everything and in everyone, is deaf to formal rituals, ceremonies, prayers in mosques, churches and temples. But He hears the voice of the heart. When you help others, God knows instantly and is pleased. No amount of prayer or meditation can do what helping others can do.
The main thing that counts is love for me. How will you love me? By loving God; as well as others. If you make others happy, God pays heed. Do you follow? I have been saying the same message throughout the ages that all are One. We are all One, and all of you love Me.
I am in everything, and everything is in Me. In India I bow down to the lepers, the poor, and the lame. Why do I bow down? Because I am one with everything! God is in everyone. Age after age, I have been bringing the same message, but mankind does not listen. Christ had to be crucified; otherwise, humanity would not have listened to Him.
Baba ended by gesturing, "I am the Ancient One."
Baba left the Lagoon Cabin and had His lunch in the Guest House. Afterwards He spoke with Ivy, Don Stevens and others, repeating what He had told Max Haefliger about Saint Francis: "Saint Francis of Assisi was the only one of the very few saints in the West to become a Perfect Master."
Don asked, "Baba, you have explained in the Discourses, God Speaks and elsewhere that an individual cannot attain God-realization without the aid of a living Perfect Master.
Since there was no Perfect Master in the West at that time, how did Saint Francis achieve Realization?"
Baba turned to Ivy and asked, "Have you heard of the ancient Sufi prophet, Khwaja Khizr?" She replied that she had heard Rabia Martin speak of him. Baba explained: "Khwaja Khizr now and then takes on a physical body if there is some spiritual situation that absolutely demands it. The Realization of Francis was such a case, because he had no Perfect Master to give him Realization. So on the night we read about on Mount La Verna, (near) Assisi, during which Saint Francis also received the stigmata (wounds of the Crucified Christ), Khwaja Khizr, in his temporary human form, gave this beloved Western saint the touch of grace which made him a Perfect Soul — a Sadguru or Perfect Master."
Don Stevens then stood up and, as asked by Baba, read three of His messages: "The Binding Past," "The Law of Karma" and "Freedom from Opposites."
When he finished, Baba clapped His hands. Someone had fallen asleep, so Baba asked Don to read them again, and then explain what they meant. One message emphasized that the past cannot be changed and is like a frozen lake, but it continues to mold the present and the future of the limited I. Another emphasized that after physical death we experience the heaven and hell mental states.
"Do you understand it?" Baba asked.
When Don nodded yes, Baba gestured, "Good, because I don't!"
As the laughter died down, Baba asked, "Where heaven is and where hell is? Don, you explain."
Don replied, "As I understand it, these are illusory states, which exist only in the mind. They have no reality; they are part of illusion."
As Don Stevens was reading one of Baba's messages, Tex was glancing at Baba, thinking: "So this is God." Baba turned and looked at him as if to say, "Don't try to understand Me."
When Don finished his reading, Baba said, "I am very happy to be here. I bless you all. I must leave shortly, but you must stay and eat your dinner. Eat well."
Later, Baba called everyone in, and Don Stevens read the message "God, Man and the God-Man." Baba added:
The God-Man, God as Father, Son and Man are one. God is infinite beyond all comprehension, Son is finite mind, and Man is the human side. The God-Man experiences all the three stages simultaneously; in him, Father, Son and Man are one. In his Christ-conscious state, he experiences all the three states at once. As Father, he is Infinite and beyond all conception; as Son, he is Infinite, but he comes down to our level; as Man, he experiences himself as human. Jesus Christ, the God-Man or the Avatar, took on the suffering of all humanity.
In 1957, Don rigged up a special kind of cot for Baba, to which Baba was moved on. The bed was built to enable Baba to lift up His body by clutching two hanging straps, which gave Him a little exercise. It proved much more comfortable for Him, as he was not yet allowed to turn on His side, which added to His discomfort. Mani described the bed in a letter to Don Stevens (dated 4th January 1957): "There are all sorts of pulleys and gadgets on the new bed, and I just love to watch Baba 'showing off' (like a schoolboy on His first bike ride) how He can partly lift Himself up on one of the 'swings' when His back needs attending to."
En route to Menlo Park, Don Stevens explained that he had selected his house with Baba group meetings in mind, as it had a very large and lovely living room, which Don felt would be a perfect ambience. Later Don said sardonically: "But Baba taught me never to try to put ideas in the Avatar's mind." As soon as Baba had inspected the house from the outside, He shocked Don completely by wiping His hands in mid air and telling him to sell the house as soon as possible! (Lord Meher-p-4076-1956)
At the beginning of October 1957, a copy of Listen, Humanity, about the 1955 Sahavas at Meherabad, was received by airmail. It was edited by Don Stevens and published by Sufism Reoriented, Inc. Baba was extremely pleased with it and wished that it be read as widely as possible before the coming sahavas.
In 1958, Ivy Duce had sent Baba a list of questions that had arisen while she and Don Stevens were editing God Speaks. In answer to these questions, Baba would dictate replies to Eruch and Bhau, which Deshmukh would edit. (The replies were later published in a book, titled Beams from Meher Baba on the Spiritual Panorama.
Don Stevens then read out this explanation on the difference between love and devotion:
Love burns the lover; devotion burns the Beloved.
Love seeks happiness for the Beloved; devotion seeks blessings from the Beloved.
Love seeks to shoulder the burden of the Beloved; devotion throws the burden on the Beloved.
Love gives; devotion asks.
Love is silent and sublime, devoid of outward expressions; devotion expresses itself outwardly.
Love does not require the presence of the Beloved in order to love; devotion demands the presence of the Beloved to express affection for the Beloved.
Don Stevens then read Baba's discourse about God being both Father and Mother in one (given previously at Meherabad on 18 February 1958). Twice during the discourse, when it referred to Baba's physical helplessness due to His accidents, Baba touched or pointed to His right foot and touched His forehead. Then, the discourse "Love Is the Remedy" (about not giving undue importance to words and explanations) was read out. Baba asked:
Have you heard of the two lovers, Majnun and Laila? They had human love at its height. Majnun was at a great distance from Laila, always trying to love her and repeating her name wherever he went. Though Laila was at some other distant place, one day a thorn went into Majnun's foot and it bled, at the very same moment, Laila felt a shock and blood trickled from her foot. Even such human love falls short of divine love. Human love at its zenith is Ishaq-e-mizaji. Divine love is ishq-e-hakiki.
Baba asked Don Stevens, "How did the story of Majnun and Laila end?" He did not know.
Don Stevens read the discourse on "Baba's Work" given during the Meherabad Sahavas, and afterwards Baba commented: "This was meant for the Indian workers because I have clarified what I meant by work and workers on many occasions. This is My advice."
Don Stevens arrived in Bombay from Europe. Don (Donkin) was sent to meet him, and they drove directly to Poona. On 11th February 1962, according to Baba's instructions, Don accompanied Don Stevens and Joseph and Kari Harb to Satara and Mahabaleshwar to see the places connected with Baba's work there.
On the morning of the 13th February 1962, Dr. Donkin brought Don Stevens to Ahmednagar in Meherjee's car. In Ahmednagar, Adi and Francis joined them at Khushru Quarters and the four men left for Aurangabad. This was the second time Baba, for His own purposes, sent Don Stevens and Francis to the Ellora Caves, the first time being the 1955 Sahavas program.
Baba instructed them to return to Meherazad at exactly 4:00 P.M. on 16th February 1962. They were early, so they stopped at Happy Valley for tea. Baba remarked He would not see Don Stevens until the morning, but within two minutes of their arrival, Eruch called Don Stevens, who saw Baba smiling, standing in the doorway of the hall. Baba met with them for two hours. They related their trip to Aurangabad and vicinity. Among other things, Baba stated, "Long ago 30 great Sufi saints migrated from Persia to the hill at Khuldabad. Five stayed there and the rest disbanded in one's, two's and three's to various parts of India." (The most famous of them was Qutub Zarzari Zar Baksh, the Master of Sai Baba.)
According to Don Stevens, "Baba always seemed to have a devilish way of diving and then zeroing in on my instinctive convictions of what the Christ of our times would certainly do and what He would obviously avoid." The first time Baba did this to him two years before, Stevens was completely unprepared. Previously in 1960, during that visit to Meherazad, Baba had Eruch describe the proposed center in Hamirpur, Meher Dham, which was to be dedicated to Baba's work. Stevens was listening to Eruch's detailed description, just waiting for Baba to end it all with the clearly necessary punch line often emphasized by Baba that, "He had not come to establish a new church or religion." Therefore, with the exception of the Meher Center in Myrtle Beach and a few other establishments, such as Meher Mount in Ojai, which He had encouraged for special reasons, such "church-like centers" were not needed and Baba would have to correct this misguided effort.
Finally, Eruch finished his description, and Don Stevens waited confidently for Baba's capping statement. It did not come. Baba just sat there looking happy and pleased, and instead it was obvious He was waiting for Stevens' praise of the Hamirpur people. Don Stevens recollected: "I stuttered something utterly inane, and then spent several very heart-searching days digging into the unthinking Stevens' prejudices that had obviously landed me with a superficial conclusion." Often after that, Baba had Eruch describe other new centers that were being built or rented which were devoted to His work, such as in Andhra and Poona.
But Baba was not finished with Don Stevens yet, concerning this matter of his ingrained ideas about establishing "temples" or "churches."
When Baba arrived at Meherazad in February 1962, Stevens later related, "The warm embrace had hardly stopped tingling through my chest into my spinal column, when the next depth charge was lobbed right under my sternum and exploded."
Baba gestured to Eruch to bring Don Stevens up-to-date on the latest chapter of the concrete forms that devotion to the Avatar had taken in India. Meher Dham had been beautifully completed and now functioned as a focal point of praise for that One. But the Hamirpur lovers' devotion had now taken an even more concentrated personal turn. A life-size statue of Baba had been sculpted and set up among the other sacred objects in that atmosphere where they performed their devotions. Don thought: "Now we will really get to the line that divides practical devotion and commitment from the idolatrous!"
Once more, he looked at Baba for His signal to Eruch that he should explain to Don Stevens about idolatry. Centers were all right because they could function as places of devotion and deposits for books and literature.
Don had misunderstood. Once again, Baba looked to Don for joy in this further sign of love and devotion for God in human form. Don Stevens later deadpanned: "Sometimes, I think Baba would get Eruch to praise grand larceny to me, if it were necessary to bust up one of my pet ideas!"
Don Stevens was instructed to sleep in the Blue Bus during his week at Meherazad. The next morning, 17th February 1962, Baba allowed Mani to come and talk with Don Stevens about various business and personal matters. Baba came at 10:00 A.M., and Stevens joined the mandali in the hall for the regular two-hour session. In the afternoon the mast-like man, Barakoti, arrived at Meherazad.
Goher brought Mehera's 8 mm movie camera (which she had received the previous November) and asked Don to take some footage of Baba as He walked to the hall from the main house. Don had brought a 16mm movie camera and took some footage with each, as Baba walked unaided from the house to the entrance of mandali hall. He took some film shots of Baba with Barakoti also. Baba then came inside the hall, where He discussed different matters with Stevens.
Once, Eruch and Don Stevens had gone out for a walk, as they would do every morning, but the Ahmednagar group had arrived fifteen minutes early. By the time Eruch and Don returned to Meherazad, Baba was already with them in front of mandali hall.
"Where have you been?" He asked Eruch, His eyes flashing with anger. Eruch explained. Baba asked, "But why weren't you here when the singers arrived?"
Eruch said "The program was to start at ten o'clock, and it is only a quarter to ten now."
"You should have been here," Baba insisted. "You should know what I want." On and on, Baba reprimanded Eruch. Don was mortified. "Good heavens, what have I gotten poor Eruch into," he thought, as it was Stevens who had wanted to go out that morning, despite Eruch's misgivings. "I really ought to bear some of the weight of this debacle," he thought to himself.
Just as he had this thought, Baba turned on him and gestured, "Don, you have ruined My day!"
To have the Avatar Himself say this to him was more than Don could bear. Something "absolutely snapped, broke, foundered," inside him. But just as He knew he could never feel the same again, Baba looked deeply, quietly, steadily at him for five seconds, snapped His fingers, pardoning him, gesturing, "Don't worry. Let's have a good time."
To see Baba one minute in a storming rage and a few seconds later with absolutely no trace of His apparent anger was something unique for Stevens and a deep object lesson in his life. He saw for himself the total freedom which Baba enjoyed from any sort of binding by emotions.
Later in the afternoon, Baba was back with the men mandali from 4:00 to 6:00 P.M., but He was not feeling well. Don was again given the opportunity of talking with Baba about his personal affairs.
The next morning, Baba played qawaali records for Don Stevens and the mandali at the main house. This was repeated in the afternoon inside the house when qawaali records of Hafiz were played. Baba beat on a drum in time to the music, and Stevens filmed Him. Despite the fact that Stevens was seated at Baba's feet, as Baba had ordered, using movie film which required artificial light — the living room was extremely dim since there was no electricity in those days — to Don Stevens' amazement the films came out splendidly when he viewed them later in Bombay. (Lord Meher-p-4786/7-1962)
One day, Baba, making certain that Don Stevens was not getting bored during his stay, instructed Donkin to take him out for a drive. Thinking Stevens would be interested in seeing a band of wild monkeys, Don drove him to the nearby forested canyon, Happy Valley. While climbing, Don warned Stevens to be careful of a poisonous vine indigenous to the area that sticks to the clothing and gives a terrible rash if touched. Bent on locating the monkeys, Donkin hiked on ahead, and soon Stevens lost sight of him.
After a while, Stevens decided to return to the car when all of a sudden he found he could not move. He looked down and saw that he had become entrapped in the poisonous vine that Don had warned him about. Cautiously lifting the end of the vine off his trousers and arm to unwind himself, he finally got loose and met Don by the car. When they arrived back in Meherazad, Baba immediately wanted to know if they had spotted any wild monkeys, but they had not.
The next morning, Don Stevens woke up and found a small rash on his hands. Baba came to mandali hall as usual in the morning of 21st February. Stevens had forgotten about his hands, but all of a sudden in the course of talking with him, Baba stopped gesturing and looked at him. As Baba watched him, Don Stevens noticed that he was unconsciously scratching his right hand.
"Don, what is that?" Baba asked.
Trying to evade the issue to protect Donkin, Stevens replied, "I don't know, Baba, just a little bit of a rash."
Baba pried further and soon found out about the incident. "But where was Don?" Baba asked, raising His hands in dismay. Again, Stevens tried to be evasive. But, soon after, he had to admit that they had gotten separated.
Baba was even more upset. "Go fetch Don," He gestured angrily.
Furious, Baba asked Don for all the details. He was extremely annoyed and lashed out at Don for his carelessness. This was one of the first times Don Stevens had seen Baba take anyone to task so severely and perhaps this was the reason Baba had brought about the entire episode. "I wanted to crawl right underneath my cushion and disappear," Stevens related. "I liked Donkin very much and hated to see him being raked over the coals for my own carelessness. I felt sick at heart."
In the afternoon, after a few minutes, Baba reached over to the small side table next to His chair, unfolded a fresh linen handkerchief and wiped His brow. He beckoned to Don Stevens to come over and then placed the white handkerchief in his hands. The discussion continued. When the session ended, Stevens realized that he had not been scratching and knew Baba had alleviated his discomfort through the gift of His kerchief. )
They sat outside in front of the hall under a tree. Francis Brabazon had been composing songs for Baba and would sing a new one each day. Baba suggested Francis sing one of the songs he had written, so Baba could accompany him on the drum. ("Francis looked as if heaven had just dropped on his head!") After a few moments of inner debate, Francis sang forth while Baba beat on the drum. Don Stevens took shots from several angles and continued filming. Baba instructed Don to purchase 100 copies of Francis' collection of 25 songs, titled Let Us, The People, Sing, which was being printed on paper from Meherjee's factory, White Cloud.
As observed, Baba seemed a bit perturbed with the filming, but Don Stevens reminded him, "Baba, you told me I could continue shooting anywhere at any time for the remaining days." Once again, just as the reel came to an end, Baba signaled that Stevens had taken enough.
Don Stevens vividly recalled those moments: "I felt no problem as I went to Him to be embraced, but as I backed away and looked up to Eruch to smile; I found I could not, and that my eyes were filled to overflowing. It was strange to find a level of feeling that knew even deeper than I what my feelings were."
Don Stevens left with Meherjee and the Harbs, and from Bombay toured Mount Abu, Ajmer, and other points in Northern India for ten days, according to Baba's instructions, before returning to Europe.
Baba then asked Don Stevens, "Tell us that story you wished to narrate." Don Stevens told of how he came to show his movies of Baba to the executives of ARAMCO, who spoke of "that silent man."
"I am very pleased to hear this," Baba stated. "I am not silent.
Don Stevens was traveling extensively on business for Standard Oil Company. He was busy with negotiations in Tokyo, but had an unscheduled weekend coming up. He wished to leave the negotiations early, take a plane to Bombay, arrive on Sunday, take a taxi direct to Ahmednagar to spend the day with Baba, then take the same taxi back in the evening to Bombay, catching the return flight to Tokyo to rejoin the negotiations the following day. Stevens outlined this possibility to Baba in a long telegram, and Baba replied His acceptance.
Don Stevens arrived on 13th October 1963; Baba introduced him to the gathering and informed the group of how Stevens had taken a taxi all the way from Bombay just to spend a few hours at Meherazad. Baba wanted to know how much money it cost, and Don told him Rs.400. The visitors looked suitably impressed. Baba remarked, "Don would do anything I ask him to do. In fact, he would go jump off a cliff if I asked him. Wouldn't you, Don?"
Wondering what he was getting himself into (thinking Baba was about to ask something else of him), Don Stevens reflected for a few seconds before he gulped, "Yes, I would."
Baba smiled His approval. Don then left, and Meherjee and others rode with him up to Poona.
During this period, Don Stevens moved to California. He traveled to India, and along with Meherjee, visited Baba on 31st July 1964. They left Meherazad the same afternoon. Whenever Don visited, Baba would send back messages of love for Ivy Duce, her daughter Charmian, the Sufis, and for Alain Youell, who was a university student studying psychology.
Don Stevens was a well-paid executive of Standard Oil. Once, thinking that he should pursue a more humanitarian line of work, such as being a doctor, teacher or counselor, he contemplated giving up the oil business. He decided that the next time he came to India, he would tell Baba of his decision. When he arrived, as soon as the greetings were over, Don said, "Baba, forgive me for plying you with this, but there is something rather important in my own personal life that I would like to discuss with you." Baba looked interested and gestured to him to proceed. Don had only spoken a few words when Baba began communicating with Eruch about something else.
Again Don started. After only a few sentences, Baba again began communicating with Eruch. He asked Don something. Don became so involved in answering that he completely forgot about his plan to change careers. He remembered only when he was on the plane leaving India, and he felt terrible over his lapse.
Don resolved to bring up the subject with Baba the next time he saw Him, which was a few months later. Immediately after arriving, he started; but the exact same thing happened. Baba began listening carefully and then changed the subject, and Stevens again forgot about it. On the plane he remembered and became even more dismayed with himself.
Don was determined to fully discuss this issue with Baba the next time, one way or another. In 1964, when he came to India, he said, "Baba, there is something on My mind that is bothering me; it is bedeviling me. I have started to discuss it a couple of times, but some way or another it has always got sidetracked." This time Baba looked him square in the eye and allowed him to continue without interruption.
Don reached the point of saying he felt it was time to do something else, when Baba cut him short. "Who do you think put you in the oil business?" He asked.
Don was taken aback. The answer at once seemed obvious. Baba continued, "I put you in the oil business because it is the environment which most satisfactorily brings up the sanskaras which you must work out in this particular life. I put you there; now stay there."
Baba's words had a great impact on Don and totally changed his attitude toward his profession. "Now instead of approaching my job as drudgery — a way to earn money so I could do other things," he said, "It became an exciting adventure. I looked forward to discovering what situations Baba might place my way for me to best work through."
On 28th November 1964, Don Stevens arrived for a short visit with Baba. From Poona, he was driven to Meherazad accompanied by Meherjee. Upon entering mandali hall, Baba asked Don, "Mahapralaya, do you know what it is?"
Baba continued gesturing without waiting for a reply. "It is the breathing in and out of all creation by God."
Don always tried to be amusing for Baba, so on this occasion, he made an attempt: "Yes, Baba, I know just enough about it to get upset when I think what would happen to me if I were caught in it. This lifetime has not been easy, and I would be sad to have all that effort wiped out for nothing."
Baba did not laugh; in fact He did not even smile in acknowledgement. "Not at all, Don. When you are breathed in (by God), you are in effect stored in exactly your present situation until creation is breathed out again.
"Then, when some planetary system has reached the proper stage of development, you are reincarnated and proceed with your involution from the point where you had left off (before Mahapralaya)."
"Incredible," Don thought, "not the slightest loss or waste in God's creation."
After completing the editing of God Speaks with Ivy Duce in 1954–55, and Listen, Humanity in 1955–56, Don had taken quite a long time off before involving himself with any creative work with Baba's words. On a previous visit, one of the first things Baba had said to him after they embraced was: "Don, what are you doing with Baba's words these days?"
Don knew exactly what Baba was driving at, and in fact had felt guilty about taking life easy. Nevertheless, he replied, "Baba, I actually haven't been doing anything with your words; I have just been basking in your love!"
Baba looked pleased, smiled, changed the subject and went on. But after half an hour, all of a sudden He looked directly at Don and repeated the question, "But seriously, Don, what are you doing with Baba's words?"
At that point, Don stopped being evasive and confessed, "Baba, really I have done nothing. I do feel ashamed of myself. I have had the feeling that I should get back and start reading your words and studying them again now that all the other editing work is finished."
Baba simply said, "Do that," and changed the subject again.
On Don's next visit, again one of the first things Baba asked was, "Well now, Don, what have you done with Baba's words?"
Don had forgotten the previous episode, and felt sick inside himself over his negligence. He sincerely replied, "Baba, I am ashamed. Life has been so busy; it just completely skipped my mind. But I promise you that I won't come back without having done some good homework." Baba smiled, nodded in agreement, and quickly changed the subject. Soon the visit was over.
When Don returned to America, he dug out Deshmukh's five-volume edited version of Baba's Discourses. When he had originally read them seven or eight years before, they had not struck him as spectacular, and he had often thought that he should re-read them.
Hen Stevens did, he was struck by the tremendous meaning and pungency of virtually every sentence. He wondered how he could have read them before and failed to be excited by all the magnificent things they contained.
Now, back in India again, Don had been so impressed by what he had been reading in the Discourses that he brought up the subject with Baba, saying, "Baba, I have fulfilled My promise. I went back and re-read the Discourses and think they are absolutely terrific.
"In fact, I have the feeling that God Speaks and these Discourses will probably be the basic books — virtually a Bible — given out by you for the young people who are starting to knock on the doors of the Sufi Center [in San Francisco] and in the various Baba groups around the world."
Baba said, "Yes, there is a force, a spiritual force, in My words which is of great help to the sincere aspirant. So you should work with them and strongly encourage others to work with and read Baba's words."
Don Stevens continued, "But in reading the Discourses, I did notice that the style is more Indian-English than American-English. At times, it is a bit awkward, and I had to spend time unconsciously re-inverting sentences to understand their meaning. I think you should get someone to reedit them into accepted Western style... Baba, would you entrust that editing job to Me?"
Baba agreed and told him to speak with Adi about it. Adi at that time owned the copyrights of several of Baba's books, and He consented to a new edition. In this way, the project of reediting Meher Baba's Discourses into a three-volume paperback set began, and was eventually printed in Japan and distributed in America by Sufism Reoriented, Inc. to the entire English-speaking world.
This was not, however, the end of the comments Baba was to make in connection with editing and eventually retranslating his words. After Don had worked several months on the Discourses, on a subsequent visit to Meherazad, Baba asked him how the work was progressing. As sometimes happens in any project, Don was apparently at a low ebb in his vitality, and without thinking he blurted out, "Almost finished now, Baba, but I don't know how much good all this work will do."
Baba looked surprised by his comment and made His accustomed gesture for Don to continue his thought. "Well, I hear so many people say that words, if anything, obscure Truth, and the mind finally cannot grasp Truth. Even some of the people who love you most dearly say that even Baba's words can well be left aside in the pursuit of God-realization."
"People say that about Baba's own words?" he almost exploded, He was so angry.
Don nodded mutely, "Yes."
Quite upset, Baba continued gesturing rapidly, which Eruch interpreted: "You must understand that whenever Baba gives out words for His lovers to use and read, He attaches a spiritual energy to them — something like an atomic spiritual bomb! Then, when one reads those words, even if he does not understand even one word of what he reads, a part of the spiritual energy will be absorbed by that person. And this energy will be very important for that person in his spiritual progress."
Baba concluded, "It is your duty, Don, to tell people what Baba has said, and to tell them to work with and read Baba's words, as this will be a great help in their spiritual ongoing."
During one of Don's visits, Baba sent him to Ellora Caves for a third time.
Don Stevens discussed some questions about various subjects in God Speaks which the Sufis and others had been asking, and Baba promised to elucidate these for the second edition. Baba also stated, "I will not break My silence and manifest until this new edition of God Speaks is published."
When Don Stevens was sitting in Eruch's room, Mani came and said, "Don, I am glad you are here because Baba had us put away a present for you." She walked off and came back a few minutes later bearing a manila envelope. "Open it," she said. Inside was a well-used, patched sadra.
Mani told Don, "The evening of January 14th 1965 when Baba was going to bed, He removed this sadra and gave it to Mehera, indicating, 'Save this for Don, and give it to him next time he comes.' "
In the hall, after greeting Baba, Don said, "Baba, I received your sadra and I can't tell you how touched I am. I want to thank you for it."
Don recalled: "Baba looked very pleased as I started talking, but by the time I had finished, He looked very much less pleased."
Toward the end of his stay, Don Stevens again was so overwhelmed by Baba's usual love and kindness, that he brought up the sadra as one of the final subjects with Baba, by thanking Him a second time. "Baba, I want to thank you again for the lovely sadra," he said, "and the wonderful love that you sent with it."
Baba looked very angry but said nothing. After he had bid Don Stevens farewell and left the hall, Don said to Eruch, "Was it my imagination or was Baba angry with me when I thanked Him for the sadra?"
Eruch said, "Don't you understand?"
"No," said Don. "I was so touched I wanted to thank Him for it."
Eruch explained, "How can you thank yourself, Don?"
This indication of the depth of the identity of the Avatar with oneself was a profound lesson for Don Stevens. What he had not told Baba or any of the mandali was that 14 January was, in fact, his birthday.
Taking a break from a business trip to Cochin from New Delhi, Don Stevens visited Meherazad again for a day on the morning of 27 November 1965. He arrived in Meherjee's car with Meherwan Jessawala.
Stevens' mother had recently passed away. Though Don had mentioned it in passing in a letter to Baba, when he arrived Baba greeted him with fire in His eyes. "Don," He demanded, "why didn't you send Me a telegram specifically about your mother's death?"
Don Stevens later recalled this incident:
Baba was really boiling. If you have never been around the Avatar when He is mad, you have missed an experience. I was so shaken that I could only stutter for a moment. I finally thought of the right thing to say: "Baba, I did not send you a telegram because I know now that you really are God and you know everything." The fire went out of His eyes and He beamed and smiled. I saw that I had touched the right key.
Don relaxed and Baba embraced him. He settled down on the other side of mandali hall and was waiting for things to proceed, when all of a sudden Baba's face darkened again. Through Eruch, Baba remarked to him, "Even so, Don, Baba wants to explain something to you. Baba is God and God does know everything. But God has come into creation with its limitations, and you are in creation and limited by it. It is your responsibility to let Baba know when something of even modest importance comes up in your life. You must call His attention to what has happened by the most appropriate, direct, physical means."
Accordingly, Don Stevens began writing letters and would often send telegrams to Baba about his personal and business affairs. (Later, after Baba had dropped His body, Stevens recalled Baba's instructions about informing Him of events occurring in his life. At first Stevens silently "thought" his report to Baba, but his instinct seemed to prompt him that this was not a sufficient manner of fulfilling Baba's wish in the matter. Much against his own taste he closed the door of his bedroom one day and made his report to Baba out loud — speaking to Baba as if He were physically present. He recounted afterwards that events took off at once as if jet-propelled, and therefore he continued this method of "reporting to Baba.")
While Don Stevens had been working on editing the Discourses, halfway through the work he realized: "Good heavens, here are several discourses on the subject of meditation, and at no time since I have been under Baba's thumb has He ever given me a meditation or concentration."
In fact, Stevens could only recall one or two occasions when Baba had given rather simple and rather brief-duration meditations to individuals close to Him. So it struck him as strange that Baba should have spent so much time in the Discourses on the subject of meditation, and yet so rarely assigned or effectively and practically used meditation.
When he next met Baba, he asked Him why Baba did not urge persons like himself to meditate.
Baba smiled and explained:
I am the Avatar and I must provide for all of the 700 to 1400 years that go by after I drop the body and until I come again. During My manifestation and for some time after I drop My body, the high road of all roads of inner development is love.
That road is now fully open to the aspiring seeker during the remainder of the lifetime of the Avatar and for some time after, and should be used. Eventually, however, the entry will gradually narrow and then the path will finally be accessible only to the very rare seeker. As I must provide for my lovers for the hundreds of years until I come again, it is necessary therefore that I make provisions now for their use during that period of time. For this, it will be necessary that they use a secondary route. One of the very best of these is that of meditation, and that is why I have given out these extensive discourses on meditation.
However, do not mistake Me, because meanwhile — during My lifetime and for some time afterwards — it is a distraction and waste of an individual's time and energies to use meditation. He should use all of his force and energies in utilizing this Path of Love that is fully open to him.
During the conversation, Don noticed, Baba suddenly stop gesturing and glance up at Eruch with a sharp look of irritation. He went on gesturing, but stopped and again looked at Eruch very concerned and motioned for him to go outside. Stevens had no idea what had distracted Baba, as Baba continued to communicate with him.
Steven R. Simon. Steve had learned of Baba in an unusual way, from an ex-policeman in Miami, named Edward Short (who met Baba at the East-West Gathering). Simon had taken LSD and under its influence he had a vision: in a specter of light, he saw the figure of a man he had never seen before with long hair and a mustache. The next day he met Ed Short for the first time, who gave him a copy of God Speaks to read. When Simon opened the book and saw the frontispiece photograph, he recognized Meher Baba as the same person he had the vision of while on LSD. After that experience he decided to give up drugs.
Like Robert Dreyfuss, Steve Simon had also left America before learning that the December 1965 sahavas had been canceled. He had no money for the trip, but hitchhiked from Miami (in his words, "chased by demons") 3,000 miles across the United States to San Francisco. There he met a prostitute who befriended him and gave him some money. Simon had served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War and got a free lift in a military cargo plane from San Francisco to Taiwan. Simon was practically broke by the time he reached Singapore in October, when he met a young couple named Mik Hamilton and Ursula Reinhart whom he told of Baba. Simon was so terribly anxious to get to India that the Hamiltons surprised themselves by offering to pay for his passage by ship to Bombay, and from there he hitchhiked inland to Ahmednagar.
When Steve Simon landed at Adi's office, Adi felt pity for him and decided to send him to Meherazad on the back of Manek's scooter. Baba was quite annoyed by Adi's decision. "Adi knows I am in deep seclusion. I have given strict instructions that absolutely no one is to disturb me — and yet he sends this boy! Now all I can do is to send him back with a message that he should go, halfway around the world, back home."
As Baba was explaining to Eruch his decision not to see Steve Simon, Don Stevens felt as if a sharp dagger had pierced his own heart. Besides his deep personal pain over the young man's disappointment, he felt a deep annoyance with Baba Himself for not taking pity on him and agreeing to see him after he had traveled so far, against such odds and endured such hardships.
Instantly, Baba looked sharply into Don's eyes, clapped his hands and asked, "What are you thinking?"
Don was thinking: "Baba is an absolute stinker to let that boy pass through all that and not take pity on him!" But he said, "Baba, I was thinking, what right do I have to sit at your feet?"
Baba brightened and motioned to Eruch to bring Steve Simon in the hall. As he entered, at that instant, Simon experienced, in his words, "a space as sweet and soft as marshmallows." Simon was dazed and delightfully happy as he sat before Baba.
In the past, Simon had regularly taken drugs and freely admitted it. "Have you tried to stop?" Baba asked.
"Several times," he replied, "But each time I have started again."
Baba asked him more about himself and his background, and then had Eruch summarize what Robert Dreyfuss had been told about drugs. At the end, Baba stated, "Now promise that you will do your best to stop taking drugs. Whenever you feel any temptation, think of Me and I will help you." Simon promised to try.
"Do you have any money to get back to America?"
Simon said he had very little, and Baba instructed Meherjee to give him Rs.100 to cover the cost of a simple hotel room and food in Bombay until he could find a ship on which he could work his way back to America.
Baba remarked to Don Stevens, “Both of you is from America, so I want you to keep in touch with Steve and give him a helping hand." Steve and Don left Meherazad at 1:30 P.M. in Meherjee's car. They traveled to Bombay, where they met Robert Dreyfuss at Ashiana, Nariman and Arnavaz' apartment.
On 7th August 1965, Don Stevens arrived from America for work in Cochin, and saw Baba at Meherazad. On this occasion, Don discussed with Baba the new three-volume set of the Discourses, which he and Ivy Duce had reedited from Deshmukh's old five-volume set. Baba asked Stevens if he was satisfied with the new edition. He replied that he was, but it was clear that the next step must be the translation of the Discourses into the major European languages. That would serve the young people in Europe, whom Don had encountered and who were already asking about the availability of Baba's words in their own tongues. Baba asked what languages he considered most urgent, to which Stevens replied French, Spanish and German. But, he added, this should present no problem, since there were already people devoted to Baba sufficiently qualified in all these languages to do the translation work.
Once again Baba looked Don Stevens in the eye and gestured, "You do it!" Meaning, take responsibility for it. And once again, startled, Stevens wondered how he could have been so naïve a second time.
Don also discussed plans with Baba for the printing of the second edition of God Speaks.
In 1966, because Don Stevens was involved with the Sufi Center in San Francisco to which many young people were now coming, Baba sent him copies of the correspondence about LSD and other drugs between Himself, Allan Cohen, Robert Dreyfuss and Richard Alpert. Baba wished them to be printed together in a pamphlet (God In A Pill?).
Don was not particularly interested in the subject of drugs, and joked, "You know, Baba, I seem to be getting more and more entangled into these young people's lives. So many of them have had drug experiences that have been terribly important to them. I think in order to know more about this subject, I'm going to have to try one LSD trip myself!"
As soon as Stevens said this, Baba bristled and reared back in His seat, with lightning flashing from His eyes. "Don, don't even think of such a thing!" Baba warned. "You do not understand the sort of consequences this can have on an individual's nervous system."
Baba continued: "It is true that one individual may take 100 or even 200 trips without any permanent, substantial damage to his nervous system; however, for another person of a different temperament, of a different nervous system setup, just one dose can be absolutely, permanently, irretrievably harmful.
Usually, before Don Stevens departed, Baba walked through the double doors at the end of mandali hall, facing Mehera's garden, and stood at the center of a half-moon that the mandali formed. Supported by Francis' arm, Baba had Eruch read out the Master's Prayer from a printed page. Then Baba would walk over to the women's side holding Francis' arm. On this occasion, Baba beckoned Stevens to support him. This had only happened once before. They walked from the hall across the garden to the steps of the main house, where Baba embraced him. As Baba started to turn, He snapped his fingers and embraced him a second time. This was unusual, and Don Stevens thought: "Good heavens, what have I done to merit all this extra-special attention?"
Don thought he should go quickly, as Baba was having to stand unsupported because the women would not come out until he had left. He began walking briskly back to the men's side, but as he did someone shouted from the hall that Baba was calling him. He looked around and saw that Baba had turned and was snapping His fingers, beckoning to him. He wanted to embrace him again. Stevens walked to him, and Baba embraced him several times more. Baba then motioned for him to leave. A quick thought rushed through Stevens' mind: "Goodness, Baba's acting almost as if this will be our last time together," but he dismissed the thought as soon as it came. This was his tenth trip to India to see Baba, and it was, in fact, his last.
Don will be remembered as a shining example of devoted love and service to his Beloved. Don's dedication (for some 60 years) to "Preserving Baba's Word" was astonishing. His wholehearted dedication to sharing Baba through his writing is his greatest legacy, and will surely serve as a source of much inspiration to Baba lovers in the future.
Don was based in the UK and France for the last several decades of his life. After a fall several months ago, his health declined. His devoted caretakers, Rachel and Jan, took great care in the final months. Don Stevens, beloved disciple of Meher Baba, returned to Baba on April 26, 2011
“Meher Baba - The Awakener of the Age”
“Meher Baba's word and His three bridges”
“Tales of new life with Meher Baba”
“The inner path in the new life”
‘Meher Baba's word and His three bridges”