06 Mar 2013
March 6, 2013

Lessons on a Train



Meher Baba

There’s a story about Meher Baba. He was crossing the United States by train, and when the train stopped in Santa Fe, he suddenly got up from his seat, climbed down off the train, and walked toward the center of town. At a certain corner, there was an old Indian man standing, leaning up against the side of a building. Meher Baba walked up to him, and they looked into each other’s eyes for a few seconds. Then Meher Baba turned around, walked back to the station, got onto the train, and left. He said, “Well, that takes care of my work for this trip.”

Now all that may just be incredible showbiz — I mean, if he’s playing at that level, he could certainly have done it all on another plane and skipped the walk to town. But it’s a great story — and it’s possible that that was, in fact, what Meher Baba’s trip had been all about. How would we know?

Gradually, as our perspective deepens, we begin to experience our own lives in the context of a wider purpose. We begin to look at all our melodramas and our desires and our sufferings, and instead of seeing them as events happening within a lifetime bounded by birth and death, we begin experiencing them as part of a much vaster design. We begin to appreciate that there is a wider frame around our lives, within which our particular incarnation is happening.

I was on board the Taj Express train bound for Agra, with a stop at Mathura where I would get off. Traveling by train in India is full of rich lessons. The trains go slowly, express or not, and we moved at a prehistoric pace, the countryside creeping by, palm tree by palm tree, until I wanted to open the window and scream. But then something began to shift. Rather than resist the slowness and count the minutes, I told myself a little story. “This trip is going to go on forever,” I said inwardly. “This present moment will never end. I’ve been on this train my entire life, and will never, ever get off. Now what?”

Meditating on this story, I began to surrender into the rhythms and speed of the train, looking out the window at the passing images without the anger of moments before. My attention fixed upon a young woman in a field; she was wearing a colorful sari and walking along a path by herself, in one of those middle-of-nowhere places, a large clay jug balanced on her head, her undulating gait allowing her head to remain still as she moved. She was close enough for me to see her eyes, which were underlined with black kohl. She wore a pink hibiscus flower behind her ear and silver bracelets on both wrists.

To my eyes, she was like a Gauguin figure, caught in an action that would never end, her past and future filled in by imagination. As my train moved slowly, purposefully forward, covering the passengers with coal dust, the woman moved more slowly still along a path that extended in both directions, out of sight, seemingly without end. Although she was only in view for half a minute, her existence seemed to penetrate me, forming a profound impression. I was both attracted and repelled — attracted in the part of me that yearned to slow down, to move to the rhythms of earth and sky, the seasonal cycles of planting and harvest, the coming and going of generations; repelled in the part of me raised in the West, accustomed to material life and great stimulation. In that moment, I saw these two aspects in stark relief, and wondered which of these parts was actually “me.”


~Ram Dass


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  • Claus Wittig

    Thanks for sharing – great story – no where to go forever and then kazam! you’re right there forever…

  • Bikram Singh

    Identifying with the people in all their ordinary appearances and situations and, yet made extraordinary in their subtle and inexplicably calm harmony with one’s within.One felt oneself a universe in miniature~

  • / jessica

    I have had a similar experience to this story about getting off the trin and walking to the center of town. more or less i have learned to travel this way.

  • http://none Jennifer M

    Beautiful story and insight. Of course it is both. I am a multifaceted diamond illuminating every aspect of life and perhaps the game is to recognise myself in all and my life is about searching for what I am not…in order to discover that I simply cant find anything in that category. What bliss!

  • Joe

    “Infinity in a grain of sand…eternity in an hour” !

  • Mon

    Often we are in a hurry to get somewhere for no apparent reason, other than feeling hurry is ingrained in our Westen DNA! The constant feel of dis-ease and that is why we need to slow down and take up meditation with great effort to slow down this madness-

  • Tony Bosnjak

    Ram Dass
    Your poetic words carry me along the path of your own imagination and experiences. I love that

    Tony J Bosnjak
    Author of Student of Life – Begin.

  • Flame Schon

    The one problem with this story of Meher Baba and Santa Fe is that the train doesn’t stop in Santa Fe but in Lamy which is quite a long way away. And the train never did stop in Santa Fe as the terrain made it too difficult to build the train tracks there. There is a tiny branch line which goes from Lamy to Santa Fe but it’s not the line which crosses the country. So, nice story but Meher Baba couldn’t have done this as told here.

  • http://tommcknight.com Tom McKnight

    He said, “Well, that takes care of my work for this trip.”.
    Not to miss the message, Meher Baba did speak for most of his life.

  • Ginna

    The Meher Baba story as I know it is that he stopped in Albuquerque. He got off the train and approached a Native American gentleman. They communed silently and Baba went back on the train. Baba did not speak most of his adult life but he conveyed through signs or pointing to an alphabet board spelling out his comments. What he said to his followers is that the gentleman was the ‘spiritual chargeman’ for North America. And his contact with him was an important part of Baba’s trip across the West.

  • Paul

    My bed is my train, an immobile train, the scenery is fixed and stagnate. No lush landscapes, no lavish colors to play with. I feel this story speaks to me in someway, but in another way, it feels like a story. How to bring the reality of these examples to my life? “Illness is supposed to be used for a purpose.” I know this. But it’s greatly challenging to live this… What to do?

  • https://sites.google.com/a/lindsey.edu/tonya-dunn-lindsey-edu/home Tonya Dunn

    I love your writing and I think you are the most talented speaker. You just share your stories and observations, pose questions and move on. You were the perfect vehicle to bring eastern thought to the west. Thank you for being Ram Dass.

  • http://Website Ken

    “The train to California makes one stop of one-half hour at Albuquerque, New Mexico. Baba got off the train and walked up and down the long brick platform. I was with him. He wrote something on the palm of his hand – ‘Indian.’

    “I thought, what shall I do? Baba wants to see some Indians, and where shall I find any? I pointed to an old squaw sitting in front of one of the shops that border the station. Baba motioned to his four Indian disciples, pulled my arm through his, and off we went toward the end of the long station platform. He turned abruptly and continued up a street as if he knew exactly where he was going.

    “At that time I had not arrived at the state of mind which leaves everything to Baba. I was still thinking of myself, and I thought, my, we have only half an hour here, and where is Baba going, hunting for Indians, we may miss the train…

    “Baba, of course, knew what I was thinking. After walking about two blocks, I saw two Indians standing at the corner. One was very tall and fat, dressed in shirt and trousers and a band of red tied around his forehead. The other one was short and was selling small bows and arrows. I was delighted and I said to Baba, ‘Here are two Indians.’

    “The small Indian walked away, and Baba stood before the tall one, and they looked at each other. I murmured something about wondering whether he spoke English, but no one paid any attention to me. The Indian disciples said nothing, and in the back of my head I was thinking about the train. Suddenly Baba turned abruptly, again put my arm through his, and we returned to the train just in time. The whole thing was so strange that I asked Baba if he knew that the Indian would be there, and Baba nodded yes – and on his board he said, ‘One of my Agents.’ ”

    Ruano Bogislav,
    Aw 3:3 p3-4, also HM p729

  • http://mayhillart.com Karen

    Those moments of connection feel eternal.

  • evoc

    Surrendering is the hardest part.

  • evoc

    Perhaps Meher Baba was able to do more than you know…

  • somebodiesbizness

    “The train halted in Albuquerque, New Mexico for thirty minutes at noon on December 17th. Baba’s mood became serious and he spelled “INDIAN” on the palm of his hand. He suddenly left his compartment with Ruano Bogislav.” Lord Meher written by Bhau Kalchuri It was 1934, the stop was not Sante Fe that was the name of the train only. Any great Master uncovers the ‘planes’ to us and this case the mandali with him at the time, not grandstanding. 31st Meher Baba 45th Amertithi.

  • somebodiesbizness

    The stop was alburquerue