Murshid Walker Lambert’s Investiture Address
May 20, 2023
This is the first of many, many investitures that will happen in the Prayer Hall of the Sanctuary that Meher Baba built through the vessel of Murshida Conner.
All we can say is “…thanks, and thanks, and ever thanks.” Jai Baba, Murshida.
It might go without saying, but I certainly never expected to be wearing this medallion. That actually might be a bit of an understatement. Never in a million years would I have thought that Murshida would appoint me as her successor.
I was shocked. Yet, when she asked me this past New Year’s Day, as I walked by Liberty Hall in Philadelphia, where I was on a quick getaway with my wife, following the route Murshida had led us on years earlier on a workshop outing, without a moment of hesitation, I said yes.
I said yes, because I always said yes when she asked anything. I never wondered whether I could or could not do something. If she asked, the answer was always yes. No matter what it was, it was always yes. I would find my way. I learned that from her.
I didn’t always know that. Just months after I had met her in 2005, she asked if I would like to sing a solo at a performance in the old center just down the street. I hesitated for days. Leslie Linn, the performance director, kept calling for an answer. Each day, I would see her number appear on my phone and send it immediately to voicemail. I hesitated and hesitated and hesitated. Finally, I answered the phone one day standing in line at a Starbucks in Dupont Circle and said, “Look, I’m an ok singer, but let’s not kid ourselves.” There was a long pause, and then Leslie said, “If she thinks you can do it, you can do it.”
Several weeks after that I was standing in maroon women’s yoga pants on stage singing a solo about the springtime in front of 400 people I had never seen before.
And here I am again, in front of hundreds of people, some of whom I don’t yet know by name. How am I prepared for this? How could anyone be prepared for this? As we have learned from our teachers, this role of murshid, or murshida, is not something one consciously prepares for.Murshida always had an intuition for asking whatever she asked of us, and the reasons always became clear.
I never had special private meetings with Murshida over the years. We did not have one-on-one talks about what it means to be a murshid, because for years she has been telling all of us what it means to be a murshid. She has been telling all of us what spiritual unfolding looks like.
She knew we were prepared to hear those messages…we were prepared to read the Upasni Maharaj biography. We were prepared to hear her Youpon Dunes talks: the most important talks we will ever hear. The thing about descendent spiritualty is that it’s not at all what you expect it to be. That night on stage, in front of 400 people I had just seen for the first time, I began, bit by bit, to surrender and let the gracelight lead me forward.
One of my early conscious encounters with Meher Baba’s divine force was in Assisi. I was 19 and traveling with my family. After a long series of “happenings” which we don’t have time discuss tonight, I had come into a copy of Murshid Jim’s travel guides to Italy, received through a Sufi friend.
Although I didn’t know words like murshid or sufi at the time, I did have an old green copy of volume one the Discourses, so I had a sense of who Meher Baba was and was compelled by Him at some level.
I was also attempting to go to each location in Murshid Jim’s guides. They were like these great secret books with loads of secret knowledge, and no one knew about them but me. I wanted to follow them to the T.
My family was staying over three hours away from Assisi, but I convinced my father to drive me there. He was a good sport, happy to indulge the whims of his son and to get to spend a day with him before he left for college. However, as we approached the city walls, I said, “Dad, I need the day alone; I will see you back at the car at five.” This good and kind man, who was an unconscious student of Murshida’s, quizzically looked at me, and in his subtle Arkansan accent said “Ok, Walk. See you then.”
Following Murshid Jim’s guide, I made my way up the mile-long mountain road to Francis’s hermitage, nestled deep in an old-growth forest. The aim: finding Meher Baba’s Cave, which is funny, because I didn’t even know what it meant to be “Meher Baba’s cave”, I just knew it was in the guide.
As I walked into those enchanted woods, I was suddenly overcome with a kind of bliss I had never experienced before and would not experience again until many years later.
I don’t have the language for this feeling. The word “bliss” feels entirely inadequate.
Perhaps we can call it a conscious experience of the gracelight, of that.