MEHER BABA BIOGRAPHY
Youth and spiritual awakening
Merwan Sheriar Irani was born to Zoroastrian parents in Poona, a city on the Deccan plateau of India, on 25th February 1894. His father was a sincere seeker of God while His mother was a practical, worldly woman. Merwan led a mostly normal childhood, however, after beginning college He encountered Hazrat Babajan, a centenarian Muslim qutub who was one of the five Sadgurus or Perfect Masters of the age. In January 1914, with a kiss on the forehead, Babajan revealed Merwan’s latent state of God-Realization. During the following months He was then inwardly prompted to contact the other four Perfect Masters — Sai Baba of Shirdi, Upasni Maharaj of Sakori, Narayan Maharaj of Kedgaon, and Tajuddin Baba of Nagpur. Through the help of these five Perfect Masters, Merwan came down into the duality of creation while retaining the infinite experience of God’s transcendent Oneness, thus becoming established in spiritual perfection.
1920s: Meher Baba’s Work and Silence
By 1921 Meher Baba was recognized as a Perfect Master and started to gather His first disciples. During the years of their intensive training, He established Meherabad, an ashram community near Ahmednagar (120 kilometers northeast of Pune). His work there included the distribution of food and clothing to the local poor, establishing a charitable hospital and dispensaries, and opening free boarding schools with the eventual emphasis on spiritual training. From the very beginning, Meher Baba’s work was rendered to people of all castes, creeds, and religions.
On 10th July 1925, Meher Baba began observing silence, which He maintained for the rest of His life, a period of nearly forty-four years. His silence was not undertaken as a spiritual exercise, since as He explained, He had nothing more to gain for Himself. Rather, it was a limitation that He assumed for the spiritual upliftment of humanity and the benefit of all creation in general. For many years, He “spoke” to others by pointing to letters on an alphabet board that a disciple would readout. In 1954, however, He gave up the alphabet board, communicating thereafter through His own system of hand gestures, unique and beautiful in their expressiveness.
Travels to the West
The six-year span from 1931 to 1937 was a period of world travel, during which Meher Baba visited Europe ten times, America thrice, as well as China and the Far East. While some of His visits drew press coverage and fanfare, His purpose in coming to the West, as He explained at the time, was “not with the object of establishing new creeds or spiritual societies and organizations” but rather “to make people understand religion in the true sense.” This, He continued, entailed “developing that attitude of mind which should ultimately result in seeing One Infinite Existence prevailing throughout the universe,” in attending to worldly responsibilities while remaining detached from results, in seeing “the same Divinity in art and science,” and in experiencing “the highest Consciousness and Indivisible Bliss in everyday life.” A core group of close Western disciples was attracted to Him at this time, and the integration of Eastern and Western perspectives in the light of a transcendent spiritual Truth has remained an enduring characteristic and appeal of His message.
1937-49: Work with the God-intoxicated and the poor
In the late 1930s and throughout the 1940s Meher Baba’s work took a new turn, focusing increasingly on His personally contacting and serving persons whom He called “masts.” Masts are advanced souls experiencing the inner planes of the spiritual path who have become spiritually intoxicated from direct awareness of God. While to outward appearances masts might seem to be unbalanced, in actuality they are vast reservoirs of spiritual light and as such were useful to Meher Baba in His spiritual mission. Throughout the length and breadth of the Indian subcontinent, from small hamlets to large cities, by train or bullock cart or even on foot, Meher Baba traveled in search of these individuals, whom He would feed, bathe, and sit with in seclusion. Another aspect of His work at this time and, indeed, throughout His life involved bathing lepers, washing the feet of the poor, bowing down to these unfortunate ones, and giving them grain, cloth, and money. Meher Baba explained that when the God-Man served these souls it had an impact not only on those directly concerned but on all humanity.
1949-52: The New Life
After carefully preparing for this major life change, on 16th October 1949, Meher Baba dissociated Himself from the places, possessions, and connections that He had maintained until that time and embarked on what He called a “New Life” of complete helplessness and hopelessness in total reliance on God. He temporarily put aside His authority as a Perfect Master to become the Perfect Seeker of God on behalf of all humanity. This work was resolved through the inevitable solution of “Manonash” or “annihilation of the mind.”, which culminated in early 1952 at Meherazad, Meher Baba’s new residence north of Ahmednagar.
Declaration of Avatarhood
After the New Life phase, Meher Baba resumed contact with His “Old Life” followers and gave His personal touch to the hundreds of thousands who flocked around Him during the mass public gatherings throughout India during this period. In February of 1954, for the first time, Meher Baba publicly declared Himself to be the Avatar or Christ of the age. The Avatar is the direct descent of God into human form; previous Avatars known to history include Zoroaster, Ram, Krishna, Buddha, Jesus, and Mohammed. Many of Meher Baba’s most significant messages date from the 1950s — including the “The Highest of the High,” “Meher Baba’s Call,” and “The Universal Message.” God Speaks, Meher Baba’s monumental and unparalleled elucidation on the theme of God and creation, was published in 1955.
Meher Baba traveled three more times to the West during the 1950s, reestablishing old ties and providing newcomers with the opportunity for His contact. During these visits, He stayed at new centers in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and Queensland, Australia that had been prepared for Him by His lovers there. He passed through two serious automobile accidents: one in Oklahoma, U.S.A. in 1952 and the other in Satara, India in 1956. As He explained at the time, in every advent the Avatar or Christ must take physical and spiritual suffering upon Himself as part of His efforts for the redemption of humanity during that age. The injuries which Meher Baba sustained, particularly from His second automobile collision, contributed to the gradual decline in His health over the next decade.
Seclusion for Universal Work and Darshans
For the most part, after 1958 Meher Baba discontinued His travels and public darshans, focusing more on His “Universal Work” on the higher spiritual planes, which He would do in strict seclusion. This work continued throughout the 1960s becoming increasingly strict through 1968.
Besides the large East-West Gathering of 1962 and the Poona darshan programme of 1965, Baba’s lovers occasionally had the opportunity to enjoy time with Him during the summer months at the Guruprasad palace in Pune.
In July of 1968, Meher Baba announced that He had completed His work 100% to His satisfaction. But His health was severely depleted, and six months later, on 31st January 1969, He dropped His physical form “to live eternally in the hearts of all who love Him”. In keeping with His prior instructions, His body was interred in the crypt on Meherabad Hill which had been prepared for this purpose thirty years earlier. Today, Meher Baba’s Tomb-Shrine at Meherabad is a site of pilgrimage, and thousands of visitors travel from all around the world to pay homage to the one whom they regard as the Avatar of the age.
Meher Baba had a magnetic, indeed, captivating personality whose appeal was evident not only in intimate settings but before large crowds. Many who met Him, both followers and otherwise, have commented particularly on the quality of His eyes and glance. An atmosphere of spontaneity and good humor naturally manifested in His presence and Meher Baba Himself possessed an ease and grace of manner, relating Himself with no apparent effort to all types of people on their own levels. Though fire and force of character played a role in the discipline which He required of His disciples, His usual disposition was compassionate and gentle, particularly toward those who were suffering. There are many testimonials to His ability to inspire enduring love and devotion particularly in the examples of lifelong service of close associates who stayed the course through extraordinary hardships.
The Theme of Creation
Meher Baba declared that He had come not to teach but to awaken. Nevertheless, His various messages and books, particularly ‘God Speaks’ and ‘the Discourses’, present a definite and coherent cosmology. God, as He explained, is the sole Reality, and the created universe exists only in dream or imagination. The dream of creation originated in the Whim of God to know Himself. This precipitated an evolution of consciousness in which the “drop-soul” (or jeevatma), identifying with innumerable physical forms and thereby growing in conscious experience, progressed from stone and metal through varied species of the vegetable, worm, fish, bird, and animal kingdoms.
In human form, which is the terminus of evolution, consciousness is fully developed, but now the soul experiences the accumulated impressions from the process of evolution of consciousness rather than its own, intrinsic God-state. This ignorance necessitates further births and deaths through human reincarnation. Still impelled by God’s original Whim to know Himself, eventually the soul turns inward and embarks upon what Meher Baba called the process of “involution of consciousness”. This involutionary journey leads out of the gross or physical and on through the subtle and mental spheres (that is, the spheres of energy and mind), spanning seven planes of higher consciousness. The spiritual path culminates on the seventh plane with the experience of Divine Union or God-Realization, wherein the soul acquires direct and incontrovertible Knowledge of itself as God, the sole Being and infinite Reality.
Avatar and the spiritual hierarchy
Avatar and the spiritual hierarchy. Meher Baba explained that the few genuine mahatmas, pirs, walis, and saints are pilgrims at various stations on the first six planes of consciousness. Of the rare ones who attain to the supreme Knowledge of Realization, there are at all times five, known as Perfect Masters, Sadgurus, or Qutubs, who descend again to ordinary human consciousness and perform spiritual duty on humanity’s behalf. The Avatar (Christ, Rasool, Ancient One) is a separate case. Every 700 to 1400 years God Himself directly incarnates in human form to redeem humanity from its ignorance and to precipitate a springtide in creation, bringing a new awakening of conscious awareness. Past Avatars known to history include Zoroaster, Rama, Krishna, Buddha, Christ, and Muhammad. Meher Baba said that His own advent as Avatar, the last in this cycle of time, would give birth to a New Humanity in which the heart and the mind would achieve balance, and spirituality would suffuse and integrate all aspects of material life.