Meher Baba was born in India, to Iranian parents, in the year 1894. At the age of 19, he met the perfect Master Babajan. She caused him to realize his God-hood. Over the next few years he contacted four additional spiritual masters whom, along with Babajan, he called “ the five perfect masters. ” He spent seven years in spiritual training with one of them, Upasni Maharaj, before commencing his public work. From the year 1925, Meher Baba maintained silence, and communicated by means of an alphabet board or by unique hand gestures. In the year 1931, he made the first of many visits to the west, gathering many followers. From the year 1940, he worked with an enigmatic type of people who were advanced souls, which he termed as masts. In the year 1962, he invited his western followers to India for a mass darshan called “ The East-West gathering ”. Despite deteriorating health, he continued his universal work, which included fasting, seclusion, and meditation.
When he was born they called him ‘ Merwan ’. His other name ‘ Meher Baba ’ came many years later.
His parents were Zoroastrians. He was born on 25th February, 1894.
“ Boyhood ”
There were no miracles, no signs that heralded Merwan’s nativity, although, before his birth, his mother Shireen had an unusual dream.
She had dreamt of being led into a wide open area where she was surrounded by a large number of alien faces, a multitude that extended on all sides to the horizon. The faces stared at her steadily and expectantly till she woke up and narrated the dream to those around her.
The dream was interpreted as symbolizing the birth of one who would be loved and esteemed by large multitudes.
Merwan spent his child-hood at 816, Butler Moholla, Poona, and had a happy childhood.
At the age of five, he was admitted to the Dastur Girls’ School and he later studied for another five years at Camp Government English School. He matriculated in the year 1911 from the St. Vincent’s High School. He was seventeen then.
“ Deep Interest in literature ”
He had a deep interest in literature, especially poetry. He liked Shakespeare, Shelley and Wordsworth and was particularly attracted to the poetry of Shams al-Din, known as ‘ Hafiz ’.
He wrote too .. mainly poems in Gujarati, Urdu, Hindustani and Persian .. which were published in “ Sanj Vartman ”, one of the popular Gujarati papers of Bombay. He wrote under the pen name of “ Homa ”.
He sang “ monajats ”, Persian songs, and verses from the ‘Avesta’ in a soft, mellifluous voice.
“ Meeting Hazarat Babajan ”
It was a morning in May. The year was 1913. Merwan had been going to college for two years. Then he saw an old woman sitting under a neem tree. She beckoned to him. He stopped and got off his bicycle. When he went near her she embraced him.
It was like being drawn to her as ‘ steel to a magnet ’. The old woman .. then said she was 122 years old .. was none other than Hazrat Babajan, a Perfect Master !
“ Self-Realization ”
Merwan called on her every night and after several months, one night in January 1914, she kissed him on the forehead between the eyebrows. The kiss was the key : in a flash, he found the infinite bliss of self-realization.
“At the time Babajan gave me the Nirvikalp experience of my own reality the illusory physical, subtle and mental bodies .. mind, worlds, and one and all created things ceased to exist for me even as illusion. Then I began to see that only I and nothing else existed.”
This was the first unique experience of his life. During the first three days Merwan was unconscious of everybody and everything .. although his body functioned normally.
He lay in bed with vacant eyes and this worried Shireen. She was afraid her son was going mad and, in panic, she rushed to Babajan. Babajan told her that Merwan was not mad but that he was intended to shake the world into wakefulness.
“ Nine months after my self-realisation, I began to be somewhat conscious of my surroundings. Life returned to my vacant eyes. Although I would not sleep, I began to eat small quantities of food. ”
“ Meeting other Masters ”
“ Once I left Poona by train for Raichur, but after travelling for only 34 miles I felt the urge to leave the train at Kedgaon. There, for the first time, I came in physical contact with Narayan Maharaj.
“ Similarly, from time to time I was also drawn to see majzoobs like Banemiyan Baba at Aurangabad and Tipoo Baba at Bombay. Once I travelled as far north as Nagpur and saw Tajuddin Baba .. another of the five Perfect Masters. ”
“ Meeting Shirdi Sai Baba ”
December, the year of 1915, Merwan was impelled to call on Sai Baba at Shirdi. He was coming in a procession. Merwan made his way through the large crowds and prostrated himself before him on the road. When he rose, Sai Baba looked at him and exclaimed, “Parvardigar” ..“ God-Almighty-Sustainer ! ”
“ Meeting Upasini Maharaj ”
“ I felt drawn to walk to the nearby temple of Khandoba in which Upasini Maharaj was staying in seclusion.
“ When I came near enough to him, Maharaj greeted me, so to speak, with a stone he threw at me with great force. It struck me on my forehead exactly where Babajan had kissed me .. hitting with such force that it drew blood. The mark of that injury is still on my forehead. But that blow from Maharaj was the stroke of dhyan, ‘ divine knowledge ’.”
“ Lowly work ”
In the year 1916, Merwan took up a managerial assignment with a theatrical company on his mother’s insistence to take up a job but the company closed shutters two months later and Merwan took over charge of his father’s teashop.
Merwan suffered intense spiritual agony and had a compulsive desire to do lowly work. He opened up a toddy shop in partnership with Buasahib, his friend and later on his disciple.
Merwan worked for nearly eighteen hours each day in the toddy shop where he cleaned bottles, served customers and even swept the floor.
“ That was the beginning of my present infinite suffering in illusion which I experienced simultaneously with my infinite bliss in reality. But it took me seven years of acute struggle under Maharaj’s active guidance to return completely to, and become established in, normal human consciousness of the illusion of duality, while yet experiencing continuously my super-consciousness.”
“ You are the Avatar ”
Merwan spent six months with Maharaj at Sakori from July to December 1921.
“ During those six months, Maharaj and I used to sit near each other in a hut behind closed doors almost every night. On one such occasion, Maharaj folded his hands and said to me, ‘ Merwan, you are the Avatar and I salute you ’.”
On another occasion Maharaj told his disciples :
“ I have given my authority to Merwanji. He is the holder of my key ’, and later, ‘ This boy will move the world. Humanity at large will be benefitted at his hands ’.”
“ Meher Baba ”
In the year 1922, Merwan was 28. For about four months from January to May he stayed in a jhopdi .. thatched hut .. near Poona.
Around him there were now a group of men who formed the nucleus of the mandali. They were his friends; they were also his disciples. Among them one Sayyid Saheb started addressing Merwan as ‘ Meher Baba ’.
‘ Baba ’ was an address of love, and of respect. The name would stay on all his life, and become for the world’s millions, the most adorable four-letter word.
Till the end of year Baba moved about with his mandali throughout India. He even visited Iran. During the course of this year, he ate very irregularly .. for months he took very little food and drink, and at times subsisted on just few sips of tea, milk or soup.
“ Meherabad ”
In January 1925, he finally decided to settle down in the village “ Arangaon ” permanently. About five miles from Ahmednagar, the village became his home, his seat. Gradually, people started calling the place “ Meherabad ”. The name came to stay.
In the course of the year, Meherabad, which was a small village, became a small town. Now it had a school, a hospital and dispensary and an ashram for lepers and the destitute.
The school was named after Hazrat Babajan. It provided free board, clothing and tuition to its inmates. Baba would look after the boys himself. From only twenty-two boys the school grew to one hundred and fifty boys and girls.
Baba was the compassionate father. Men are born to be free. They have no untouchability. Baba worked for the untouchables and the depressed classes. He loved them dearly, washed their feet, embraced them and gave them gifts. To them, and to all who came, Baba was the Saviour.
“ The great silence ”
On July 8, 1925, Baba called a meeting of his disciples. For about an hour, he explained what the duties of each would be. The time of his silence was approaching.
He would not speak, he said, because his spiritual task would be heavy. The time was close for the dropping of Babajan’s body .. also there were the turmoils, the wars and disasters which were coming to the world and to India in particular. He asked them not to lose heart. This period of crisis would end and there would follow a period of peace and tranquility.
On the night of July 9, 1925 .. before retiring at night at about 8:30 pm .. Baba talked and gave instructions to his mandali. At about 8:30 pm He uttered the prophetic words.
“ I am now going. From tomorrow I will not speak for one and half years ”.
Baba’s silence had begun. But not isolation. His routine would go on.
“ At that time I communicated by writing on a slate and also, for more than a year, wrote for a number of hours daily on a work which remains unseen and unpublished to this day ”.
He had not spoken for one and a half years. On January I, 1927, he stopped writing as well and started using an alphabet board to convey what he had to say. On the first day of May the same year, Baba opened the ‘ Meher Ashram ’, on the outskirts of Arangaon. This was a school for boys to provide secular and spiritual education. This school was later shifted to Meherabad.
Those who had come to live with Baba had changed totally, as if their lives had metamorphosized. They had strange experiences, both internal and external.
“ baba’s world tours ”
In September of 1929, Baba paid a second visit to Iran. He visited several places, and in Yezd, where he stayed for four days, the entire town flocked to him. He met people individually and in groups. Iran was passing through a transitional phase in history. Those who had come to meet Baba thought his visit was a good omen .. May be this would bring the country’s redemption.
The year 1930 was spent by Baba mainly in touring large areas of India.
He would travel by every conceivable mode, irrespective of discomfort.
“ Meeting Mahatma Gandhi ”
On September 4th, 1931, Baba sailed for England with three of his disciples.
He had made a prophecy nine years earlier that he and Mahatma Gandhi would meet on the boat on his first trip to the West.
Now, when Baba’s party boarded the ‘ S.S. Rajputana ’, their secretary relayed the message that the Mahatma would like to meet Baba. A meeting was arranged in Baba’s cabin where they talked about spiritual matters.
During the voyage Gandhi read a chapter on ‘ Creation ’ from Baba’s hitherto unpublished book. Gandhi was most impressed by what he read. They met several times on the boat as well as in England and Bombay.
“ Visits to the West ”
Baba went to the West for the first time in the year 1931. There he laid the foundation for the new phase of his work when he gathered around him an intimate group of western disciples.
While in London .. a woman asked Baba how she could develop the realisation of the divine within her soul.
“ True spirituality can be attained not by the intellect, but by heart and feeling by inner experience. I might explain for hours, but that would be as nothing compared to one second of my internal help.
“ Do one thing. Every night, just before retiring, think for a moment : ‘ The infinite God is within me, and I am part of the infinite ’. This will strengthen your inner contact with me.”
From England, Baba went to Constantinople, then to Milan and Genoa, from whence he sailed for New York.
His U.S. stay was for one month, three weeks in Harmon-on-the-Hudson, N.Y. and one week in New York City.
He returned to India in early 1932, but soon thereafter, on March 24th of the same year, he left India for his first world tour. He again visited England where he gave his message to the West.
“ I have not come to establish any cult, society or organization .. nor to establish a new religion. The Religion I shall give teaches the knowledge of the One behind the many. This Book which I shall make people read is the book of the heart, which holds the key to the mystery of life. As for ritual, I shall teach humanity to discriminate, express, and live rather than observe it. I shall bring about a blending of the head and the heart. Societies and organizations have never succeeded in bringing truth nearer. Realization of Truth is solely the concern of the individual. ”
“ America has tremendous energy ”
Baba continued his journey to Paris and further to Lugano, arriving in New York amidst a blare of publicity.
“ America has tremendous energy, but most of this energy is mis-directed. I intend to divert it into spiritual and creative channels.
“ My work will arouse great enthusiasm and a certain amount of opposition .. that is inevitable. But spiritual work is strengthened by opposition, and so it will be with mine.”
From America, Baba sailed for China and made a second visit to Europe, a trip to Egypt and returned to Bombay. An important feature of this trip was a visit to Assisi where Baba stayed in a special cave connected with St.Francis. Here he did his universal work in seclusion.
“ India is a spiritual country ”
November 1932, he sailed for Europe and before his departure he sent a beautiful message to India.
“ India is a spiritual country. It possesses the most fortunate and unique position in the world .. being the land of saints and spiritual masters since ages.
“ Therefore, the spiritual atmosphere of India must be kept up even at the cost of being in bondage and materially unhappy .. It is only after experiencing bondage and misery that the true value of freedom and happiness is really appreciated.
“ The world will soon realize that neither cults, creeds, dogmas, religions, ceremonies, lectures, and sermons, on the one hand, nor, on the other hand, ardent seeking for material welfare of physical pleasures, can ever bring about real happiness .. but that only selfless love and universal brotherhood can do it.
“ New ashram ”
His message to the West had taken roots. Now it was time for disciples to come and work and live with him. They would be the initiates.
The new ashram at Nasik was ready now. Baba returned in the end of November. In December over twenty disciples came from England and America. To the group that came, Baba indicated :
“ Everyone of you has to help in my work according to your individual capacity; and the extent to which you will remain in the world will be determined by the kind of work which you are destined to perform.”
“ Spiritual significance of the war ”
“ War-effort will be justified or stand condemned not by the results which it produces, but by the ends by which it is inspired. The world has to face this war and go through its ordeal of fire, even at the cost of irreparable damage and irredeemable suffering; it is a necessary evil.
“ Humanity has to emerge out of this dreadful war with spiritual integrity, with hearts free from the poison of malice or revenge, with minds disburdened of the blows given or received, with souls unscathed by suffering and filled with the spirit of unconditional surrender to the Divine Will. In spite of its attendant evils, this war plays its part in my mission of helping humanity to fulfil the divine plan on earth and to inherit the coming era of truth and love, of peace and universal brotherhood, of spiritual understanding and unbounded creativity. ”
“ Interaction with masts ”
A greater part of 1945 was spent in Hyderabad where Baba contacted a large number of masts.
One such important contact made in the summer of that year.
“ The spiritual chargeman of Hyderabad is Saiyed Moinuddin, a majzoob-like mast of the sixth plane, and typically jalali. He is a lame, elderly man who lives in a woodstall at the Fateh Gate in Hyderabad. “
Baba contacted a large number of spiritually advanced masts in the year 1946, who acknowledged Baba’s spiritual greatness.
Aghori Baba, a sixth plane mast of Simla when contacted in August, spoke, pointing to Baba and addressing those around him, “ You will see what will come to pass, and one day you will know who he really is.”
When Baba contacted Azim Khan Baba on October 14th, 1946, the mast said, “ You are Allah ; you have brought forth the creation, and once in a thousand years you come down to see the play of what you have created.”
Once again, in August of 1947, Baba toured Hyderabad extensively, contacted a large number of important masts, returned by the end of the same month and went into seclusion in a cabin built on the summit of a small hill called “ Tembi ”, near Meherazad.
“ America again ”
In April 1952, Baba with five men and six women members of his mandali visited America.
He stayed at the Meher Spiritual Center at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where two of his American disciples, Elizabeth Patterson and Norina Matchabelli had established a retreat for him.
The retreat covered a sprawling 500 acres. At the Centre, a big house was erected for him and his men companions and a guest house for the women. A large cypress wood barn was used for meetings and interviews. At the various sahavas gatherings which Baba gave, people came from many parts of the country and Baba met them individually or in small groups.
“ Serious accident ”
On May 24, while proceeding to Meher Mount, Ojai, California, Baba and the women mandali were involved in a serious accident with an oncoming car. Baba was thrown out of the vehicle, his head bleeding and his left arm and left leg fractured.
Baba was the only one to have lost blood. He had previously prophesied that he would shed blood on American soil.
“ The personal disaster for some years foretold by me has at last happened while crossing the American continent causing me, through facial injuries and a broken leg and arm, much mental and physical suffering. It was necessary that it should happen in America. God willed it so … ”
“ Tour of South India ”
In January 1954, Baba visited Andhra Pradesh and later went to Madras where he gave darshan to nearly 1,50,000 people.
At Vijayawada, Baba sat with the people and told them that he wanted them to feel that he was one of them and that was why he was sitting with them on the ground.
On his birthday, which was celebrated at Tadepalligudem, Andhra Pradesh, he delivered his great message.
“ I am never born. I never die. Yet, every moment, I take birth and undergo death. The countless illusory births and deaths are necessary landmarks in the progression of man’s consciousness to truth .. a prelude to the real death and real birth.
“ The real death is when one dies to self; and the real birth is when, dying to self, one is born in God to live forever His Eternal Life consciously. ”
At Rajahmundry, Andhra Pradesh, Baba addressed a large gathering of his followers and Baba-workers. The meeting was held on March I and it went on from 9:00 pm until 3:00 am The following morning Baba spoke to them about what he meant by doing real work for Baba.
“ It has been possible through Love for man to become God; and when God becomes man, it is due to His love for His beings. If people were to ask me, ‘ Have you seen God ? ’ I would reply ‘ What else is there to see ? ’. If they were to ask me, ‘ Are you God ? ’, I would reply, ‘ Who else could I be ? ’. If they were to ask me, ‘ Are you Avatar ? ’, I would reply, ‘ Why else have I taken this human form ? ’ ”
The tour of South India ended at Kakinada on March 24.
Meher Baba invited men only from the East and the West for special meetings to be held on September 29th and 30th, 1954, at Meherabad. Earlier, on September 12th, Baba gave darshan to a great crowd of people in Ahmednagar. On this occasion he said,
“ Not as man to man, but as God to God, I bow down to you to save you the trouble of bowing down to me. ”
… and prostrated himself before the people. Baba sat with the crowd and told them,
“ To make you share all my feelings of being with you and one of you, I sit down beside you. ”
This darshan was by far the most touching event as men, women and children filed past Baba in obeisance while he gave each of them a sweet delicacy. The crowd ranged from beggars in tattered clothes to well-dressed men and women. By the time it was over, nearly 100,000 people had darshan.
“ Sahavas ”
Meanwhile, from October 7th, 1954, Baba had given up the use of the alphabet board; now all communication was through finger signs and gestures. During November 1955, there was another sahavas programme, where he explained to the people several points of spiritual interest. He particularly talked of his early days and his activities.
“ ‘ Sahavas ’ means intimate companionship. To establish this companionship you should be free with me. ‘Sahavas ’ is the intimacy of give and take of love between the lovers and the Beloved. There is no need to explain this give and take, for to create an atmosphere of explanations and discourses is to mar the dignity of love which is established only in the closest intimacy. ”
On the 3rd day of the Sahavas, a middle aged man rose from the group and asked permission to recite some Sanskrit verses. Baba gave him permission and he recited the verses so lovingly that he could not contain himself. He cried out “ Avatar Meher Baba ki jai ”, broke into tears and asked forgiveness for his sins. Baba called the man to him, embraced him warmly, stroked his back, patted his cheeks and held him to his breast. “ Don’t be afraid ”, he said.
Among the remarks that Baba made later was,
“ After I drop this body, thousands upon thousands of people will come. So, age after age the same thing is repeated. No sooner do I drop the body, than people come to the tomb. When I go to give darshan, thousands of people flock around me. What is the use ? If I am great, greatness does not consist in collecting crowds around me. What I want is a little love from you.”
In July and August of 1956, Baba toured the West, meeting with his lovers in Europe, the United States and Australia. During this time, he held six days of Sahavas for about one hundred devotees at Meher Spiritual Centre in Myrtle Beach. A few weeks before he left India for his trip to the West, Baba issued the following message.
“ As declared in the past, I am free from promises and I am not bound by time and space. Though all happenings are in the realm of illusion, a great so-called tragedy is facing me and my lovers. My long-expected humiliation is near at hand. This may happen tomorrow or any day of this year, or it may happen next year.
“ The love, courage and faith of my lovers will be put to a severe test, not by me, but by Divine Law. Those who hold fast to me at the zenith of this crisis will transcend illusion and abide in Reality.
“ I want all my lovers to know that the contents of this circular, however despairing, should not affect their enthusiasm and the efforts of their preparations for my coming, because my humiliation and ‘ tragedy ’, though necessary, are but passing phases which are bound to have a glorious end as is desired. ”
“ The Disaster ”
Like Jesus, like Buddha, like Mohammed, when the Avatar comes to earth, to live among men, he too must suffer, he too must bleed.
On December 2nd, 1956, Baba had gone to Poona for a day. At around 4:45 pm of the same day, while returning to Satara, Baba and his party were involved in a severe accident which occurred about twelve miles outside Satara. Baba and his men were badly injured.
Someone had asked Baba why, if he was the Avatar, was he the victim of so severe an accident and why he could not avert it. Baba replied,
“ What the Divine Will has decreed must and will happen, and if I am the Divine Personification, you believe me to be then the last thing I would do is to avert or avoid it.
“ People suffer for their Karma. A few suffer for others. Perfect Masters suffer for the universe.”
On February 12th and 15th, 1957, Baba touched the feet of 800 poor people at Meherabad and gave each of them prasad of sweets and clothes. Soon afterwards, he visited Sakori and Poona where he gave darshan to thousands of people who had assembled there. The strain was immense, often painful and at times he had to move on crutches and at times had to be carried in a chair.
“ Baba’s book .. GOD SPEAKS ”
In the meantime, in September 1956, Meher Baba’s book “ God Speaks ” was released in America. It outlined the theme of creation and its purpose. As to what it meant to readers, the words of Dr. W.Y. Evans’ Wentz stand out :
“ No other Teacher in our own time or in any known past time has so minutely analyzed consciousness as Meher Baba has in God Speaks..This enlightening treatise adds much to the sum total of learning and contributes incalculably to the enrichment of mankind … ”
Baba once again went into seclusion, and on the thirty-sixth anniversary of his silence on July 10, he asked all those who love and obey him to observe complete silence for twenty-four hours.
“ John F. Kennedy ”
When news came of the assassination of U.S. President, John F. Kennedy, Baba said of him:
“ He was a great man, good and sincere. Dying as he did has not only made him immortal in mankind’s memory and history, but it has given him a great push forward spiritually. However, although he was assassinated because it was ordained to be, it is not a good thing and it portends more suffering ahead for the world. ”
“ Aim of Life ”
In a message on his birthday, Baba said :
“ The aim of life is to love God and the goal of life is to become one with God. The surest and quickest way to achieve this goal is to hold on to his daaman by loving him more and more. I have suffered much and will have to suffer much more till I break my silence.”
“ My Work is done ”
May 21, 1968. The end of Baba’s ‘ seclusion ’ and the beginning of a period referred to as ‘ exclusion ’. Next would come the period of ‘ inclusion ’, the time that would include all to his darshan.
On the evening of July 30th, 1968, Baba declared :
“ My work is done, It is completed 100 percent to my satisfaction. The result of this work will also be 100 percent and will manifest from the end of September.
“ God always existed ..God will always exist ..He is never changing, ever the same ..And illusion is his Eternal Game.
“ Everlasting, never ending ..never changing, ever the same ..and His oneness in its fullness ..plays in manyness His game. ”
Baba later remarked :
“ I have been saying .. the Time is near, it is fast approaching, it is close at hand. Today I say .. the Time has come. Remember this ! ”
In mid-January 1969 another circular was issued, part of which read : “ With the present condition of health, how Beloved Baba will give darshan to thousands who will come, yet remains to be determined; but it will be. He will give his darshan. This darshan, Baba says, will be the last given in Silence .. the last before he speaks his world-renewing Word of words. ”
“ The Eternal beloved ”
On January 30, 1969, Baba’s body shook with severe spasms. Just before Dr. Grant left, Baba told him, “ My time has come.” Surprisingly, Mohammad, the mast living at Lower Meherabad, uttered in a rambling lisp, “ Tomorrow .. January 31 .. Dada is coming here and is going to join Gustadji. ”
In the early hours of Friday, January 31st, 1969, Baba instructed Aloba to bring a board at 10 in the morning from the mandali hall to be kept in Baba’s room. On the board three couplets of the poet Hafiz were written :
“ Befitting a fortunate slave, carry out every command of the Master, without any question of why and what. ”
“ About what you hear from the Master, never say it is wrong, because my dear, the fault lies in your own incapacity to understand Him.”
“ I am the slave of the Master who has released me from ignorance .. whatever my Master does is of the highest to all concerned. ”
“ Avatar drops body ”
Three doctors, Dr.Brieseman, Dr. Donkin and Dr.Ginde examined Baba’s heart. Dr. Ginde checked Baba’s eye reflexes. It was pronounced that life was extinct. The Avatar had dropped his body on January 31st, in the year 1969.