Who is Meher Baba ?

By Charles Haynes

(Excerpted from the Treasures from the Meher Baba Journals, Sheriar Press, 1980)

Meher Baba - Cannes 1937It was love that drew Meher Baba’s early disciples to him and it was for the sake of love that they remained with him. Today it is still love that draws those who seek him. This is as he would have it; for Meher Baba’s only message has always been of Divine love. His is a message given not in words but through an awakening of the heart.

The story of this extraordinary man is thus a story of love. For while there are many who speak of Divine love, Meher Baba lived it. His live was a life of such love, purity and service that it will stand for all time as the divinely human example of life as it should be lived. To those who have witnessed the simple beauty of his ways, he is the Ancient One: the One who comes age after age to reveal the love of God in the world.

Meher Baba was born Merwan Sheriar Irani on February 25, 1894, in Poona, India. His parents were Persian, and his father, Sheriar Irani, was known as a true seeker of God. Though Merwan was much loved and respected as a youth, there is little about his early life that indicates his spiritual destiny. He attended a Christian high school and then Deccan College, both in Pune. At age 19 the veil was shattered and Merwan came to realize who he was. The unveiling began one day   in January of 1913 when Merwan while cycling home from college, encountered an ancient Muslim woman known as Hazrat Babajan. She was reputed to be Perfect Master, one who had achieved God-realization. From the moment of His first contact with Babajan, Merwan’s life changed completely. He began to know his true identity as being one with God. Merwan was then led to contact four other Perfect Masters, each of whom played a significant role in the process of unveiling. One of these Masters, Upasni Maharaj, worked with Merwan over a period of seven years. Finally in 1921, Upasni folded his hands before Merwan saying, “You are the Avatar, I salute you.” Merwan began his work as the Avatar of the Age.

Who is the Avatar? At critical junctures in human history, Meher Baba has explained, God becomes man. Though the titles may be many (Avatar, Christ, Messiah), the message if Divine love is eternally the same. In his compassion, the Avatar invariably takes on himself the suffering of the world, and in doing so brings about the spiritual rebirth of humanity. In light of this, Meher Baba has affirmed all the great religions as revelations of God for it was the same Ancient One who inspired each of them.

In the nineteen twenties “Mastery in Servitude” quickly became the theme of Merwan’s life. Tirelessly he and his disciples served the poor, the sick, the outcasts and the mentally disturbed – establishing schools, hospitals, and ashrams for this work. Then and throughout his life the master personally cared for those in need. He washed the feet of lepers and bowed down to them saying, “I bow down to the God in each one of you.” He cleaned the latrines of the untouchables and worked to end the caste system. Not surprisingly, Merwan Irani’s early disciples began to call him “Meher Baba,” which means “Compassionate Father.”

During this period of intense activity, on July 10, 1925, Meher Baba began his silence; he would not utter a word for the next forty-four years. There have been enough words given, he said, it is now time to live them. Even in silence Baba continued to communicate on many levels; his warmth and ever-present humor remained undiminished. When he wished to use words he spelled out what he wanted to convey by means of a wooden board with the letters of the alphabet printed on it. Many of his sayings and discourses were given by this method. After 1954, Baba gave up the board and relied on hand gestures alone.

Meher Baba always stressed that he began his silence in order to break it. By choosing to speak from silence, he speaks the word of God in our time. This Word is an inner Word heard only in the depths of our being. As Baba himself expressed it:

External silence helps inner silence and only in internal silence is Baba found; in profound inner silence. I am never silent. I speak eternally. The voice that is heard deep within the soul is my voice.”

This, then, is the spiritual revolution Meher Baba came to bring: the awakening of Divine love within each individual.

Six years after Meher Baba began his silence, he traveled to the West for the first time. There he contacted his earliest Western disciples, some of whom were eventually allowed to return with him to India for training in the spiritual life.

One of the significant dimensions of Meher Baba’s life is his work with the God-intoxicated individuals known as masts. There are, according to Baba, many different types of masts, but in general they may be defined as spiritually advanced individuals whose love for God is so intense that they often appear insane to most observers. In fact, Baba has explained, they are not insane; they simply refuse to adjust to the world, lost as they are in their longing for God.

Although we cannot fathom, the exact nature of Meher Baba’s inner work with the masts, we do know that he gave them spiritual help. Beyond this, he indicated that he inwardly channeled their love for God into directions which have benefited the entire world. Baba undertook long and arduous journeys to contact masts and others with whom he had special work. The statistics alone are staggering: from 1937-1946, the years of his most extensive mast tours in India, Baba personally worked with more than 20,000 masts, seekers of God, and with the poor in journeys totaling over 75,000 miles.

Meher Baba’s mission as the Avatar entered into an important phase in 1949. Dispersing his ashrams and giving up all possessions (Meher Baba kept only the small plot of land on Meherabad Hill – near Ahmednagar India which he had long before designated as the resting place for his physical body when he laid it aside) in India held in his name, Baba set out on what he called the “New Life.” He made the startling announcement that during this New Life he would cease to be the spiritual Master in order to assume the role of a seeker of God. A small number of companions were chosen to accompany Baba and together they set out to live a life of “helplessness and hopelessness.”

Living fully in the present, without certainty of shelter and food, the New Life companions gave up everything to trust solely in the mercy of God. Though the full meaning of the New Life is still unfolding today, at least this much may be said: In the New Life God became fully human, forging in human consciousness a new path to himself. The New Life is a life in the world, yet free from the world, in which the seeker loves God for the sake of love alone. In becoming the companion and the seeker, Baba brought into being a new way of seeing and living for all in years to come who would have the courage to follow.

In his life, Meher Baba had now expressed his full Divinity and his full humanity. In 1952 he emerged from the New Life to declare publicly that he was the God-Man, the Avatar of the Age. For the next seventeen years Baba gave of himself to an unprecedented degree as he moved toward the completion of his work.  Baba forewarned his disciples that this work would require of him great suffering including the shedding of his blood on American and Indian soil. Outwardly, the suffering took the form of two car “accidents”, the first in the United States (1952) and the second in India (1956). In one the entire left side of his body was injured, and in the other the entire right side was severely damaged.

In spite of his suffering, Meher Baba opened the gates of his love by giving darshan (personal blessing) to thousands of people during the nineteen fifties and early sixties. During this time he made three visits to the Meher Spiritual Center in the United States, which he called his home in the West. One of his last darshans, the East-West Gathering held in Poona, India, in 1962, symbolizes the awakening of oneness through love which he came to bring about. People of many races, nations, and religions came together as one family in the presence of Divine love, and Meher Baba told the gathering what he now tells us all:

“May my love make you feel one day that God is in everyone.”

Meher Baba spent his last years in seclusion, finishing his universal work. The strain of his work in seclusion took a tremendous toll on his health. Nevertheless Baba was pleased with the results, saying:”My work is done. It is completed one hundred percent to my satisfaction.” Shortly thereafter, on January 31, 1969, Meher Baba laid aside his physical body to live forever in the hearts of those who come to experience his love.

Today, Meher Baba’s tomb located at Meherabad in Ahmednagar, in the state of Maharashtra, India (about 2 hours by road from the city of Pune) is a place of pilgrimage for people from all over the world.

Bif Soper has prepared a visual comparative - Meherabad Then and Now - chronicling the changes that have taken place at Meherabad since the ashram days in the 1920’s to the present time.The photo compilation presents some very rare photographs of Meher Baba and the life at Meherabad during the 20's , 30's , 40's  50's (with Meher Baba at Meherabad). The photo-collage also shows recent pictures of Meherabad completing a picturesque and deeply inspiring Then and Now photo journey. MSU is grateful to Bif for this contribution. 

Kendra Crossen Burroughs has compiled 108 Sayings of Meher Baba that provide a wonderful collection of Meher Baba quotes on a wide spectrum of spiritual and life subjects. MSU is grateful to Kendra for this contribution. 

More information about Meher Baba can be found at: