Birthday: February 25, 1894
Spiritual & Religious Leaders
Died At Age: 74
Sun Sign: Pisces
Also Known As: Merwan Sheriar Irani
Born Country: India
Born in: Poona, India
Famous as: Religious Leader
father: Sheriar Irani
mother: Shireen Irani
siblings: Mani Irani
Died on: January 31, 1969
place of death: Meherazad, India
Founder/Co-Founder: Avatar Meher Baba Trust
education: St. Vincent's High School, Deccan College Post Graduate and Research Institute
Merwan Sheriar Irani, best known as Meher Baba, was a spiritual guru from India. He declared himself as the Avatar—God in human form. A native of the city of Poona (present-day Pune), Merwan grew up in an Irani Zoroastrian family. At the age of 19, his spiritual transformation started and went on for the next seven years. He took a vow of silence in July 1925 that lasted for the remainder of his life. During this period, his modes of communication were an alphabet board and unique hand gestures. He would often venture into prolonged periods of seclusion and fast with his mandali (circle of disciples). Meher Baba’s extensive travels took him all over India and beyond, during which he hosted public gatherings and devoted himself in works of charity with lepers and the poor. Beginning in 1949, he embarked on an incognito journey across India with a selected mandali. Later, he called this largely mysterious and unknown period “New Life”. Meher Baba was involved in two serious vehicular accidents in his life, which severely restricted his movements. In his final years, while his health was declining, he kept on doing what he dubbed his “Universal Work”. Since his death in January 1969, his samadhi or tomb has been turned into an international pilgrimage spot.
Childhood & Early Life
Born on February 25, 1894, in Poona, Bombay Presidency (modern-day Indian state of Maharashtra), British India, Merwan Sheriar Irani was the second son of Shireen and Sheriar Irani. His father had also embarked on a spiritual journey before embracing a domestic life in Poona.
As a young boy, he established the Cosmopolitan Club, which sought to be well-informed about global affairs. A polyglot, multi-instrumentalist, and poet, he received lessons on spirituality from five different masters: Hazrat Babajan, Tajuddin Baba, Narayan Maharaj, Sai Baba of Shirdi, and Upasni Maharaj.
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Vow of Silence
In 1922, Meher Baba, with the help of his followers, founded Manzil-e-Meem (House of the Master) in Bombay (now Mumbai), where he asked his disciples to be more disciplined and obedient.
Sometime in 1923, the group left Bombay and set up their spiritual centre at an area a few miles outside Ahmednagar. Meher Baba called the place Meherabad (Garden of Blessing). In the ensuing years, the ashram served as the headquarters for all his work.
In the 1920s, Meher Baba set up a school, hospital and dispensary at Meherabad, all of which provided free service to people of all castes and faiths.
On July 10, 1925, Meher Baba began his life-long vow of silence. His modes of communications were initially through the usage of chalk and slate, then by an alphabet board, and later self-styled hand gestures. In January 1927, he stopped using pens and pencils as well.
The First Interaction with the West
In the 1930s, Meher Baba set out on an extensive globe-trotting journey during which he visited various countries in Europe and the United States.
He made these journeys with a Persian passport, as, due to his vow of silence and unwillingness to sign the forms required by the British government of India, he could not get those documents from the country of his birth and residence.
His travel in the west also helped him spread his teachings to the people there, many of whom became his disciples
During his 1931 inaugural journey to England aboard the SS Rajputana, he had three meetings with Mahatma Gandhi, though an aide to Gandhi stated that Meher Baba did not influence the other man in any way.
While in the west, he met numerous artists, including Gary Cooper, Charles Laughton, Tallulah Bankhead, Boris Karloff, Tom Mix, Maurice Chevalier, Ernst Lubitsch, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. According to Robert S. Ellwood, Meher Baba became “one of the enthusiasms of the ‘30s”.
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In 1934, despite making an announcement that he would end his vow of silence in the Hollywood Bowl, he changed his decision and travelled to Hong Kong. In the late 1930s, he travelled about India and British Ceylon with several western women. This was seen as scandalous in the west.
Interactions with Masts
Meher Baba intimately collaborated with masts, who, according to Sufi philosophy, were people “intoxicated with God”, in the 1930s and 1940s. Baba claimed that these people had become paralysed by their captivating experience of the higher spiritual planes.
According to him, masts existed at a higher spiritual level. He mentioned that he provided them with aid in their spiritual progress, and in turn, they helped him with his spiritual work. One such mast, known as Mohammed Mast, resided at Baba’s ashram until his death in 2003.
For three years between 1949 and 1952, Meher Baba and his chosen few disciples embarked on what he called “New Life.” After setting up provisions for people who relied on him, he, along with those selected followers, discarded almost all of their property and financial responsibilities and pursued a life of complete "hopelessness and helplessness".
He and his companions begged for food and followed a stringent set of codes as per the “conditions of New Life” during their incognito travel across India. One of the most prominent rules among these was the complete acceptance of any situation and steady optimism in the face of any difficulty. The followers who were unable to do so were instructed to leave.
In February 1952, he concluded “New Life” and subsequently started making public appearances all over the world once more.
Later Years, Writings, and Accidents
In the 1950s, Meher Baba set up two centres outside of India: the Meher Spiritual Center in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, USA, and Avatar's Abode near Brisbane, Australia.
In August 1953, he began the dictation of his book ‘God Speaks, The Theme of Creation and Its Purpose’ with the help of his alphabet board in Dehradun. It was published through Dodd, Mead and Company in 1955. In 1967, he put out another important book, ‘Discourses’.
In February 1954, he proclaimed himself as the Avatar for the first time. In September, he reaffirmed that statement and delivered his “Final Declaration” message, in which he predicted a variety of things.
He endured two serious vehicular accidents in his life, one in US in 1952 and one in India in 1956. Because of these, his movements became drastically restricted. In 1962, he organised a mass darshan (the sight of a deity of a holy person in Hinduism) for his western disciples. This is known as "The East-West Gathering."
Attitude towards Drugs
In the mid-1960s, Meher Baba expressed his worries about the drug use in the west and reached out for conversation to multiple academics, including Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert. Furthermore, he advocated against the use of LSD and other psychedelic drugs, saying in 1966 that they did not have any positive attributes.
Death & Legacy
After the East-West Gathering in 1962, Meher Baba’s health began to decline. Despite this, he kept on putting himself through periods of seclusion and fasting. He passed away on January 31, 1969, in Meherazad. The last words he gestured were, “Do not forget that I am God."
Meher Baba taught his disciples about the origin and purpose of life. He spoke about reincarnation and the notion that the physical world is an illusion. According to him, the only being that exists is God and each soul is essentially God’s journey through imagination to comprehend separately his own divinity.
Meher Baba set up the Avatar Meher Baba Charitable Trust as well as several centres for information and pilgrimage. His influence on pop culture resulted in the coinage of the phrase “Don't Worry, Be Happy."