Known for his mystical teachings throughout his life through a spiritual transformation at a very young age, Meher Baba or Merwan Sheriar Irani was an Indian spiritual master. In a remarkable development, he declared himself to be an incarnation ('avataar') of God whose aim was to propagate spirituality. He assumed complete silence for much of his later life, communicating only through gestures and small written words.
Family background and early life
Meher Baba was born in a Parsi family in Pune, Maharashtra in 1894. His father Sheriar was also moved by the spiritual aspects of the world. The young Meher was a natural poet, could play multiple instruments and could speak several languages at ease. As a child, he was the founder of a club which used to collect money for charity. He was very active in sports and was selected as the captain of his school cricket team. He was sent to the Deccan College for his further studies.
Encounter with his spiritual gurus
Meher was never spiritually inclined before he met Hazrat Babajan, a local saint. This Muslim woman is believed to have incorporated the soul of the Almighty into this young lad by kissing him on his forehead. Since then, he used to get visions of God and underwent mystical transformations, which eventually made him sacrifice the worldly pleasures to be closer to God. He also met some of the other spiritual gurus, like Sai Baba of Shirdi, Narayan Maharaja, Tajuddin Baba and Upasni Maharaja. By the age of 27, he had himself attained the stage where he could attract his own followers. His name, Meher Baba, was given by his disciples, and meant "compassionate father".
Contribution to the world
Meher Baba set up the Manzil-e-Meem, an ashram of sorts, in 1922 in Mumbai, with an aim to inculcate strict discipline among his followers. He established his Ashram in Meherabad, which is few miles ahead of Ahmednagar, Maharashtra, and also established another called the Prem Ashram, which was also a resident school. Here all the students, irrespective of caste and creed, could study and soon it was populated by candidates from both India and Iran. He used to travel to the West a lot in order to understand the western spiritual culture and had met several well-known celebrities during his stay there. Later he also worked extensively with Masts, who were considered to be insane; but to Baba these were "intoxicated with God", having elevated levels of spiritual attainment. In the late 40s he started travelling all across the world and called this the "New Life". By this time he had already declared himself as a direct incarnation of God.
Meher Baba wrote a book called God Speaks, which was published by Dodd Mead and Company in early 50s. His beliefs, interpretation of the almighty, and teachings are collected in the Discourses, which is considered an important work for the spiritual aspirants. He was concerned about the increasing use of harmful drugs in the name of spiritual attainment, and discouraged people to use it.
From 1925, Meher Baba started a self-imposed silence which went on throughout the rest of his life. He used to communicate with his disciples through gestures and sometimes with the help of alphabet boards, which he gave up after two years. He remained without uttering a word till his death.
During his work in the US, as well as in India, Meher Baba met with a few car accidents that confined him to wheelchair after severe injuries. He died on 31 January 1969 at the age of 74. His shrine is located in Meherabad, and is famous as a pilgrimage.
Also on this day:
1948 – Danny Denzongpa, Indian actor, was born
1974 – Divya Bharti, Indian actress, was born
1981 – Shahid Kapoor, Indian actor, was born
2008 – Hans Raj Khanna, Indian judge, died