Founder: Merwan Shehariarji Irani
Date of Birth and Death: February 25, 1894-January 31, 1969
Birth Place: Guruprasad, Poona, India
Year Groups were Founded: Meher Baba first established a following in 1922 in Bombay. In 1931 Baba visited the U.S. and established a loose following there. In 1952 he accepted the inheritance of the Sufis Reoriented in the U.S.. Meher Baba's followings include the Sheriar Foundation, as well as numerous other Meher Baba Groups. Some of these groups such as Meher Baba Information of Berkeley, CA, and the Society for Avatar Meher Baba of New York City were formed after his death in 1969. There are also a number of publications such as MANifestation, Inc., GLOW International, and a kids' magazine, Rainbow! devoted to spreading Baba's message
Upon close interaction with guru Hazrat Babajan, Merwan later said that he had experienced self-realization and from there he perused the teachings of other spiritual masters including Upasani Maharaj who declared Merwan "one who has come to full God-realization." Ultimately, Baba was proclaimed to be the Avatar or manifestation of God in human form. (Hopkinson) He believed his duties as Avatar to include awakening the human spirit to a realization of God. His main teachings are Universal Love and Devotion, two qualities he believed could heal the materialism of his age. Baba first set up schools in India as well as his own community, Meherabad, in order to provide a place for "devotees" or disciples to do work. The co supervisor of the Meher Center, Kitty Davy sums up, "The Avatar is God in human form. He comes again at the right moment, when the world is in chaos and materialism as it is now, to live again the way of life which is expressed in selfless service, because love means action. Baba says the material and spiritual must go hand in hand. You cannot stay in a spiritual retreat for your whole life and find God. God must be found in the world, through service, through selfless action."(Anthony)
Sacred or Revered Texts: There are no sacred texts exclusive to followers of Meher Baba, other than the sacred texts of their own denomination. His two most famous writings are the Discourses and God Speaks.God Speaks was written as a spiritual guide for Westerners who are unfamiliar with the sacred universal or cosmic realm of the spirit.
Size of Group: The size of Meher Baba's following is estimated at near one hundred thousand in India. In the U.S., the size is substantially less and broken down by individual community centers with varying membership. (Anthony)
Remarks: Meher Baba was influential to many cultural icons of the 1960's counterculture including Pete Townshend of "the Who" and other artists. Baba is credited with converting the self-destructive lifestyle of many drug users to a life of community service and personal meaning.(Anthony)
Meher Baba and his followers believe that he was the God incarnate and the Avatar of the "dark or iron" age, also called the Kali Yuga. This age is our present time period in history, and the last of the atavistic cycle. This cycle included the predecessors: Zoroaster, Rama, Krishna, Buddha, Christ, and Mohammed. (Needleman) Baba believed that the avatar's duty is to "awaken humanity to a realization of its spiritual nature and quicken the whole life of the spirit of his time. . ." Baba was concerned about the materialist culture of his age and was devoted to spreading the understanding of a cosmic sacredness. As an Avatar, Meher Baba's message was the metaphysical unity of all persons through a relationship of Divine Love. By loving Baba, Baba lovers can learn to love others. In the highest, most intense, state of love, Divine Love, the distinction between the lover and the beloved ceases and one attains union with God. (Melton)
Baba's teachings are influenced heavily by Zoroastrianism, which is his native religion, and Sufism, as well as from Indian gurus and mystics, many of whom agreed that Meher Baba was special. He also used the teachings of various other religions believing that one's religious denomination did not interfere with one's ability to attain the highest level of spirituality. He encouraged all followers to maintain their respective religious practices except when they conflicted with his teaching of abstaining from sex until marriage. Meher Baba incorporated many of the Eastern religious themes into his teachings including that the soul or consciousness was detachable from the physical body and that one's soul never ceases to exist. Ideas such as this become increasingly complex as Baba delves into levels of consciousness and spirituality. (Hopkinson)
Anthony, Dick and Thomas Robbins. June 1972. "Getting Straight With Meher Baba," Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Vol. 11 No. 2.
Baba, Meher. 1973. Who is Meher Baba?, Meher Era Publications, Poona, India.
Hopkinson, Tom and Dorothy. 1981.Much Silence, Meher Baba: His Life and Work, Meher House Publications, Bombay, India
Melton, J. Gordon. 1986.Biographical Dictionary of American Cult and Sect Leaders, Garland Publishing, Inc. New York
Melton, J. Gordon. 1978.Encyclopedia of American Religions Vol. 2, McGrath Publishing Co., Wilmington, NC
Miller, Timothy ed. 1995. America's Alternative Religions, State University of New York Press, Albany.
Needleman, Jacob. 1970. The New Religions, Doubleday & Co., Garden City NY
Prepared by: Jon Brandt
Soc 257, New Religious Movements
Spring Term, 1997
Last modified: 07/6/01