In every age figures appear who are the embodiment of spiritual perfection: living a life of perfect attunement with God and rendering selfless service to all. Among such luminous figures there is one who has a special role – to pattern in his life and through his teachings the next stage of the unfolding of humanity. He is the exemplar of an age.
Abraham, Jesus of Nazareth, and Muhammad served in this role for Western cultures; Zoroaster, Rama, Krishna, and Gautama Buddha did so for the East. They all demonstrated, in Meher Baba’s words,
“the nobility of a life supremely lived,
of a love unmixed with desire,
of a power unused except for others,
of a peace untroubled by ambition,
of a knowledge undimmed by Illusion.”
For Sufism Reoriented, Meher Baba is the contemporary embodiment of this luminous figure, the one who will come to be widely recognized over time as the World Teacher, the Christ, the Prophet, the Avatar of the Age. We celebrate his extraordinary life, study his profound teachings, and strive to quietly mirror his all-embracing love for each and all in Creation through our own attitudes, thoughts, and actions in daily life.
Meher Baba’s Life
Born in India of Persian parents in 1894, Merwan Sheriar Irani was given the name Meher Baba (“Compassionate Father”) by his first circle of companions, a group drawn to him by his remarkable quality of love that they recognized as divine.
Models of Service
Beginning his spiritual mission in the 1920s, Meher Baba created an array of service projects in rural India, including a free hospital and dispensary, shelters for the poor, refuges for lepers and the mentally ill, and free schools for boys and girls where spiritual training was integrated with practical education. Defying entrenched cultural patterns, Meher Baba worked to dissolve all distinctions of caste and creed, while demonstrating the principles of selfless service by actively participating in every aspect of the work: he washed the clothes of the children and the lepers, and he cheerfully cleaned the latrines. No job was more – or less – important than any other.
Beginning in the 1930s, Meher Baba made thirteen trips to the West, visiting followers in Europe, the United States, and Australia. Between 1931 and 1958 he traveled around the world four times. He paid homage at holy sites on four continents, including those of Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam. Meher Baba encouraged people of all faith streams to follow their chosen paths with all their hearts, emphasizing that they are all paths to the same One.
All the while Meher Baba was engaged in outward activities spanning the globe, he was working on the inner planes of life. He called this inner work “Universal Work”. This work required both exhausting periods of solitude and intense collaboration with other individuals of advanced consciousness. Though he only occasionally discussed this dimension of his activities, he said its purpose was to transform Creation’s shared universal consciousness, the consciousness that lies behind and through all animate and inanimate beings. What he explained suggests it will have the same transformative impact, though on a global level, that the work of previous Avatars had on the cultures arising from their own time and place.
Remarkably, Meher Baba carried out the activities of the last forty-four years of his extraordinary life while observing complete silence. He communicated with those around him by means of an alphabet board and later through distinctive hand gestures. He emphasized that his silence was not a vow or an exercise but an aspect of his spiritual work, saying, “You have asked for and been given enough words; it is now time to live them.”
Nonetheless, in clear, concise modern English he dictated a wide range of significant messages to his followers and to humanity, outlining the details of the unfoldment and perfection of consciousness and the path to God. His books, such as God Speaks and Discourses, are among the most comprehensive modern statements of spiritual principles available. Even so, Meher Baba insisted:
“I have come not to teach
but to awaken.
Understand therefore that
I lay down no precepts.”
Meher Baba Reorients Universal Sufism
Murshida Ivy Duce and Meher Baba in New York, 1956.
In 1948, despite being in seclusion, Meher Baba invited Ivy Oneita Duce to visit his home in Meherazad, India. Ivy Duce had recently been appointed the murshida (guide) of the Sufi Order in America. Meher Baba confirmed her role as the Teacher of this spiritual school and affirmed his own spiritual responsibility for the American Sufi Order.
Four years later, on a visit to the United States, Meher Baba renamed this order “Sufism Reoriented” and prepared a charter defining the required state of illumination of its murshid, the qualifications of those wishing to participate, and the responsibilities of participation.
The detailed story of Meher Baba’s charter for Sufism Reoriented is told in a three-part series reprinted from Glow International magazine. It draws from all available archival documents, letters, journals, and records. It is available in pdf format for print or download. Open The Story of the Sufi Charter.pdf
(Note: it is a 58 page file with many photos and may take a few minutes to download fully.)