Murshida Carol Weyland Conner's. introduction to:
Upasni Maharaj – Teacher of the World Teacher
Published by Sufism Reoriented
“The entire fabric of the universe serves but one purpose: the realization of God.”
— Meher Baba
We live at an extraordinary moment in universal history.
According to spiritual tradition, we now stand at the cusp of two vast epochs of time. The age now closing stretches back trillions of years to the very moment of Creation. Its completion signals the end of humanity’s spiritual childhood and adolescence. The age now dawning, equally vast, is to usher in Creation’s long-foretold maturity. We are at the threshold of a new cosmic beginning, a New Creation, characterized by new principles and a new consciousness of the unity and divinity of life never held on earth before. This unitary consciousness dissolves and supersedes the familiar illusory bipolar dimensions of life: matter and spirit, life and death, high and low, right and wrong, beauty and ugliness, East and West, and so forth. These were created to serve the evolutionary process and are sustained by the limited lower mind. In the light of this new consciousness, all apparently separate forms of life are seen, known, and felt as expressions of a single creative energy, ultimately understood by man as the ceaseless flow of Divine Love.
Upasni Maharaj, the subject of this biography, was destined to play a key role in this momentous transition. He served as teacher and guide to the new World Teacher, who was charged with laying the foundation for the sweeping universal regeneration of the coming age. This book describes in vivid detail the path of spiritual mastery traversed by Maharaj, as he was generally known, in preparation for this unique responsibility. It was a path he never consciously sought and indeed strenuously resisted. Yet it was this spiritual destiny that shaped and directed the course of his life. As the true dimensions of this divine assignment were unknown to others when this biography was written, it is helpful to review the broader background of Maharaj’s life story and the nature of the singular duty entrusted to him at this great turning point in spiritual history.
It was Upasni Maharaj’s destiny to become a Perfect Master, or Sadguru, one of five God-realized souls charged with the governance of Creation. Inwardly one in consciousness, each of these five masters holds a distinct outward office and responsibility. One among them serves as an integrator, referred to in traditional sufi literature as the Qutub-e-Irshad, the center of guidance, who directs the affairs of the universe. At the beginning of the twentieth century, this office was held by Sai Baba of Shirdi (d. 1918), the reigning figure of the closing age and the teacher of Upasni Maharaj. It was Sai Baba who guided Maharaj through the final stages of illumination during a demanding four-year apprenticeship at Shirdi, as described in this book. He then passed his spiritual authority on to Maharaj. And it was Sai Baba who, together with Maharaj and the three other Perfect Masters of the time, carried the responsibility for the descent into Creation of the World Teacher, the long-awaited Ancient One.
A Perfect Master is a human being who has attained divine consciousness. The World Teacher, or Avatar, is a divine incarnation, the direct descent on earth of God in human form, who takes birth periodically to usher in each new spiritual age. At these times the five Perfect Masters bring him into the world from his formless being, drawing a veil over his infinity, which enables him to function provisionally in the realm of duality. In this way he is born and grows to maturity as an ordinary man. When he is unveiled to his true divine nature, the Perfect Masters help him adapt his infinite consciousness to the circumstances of his advent in duality. In this instance Upasni Maharaj was the master destined to give this young divine figure the spiritual knowledge and guidance he needed to assume his role. This youth was Merwan Sheriar Irani, who would later be known around the world as Meher Baba.
When they met, in 1915, Merwan was in an extraordinary state of super-consciousness. Maharaj worked both inwardly and outwardly with Merwan for a period of seven years, sometimes seeing him only twice a month, at other times more frequently. Often they met at night in the hut where Maharaj sheltered in Sakori, a village a few miles from Sai Baba’s ashram in Shirdi. Month after month, in the quiet and solitude of the darkest hours of night, Maharaj imparted to the Avatar-to-be the cosmological principles of Creation in the highest form they could then be formulated. Patiently, Maharaj aided Merwan in his struggle to integrate his divine consciousness with normal consciousness in all the illusory realms of existence. This process brought Merwan such acute suffering that he was compelled to pound his forehead against a stone for hours at a time to relieve the pain. As their collaboration continued, Merwan sometimes secluded himself in a dark room and covered himself with excrement, much as Maharaj had done during stages of his own inner unfolding, as recounted in this volume. Throughout this arduous seven-year process, Maharaj was Merwan’s guide and companion. Finally, as their shared work neared completion, Merwan joined Maharaj in Sakori for an extended period. They met in Maharaj’s hut nearly every night for six months, sitting together behind closed doors for hours. Much later Meher Baba explained, “At the end of this period, Maharaj made me know fully what I am. He gave me Divine Knowledge.”(1)
As the last Avatar of this vast epoch of time, Meher Baba is believed by many to be the fullest and most forceful incarnation of Divinity in the record of Creation; he is the long-awaited one, destined from the very beginning to bring, at the appointed hour, a new birth of Creation itself. In this role he is sometimes called the Kalki Avatar, the destroyer of ignorance.(2) This sublime divine personality is depicted as entering Creation on a white steed. Sword unsheathed, he is poised to destroy the superannuated portions of the earth. His work is to clear away the learning of the past to make way for a diviner world. His advent sets in motion the ordained merging of heaven and earth foretold in the East by the Vedic rishis and in the West by the biblical books of Isaiah and Revelation. Through the work of the Kalki Avatar, a New Creation begins, in which a cleansed and transformed new earth will nurture and support the broader consciousness of a transfigured new humanity.
An Essential Foundation of Spiritual Knowledge
As the divinely appointed teacher of the World Teacher at this juncture of cycles, Upasni Maharaj represented the pinnacle of the cumulative spiritual understanding of the vast epoch now concluding. His principles and formulations, illustrated in this biography by the dramatic story of his life, embody the purest, most exalted exposition of spiritual truth as it had thus far been known and lived on earth. A sense of the all-embracing nature of Maharaj’s teaching is conveyed throughout the book in his insightful discourses, pointed anecdotes, and many engaging teaching stories, as illustrated, for example, in this description of his informal talks in the town of Kharagpur:
In response to the genuine devotion in those who gathered to see him, Maharaj began to give spontaneous talks, explaining the highest spiritual truths in simple down-to-earth language that everyone could understand. He spoke about the separative self and the Supreme Self, about the insensate matter that makes up the world and the divine consciousness that pervades it. What is the Earth?
What is God? What are the realms beyond this world? How are God and the world related? Maharaj lucidly and beautifully explored all these questions, speaking directly from his own experience, which he amplified with examples, illustrations, and quotations from scripture.(3)
In his seven years as Maharaj’s devoted pupil, Meher Baba received and absorbed this divine legacy in its most elevated and refined expression. He consistently honored these principles and formulations as an essential foundation of spiritual knowledge, reinforcing, culling, and clarifying them throughout his advent. He refreshed and refined many of these understandings still further in his messages and discourses and in God Speaks, his definitive book on the theme of Creation. Those familiar with these works will recognize themes from Maharaj’s talks, such as his discussion of the sleep, dream, and waking states in relation to states of consciousness and his comparison of artificial and natural light and darkness, which Meher Baba incorporated into his own explanations of the unfolding of higher consciousness.
For Meher Baba, this essential foundation of authoritative spiritual knowledge and practice was not a rigid framework; it was a starting point from which one would advance further according to the ever-evolving, progressive flow of Creation itself. As the World Teacher for the coming age, he replaced outmoded formulations and added important new integrations appropriate for the next stage of Creation’s growth. For example, outward patterns of life defining the spiritual path are now significantly changed. In the age now closing, represented by Maharaj, the most refined spiritual principles counsel an ascendant path of spiritual return. This is the traditional path of renunciation, austerities, and ritualized worship of various sorts, including veneration of divine effigies, recitation of japas and mantras, ascetic practices, pilgrimages, and prescribed acts of charity. Through these practices, one strives to attain desirelessness and detachment from the individual self and the illusory world of duality, ascending through the inner planes of consciousness with the ultimate aim of achieving mukti, or release from Creation, to merge forever in the infinite consciousness of Divinity.
For the dawning age, Meher Baba now counsels a “descendant” path, whereby the seeker realizes the divine by walking the earth in selfless service to all of its beautiful forms, in remembrance of and love for God. This now-refreshed descendant path is made possible by the general progress achieved by the whole of Creation in its godward course, boosted by the high radiant energy from the Source released in his advent by Meher Baba, which he called the breaking of his Silence. It is by this descendant path that mankind will increasingly join with divinity and so fulfill Creation’s destined purpose: to realize the divine life here on this earth.
With this background, one sees that this book, though cast in the form of a biography, is in fact a compendium of high gnostic truth presented in its most complete and elevated formulation as understood at this turning point in cosmic evolution.
Conceived by Meher Baba and published under his auspices, this book was one of the first projects set in motion when he began his work as a spiritual master. Between 1922 and 1924, versions of this biography were written and published in three languages, Gujarati, Urdu, and Marathi, with the editorial collaboration of distinguished literary figures of the time. In a lengthy letter to the eminent author and scholar Sohrabji M. Desai of Navsari, whom he had invited to serve as editor of the original Gujarati edition, Meher Baba summarized the book’s purpose:
The book in question is the life of a “Realized Personality” and explains all about spiritualism.(4) It throws light on the frailty of this worldly life and directs one in the way of internal bliss, which is the ideal of human existence. The publication and circulation of the work has been taken up with the idea of disseminating the instructive lessons contained therein amongst the people of all castes and creeds and educating the public mind in matters divine. It is a service in which no self-interest is involved, as the money that will be realized from the sale of these publications will be spent in bringing out further editions.(5)
A Guidebook for Western Seekers
From the outset, it was Meher Baba’s wish that an English version of the biography be prepared for readers in the West. As Mr. Desai was multilingual and had written numerous works in English, Baba raised this with him in the same letter, emphasizing the importance of a high standard of editorial excellence for this discriminating audience:
It is my desire that the English work, besides the intrinsic worth of it, should also be perfect in point of style and language. The English work, as you can understand, will mostly fall into the hands of the educated class in India; and the book, therefore, in order to impress and appeal to their materialistic minds must possess some literary worth as well. It is also intended to circulate the book in Europe and America, especially the latter country, which as you are aware is so very eager to know something more about spiritualism.(6)
This letter also mentions an “English sketch”, or draft, that had previously been sent to Mr. Desai for review. However, no such sample draft or manuscript has yet come to light, and no English version of the biography was published during Meher Baba’s lifetime.
Now, nearly a century later, at the inception of the new spiritual age, when tremendous changes are taking place in the world, the time has come for this important book to be made widely available to Western seekers. It seems fitting that this unique spiritual biography be brought out at this hour, in this unprecedented time of global pandemic when the COVID-19 virus, fueled by the radiant energy brought down from the Silence, pushes the world forward at an accelerated speed toward the divine destiny that the Ancient One came to manifest. The long era of reincarnational man, characterized by the egoic, limited, lower mind and the illusion of multiple separateness, will at last vanish; the radiant light of unity will dispel the veils of falsehood to shine unblemished, for the first time, on this physical earth and make its eternal home here. Accordingly, high gnostic truth, well known in the East but virtually unknown in the West, will at last be made available in its highest formulation to the English-speaking world.
In this age now dawning, the two hemispheres, the spiritual East and the materialistic West, which by divine design pursued separate arcs of growth for thousands of years, are to merge into a “unisphere” embracing a new integration of life. Those familiar with Meher Baba’s work will recall that the union of East and West was central to his Avataric agenda. Their melding is a necessary preparation for the birth of the new consciousness, which is neither material nor spiritual nor an additive blend of each—it is brand new, expressing the living experience of the unity of all Creation in God and as God in an undivided world.
Because of its material orientation, the West has no literature of its own on the high gnosis of the spiritual path. Now and for the future there is an increasing need among contemporary Western seekers for a clear, authentic guide to the unfolding of higher consciousness. The biography of Upasni Maharaj serves precisely this function, for it accurately portrays the many stages of high illumination and the forceful transformative processes that accompany them as Maharaj himself lived them. There is no abstract theory or conjecture here; the book is the record of Maharaj’s experience as he shared it with his devotees. In essence, everything that can be known of the spiritual path at this threshold of the New Creation is contained in this book. Although details of the path have since been clarified, amended, and given forceful new directions for the future by Meher Baba, this is the foundation from which the Avatar’s new dispensation springs. Now, as the two hemispheres merge, the West too has a shining summary of the summit of spiritual learning as it was known and lived by the teacher of the World Teacher. This book arrives as a gift to us from Meher Baba to complement and supplement his universal message and the supreme example of his divine life in this new age now unfolding.
1. Listen, Humanity, ed. D. E. Stevens (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1957), 250.
2. The name Kalki can also be translated as “eternity” or “white horse”.
3. Chapter 60.
4. Here meaning spirituality.
5. M. S. Irani to Desai, 1922, private collection.