Meher Baba (25 February 1894 – 31 January 1969), born Merwan Sheriar Irani, was an Indian mystic and spiritual master who declared publicly in 1954 that he was the Avatar of the age.
Merwan Sheriar Irani was born in 1894 and led a normal childhood, showing no particularly strong inclination toward spiritual matters. At the age of 19, a brief contact with the Muslim holy woman Hazrat Babajan began his seven-year process of spiritual transformation. Over the next months, he contacted four additional spiritual figures whom, along with Babajan, he called "the five Perfect Masters." He spent seven years with Upasni Maharaj, one of the masters, before beginning his public work. The name Meher Baba means "Compassionate Father" in Persian and was given to him by his first followers.
From 10 July 1925 to the end of his life, Meher Baba maintained silence, communicating by means of an alphabet board or by unique hand gestures. With his mandali (circle of disciples), he spent long periods in seclusion, during which time he often fasted. He also traveled widely, held public gatherings, and engaged in works of charity with lepers, the poor, and the mentally ill.
In 1931, Meher Baba made the first of many visits to the West, where he attracted many followers. Throughout most of the 1940s, Meher Baba worked with a category of spiritual aspirant called masts, whom he said are entranced or spellbound by internal spiritual experiences. Starting in 1949, along with selected mandali, he traveled incognito about India in what he called "The New Life." On 10 February 1954, Meher Baba declared that he was the Avatar (an incarnation of God).
After being injured as a passenger in two automobile accidents, one in the United States in 1952 and one in India in 1956, his ability to walk became severely limited. In 1962, he invited his Western followers to India for a mass darshan called "The East-West Gathering." Concerned by an increasing use of LSD and other psychedelic drugs, in 1966 Baba stated that they did not convey real benefits. Despite deteriorating health, he continued what he called his "Universal Work," which included fasting and seclusion, until his death on 31 January 1969. His samadhi (tomb-shrine) in Meherabad, India has become a place of international pilgrimage.