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In 1921, at the age of 25, Merwan Irani began his spiritual work and public life as he drew together his first disciples. It was one of these early mandali, or members of his circle, who gave him the name Meher Baba, meaning “Compassionate Father.”

The early disciples were from all religions and all walks of life. To the caste-conscious society of India at the time, this mixing was innovative and challenging. Yet it became one of the honing stones in Meher Baba’s training, where the focus was love of God, moral discipline, spiritual understanding, selfless service, and, at the same time, natural and honest behavior. “I have not come to teach, but to awaken,” he explained. Life with Meher Baba was thus not one of rules and rituals, but of sincerity and dedication. Along with hard work and much discipline, there was also time for games, relaxation, and great joy in the company of the Master.

In 1923, Meher Baba established a community near the city of Ahmednagar and named it Meherabad. His work included a free school, a free hospital, and shelters for the poor. From time to time he would open new programs or close down others, actions which from external appearances would not seem rational. He would explain to his close disciples that it was impossible for them to fathom the magnitude of his work; but at the same time he often demonstrated to them how he would utilize some of the works going on in their community or in their travels as small working models that would greatly impact his universal work for the world.

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