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.”
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.