Merwan Sheriar Irani (1894-1969), who was known to his many followers around the world as Meher Baba (literally Compassionate Father), never sought the limelight. Most of his life was spent working with the sick, poor, and mentally imbalanced in India. However, his teachings and his service to humanity have attracted the attention of many Westerners since the 1930s. Meher Baba made three trips out of India in the 1930s and two trips in the 1950s. Although he gave discourses about spirituality and was always ready to answer questions from those who met him, he did not consider himself primarily a teacher. In what he called his Universal Message, Meher Baba declared: "I have come not to teach but to awaken." Many of his teachings were about love. "I have come to sow the seed of love in your hearts so that, in spite of all superficial diversity which your life in illusion must experience and endure, the feeling of oneness, through love, is brought about amongst all the nations, creeds, sects and castes of the world." While in college at Deccan College in Poona, India, he experienced profound personal spiritual transformations. Instead of completing his studies, he began to teach the people who were drawn by his growing reputation as a sadguru (spiritual teacher). Several years after he began teaching, Meher Baba declared that spoken words were not what people needed in order to understand how to live a spiritual life. As a result, he began to observe a vow of silence. When he began keeping silence, he indicated that he would not speak for a period of 1 year. However from July 10, 1925, when he began his silence, he did not utter a spoken word right up until his death in 1969. At first, Meher Baba communicated by means of written notes, and then began to spell out messages on an English alphabet board. On December 31, 1926, he wrote his last message, and in 1954, he stopped using the alphabet board entirely and relied on a unique system of hand gestures to communicate. Although he did not speak audible words, his followers felt that he communicated directly to their hearts. Meher Baba's real message was not given in words, but through an inner experience of love. Meher Baba said, "Things that are real are given and received in silence. . . . I am never silent. I speak eternally. The voice that is heard deep within the soul is my voice."
The central message that he communicated was that the meaning of life is that God is love, and the purpose of life is to experience oneness with God. Love is the force that produced the world and that maintains the world as we know it. He asserted "that God is the only Reality, the true Self of every finite self." Although this sounds a bit abstract, it boils down to the concept that every individual has an inner core that is divine (an inner spark of the Divine Flame or a drop of the Infinite Ocean of Love that is God). Other statements he made about love included: "It is for the sake of Love that the whole universe sprang into existence, and for the sake of Love that it is kept going." "God is love. And love must love." "Life and Love are inseparable. Where there is life, there is love." Meher Baba's personal spiritual experiences gave him the knowledge and understanding of his own divine nature so that he could declare that he was God in human form or the avatar. He also declared that the only difference between him and the rest of humanity was that he realized his divine nature while other people did not realize their true nature because they remained veiled in ignorance.
He declared that his life's work was for the purpose of giving a spiritual push to mankind through his example and through the inner help that he could provide. "I am not come to establish any cult, society or organization; nor even to establish a new religion. The religion that I shall teach gives the Knowledge of life of the One behind the many. The book that I shall make people read is the book of the heart that holds the key to the mystery of life. I shall bring about a happy blending of the head and the heart. I shall revitalize all religions and cults and bring them together like beads on a string."
Meher Baba did not require any particular spiritual practices from his followers. Although his writings include information about meditation, prayer, and other spiritual practices, his main recommendation for achieving the oneness with God about which he taught was through remembrance of God and love for God. He described religious rituals of the major religions as being empty and not spiritually helpful. He did not advocate any individual religion over any other. He told his followers to follow the teachings and precepts of whatever religion appealed to them but to do it wholeheartedly and sincerely.
Meher Baba's own words sum up his teachings: "The only Real Knowledge is the knowledge that God is the inner dweller in good people and so-called bad, in saint and so-called sinner. This knowledge requires you to help all equally as circumstances demand, without expectation of reward, and when compelled to take place in a dispute, to act without the slightest trace of enmity or hatred; to try to make others happy with brotherly or sisterly feeling for each one; to harm no one in thought, word, or deed, not even those who harm you." "Start learning to love God by loving those whom you cannot love. The more you remember others with kindness and generosity, the more you forget yourself, you find God."