Oh, dear, the biggest bugaboo for many of us: the possibility that the individual followers of Meher Baba will someday form a religion — organized to the nth degree with rules, regulations, and leaders, leaders, leaders.
Recently, a Baba lover from India wrote of his assumption that such a religion already exists. I hope he’s wrong, although of course we can all see signs of it coming: increasing use of rituals; convoluted interpretations of Meher Baba’s statements; the almost desperate search for replacements for Baba’s close mandali as their lives come to an end; demands that the “group” take responsibility for more and more aspects of the individual’s life. Sound familiar? If you were brought up in a religion — any religion — it sure does.
Some things never change and organized religion is one of them. They all probably start pretty much the same way. Followers of the avatar-in-residence are fiercely independent while he’s in the body, but once he’s departed, things start to change. The need for peer support develops and grows until it isn’t just a need, but a requirement. It grows again until the support has to be codified, supervised and cloaked in appropriate language based on the avatar’s sayings. Or, too many times, sort of based on his sayings. As time passes, it gets tweaked, modified, becomes muddied by a variety of personal agendas.
Already, a theory has been voiced that even though Meher Baba said he came “not to teach, but to awaken,” he actually taught many things, ergo it’s all right for us to teach. A name has actually been proposed for this so-called new religion: “Meherian.” I don’t know whether to cry, laugh or howl in rage, although I’m most inclined to go with the rage. Did it really take only thirty-four years to come to this point, to take everything Meher Baba said about the individual’s relationship with the Avatar, throw it in a pot, give it a good shake and turn it upside down? What on earth is that about?
Obviously, some of us can’t wait for a full-blown organization. We all know it’s going to happen in time, but I can’t see any reason to push for it. Does spreading Baba’s message really need a church, when he himself said it’s all about love and that love spreads from heart to heart? Has something happened to Baba’s promise that he could contact any of his lovers anywhere at any time? If he rescinded that promise and instead depends on us and a church to make the contact, no one told me about it. How do you suppose all those new Baba lovers over the past thirty-four years got to Baba without a church? I rather suspect it was the same way it happened before he dropped his body: he reached out and found them, in his own way and in his own time. I think this is a case where it would behoove us to leave well enough alone for as long as possible.