I’m not sure when I realized that there was more than one Meher Baba, but I think the process which produced multiple Babas began the moment I first heard about him. For me, the first Meher Baba was the “Avataric” Baba, the omniscient voice behind the Discourses. This led me to investigate the “historical” Baba who was born in 1894, grew up in Poona (or Pune as it is known today), stopped speaking on July 10, 1925, traveled around India in the Blue Bus and so on.
I found this Baba fascinating but discovered, as I learned about Meher Baba’s activities, that the stories which revealed his humor, his personality, and his love were even more captivating and I spent hundreds of hours listening to the mandali and others relate their experiences with Baba. Eventually, I realized that another Baba had emerged, “my”Baba.
My Baba is the Baba I like to imagine when I think about Baba. Obviously this Baba is informed from the other Babas, but they are not identical. And I suspect that every Babaperson has their own Baba.
Bal Natu used to say that our relationship with Baba was largely determined by the nature of our personal Baba. So, if we tended to think of Baba as being strict or judgemental, then Baba would relate to us in that manner. Bal used to then say that that was why he preferred to think of Baba not as his mother or father, but as his grandfather / grandmother, because grandparents are even more unconditionally loving and forgiving and accepting than parents.
But how do these different Babas interact? For example, the historical Baba seemed to lay down guidelines for those who would follow him to abstain from drugs, from sex outside of marriage, from getting involved with other masters and so forth.
I have heard some Baba people suggest that some of Baba’s guidelines reflected his personal cultural upbringing and context and were not reflective of his omniscience. While it is no doubt true that Baba expressed purely personal individual tastes (and no one suggests that it is divinely ordained that we should all listen to Jim Reeves, or like bhajias – vegetable fritters), how do we decide what was a preference of the “historical” Baba and what was a precept laid down by the “Avataric” Baba?
And does it even matter? Perhaps it’s irrelevant because the only important thing is to know what “my” Baba tells me to do. And yet, what if “my” Baba tells me one thing and “your” Baba tells you something else?
Knowing that all of these Babas are (at least to some extent) filtered through individual egos, should we ignore our personal Babas and focus only on the precepts of the “historical” Baba (after we decide which ones reflect the “Avataric” Baba)?
My sense is that as disparate as our personal Babas may be, as egocentric as they might be, as long as we honestly try to follow our Baba, we will be okay. Of course, if “my” Baba were in conflict with the “Avataric” Baba I would want to try to listen very carefully to what my Baba was saying, but I think the saving grace in all this is that if we try to wholeheartedly follow our personal Baba, that is tantamount to accepting Baba at our level. And he has promised that if we do that, he will take us to his level, where all these different Babas become the One without a second, the real Meher Baba.