Inside The Relationship Between Mahatma Gandhi And Meher Baba

"I am the one so many seek and so few find." "I have come to sow the seed of love in your hearts." "I have come to give a new understanding of spiritual value and truth to everyone." All these quotes and more come from Indian spiritual teacher Meher Baba, per the Avatar Meher Baba Trust. Born Merwan Sheriar Irani in 1894, Meher Baba called himself the "Avatar," greatest of the "five Perfect Masters" and "56 God-realized souls on Earth," as Trust Meher states. He considered himself a divine manifestation akin to Jesus, Mohammed, Krishna, Buddha, and others.

Meher Baba, who died in 1969, came of age during a critical juncture in Indian history, when the nation was wrestling to gain independence from the United Kingdom.1857 saw the Indian Mutiny (aka the Sepoy Rebellion, aka the First Indian War of Independence) fail to overthrow British rule, as World History Encyclopedia says. By 1874 the British East Indian Trading Company was dissolved, and its economic stranglehold on India disintegrated, but it took until 1947 for the nation to win its independence.

Only one year later in 1948 Mahatma Gandhi, India's symbol of non-violent resistance and key figure in its fight for independence, was shot and killed for attempting to broker peace between Indian Hindus and Muslims, as History outlines. But along the way to Indian freedom and his own death, Gandhi had a chance to meet, speak with, and apparently learn from Meher Baba, as Meher Mount describes.  

Talk of enlightenment and Indian independence

According to O-Meditation, Meher Baba and Gandhi met for the first time in 1931 while traveling on the same boat — the SS Rajputana — out from India. Meher Baba was setting out to tour various Western countries, while Gandhi was on his way to London to attend a meeting regarding Indian independence. It was Meher Baba's first time making the trip westward, while Ghandi was a London-educated lawyer. As the story goes, the two met in Baba's cabin and had a conversation regarding the topics of the day: spiritual disciplines and Indian independence. Being a long boat trip, they talked for three nights in a row. Baba's secretary, by all accounts, recorded their conversation.

Because Gandhi engaged in regular, public fasts to push for political change (discussed on India Today), and Baba had apparently kept silent for six years leading up to 1931, the two men talked about fasting and silence. Baba also showed Gandhi some bit of a book about spiritual enlightenment that he was working on, and Gandhi told Baba about his non-violent involvement in the Indian fight for independence. Baba told Gandhi that if Gandhi failed to resolve things with the U.K. non-violently India would "suffer tremendously." Gandhi seemingly admired Baba, and wished for some of the latter's insight into "divine truths."

The spiritual potential of America

A year after this initial meeting between Meher Baba and Mahatma Gandhi, Baba paid Gandhi a visit at Gandhi's Mumbai house in 1932. Meher Mount says that the meeting lasted about an hour. This came after Baba had finished his tour of the West following he and Gandhi's discussions on the SS Rajputana. As the story goes, it was on this topic — the West — that Baba and Gandhi spent much of their second time talking.

Now that Baba had visited places like the United States firsthand, he came away with a new perspective. When Gandhi asked Baba his opinion of Western countries, Babe said, "In America, the spiritual hunger is intense. That is why I went and stayed there for a month. There is everything there materially. There is wealth; there are brains; there is heart. In other words, there is sufficient preparedness for spiritual growth and development." 

Baba's fascination with the U.S. endured. A year later in 1933 he described how America, as a country steeped in materialism, was perfectly suited to spiritual awakening. "America requires only the guiding hand of a Master to redirect its material powers to the heights of spirituality," he said. Baba repeated this refrain later on in 1952, saying that the U.S. "has such infinite possibilities that it can lead the world spiritually, if awakened." Enlightenment, he said, would come, "in the form of Jesus crucified, or another. God will do it. He can do it."