When Did the Avataric Period Begin?
Editor’s Note: In the Meher Baba literature we read that Baba said there is a special period of 100 years’ duration after the manifestation of the Avatar on earth, during which the force of his presence is felt just as it was when he was in the body. The question then arises, when does the Avataric period begin? Most people speak of the 100-year period as starting in 1969, the year of Meher Baba’s death. (E.g.: “He said that his aura would remain in the world for one hundred years after he gave up the body….” Ivy O. Duce, How a Master Works, p. 206.) But Bal Natu has a different point of view, expressed here.
Baba originally suggested that the Manifestation would coincide with his physical death (“My manifestation as the Avatar of the time will be of short duration. This short period will, in quick succession, cover my humiliation, the breaking of my silence, my glorification and my violent physical end.” —Final Declaration). However, since at the time of his death he appeared not to have broken his silence yet, and some of the things he predicted in connection with his Manifestation did not seem to have occurred yet, it can now be questioned whether the 100 years dates from his death in 1969 or from some future Manifestation event, or from another point in time.
Here, then, is Bal’s view. (See also “The Avataric Period: How Long Is It?“)
Source: Bal Natu, The Samadhi: Star of Infinity (Sheriar Foundation, 1997), pp. 45-51.
. . . Baba instructed Mani to write a letter to both Mrs. [Ivy] Duce and Bili [Eaton] in which He clarified the difference between the Avataric period and the Avataric cycle. . . . [Mani wrote:]
In Baba’s explanation of the Circle, it says: “All the fourteen members of the Avatar’s Inner Circle realize God by the grace of the Avatar during the same Avataric period, which is of one hundred years’ duration after the Manifestation of the Avatar on earth.” [“The Circles of the Avatar,” Discourses (rev. ed., 1987), p. 296]
The Avataric period has nothing to do with the cycle. Please have that clear. The 100 years after the Manifestation of the Avatar is the period encompassing the direct living and personal radiation of the Avatar.
[Bili Eaton, A Love So Amazing, p. 82.]
. . . Some readers, no doubt, may at this point say, “But Meher Baba stated that the period encompassing the direct and personal radiation of the Avatar is for a hundred years after His Manifestation. When did His Manifestation occur?” Here, I would like to share my personal understanding of the terms Avataric “cycle,” “period,” and, especially, “manifestation.” Baba has mentioned that the Avataric cycle varies from 700 to 1,400 years. He often stated that He would come back after 700 years, so the present Avataric cycle is of 700 years. The Avataric period, as mentioned, is 100 years long. But when does this period begin?
For me, the current Avataric cycle began on February 25, 1894, when Meher Baba was born. Some might suggest that this is also the date for the beginning of Baba’s manifestation, but as Baba was veiled at that point and was not functioning as the Avatar, this does not seem so to me. The next date to consider, therefore, is in January 1914 when Babajan unveiled Merwan by kissing Him on the forehead between His eyebrows, making Him experience the infinite bliss of Self-realization — His Ancient One state. However, in this state He was totally unaware of the three worlds, the entire Creation and hence was still not functioning as the Avatar. Meher Baba began functioning as the Avatar and Head of the spiritual hierarchy from either December 1921 or January 1922, when Shri Upasni Maharaj folded his hands before Merwan, saying, “Merwan, You are Adi Shakti. You are the Avatar!”
Yet, this does not seem like the public manifestation of the Avatar for the simple reason that Baba had disclosed His status to only a few, but did not publicly declare Himself to be the Avatar to the world. Thinking about this disparity between Maharaj’s explicit declaration and Baba’s public reticence has helped clarify in my mind my understanding of Baba’s public manifestation.
There are many facets implied in the word “manifestation.” Most people, I think, when they refer to Baba’s manifestation are referring to His Universal Manifestation. I hasten to admit at the outset that I do not know what Baba meant by that particular term. I feel that its meaning was conveyed in His “language’ alone, thus it is so far beyond my comprehension that I can never grasp its import even with the highest flights of my imagination. Everyone should feel free to delve into this subject as deeply as they wish, but I willingly refrain from such an attempt.
There are other aspects of Baba’s manifestation too. There is a personal manifestation which occurs within one’s heart when a person recognizes Baba as the Ancient One, the Eternal Beloved. Baba manifests in a unique way within each one. He eternally resides in every heart, so His manifestation is latent within everyone. As the heart begins to awaken to His love, the manifestation becomes more explicit. A God-realized soul, a saint, lover, and an ordinary devotee all experience and reflect Baba’s manifestation differently. This makes it very difficult to try and pinpoint when Baba’s manifestation occurs, because it unfolds in innumerable ways.
Therefore, in this book, I am limiting myself to trying to determine when Baba manifested publicly as the Avatar. In the early years, for example, not only did Baba not declare to the world at large that He was the Avatar, but He often went out of His way to hide His identity. Baba did not allow His dear ones who journeyed with Him to even reveal His name, much less His spiritual status. To His close ones, in both the East and West, Baba disclosed His Avatarhood in a variety of ways, but to the public, Baba was generally referred to as a Perfect Master or Sadguru. For His own spiritual work, Baba allowed this. It is very interesting that, especially during His work of physically contacting the masts (God-intoxicated), Baba would take care that His status should not be disclosed; but if, in spite of this, He was recognized by a mast, He would generally leave the place immediately.
In the early ’50s, Baba began giving more public hints about His status, such as in the message “The Highest of the High,” which was given in Dehra Dun in 1953. But the date that seems to me to symbolize Meher Baba’s public declaration of Avatarhood is February 10, 1954. On this day, at about 1:00 a.m., Baba was in a small hut in an out-of-the-way place called Meherasthan, in the district of Hamirpur, Uttar Pradesh. Asthana in Hindi means “threshold” — it is as though the Avatar crossed the threshold of disguise here. The hut was situated on a small hill, and that night a large group of His followers had gathered around its entrance. Most unexpectedly, and to the amazement of those present, Baba spelled out on His alphabet board, “Avatar Meher Baba ki Jai” (“Victory to Meher Baba, the Avatar”). One of Baba’s dear ones, Keshav Nigam, has faithfully recorded this event in detail, a part of which is quoted below:
At that time, Baba was in an extremely happy mood! His fingers ran on the alphabet board and spelled the words: AVATAR MEHER BABA KI JAI! and He simultaneously raised His right hand up to confirm that JAI. Baba also declared in His extremely happy mood that it was for the first time in this Incarnation of His that He had here openly and clearly declared Himself to be the AVATAR. [Glow International, May 1985, p. 8.]
I personally take this declaration as the commencement of Meher Baba’s public manifestation as the Avatar, and therefore as the beginning of the Avataric period. It was after this that Adi K. Irani, Baba’s secretary, had a stamp made that he used on his correspondence, which said, “In the Service of Avatar Meher Baba.” It was also from this date that Baba began to consistently refer to Himself as the Avatar in public. Some weeks later, while making a house visit in Andhra, when asked to give a message, Baba replied:
It has been possible through Love, for man to become God; and when God becomes Man, it is due to His love for His beings.
If people were to ask Me, “Have you seen God?” I would reply, “What else is there to see?” If they were to ask Me, “Are you God?” I would reply, “Who else could I be?” If they were to ask Me, “Are you the Avatar?” I would reply, “Why else have I taken this human form?” [Bal Natu, Glimpses of the God-Man, vol. 5, p. 271.]
At the end of l954, Baba called His Western men lovers to be with Him for three weeks. During this time, on September 12, He held a large darshan program in Wadia Park in Ahmednagar. Obviously aware of the effect His public declaration of Avatarhood would have on the minds of some, the very first message which Baba had read out was:
When I say I am the Avatar, there are a few who feel happy, some who feel shocked, and many who, hearing Me claim this, would take Me for a hypocrite, a fraud, a supreme egoist, or just mad. If I were to say every one of you is an Avatar, a few would be tickled, and many would consider it a blasphemy or a joke.
The fact that God being One, Indivisible, and equally in us all, we can be naught else but one, is too much for the duality-conscious mind to accept. Yet each of us is what the other is. I know I am the Avatar in every sense of the word, and that each of you is an Avatar in one sense or the other. [Bal Natu, Glimpses of the God-Man, vol. 6, p. 92.]
“Meher Baba’s Call” was a special message given on this occasion. In it, Baba made the following explicit declaration:
Age after age, when the wick of righteousness burns low, the Avatar comes yet once again to rekindle the torch of Love and Truth. Age after age, amidst the clamor of disruptions, wars, fear and chaos, rings the Avatar’s call:
“Come all unto Me.”
The time is come. I repeat the Call, and bid all come unto Me.
It was the following year that Mani, under Baba’s direction, wrote Bili the letter mentioned earlier, in which it is specified that for a period of a hundred years the Avatar’s direct personal radiation would be available. From this I gather that Baba was indirectly conveying that it would not be necessary for His body to be visible for this to happen. So, for me, Baba’s public manifestation began on February 10, 1954, as did the Avataric period. Although, as part of His Leela (divine sport), Meher Baba allowed His body to be veiled from our eyes on February 7, 1969, His public manifestation of love and compassion continues as it did when He was visible in His physical form.