A small framed photo hanging in Mandali Hall at Meherazad shows Meher Baba sitting with a group of His men mandali and close lovers. It was taken at Meherabad in 1949, not long after Baba disclosed His momentous plans for the New Life. The picture occasionally caught a pilgrim’s interest and would prompt Eruch to recall the men’s meeting which preceded the New Life.
“I knew about Baba’s plans prior to the men’s meetings at Meherabad, but for those not in the know, it really was a shock. Baba had called my Papa for the meeting and I remember thinking, ‘Thank God he is hearing this from Baba and not from me.'”
Each attendee was to read and sign a circular of conditions. There were to be no questions or explanations, only one’s answer: “Yes”, you were willing to turn your back on your old life, leaving behind everyone and everything to follow Baba into this New Life or, “No,” you were not. “Yes” or “No” were the only answers allowed the men.
In the 1990s, as Eruch looked carefully at the photo, he commented, “See how it is, only two of us are left now, just Aloba and myself. But Baba made it so clear to us, ‘This New Life is eternal, even if there is no one left to live it.'”
“What about the women?” a pilgrim would ask Eruch. “What was to happen to them?”
“Why are you asking me? We men had nothing to do with the women. Go to the other side and ask them.”
The meetings for the women mandali and close ones took place on the Hill, in the East Room of the Meher Retreat at Meherabad. Among the participants in the women’s meetings were Manu Jessawala, Katie Irani and Meheru Irani. Their memories, shared with us years later, give a unique glimpse of the resolution within oneself required to be His.
And, unlike with the men, Baba began the first meeting with one crucial question.
Manu recalled, “Baba told us to wash our hands and faces before entering the East Room and to think carefully whether we were prepared to obey Him. Baba told the last woman entering the East Room to lock the door, which was very unusual. He sat on Mehera’s bed and told us all to sit down. He said that He was taking a promise from each one. If we agreed to obey Him, then we should come forward and kiss His right hand. ‘But see that it is not the kiss of Judas. Kiss me and then sit down.’
“Baba addressed Mehera, asking her, ‘Will you do whatever I say? If I tell you to wash men’s clothing will you do it?’
“Mehera replied, ‘Yes, Baba.’
“We were shaking inside, wondering what Baba would ask us to do. Mani’s turn came next. Baba said, ‘Will you obey me 100%?’
“‘Yes, Baba,’ she said.
“Baba asked someone, ‘If I tell you to marry a sweeper will you do it?’ I could feel my heart beating in my chest.’Please Baba, don’t ask me to marry.’
“The next turn was mine. He said, ‘If I send you away, will you obey me?’
“‘Yes, Baba,’ I answered, but inwardly I was shedding tears.”
Katie Irani revealed her heart’s distress in remembering what Baba told her: “‘If I send you away, you will never see me again. You will have no contact with me, but you are still under my wings.’
“I thought to myself, ‘How is it possible? Baba will surely see us sometime.’
“Baba turned His head sharply towards me and repeated, ‘You must believe Me one hundred percent. I will never see you again. I am not just saying this. I am serious. But you must go happily. Don’t think of anything. Just do as I tell you.'”
Meheru Irani, one of the four women Baba subsequently chose to accompany Him during the New Life, recalled her determination as she listened intently.
“All I could do was to tell myself, ‘Whatever He asks you to do, don’t think, just say yes. Say yes.'”
Today, not one of the companions who set out walking with Meher Baba on 16th October 1949 is still alive, but the New Life continues to inspire and symbolize the epitome of what it means to be His, of what it means to want what He wants, not what we want. It is an eternal reminder to just say, “Yes.”
—Davana Brown for Avatar Meher Baba Trust, 24 November 2016