This New Life is Endless
By Jamie Keehan
On October 16th, 1949, Meher Baba began His New Life.
What does this mean? And Baba’s promise that “this New Life will live by itself eternally”?
I do know that, seventy years ago, on an early rainy morning when it was still dark, Baba and twenty companions started down the road. A month before, Baba’s ashram had been bustling with projects, personalities and routines. Now Baba and these companions let it all go, gave everything away, and started walking.
Hundreds of people felt the anguish of possibly never seeing Baba again, as He declared that embarking on the New Life meant cutting external links with those left behind. For the few He’d selected to go with Him, there were not only physical hardships like freezing temperatures and interminable walking, but the grinding adherence to conditions Baba set out— like never expressing anger in word or deed, and not expecting Baba to protect them from pain or adversity. Baba Himself took on the additional suffering of lengthy seclusions and severe medical conditions attributed to bowing down to thousands of holy men.
Then, two years after the New Life began, Baba returned, opening the gates to His lovers, and celebrating what He called His “first real birthday.”
In my attempt to understand what this work meant and how it continues, I read accounts of the New Life from those who lived it, and also talked with Baba lovers about how the New Life continues to be part of their lives. One story in particular had an impact on me. In 2011, Helen didn’t know much about Baba, but her friend had convinced her to read a book called
She was sixty pages into the text the first day, reading about the Perfect Masters, before she fell asleep.
She dreamed of Baba and the New Life. In the dream, she was an old woman, hungry, alone in her hut, when two men in white robes came through the door, one of whom she later recognized as Baba. They were holding empty begging bowls. She was humiliated that the only thing she had to give them was a few grains of crusty old rice. But as she handed her last food to Baba, the crust turned to jewels.
“When I woke up,” Helen says, “I was a Baba lover.”
As she read more, Helen learned about the New Life, and learned the New Life prayer and Baba’s statement that starts, “This New Life is endless,” by heart, saying them over and over. She could feel that the New Life was important, even though she couldn’t fully grasp what it meant.
A few years later, Helen began her current job working with homeless people in a big city. It’s been agonizing work, in some ways, seeing the beauty and the suffering of the people she meets on the street. But there’s one thing she knows: these folks come to her with empty bowls. And more than that, in order to really serve them, she has to come to them with an empty bowl— just human beings, seeking and serving God in one another.
How to understand the New Life: God in human form becoming an aspirant, cutting ties with His lovers, spending months in seclusion, then returning? But there are moments when I think I can catch its scent: an empty bowl at a homeless shelter; Baba’s continued loving journeys through our dreams into our waking life; and even the rain that drizzled down during the Center's New Life gathering on the morning of the 16th, like it did seventy years before.
Baba’s sister Mani was one of the four women permitted to accompany Baba on the New Life journey, setting off at dawn on that October morning. Mani speaks eloquently to the fulness of the New Life, the imperishable truth of it that still permeates our lives today:
“There was this feeling of freedom. Not a miniature or imitation freedom, where you are in the mood for renunciation, or putting on a long robe and declaring that you’ve renounced everything. Not that. It was like a breeze coming from an ocean of freedom …
Anything Baba plans or starts—lays the foundation for, or plants the seeds of— is going to happen a thousand times in the future. If that freedom is really to blossom, to be for the entire world, I cannot imagine what that time must be—as that freedom is bigger than life. Maybe that’s going to happen. But it won’t be just a breeze that we feel a whiff of; it will be a wind that will spread all over.
Then nothing matters. It’s not that one needn’t desire, one wouldn’t desire—as there is not room for other desires. It is so complete, so whole, so total. That’s the only answer. That’s why Baba said the New Life will live, even if there is no one to live it. That freedom is so total,” (Mehera Meher, 535).