In Love with Meher Baba, by Pete Townshend

The Who guitarist confesses his faith in the Indian mystic

November 26, 1970
Meher Baba on the cover of Rolling Stone.
Meher Baba on the cover of Rolling Stone.

I first heard about Meher Baba from Mike McInnerney in Autumn 1967. Mike later became very involved in the development of my own work on Tommy, and it was in the knowledge that he was a Baba lover, and able to grasp the needs of the evolving album, that I asked him to do the art work connected.

I was at his house with my lady (now my wife), and he and his partner were finishing the proofs for a shop window decoration for a Kings Road tea shop called The Dragon.

I was ranting and raving about, talking too much, and finding in Mike someone who talked just as much as I did (although he'll never admit it. I had to make a tape to prove it). I was heavily into flying saucers, believing them to hold a key somehow to the future of humanity. At the time I sincerely believed I had seen several in the Florida area, today I don't really care.

It seemed that between freaks at the discovery of my first John Fahey record and someone who could out-rap me, I was getting stabs of infuuriating condescension from Mike.

Every time I came up with a worldwise theory that had taken me years of thought to get clear he would say, "That's such a coincidence man, this guy Meher Baba said something similar to that in this book, The God Man." After I had heard my very last precious revelation hit the dust at the sound of Mike's voice declaring that Baba had already said it I just had to look at the book. What I saw apart from a photo in the front cover of a strange and elderly man, was shattering.

Sure enough, each theory that I had expounded, many to do with reincarnation and its inevitability when considered in the light of law of averages, were summed up in one sentence. (I know it will irritate most people when I say that I've forgotten the sentence.)

What was so sneaky about the whole affair was the way Baba crept into my life. At first his words were encouraging, his state of consciousness and his claims to be the Christ exciting and daring, later they became scary. I began to read his words, read of his astoundingly simple relationship with his disciples (Mandali) and of his silence for 40 years. It became clear that the party was over. If I read any more lines like "What I want from my Lovers is real unadulterated love, and from my genuine workers I expect real work done," I would have to decide once and for all whether the whole thing was really for me or not.

As is normal with coming to Baba, I didn't have to make any decision. No Sooner had the thought entered my head than it left. It's just not that cut and dried. Baba has to be adjusted to over a few months, or maybe some older Baba lovers would say a few lives, and it is never apparent at any given moment how real or genuine your own affections are. One thing can be taken for granted; no matter how hard you try, you will never love him as he should be loved.

Baba only asked people for their love, not their possessions or even their lives. Just their love. Maybe I should try to talk about how Baba affects my life and how his presence helps or changes things in my work. The thing I tell people that ask me this question is that nothing ostensibly changes when an individual hears about Baba and starts to devote time to thinking about him and his work. No all-prevading joy creeps into life, no formula for solving difficult problems. In some cases it seems to bring problems to a head. At least they are over with that way.

The facts are that any focused attempt to get more out of life, more results from events and emotional chapters, whether it be by following Baba or doing what comes naturally, will start to bring visible results in life. When you are getting things done, you can't help but enjoy life more. When you begin to realize that your own suffering has a purpose, you can bear it with dignity and poise, admit defeat, or that you were wrong, without feeling that your life is worthless. Just as human suffering can be borne without too much trouble, so can human ecstasy. Both are fundamentals of illusion, of the world we live in. They are not part of reality. Balance, as always, is the key.

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