Meher Baba's visit to Avatar's Abode in 1958
PHOTOS ABOVE: Meher Baba at Avatar's Abode in June 1958. Photos taken by Colin Adams at Avatar's Abode in 1958 are used with permission.
Meher Baba arrived and stayed three and a half days at Avatar’s Abode – 3rd to 6th June 1958
This was his last trip outside of India. The gathering was part of a world-wide sahavas (period of companionship) that Meher Baba had slated for June and July of that year. It occurred during a phase of marked suffering for Meher Baba, who was still recuperating from his second car accident.
PHOTO: Meher Baba at Avatar's Abode, June 1958 - taken by Giff Alston
Meher Baba arrived early at the property and bestowed the name ‘Avatar’s Abode’ whilst he was there.
Much of Meher Baba’s visit was occupied with giving discourses on a variety of spiritual topics including love, longing and the spiritual planes. He met and had interviews with attendees, gave instructions, distributing special gifts and enjoyed some light entertainment.
Meher Baba also visited the tents and buildings where people were staying and cooking. A particular highlight was Meher Baba bringing home the true meaning of obedience, and asking those gathered whether they could actually do what he asked. Many remembered these sessions – which occurred in the Meeting Hall – as the most dramatic and significant aspect of the entire Sahavas.
Today, Avatar’s Abode serves as the principal Australian conduit for information about Meher Baba, his message, and the movement that has emerged from him. Various people in and around the property help distribute information and literature about Meher Baba, and as the largest concentration of followers in Australia live near the property and around the Sunshine Coast, the centre is a hub for activities related to Meher Baba.
How did Avatar’s Abode originate?
On January 11th 1958 the Australian Baba group received a letter from Mani Irani, Meher Baba’s sister, with the news that Baba wished to again give his Sahavas, meaning close companionship, in Australia. She indicated that Baba’s first preference was Queensland “if the climate is good during June, and the place is practical”.
Francis Brabazon, the leader of the Australian group, drove to Queensland to search for a suitable location. Naturally he wished to make every effort to satisfy Baba’s first preference, but he was also happy that there would be a second location in Australia to be blessed by Baba’s presence. Francis was a published poet, and knew the poet Judith Wright who lived in South East Queensland. She suggested that he might find a suitable place in or around Buderim. So he came to the area now known as the Sunshine Coast, and was shown a disused eighty-two acre pineapple farm on Kiel Mountain. He immediately recognised that this is what he was looking for, and cabled a long description to Baba. Baba endorsed his choice as “eminently suitable”, and the property was purchased.
PHOTO: Meher Baba inspecting the men's tents at Avatar's Abode, June 1958
None of the Baba group lived in Queensland or knew the area well. To have the place ready for Baba’s visit in early June posed many challenges. With the help of many from the Sydney and Melbourne groups, and a few local paid workers, Francis was able to have the building which is now known as Baba’s House built in time. Other preparations included construction of the Meeting Hall, provision of bedding, cushions and curtains, and road improvement -all this with no running water or electricity, and for much of the time in heavy rain.
Meher Baba stayed here for four days with a small group of his close Indian disciples. The Australian Baba Lovers also stayed on the property – the women in the original farmhouse and the men in tents. Meher Baba gave the property its name Avatar’s Abode, and said that in the future it would become one of the great places of pilgrimage in the world.
How was Avatar’s Abode developed?
Although the property was formally given to Meher Baba by Francis Brabazon, he immediately returned it to Francis saying that he “held neither goods nor property”. He directed two families, the Rouses and the Brufords, to live on the property and to begin farming it. Francis was instructed to come to be with Baba in India. He stayed there as part of Baba’s close ones, known as mandali, until after Baba ‘dropped his body’ on January 31st 1969. A number of others were asked to assist with the development of the property, and a few of these were later asked to live on the property.
PHOTO: Meher Baba (left) with Francis Brabazon (far right front) and Bill Le Page (behind Francis),
Meherabad, India, 1954
Meher Baba maintained a strong personal interest in Avatar’s Abode. Despite his deteriorating health he at times issued detailed personal instructions to the residents. Robert Rouse was manager of Avatar's Abode in the period 1959 till 1969 and corresponded regularly with Francis directly, and through Francis, with Meher Baba.
In February 1967 Bill LePage spent two weeks in Meher Baba's company. While Bill was with him, Meher Baba encouraged Bill to spread his name and message in Australia. When Bill expressed doubts about his ability to do so, Meher Baba said he would "turn the key". The New Age movement raised in the West a growing interest in Eastern spirituality. Ideas such as karma and reincarnation became commonplace in popular culture. In Australia, as in America, this brought in a new wave of spiritual seekers, some of whom came to follow Meher Baba.
After Francis’s return to Avatar’s Abode in 1969, many Baba Lovers chose to come and live nearby. Many were drawn to Francis’s company, after his ten years of living close to Baba. Francis also had a deep and wide knowledge of art, literature, music, and many different spiritual traditions. Inspired by his example and company there was a flourishing of musical, poetic and dramatic talent in this new wave of Baba Lovers around Avatar’s Abode, but also amongst the wider Australian group.
Francis had been instructed by Baba to transfer title of the property to Bill, who was to form a Trust “when the time is ripe”. He initially formed the Meher Baba Foundation. When he came to live on Avatar’s Abode in 1979, and through this Foundation he initiated much extra infrastructure, including the circuit track and the dam. Cottages were built to accommodate Francis and Judith Garbett, who moved from Sydney to work with Bill. Francis’s cottage was later used by Reg Paffle, another tireless worker who moved from Sydney.
How is Avatar’s Abode maintained and governed today?
Since 1984, the property has been held in perpetuity by the Avatar’s Abode Trust, a group of elected volunteers who oversee administration and maintenance. There is no regular paid staff. Maintenance work is mostly carried out by volunteers occasionally supplemented by paid workers.
The heart of the property is Baba’s House, especially the room where he stayed. There is also the Meeting Hall where the group gathered to be in Baba’s presence. Around this are gardens, forest walks, a library, a reception building, a kitchen, performance hall and a bookstore. There is some accommodation available for followers or those who sincerely wish to find out more about Meher Baba. There are some private residences occupied by the families who were asked by Meher Baba to live on the property. A variety of meetings and events are held at Avatar’s Abode, most notably the annual Anniversary in June celebrating Meher Baba’s visit. There are groups and committees that form and dissolve according to specific tasks and interests. Much of the time Avatar’s Abode is a place of quiet retreat.