by Allan Y. Cohen
I thought of writing on this topic myself, but then I realized, who can say it better than Allan Cohen? So with the permission of the author and copyright holder, here is an excerpt from the out-of-print book The Mastery of Consciousness by Allan Y. Cohen, pp. 152-154. Copyright © 1997 Ira G. Deitrick.
It is very difficult to define a Baba-lover. There are no formal or external criteria for followers of Meher Baba, no ceremonial initiation, no fee to be paid, nothing to sign, no membership cards to receive. No formal vows are taken to join the Baba family. No rituals, customs, or dress is required of a Baba-lover. There are no mandatory readings, meditations, or meetings. There is no required formal preparation, nor are there "tests" for membership. Nothing in a person's past necessarily disqualifies him or her from being regarded as a Baba-lover.
As for internal criteria, some might argue that only a handful of real Baba-lovers love and obey him as he should be loved and obeyed. Others might contend that thousands of sincere, selfless, God-loving individuals who never heard of Meher Baba are more truly Baba-lovers than some self-proclaimed followers. Both statements are probably equally valid. But let us focus on those who consciously aspire to some relationship with Meher Baba. Perhaps the most that can be said is that such Baba-lovers exist along a continuum based on the quality of their love, obedience, and commitment to Meher Baba as their Master and Guide. Possibly the true mark of a Baba-lover is the quality of his life, will, and heart. Even so, these inner qualities do not confer external status, for Baba discouraged his lovers from judging and criticizing each other.
Those who have tried to dedicate their lives to Meher Baba constitute a tremendous variety in race, religious background, nationality, age, educational background, and personality type. Some would be called eccentric; others would be seen as ordinary people. Baba never quashed variation in personal expression; rather, he stressed the increasing consciousness of unity.
Undoubtedly, there are sincere devotees of Baba who would grate on the reader's nerves, and others who provoke justifiable criticism. But all seekers have problems with their ego, Baba-lovers being no exception, and Baba specializes in bringing weaknesses to the surface. Recalling his statement that one of his primary tasks is to "improve the vicious," we must also allow for the additional possibility that Baba might draw to him souls considered somewhat unsavory by other teachers. Although a new follower of Baba can generally expect Baba-lovers to exhibit spiritual growth, absence of saintliness does not invalidate Baba's method. As a Master, Baba was more concerned about his disciples' working to slay their personal ego than with building their public image.
Baba often explained to his disciples that he guided them through the involution of consciousness "blindfolded," veiled from the experience of higher planes of consciousness. Probably even those closest lovers destined for quick God-realization experience themselves as merely human. Yet they and many other Baba followers are such jewels of Baba's love that their very contact is inspiring. A great number of seekers have been drawn to Baba's path by a certain magnetic quality in his devotees.
Perhaps most agonizing to the Baba family are spiritual pretenders, persons who declare themselves as Baba-lovers but who live in blatant disregard of his message, making no attempt to transcend their hypocrisy. Although Baba said he loves all souls equally despite their failing, new aspirants should emulate the gems rather than the hypocrites on their Avataric journey.