Meher House, Sydney - A brief history
Francis Brabazon and his vision: Meher House was originally conceived as a Centre for Meher Baba in Sydney. It was a bold undertaking by Francis Brabazon whose conviction in Meher Baba and whose understanding of the importance of the Avatar’s Work in the world became manifested in the solid stone walls and structure of the central room of the house. Building the House from stone quarried on the site, was a labour of love by Francis and he was helped from time to time by a small group of dedicated individuals who shared Francis’s conviction in Meher Baba and also his hope that one day their Spiritual Master may visit.
"Sell all and follow the Cross": In 1954, Bill Le Page, one of those keen to help Francis in the work of building a Centre and spreading Baba’s message moved his family from Melbourne to Sydney planning to purchase land and establish a home nearby to Meher House. Shortly after the family’s move Bill and Francis traveled to India for the Sahavas with Meher Baba that became known as The Three Incredible Weeks. It was at this time that Meher Baba told Francis ‘to sell all and follow the Cross,’ and at the same time told him to give Meher House over to Bill, for Bill to be its 'caretaker' and for he and his family to live there. On their return to Australia the change of ownership of the house and land was made legal. And although Bill as its 'caretaker' with his then wife Joan, now owned the place, Baba made it clear it was His Place and ‘was never to be sold’. Francis continued to live at Meher House with the family while he and Bill worked on completing the house for family living.
Meher Baba's first visit: In August 1956 Meher Baba did visit Meher House and stayed several nights. To all those gathered to greet Him He gave these reasons for His coming to Australia:
- To sow the seed of His Love in this country.
- To visit and stay in the house we had built for Him.
- To gather into His Love those of us who loved Him a little and had done a little work for Him.
" Let Meher House be a beacon...": In His second reason, Baba gave a clear statement of recognition that the House was built for Him; that it was His House. The House is situated in the suburb of Beacon Hill which was named for the beacon that was lit to guide ships safely into the harbour. In 1966 Baba incorporated the name of the area into His message for those gathered at the time of the Anniversary of His first visit: ‘Let Meher House be a beacon to all striving to reach me.’ Meher House is the only place in Australia Baba visited twice. It was the first place He visited in Australia in 1956 and the place from where He left Australia after His second visit in 1958. It is also the last place He ever visited in the West for He never left India after His return in 1958. From all reports Baba was very happy during His two visits to Meher House. He loved the House. He gave several discourses in the “Big Room,” was entertained there, conducted private interviews there, played with the children there. And in 1958 He spent intimate time in the small kitchen giving food with His own Hands to His Mandali and small group of Australian lovers.
Avatars Abode in Queensland: In early 1958, Meher Baba sent word that He would hold another sahavas in Australia but this time His preference was for it to be held in Queensland. So under Meher Baba's direction, Francis founded a ninety acre property in south east Queensland, and the sahavas was held there in June of that year. During this visit Meher Baba named the property Avatars Abode, and also at this time asked two families, the Brufords and the Rouses, to live on, and take care of, the property. Meher House continued as the Centre for meetings in Sydney, and as the 'hub' for the work of spreading Meher Baba's Name and Message in Australia. In 1959 Francis was called to live with Meher Baba for an 'indefinite period' and spent the next ten years as one of Meher Baba's intimate mandali.
Meher Baba's Wishes: In 1967 Bill was called to India to spend 2 weeks with Meher Baba at His Home at Meherazad. It was during this time that Meher Baba discussed in great detail the next phase of the work to be done in Australia: the development of Avatars Abode. Baba said: “There are no personalities in Baba’s Work. Baba alone does His Work; but it pleases Him to use this one or that one in His Work. Now a new phase in the development of Avatars Abode begins and it falls to Bill to direct it…This is a great burden Baba is putting on Bill’s shoulders, and it is the responsibility of all who love Baba to cooperate fully with him as one heart with many hands.” (Plan for the Development of Avatars Abode - Baba’s Wishes - given in 1967 at Meherazad to Bill and Francis)
For this next phase of the work, Meher Baba directed Bill and his family to move to Avatars Abode. About Meher House He said: “Meher House should be let to suitable tenants. It is not ever to be sold, for it is also Baba’s Place”.
In 1979 Bill finally moved to Avatar’s Abode with his second wife Diana, while Joan stayed on at Meher House until her passing in September 2012.
Meher House as family home and Centre: The uniqueness of Meher House is that it has played a dual role as a family home (from 1954 to 2012) and as a Centre where Baba lovers came to be in Meher Baba’s Presence (from 1956 onwards). Now it has returned to its first intended and continuing role as a Centre for Australian Baba lovers whilst also becoming an international place of pilgrimage for people wanting to visit the places where Meher Baba stayed and worked during His lifetime.
At some point in the late sixties when there was a marked increase in people coming to Meher House enquiring about Meher Baba, Bill in his correspondence with Francis in India requested approval from Baba to make some changes to the House in order for it to look more presentable. Baba sent a message back saying, in effect: ‘Do whatever you will with the house (meaning alterations, repairs, etc.); nothing will ever destroy My Presence there.’
Meher House as Australian Centre for Meher Baba and Place of International Pilgrimage
Meher House Sydney is unique not only because it is the only place in Australia that Baba visited twice and as the last place He ever visited in the West, but most significantly because He declared His living Presence would always fill the House. Adding to this is the photograph which He gave to Bill in 1967 to be placed in His Room at Meher House. This is a finely reproduced portrait of Himself taken in 1962. Before giving it to Bill, He kissed the photograph and commented upon His own beauty as the God-Man reflected in the image.
Through His own actions Baba Himself has made the House into a sanctuary of His Presence and a place for Baba Lovers to visit and feel Him near and be spiritually rejuvenated. In this sense the House is a priceless retreat for Baba Lovers, a treasure given to all by Baba, and one of the very few anywhere in the world. It is one of only two, the other being Avatar’s Abode, which is in the Southern Hemisphere and located in the Asia Pacific region.
Places of Pilgrimage: Baba’s messages, His images, and movies of Him fill the Internet so anyone wishing to know more about Him can look no further than their computer and find out as much as they need. But to feel something of the potency of Baba’s living Presence a person needs to go to a place where Meher Baba stayed. And so above all else, Baba’s Presence at Meher House must be kept sanctified. On this point, Eruch Jessawala has said:
‘Places of pilgrimage are sanctified because of the Lord’s Presence. How great is the responsibility for the persons concerned to keep it sanctified, not to defile it or pollute it, to keep the place clean by manual labour, and to keep the place clean by allowing good thoughts, good words, and good deeds to permeate the area. That is how you keep the place clean: not just by cleaning the leaves out, or weeding, or mowing the lawns, but by good thoughts, good words and good deeds. ‘
The very notion of a serious place of spiritual pilgrimage within Australia would be incomprehensible to most Australians. And yet this is what Meher House is destined to become. To allow this destiny to manifest it behooves all who come to treat the House with the due respect that goes with a place of pilgrimage. In this way the awareness that this will eventually engender will become an integral and meaningful part of our lives. Here again, Eruch has made the elucidating perception:
‘. . .Somehow or other it seems that the Western mind has not been trained to regard the sanctified places [including Meher House] as permanently sanctified. They do have a vague idea of the sanctity of the place; yet the Western mind would light a cigarette and create smoke in the sanctum sanctorium: the Western mind would not mind hugging and kissing the woman of his heart who is not his wife: all this is fine for the Western mind because it is regarded as being all done in love. But love is not that. Inherent in love is great respect and regard and reverence, and this latitude that the pilgrims tend to take is not respectful . . .’
In India, a great respect is given to everything associated with Meher Baba’s life. And while Baba insisted that His Lovers be natural around Him, He also expected them to remember that He was God in human form. It would make spiritual sense that this too must be the attitude of all those who enter Meher House.
Celebrations at Meher House: In a cable to those celebrating the Anniversary of His visit to Meher House Baba said: ‘Although I am ever with My lovers individually I am always happy when they gather in my love . . .’ To ‘gather in my love’ is not as Francis has stated to gather for ‘gossip sessions, whether personal, mystical or philosophical, [for they] do nothing but draw the mind away from the Beloved.’
All Baba Lovers need a retreat, a sanctuary, a place of pilgrimage to find spiritual sustenance in His company. It would seem that Meher Baba has provided this for us in his Sydney home, Meher House.
All quotes are taken from the Bill Le Page Archives; correspondence with Meher Baba, and His Mandali. Eruch Jessawala quote on pilgrimage from tape recordings, circa 1983