He led a normal childhood and showed no particular inclination toward spiritual matters. At the age of 19, however, a brief contact with the Muslim holy woman Hazrat Babajan triggered a seven-year process of spiritual transformation. Over the next months he contacted four additional spiritual figures whom, along with Babajan, he called "the five Perfect Masters". He spent seven years in spiritual training with one of the masters, Upasni Maharaj, before beginning his public work. The name Meher Baba means "Compassionate Father" and was given to him by his first followers.
From July 10, 1925, to the end of his life, Meher Baba maintained silence, and communicated by means of an alphabet board or by unique hand gestures. With his mandali ('circle' of disciples), he spent long periods in seclusion in which he often fasted. He would intersperse these periods with wide-ranging travels, public gatherings, and works of charity, including working with lepers, the poor, and the mentally ill.
In 1931, he made the first of many visits to the West, gathering many followers. Throughout most of the 1940s he worked with an enigmatic type of people that he said were advanced souls and which he termed masts. Starting in 1949, along with selected mandali, he traveled incognito about India in what he called "The New Life." On February 10, 1954, Meher Baba declared that he was the Avatar (an incarnation of God).
In 1962, he invited his western followers to India for a mass darshan called The East-West Gathering.] Concerned by an increasing use of LSD and other psychedelic drugs, in 1966 Meher Baba addressed their use and stated that they did not convey real benefits. Despite deteriorating health, he continued his "universal work," which included fasting, seclusion, and meditation, until his death on January 31, 1969. His samadhi (tomb-shrine) in Meherabad, India has become a place of international pilgrimage.