Thursday
Oct312013

Meher Mount's Financial Status for FY 2012-2013 

By Margaret Magnus

The following is a financial overview for fiscal year (FY) 2012-2013 which started July 1, 2012 and ended June 30, 2013.

OPERATING FUNDS

In the Fall, Meher Mount kicks off an Annual Fund Campaign to raise funds to support day-to-day operations.  

Thank you to the donors and volunteers who helped Meher Mount raise $32,259 for this year's Annual Fund.

The Annual Fund Committee included: Margaret Magnus, chair; Nancy Pinckert, design; Wayne Myers and Samantha Bridger, donations; Tim Hurley, database; and Phonathon volunteers, Sam Ervin, Sarah Dwyer, Richard Mannis, Jim Whitson, Ron Holsey, and Mark Bonnlander.  

There was an additional $2,898 in on-site cash donations from visitors.

Expenses were $27,683 for a net $7,474 to be set aside for the emergency Operating Reserve Fund.

GRANTS

The Salesforce Foundation renewed its annual $15,000 grant for use of the cloud-based Salesforce.com Constituent Relationship Management software.

This software is used to manage the mailing list, track donations, and better understand Meher Mount's constituency. 

WISH LIST

Of the $4,514 donated for in-kind goods and services, $1,753 of that included 33 tools to help inaugurate the newly constructed Workshop which had its ribbon-cutting during the Anniversary Celebration August 4, 2012.

Thank you for responding to this special appeal to "finish" the Workshop by donating the tools that help the Manager/Caretakers and other volunteers take care of Meher Mount.

MASTER PLAN FUNDS

After completing the Workshop for $123,668, finishing the major work on the Topa Topa Patio for $21,689, spending $7,500 to start the driveway/parking lot paving, and with a net of $44,898 in the southern boundary dispute, the year ended with $50,694 in the Master Plan Fund.

PHOTO:  Donated tools for the newly completed Workshop at Meher Mount - August 2012. (Margaret Magnus photo.)

Thursday
Oct312013

A Record 1,453 Visits to Meher Mount - 2012-2013 

By Margaret Magnus

Meher Mount had a record 1,453 visits in the fiscal year 2012-2013 (July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2013).  

Some were first-time visitors who were compelled to come to Meher Mount, often for an unknown reason.

Others came to one or more of the 12 events - another record.   The events ranged from talks about Avatar Meher Baba to building dedications to work parties.  

Still other guests are regulars who visit frequently to spend time in this place honored by Avatar Meher Baba's presence in 1956.

Your support makes it possible to welcome these visitors and to keep Meher Mount as a place of world-wide pilgrimage for generations to come.  

PHOTO:  Welcoming guests to the 2012 Anniversary Celebration in honor of Meher Baba's 1956 visit to Meher Mount. Left to right: Carol Mannis, Richard Mannis (Board member), and Jim Whitson (Board member). (Nancy Pinckert photo.)

Thursday
Oct312013

A Record 12 Special Events in Honor Avatar Meher Baba

By Margaret Magnus

ANNIVERSARY OF MEHER BABA'S VISIT

On the first Saturday in August, there is always an anniversary celebration of Avatar Meher Baba's 1956 visit to Meher Mount.

The August 4, 2012 event featured singer/musician Raine Eastman-Gannett. Her concert and the sunset BBQ dinner were punctuated by the ribbon cutting for the newly constructed Workshop (May 2012).  See photos of the 2012 Anniversary Celebration. 

SPECIAL GUESTS

Bill & Diana Le Page journeyed to Meher Mount from Avatar's Abode in Australia for a program on October 6, 2012. Bill shared his stories of being with Avatar Meher Baba.  See photos of Bill & Diana Le Page at Meher Mount in 2012. 

While traveling in America, Mehernath and Raj Kalchuri made an impromptu visit to Meher Mount on June 9, 2013.  Mehernath spent the afternoon sharing stories of growing up around Meher Baba.  He is the son of Bhau Kalchuri, one of Meher Baba's close disciples.  

GUTTA BREAKFAST 

To dedicate the new Topa Topa Patio, Fred Stankus and Gigi Driessen hosted a "Gutta Breakfast" on December 8, 2012.  The event featured discussions based on readings from Lord Meher, the multi-volume biography of Avatar Meher Baba by Bhau Kalchuri.  

OPEN HOUSES

There were open houses on Silence Day, July 10, 2012 and for Amartithi on January 31, 2013.  See photos of the 2013 Amartithi Celebration.  

For Meher Baba's Birthday celebration on February 25, 2013, Dr. Alan Y. Cohen gave a lively talk on his life following Meher Baba.  See photos of the 2013 Meher Baba Birthday Celebration

OJAI WORDFEST 2013  

Meher Mount was part of the city-wide Ojai WordFest 2013. On Sunday, April 7, 2013, Dr. Ron Thurlow hosted a public discussion of GodSpeaks at the Ojai Library.

On Sunday, April 14, 2013, there was a "Don't Worry, Be Happy" After Party at Meher Mount.

Sam Ervin welcomed about 70 visitors to Meher Mount, many for the first-time, and shared some of Meher Baba's comments on happiness.

DHUNI

Meher Mount hosted a dhuni (sacred fire) on September 12, 2012. 

TOP PHOTO: Singer/musician Raine Eastman-Gannett was the special guest for the August 4, 2012 celebration of the Anniversary of Avatar Meher Baba's 1956 visit to Meher Mount. (Nancy Pinckert photo.)

BOTTOM PHOTO: Dr. Allan Y. Cohen shared stories of Meher Baba at Baba's Birthday Celebration at Meher Mount on February 25, 2013. (Sam Ervin photo.)

EDITOR'S NOTE:  These events occured between July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2013.

Thursday
Oct312013

Progress in Eliminating the Invasive Yellow Starthistle

By Margaret Magnus

Yellow Starthistle (Centaurea solsitialis), is an invasive, noxious weed found in range lands, some wild lands, and along roadsides and walking trails.

There are an estimated 19,761,201 acres of Yellow Starthistle in the US. 

Some of that acreage includes Meher Mount.

STARTHISTLE CHOKES OUT NATIVE PLANTS 

Yellow Starthistle poses a serious threat due to its ability to spread easily.  It forms smothering infestations and reduces the production of other native species.    

Meher Mount is engaged in a multi-year program to eliminate Starthistle from accessible areas on the property.

WORK PARTIES MAKE PROGRESS

In July and August 2012, three work parties braved the heat and sun to manually pull hundreds of Starthistle plants.

Thank you to: Eric Turk, Ian Dibble, Michelle Chough, Josh McGill, Sam Ervin, Ron Holsey, Dusttin Paren, and Margaret Magnus.

Thank you to Manager/ Caretakers Samantha and Leslie Bridger along with their daughter Rebecca for their ongoing and sometimes daily efforts to remove Starthistle.

The work continues including future habitat restoration of the area.  

PHOTO: Yellow Starthistle Work Party - July 2012. Back row: Margaret Magnus, Eric Turk, Dusttin Paren. Front Row: Ian Dibble, Michelle Choug, Sam Ervin, Josh McGill. Not pictured Samantha Bridger and Leslie Bridger, who is taking the photograph.   

Thursday
Oct312013

Boundary Dispute Is Settled Almost Five Years Later

By Margaret Magnus

BOUNDARY CORNERSTONE QUESTIONED BY AVATAR MEHER BABA 

When Avatar Meher Baba visited Meher Mount in 1956, He asked about Meher Mount's boundaries.  

He was particularly inquisitive about the southern boundary corner post.  

Caretaker Agnes Baron was not sure, and Meher Baba looked playfully put out with her.

More than 50 years later, Meher Mount conducted and recorded a formal boundary survey.  

In that process, Meher Mount discovered that the property of the neighbors to the south, Larry and Maj Hagman, encroached on Meher Mount's land with footings for their solar panels and a road.

That boundary line starts from the very cornerstone Meher Baba inquired about. 

LOOKING FOR A MUTUALLY AGREEABLE SOLUTION 

In 2008, Meher Mount approached these neighbors looking for a mutually satisfactory way to address this issue.

A number of proposals presented by Meher Mount were rejected. The discussions stalled.  

In March 2011, the Hagman Trust sued Meher Mount for adverse possession of the .44 acres in contention.

In November 2011, the Superior Court of California, Ventura County ruled in favor of the Hagman Trust.

Meher Mount appealed that decision to the California Court of Appeals, which heard oral arguments in January 2013.

The California Board of Realtors also filed an amicus brief and argued in support of Meher Mount's position.

A SETTLEMENT IS AGREED UPON 

Before the ruling by the Appellate Court, the Hagman Trust came to Meher Mount with a reasonable settlement offer that allowed them to retain the half acre. The agreement was signed in February 2013.

This agreement included the stipulation that it would be unaffected by the decision by the Appellate Court, which later ruled in favor of the Hagman Trust.

Thank you to Stephen M. Sanders, Esq. for his representation of Meher Mount and work on the case.

VIEWPOINTS OF THE DISPUTE

For discussions of the case:

PHOTO: Avatar Meher Baba (center) with His close disciple Eruch Jessawalla (holding the umbrella) and Meher Mount Caretaker Agnes Baron in 1956. (Source: Lord Meher, the multi-volume biography of Meher Baba by Bhau Kalchuri.) 

Thursday
Aug292013

Inspiration for the Gutta Breakfast

By Margaret Magnus

Manzil-e-Meem - House of the Master

"Amidst more than a million citizens of Bombay [now Mumbai], there existed, in the thick of the City, in the year 1922, a microscopic group of about two scores of peculiar people who were, at the same time, more than a million miles away from it.

"Like the rest of the population, they worked and played, ate and slept, lived and prayed; but they did all that in their own particular way, in their own isolated world which was all the same comprehensive enough to embrace the rest of the world."[1]

So opens the description of Avatar Meher Baba's life and work at Manzil-e-Meem, as described in the 1936 issue of the Meher Baba Journal.

Manzil-e-Meem was the Bombay residence Meher Baba used for His work with His close disciples (mandali) for about 10 months from 1992 to 1923.  Literally, the term Manzil-e-Meem means "the House of the Master."    

Disciples from All Backgrounds

This group of close followers included men of all ages, both well-educated and illiterate, artists, professionals, and students, all belonging to almost every caste and creed. They had rich and influential backgrounds as well as poor and unknown antecedents. [1]

In this environment, these followers were "inspired to shed their various individual differences, prejudices and respective likes and dislikes, for the general benefit and welfare for all." [2]   

"They appreciated all viewpoints, but had only one point of view...in everything they did, and that was to follow faithfully and implicitly the one Master amongst them whom they called Meher Baba [compassionate Father]." [1] 

Following Meher Baba's Orders for their Own Well Being

Prior to the 10-month stay in Bombay, Meher Baba's relationship with the mandali had been that of good friends. Those who acknowledged him to be their Master or Guru were unaware of the significance and absolute necessity of obedience to all his orders. In Manzil-e-Meem, this relationship completely changed. [2]

"In different ways, the mandali learned the paramount importance of obeying Meher Baba's instructions.  He would constantly impress upon them how important it was to obey his every command - no matter how insignificant it might appear." [2]

In spite of "...all the rules and regulations imposed upon them individually in the interests of their physical as well as moral and spiritual well-being, they, nonetheless, enjoyed a definite freedom in the field of expression and a distinct freedom in the world of action." [1]

Opinions were solicited, and they had their own little parliament which was called the gutta (a wine shop). 

The Gutta

On January 3, 1923, Meher Baba called all the mandali to His room and said, "Let us manage to spare an hour or two every evening to discuss domestic matters of the Manzil, and then to devote some time to recreation." [2]

Each man was allowed to voice his opinion and vote independently on matters.  All were free to make suggestions irrespective of, and without fear of, others' opinions. [2]

"To avoid the gutta [wine shop, tavern] getting as noisy as a gutta is in its literal sense, they could speak only one at a time after obtaining permission of the 'chair' squatting amongst them on the same carpet.  The permission had to be sought by lifting up a hand silently without speaking a word by mouth.  If more than one hand shot up at one and the same time, it was left to the presiding authority to decide the precedence." [1]

A Gutta Breakfast at Meher Mount

Taking inspiration from Meher Baba's gutta at Manzil-e-Meem, Fred Stankus has for years hosted a "Gutta Breakfast" in different venues. 

The focus of the event is a discussion of Meher Baba's life and words.  For the Gutta Breakfast events at Meher Mount (December 8, 2012 and September 14, 2013), Fred selects passages to read aloud from Lord Meher, the multi-volume biography of Meher Baba by Bhau Kalchuri, a close disciple.

Each person who is interested reads the designated passage, and then all are welcomed to comment and ask questions.  The discussion follows the guidelines of the original gutta - all are free to speak and share their thoughts and opinions.  

For the "breakfast" part, Fred and former Meher Mount Board member Gigi Driessen provide delicious breakfast treats.   

Sources:  [1] "Manzil-E-Meem," by Abdul Kareen Abdulla, Meher Baba Journal, Vol. 1, No. 6, April 1939, pages 26-30. Copyright: 2011 Avatar Meher Baba Perpetual Public Charitable Trust, Ahmednagar, India.

[2] Lord Meher, by Bhau Kalchuri, pages 465 & 499. Copyright: Avatar Meher Baba Perpetual Public Charitable Trust, Ahmednagar, India. 

Photos: (Top) Avatar Meher Baba (center) with some of His early disciples at Manzil-e-Meem. (Meher Baba Information website.)

(Middle) Meher Baba, Bombay, India in 1922. (Avatar Meher Baba Perpedtual Public Charitable Trust website.)

(Middle) Meher Baba at Manzil-e-Meem. (Meher Baba Information website.)

(Bottom) The Gutta Breakfast 2012 with Fred Stankus (center) was the first event on the new Topa Topa Patio. (Byron Pinckert photo.)

 

Wednesday
Jul172013

"I don't love everybody - what I am I going to do about it?" - Agnes Baron

By Margaret Magnus

Near the end of Avatar Meher Baba's visit to Meher Mount on August 2, 1956, there was an incident involving Agnes Baron and another guest.

Agnes Baron was a co-founder a Meher Mount and the resident caretaker at that time.

Fuming, Agnes went to Meher Baba and said, "I don't love everybody - what am I going to do about it?"

Meher Baba looked at her and said (with His disciple Adi K. Irani translating Meher Baba's hand gestures),  "Agnes, you love everybody, you just don't like everyone!"

In the car on the way back to Los Angeles from Meher Mount, Agnes said, "Baba, you know what [a follower of Meher Baba] said about me...I don't believe it. If it is true, what am I going to do about it?"

Meher Baba slapped her on the shoulder and said, "I like you the way you are.  I like your spirit!"    

Source: Lord Meher, the multi-volume biography of Meher Baba by Bhau Kalchuri

Photo: Agnes Baron and Adi K. Irani, Meher Baba's Secretary, who visited Meher Mount with Meher Baba on August 2, 1956, and later in the 1970s when this photograph was taken. 

Saturday
Jul132013

"What is being grown? Are there orchards?" - Avatar Meher Baba

By Margaret Magnus

Avatar Meher Baba arrived in Southern California at 5:50 a.m. on Tuesday, July 31, 1956.  Meher Baba and the mandali (close disciples) traveling with Him were driven to the centrally located Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood where they stayed during their three-day visit.  

On the morning of His third day, August 2, 1956, preparations were made to drive Meher Baba the 85 miles to Ojai, California, where Agnes Baron had established the lovely hilltop center for Meher Baba called Meher Mount.

 

Meher Baba Talking As if He Were a Real Estate Agent

 

Agnes Baron drove Meher Baba and the mandali from the hotel in her "Woody" station wagon, and the rest of the group followed by bus.

 

Along the way, Meher Baba admired the rich agricultural land and asked many questions. "What is being grown, how was the land irrigated, are there orchards?"

"Baba was talking as if He were a real estate agent," Agnes cracked.

"I love Meher Mount very much." - Avatar Meher Baba

When the group arrived at the top of Sulphur Mountain, a fog had settled over the Ojai Valley.

Meher Baba told Agnes, "I love Meher Mount very much and feel very happy here."

When the bus arrived, Meher Baba called all into the "Baba-room" of the guest house and said, "Next to Myrtle Beach, I love this place best."*

A Spiritual Atmosphere

Baba asked several how they liked it.  One said, "It has a spiritual atmosphere."

Another said, "It compares to Meherabad Hill."**  A third commented on the lovely fragrance.  Filis Frederick said, "It reminds me of the hills of Assisi [in Italy]."  Jeanne Shaw agreed, "It has instant appeal."  

Meher Baba nodded and added, "this land is very old, I have been here before."*** 

At the Summit of Sulphur Mountain

Meher Mount is at the summit of Sulphur Mountain in the California Coastal range about 2,500 feet above the Pacific Ocean.   

The easily accessible property traversed by Meher Baba occurs at a ridge line above two ravines that descend South and West to the Pacific Ocean. 

To the North, the grade drops steeply away into the upper Ojai Valley.  

The South end of the ridge provides expansive views of the Santa Clara River Valley, the Ventura/Oxnard Plain, and the Pacific Ocean including the Channel Islands.

Agriculture Is a Mainstay of the Area

For both the Ojai Valley and the Santa Clara River Valley (also known as the Heritage Valley), agriculture is a mainstay of the area.         

From the strawberry fields of Oxnard and Ventura to the Ojai Pixie tangerines, this area has some of the most fertile land in the country. 

There are also lavender, walnuts, olives, Gala apples, Howard Miracle plums, avocados, apricots, and assorted vegetables, including organic gardening.

The Heritage Valley is one of California's last pristine agricultural valleys.  Santa Paula, one the valley's cities, calls itself the "Citrus Capital of the World."                  

Meher Baba Departs As the Sun Sets

On August 2, 1956, as the sun set over the scenic hills of Ojai, Meher Baba started the trip back to Los Angeles. 

He asked Agnes to drive him back the longer coast route and often mentioned on the way that he thoroughly enjoyed the sparkling blue Pacific Ocean.
_______________

Source: Lord Meher, the multi-volume biography of Avatar Meher Baba by Bhau Kalchuri, pages 5048, 5061-5068. 

*The Meher Spiritual Center is in Myrtle Beach, SC, and Meher Baba called it His "home in the West."

**Meherabad Hill is where Meher Baba's Tomb Shrine or Samadhi is located near Ahmednaggar, India. 

***Meher Baba did not explain in detail what past incarnation or advent He was in Ojai, California.

Thursday
Jul042013

Avatar Meher Baba Comments on America's Spiritual Potential

By Margaret Magnus

Avatar Meher Baba (1894-1969) visited the United States six times between 1931 and 1958. 

His visits are detailed in Lord Meher, the multi-volume biography of Meher Baba by Bhau Kalchuri, from which the following excerpts are taken.

In honor of America's 4th of July independence celebration, here are some of Meher Baba's comments on the spiritual potentail of America.

On January 3, 1932, Meher Baba visited Mahatma Gandhi at his resident, Mani Bahawan, in Bombay (now Mumbai), India.

Gandhi, the pacifist leader of India's independence movement from Britain, welcomed Meher Baba with a loving embrace, and they met for about an hour.

 

"What do you think about the West from your experiences and tours?" Gandhi asked.

 

Meher Baba replied (page 1515):

 

"In America, the spiritual hunger is intense. That is why I went and stayed there for a month.  There is everything there materially.  There is wealth; there are brains; there is heart.  In other words, there is sufficient preparedness for spiritual growth and development."    

 

In 1933, after traveling in the United States and Europe, Avatar Meher Baba arrived in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and met with a reporter on January 26 from the Ceylon Observer who questioned Meher Baba about why He had gone to America, the meaning of His silence, and religion.

 

About America, Meher Baba replied (page 1757):

 

"My reason for starting in America is that America, being the most deeply engrossed in material things and suffering the most in consequence, is the soil on which a new spiritual rebirth will first take place. America requires only the guiding hand of a Master to redirect its material powers to the heights of spirituality."  

 

In 1952, Meher Baba again traveled to America, first spending time at the Meher Spiritual Center in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.    

During His stay at the Center, Meher Baba conducted a number of interviews, including one with Toni Roothbert, a well-known fashion and commercial photographer.  She was a social activist and benefactress who had a house in Myrtle Beach. 

 

When Ms. Roothbert saw Meher Baba on May 16, she told him, "I think, as you well know, you will do extraordinary work in the United States."

 

Meher Baba replied (page3823):  

 

"America now leads the material side of the universe and has such infinite possibilities that it can lead the world spiritually, if awakened."

 

Toni said, "Under the surface and unknown, there is great longing for spirituality."

 

Meher Baba responded:

 

"And what is needed for this awakening is love for whatever God one likes.  In the form of Jesus crucified, or another. God will do it.  He can do it.  And now the time is near, very near, when this spiritual upliftment has to take place.   Yes, absolutely.  It has to be and will be."



Thursday
Jun272013

Meher Baba at Meher Mount - A Painting by Will David

By Margaret Magnus
In 1996, artist Will David visited Meher Mount and was inspired to paint Avatar Meher Baba with the 6,200-foot Topa Topa Bluffs in the background.

In the foreground, Meher Baba is seated in a chair.  During His 1956 visit to Meher Mount, Meher Baba met with His followers in the guest house (since destroyed by fire in 1985) and sat in a similar chair.

The Bluffs, to the north of Meher Mount, are famous for the Ojai Valley's "pink moment" when the sunset casts a pinkish hue on the mountains. 
During His 1956 visit, Meher Baba gestured toward the outdoors and said:

 "Now, go out and see the view and try to love Baba through nature.  This is all due to my love.  This whole creation, this nature, all the beauty you see, all came out of me."

Source: Lord Meher by Bhau Kalchuri