On the first Saturday in August, there is always a celebration of the anniversary of Avatar Meher Baba's 1956 visit to Meher Mount.
This year's special guest speakers are Shireen and Jay Bonner. Shireen is Meher Baba’s niece, and she will share her stories of meeting Meher Baba and growing up under His guidance. Jay will talk about his life and experience of marrying into Meher Baba’s family.
ANNIVERSARY SAHAVAS PROGRAM
Sahavas (Vedanta) means close companionship or in the company of a spiritual master. It also refers to a spiritual retreat or gathering where Meher Baba’s followers meet to remember Him. The schedule for the Anniversary Sahavas on Saturday, August 3, 2019:
10:00 a.m.: Arrival, Sign-in, Fellowship
10:30 a.m.: "Childhood Visits with Meher Baba & Growing Up in Meher Baba’s Family" - Shireen Bonner
Shireen will share memories of her three visits with Meher Baba when she was seven- and eleven-years old, respectively. She will also talk about being part of Meher Baba’s family and how her father (Adi Irani, Meher Baba’s brother) explained who Meher Baba was.
12:00 p.m.: Potluck Lunch on the Topa Topa Patio
2:00 p.m.: "Family Life with Meher Baba" - Shireen & Jay Bonner
Shireen and Jay will talk about their visits to India for their wedding and subsequent trips, along with their anecdotes of some of Meher Baba’s family and close followers.
4:00 p.m.: Arti (prayers, songs, poems, quotes) by Baba's Fireplace & Darshan Courtyard
4:45 p.m.: Group Walk to Baba's Tree
5:30 p.m.: Dinner on the Topa Topa Patio, catered by Boccali's Italian restaurant
All are welcome. There is a suggested donation of $20 to help cover expenses. If you are staying for dinner, there is a dinner fee of $20.
ABOUT SHIREEN & JAY BONNER
Shireen Bonner is Meher Baba’s niece, the daughter of Meher Baba’s youngest brother, Adi Jr., and Franey Irani. She was born in London, England, a year after her parents moved there from India. She is the only one of her generation of Meher Baba’s family to have been born in the West.
Shireen first met Meher Baba when her parents took her to India for an extended visit when she was three-months old. The next occasion that Shireen spent time with Meher Baba and the mandali — particularly her Aunt Mani Irani (Meher Baba’s sister) and her “aunties” Mehera Irani, Goher Irani and Katie Irani, with whom she always remained very close — was at the age of seven. The family spent a long time in India during this trip and had almost daily visits with Beloved Baba.
At that time, the family had journeyed to India for Shireen's Navjote ceremony: an important milestone in the Zoroastrian religion. There was a large, formal ceremony and reception to celebrate the event, but Meher Baba Himself performed Shireen's true, very simple ceremony that morning at Meherazad.
The third and final time that Shireen saw Meher Baba was in 1968/1969, when Shireen was 11 years old, for the wedding of Dara and Amrit Irani. Dara is Shireen’s brother from their fatheri’s first marriage. Meher Baba dropped His body on January 31, 1969, only a few weeks after the entire family had returned to England after the wedding.
Very soon after Meher Baba dropped His body, Shireen's parents started to hold monthly meetings at their home in London (named “Meher Manzil “) for the early "new wave" of young Meher Baba lovers who had only recently come to Him. The Iranis' very close family friend and longtime disciple of Meher Baba, Delia de Leon, played an important role in these early meetings. Pete Townshend sang “O’Parvardigar” at Meher Manzil very soon after he composed the song.
Shireen grew up with many Meher Baba followers visiting and sometimes staying for extended periods. From 1969/1970 onward, many American followers, who were keen to meet Meher Baba's brother, stopped off in London en route to their first pilgrimage to India. There was an influx of people over the course of several years, and many close friends were made in this way. This is how Shireen first met her husband, Jay Bonner.
Shireen and Jay married in 1980 at Meherazad. They had the great good fortune of Mehera, Mani and many other mandali and family members arranging every detail of their wedding. After the wedding, they returned to their life in London.
Growing up, Shireen attended St.Paul's Girls' School in London, where Meher Baba had specifically wished her to go because His close English disciple, Kitty Davy had attended St. Paul’s. After school, Shireen read Italian at the University of London and then embarked on a career initially, and briefly, in children's book publishing, followed by magazine production and writing.
In 1986, Shireen and Jay’s daughter Mehera was born. Shireen’s father Adi Jr. died in 1988. In 1991, Franey, Shireen, Jay and Mehera all moved to America. They currently live in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where Shireen cares for her 96-year-old mother, Franey. She and Jay are doting grandparents to their daughter Mehera's two children.
Jay Bonner is from Portola Valley and Menlo Park in California. In 1966, when Jay was 14 years old, a friend showed him a photograph of Avatar Meher Baba, and Jay immediately and intuitively accepted Meher Baba as his spiritual master.
In 1972, Jay spent a year on pilgrimage to Meherabad and Meherazad, during which time he had the great fortune to get to know many of the mandali. On his way to and back from India, he stayed with Meher Baba’s brother, Adi S. Irani, and family, in London for 10 weeks.
Years later, in 1978, Jay again visited Meher Baba’s family in London while applying to the Royal College of Art. During this time, he and Shireen fell deeply in love. Shireen and Jay married in 1980, two years before Jay graduated from his MA program at the Royal College of Art.
Jay embraced Islam in 2006. He is a specialist of Islamic architectural ornament and has worked on many architectural projects around the world.
He has had the honor of working on both the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina, Saudi Arabia (the burial place of the Prophet Mohammad, (PBUH), as well as the Grand Mosque in Mecca.
Jay is also an internationally recognized scholar of Islamic geometric patterns and is a published author of this topic.
His book is titled Islamic Geometric Patterns: Their Historical Development and Traditional Methods of Construction (Springer 2017).
Examples of his architectural ornament and Islamic geometric and floral designs can be seen on his website, Bonner Design Consultancy.
WHAT TO BRING FOR THE ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION
The weather will be warm and beautiful. The Anniversary is a wonderful time to remember and celebrate the presence of the Avatar of the Age at Meher Mount.
A dish or beverages to contribute to the potluck lunch. Your food should be ready to eat and not require additional prep or cooking. The group will be eating on the patio which has limited prep and cooking facilities. Plates, cups, and eating utensils will be provided.
A hat, sunscreen and water are recommended.
There is a suggested donation of $20 to help cover the costs of the event. The optional no-host dinner is a $20 fee.
Please do not bring:
Please do not bring your pets.
There are no fires, incense or candles. The fire danger is extremely high.
For more information, see the Visitor Guidelines.
If you are traveling to Ojai from out of the area, there are a number of places to stay in nearby Ojai, Santa Paula and Ventura. See more information about the area. Make your reservations very early, as this is a busy time in Ojai.
For a preview of Shireen Bonner sharing a childhood memory as part of Meher Baba’s family, see this video courtesy of the Avatar Meher Baba Center of Southern California archives.