By Margaret Magnus
A MICROSCOPIC GROUP
"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." 
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 1922 to 1923. Generally translated, 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. 
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." 
"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]." 
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. 
"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." 
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." 
Opinions were solicited, and they had their own little parliament which was called the gutta (a wine shop).
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." 
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. 
"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." 
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, September 14, 2013, and October 11, 2014), Fred selected passages to read aloud from Lord Meher, the multi-volume biography of Meher Baba by Bhau Kalchuri.
Each person who was interested read the designated passage, and then all were welcomed to comment and ask questions. The discussion followed the guidelines of the original gutta - all were free to speak and share their thoughts and opinions.
For the "breakfast" part, Fred and former Meher Mount Board member Gigi Driessen provided delicious breakfast treats.
 "Manzil-E-Meem," by Abdul Kareen Abdulla, Meher Baba Journal, Vol. 1, No. 6, April 1939, pages 26-30. Copyright (c) 2011 Avatar Meher Baba Perpetual Public Charitable Trust, Ahmednagar, India.
 Meher Prabhu: Lord Meher, The Biography of the Avatar of the Age, Meher Baba, by Bhau Kalchuri, "Manifestation, Inc.", 1986, pp. 465 and 499. Copyright (c) Avatar Meher Baba Perpetual Public Trust.