The Master’s Prayer
How It All Began
The day Beloved Archives closed with the realtors and attorneys in Hamilton, New Jersey, the township was blanketed with snow. As a few of us ploughed through the driveway of the ‘House of the Beloved’, as we christened it, our legs sank into the frozen ice crystals as we plodded to the main doorway. It was a memorable beginning. Two days later, on the Eternal Day, January 31, 2011, the sun had emerged after a long cold winter, its rays bouncing off the sides of the brick house. Even though the branches of the trees were bent and gnarled, the manicured garden showing off a Weeping Norway and Alberta Spruce, Arborvitae and Chamaecyparis conifers in the front of the House, still stood strong welcoming its new residents. We placed a beautiful photograph of Avatar Meher Baba and surrounded his image with pink roses and colorful tulips. The Master’s Prayer set the tone for the morning as the few of us shared sweet ‘rava’ and expressed our gratitude. Today, seekers, visiting the Beloved Archives, step into an open space and view a large wooden plaque showing Meher Baba’s Mastery in Servitude emblem. Tom, Diane, Seth and Obe Golding in Vermont have lovingly crafted the plaque after acclimating the wood to interior humidity. Tom writes,
It was harvested about two miles from Saxtons River and is the most pristine Linden wood that I have ever seen — very clear and white.
In the Service of the Beloved
The house had functioned for many years as a legal office and it had the look and feel of a commercial establishment. It was left to us to transform it into an Archive worthy of the Beloved. Just as we were contemplating on hiring a contractor, an electrician, a painter, we received a call from a man who lived a short distance from the house. His first words were, “I would like to be of service to Meher Baba.” We invited him and he volunteered to paint the entire establishment. Along with him came three Buddhist house workers from Vietnam, ready and willing to shape and mould the house and give it a fresh, new feeling. For over 2 months the workers and our Baba-helper, Kevin Kealy, worked at breakneck speed and the renovations were completed in record time. The grounds of Beloved Archives are blessed with several magnificent mature trees, some of them over 100 years old. These trees form the focal point of the landscape. The red maple, white oak, and the American elm are some of these grand sentinels that tower over the House. Not much later, our doorbell rang and a Baba-lover from Massachusetts, Alexander Hamilton, stood with an array of gardening implements to work on the expanse of this private wilderness. He quickly surveyed the area and declared,
“I need to remove the wild rose brambles and several other invasive species.” And added, “This garden will soon be worthy of joining the ranks of other Baba gardens around the world.”
Both Kevin Kealy and Alexander Hamilton served their Master selflessly and have since passed into the arms of the Beloved.
Protection Of The House
Since Beloved Archives functions as a center for preservation and display of Meher Baba’s artifacts, rare original documents, photographs dating back to 1894, the House has been designed to preserve, protect and share all these precious materials from the ravages of excessive heat, humidity, dust and negative climatic effects. Beloved Archives is protected and monitored by ADT systems, the largest electronic security service provider in America. Every ADT system is connected to their network of Monitoring Centers, along with wireless intrusion detection. All the windows of the house are reinforced with glass-breakers. Control of temperature and relative humidity is of critical importance in the preservation of this archival collection because unacceptable levels can contribute significantly to the breakdown of materials. Beloved Archives has worked with experts in the field to install adequate climate controls and operation to maintain conservation standards in order to stave off deterioration of these precious materials. Light accelerates deterioration of archival material. It can cause paper to bleach, yellow or darken. Consequently, we are storing documents and photographs in fireproof cabinets in an archival area that is shielded from the sun.
Rehousing Archival Material
Once the construction was complete, we focused on cataloging artifacts, sorting and re-housing documents in acid-free folders. During this process, each sheet was dusted; dog-ears smoothed out and staple pins removed and each page of the document gently placed in acid-free folders by volunteers wearing gloves. This process of re-housing is ongoing. While examining the lists of names of all those seekers who came to see Meher Baba at the home of Graham Phelps Stokes in 1931 and 1932, some of our spiritual sleuths followed the trail and have tracked down the Baba connection of Meher Baba’s early disciples. One such seeker was Cath Gardner who gave Meher Baba as a ‘gift from the heart’ a large parcel of land on November 17, 1931 in New Hampshire. We featured the deed in the 1996 issue of Glow International. One of our intrepid sleuths found another deed and several documents pertaining to Cath Gardner. As we tracked down the families of early seekers, we collected additional material about Meher Baba’s work in the West. A few of these findings have been featured in issues of the journal.
Meher Medialab: Audio And Video Suite
Beloved Archives has an archival video and audio suite, which helps to expand the ability of the Archives to encompass audio and video transfers from all incoming formats to digital. Set up by Philip Ludwig, the suite is acoustically treated for live recording of voice and instruments. This facility also enables Beloved Archives to record both video and audio programs held in the large Darshan Room. The audio suite consists of a digital audio workstation, video editing with a mixer, audio monitoring and a 43” HD TV/Computer Screen. Seekers visiting the House are able to view Meher Baba films in the Meher MediaLab in a warm and comfortable atmosphere.
Beloved Archives is designed to invite those who know Meher Baba and need to know more. Our goal is to create a warm and welcoming space where we can develop an atmosphere to nurture real spiritual values as we all hold hands and traverse the spiritual path. We continually need volunteers to help us re-house several thousand documents and input the scanned material in a powerful database, MeherMaster. This is a great opportunity to be of service to the Beloved. Please write to (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you wish to volunteer for a short or long period.
We continue to receive letters from Baba-lovers who have ‘treasures’ of Meher Baba and his close disciples — letters, locks of hair, signed copies of books, photographs and a range of artifacts. We are fully equipped to preserve and display them in Beloved Archives. They are displayed with the name of the donor of the artifact. Please consider Beloved Archives when you wish to donate any or all material associated with Meher Baba. They will be preserved, protected and shared.
A Pledge & Commitment
Beloved Archives, an hour away from New York City, is located on a wooded plot of land, accessible by land and rail. Our mission is simple: To preserve artifacts associated with the physical form of Meher Baba; to preserve documents, photographs, books, compact discs and films on the life and work of Meher Baba; and, most importantly, to share and make available all material related to Meher Baba’s Life, Work and Teachings. It is open to people of all creeds, religions and faiths — and to seekers everywhere.
For this Archive to continue with preservation, publishing and sharing, we invite seekers to PLEDGE $100 or more every month to help us continue the work mandated by Meher Baba himself. We need your commitment, for NOW is the time to share Meher Baba’s presence in our lives. Your commitment to this work will enable us to plan our initiatives for the next few years.
Beloved Archives is a non-profit, tax exempt 501©3 organization. Your donation is tax-exempt to the extent of the law.
Feel free to write to email@example.com or call 609.529.6129 for information on how you can assist with work for the Beloved.
116 Youngs Road
Hamilton, New Jersey 08619
What is the mission of Beloved Archives?
The sole mission of Beloved Archives is to carefully restore and preserve all material associated with the life, work and teachings of Avatar Meher Baba and, more importantly, to make all this material accessible to seekers worldwide. Beloved Archives is a 501(c)3 non-profit, tax-exempt foundation registered in the United States. Although many of the artifacts associated with Meher Baba's life and work, were originally given to the Nalavala family by Meher Baba and his close disciples for their personal collection, the items are now housed in Beloved Archives in Hamilton, New Jersey.
More than anything else, I am anxious to preserve and share the material that Meher Baba has entrusted to me. While it is vital to carefully preserve material on the life and work of the Avatar, I feel it is equally vital to share the material with seekers and lovers of God. And that is the mandate of Beloved Archives. We welcome everyone, regardless of caste, creed, color, religion or sexual orientation.
Did Meher Baba himself say anything to you about sharing?
Yes, in May 1965 when I met Meher Baba at Guruprasad in Poona, he gave me the mandate to tell the world that he is God in human form. In the later years he gave me specific instructions about disseminating his message through GLOW INTERNATIONAL. He also instructed his sister Mani S. Irani to send a complete collection of photographs, especially of the early years. She did send them to me, and they are a part of Beloved Archives. Similarly, his two close disciples, Adi K. Irani and Eruch B. Jessawala were instructed by him to assist me with material for publication. Besides, sharing this material in GLOW INTERNATIONAL, we have published several books and distributed them globally.
How did Beloved Archives start?
Beloved Archives essentially was set into motion when my parents, Keki and Freiny Nalavala, first met Meher Baba in the 1940’s. Both my father and mother had an innate sense of preserving every piece of paper, every object that Meher Baba touched, every piece of correspondence, and all books, discourses and photographs. Consequently, Beloved Archives is a collection of saved and preserved material on the life and work of Meher Baba spanning 70 plus years.
Did this material expand beyond those items collected by your family?
Apart from the collection of the Nalavala family, which itself is fairly extensive, Beloved Archives has materials from several collections: Chanji, Gulmai Irani, Adi K. Irani, Adi S. Irani, Mani S. Irani, Eruch Jessawala, Francis Brabazon, Kishan Singh, Col. M. S. Irani, Murshida Ivy Duce, Kitty Davy, Elizabeth Patterson, Bili Eaton, Adele Wolkin, Enid Corfe, Delia de Leon, Ganna Walska, Mercedes de Costa, Meredith Starr (we have his photo album), Graham Phelps Stokes, Rom Landau, to name a few. Beloved Archives also has a large collection of artifacts donated by Meher Baba followers from all over the world, including a lock of Babajan's hair.
The Beloved Archives collection has one-of-a-kind material, especially the material inherited from Col. M. S. Irani, a critic of Meher Baba who collected an enormous amount of material in its original format in order to launch scurrilous attacks on Meher Baba. These materials ended up in the hands of my mother’s maternal uncle, Major Sohrab Bamji, also a critic of Meher Baba, who eventually handed it all to me. It is an incredible record of Meher Baba’s early life, ironically collected and preserved by the Avatar's critics.
Why were these materials given to Beloved Archives?
Letters, diaries and print materials were given to Beloved Archives with the understanding that we would save, preserve and share this material with seekers today and with posterity. People who donated all their precious documents and artifacts to us believed that we would preserve their ‘treasures’ and share them with seekers. We have upheld the trust they reposed in us. Over the years, Beloved Archives has diligently disseminated this material through the Meher Baba journal, GLOW INTERNATIONAL, and several books published over the years.
For example, the book THE ANSWER: Conversations with Meher Baba, published by Beloved Archives, is a collection of questions and answers preserved in the diaries of Chanji, Meher Baba's secretary in the 1930's and early 1940's. While Beloved Archives has been the publisher of Meher Baba's words, the copyright of the Avatar’s words has always rested with the Avatar Meher Baba Perpetual Public Charitable Trust in India as decreed in Meher Baba’s Will.
Have you published any books recently?
Yes, in 2016 we published TEACHINGS, discourses of Meher Baba from 50 years of GLOW INTERNATIONAL. We also published MEDITATION FOR A NEW HUMANITY, a collection of discourses by Meher Baba explaining the spiritual aspects of practicing meditation. Both books are indispensable guides on the spiritual path. We also publish video films featuring Intensives held at Beloved Archives each year.
What types of items are in the collection?
Essentially, Beloved Archives functions under five broad categories: documents, photographs, tapes, films and artifacts:
Most of the documents have been scanned, although rehousing of the documents still needs to be done. This we should be able to accomplish with an infusion of funds from donors and the assistance of volunteers. The document collection comprises of letters, discourses, cables and historical articles. Additionally, the collection features clippings about Meher Baba from 1932 onwards. We believe we have every book by and about Meher Baba at Beloved Archives. Our Rare Manuscript section includes diaries of Meher Baba’s early disciples.
From the time that Meher Baba’s sister Mani S. Irani sent us in 1966 an album of photographs of Meher Baba as Merwan, we have collected hundreds of photographs from all over the world. Mansari Desai, an early disciple, donated all her albums of photographs to Beloved Archives and we have been featuring some rare photographs in issues of Glow International. We are proud to store in our collection photographs taken in 1894, the year of Meher Baba’s birth, by Raja Deen Dayal, India’s first Indian photographer. Most of the photographs have been scanned for easy retrieval.
The tapes, largely donated by Pete Townshend, have been digitized and uploaded for easy listening onto our hard drives. The recording of these hi-quality tapes of Meher Baba’s close disciples in Mandali Hall in Meherazad was assigned by Pete and later mastered at Meher Baba Oceanic in London. Over the years several older followers of Meher Baba, since passed on, have donated their tapes and other artifacts to Beloved Archives. Most recently we were beneficiaries of the Lisa Sandford Document and Artifacts Collection, a close associate of Elizabeth Patterson and Kitty Davy.
Beloved Archives hosts a large collection of films by and about Meher Baba that visitors can watch in the comfort of our MediaLab. Those who donated reel-to-reel and VHS films, we have converted to DVD or MP4, both film formats. Sufism Reoriented has over the years donated hi-quality films of Meher Baba and videos of the mandali. The Beloved Archives film collection has all the videos that filmmaker Irwin Luck shot of his interviews with Meher Baba’s disciples the world over
Beloved Archives has a wide-range of artifacts that Meher Baba had worn and used during his lifetime; coats, sandals, alphabet boards, strands of his hair and a list of artifacts too long to enumerate. Hazrat Babajan’s lock of hair is one of our prized possessions on display. All of Meher Baba’s artifacts have been carefully restored, rehoused and preserved. We also collaborate with other Archives on a regular basis. We have received material from India and have earmarked certain artifacts from the Nalavala family collection to be shared with the Trust for display at Meherabad. Beloved Archives has recently rehoused Meher Baba’s coat, now on display at the Centre in London. While we share material from Beloved Archives, we welcome material for sharing from other Archives.
What would be your estimate of the size of the collection?
Beloved Archives was officially evaluated by the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts in Philadelphia. They conservatively estimated over 100, 000 documents, about 5,000 photographs, over 150 films and more than 3,000 audio recordings — all of it scanned and digitized.
Are you still adding items to the archives? How?
Yes, indeed, the collection continues to grow each day. In 2009, Beloved Archives obtained the Meher Baba segment of the archive of the opera singer Ganna Walska, who met Meher Baba in 1932. Earlier the Archives obtained the collection of Mercedes de Costa, a Hollywood celebrity who met Meher Baba in the same year. In 2009 we also obtained the entire collection of Graham Phelps Stokes and Rom Landau. Recently, Beloved Archives was very fortunate to receive the entire collection of original slides taken both at the East-West Gathering and at Myrtle Beach in 1958 by an American Baba lover. The slides have since being cleaned and restored by experts at Sufism Reoriented.
What are your plans for preservation?
With limited funds, Beloved Archives has taken the necessary first step in preservation by scanning most of the documents and photographs. This is an enormous job and is ongoing. At the same time all our tapes are being digitized and some are being transcribed (with the possibility of publication in the future). And many of the one-of-a-kind photographs have been completely restored. Beloved Archives will continue with this massive restoration and preservation project as funds become available through tax-deductible donations.
Is Beloved Archives getting professional advice on preservation?
Beloved Archives has sought and received advice on storage, treatment and preservation. All of Meher Baba's artifacts like sadras, sandals, coats and other garments have been expertly preserved by a trained Baba lover who has learned preservation techniques from the experts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. As for Meher Baba’s hair and other personal artifacts, mainly from the 1920’s, Murshida Ivy Duce assisted us by having them preserved in blown glass in 1978. They are on display at Beloved Archives.
Are the materials available to those doing research on Avatar Meher Baba and his life and work?
The materials are preserved by Beloved Archives with the intention of sharing with seekers everywhere. Most of the documents and photographs have been scanned and we continue to welcome researchers to the Archives from all over the world. Beloved Archives is a ‘Living Archive’ with full and unfettered access to everyone.
When I was a teenager I had a dream: I wished that we could record each day of Meher Baba’s life. Soon after Beloved Baba dropped his body, my dream became a reality; I had access to the diaries of disciples who recorded their lives with Meher Baba (if they were in his presence). Consequently, Beloved Archives has a near daily record of Meher Baba’s life from 1932 through 1969. Recently we discovered a few diaries and memoirs of Meher Baba’s early companions and we are currently working on a book on Meher Baba as Merwan his birth name.
How does Beloved Archives support the long-range plan for preservation and access?
To fulfill the long-term plan for Beloved Archives, we purchased the House of the Beloved in Hamilton, New Jersey with the assistance of generous donors. We have been able to put all our collections in one place, in a physical building where volunteers have set-up inventories, catalogues, records on databases, duplicated certain materials for wider dissemination, conduct long-term conservation and treatment and have created an environmentally sound atmosphere for people to come in and do research on the life and times of Meher Baba. Beloved Archives is a unique place to study the Advent of Avatar Meher Baba.
Will any of the items be available for viewing via the Internet?
Yes, absolutely. At this time the Beloved Archives' MeherMaster Database is being updated. Once all the material is rehoused and cataloged in a database, we plan to upload select material onto the Web.
How is Beloved Archives supported?
Beloved Archives is entirely supported by donations. Friends and supporters have and continue to make specific donations to Beloved Archives to fulfill its mission of rehousing, preservation and access. In addition, Beloved Archives receives donations in small amounts from GLOW INTERNATIONAL’s subscribers. The current level of support allows progress towards the goals we have discussed.
We are currently working on expanding the Archives building to be able to display the material that has been kept in closets due to lack of display space. With the physical expansion of the Archives, we are anxious to expand our outreach programs. We send out Pledge Cards and requests for donations globally with the hope that seekers everywhere will support our initiatives.
Can you give us an idea of some of the costs of expanding the Archives?
We are in the process of taking several estimates on construction costs, but they all fall under the ballpark figure of $150,000 and $200,000.
And what are the estimates for ongoing archival work?
Beloved Archives has been very fortunate. The scanning was done a few years back by a Scan Master, who worked for the United Nations, when I served the global body over a 10-year period. Since he did bulk work, he gave us a subsidized rate and that helped us keep the work going. We now scan documents at Beloved Archives.
The Archives now needs funds for re-housing all the documents and for ongoing transcription work. The Senior Conservator from the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts in Philadelphia who evaluated and estimated re-housing costs for Beloved Archives, indicated that approximately $270,000 was needed to re-house all the documents and photographs. Given limited funding, Beloved Archives divided the project into smaller assignments and is working on preservation in degrees. All donations, which are tax-deductible, go towards these projects.
What kinds of funding or donations are needed?
All the archival projects are underway — scanning, digitizing and transcribing. Re-housing work has not begun, but hopefully it will soon. We do need funds for all these projects.
How can volunteers help?
Volunteer help is always welcome. Given the ambitious plan to keep Beloved Archives growing, help is needed to conduct an ongoing campaign. In addition, expert help is needed to make selected items accessible on the Internet. Finally, there are other administrative and restorative opportunities for those who are willing to live in Central New Jersey, where the Beloved Archives is located.
How is Beloved Archives structured? How does that help generate support?
Beloved Archives is a non-profit tax-exempt corporation. All those who contribute receive a tax exemption in accordance with the law. We have a very active Board and all decisions are taken keeping a long-term vision. Our prime intention is to preserve for posterity all the material in the Archives and at the same time make access simple and beneficial to researchers, biographers and seekers.
How are you ensuring the continuity of Beloved Archives for future generations?
A Charter has been created to ensure the continuation of Beloved Archives. All material is preserved with the intent to benefit posterity. For Beloved Archives to be sustained for years to come, it is important for it to be financially viable. Towards that end, friends of Beloved Archives will need to continue to make contributions to keep it alive and well. Besides our core Board members, we are now in the process of setting up a Team of Companions, a global advisory group to assist with the various aspects of the Archives. We are also initiating a membership drive to give the Friends of Beloved Archives the opportunity to share in the work we do in disseminating Meher Baba’s message of love, truth and spiritual unity.
If Baba lovers wish to leave their artifacts, photographs, documents, films and recordings to Beloved Archives or wish to volunteer or make donations, whom should they contact?
I would like to thank all those lovers of the Beloved who have over the years donated to Beloved Archives and helped us with our commitment to uphold the mandate Meher Baba has given us. We continue to share the Avatar's message of love, truth and spiritual unity. Soon after Beloved Archives was established, we received several calls and emails asking us to preserve and share Baba material that are in the hands of Baba lovers in America, India, United Kingdom, Australia and elsewhere. We are fully equipped to protect, preserve and share all material pertaining to Meher Baba. We welcome all Meher Baba-related material to be sent to us for preservation and sharing.
All are welcome to contact Naosherwan at firstname.lastname@example.org. Donors are welcome to contact us for advice on sustaining Beloved ArchivesTOP