Countess Kitty Phalen gave a reception for Baba in her home in London on 29 Jun 34, and from that Lord Meher records what I think is some very interesting information about how the Avatar works, including this:
The Avatar’s exterior way of life is regulated by the habits and customs of the times, and he adopts that attitude which is most suited to serve as an example to his contemporaries. But in essence, all Avatars embody the same ideal of life.
At the time of Zarathustra, humanity was hesitant and lacked equilibrium. The Persians then were neither complete materialists nor really attracted toward the spiritual light. He taught them to be good householders, to marry and abstain from desiring the wife of another, and to worship God. His own life was based on this principle: good thoughts, good words and good deeds. Zarathustra was married.
At the time of Krishna, the Hindus were at war fighting among themselves. Envy and greed were predominant, and a real concept of spiritual life and love was unknown to them. Krishna based his spiritual teachings on the laws of love and pure, innocent merriment. Human beings were joyfully directed toward a disinterested ideal of love.
At the time of Buddha, the people of India were deep into materialism. In order to demonstrate that their conception of value was wrong and that they were victims of the goddess of illusion, or Maya, Buddha renounced his wife, his family and the riches of the world in order to establish his teachings on renunciation.
At the time of Muhammad, the Arab tribesmen were very sensuous, and it was not considered bad or illegal to live with several wives. If Muhammad had not married like Jesus and had advocated celibacy, or if he had imposed absolute continence, it would have produced inevitably dangerous reactions. Few people would have followed his teachings and fewer still would have been attracted to such an ideal. Muhammad had six wives, but he had no physical contact with them.
At the time of Jesus, arrogance, imperiousness, pride and cruelty were the characteristics of people. Nevertheless, they possessed a conception of justice in regard to women and marriage; therefore, it was not necessary, as it was in Arabia, to make marriage an example. Jesus lived the life of humility, simplicity, and poverty, and he endured suffering in order to direct human beings toward the purest ideal – God as Beloved.
The Avatars incarnate in this world at different times and their teachings have therefore to be adapted to the mentality of their epoch. At times, the Avatar bases his teaching on the search for the personal God, and at other times, on the search for the impersonal God.
It may be compared to a hospital, where the sick complain of thirst at different times. The doctor will prescribe tea or coffee in the morning to those who complain in the morning, water or fruit juice in the afternoon, buttermilk in the evening and hot milk before sleep. The doctor is the same and the complaint is the same, but the thirst is quenched in different ways according to the different conditions at different times.
God, manifesting as the Avatar in different periods of time, quenches the thirst of man in different ways. All human beings, either consciously or unconsciously, have the same thirst for Truth.
Baba continued, explaining about his own working:
There are three principal ways in which I work: individually, collectively with crowds for the masses, and universally. When I work individually, it is with persons who are with me, or persons who are away from me, or persons who are connected with me. In some cases, I work through their material downfall; in some, through their material welfare. In some cases, I deliberately bring about material demise, but I always have their spiritual upliftment at heart in the background.
When I work collectively, which is generally at plays, movies and sporting events – wherever people collect and concentrate on a particular object – it is easy for me to have my spiritual effect collectively on their minds.
When I work universally, it is through agents. My mind, being universal, is linked with every individual mind, even with advanced minds who are my agents; and so I am present and working through my agents in every part of the world. That is why at times while speaking to one person, my mind is working elsewhere. People have seen and marked me stopping suddenly in the midst of conversation, as if absent and away from the spot, engrossed in something else.
To have their physical touch at night, I make some of my disciples sit beside me and press the soles of my feet. Kaka Baria sometimes abruptly sits up in bed at night, having seen some signs or a flash of light which make him nervous; this is at the time of my special work with bodiless spirits.
Only those in the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh planes, and who are conscious of me, know under and for whom they are physically working. They cannot see me physically, but their subtle and mental bodies see my subtle body, which is similar to the gross.
The fundamental reason why Buddhism is so appropriate for America today is what Meher Baba asserts here about India at the time of the Buddha: America is also very materialist, as was India at the time of the Buddha. In general, for Americans, Buddhist practice is the shortest way home, and today’s outstanding American Buddhists – people like Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo, Geshe Michael Roach, Tsultrim Allione, Pema Chodron, Richard Baker Roshi and Bernie Glassman Roshi – are among the most spiritually advanced people on earth. Every single one of them, and many more that are not so well known, has cut through the fundamental limitations of his or her birth culture, and since they did it without any support from the surrounding society, their attainment is far, far greater than anything that currently exists in Asian Buddhism.
Every single one of these people has prevailed in a personal war on two fronts: against Christian cultural dominance in their own society, and against the fundamentally racist Buddhist cultures of Asia, who in general do not think that Americans can practice Buddhadharma, and who will automatically and instinctively fight any American Buddhist who attains on the Path or who maintains the Voice of his or her Truth.
The higher the Asian lineage holder is, the more this is true for him, and the most stubbornly and deliberately treacherous towards us of all the Asian reactionaries has been the perpetually flaunted despite, and in fact for the sake of, his unmitigated racism, the “Tibetan God-King,” who universally and perpetually associates himself with Christians, mere intellectuals, and elitist and sectarian camp-followers, to the quite conscious, pre-meditated, and systematic exclusion of the entire mainstream of practicing American Buddhism as it exists.
Avatar Meher Baba ki Jai!