Ashram Visit: June 29, 2001

Sathya sai with Anil KumarEntering the ashram, the cinematographer of the well-known video Pure Love thumps me and invites me to lunch. I walk through the security contraption and take a seat. I am afar (from the front), but not minding. It is only the mind, I tell myself.


The Next Morning:

I leave to go to the ashram. I meet Anil Kumar as he emerges from Samadhi Road; he catches my eye and crosses over to exchange greetings. He asks after Howard Murphet, and I recommend mutual friends Arie and Pam to him, and he recalls them with mirth. Entering the ashram, the cinematographer of the well-known video Pure Love thumps me and invites me to lunch. I walk through the security contraption and take a seat. I am afar (from the front), but not minding. It is only the mind, I tell myself. Shortly the music starts. Swami emerges slowly, hand grasping his robe in his characteristic fashion, and stops just inside the hall to speak with some women. He moves on a step, his head turns twice as he speaks again with the women just inside the hall entrance from his home, Poornachandra. As Swami is speaking, an image flashes into my mind of a young Sathya Sai Baba on the Chitravathi sands, and I think, ‘this is the same Raju of my youth’. Taking small steps, he slowly moves on. He stops and speaks with some other women, takes letters. Some women get up and move toward the verandah. Swami disappears behind a pillar.

The man in front of me begins behaving like a pendulum, wildly swaying from one side to the other, attempting to see around the pillar. I observe him for a moment and realise my mind has taken over. I look at the pillar and wait for Swami to emerge. The man in front of me continues to lean to and fro, stretch his neck; he cricked his neck, he craned right over. Alas! The poor fellow, he cannot see past this pillar in front of him!

After some long moments and a lot more pendulum activity from the man in front, Swami emerges from behind the pillar. The music is playing in the background. He takes more letters from women, and stops to speak to some women in the front row. He is far away, yet his hair is distinct, his robe is bright, the letters in his hand clear as he nods and speaks to women.

As Swami crosses over to the men’s side, the light cascaded upon him from the Perspex canopy above. He appears brilliant, his hair almost light brown; so much light is about him.

As Swami reaches the men’s side, the Police bodyguards emerge from somewhere (three of them) and move slowly like a white phalanx of protection behind Swami. The Police Inspector stands and moves forward. Swami begins taking letters from men, he turns, and makes vibuthi for one and one of the bodyguards is instantly beside Swami with a handkerchief at the ready. Swami turns and crosses to the other side. Many, many hands are raised in pranaams to Swami; he smiles slowly and broadly towards the men. As he moves out of the chandelier light, his face becomes quite brown, his crown of hair darkens.

Swami has one hand full of letters; with the other he makes the familiar circling gesture with his index finger. He slowly moves on. Walking the red carpet, he reaches the top of the walk toward the garage, and stops to take more letters. A crowd of men come from four, maybe five rows back and struggle to lean over and reach Swami. They are too far back, perhaps too slow; Swami has moved on around the corner. The bodyguards leave off as Swami approaches the Institute staff and speaks with two lecturers. Moving onto the verandah, Swami takes a letter from the staff member at the very front of the porch and moves into the interview room. The small (Indian) group sent for interview move up to the verandah.

Swami is out of view. A young boy gets up to leave. Another and another get up, the music is still playing. Soon a trickle of older men get up to leave, and the trickle of men leaving becomes a river of bodies moving. Finally, the music stops and a torrent of white clad men get up and talk, and move away. There are people dotted here and there on the shining darshan hall floor; sitting around meditating, eyes closed, savouring the moments of darshan and inner view, again and again. Soon, the darshan hall is quiet again, a landscape of empty cushions, handkerchiefs spread out in the front row, and seva dal sitting quietly among the retinue of devotees awaiting Swami’s emergence again.

Darshan is over.

 

Darshan Hall

 

 

 

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