Darshan, sparshan and sambarshan: we want to be the recipients of Swami’s gaze, his speech, his loving touch. Amongst the crowds that gather for divine darshan, we can feel that we are far, far, away, and forget all that He has said about how close he is to us, closer than the eyelid is to the eye! Yes, grace is anugraha, the smallest of the small, that which seizes us, and lifts us up into that feeling of joy, bliss and Oneness with divinity.
The Bal Vikas Guru Convention Closes
After a restless night, (gratis delhi belly) I arrive in the ashram at 6.30am. There is a line, and glancing down East Prashanthi walkway, I see the darshan hall is a sardine-tin job today, and I can observe men walking the back wall. I kick off my chappals and join the back of the line. A seva dal comes along and drags me down to the front. I stand. He tells me to join other the line when the back of it comes. Line moves. Other men join. Seva dal argue. I forget the seva dal and pull my line onto the end of the fast moving line (I had a lot of people behind me); lo and behold, I go thru the students gate and into the very top of the darshan hall just in front of the garage. I am about 10 feet from the verandah, seated one row from the front. Right in front of the red carpet and the gateway to East Prashanthi. Students to my left, staff on the verandah, students in front of me, students on my right. I begin to notice some subtle distinctions. Instead of an amorphous mass of white clad boys, I see distinctions, MBA students, ex-students, staff, junior college boys, and I see the Brindavan College sits quite distinctly apart from the Prashanthi students. Not all higgledy-piggledy as I surmised the other day. I see staff and monitors directing students where to sit.
I see a microphone on the porch. The decorations on my favourite pillars have been changed again. Now they have a red or pink lace surround with little Ganesha in a temple, alternate with Om and Sarva Dharma symbols. Pigeons above me squawk and fight over perches. The darshan hall is full, an ocean of black hair and brown faces, right down to the back wall, each side. I focus, none too successfully. Takes about three kick-starts. I have this ‘odd’ line of boys beside me; they are all Indian looking in white Punjabi suits, and wear the orange coloured Sai Ram, Japan scarf. Talking Hindi and English.
At approximately 7.10 the music starts. Red carpet is rolled out in a hurry, and I watch the top of heads and people doing pranaams. Obviously Swami is in the hall, yet I cannot see. Three video men this morning. I hear applause. (This means Swami has done a materialisation ‘outside’ in the Darshan Hall. Applause is a polite way of saying, ‘Ooohhh! Look what Swami’s done’… Most people get up and crane their necks around). After what seems to be a long time (I am reflectively enjoying the music) Swami comes into view on the men’s side. He stops in the middle to talk to some students who are up on their knees (there is a narrow 2 foot wide path through students sitting under the Perspex canopy. No prizes for guessing where certain students sprint to when they get inside) … after Swami passes the students the path widens about 10 feet with the red carpet in the middle. Some men DO manage to lunge out to touch Swami’s feet.
Swami begins to walk the men’s side. I see the top of his head, his arm is moving, and everyone is applauding again. Up they all get on their knees. I remain seated; I am far, far, away. Swami takes letters. His bodyguard has a plastic bag, half full of letters. Swami comes along the red carpet, his face a broad smile. Swami stops and makes the winding motion with his fingers, turns his hand up and lifts. Wipes his eye with a crooked finger. Turns, takes more letters. Looks across, smiling. Arriving at the top of the path, he hands letters to the bodyguard. Swami turns left and walks out of the darshan hall into East Prashanti walkway; there are people sitting all over the avenue. Oh Lordy, he is taking letters out there! A loud voice roars a Jaikar as he comes out. ‘Bolo Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba Jiki! JAI! The entire hall responds. Swami smiles and lifts his hand, Another Jaikar, Jai!! Even louder; Swami takes letters and a third Jaikar comes; JAI !!! is the resounding reply. A fourth jaikar starts and Swami puts his hand up, indicating ‘Enough’ and it peters out as the darshan music takes over.
He turns and walks toward where I am seated, smiling. Lifts his hand toward us, and takes letters; comes closer, still smiling, takes more letters, and lifts his hand again. He looks over and for a split second, our eyes meet. A smile. He moves toward the students. Several students are right there, next to a corner Swami has to walk around. Five students have trays with prasad. Swami stops and I see him place his hand on all the trays. He taps the boys on the head. One student rises; he has a picture and marker pen. He earnestly pleads with Swami to sign the picture. Swami moves on. Swami turns to face the Institute staff and raises his hand in blessing. Turns and gestures for his bodyguard. Hands letters over. Moves around in front of the porch. Applause again. I cannot see Swami. I see the top of his hair as he climbs the porch; thereafter, I lose sight of Swami for the rest of darshan and the divine discourse.
Boys come, in white shawls. Intone slokas. I look across at students, I see some of them know these slokas and softly chant; I see little heads bob (taking padnamaskar) and come back up, and then take a seat. Indulal Shah takes the podium and addresses the gathering. When he leaves, I see a microphone come out to Swami’s desk. Anil Kumar rises and takes the lectern.
Have you ever experienced soul hunger? Have you ever heard Swami sing, and your soul thrills to the sound, irrespective of your understanding? I heard Swami’s soft voice come over the speakers, and from somewhere deep within myself, I wanted, and wanted and wanted to hear this again. I listened, recalling the first time I ever heard Swami say anything; he sang a poem before a discourse in Poornachandra, and it reached through me to eternity.
I listened, and waited for more. Swami singing in Telugu will probably never make the top ten in the pop charts, but when your atma (soul) hears the paramatma (the great oversoul) sing, it never forgets that sensation of recognition.
Anil Kumar translates song. Swami commences, ‘Premaswarupulaara’, Embodiments of Divine Love. The discourse is about education, Truth, humanity. I cannot see Swami, I see only Anil Kumar. Staff move, and I begin to see the top of Swami’s head. His hand moves forward emphatically as he speaks. I see students nodding before Anil Kumar translates. Applause, before translations. Anil Kumar translates: “Whatever feeling you send out to another person, that feeling comes back to you.” Most of the local crowd understand Telugu, so sometimes there is laughter before Anil Kumar translates. More applause. Swami breaks into English. ‘Truth is God.’ A little further on, I begin to understand patches. ‘He who protects truth with his action is God. He has nothing to fear’. Several times, Swami breaks into English, ‘Conscious, Conscience, Consciousness’; I hear him name the 5 Human values in both English and Sanskrit. It is nice to recognise what Swami says.
For a time, I close my eyes, and just listen to the soft, melodious tones of Swami’s voice. I just rest, drifting inward to space, space, space, riding the crest to the very sound of his voice. It is a sweetness, a restful experience, bliss, simply drifting along, alert, listening to that voice. I come out, to see students laughing at something Swami has told.
I can hardly tell when the discourse has ended, everyone begins clapping and I can just faintly hear a song. I listen and pick it up, ‘suka shanti nahi’ and the hall responds, Hari Bhajana bina sukha shanti nahi! I cannot hear Swami over the clapping … yet we all seem to get it right and respond and sing just so. Then it gets faster and faster, and faster until Swami sings the last line again and again, Hari bhajana bina, Hari bhajana bina, bhajana bina, sukha shanti nahi…
Arathi is taken. The bell rings; Students stand and wave camphor flames. Bell stops, Narayana, Narayana Om Sathya takes over the hall completely. Students clap in unison and drive the chanting faster and faster. Asato Ma thunders through the hall.
Now students break out everywhere and fetch bowls of prasad. Most senior students get up and take boxes and excitedly depart to the waiting ocean of devotees in the hall and hand out the Lord’s prasad, blessed food, a small sweet. An announcement: The final meeting of delegates for convention at is at 2.30 pm.
Morning darshan is over. Somehow in the medley of students rushing by I was handed two serves of prasad. I smile to myself and depart to hunt in the madding crowd for my chappals.
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