Darshan is described traditionally as a blessing that is received from being in the presence of a holy person, saint, or guru. An individual such as Amma (referred to as the “hugging saint”) gives darshan through her loving embraces to millions of people all over the world. A number of years ago, I was honored to have this powerful sacred experience with her. Yet, perhaps there are many ways to give and receive darshan in the world, not necessarily reserved solely for meeting saints or gurus. What if we all carry that loving presence within us? A soul energy we pass to others whenever we open our hearts fully.
As the Earth goes through its current radical transformation and rebirth, humanity too is experiencing a shift. A shift that aligns us more completely with our inner being. Therein lies our connection to all that is holy or divine, something we attributed in the past only to spiritual masters. We are moving into an age of conscious spirit. One in which everyday darshan can become part of all our lives. Darshan from the mail carrier, the grocery store clerk, the bus driver. Darshan to a stranger passing in the street. Darshan from/to those nearest and dearest to us. The possibilities are endless if we live with an open heart.
The question is: how do we get there? How do we open our hearts that wide? Well, maybe we’re already there, and we just haven’t realized it yet. Perhaps our hearts are full to overflowing right now. Maybe all that’s needed is a flick of the switch of awareness to put us in darshan mode. The secret is that that switch can be turned on at any moment—and stay that way. Looking in the eyes of a loved one, watching a beautiful sunset or listening to birdsong at dawn, sitting quietly with an animal companion, helping your neighbor shovel snow, reading the moving words of a poet such as Mary Oliver—all these can deepen the love in your heart and awaken the infinite blessings of darshan.
Also, darshan doesn’t have to be available only sometimes, from someone or something outside you. It can be part of your daily life if you expand your consciousness to perceive it within your soul and then breathe it outward. In that very act, the giving becomes the receiving, and the distinction between the two dissolves. You are living darshan right along with everyone and everything around you.
Actually, the basis of all life on Earth is darshan. The sun blesses us with darshan all day long, as do the moon and stars at night. Mother Earth herself vibrates darshan in every plant, tree, and flower. The blood in your body pulsates darshan, and your fingers invoke darshan through touch. Darshan is invisible but ever-present. From birth to death and beyond, we are accompanied by its sweet energy. Now, as our hearts open wider to the world around us and we live with soul awareness, we are able to recognize it in every single moment of our lives.
For years I’ve wanted to see Amma, the “hugging saint,” considered to be an embodiment of the Divine Mother. Her appearances in the Boston area, however, have conflicted with Panache Desai’s summer programs at Omega Institute, so I’ve always chosen to go there instead. Ironically, it was Panache who recently provided me with the opportunity to see Amma in person. So often, life’s completely unanticipated events are filled with more magic than anything we could have planned. Therein lies a tale….
In early July, I flew to Washington DC for an Initiation weekend with Panache, which included a vibrational activation connecting participants to their essential divine self and life purpose. Those of us in attendance found ourselves immersed in profound divine connection and soul awareness, an experience that seems to expand exponentially at every one of his events. Within the larger group of 70, there were about 18 of us who have been taking part in an ongoing accelerated program (OAP) with him. On Saturday evening, after the Initiation finished for the day, Panache asked our OAP group if we would like to see Amma, whose weekend events were taking place not far from ours. And the adventure began.
Arriving in several cars, we gathered outside the main hall where the Atma Puja ceremony for world peace was soon to begin. Mind you, people arrive hours early for Amma’s events in order to get a seat and also to stand in line to receive a token that will allow them to stand in line again to receive a hug and blessing (darshan) from her. The hall was already filled to capacity, and we were redirected to the overflow hall, where the main-hall events could be seen on a large screen. We sat in one long row holding hands as the ceremony began. In both halls, hundreds of voices chanting in Sanskrit filled the air. I felt as if I were hearing all of India, all of humanity, calling for peace in those ancient sacred sounds that reverberated in my heart. Afterward, small cups of water blessed by Amma were passed out to everyone, and she herself spoke to the gathering, with a translator. More chanting, and then the ceremony ended, lasting about an hour and a half.
At this point we were going to leave. Panache, however, had something else in mind. He led us to the front entrance to the main hall, closest to the stage. We saw him consulting with several different Amma volunteers. Apparently, the protocol is that spiritual teachers who come to see other teachers are welcomed as honored guests, as are those with them. It seemed that we were going to be given tokens so that we could join the front of the line to receive darshan. We took off our shoes in preparation. Not so fast. One of the volunteers (who evidently did not know of this protocol) said that we were not allowed to be there and should leave. After much discussion, Panache told us that we were going to leave. Shoes back on, leaving. But wait. One of Amma’s assistants came up to Panache and told him not to leave, that everything could be arranged, that we just had to wait a half hour or so.
Over the next 2–3 hours of uncertain waiting, every time we decided to leave, this sweet assistant appeared and asked Panache to please stay, that all would be arranged. As a group, we surrendered the outcome again and again—yes,no,yes,no, yes…. Finally, five us were sent with tokens to join the line. Excitement! More than five would be too many, so the rest of us were just happy to hug the other five as they came back from being hugged by Amma. Okay, time to leave. Wait, no, the assistant appeared again: “Please stay, I think I can get more tokens for you.” We stayed. More time. Maybe we should leave. Then magically, the assistant brought back enough tokens for everyone who wanted to receive darshan. Not only that but they were “fast-track” tokens with tiny red circles on them.
I was among the last group of four to go. Within minutes, I went from no to yes to then following a volunteer around the back of the small stage where Amma sat, surrounded by helpers, and immediately up onto the stage to within a few yards of her. At this point, I entered a slightly dazed state, in which I stepped forward and did everything I was directed to do by the helpers: take off glasses, kneel, move forward inch by inch. Panache was ahead of me, so I was able to see him being hugged by Amma and the expression on his face afterward: sort of, well, dazed. Then I was immediately in front of Amma, and she drew me to her in a hug and said something that sounded like “my daughter, my daughter” in my ear. Her beautiful smiling gaze rested briefly on my face afterward, and light shone from her being. She radiated light, like the sun. I turned and slowly made my way back to the others on the opposite side of the hall, a rose petal gift in my hand.
The energy of the entire evening was so powerful that it raised us to a higher vibration—we could feel it. I can’t even say how much was Amma, how much Panache (who also embodies loving divine presence), how much the Atma Puja, and how much our group, which was so cohesive, so completely joined in oneness. The gestalt of it all taken together was mind-boggling. I learned something about destiny and synchronicity that night. We kept being shown over and over that we were meant to be there, having the experience that we were having. We surrendered, together, and were carried by that surrender. Right through the whole incredible weekend and back into our lives, changed.
As I look at people now, I see reflections of that radiant light-filled energy in every single face. We are the radiance we have sought so long outside our selves. Increasingly, at this amazing time of huge shifts in human awareness, we are realizing that we too carry within us a light that shines from our souls and moves us to live openheartedly, with absolute love for all beings, everywhere. Like a saint, like a smiling hugging saint.
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