Walking darshan

6 June, San Ramon

“Like a deer caught in headlamps,” Sue said. That’s how she felt: frozen, unable to move, stunned.

But the comparison shouldn’t be carried too far: she was not about to be shot by a hunter, nor run over by a speeding car. It’s just that, all unexpected, Mother walked by.

It is Wednesday morning, the second day of programs at Amma’s main US ashram in San Ramon. Sunny, but not yet too hot – spring’s wildflowers on the grassy hillsides haven’t yet stopped blooming. The air is so fresh you forget that a city is nearby; the expanse of soft-toned beauty calls you. Naturally, you want to go feel the gentle breeze, smell the drying grasses and the peeling eucalyptus bark, and stretch your gaze to the far hilltops. So you go for a walk.

Mother’s program was to start at ten in the morning; the house She stays in is about fifteen minutes’ walk from the program hall. At about 9:40, She, shaded by a brilliant blue umbrella, and accompanied by a small group of the people who stay in the same house, went for a walk.

Mother with a small group of people? How small? Just a few hundred? No. Maybe ten. Ten people, maybe twelve.

At home, if Mother so much as looks out of Her window, a crowd forms; if She walks outside, she is mobbed. Even a trip across the ashram grounds to the boat jetty has become a procession with throngs lining the way! People hungrily reach out for a touch, step in front for a glance, kneel for a hug. Their fervour is beautiful, and Mother loves to satisfy their longings. But the logistics involved in trying to insure basic safety for Her physical form are no simple matter. Mother’s disciples have to stay very close to Her to contain the well-meaning, exuberant devotees, who in their eagerness might prostrate and unwittingly trip Her. Little quick tours of inspection (are the toilets being cleaned? Is the vegetable-waste being sorted so that the cows get the food scraps?) have become less frequent.

So imagine what it was like this morning when, with so few people (and those people staying at enough distance to allow Mother Nature to caress her Mother), Amma walked all the way to the programme site.

Now imagine you were one of those people who have volunteered to do seva – the at-a-distance seva. You express your love and devotion to Mother not by being in Her presence, not by sitting near and marvelling at Her delightful plays while She gives darshan, not even by working in the back of the hall where, when things are slow, you can gaze upon Her tiny seated form, a whiteness enveloping each one who comes. No, you offered to help direct traffic and park cars. You’ll be breathing dust and exhaust, and when it gets hot you’ll still be out there helping everyone else get to Mother. You know you won’t see Mother this morning unless it is a quick glimpse as Her car passes – but most likely you won’t see Her even then, since the windows will be rolled up against the dust, and the sun’s reflections will block even that darshan.

No traffic passes for a couple of minutes, even though it’s just before ten – usually traffic-jam time. You step nearer the road and look down towards the highway, remembering that yesterday afternoon, traffic was stopped for quite a while when a big truck was stuck on the tiny bridge. Maybe it’s happened again..yes; see the group of people walking along the road? They must have abandoned their cars to hike up to the temple.

Wait a minute! One little one in white and a few in ocher and yellow and a few others in white… it’s Mother!

She’s passing you; you’re rooted where you were standing when you first caught sight of Her. You don’t even have the courtesy to smile or offer your pranams; it doesn’t occur to you to run into the dream you’re watching. She goes on by and you discover that your heart is racing, the same way it does when you leave Her lap.

That’s how Mother went for a lovely walk and gave darshan this morning.