By Kenneth Lux
Kenneth Lux finds that what he thought was imagination was, in fact, one of his first experiences which was not imagination
A number of us had come to Meher Baba in the late ‘60s, and naturally we greatly desired to see him. But Baba was in seclusion, and we could not see him. But he said through his silent methods of communicating, that he would be soon coming out of seclusion, and then we could come to India to see him. Sure enough, in early November 1968, a letter arrived from India, announcing that a darshan in India would take place. The letter detailed the schedule when different groups from different places could come, covering the period from April 10 to June 10, 1969. This was joy. Then on January 31, 1969, came the totally unexpected and shocking news that Meher Baba had ‘dropped his body.’ Despair followed on that joy. But soon afterwards we heard from the Mandali (the group of people close to Meher Baba) that, knowing Baba’s ways, he would still want us to come. So the darshan was on, even though Baba wasn’t there.
The call comes
My flight to India in June was arranged through his ashram in Myrtle Beach, and was known as the Myrtle Beach group. The darshan was to take place in Guruprasad Hall in Pune, where Baba had met people in his later years. So there we were, about 200 of us, gathered on the floor in front of Baba’s empty chair with his picture in it, and draped around the picture was a garland in a heart shape. Upon seeing the chair I felt a definite sense of disappointment at not seeing Baba in the body, and for that moment he seemed painfully absent. The clock struck nine, and Eruch, Baba’s righthand man, said, “You have kept your appointment with God.”
Then he and a few of the other male members of the Mandali gave some short talks and thereafter, the darshan began.
It was led by Mehera, Baba’s principal female disciple. She came up to the chair and bowed down at the base of it as if she was bowing at Baba’s feet, and then placed her forehead on Baba’s sandals, which were at the base of the chair. When she finished and moved away from the chair, there was a long interval until one of the Westerners finally followed Mehera’s example, which became the cue for others to follow suit. Each person took darshan in their own individual way. Some got down on their knees; others lay out full in front of the chair, and some rested their head on the chair and so forth.
This was certainly unusual for many of us, although it is a quite common practice in the East. As I sat there waiting my turn, I wondered if this was not a bit too ritualistic for us, and perhaps even out of character with Baba’s own naturalness. But I was struck by the free flow of tears that overtook several of the group, with some breaking into sobs right at the chair.
As my turn drew closer, my heart started beating so hard that it seemed to be a hand knocking at a door to gain entrance. I walked up to the chair and knelt down, and was overwhelmed. There were several strong physical sensations, one of which was the knocking, which was supplanted by a kind of fire that rose up within my chest, and seemed to spread to my mind, my consciousness. Baba was in the chair! No visions. I did not see him, but I felt or even knew he was there.
I found it to be an incredible experience, and for me it was the essential fulfillment of the whole darshan trip to India. It made me know clearly, at last, why I had gone. It was the apex of the feelings that had built up in me from the moment of landing in India. Here at the base of a seemingly empty chair, Baba showed me who he was. I would almost call it supernatural, but in a deep sense it was the most natural thing that had ever happened to me. At some point the physical becomes more purely mental or spiritual, and I keenly felt the relationship of the lover to the beloved.
All beautiful and well and good, but soon afterwards the problems started. One of the group very cogently noted that it was particularly important for Baba to give this darshan without his physical body so that we could realise that the darshan is given to us by ourselves. Once he shows it to us, it is much easier to find anywhere, and in this sense the darshan is continual. At first I liked this, and thought it was true and insightful. But it raised a little bit of doubt. As the memory of the first darshan experience receded, both while we were still in India, and then afterwards back home, that little question grew in size. If we are giving the darshan to ourselves, is it because we construct the darshan? That is, we imagine it? Is the whole thing just an act of the imagination? Part of the reason that this kind of idea began to trouble me comes from my education and training in science, and the general sceptical stance towards things spiritual that goes along with that. From that perspective, all things spiritual are just imagination. The only things real are the physical, tangible, and observable universe.
I too had thought similarly, but all this changed when I came to Baba, and then took that darshan trip to India. However, that question once again kindled my scepticism. Was it all just imagination? A big step towards the resolution of this issue occurred in one of my later trips to India after the 1969 darshan. Someone asked Eruch, “When we bow down to Baba’s chair and imagine he is in the chair, aren’t we just kidding ourselves?”
Eruch’s surprising and deep answer, short as it was, “Yes, we are kidding ourselves. But it is good kidding. When we think that Baba is not in the chair, that is bad kidding.” This stayed with me and I mulled it over long after I left India. Bad kidding, what is bad kidding?
The resolution occurred when I got a book on ancient Egyptian spirituality. The title itself became significant in the resolution, Imagining the World into Existence. According to the book, that is how the world comes into existence – by imagination. Being familiar with Baba’s cosmology, as particularly explained in God Speaks, I knew that this is how Baba explained the existence of the world – it happens in the course of evolution, piece by piece, step by step, through all the natural kingdoms, as an act of God’s imagination. And when the world finally comes into complete existence and culminates in the existence of the human being, he has the capacity to overcome imagination, and see that all is God.
So back to Eruch’s answer. When we think that Baba is not in the chair it is rather the result of evolution, which is the successive process of God’s imagination. And evolution is not really ‘bad kidding,’ because it is what allows us to realise God. And one of the steps towards that realisation is the eventual ‘good kidding’ of taking darshan, and the darshan experience. In fact, all spiritual activities are practices in the material world that attempt to make connection with the spiritual or ‘sacred’ world, which underlies the material world (See The Sacred and the Profane by Mircea Eliade). Now I could see that the idea that we were ‘giving darshan to ourselves’ is in a fundamental way correct, as long as we understand that the self that gives us the darshan is the real Self.
In fact, it was one of the first experiences in my life that was not imagination.
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