15 May 2009

“Ten Incredible Days”: Thoughts on the 1969 Darshan

The weekend of April 24-26, 2009, at Meher Center we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the 1969 Darshan, which was held at Guru Prasad (“Gift of the Guru”), the name of a maharani’s palace in in Pune, India, between April and June of that year. It is often called the Great Darshan: a great and unique event because it took place after Meher Baba dropped his body on January 31, 1969. The Darshan had been fully planned by Baba and was announced in October 1968 via the Family Letters written by Baba’s sister and disciple Mani. This Darshan was to be for his lovers and not the general public. Baba hinted that it would be unprecedented, and that despite his failing health he would definitely give his love to his lovers.
In 1968 I first “heard” the name of Meher Baba while in Jerusalem when a friend, Irene Schatzberg (later Meyer), wrote to me from back home in New York. In the few months since I’d been gone, she had become a Baba-lover (his term for his followers). When I returned to New York, I attended a Monday night meeting, bought the Discourses, and became an instant Baba-lover too. At that time, Baba was in seclusion, doing his universal work, so we were not supposed to even write to him, let alone think of seeing him. Then, in October of 1968, Baba announced the Darshan, and I was ready to sign up. I traveled in June 1969 with the New York flight arranged by the Society for Avatar Meher Baba, and with my friend Alice Klein was housed at the Poona Club with Filis Frederick and her group from Los Angeles. I had just turned twenty-three, and just separated from my husband of three years shortly before the Darshan.
During the Darshan I knew I was incredibly blessed to be there, and I also sensed that my consciousness was not fully present because a large part of my psyche was tied up in internal emotional issues, which through Baba I had learned to associate with the bindings of sanskaras—consciousness burdened by mental impressions. I was helpless to do anything about the feeling of being bound and just tried to be as aware and present as I could during the “ten incredible days” planned by Baba (four of which were actually spent in the mandali hall at Guru Prasad, just as we would have done had Baba been physically present).
I remember arriving at the Bombay Airport to the amazing sight of the local Indian Baba-lovers who had risen so early in the morning to greet the Westerners. I recall having a monstrous headache after the train ride from Bombay to Poona, and Dr. Aloo came over and told me that Baba said Saint Francis used to have headaches that made him beat his head against the wall; she clearly believed she was offering me a useful remedy! Later, Dr. William Donkin, who seemed sad and distracted in Baba’s physical absence, gave me a headache tablet. When we went to Meherabad, I vividly remember the moments inside the Tomb—we filed in and stood all around the crypt, even at the head of it (something one cannot do today unless on the cleaning team). I also recall the day the women met with the women mandali at Guruprasad, and how I was too shy to step forward and greet Mehera and Mani (I didn’t meet them till I returned in 1975 for a five-week stay). Other images that stand out in memory are a beaming Dr. Deshmukh in the crowd of people in front of Guruprasad, Sarosh introducing us to Mohammed Mast, taking a photo of Mani as she jokingly filmed someone who was filming her, and Adi K. Irani coming to talk at the Poona Club. Fortunately Filis Frederick wrote a detailed account of our trip in the Awakener, which helps me remember the blur of days.
Many years after the Darshan, I learned something startling that struck me as very significant. Someone told me that in the fall of 1968, when the Darshan was being planned, the list of Baba-lovers from the West who had signed up to attend the Darshan was read aloud to Baba. I later confirmed this with Eruch.
When I first came to Baba, the significance of hearing his name was impressed upon me. It was a surprise to realize that not only had I heard Baba’s name in 1968, but he had heard mine … he heard all the names. This struck me as extraordinary.
Recently at the Center a video of Arnavaz from the early 1970s was shown, and in it she recounted a movie she had seen with Baba, Hitchock’s 1956 film The Wrong Man, which was based on the true story of an innocent man unjustly convicted of armed robbery. The man to whom this happened was still alive at that time. When the ladies talked to Baba about this man, Baba remarked that whenever someone unjustly suffers for something they did not do, they receive a great spiritual push. And he added that this man especially received a push, because since the Avatar’s attention was drawn to the man by this conversation, he had focused on the man and this automatically gave him a spiritual push. This story caused me to remember that fact of Baba hearing our names read aloud. For a fraction of a second his attention was on me. Of course, I always assumed that the very reason I even heard about Baba and gone to the Darshan was that he had somehow seen fit to include me. But here was a piece of solid evidence that he knew of my existence. Although I didn’t know I needed this piece of evidence, it has really meant a great deal to me.
Baba taught us in so many ways—through example, explanation, inner experience, the words of his favorite Persian poets—what the role of a lover of God is, what it means to love God or the spiritual Master who is the living embodiment of God-consciousness, and what are the experiences of a lover of God—the longing, the burning within, the impatience with all talk that is not of God, the fact that ‘the more you love Him, the more you feel you are loving Him less.” One of the powerful emotions of the lover is expressed in the line “Please don’t be indifferent to me!” To have the Master shoot you a glance or show he is thinking of you is the greatest joy. To have him look away when you finally reach his feet after standing on the long darshan line is sheer torture. These are a few of the many examples that have been part of the education of our hearts through the stories of other lovers who met Baba. So to know that Meher Baba heard my name when he was in his physical form is an important acknowledgment.
I wish I could say that I had some powerful mystical experience of Meher Baba’s presence at the 1969 Darshan. I have had that experience, but I didn’t have it particularly on this occasion. I’m just really glad I accepted the invitation and showed up. It’s possibly the most meaningful thing I’ve ever done.

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All quotes of Meher Baba © Avatar Meher Baba Perpetual Public Charitable Trust unless otherwise indicated. Writings by Kendra are © Kendra Crossen Burroughs unless otherwise noted.