The True Meaning of Darshan, Sparshan
Sai Ram and greetings. In this article,
I intend dealing with a question from one of our readers.
This listener/reader writes to say that in a recent Discourse
to the youth of Kerala, Swami said that “Darshan
alone is not sufficient and that we must have Sparshan
[touch of the Divine] and Sambhashan
[conversation with the Divine] also.” The reader goes
on to add, “But Swami has Himself stopped giving
Pada Namaskar. If Sparshan
is a must, then why this denial?’ This is Part 1 of
the question, if I may put it that way. Part 2 of the listener’s
question [it is actually a statement] is contained in the
following remark: “Swami also says that Sparshan
removes Karma [consequences of
past actions], and Sambhashan
removes Sankatas [difficulties].
Actually all three, sins, [bad] Karma
and Sankatas are same. There
is no distinction.” The writer ends by asking for our
When we received this mail it set us thinking
and I said to myself, “Yes, Swami has spoken about the
blessings of Darshan etc. And
it is also true that He Himself has put an end to the much-coveted
Pada Namaskar. All this is true no doubt but whatever
happened when there was no Avatar
around, say during the period from Krishna to Shirdi Baba?”
When I began to ponder thus, many thoughts occurred to me,
and this article is the outcome.
Let us start with the period between say
Krishna and Shirdi Baba. If we take Swami’s observations
about Darshan, Sparshan etc.,
in the literal sense, then does it mean that
during this long period of five thousand years or so, people
were condemned to eternal damnation? Were they barred from
receiving Divine Grace? Were their problems not solved? Obviously
that could not be true. Then does it mean that Swami is not
correct? Clearly that possibility also has to be ruled out!
How then do we reconcile what appears to be a clear contradiction?
The resolution to the paradox lies in the way we interpret
the words Darshan, Sparshan and
Sambhashan and what they actually
Let us start with the word Darshan.
For all of us, Darshan simply
means Darshan of our beloved
Swami. However, if, for the sake of argument, you asked someone
say who lived in the seventeenth century or earlier what that
word means, then that person would possibly say that Darshan
means going to the temple and seeing the deity installed there.
In fact, even today, for millions in India who are not devotees
of Swami, that is what the word would mean.
Just think about what Meera did, for example.
She started by worshipping an idol of Krishna and that helped
her to print His image on her Heart. Thereafter, she always
saw Krishna in her Heart and that for her was the ultimate
Darshan. Was it make-believe?
If it were, then she would not have got the benefits of Darshan
that you and I get. But, as we all know, she received Krishna’s
Grace in full measure.
Then there was Tyagaraja, the incomparable
devotee of Rama. He hardly stirred out of his house to go
to this shrine or that. He had idols of Rama, Sita and others
and worshipped them daily like all others did. But he also
went a lot further because for Tyagaraja the objects of worship
were not mere idols – they were verily the Lord, His
Consort and His retinue. Thus when Tyagaraja’s brother
threw the idols into the river, Tyagaraja wept like one would
when one loses a loved one. And when he discovered the lost
idols, he sang with great joy, after which he ceremoniously
welcomed the Lord back into the house. By the way, Swami has
recalled all these incidents in great detail, as also the
songs sung by Tyagaraja on those occasions. No wonder Swami
says: “You can either make a picture into God or make
God into a picture.” As you feel so you become –
if one feels the idol is not an idol but God, then God it
is. So you see, we need not necessarily interpret Darshan
in a limited sense. Mind you, I am NOT, repeat NOT, trying
to say that seeing Swami is nothing unique or great. Far from
it; the joy of seeing that Divine Face and the Divine Smile
will ever remain an incomparable blessing. Nothing on earth
can match that. Only the Avatar
is equal to the Avatar –
of that one can be sure. Then what exactly am I trying to
say? Simply this: The blessings conferred
by the physical Darshan
of Swami was available to devotees even when Swami had not
incarnated in His present form; and that blessing comes from
faith. After all, as Swami reminds us ever so often, God is
everywhere and is present all the time. Thus, anyone can have
the Darshan of God any time,
any place. If one chooses, one can see God in a sunset, a
mountain, in fact anything, which is why the ancients of India
worshipped almost everything from an ant to a mountain, snakes
It is perhaps pertinent at this point to
briefly recall the story of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and a
young seeker named Narendranath, later to become famous as
Swami Vivekananda. At the time of this story, Narendra loved
Ramakrishna very much but was sceptical about many of the
latter’s teachings. When he asked Ramakrishna whether
he had seen God, Ramakrishna replied in the affirmative adding,
“I see God as clearly as I see you.” Ramakrishna
not only saw Mother in the idol of Kali but also spoke to
her regularly. In other words, he not only had Darshan
but also Sambhashan and it was
not related to the Avatar.
I am sure you will murmur and say, “But
look, this is different. You simply cannot compare the two.”
So it would seem to you and me but we must remember that for
people who are prepared to see God everywhere, every experience
of communion with God is very special! In other words, they
get as much joy from every thing under the Sun as we get from
Swami. That is in fact what Swami actually
expects of us – not to limit God to just one form but
see Him everywhere in the Cosmos and in every living being.
That is true Advaitam or Universal
Oneness, and as Swami often says, Advaita
Darshanam Jnanam, meaning that is the Ultimate and
Supreme Knowledge. Agree most of us are nowhere near that
stage; but be that as it may, the statement remains true.
Let me now move over from Darshan
and Sambhashan to Sparshan,
which, for most of us, means Pada Namaskar.
“Why this denial?” asks our friend. That question
is being asked because he has forgotten what Swami said when
He brought the curtain down on Pada
Namaskar some years ago. Basically He asked, “Who
is giving Namaskar to whom? You
and I are One; so where is the question of My giving Namaskar
to you?” That remark sends a strong message: “Snap
out of it and go beyond Dvaitam
or duality to Advaitam or the
non-dual state.” We don’t want to do that and
wish to cling to the dual state but the Master would have
none of that. So when we say denial, it simply means we want
to be in the KG while our dear Lord and Master wants us to
move on to a higher class. If the Master for our own good
wants us to go to a higher class, can we call that denial?
I am reminded here of a conversation I had
many years ago with late Mr. Ahluwalia who served in the Vice
Chancellor’s Office. Vice Chancellors came and went,
including myself, but Mr. Ahluwalia remained constant and
saw six of them! One day he told me, “Sir, I have many,
many Pada Namaksars.” This
statement puzzled me because I had not seen Swami giving this
venerable gentleman many Namaskars.
Even while I was wondering, Mr. Ahluwalia cleared my doubt
by saying, “I have a photo of Swami’s Feet, and
I not only prostrate repeatedly before it but also hold the
Feet on my head!” Mr. Ahuliwalia was dead certain that
what he was doing was equivalent to a Pada
Namaskar. As is the feeling, so is the result says
Swami often; it was certainly true with this gentleman.
Talking of Pada Namaskars,
I must not fail to recall late Brig. Bose, father of Col.
Bose who is looking after the Chaitanya Jyothi. Brig. Bose
and I used to sit next to each other during Darshan
many years ago and in those days when Swami walked past us,
Brig. Bose never sought to touch Swami’s Feet as many
others tried to do, often much to Swami’s inconvenience
and annoyance. They simply did not care what Swami felt; they
felt that they had a right to touch and if Bhagavan did not
like it that was His problem! What about Brig. Bose? After
Swami had passed, he would just rub the ground on which Swami
had just walked, and then rub his head with the same hand.
That was his way of getting the blessing. One day he explained
to me why he did so. He said much earlier he too was addicted
to this business of feet grabbing till one day Swami said
to him, “Do you think you can get Liberation, just by
touching My Feet? If it were so easy then every fly that sits
on My Feet would get liberated!” Bose told me that this
one remark cured him for ever!
Let me now put all this together. Yes, Swami
has pointed out the advantages and merits of Darshan
etc. All that is undoubtedly true, but the unstated part of
that is that the literal aspect of these
words applies only to starters. One cannot expect to remain
a beginner for all times but must keep moving up the [spiritual]
evolution ladder. Moving up implies, among other things, interpreting
the words Darshan etc., in a
larger sense as I explained earlier. In the ultimate analysis,
one must aim at Advaitam, when
the difference between God and man must get erased. May be
we are light years away from such a destination but nevertheless,
we must accept the shock therapy that Swami gives us to keep
us moving towards that seemingly distant goal. We must always
accept what God gives us and asks us to do instead of demanding
what God must do and say!
A few words now about Part 2 of the question.
Our friend says that sins, [bad] Karma
and Sankatas are the same –
there is no distinction. Is this so? I am not too sure. As
I see it, among these three, there is both cause and the effect.
Sin is the cause and Sankatam
is the effect. Incidentally, I would prefer to use the term
“impurity” or attachment rather than sin, for
attachment it is that eventually leads to misery - no attachment,
no misery. The Lord makes this very clear in both in the Gita
and in the Gitavahini.
OK, what happens when there is no attachment?
Swami has explained that also. He reminds us of what He told
Arjuna as Lord Krishna – attachment produces bondage
to the cycle of life and death, and embedded in this bondage
is Karma, both good and bad.
In other words, attachment is the primary
cause for Sankatam. Attachment
is a body related feeling and that is why Swami tells us again
and again to rise above body-consciousness. No body-consciousness,
no attachment, no Karma, and
It is really simple in principle but in practice
we find it tough because we are not prepared to put in the
time for serious Sadhana. Incidentally,
you would notice that perfect detachment confers all the benefits
of Darshan, Sparshan
and Sambhashan. And that is what
devotees resorted to when the Lord was not manifest in human
form as He is now. As a matter of fact, this triple benefit
is a “bargain offer” and surely one cannot expect
it to last long!
So Swami is weaning us away what He once used to grant freely
so that we become mature and His actions cannot be hastily
described as denial. God never denies, and it is only humans
who do. To substantiate this, let me recall a small story
that Swami sometimes narrates, and with that I shall end.
The story goes like this. It appears that when Krishna was
very young, one day He was playing near the area where Yashoda
was filling water in her pots. After she had done the filling
she called out, “Hey Krishna, come and help me to load
the pots on my head.” Krishna just laughed and ran away.
Yasoda grumbled, complained about her “unhelpful son”
and trudged back home. When she reached the doorstep there
was Krishna waiting for her. Not just that; with a big smile,
He even helped Yasoda to unload the pots, although she did
not ask for help. Yasoda was quite surprised and said, “Krishna,
You are strange. When I asked You to place the pots on my
head You refused but now when I did not even ask You, You
have voluntarily helped me to bring down the pots from my
head. What is the meaning of all this?” Krishna smiled
and replied, “I do not place burden on people; I only
help in removing them!”
Everything that God says and does is ALWAYS for our own good.
Of that we must be clear. If we are, then many of our doubts
will simply not occur. Any views on this?
Here is a question I would like you to consider. Some say,
“God knows whatever I do because He is my Indweller.”
Others say, “I don’t do anything; He is the doer.”
Which of these two is correct and why?
Why don’t you write to us your views and comments?
Make it like a Letter to the Editor, and we shall publish
them. Later we shall try to air our own views on the subject.
Jai Sai Ram.