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The True Meaning of Darshan, Sparshan and Sambhashan

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 views.

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 imply.

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 included!

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 wonder.

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 no Sankatam!

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. Any takers?

Jai Sai Ram.


Volume - 2 Issue - 11 Radiosai Journal - PSN 2004