By Wendy Haynes Connor
A little less than two weeks ago, many of Baba’s lovers came together at Meher Center to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the 1969 Darshan, or The Great Darshan as it has become known. It was a love-filled, poignant event, flooded with the beautiful stories and experiences of those who had traveled to India to keep to the program that the Beloved Himself had planned months earlier, when He was still in the body.
The weekend began on Friday evening with an extraordinary slide show, created especially for the celebration. (Remembering Darshan dvd) The slides included wonderful photos of the mandali as well as shots of the different groups who, at different times between April and June, had chartered flights from California, Myrtle Beach and New York, to spend one precious week in Poona, as Baba had arranged. There was much laughter and delight as different people were recognized on the screen. In some cases, this required significant concentration and imagination after forty years of wear and tear! The sound track of the presentation included a beautiful recording of the women mandali singing the timeless song “Baba Bhagawan”.
The program continued the next day in the Barn, taking up the morning and afternoon. The hours were spent sharing deeply heartfelt memories – some joyful, others funny, some bittersweet but each alive with the spirit of Baba’s darshan. While there were many tears, they all seemed to spring from the beauty of the experience of His love. Many of the stories were memories of pilgrims having to contend with the sudden, and for some, shocking dropping of His body a few months earlier. What were they going to find now that He was no longer physically here? How to make sense of the empty chair in the hall at Guruprasad that the mandali were bowing down to? Each person shared, in their own unique way, how the Beloved filled their hearts with His love, His grace. It was as if this mutual experience has created a communal memory of the great miracle of God’s love and presence. Equally clear was the experience in the room that this great miracle of the Great Darshan continues in the hearts of His lovers today.
I found myself, of course, transported back in time to those experiences of great joy and deep sadness that I found at the ’69 gathering. Ever since meeting Baba as a child in 1958, and seeing Him again in Poona at the East-West Gathering, I always pictured Him in His beautiful form. Since 1962, I had been longing to see Him again. After He dropped His body, I just couldn’t accept nor imagine what it would be like to travel to India and not see Baba. Little did I know that this journey to Guruprasad would lead to a different kind of journey – one that would mark the beginning of a conscious, inner relationship with Baba – a discovery of the Beloved within.
I will always remember the first morning in Guruprasad Hall when the clock chimed 9:00 a.m. and Eruch said to us all, “It is 9:00 o’clock and you have kept your appointment with God.” I bowed my head, feeling waves of Baba’s love wash over me. I wasn’t consciously thinking anything, yet I knew Baba had just completely enfolded me in His embrace. It was as if He was saying, “You see, I am here, and I love you.”
After some time passed in silence, Francis Brabazon addressed the group. His words struck me so deeply that I have often recalled them over the years. He told us, that before this great darshan he “did not know what a mighty beloved our beloved is. The knowledge came to me recently, since He laid aside His body.” Francis continued: “Who but the Beloved of Beloveds, could speak His Word silently in your hearts and make you come from across the world to take His Darshan to bow down to Him in your hearts? Such a thing has never happened before. I have been at Mass-darshans where tens of thousands came and bowed down to His Man-form. But to come thousands of miles to bow down to Him in one’s own heart, that is of an entirely different order of devotion.”
The next morning, I had the extraordinary privilege of sitting next to Mehera on the floor, on the left side of the Hall, facing Baba’s chair; Mani was to Mehera’s left. We were watching a performance by one of the westerners when, suddenly, I became aware that Mehera was whispering to me in my left ear. I began to catch certain phrases – her voice was very soft and low. I quickly realized she was describing in detail the car accident in Prague, Oklahoma, in 1952. Mani kept trying to stop the flow of words but Mehera was completely immersed in her memories and seemed unable to resist voicing them aloud. I sat there, immobilized by the depth of her grief. Later, I could only think that the pain of losing her Beloved evoked the memory of His great suffering while in the form. After some time, when the stream of words came to an end, I turned to Mehera seeing her eyes closed and her face wet with tears. I was deeply shaken but also knew I had been given a profound gift. To this day, it is one of my most precious memories.
Later in the week, during the morning program, I had another unexpected and unforgettable experience. Needing to use the restroom, I slipped out through the curtains and headed towards the women’s quarters. As I rounded the corner, I came upon Mani sitting in a chair by herself, silently weeping. I stopped, frozen in my tracks, my heart pierced by the sight of this beloved disciple overcome with grief. Mani’s personality was naturally so buoyant and lively – this sight seemed unimaginable. In that moment, I remembered how Baba had asked Mani to always take care of Mehera for Him – to always put her happiness first before anything or anyone. Inwardly I realized that Mani was shedding the tears for her beloved God-brother that she could not shed in front of Mehera.
One of the events planned for everyone was a visit to the Poona Baba Center to see the interment film for the first time. This was one of the most difficult experiences for me during that darshan period. As soon as the film began and I saw Beloved Baba’s form in the crypt, my heart was immediately filled with sorrow, and I couldn’t stop my tears. Then, Mehera appeared on the screen leaning over Baba’s body. The sight of her pain and her longing was, for me, unbearable to witness. Clearly her heart was breaking and clearly all she wanted was to join her Beloved. Suddenly, I felt I couldn’t take any more. I got to my feet and headed quickly for the door, keeping my head down trying to hide my tears. As I neared the exit, I saw that Elizabeth had reached the door at the very same moment. She looked at me and with her face full of sadness said, “That’s not the Baba I remember.” And we left the Hall together in silence. I was still trying to come to grips with the absence of His dynamic and lovely Man-form.
Baba had arranged that the darshan program end with a trip to Meherabad and Meherazad. At Meherabad, we all went to the tomb to bow down to Baba’s form. I remember Elizabeth coming out of the samadhi with a smile on her face saying, “When I saw the photo of Baba at the head of the crypt it was as if Baba was saying, “Look Elizabeth, I’m not down there, I’m up here!” (At that time, the photo in the tomb was the one of Baba gesturing as if He were conducting an orchestra.)
I, on the other hand, was dreading this moment. I had a vivid memory from our visit to Meherabad in 1962, when Baba had asked us to visit His Samadhi. I was desperately unhappy walking down into the empty crypt, knowing Baba was back in Poona. It felt a bit frightening and cold. At that moment in 1969, when it came my turn, I remember bowing down and immediately feeling, “Oh, Baba isn’t in here!” In the next moment, I was filled with joy and light. I felt Baba’s happiness that I had come, that we had all come, as Francis expressed it, “to bow down to Him in our hearts”. I found, as did so many at the Great Darshan, that He resides, and had always resided in my heart. This was to be the beginning of my inner journey, my real journey with Beloved Baba. It was the beginning of finding His dynamic and lovely God-form within, which will forever remain the great miracle of His Love. What a might Beloved our Beloved is!