Prelude to Darshan: Fire & Flowers
After her radiant arrival and stirring satsang, Amma sang bhajans with us for over an hour, lifting her arms to the heavens, gathering energy and sending it out, laughing heartily, and crying out “Jai Ma!” throughout it all.
The final rite before darshan with Amma began was the “waving of the light” (Aarthi), a traditional ritual in which camphor is ceremoniously burned on a platter before the guru. Pairs of devotees waved a silver platter with little brass-colored pots of smoking camphor back and forth in front of Amma as she tossed handful after handful of flower petals onto them.
By the third round, Amma’s lap was strewn with petals, and the devotees in the front had petals in their hair and all about. Each aspect of this sacred ritual has deep symbolism; camphor leaves no trace as it burns and is symbolic of the dissipation of the devotee’s ego in order that they may become one with the Divine.
About that Hug…
When it was time for darshan to begin, Amma moved to the floor in front of the stage, where she was situated at the end of a two-lane darshan line consisting of rows of chairs. If you’ve ever been to see Amma, you know the drill. You get a token at the beginning of the evening with an assigned letter/number combo, then you wait for it to be your turn.
I had number U-1, which meant I was in for a long wait as they made their way, slowly, through the alphabet. Nothing to do but sit and soak up the bhajans, which continued throughout the night by a changing cast of musicians.
Finally, around 3:30 a.m., my number came up. The hall was still quite crowded, and Amma showed no signs of slowing down or taking a break, even though she had been hugging people for over five hours nonstop. The “chair line” was moving quite fast when I entered it: no sooner did I sit down when I had to stand and move to the next chair. It was somewhat comical, like a game of musical chairs on the way to receive the Guru’s graces.
As I got closer to Amma, I could feel the frenetic energy rising, as volunteers, aides and devotees crowded around her. Others were waiting for a turn to ask her a question, or were just lingering in her energy as long as possible. At the front of the chair line, volunteers gently push you to your knees, and you inch forward the last few feet, sandwiched tightly between the person ahead of you and the one behind you. It’s what I imagine it must be like on a crowded train in India.
Then, suddenly, you are there. Kneeling before Sri Mata Devi. The frenzy of the scene around me dissipated, the noisy hall quieted to a dull hum. There was only me and Ma. I was enveloped in her sheer white veils, smothered by her embrace, lulled by her deep whisper: “My daughter, my daughter.”
A Hug and A Kiss
And then it was over. A Hershey’s kiss was pressed into my palm as volunteers implored me to stand up quickly and make room for the next. A bit dazed, I was ushered to an area to the left of Amma, where it was possible to bask in the bhav of the Guru for a few moments longer. People were rotated through the dozen or so coveted spots rather quickly, depending on how quickly the hugs were happening. Each move of the line got you closer to Amma.
When I reached the front of this “post-hug” line, about three feet from where Amma sat, the line stopped moving. I was graced with a close-up view of her as she continued her embraces, even while a devotee stood next to her feeding her prasad (cut fruit, in this case) and imploring her to eat. I was mesmerized to witness this extraordinary woman up close, in all her Divine Humanness, eating fruit, chatting animatedly, and hugging her beloved “children” all at once. It was as if she had developed six arms, just like the legendary Hindu goddesses she evoked.
At that moment, she glanced in my direction. Our eyes met. Hers sparkled; mine teared up. She smiled. Then she went back to her hugging, and a gentle tap on my shoulder told me my time near Amma was up. That glance will stay with me.
Post-Script: Venus, Jupiter & the Moon
The program ended soon afterward. I left the cavernous, echoing hall at around 4:30 a.m., just as the night sky was giving way to the deep indigo tinge of pre-dawn. There was a crowd outside staring at the sky and chattering excitedly. I looked up to find a perfect planetary conjunction: Venus below, Jupiter above, with a sliver of the moon smack dab in the middle of them.
Wow, I thought. The planets really did line up.Please also see the other articles in the series: Pt. 1 – The Arrival (Photos/Video Link) Pt. 2 – Spellbound at Satsang with Amma (Quotes/Photos/Video Link) Pt. 3 – Devi Bhajans, Sung by the Devi (Video/Photos) Follow us on facebook to see all the pictures from Amma’s Public Program.