The experience was unique. It appositely happened at Prasanthi Nilayam, where the extra ordinary, is ordinary the supernatural, natural.
It was around 7 O' Clock, on the evening of January 27, 1974. It must have been an exhausting, exasperating day for Swami, if only He were not Swami. That morning, He started granting audience around 9:30, and the interviews lasted until 12:20 P.M. Since the Bhajan at the Nilayam is rounded off by Swami whenever He is physically present there, we had an unusual spell of 80 minutes long Bhajan before He came to the Hall and ended the session.
I wondered at His marvellous freshness, when He came out after granting interviews for nearly three long hours. And, I knew, in the `interviews', it is He who does all the talking and that too, in a strained muffled voice so that others do not hear. Moreover He knows the minds of each and every one of the interviewed, and the majority of those minds are sure to reveal an abundance of black spots, or, only a few bright spots in a black circle. An atmosphere which is bound to depress most of us!
What happened in the evening was even more astonishing. He began the interviews as early as 3 45. Again, it was a marathon session, extending to near 7 O' Clock. Thus, on that particular day, He had talked for nearly six hours, with people suffering from physical and mental maladies. It was not only talking; He gave them the balm of His Benediction. What astounding energy! Enters Swami into the Bhajan Hall, vivacious as the Ganga, and lithely ascends the Dais to sit with a hop on the silver chair. O, What a sight! There sits Nishkama Karma, in pristine freshness and joy, utterly untouched by strain or tedium ...Five hundred throats sing in unison: "Sundara Rupa, Sri Sai Deva": (Lord Sai, of Charming Form)....
I feel the thrill all through me. `Sundara Rupa!' Yes. How beautiful! How very beautiful! Breath taking beauty; Breath-giving Beauty! The breath of the 'I' is suspended and the breath gets near the Breath of Life itself. How am I to describe that experience of being face to Face with Beauty? There was, it must be stated, the Face to be looked at and a face looking at It. But, the notion of separateness was very thin. Shedding their smallness, my eyes were slaking their thirst avidly at the Sundara Rupa before them. They were wide and un winking, and experiencing the immenseness of His Beauty. My eyes did not allow my ears to listen any further to the Bhajan.
As we came out of the Hall, I told my friends, "It does not matter if He does not grant me the interview this time. It does not matter even if He leaves Prasanthi Nilayam, this moment. I am filled up.” And, believe it or not, when we woke upon the morn, to hear that Swami had left Parthi! ....It made no change; the indelible impress and the irrepressible aroma of the Superb Darshan were pulsating in my core.
Even now, four months later, that Darshan continues to baffle analysis and beggar description. The trailing cadences of the actual experience are still sweetly resonant, within. O, It was Beauty, sui generic. It was the Beauty of Beauty, itself.
I must say that I have been blessed to drown my heart in the flood of Beauty many a time before January 27, 1974, when I looked at the setting sun, or the billows of the sea, or a mountain cliff or a moon lit scene. I have seen the beauty of Peace on the face of Anandamayi. I have seen the beauty of Purity on the face of the Sage of Kanchi.
Speaking of the physical beauty of the human form, I have seen many, far more `handsome' than Swami. But, what was it that elevated the beauty that evening, above the holy beauty of sea and mountain of sun and moon, and placed it along with the consumingly Divine Beauty of, say, the entrancing Idol of Kamakshi at Kanchi, or of the Nataraj at Chidambaram, or Balaji at Tirupati? The Beauty was identical with Truth and Goodness. It proved Keats right: "Beauty is Truth; Truth, Beauty.” And Sappho too, who wrote, "What is beautiful is Good.” Our own seers experienced the coalescence of this Trinity of Truth, Beauty and Goodness, when they proclaimed that God is Sathyam, Sivam, Sundaram. It is not the beauty of God; but, Beauty that is God. So, it is identical with Being, with the Self. I am ever grateful that Swami did the supreme miracle that evening, of maintaining a thin line of separateness between the seen Face and the seeing face, so that I could taste the nectar to my fill.
It is now clear to me, why the Shakti (the Potency) of Brahman is named Tripura sundari; I now understand, why God is called Pra nava, 'Pra' is that which is most primeval; `nava' is that which is newest. Pranava means that Time cannot exhaust or extinguish Its freshness. In the words of Tagore, It is chira nutana; eternally new.
How I wish that the Rishi of the Saundarya Marga (the Path of Beauty), Tagore had the Darshan on the evening of 27 January, so that we could share his thrill through poems from a new Gitanjali, in place of this pedestrian account in prose.
But, Swami has a partiality for the prattle of His little ones; I know He would lovingly accept these lines, which do not even touch the fringe of the experience He vouchsafed to me.
( an extract from theSeptember 1975 issue of Sanathana Sarathi)