Who would you be with right now?

Sit in Peace, Trafalgar Square, 31 March 2012

If you could be with anyone, anywhere right this moment, who and where would you choose?

Maybe you would pick a celebrity you have always admired, or maybe the face of a loved one, past or present, springs to mind. After still reeling from the effects of the Sit in Peace mass meditation event in Trafalgar Square two weeks ago, I would choose to be in the presence of an enlightened master, anywhere.

Someone who is enlightened has achieved a profound inner state of peace. They are able to silence the unnecessary disturbances of the mind and detach themselves from worries about the past or frets about the future and live with calmness and compassion. Their disposition has the power to captivate those in their presence.

Before Thich Nhat Hanh – or Thay – appeared on the stage in the busy heart of London, people were milling around on a day where the weather had suddenly taken a turn for the slightly worse: grey clouds hung heavily overhead and a chilly breeze wove its way among the crowd.

Gradually, people settled down onto the ground, with their folded blankets and cushions. Chatter infused the air, until the moment Thay appeared on the stage. A synchronised, unassuming silence gently fell on the audience and everyone’s gaze was transfixed ahead of them.

Cocooned in silence

In his gentle, calming voice, Thay guided the mass into a brief meditation. The distant sounds of traffic seemed further away than they really were, as I was cocooned inside the silence within myself. Thay then spoke of compassion, mindfulness and inner peace, telling stories and giving guidance on how to be loving and patient with one another.

After his talk, the nuns and monks who surrounded him on the stage proceeded to sing their chant of Avalokiteshvara, which intends to relieve the suffering of the world. I felt a gentle surge of energy run through me and then I suddenly became overcome with emotion. To my surprise, I could see others sniffling and holding back their tears too. I had never been so deeply affected by any event in London.

The ancient Indian concept of ‘Darshan’ may be one that you may or may not have heard of. It basically means a deeply felt connection and being blessed from simply ‘seeing’ an enlightened person, a deity or a sacred item. When I first came across the definition of this term, I was not sure what to make of it. Until I first experienced it.

Last year, I met an Indian guru, Shri Shivarudra Balayogi Maharaj, at a three-night retreat at the Park Place Centre, run by humble Indian Roman Catholic nuns, in Hampshire.

All of the guests patiently awaited the arrival of Babaji, as he is affectionately known, like well-behaved school children told to sit quietly until their headmaster arrives. The musicians fine-tuned their instruments and individuals glanced around tentatively at their fellow, obedient pupils of a spiritual classroom. I really didn’t know what to expect, but was looking forward to my first meeting with a Guru.

Babaji’s arrival

Then, Babaji slowly walked into the room, accompanied by two disciples, and we immediately rose to our feet. His body was wrapped in a simple, pink loincloth and his hair was disheveled with two long, flat dreadlocks sitting lifelessly on his shoulders.

He had a kind face with big eyes and a warm smile that expressed a childlike innocence. As soon as he walked past me, I felt a sudden rush of energy: a heaviness that led to uncontrollable tears.

Everything weighed down on me – his presence, his incredibly moving life story that I had read about, my need for peace and something more that I couldn’t explain – and crushed all emotions out of my body and into a streaming flood of tears. It was only after going deep into the experience that I realised my feelings were valid and meaningful.

The most unbelievable part was that it didn’t seem to me like there was a human body present in front of me. His physical form seemed like a soft, hazy outline and there was a deeper world in his eyes.

Describing it in words seems to pale in comparison to the actual emotions felt at the time. Looking for scientific reasoning behind such experiences may be the start of an endless search. Science cannot prove everything and such deeply spiritual moments exemplify that truth.

However, it is a proven fact that we are made of and surrounded by energy, which can shed some reasoning into the sensation that is felt during group meditations, and being in the presence of someone who has attained a spiritual level that causes a profound, rippling effect on those around them.

The life changing effect of Darshan has to be experienced with an open heart and mind to be believed and truly understood; experiencing is believing. If I had a choice, I would live in those moments.

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