Symbols of the world's religions



Charmian Knowles

Baba planned to give darshan in our apartment in New York on July 18, 19, and 20 [1952]. Mother [Ivy O. Duce] received an astounding seven hundred phone calls asking for appointments with him.

The world of the "finite" began stirring the pot almost as soon as the darshan was announced. One day I was once again driving the women into town for doctor appointments, and they joined Mother and me for lunch at the apartment. Just as they were about to leave, we discovered the elevator had broken down. Since we were fourteen stories up and I didn't want them to miss their appointments, I ran down the stairs and convinced the elevator operator to bring up the service elevator. Now we were really nervous. In less than forty-eight hours, throngs of people would be coming for darshan, with no way up to the Highest of the High. But as often happened in these crises, somehow Baba arranged for the elevator to work in time.

Mother and her students went to great lengths to make the apartment comfortable for Baba. They jury-rigged a sort of couch for him from which he could give darshan, using my mattress and a backrest. They filled the room with flowers, and at Baba's request, they placed a bowl of fruit by the couch. They would be his prasad, a gift imbued by his touch with divine love and offered to each person who came to him.

Baba had also asked us to place a poster in the living room and to ask people to read it before seeing him. It read:

I am equally approachable to one and all, big and small,
To saints who rise and sinners who fall.
Through all the various Paths that give the Divine Call.
I am approachable alike to saint whom I adore
And to sinner whom I am for,
And equally through Sufism, Vedantism, Christianity,
Or Zoroastrianism and Buddhism,
And other "isms" of any kind
And also directly
Through no medium of "isms" at all.

On the first morning of darshan, July 18, I drove to Scarsdale before dawn to bring Baba to the apartment. He hadn't slept for many nights and was exhausted — so exhausted that at first he said he couldn't go through with the event. But after a while, he agreed, and we were back at the apartment by 6:00 a.m. Once the darshan began, we witnessed an astonishing transformation in Baba. Mother aptly described it by saying that after the first few interviews, Baba looked like a drooping flower that had just been watered. He himself said, "You see, so much love has revived me."

I remember the phone ringing incessantly that week. I remember people coming in to see Baba from all over and from all walks of life. They arrived unsure, curious, hopeful, and sometimes wary, the homeless hearts of the age of science. They left comforted and enraptured. I remember the wondrous sight of people after they had seen him. Many wept from the bottom of their hearts. One woman later wrote me, "The divine love emanating from the Perfect Master was so overpowering, it shook me to the very depths of my being."

During the days of the darshan, Baba told Mother, "Charmian will have to be very, very sick next year." Then he added, "But I will take care of it." I was sick then, still suffering from the cold I'd contracted in Myrtle Beach. The "very, very" part was ahead.

On the twentieth, Baba met with us to discuss further his wishes for the Sufi order and his plans to finish the book God Speaks, which he wanted Sufism to publish. He also discussed the charter for Sufism Reoriented, promising to send a completed charter with his signature after he returned to India. He jettisoned many of the old practices of the order and replaced them with only two; the repetition of his name and a daily meditation on him.

When the darshan in our apartment was over, I took my mattress back upstairs to my bedroom. I was ecstatic. The Avatar had spent three days on that mattress, so surely a blissful sleep awaited me. Instead, the nights were torturous! When Mother and I discussed this, we came to understand that although Baba radiated love and light to all who came to see him, inside he was experiencing incalculable suffering for the entire universe, and the mattress was drenched in that suffering.


SPREAD MY LOVE, pp. 59-60
2004 © Sufism Reoriented


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