James's Reviews > The Essential Sri Anandamayi Ma: Life and Teachings of a 20th Century Indian Saint

The Essential Sri Anandamayi Ma by Sri Anandamayi Ma
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Aug 06, 11


Darśana (दर्शन), literally 'sight,' is from the Sanskrit root dṛś, 'to see,' as in beholding something divine, such as a deva, an especially holy person, or the subtle form of one's mantra (mantradarśana).

Even meditating on a photo of a saint is a form of darśana. It is said that photos of Anandamayi Ma lend themselves especially well to that pursuit.

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There are a couple of stories about darśana that reveal how it is revered in Indian culture.

The first story concerns a disciple who was studying at the feet of his guru. Although he was in close proximity to the teacher, he nevertheless felt moved to ask him the value of darśana.

The guru instructed him to walk hundreds of miles to the coast, to find a sailing ship, to sail around the world to a distant land, to walk to the ruling city of that foreign land, to locate the castle of the king of that land, and to knock on the front door.

At that moment, to the disciple's astonishment, a bird, which had been singing delightfully on a branch of a tree, fell to the ground, dead.

Nevertheless, the disciple picked up his gear, walked to the coast, boarded a ship, sailed to the foreign land, walked inland, located the castle of the king, and, years after having departed on his journey, knocked on the front door.

The king opened the door. "O, King," declared the disciple, "what is the value of darśana?"

The king look intently at the disciple and replied, "I was the bird."

The second story concerns two disciples who were going to the ashram of Shri Ramakrishna. As they walked along, they passed through a red-light district of town, and one of the men said, "Why don't we enjoy ourselves here for a while, and then go on to the ashram?" His friend did not think that was a good, idea. And so while the one friend continued on to the ashram, the other man entered a house of pleasure and enjoyed congress of the flesh.


When he had finished, he hurried to Ramakrishna's ashram, where he found his friend sitting at the seat of the master. He felt guilty, and confessed to Ramakrishna what he had done instead of receiving his darśana.

Ramakrishna looked at the two and replied that actually the man who had gone to the house of pleasure had received his darśana, whereas his friend had not. He explained that all the while the fellow enjoying himself in the house of pleasure was thinking intently of Ramakrishna, whereas the other fellow, sitting at the feet of Ramakrishna, was thinking about the house of pleasure and regretting that he had not stopped by there first.

Anandamayi ma was one of the great Indian saints of the twentieth century. A saint's presence is in his or her teachings.

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