Can You See Me Now?
On a recent Saturday morning, my local sangat received word that we were invited to a live video Q&A session with Baba Ji, to be held at the regional Science of the Soul Study Center. I was overjoyed by the news, but the timing was unfortunate, as we were in the middle of an unusual gasoline shortage affecting this area of the country. About 60–70 percent of all gas stations in the state where the Center was located were out of gasoline.
Luckily, I had just filled my tank, and I knew that a full tank would get me to the Center. I was ready to drive five hours for zoom darshan! Wait, is zoom darshan a thing? As I threw some toiletries and snacks into my bag, I felt Baba Ji’s presence – not in my soul (where, we’re told, his shabd form resides), not at Dera, not wherever he happened to be geographically (or spiritually), but in the state of North Carolina, where the video session was to be held. That is a geographic state, my friends, not the state of my soul. Whatever. He was in the worldwide web and so was I, and we were going to connect there, via a video screen an afternoon’s drive away, me dragging my poor neglected soul along like a filth-encrusted jewel in a battered suitcase.
Speeding down the highway, I wondered if I was crazy. I was traveling nearly 300 miles (480 km), with an uncertain ability to refill my gas tank so that I could return home, just to sit in a room with a few hundred other people to watch a digital projection of Baba Ji. Sure, it would be a big screen, but his body would be elsewhere. Did that count as darshan? And what about the ride home? What if I couldn’t refill my gas tank? What if I ran out of gas somewhere on the highway?
To heck with it. God would provide – or not. This was an invitation to sit with the guru in a live chat, and I didn’t plan on missing it. I felt as if I was going to see Baba Ji in person, and, as it turned out, I was.
If Jesus Christ could distribute enough food – the proverbial loaves and fishes – for a multitude on a hillside 2,000 years ago, Baba Ji could manage to make himself available to a few hundred people while he was sitting in his own room thousands of miles away.
I arrived at my hotel safely, with half a tank of gas to spare. The next morning, lo and behold, the gas station across the street was stocked with plenty of gas. I know we’re not supposed to tell miracle stories; so this is not a miracle story! Nor is it a miracle that eager, overjoyed sevadars had gathered at the Center at a day’s notice to organize our video chat with the guru. On our entry into the hall, sevadars ensured that we were all masked and checked those of us with vaccination cards; ushers led us to our seats; and, most important, techies orchestrated the true miracle (even though this isn’t a miracle story): a live internet connection between us and Baba Ji, wherever he was.
Suddenly he popped up on the two large video monitors suspended from the ceiling. He looked, well, adorable. Am I allowed to say that? He seemed to have a little bit of that questioning, fumbling look that people of a certain age get when clicking onto a technically challenging video call. It was endearing. And so was the huge exercise machine looming above his left shoulder, and the tiny black-and-white photo of Hazur over his right, way in the background.
We were definitely looking at Baba Ji himself. He was animated. I’m calling it – it felt like darshan; it looked like darshan; it seemed like darshan; it was darshan – zoom darshan. So intimate, so personal, and yet we were separated by several thousand miles. But surely our souls are not separated; time and space are illusions, mental concepts. Now we are connected not only mystically with our satguru inside, but on the worldwide web of love and unity pulsing through cyberspace. If shabd imbues everything in this creation, surely shabd can manage to permeate the internet.
Honestly, I don’t know what I’m talking about. But now, a day later, I know that yesterday I sat in the presence of our Baba Ji. It wasn’t imaginary, it wasn’t “just” his image on a video screen – he was with us. He wanted it to happen, and we wanted it to happen. He orchestrated the sevadars to initiate the connection, and he responded, clicking the right link (to us), thereby closing the circle. Suddenly he appeared before us, an apparent miracle of the cyber age. Most striking of all was that it seemed perfectly normal. We asked him questions, and he answered them. As he gazed at each questioner and each of them gazed at him, the rest of us got to gaze at him too. He answered every question with his customary love, attentiveness, insight, and charm, but his words were really not the point.
This was the first satsang most of us had attended in more than a year. Sitting together after the trauma and difficulty of the past year was a treat in itself, but to have living, breathing Baba Ji there with us was … well, it was really cool. Words can’t describe what it’s like to be with our master inside or outside, whether that “outside” is in time or space or some other dimension.
An old satsangi friend liked to call Hazur Maharaj Ji “the modern mystic saint of Beas.” Hazur certainly was a saint of a new age and was the first one in the Radha Soami line of masters to travel throughout the world. What then is Baba Ji? The post-modern mystic saint of cyberspace? Masters come to teach their disciples in every era, and they deliver their teachings appropriate to the time and place in which they live. Their seva is to deliver the teachings of all saints, from every time and place. Nothing can stop them from doing their seva of encouraging us to do our meditation and be good human beings. Not a pandemic of a deadly virus, not a gas shortage, not our own limited beliefs about who the master is, what he does, or how he does it.
The worldwide web has no borders. Baba Ji wants us eventually to graduate from outside space, where time and geography reign, to inside space, where we will be merged forever with his Shabd form and no time exists. In the meantime, cyberspace seems a happy medium, a liminal space where illness, weather conditions, and gas shortages do not prevent us from connecting with our Master with the click of a link. Our post-modern mystic of cyberspace is using the tools at hand to urge us toward our ultimate connection, where no links or video screens – or gasoline – are necessary.