Darshan is to bask in the presence of a saint or holy being; to be so fully swathed in their presence, that their innate radiance shines even within you. While topically the experience may seem like people hanging out in an interpersonal exchange, there is something much deeper going on. It’s an opening of sorts, to the intrinsic, connected oneness that underlies what we generally experience as a dualistic reality. To experience true darshan just once on this physical plane is to be in an immensely auspicious incarnation, but to be steeped in daily darshans for weeks on end with a saint as luminous and grace-endowing as Neem Karoli Baba, is an opportunity of a thousand lifetimes ripened. This very rare and fortunate gift was bestowed upon the young Westerners who came along with Ram Dass to spend time with Maharajji in Kainchi in the autumn of 1971.
Devotees having darshan of Maharajji (from Maharajji.com)
Leaving their fruitful, but makeshift retreat in Kausani upon hearing news that Maharajji was back in Kainchi, Ram Dass and the Westerners trekked their way South to the remarkably serene setting of Neem Karoli Baba’s Kainchi Dham Ashram, which would pose the backdrop for what would turn out to be nearly seven full weeks of consistent darshans. The matter of where this expanding throng of Westerners could stay during this time was easily answered, as a hotel run by a family of close Indian devotees was just a little over ten miles away in Nainital. The Evelyn Hotel, owned and operated by the accommodating and gracious Sah family, became a home base for the Western devotees who came together to make daily visits to Kainchi for darshan of Maharajji.
A beautiful photo of the Kainchi Ashram from the nkbashram.org website
The Sah’s sincerely and tenderly opened up their lives and hearts to the young Westerners, treating each of them as true extensions of their own family. These weeks, completely submerged in satsang, helped reinforce and fortify what were already strong bonds between devotees. The Westerners who took place in what turned out to be an ashram-esque experience at the Evelyn Hotel in the autumn of 1971 affectionately call this pivotal time “Nainital High.” As elucidated so eloquently by Parvarti Markus in her book Love Everyone, “All in all, those seven weeks of almost daily darshans with Maharajji in Kainchi were an immersion into the heart of the bhakti experience. It also forged us as a satsang, with ties that have lasted now for well over forty years. We may not see each other often, but when we do get together it’s as if no time has passed at all.” It is my hope that this trip does the same for all of us.
The infamous "Nainital High" photograph featured in Love Everyone (originally taken by Rameshwar Das) Love and Blessings, James