Quote of the day: DARSHAN

August 9, 2012


Thanks to Kerouac, Ginsberg and the Beats, notions of karma and dharma had become common currency, but words like moksha, bhakti, and rocana were new to me. Terms like these didn’t lend themselves to straightforward translations because they were ideas that did not have an equivalent in our limited western consciousness. One concept that did make sense was darshan: the act of divine seeing, of revelation. This was what Hindus went to the temple for: to see their god, to have him or her revealed to them. The more attention paid to a god, the more it was looked at, the greater its power, the more easily it could be seen. You went to see your god and, in doing so, you contributed to its visibility; the aura emanating from it derived in part from the power bestowed on it.

It was an easy idea to grasp because of its secular equivalent, the worship of celebrity. The more celebrities were photographed, the stronger their aura of celebrity became. I’d once seen David Beckham step off a coach at La Manga in Spain. Obviously, I’d seen photographs of him before and now the cumulative effect of having seen all those photographs was making itself felt. The flash of camera lights made him radiant, glossy, divine. I saw him in all his Beckhamness and Beckhamitude….

It is not enough to perform a god-like action. It must be seen – ideally, by the gods. I wasn’t sure of the extent to which darshan was a reciprocal idea. Of course the gods needed to be seen, but did they also like to watch? Were they spectators too? Did they look at us with all the love and awe with which we – or some of us – regarded them? If that was the case, then the earlier comparison with Beckham and celebrity was faulty. For the one thing celebrities are not free to do is to look. The sunglasses they are obliged to hide behind are the symbolic expression of the blindness to which they are condemned by always being looked at.

— Geoff Dyer, Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi

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