Before we leave, can I please have one photo with you?”he asks while taking a camera out of his pocket and handing it to his friend. “Of course,”I say and I start to move nearer to
him. I am typically opposed to random people taking pictures with me and try to discourage it. However, when the universe has already denied him so much, I cannot deny him anything more. With some eye that hasn’t been blind for the last sixty years, with some faculty as yet unknown to modern science, he aligns himself exactly next to me, without laying a single hand on my body. “Smile,” he commands with a laugh, as his mouth widens into a full toothed grin which spreads across his entire face. The camera flashes in our eyes. He doesn’t blink, of course. “Take one more,” he instructs his friend. “Just in case.”
What will he do with this photo? He could neither see me sitting in front of him nor see the camera that he removed from his pocket nor see the rushing Ganga that flows outside the ashram. He can see nothing, as he lost the power to see at the age of eight or nine. Yet, he sees more than I do. He sees more than nearly anyone I know.
The list of organisations he has initiated and headedwould put any successful philanthropist to shame. An active Rotarian, president of an NGOdedicated towomen’s welfare, a leader in the blind movement in USA and India. He led India’s first march for equal rights for the blind, only to be lathi-charged by the police who thoughtthe peaceful marchers’ canes were sticks. Grabbed from behind and tossed into a police van, attacked and beaten along with his fellow conspirators, before anyone inuniform realized the reason no-one’s eyes squeezed shut before the lathi struck their heads. Yet he laughs as he describes it. There isn’t a trace of bitterness or anger, just lessons well learned.
As he’s getting ready to leave he asks me for literature, documents, on our organization, on Pujya Swamiji’s work. I put a pile of brochures and books into his outstretched hands, touching his fingers. “This is a brochure of our Foundation, this is Pujya Swamiji’s book on Peace,” I tell him, as he gingerly fingers each book with the loving and eager attention of a child feeling his mother’s face for the first time. “Unfortunately,” I stammer, slightly embarrassed, “we don’t have any books on tape, although after meeting you I realizethat maybe we should under-take that as well.” He smiles. “Oh, don’t worry. I will use thesetwo eyes to read them. I willfind a way.”
Later, seated in Pujya Swamiji’s jyopri (bamboo hut my new friend bows down low to that which is Light to us and yet couldn’t have been anything other than continued darkness for his non-seeing eyes. How did he know, before Pujya Swamiji even spoke, where to bow? How did he know the exact perfect angle at which to lay his head
so that it was just in front of Pujya Swamiji’s feet? How did his otherwise vacant eyes shine when
he lifted his head? What had been perceived?
Hinduism talks about a third eye, an energy centre (or chakra) located on the forehead between the eyebrows.
It is said that this eye, when awakened, is the eye of clearvision, the eye which sees truth amidst untruth, which sees light amidst darkness, which sees the path amidst the forest, the eye which sees the divine in all. Perhaps through losing the functioning in his two“normal” eyes, my friend has actually been gifted with heightened functioning in the third. It is well documented that losing one sense leads to an increased ability in the others. So, for example, it is a proven fact that blind people hear and smell better than seeing people. They are able to differentiate betweensounds and smells that most seeing people cannot. However, is it possible that in addition to having enhanced functioning in their other four senses, blind people – or at least those as spiritually inclined as my new friend – also have an easier time seeing with their third eye? Do we, so heavily and habitually dependent upon waves andpatterns of light and form to see, actually miss that which is before us? Do we, even those with peripheralvision intact, actually succumb to a different kind of tunnel-vision by assuming that that which we can“see” is limited to that which falls upon our retinas? Do we unconsciously filter out the other sight?
Perhaps, in exchange for the picture and books I gave him, my new friend could teach me how to see....