The True Seeker’s path is seldom an easy one, marked out as it is from the ordinary, and so was the case with Mira Bai. Once, as a young girl, Mira was looking out of a palace window and beheld a marriage procession passing by. She turned to her mother and asked,
Oh Mother, who will my bridegroom be?
Her mother was a great devotee of Lord Krishna, and so she said,
Girdhara Gopala (Krishna) is your bridegroom.
In a very simple and sincere way Mira took her mother’s words to heart. While other children would be out playing she would spend her time in worship of Lord Krishna. Like an ideal wife she would attend the family idol of Krishna.1
As might be expected, this unusual behaviour alarmed Mira’s family and so they arranged a marriage for Mira at a very early age. Her husband was a Rajput prince of noble but worldly character, and it was hoped that he would bring Mira to her senses. However, when the ceremony took place Mira was so wrapped up in thoughts of Krishna she hardly noticed her new husband.2
Her new family were worshippers of the Goddess Durga – Shakti. Mira humbly told them that as her heart was dedicated to Krishna she could bow before no other god or goddess. Despite all their pleadings she remained adamant, although asking their forgiveness in her humility.3
The well of Mira’s devotion was deep and because her worship stemmed from a True Desire for the Lord she rose above mere idolatry and at length sought out the True Power of Krishna: the Hari Naam. She would spend all of her spare time in the company of wandering holy men or yogis, seeking for a True Saint. She scrupulously kept up her household and wifely duties in an ideal way, but once done the time was spent in worship of the Lord.4
Rumors began to spread that she was keeping the company of bad men, and it became a matter of shame for her family and constant harassment for Mira.
In the company of the Sadhus I sacrificed my world and my modesty. I rushed to meet a Holy Man when one appeared, and wept when the worldly crossed my path […] To the Lord the servant Mira has consigned herself; what cares she for the rumours that be current all around!5
Each day of her search her ardour increased and at last she came to her True Master, Ravidas. Unlike other Holy Men He lived as a low-caste householder. The people would ridicule Him because He worked with the skins of dead animals to make shoes. But He was Word personified, a Real Saint.
When Mira Bai came to Him, He recognised the great fame burning in her heart and so bestowed upon her the rare boon of Naam-Initiation.
In my search I met the deliverers – the Saint and the Holy Naam. Thenceforward the Naam within and the Saint overhead have lit my path.6
I met my Satguru, Saint Ravidas, Who gave rile a souvenir in the shape of the Name of God.7
At the very time of initiation a True Master imparts a first-hand experience of God to the disciple:
Immediately the Guru initiated me, giving me the maha-mantra, I witnessed Lord Girdhar standing in front of me. The search to know the Path, which I was carrying on for so long, was rewarded: I met my Satguru. And immediately I renounced the lordly style in which I had dwelt.8
When her work was done, Mira would now spend her time in the Satsang of Ravidas or else she would retire in solitude and do her meditation. Her steadfast and devout conduct did not go unrewarded, and Mira made quick headway on the Inner Path. Her extraordinary desire for God developed into extreme bhakti.
At times, like all devotees, she suffered from separation or barrenness, and at these times she wrote hymns so moving that tears of longing well up when they are sung:
The life is gone in agony of separation, the sight I have lost through tears. Had I known that to love was to invite pain, to the beat of drum in the city I would have proclaimed: Let none love. I stand waiting, watching Thy course, cleansing Thy path. Mira’s Lord, when will You meet her? On meeting Thee she will find peace.9
Oh, the pain of my heart – my Beloved only knows it! Oh, my Beloved, Thou hast pierced my heart with the arrow of Thy Love. My heart burns and yearns for a glimpse of Thy face. Oh, the pain of my heart! Oh, grant me this prayer, oh Beloved! Take away this veil and let my eyes drink deep of Thy Holy Beauty – and thus quench my thirst and relieve my pain! Oh, the pain of my heart.10
In all ways the Guru Ravi Das was a perfect example for Princess Mira. Once, wishing to show something of her appreciation for the Master, Mira brought a large ruby for His use. Ravi Das kindly told her that He had no need for such wealth, but Mira insisted.
Put it in that hole in the wall.
It so happened that Mira Bai was unable to see the Master for a long while, but when she finally returned, He was still living in His little hut.
Did You not use the ruby I gave you?
Oh – you might find it where you left it.11
Learning from her Master, Mira was becoming a Gurumukh disciple, reflecting the Guru’s Saintly ways. Far from admiring her serene life, her family felt that her unworldly ways were leading to madness and disgrace. Not only did she keep the company of Holy Men; now she had even taken a low-caste cobbler for her Guru! In one way or another they tried to persuade her to leave the Spiritual Path, but to no avail.
Mother! Do not stop me from dwelling among the Saints, for in Their hearts the Lord’s Name is inscribed. Mother! Why do you rebuke me by saying, ‘Oh my daughter! Why this arrogance on thy part? Ye stay out in Satsang in the night at times when people enjoy pleasant sleep. Why this madness?’ My answer is emphatic: ‘The world is foolish which does not love the Lord Rama. Do you not know that he who loves the Lord Hari knows no sleep?12
When her sister-in-law begged her to stay away from her Master Ravi Das, Mira told her,
The slur of hundreds of thousands of lives departs on association with a Saint. The slur is on one who does not love Their company. My life depends on the company of a Saint. To anyone who does not like this company, your remonstrance would be proper.13
When such means did not work, Mira’s family began to use more extreme methods. Thinking her behaviour was the result of an unbalanced mind, they persuaded her to live in a haunted house, hoping perhaps to frighten Mira into submission. Mira, immersed in Simran, calmly passed through the ordeal with a blissful mind, seeing the house as just one more abode of the Lord.14
The father-in-law’s frustration at Mira’s conduct at last grew unbearable and he thought he must do away with her once and for all. Sending her a sweet drink, he slipped some poison into it. When Mira took a little sip, she immediately recognised the poison. Her only fear was that if she died in such a way it might tend to discourage people from devoting their lives to God. However; leaving it in the Master’s hands, she happily drank the cup and awaited her death. Miraculously nothing happened; in fact, Mira appeared more healthy and glowing than ever.15
Not long after this, Mira’s sister also plotted to kill her and had a cobra sent to Mira in a basket of flowers. When the cobra saw Mira, it grew very blissful and bowed its head before her, recognising the Love of God that overflowed from her. Even Mira’s brother wanted to kill her and he had a starved lion let loose on Mira as she was walking to the temple where she did her devotion. Seeing Mira in an ecstatic mood, the lion was also overcome with joy and laid his head on her feet in reverence.16
Other tortures were also tried on Mira Bai, but lost as she was in the remembrance of God, she was always protected.
Mira’s husband, though worldly in character, was deeply impressed by these experiences of Mira, and had a temple built especially for her worship.17
News of Mira’s exploits and of her God-intoxicated nature reached the Muslim emperor Akbar. He was always interested in meeting a truly Spiritual Person, and he decided to go see her. However, as the Muslims and the Rajput Hindus of Mira’s kingdom were bitter enemies, he went disguised as a recluse. When he beheld Mira and listened to her speak, the emperor was deeply stirred and bowed again and again before her. After he left, his true identity was discovered. When Mira’s husband found out that the Mughal emperor had been to see his wife, he was furious beyond control, for in his heart he bore a fierce hatred of the Mughals.
Could a Muslim dare to approach a Rajput lady, even to make an offering, and leave the soil of Rajputana safe? Fie on the Rajputs who heard the news and did not take revenge!18
Inflamed by such fanatical thoughts, the prince thought his wife polluted. He rashly ordered her to forever leave his palace and drown herself in some river. Mira Bai promised to obey, and headed for the nearest river and jumped in. But the Master-Power once again came to her rescue and tossed her back to the shore.
The Divine Voice came to her, saying,
Your life with your mortal husband is over; now you have a higher duty to perform. It is for you to set a high example to the world and show men how to fulfil the designs of the Creator and become absorbed in Him.19
Mira rose and first headed towards the fabled lanes of Brindaban, where once Lord Krishna sported with the Gopi maidens. On arriving she went to see Jiv Gosain, a famous priest there, but he would not see her because she was a woman. Mira Bai said that she had thought that only Krishna – God – was male and that everyone else – souls – was female. On hearing this Jiv Gosain came out barefooted to do her homage.20
Mira Bai would often liken the Lord to Krishna, speaking of the beautiful Sound that came from his flute, the drum that announced his presence, the bells that adorned his waist and the sweet sounding cuckoo that flew about him. His face was like the full moon with a glowing crown, on his feet were radiant trinkets and he danced on a wonderful lotus. In this and other ways she described the Inner Lights and Sounds of the Spiritual Worlds and the transcendental beauty of the True Master.21
As Mira went about, people would be magically drawn to her and little children especially would flock around her. In her simple way she explained the Inner Path in a way they could understand and told them stories of God and His Saints.
Footnotes: 1) Bankey Behari, ‘Bhakta Mira’ (Bombay, 1961), p. 36; Max Arthur Macauliffe, ‘The Sikh Religion’ (New Delhi, 1963), Vol. VI, p. 343. 2) Behari, op. cit., pp. 37–38; Macauliffe, op. cit., pp. 343–344. 3) Behari, op. cit., p. 39. 4) Ibid., pp. 38, 76–77, 130–131; Hermann Goetz, ‘Miru Bai, Her Life & Times’ (Bombay, 1966), pp. 40–41. 5) Behari, op. cit., pp. 41–42. 6) Ibid., p. 42. 7) Ibid., p. 77. 8) Ibid., p. 132. 9) Ibid., p. 86. 10) Sat Sandesh, Vol III, No 10, October 1970. 11) From the discourses of the Living Master Kirpal Singh Ji, reflecting the living tradition of Mira’s life still extant in India. 12) Behari, op. cit., p. 100. 13) Macauliffe. op. cit., p. 345. 14) Behari, op. cit., p. 133; R.C. Tandan, ‘Songs of Mira Bai’ (Allahabad, 1934), p. 66. 15) Macauliffe, op. cit., pp. 346–347. 16) Arran Stephens, ‘On Tour with the Master,’ Sat Sandesh, Vol III, No 8, August 1970. See Note 11. 17) Behari, op. cit., p. 42. 18) Ibid., pp. 42–44; Macauliffe, op. cit., pp. 350–351. 19) Ibid., p. 353. 20) Ibid., p. 353. 21) Tandan, op. cit., pp. 25, 30, 44, 46, 60; Behari, op. cit., pp. 64, 88. 93, 104, 123.