She knew how to love.
She might not be able to distinguish
splendor from filth
but she’d tasted the nectar of passion.
Might not know any Vedas,
but a chariot swept her away-
now she frolics in heaven,
ecstatically bound to her God.
The Lord of Fallen Fools, says Mira,
will save anyone
who can practice rapture like that
– From ‘The Plums Tasted Sweet’
by Meera bai
On Meera Jayanti (birth anniversary of Meera bai – 13 Oct 2019),
a contemplation on ‘true love’…
The word ‘love’ is a much misunderstood term in our world today — it is no wonder it is the cause of so much emotional anxiety and confusion. The search for ‘true love’ could even be said to be one of our most primal urges; the longing to connect profoundly and totally with another human being — be it a friend, lover, parent or our children.
Yet the sages have told us to look ‘within’ to find the source of our love, happiness, peace and joy. If true love is a feeling of complete ‘oneness’, then we cannot possibly achieve that in the world of objects, of opposites, of ‘this’ and ‘that’… Turning inwards, we must find that place that Rumi was pointing to when he said, ‘Out beyond ideas of wrong and right, there is a field. I’ll meet you there// When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about.’
But how to fall in love with the Source? How to fall in love with God?
Meera bai – in the footsteps of the Beloved
Meera (1499 BCE), the famous devotee of Lord Krishna, was born into a princely family in Marwar, Rajasthan. At a very young age, she became fascinated with Krishna, talking and playing with his idol, pouring all her love and affection onto it. Even when she was married to Rana Kumbha of Chittor, she inwardly maintained that she was married to Krishna to whom she had surrendered her life. Her ecstatic singing, dancing and talking with Krishna was not much liked by her husband and relatives who devised many ways of harassing her and dissuading her from her love for Krishna. On one occasion she wrote to Tulsidas, the poet-saint, to ask for his advice on dealing with her domestic matters. He replied in support of her devotion over her material affairs saying, ‘The opinion of holy saints is that the relation with God and love of God alone is true and eternal; all other relationships are unreal and temporary.’
Swami Sivananda gives a beautiful account of her life and devotion. In his words:
“Mira—a saint, a philosopher, a poet and a sage. She was a versatile genius and a magnanimous soul. Her life has a singular charm, with extraordinary beauty and marvel. She was a princess, but she abandoned the pleasures and luxuries incident to her high station, and chose instead, a life of poverty, austerity, Tyaga, Titiksha and Vairagya. Though she was a delicate young lady, she entered the perilous journey on the spiritual path amidst various difficulties. She underwent various ordeals with undaunted courage and intrepidity.”
Meera’s ardent longing and passionate devotion to Krishna reverberates in Indian culture to this day, with her many poems and songs still inspiring our hearts and minds (see some of her poems below).
Krishna, the Beloved, the one seated in the Heart of all hearts, is easily wooed. His profound charm is that he plays with equal ease and perfect rhythm as the wooer and the wooed. Sometimes we are the wooer, sometimes the wooed. The clever one will play this game to so confuse us that we forget whether we’re the wooer or the wooed, become fully lost in his dance and see all as it really is — Him alone, as the Absolute.
When he calls, no human heart can ignore; in that divine attraction, no human will stands a chance, a choiceness surrender happens. As Ma Sarada, the consort of Sri Ramakrishna used to say, somebody would play a flute at night at Dakshineshwar and she would feel the sound is coming from the Lord himself, and spontaneously enter into samadhi. Such is the magical spell cast by the ‘Chitchor’ – the stealer of hearts…
The art of losing oneself
Bhakti means devotion – becoming ‘devoid’ of oneself. Losing oneself in the Beloved. It is poetic, it is illogical, often even inconvenient. As a way to the Ultimate, it is a pathless path; for there is no asking ‘how to lose oneself’. How can there be a step-by-step process to ‘losing oneself’? Who will remain at the end of the ‘losing oneself’ to claim they have lost?
Bhakti of the style of Meera is not just worship but involves a deeper madness altogether. A readiness to abandon everything including oneself. So how do we learn the art of losing ourself? What can we do, what does it take? Courage? Desperation? Arduous spiritual practices?
Or just love? A love pushed to the limit – where only the Infinite can bear it. To be “fired with love’s urgent longing” as Saint John of the Cross called it. For how can it really be love unless it doesn’t have boundaries, doesn’t need, doesn’t want, doesn’t own, is not something only ‘some’ can have? Isn’t that what we call true love? Not what Hollywood would have us believe…?
As the lines of the Kena Upanishad remind us, about questioning what the world takes to be true:
“What one cannot think with the mind, but by which they say the mind is made to think, know That alone to be the Brahman (the Absolute), not this which (people) here worship.”
(यन्मनसा न मनुते येनाहुर्मनो मतम् ।
तदेव ब्रह्म त्वं विद्धि नेदं यदिदमुपासते ॥ ५ ॥
yanmanasā na manute yenāhurmano matam |
tadeva brahma tvaṃ viddhi nedaṃ yadidamupāsate || 5 ||
Nothing is really mine except Krishna.
O my parents, I have searched the world
And found nothing worthy of love.
Hence I am a stranger amidst my kinfolk
And an exile from their company,
Since I seek the companionship of holy men;
There alone do I feel happy,
In the world I only weep.
I planted the creeper of love
And silently watered it with my tears;
Now it has grown and overspread my dwelling.
You offered me a cup of poison
Which I drank with joy.
Mira is absorbed in contemplation of Krishna,
She is with God and all is well!
O my King, my father, nothing delights me more
Than singing the praises of Krishna.
If thou art wrath,
then keep thy kingdom and thy palace,
For if God is angry, where can I dwell?
Thou didst send me a cup of poison and a black cobra,
Yet in all I saw only Krishna!
Mira is drunk with love, and is wedded to the Lord!
The heart of Mira is entangled
In the beauty of the feet of her Guru;
Nothing else causes her delight!
He enabled her to be happy in the drama of the world;
The Knowledge he gave her dried up
The ocean of being and becoming.
Mira says: My whole world is Sri Krishna;
Now that my gaze is turned inward, I see it clearly.
I send letters to my Beloved,
The dear Krishna.
But He sends no message of reply,
Purposely preserving silence.
I sweep his path in readiness
And gaze and gaze
Till my eyes turn blood-shot.
I have no peace by night or day,
My heart is fit to break.
O my Master, You were my companion
In former births.
When will you come?
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I am mad with love
And no one understands my plight.
Only the wounded
Understand the agonies of the wounded,
When the fire rages in the heart.
Only the jeweller knows the value of the jewel,
Not the one who lets it go.
In pain I wander from door to door,
But could not find a doctor.
Says Mira: Harken, my Master,
Mira’s pain will subside
When Shyam comes as the doctor.