A child's love for God

I am telling this story for children. But since we are all God's children, this story is applicable to each and every one of us. You have heard many stories about the love that children can have for God. But this particular story is extremely significant, especially for those who accept the spiritual life at a tender age. From this story you will learn how a little girl's love for God increased and increased as she grew older.

I am sure some of you have heard the name Mirabai. Mirabai was a devotee of the high, higher, highest order. Among the saints of India, she is absolutely unparalleled. She composed many, many bhajans, which are prayerful songs to God. Each song Mirabai wrote expressed her inspiration, aspiration and sleepless self-giving.

Mirabai came of a royal family in Rajasthan. Her father was named Ratna Singh. He was often away from home, fighting the Mogul emperors. He was a very brave warrior. One day, a sadhu came to visit her parents. He stayed at their palace for one day as a special guest. The sadhu was very pleased with her father's nobility and saintly qualities. So, as he was leaving, he presented Ratna Singh with a very beautiful doll or statue of Lord Krishna. Lord Krishna is the embodiment of God.

At this time, Mirabai was only three years old. She was dying to have the doll that her father had been given, but he did not want to give it to her. You may think that the father was mean. But he had two special reasons for keeping the doll. The first reason was that since this doll came from a sadhu or holy man, it had very special blessings. Ratna Singh wanted to preserve these blessings, not in a miserly way, but so that they could be assimilated properly. The other reason he had for not giving the doll to Mirabai was that he thought she would spend all her time playing with it.

When Mira saw that he was not going to give her the doll, she stopped eating. Then what could the poor father do? Since she was refusing to eat, he gave her the doll. From that time on, Mira was always playing with her doll. She used to talk to the doll and sing to it; she was so fond of it.

When she was five years old, a wedding procession happened to pass in front of her father's palace. Mira asked her mother, "What is happening?"

Her mother replied, "It is a wedding. These two are getting married."

Out of curiosity, Mirabai asked her mother, "Whom am I going to marry?"

For some reason, her mother answered, "You are already married, my child."

"Who is my husband?" cried Mira.

"This doll, Lord Krishna, is your beloved husband," said her mother. Mira was so happy to learn that Krishna was her husband.

As time went on, Mira's prayers increased and they also became more soulful. Every day, for hours on end, she would talk to the doll and sing and dance before the doll. She acted as if the doll were a real human being. In her case, the doll was a real being. Lord Krishna's living Presence was inside the doll.

Her grandfather and the other members of her family were confused. What should they do with this little girl? They decided that the sooner they could give her in marriage, the better. As her love for her husband increased, perhaps her devotion to this doll would decrease. Plus, she would have many household duties to attend to.

At this time, Mira was only eight years old. But in those days, it was quite acceptable for parents to arrange their children's marriages when the children were very young. So Mira was given in marriage to Prince Bhoja Raj. He was the eldest son of Rana Sanga of Chittor. The ruler of Chittor was considered to be the leader of the Hindu royal houses, so this marriage raised Mira to a very high social position.

Mira's husband was a very great warrior. During the day, Mira would carry out her duties and listen to her mother-in-law devotedly. Then in the evening, she would take her little doll into the temple. There she would talk to the doll and sing and dance.

Unfortunately, her mother-in-law did not approve of this at all. She said to Mira, "You cannot keep late hours like this. You are just a little girl. You have to stay at home and go to sleep."

But Mira insisted, "I want to go to the temple and pray every night."

Her mother-in-law raised another objection. "You are praying to Krishna, but Krishna is not our family deity. Our deity is Gauri, an aspect of Durga, and Durga is the consort of Lord Shiva. So you cannot continue praying to Krishna in our family."

Mira paid no heed to her mother-in-law. She said, "No, I will not listen to you. My Beloved is Lord Krishna. It is to Him that I must pray." So Mira and her mother-in-law had a serious fight. But from then on, the mother-in-law remained silent and allowed Mira to continue with her spiritual activities.

Mira was now very happy. In the day she would work and in the evening she could go to the temple to meditate, sing and dance with her Lord Krishna.

She worshipped Krishna as Gopala Giridhara — the young cowherd boy who played His flute on the banks of the Jamuna River in Brindaban. Brindaban was Krishna's childhood home. To protect His devotees from a deluge, He once raised aloft a mountain so they could take shelter under it. That is the meaning of the epithet 'Giridhara.' When Mira worshipped her doll, Lord Krishna would appear before her in that form and play with her and talk to her.

It happened that her husband's sister became very jealous of Mira. She had heard her mother say that Mira was very spiritual and talked to God all the time. This sister-in-law wanted to punish Mira. So she started spreading rumours that Mira had quite a few lovers. She told people that Mira was bringing them into the temple at night and mixing with them there. Mira heard the court rumours, but she didn't pay any attention to them. She was twelve or thirteen years old at that time.

One day this unbearable sister-in-law told Mira's husband: "Are you blind? Your wife has so many boyfriends. I can easily prove it. Just go and see what happens in the temple at night."

Mira's husband became furious, and that night he waited outside the temple. When he heard Mira talking with someone, he broke open the temple door and rushed inside with his naked sword. Mira had been talking to Lord Krishna. He had appeared to her in His celestial Form. But as soon as the husband came, He disappeared. Mira's husband saw only his wife and her little doll; no other human being was present. He laughed and said, "My sister told me nothing but lies!" Then he went away. After he left, Mira was crying and crying for her Lord Krishna: "Where have You gone, where have You gone?"

Even after this episode, the sister-in-law went on telling spiteful stories about Mira. It was too much for Mira, but what could she do? At least she was able to go to the temple every evening and worship her Beloved Lord in her own way.

By this time she had composed quite a few prayerful and soulful bhajans. People started singing her bhajans in the street. In this way everybody in the kingdom came to know the name Mirabai. They all were very proud of her.

At that time, Akbar succeeded his father as the Mogul Emperor. Although he was a Muslim, he liked the Hindu culture. At his court he retained all kinds of talented and extraordinary people from various religions. Akbar always appreciated others' good qualities. In the course of time, he came to hear about Mirabai, so he wanted to go and see her.

At first it seemed impossible to fulfil this wish. Mirabai's family and the Mogul emperors had always been the worst of enemies! If he went to see Mirabai, he would be risking his life and he would also be placing Mirabai in great danger. But Akbar was determined to go. He said, "I won't go as the Emperor with my army. I will go in disguise."

So he and his court musician, Tansen, dressed themselves in ochre robes like wandering sannyasins. In this disguise they approached the temple where Mirabai was worshipping. In the temple the devotees were singing and dancing. Right in the centre was Mirabai, singing most soulfully.

Akbar and Tansen were deeply moved by Mirabai's voice and prayers. To show his gratitude, Akbar placed a diamond necklace at the feet of Mirabai's little statue of Lord Krishna. People who were present were amazed at the mendicant's gesture. They wondered if perhaps somebody quite rich had come in the form of a mendicant. Akbar and Tansen then went away.

In a few days' time, it became known that it was the Emperor himself who had come. Mirabai's husband became enraged and said to his wife, "You have incurred the worst possible sin. You are a Hindu princess, but you have allowed a Muslim to look at your face. I can look at you no more. You have to go to the river and drown yourself."

Poor Mirabai! She was so miserable at this turn of events. She was not responsible for what had happened. But even so, she was ready to enter into the river and commit suicide. She walked towards the river, accompanied by some of her followers and devotees. She was about to enter into the river when Lord Krishna appeared and grabbed her. He said to His dearest devotee, "No, I don't want you to commit suicide. You have done nothing wrong. Please leave this place and come to Brindaban. There you will see Me."

So Mirabai left her husband and, with a few followers, went to Brindaban. There she was able to spend all her time worshipping Krishna and singing Krishna bhajans. Her bhajans were simpler than the simplest. Sometimes they consisted of only four or five words. Sometimes they consisted only of her name and Lord Krishna's name: "Mira Gopala Giridhara." Like that she would go on and on singing in her devotional way. The whole community was so pleased with her, so proud of her and so grateful to her.

Meanwhile, Mirabai's husband became miserable. He realised how pure and pious his wife was. Her name was fast becoming a household word. He did not want to listen to his relatives' advice any more. So he went to Brindaban and brought Mirabai back to the palace. There he treated her well and allowed her to continue worshipping in the temple. But the other relatives mistreated her badly.

When Mirabai was only twenty-three years old, Bhoja Raj died. Then the throne passed on to a relative who behaved in a very undivine way towards Mirabai. When he saw everybody appreciating her spiritual qualities, it was too much for him. The flame of jealousy burned inside him, and he wanted to kill her. He knew that early in the morning she used to pray for hours to Lord Krishna and adorn the shrine with most beautiful flowers. So one day he sent her a basket of flowers as a gift. Inside the flowers, he concealed a deadly snake. He knew perfectly well that it would bite her the moment she touched the flowers.

But something miraculous happened. When Mirabai placed her hand on the flowers, the snake was also transformed into flowers. So no harm came to her. The King could not believe that his ploy had failed.

A few days later, he sent her a cup of milk, saying that he was so pleased and happy with her. But the cup of so-called pure milk contained a very powerful poison.

Lord Krishna came to Mirabai and warned her that there was poison in the milk. Then He told her to drink it anyway. The Lord said that He would protect her. So, after she had finished her worship, she drank the contents of the cup. But Krishna had turned the poison into nectar. Needless to say, nothing happened to her.

The King tried many other methods of torturing Mirabai, but Lord Krishna saved her each time. Finally, Mirabai approached a few spiritual Masters to ask what she should do. They all advised her to leave the palace. So, after many long years of suffering, Mirabai went back to Brindaban on foot. By that time, she had many, many followers, and the whole of India resounded with her bhajans. Krishna-lovers especially were so proud of her and so grateful to her because her main theme was: "Krishna is my all; Gopal is my all!" One day, many years afterwards, Mirabai was in the temple singing. There were quite a few devotees around her and they were singing as well. Lord Krishna was so pleased with Mirabai that He appeared before her in His subtle human form. This form is so tangible when one's third eye is open. Mirabai was able to see her Lord, but the others didn't have the subtle vision to see Him. However, they did see something in her.

Lord Krishna opened up His heart chakra. Then Mirabai entered into His heart and disappeared. That is how she passed away. At that time she was in a high, ecstatic consciousness. And with her physical body she melted into His divine form and disappeared. This is how the story ends.