by Nancy Pope Mayorga | The Spiritual Athlete

EVERY SPIRITUAL ASPIRANT comes to know the saints as his best friends. In his pain, their words bring him loving comfort. In his joy, they carry him upward on the wings of their ecstatic songs. He grows avid for saints. And when he has exhausted the words of all the saints of the West, he is drawn inevitably to that inexhaustible mine of saints, India.

What is a saint? According to the dictionary, a holy, godly, or sanctified person. But this definition leaves out the very essence, which is dedication. A saint is first and foremost a dedicated person, dedicated to God. One such greatly dedicated person in India was Mira Bai.

Mira Bai, Queen of Chitor- it’s a lovely name that sings itself. And Mira Bai’s whole life was a continuing song of love. Her sorrow was sweet, and it overflowed in song. “Cherish pain,” she said, “it is dear to Him.” Her joy was irrepressible. “Rejoice, rejoice! He is my own!” She was the flute at Krishna’s lips.

Among the scanty and conflicting records of her life, one charming story appears consistently. As a little girl of five, Mira Bai was sitting in the window of her home when a wedding procession passed by, bright with flowers, joyful with music. She watched it out of sight, then came running to her mother, her dark eyes shining.

“Mother,” she asked eagerly, “who is my sweet­ heart?”

Her mother answered carelessly, as busy mothers do, yet characteristically as a Hindu mother:

“Giridhar Nagar (Krishna) is your sweetheart.”

The little girl must have stood quite still as that familiar name fell sweetly into her young heart which was waiting for it. From that day, the Name was on her lips, in her heart, motivating her life – “Krishna, my love, my bridegroom.”

At the age of eight, as was the custom, Mira Bai was married to the son of the ruler of Mewar; and at eighteen she went to the capitol city, Chitor, to live and rule the kingdom with her husband, the young Raja Bhojraj. For ten years her life was serene. Her husband sympathized with her love of Krishna, and built her a temple in the city. Here, with silver bells on her ankles and tiny cymbals on her fingers, she worshipped Krishna with song and dance, and by her intense devotion brought life to the image in the shrine. But then Bhojraj died. The serene years came to an end.

Mira Bai’s brother-in-law, Vikramaditya, who became Rana of Chitor, was quite a different person from his brother. He had his villainous role to play in the drama of Mira’s life. But in his defense, let’s say that it is socially inappropriate, even in India, to have a widowed sister-in-law forever singing and dancing in ecstasy in public. It is awkward to have holy men of all beliefs, of all castes, in all stages of poverty and disarray, always hanging around the royal castle. For Mira Bai’s fame was spreading, and her love of God cut through all custom and caste, embraced all beliefs. She drew devo­ tees to herself. They wept with her, rejoiced with her, and danced with her. And many a long hour was spent in heart-stirring religious talk and song.

Let people try to restrain me,

0 friend, I will not be stopped.

I will remain in the Saints’ company And gain the bliss of the Lord’s love. I will not bother with the world;

If all my wealth goes, let it go; Even if my head be severed

I will not complain.

My mind is absorbed in simran;

I meet all censure with cheer. Mira’s Lord, Thou everlasting One, Grant me the shelter

Of my Master’s feet.

It was exasperating, too, to the Rana, that all the emissaries he sent to try to dissuade her ended up by being her converts. In a moment of rage, it is said, he sent her a cup of poison. Mira Bai smiled, spoke the name of Krishna, and the poison was nectar on her lips. He sent her a cobra in a basket, hoping for the worst, and Krishna changed the cobra into a picture of himself. Then the Rana asked Mira Bai why, in heaven’s name, she didn’t become sati and commit the respectable suicide of a virtuous Hindu widow. Upon receiving this message, Mira calmly stripped the bracelets from her arms, put on the gerua cloth of renunciation, and left the castle with these words:

I will not be restrained now, 0 Rana, Despite all you do to block my path.

I have torn off the veil of worldly shame; The company of Saints alone is dear to me.

Merta, my parents’ home, I have left for good. My vision wakened, now shines bright.

My Master has revealed unto me The mirror within my own body; Now I’ll sing and dance in ecstasy.

Keep to yourself your gems and jewelry, I have discarded them all, 0 Rana.

My true Lord I have come to behold;

None knows of this wealth within the body. I fancy not your forts and palaces,

Nor want silken robes wrought with gold. Mira, unadorned and unbedecked,

Roams intoxicated in the Lord’s love.

It was more than just a going out from her home. It was an adventure of the soul. Her Western brother, John of the Cross, told of his same experience:

In a dark night,

With anxious love inflamed,

0 happy lot!

Forth unobserved I went … Without other light or guide

Save that which in my heart was burning.


And Mira Bai’s songs, from this early period of her wandering, are very like the songs of St. John- searching, sighing, seeking with the heart, crying,

Where have you gone, dear Lord, After planting Your love in my heart?

You have forsaken me, 0 deceitful One, After setting the wick of love aflame.

After launching love’s boat, You have Left it adrift in the sea of separation.

Beloved Lord, when will You meet me? Mira can live no more without You.

She became a dried leaf in the breeze of God. But the breeze of God was not just whimsical. It carried her to all the great shrines of Krishna.

At some time, at some place, she met the pure and exalted saint, Raidas, a cobbler, the Jacob Boehme of India, and became his disciple. It is said that she was initiated by him into the worship of the impersonal One and Infinite. Be that as it may, her sweet songs to Krishna went on in an unbroken flow, and it is through them, in this period of her wanderings, that we can follow the thread of her life.

The Lord’s Name is all that I own, Nothing else belongs to me.

I have given up my father, Given up mother and brother, Given up all that were once Close to my heart.

Through the company of Saints

I am rid of the fear of public opinion. To meet the Saints I rush with joy;

A look at the worldly gives me pain.

With the stream of my tears

I have watered love’s everlasting vine. In my life I met two saviors-

The Saint and the Lord’s Name.

The Saint ever adorns my forehead, The Name is embedded in my heart.

I took the essence of the ultimate truth, And unto me the mystery unfolded:

‘I am He’ and ‘He is me’.


Inevitably she came to Brindavan, the place of Krishna’s play with the gopis. The radiant joy in Mira’s face was such that the people of Brindavan acclaimed her as an incarnation of one of those love-intoxicated milkmaids. At the time of Mira’s arrival in Brindavan, there was living at the temple of Krishna a famous devotee, Jiv Goswami, of the school of Chaitanya. Mira Bai, always eager to meet and talk with saints, stood at the temple gate and asked for an audience with him. He sent word that since he was a monk and a sannyasin, he did not look upon the face of a woman. Then Mira Bai, as intelligent and spirited as she was pure, answered:

“I thought Krishna was the only male in Brindavan, and that everyone else was female. Now I understand that there is a second Krishna here.”

Jiv Goswami was struck by her message. He recognized a great soul. Quickly he came out to the temple gate, humbly took the dust of her feet, and received her embrace.

After a short stay in Brindavan, Mira moved on to Dwaraka, the “City of Many Gates,” founded by Sri Krishna, himself, on the shore of the Arabian sea. There she settled and spent the rest of her life, some twenty years, until the end came in 1614 at the age of sixty­ seven.

WHY is it that the saints of all ages and all countries

wander? And again, why do they finally settle down? Mira Bai gives the answer very clearly in this song:

I laugh to hear

When a fish is thirsty in water. Man, without realizing his true self Roams now from here to there.

Renouncing all, he wanders in quest of God; Defeated, he drifts in the world’s ocean vast. But Mira, through the Inner Path,

Has met her dear Eternal Lord.

The facts of her outer life may be scanty, unsubstantiated, and seemingly irrelevant. The facts of her inner life are teeming and undisputable. Within herself, she lived an intense, one-pointed, and absolutely relevant life. It is laid bare for all to see and study, in over 300 beautiful and deeply personal songs.

Why did she wander? Because she was driven by her love and her longing. Hear her-

For Thy sake, my Beloved, I forsake all comforts.

Why dost Thou now remain away from me? Pining, I rush in all directions and know no rest. Nights I pass without sleep, days without food.

Truly, for Thy sake I became a wandering mendicant in the wilderness.


After her initiation by the saint Raidas, there is shown a slightly different spirit, more determination. The guru has encouraged and steadied her.

My mind is fixed on the Lord, no obstacle in the pursuit of him can obstruct me.

In the shelter of the Lord I have no fear.

My eyes are set on no other sight but Thee.


She still wandered, chanting the name of the Lord, and associating with the holy. These two activities made up her life, and the sum and substance of her life’s teaching. Chant the Name. Keep company with the holy.

Repeat the Lord’s Name, 0 man, It washes off a million sins.

The records of your actions Of numerous previous births, In no time are tom to tatters On repetition of the Name.

When nectar in a cup of gold Is offered to you free,

Why should you be loath to drink it? Says Mira, let the Eternal Lord

Now permeate your body and heart.


But when she reached Dwaraka, she settled down. Why? The change in the spirit of her songs is very significant.

The One I longed for has come home. The raging fire of separation is quenched; Now I rejoice with Him, I sing in bliss.

The peacocks at the cloud’s roar Dance with unbound joy;

I rejoice in ecstasy

At the sight of my Beloved.

I am absorbed in His love; My misery of wandering In the world has ended.

The lily bursts into bloom

At the sight of the full moon;

Seeing Him my heart blossoms in joy. Peace permeates the body of mine,

His arrival has filled my home with bliss. That very Lord has become my own,

Who is ever the redeemer of His devotees.

Mira’s heart, scorched by the blaze of separation,

Has become cool and refreshed; The pain of duality has vanished.


What happened? It is not hard to guess, and, as a matter of fact, here again comes one of those few events whose description appears consitently in all accounts of her life, too consistently to deny.

One night, as every night, Mira Bai was worshipping her Lord in the quiet, fragrant temple at Dwaraka. The prayer had melted into the mantra, the mantra into the Name, and Mira Bai’s song now consisted of one word, “Krishna!” In her longing, she suddenly held out her arms to the image in the shrine, and, it is said, the Image stretched forth His arms to receive her. “O Thou, the treasure of my heart! Oh Thou, the breath of my breath!” Mira fell unconscious. tears of joy streaming from her eyes. No more lamenting now. No more wandering. Only peace. And joy. She was one at last with the blissful One Who is All.

by Nancy Pope Mayorga

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