I’ve been a bit obsessed lately with Mirabai– a princess in 1498 in the region of Rajasthan, India, today one of India’s most renowned poets. Who knew?
Mirabai lived during a difficult time for women in India, yet she abandoned great wealth, conventional status and security to lead a soul-directed life following what we might call “our heart” today. Mirabai followed her longing, a profound love of Krishna, the “dark lord.” Mirabai’s poetry or bajan’s (songs) fall into the ecstatic bhakti tradition and genre of renowned poet Rumi, with his countless love poems to Shams. She shared a kinship with the Baul’s of Bengal who much later would follow in her footsteps, and blow the minds of the conventionally wise, break from the caste system with their rag clothing, nomadic begging, Ganja-smoking and ecstatic love songs for god, devoted to finding what they called, “the man of the heart.”
As I study Mirabai’s life and poems it and they are heretical. Renegade. What strikes me is how she went first into uncharted territory, both poetically and literally, breaking rules that were dangerous to break at a time women did not lead, nor dare such audacious boldness. Mira traveled the choice-less path it seems to me. All routes closed but one. She was compelled to choose this dangerous, risky road less traveled, not for the sake of being a leader but for Love’s sake.
Mirabai is a great model of leadership today, though I find it hard to believe she was intentionally so. Yet, through her loyalty to her truest self, her devotion to the “man of the heart,” and her prolific writing that lives on, intentionally or unintentionally her poems are like signpost to follow her lead into the uncharted paths ahead as we may aim to live similarly choice-less, soul-directed and free lives, enslaved by a devotion of our deepest longing and our hearts beloved!
Why Mirabai Can’t Come Back to Her Old House
“The colors of the Dark One have penetrated Mira’s body; all the other colors washed out
Making love with the Dark One and eating little, those are my pearls and my carnelians
Meditation beads and the forehead streak,those are my scarves and my rings
That’s enough feminine wiles for me. My teacher taught me this
Approve me or disapprove me: I praise the Mountain Energy night and day
I take the path that ecstatic human beings have taken for centuries
I don’t steal money, I don’t hit anyone. What will you charge me with?
I have felt the swaying of the elephant’s shoulders; and now you want me to climb on a jackass? Try to be serious.”