Ishq – the Divine Flame

Abha Bhandari

A different plateau of existence

Mere to giridhar gopal, doosro na koi..

“Only Giridhar Gopal is mine… none  other do I cherish!”

Thus sang Mira, the Queen of Mewar and the devotee of Krishna, as she renounced her palace to revel in the glorious Love of her Divine Flutist… thinking not even a moment as her intense love guided her heart and her life towards her dark hued Beloved..

“Eko saathi Ram hai, janam janam ka saath who de..

Eko saathi naam hai bhav saagar se taar woh de!”

“Ram is my only companion from life to life

‘Tis His name that contains  the power to help me transcend this ocean of worldly flux”

This was the refrain in one of the myriad prayers of Param Pujya Ma… Who even whilst living and loving each one of us who belong to this world, abides in the realm of Her beloved Ram… not merely Ram the son of Dashrath, But Ram.. the epitome of the Universal Self.

“Ishq maahi de laaiyaan agan ae lagiyan kaun bujhave hu

Main ki jaanaa zaat ishq di jehdaa dar dar chaa jhukaave hu

Naa khud sovan na sovan deve, hattho suteyaan aan jagaave hu

Main kurbaan tinha de baahu jedaa vichade yaar milaave hu”

Hazrat Sultan Bahu gave vent to his thoughts thus:

“The Lord’s love has set me on fire, but who will douse the flames?

Does love have a caste? What do I know?

I am the lover and with every step I bow to my Beloved..

Love does not sleep and neither lets the lover sleep..

Love awakens the sleeping lover (from his slumber in the realm of the unreal)..

I lay my all even my life at the feet of that dazzling Love..

which reconciles me with my estranged Divine Beloved!”

ISHQ…

~ A Divine, Spiritual, Intense faith in the Supreme Universal Being ~

~ A Love so all consuming that it conflagrates ones entire being with its intensity ~

~ A Fountain of undiluted devotional joy which touches every aspect and event of the life of the one who loves thus …

Mira, Sur, Kabir, Raidas, and the Sufi mystics ….all shared the same intense conviction…the same immense love… They were all intoxicated with this divine alluring spiritual uplifting devotion  for the Universal Supreme One. Each one was so immersed in this divine intoxication, that all that destiny brought to their lives became insignificant and meaningless as compared to this wondrous elixir of spiritual love which seemed to engulf them… granting them an automatic immunity to all events that could have wrought pain and suffering.. for their lives were filled with such circumstances…

And why not? Did they not come to show ordinary beings like us, that true happiness lay in living in the spirit and not in the body self?

Those devotees of yore.. who ‘found’ their true essence in the glory of being one with the Universal Divine Godhead, seemingly ‘lost’ themselves to this supremely joyous union and the bliss that ensued from it.  Then no matter what happened to the body, it was immaterial. It did not matter. They lived on a different plane. And on that plane of existence, the reality of the Divine One was so tangible that the importance and the very significance of the visible world  faded in comparison.

Lord Ram, united in essence with the Divine Substratum, bore 14 years of exile in thick forests.. smilingly … and He of royal birth and accustomed to royal luxuries. During those forteen years, he endured the severest of travails. Yet, after the exile was over, when he stood before Kaikeyi, the very cause of his tumultuous exile, he smiled compassionately at her even as she stepped back, unable to bear the love in his eyes and he called to her.. “Mother will you not take me in your embrace?”

Lord Krishna, the darling of the Gopis and the very fulcrum of the victory of the Pandavas in the Mahabharat, was the constant butt of rebuke, slander, hatred.. and so much so, at the very ebb of his life, was completely alone…He who had stood by and been the support of those multitudes who had once leaned on Him and received His love, His unending support, His infinite compassion and undying friendship. Where were those multitudes now?

Christ… proclaimed the ‘Son of God’ and lauded by miracle seeking crowds who greeted him with palm fronds at his arrival in Jerusalem… flanked by his twelve disciples… stood alone in his time of trial. None stood by his side as he carried the heavy cross that was to bear his body in its last moments.. even his disciples proclaimed that ‘they knew him not!’ Yet at his end, when nails were being driven into his flesh, even as his body writhed with pain,  He whispered “Lord forgive them for they know not what they do!”

So blissful was her union with Krishna, so real was His presence in her life, that Mira could not even blame anyone for the continual onslaughts on her physical and emotional being. Only He pervaded her entire existence. Only He mattered. Only He had any meaning in her life. And it was He who therefore absorbed the pain of the incredible attacks on her very life by her closest family. Even as she drank the cup of poison, even as the temple of her beloved was desecrated before her eyes… even as her feet were torn with thorns as she renounced all royal opulence and set out in search of her ‘Giridhar’ she seemed to abide in a plane of consciousness which lifted her into the arms of her Beloved Lord.

Every one of these divine beings .. and indeed so many others who blessed this earth with their presence encountered extreme negativity to which they responded with the utmost forgiveness and compassion.

Why is it that these God intoxicated Beings .. one with That Universal Divinity  had to bear so much?

What is it that made it possible for them to remain untouched by the acute pain and torture that was hurled upon them?

How is it that they bore every affliction with a smile and complete forgiveness?

ISHQ….

They too were mortal beings. They too possessed the same body which bled when pierced… the same faculties of perception and cognition which  recognized rejection, slander, infidelity and endured its subsequent loneliness..  Their hearts too experienced the pain of betrayal by those very people to whom they had given their lives…yet they did not make insinuations.. they did not judge…they merely absolved and exonerated their detractors.

How could they do this?

ISHQ…

Just as the world is the only reality for you and me, That Supreme Godhead is the only reality seen by the divine Aashiq… or one consumed by ‘Ishq..’ And it is because of this divine relationship with That Supreme Godhead that the Lover accepts and loves each one as a part of him/her Self. It is impossible to guage Such a One.. for we can evaluate only by worldly measures…by the finite mind and with an intellect besmirched by bodycentred self seeking.

Can such measures estimate One Who is beyond the body…beyond the mind and beyond the intellect?

It is sheer Grace to be able to witness the life of Such a One immersed in the Love of God. To witness what it is to live beyond this life… to watch the reactions of One Who is beyond mortal reactions…to be able to gaze upon the countenance of the Divine Lover… to be able to discern and appreciate the different, elevated  level of existence of Such a One.

 

I have had this wondrous opportunity as I live in the shadow of Such a Being… Param Pujya Ma.

I have been witness to myriad facets of Her incredible Being…

Her limitless ocean of love for God

It is Her Ishq with Her Divine Beloved that is the very foundation of Her existence. Only He matters… therefore She loves all as His. Only He exists… therefore She accepts every form as His form.

In Her elucidation of the Ish Upanishad, one can clearly view Her world view…

“When one cognizes all beings that exist

..as manifestations of the Supreme Overlord..

..as different forms of the same Atma Self

Then one merges in Unity into That same Lord.

When such a one perceives the Lord in all..

The entire world as His Self is perceived

Constantly His name is chanted within

All is He…. all as Him is conceived.

Then of what consequence is sorrow or separation?

When neither attachment nor moha remain?

What does  one desire or attain when he knows

There is naught but That Supreme Name?

Her Divine Beloved Lord Ram fills Her life…He is more real to Her than the entire world. He is by Her side… a divine Persona.. . talking to Her, singing with Her, driving Her car, sometimes there and sometimes gone…And then the joyous anticipation of the homecoming of Her Liege again fills her with exhilaration…

“What gift shall I offer to my Ram

My Leige is to come to me..

O Ram! Ram! Tell me true

What shall I bring for Thee?

I have only these tears my Sire

I shall wash Thy feet with these

Then of that ‘prasaad’ I shall partake

And my identity thenceforth shall cease…”

Yet.. He is Her all and nothing and nothing else matters..

I seek not fame or wealth Lord..

No other worldly hue draws me

I want only Thee from Thee

Stay within me as a part of me!

(Pg 404, Arpana Bhajnavali)

Myriad thoughts expressed through thousands of prayers which have been flowing ceaselessly through Param Pujya Ma over the past 45 years can give us only a small glimpse into this wondrous phenomenon of One ignited by ISHQ… But even whilst one peruses these prayers one is overawed by the glory and the utter joy of One who dwells in such a realm, irrespective of all that may be happening to Her body….and uncaring of how She is treated by others!

“Thy honour or my honour ~ whose honour it is I do not know..

No longer can I believe Lord, that my honour is of any consequence!”

ISHQ…

The implicit faith of Such a One in the Lord’s injunctions contained in the scriptures is clearly visible through every moment of Param Pujya Ma’s life

All that is said by Her Leige through the scriptures of all religions are Her command

“Wherever Thou sendest me destiny bound,

I shall sing songs of Thee

Each moment O Beloved Ram

I shall endeavour to gratify Thee…

 

O teach the wisdom of the Gita to me

And an epitome of that knowledge I shall be

And hearing that knowledge this “I’ of mine

Shall be dissolved in Thy divinity..”

However, the knowledge of Such a One who dwells in the realm of Her Divine Beloved cannot remain mere theory…it is translated into every aspect of life’s deeds..

“Of what avail scriptural theory, if it will not take me to Thee..!”

Or again..

“What shall I do with such knowledge..

It is mere ignorance for me..

Only that theory can be eulogized

Which brings forth Thy image to me!

 

Just a glimpse of Thee shall wash all impurities

Accumulated life after life in me..

As though Thou hast cleansed me from within

O Lord! Once…just once.. You call out to me!”

ISHQ…

Her wondrous spiritual wisdom that flows as incessant devotion through words or merely through silence.. ‘Urvashi’ the name given by Param Pujya Ma to the divine flow of knowledge that has flowed forth from Her over the years translated into the wisdom of practical life. From Param Pujya Ma, immersed at the feet of Her Lord, practical wisdom flowed forth like the pure Ganges.. at times rippling with love, and at others, flowing as the deepest and most subtle knowledge of the scriptures…

There are several facets to this perennial flow of wisdom that ensues through Her. It is primarily an expression of Her immense and intense abidance in Her Divine Beloved… it gives voice to Her deepest adoration of Him and Her all encompassing understanding of His vast Being…. Her prayers carve out a path for the aspirant to follow and  guage the length and breath of this phenomenon called sadhana.. or ones spiritual endeavour to reach the Divine.

But Her wisdom also possesses another facet.  It flows in response to a seeker’s quest. If a devotee seeks enlightenment, ‘Urvashi’ often flows in a divine spontaneous flow of devotion; if an intellectual seeks an answer, the very essence of knowledge is revealed in its subtlest aspects; if one seeks practical guidance, Her very life is a precept. She reveals the Essence of non duality to a Vedanti and unveils the most poignant moments in the lives of devotees and saints to a child with refreshing simplicity. What greater proof can there be of Her eternal abidance in the Real and the Truth? This divine fount of knowledge flows forth spontaneously as soon as the questioner has uttered his question. The answer is often in verse.

Where is the origin of this fount of Supreme Knowledge? It is in ISHQ…in Her infinite love for the Supreme and in Her deep, abiding and perennial abidance in the Self.

“I sing praises of my Lord – I meditate only on Him;

Each thought that flows forth from within, I dedicate unto Him…”

ISHQ…

Her spontaneous identification with each being

It is this Ishq which gives the impetus to identify so perfectly with all, that That One seems like a mirror of the others’ soul. A child with a child, a repository of wisdom with the seeker of knowledge, the epitome of devotion with a bhakta, thunder with a spiritual aspirant, and forgiveness itself with Her detractors… No wonder it is extremely difficult for others to comprehend Her in Her entirety.

When the Gita speaks of ‘Yo yatha maam prapadyante.’  ie. Such a One responds in accordance with the others’ inner need.. that discerning of the other’s need is not a conscious mathematics but an automatic awareness. Immersed as She is in Her Divine Beloved, Param Pujya Ma is therefore able to spontaneously identify with each one who comes before Her, and give of Herself in accordance with their inner need. Thus that Supreme Renunciate gives of Herself at all levels unstintingly and  in complete abandon to the world, for Her Spirit abides in Her Divine Beloved.

“Gyaani jan jo sant tihare unko bhi nam jaaoon mein

Sab mein tumko dekh ke prabhu ji pal pal jhukti jaoon mein!”

“I  bow to all in Thy Creation.. those with wisdom… those pure of heart..

Seeing Thee reside in each being, every moment I bow in obeisance to all…”

ISHQ….

Her utter equanimity in the face of duality

The Gita speaks of the One united with the Supreme as One who possesses equanimity. When one learns of the meaning of equanimity, one cannot even begin to imagine the practical connotation of the term. Its full meaning became apparent only as I witnessed it in the life of Param Pujya Ma.

She neither experiences excessive joy at being in the midst of those congenial to Her, just as She does not shun those who are uncongenial. To both She offers blessings and love – unconditionally.

She neither shuns dishonour nor revels in acclaim because both, for Her,  are equally irrelevant on the plane where She abides..

Auspicious and inauspicious, beneficial or injurious, attraction and repulsion, these dualities have no meaning for Her because all are contained within Her Divine Beloved.

However, She stakes Her all to protect others from what they consider to be harmful, distasteful or inimical to their security and interests. For them, She thinks nothing of rushing into situations that bring Her naught but disrepute, denunciation and even denial. All this because She lives only for Her Divine Beloved and does whatever He bids Her do.

ISHQ…

The miracle of Her existence amongst worldly mortals and Her infinite compassion for those who inflict pain upon Her

The scriptures describe the state of Such a One and say that wherever Such a One lives, there,a lion, a goat,a snake,a mongoose, a fox and a rabbit,  can all drink at the same stream. But when Such a One is no longer in their midst, the innate qualities of the creatures that surround such a one, surface to injure or consume one other. It was only the spiritual identity of the Realized One abiding in the love of the Infinite which sustained and drew the attention of creatures of such diverse backgrounds, cultures and definitions… creating an atmosphere of cordial coexistence..

However, those very creatures who once gained refuge, peace and security under the protection of that Realized One, think nothing of striking at that same Pure and Undefiled One when they perceive an augmentation of their materialistic interests in an opposite direction. There is also the story of the scorpion struggling against the strong flow of the river, who was rescued repeatedly by a saint. The scorpion, in accordance with its innate attributes, stung that saint each time it was rescued; but that Divine Being thought nothing of taking it again in his hands to prevent it from certain death.

Such is the quality of compassionate mercy that fills the heart of One Who abides in the Divine Beloved and for Whom even enemies and detractors are but a focus of immense kindness and forgiveness.

As a Sufi mystic once sang:

“Patharon mujh pe baraste kyon ho… hum ne bhi tum ko kabhi apna khuda rakha hai!”

O merciless stones! Why pelt me thus in rage? I too worshipped you as my God at one time!

This is a story oft repeated in the life of Param Pujya Ma…and witnessed by amazed onlookers like me.

ISHQ…

Her infinite silence

I have witnessed the divinity of Param Pujya Ma through a span of over 40 years. Never once in this entire time have I perceived Her to think of Herself or Her own interest. So firmly is Her heart, mind, intellect and soul embedded in and permeated by the Divine Spirit that it is as though She Herself exists not.

Thus is She completely silent towards Her own being.

I have had the opportunity to watch this utter silence evenmoreso in these past couple of years, when, struck by cancer and then, a stroke, She is still utterly at peace and still a strong anchor to each one of us. To our query “Why does God give this suffering to those very Beings who love Him so entirely and whose existence is so completely rooted in Him?” She answers softly.. “Who are we to question His Will? Whatever He wills will find my acquiescence.” Never once a reference to pain or suffering of the body self… never once even the flicker of a query regarding any emotional infliction by Her nearest and dearest…

ISHQ…

I have not known another like Her… so ordinary yet so unique in Her unfathomable spiritual stature. I may have touched on just the tip of the iceberg as I speak here of my experience of Her…Her vastness is unimaginable and unthinkable… Her beauty undefinable… Her Love miraculous.

I pray that some day I may at least be able to guage the beauty and the enormous power of this wondrous ISHQ… which has provided Her with infinite patience and unquestioning love…

How will it be possible to achieve this?

A sufi mystic put it this way:

“Akl ke madrase se uth, ishq ke maikade mein aa….

Rise from the school of intellectual cogitation and enter the tavern where the wine of Ishq or love flows freely…”

I pray that I may know the wonder, the joy and the beauteous privilege of watching the divinity of this great ‘Lover of God’  and being of service to Her life after life…

As Ma once begged of Her Divine Beloved..

Chhalka de pyaala Ram mere, ab peeti rahoongi mein

Naam ka pyaala pee pee kar ab jeeti rahoongi Ram mein!

Fill my cup of love to the brim Ram

And let me drink away..

Let me drink of this cup of Thy Divine Name

And in its intoxication ever stay!

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