Friday, August 17, 2012

Mothering God - Harbans Ma

Love for God can take different forms and God returns His love to His children in a unique variety of ways. The scriptures say that it is God Himself who has taken each individual form to experience the varieties of His infinite nature through the course of life and self realisation.. thus no two souls will have the same experiences in their path towards God. The Love and Bliss felt by each will have its own sweet uniqueness..

As a child, once when in a neighboring aunts house, i heard my Mom and aunt speak about a certain lady who lived at a distance from our place. Even though i was more busy playing games i overheard a few things  - one, that this lady was quite old and a bit on the heavier side, so could hardly walk well; second, she had a child who always stuck to her wherever she went. The child was a handful; the little thing would insist that this lady take him along everywhere. He seemed to be about a  year and a half or two years old yet was demanding enough to insist that this lady carry him everywhere she went. He had many childish demands and would expect this lady to fulfill them.. no one else should.

I would have forgotten all this quickly but for the fact that i sensed a certain amount of reverence and awe these women showed while talking about this matter. This was no idle gossip. Curious, i went up to mom and asked her what was about this lady.. why couldn't she discipline this child? I myself was about 10 -11 years old then and  never troubled my parents and knowing that this lady was old and i was concerned for her.

My mom understood at my intent and explained that this was no ordinary relation.. it was extraordinary. The women, old as she was, had asked for this 'trouble' and despite the problems she faced, she couldn't live without these troubles.

The child on the other hand was no ordinary child either. He was Gopal.

Mom went quite hoping i'd understand. 
I didn't. 
I just sensed the reverence with which she said this, so i asked if i knew the child and if i had seen Him in the neighborhood? Mom replied that i knew the child. This Gopal was baby Krishna.

I let that sink in. She further explained that this lady named Harbans Ma, who lived about 50 meters away from our house; was a great devotee of God. She had quietly undertaken several spiritual disciplines at the end of which she had received this divine boon.

I was stunned to say the least and of all the questions i could ask, i remember asking if she would take me to see the baby and if he was still blue in color. She replied, sadly yet gently, that no one could see Him save Harbans Ma. He was invisible to the eyes of other souls. In fact many considered this whole thing a sham and even spoke ill of her. But a few souls believed that she was a true saint.

We didnt speak after that. These facts were perhaps too much for me to take, but i remember being greatly troubled by them. In a months time i returned to my boarding school for half a year. All through i thought of this women and the child. Certain features about this incredible story amazed me.

Firstly it was hard to believe that a saintly lady of this caliber was living amongst us. I always thoughts true saints to belong to the distant unknown past and all that there was left in this modern 21st century were their fake versions. It seemed highly odd that this incredible soul lived in such an ordinary place amongst ordinary people.

Secondly i was troubled at the thought that if this lady, who lived a life just like any other ordinary human, could reach such heights didnt that mean that each one of us was capable of the same? But as i looked at the lives most of us lived i did not see anything there which would take us to higher goals. Now my parents were pious people. They worshiped God in our house everyday. Every morning we children woke to my fathers voice of Veda chanting in a fashion that he had learned from his Gurukul. He was the only person i knew who would meditate. Yet i knew that it required extraordinary effort to realise God, and i didnt know anyone else who was making such efforts. It made me look at our lives and feel that something big was lacking. It made me restless.

Finally something about the relation of this sweet old lady and a little mischievous child stirred my heart. Of the two, i, a boy of eleven, would relate more with that old lady and mentally experience what it would be like to have a sweet little Krishna play around and trouble you. I always loved little children and this added to my yearning.

Somewhere it struck me as to what a fool i had been. Having heard that the child couldnt been seen by anyone i had just given up, not ever thinking to go meet Harbans Ma. But now i was thousands of miles away. So i waited patiently for my next vacations. Amongst the first things i did when i reached home was to ask mom to take me to her. My mother sadly mentioned that Harbans Ma was no more.

Harbans Ma though a householder, did have a disciple by the name Sahu. Mother took me to her. I was at a loss of words and didnt know what to ask so i sat quietly. But observing the gentle nature of the disciple it was easy to make out what an elevated soul Harbans Ma had been. But here is what little i learned of this extraordinary soul who mothered God.

Harbans Ma was a great devotee. Once in a state of devotion she locked herself inside a room for 3 days refusing to get into the world unless she met the Divine. God answered her prayers for not only did she glimpse Him, but he took the form of this little child Krishna and was ever visible to her.

This Krishna was just as sweet and naughty as the Bhagavadam mentions Him to be. He wouldnt let Harbans Ma do her household work but would keep playing around her, demanding attention, making her run around doing all sorts of errands for him. Often she would get tired and even angry and scold Him. The child would then weep and eventually fall asleep. She would feel sorry but the next moment the child would be at His mischievous best.. Whenever she stepped out, the Baby insisted on coming along. He also insisted that she carry him. Although invisible to others, Harbans Ma could apparently feel the weight of the child and would feel tired when she reached her destination. Other women in whose house she would come to, stated that physically she showed signs of exhaustion of having carried a baby. Despite this even when she would sit on the floor to talk to these ladies, the Baby would often come up from behind and jump on her back, playing with her, demanding attention, asking her to now leave and return home.

While doing chores of the house the Baby would ever be playing around. When cutting vegetables she would set aside a few vegetables for the Baby to play with. At night the Baby would sleep alongside her always.

The yogi's and rishi's realise God in a variety of ways. I had always read that God elevated such worthy souls to His level and how their lives were filled with Bliss, love and wisdom, until at one time they merged in Him. But this was such a unique case where the Impersonal God took on a personal form for the sake of one devotee and lived with her to bless her with joy. What a mysterious and joyous grace! However this was all i could remember or find about Harbans Ma. Not much else is known by anyone else.

With passing time i forgot all this and as i grew i even doubted many of the things that i remembered. But a few days back i had gone to dakshineshwar for Guru Poornima. There i picked a book about the lives of a few people who happened to live around the time of Sri Ramamkrishna Paramahansa. Amongst them was this lady named Gopal Ma who, incredibly, underwent the same experiences as Harbans Ma. Despite having lived in a remote place over a century ago, some devotee had had the sense and wisdom to record a few details of her life. Reading about her life (which i will mention in the next note) gave me a good understanding of such spiritual experience.

I realised that along with names like Ma Yashoda, Kaushalya, Devaki, Eashwaramba, Mary there are many other names of whom the world might never know. I wonder how many of such souls have graced the earth,  hidden from worldly eyes, yet ever awake in the Divine.

Related Posts ~

Mothering God - Gopal Ma


Mothering God

Krishna's Radha

Lord Krishna and Ustad Bismillah Khan

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