‘Some are born great. Some are
made great. Some attain greatness. Some strive hard but do not become
great.’ This applies to the lives of Bhakta also. Mangal attained
greatness in this fashion.
Once upon a time there lived a pious Brahmin called Ramadasu in a village
near Krishnaveni river. He had a son called Bilva Mangal. The father brought
him up in the true orthodox way. He was trained in the Shastras. His upbringing
and the religious training moulded him into a kind natured, soft-spoken,
god-fearing man. But his good qualities were short lived.
His parents died at an early age. He was left with lots of property. There
was no one to control him. Wealth brought him fame. Wealth and fame brought
him too many friends all too bad. He fell into bad ways. One day he happened
to see the dance programme of a prostitute named Chintamani. He was lured
by her charm. The physical lust for her drove his reason away. He became
a slave to her. He gave up his body, heart, money, family prestige, his
dharma and the norms of his caste. All through his wakeful hours he thought
of her and in his sleep he dreamt of her. Chintamani was his constant
‘chinta’ (thought) as if she was a mani (gem). He could not
live one day without seeing her.
He was forced to stay back one day, since it was his father’s death
anniversary. He had to fulfil his duty as a son and he was going through
the rituals with body present mind absent. He was not at all interested
in the rituals, but he could not say no to them. At last it was all over
thankfully by the end of the day. Some wiseacres advised him not to go
to the prostitute’s house on the day of his father’s death
anniversary since he had performed the rites! But ‘kamaturanam nabhayam
nalajja’ A lustful man knows no fear or shame ! He gave a deaf ear
Bilva Mangal rushed to the riverbank to reach his heartthrob on the other
side of the river. God’s leela is indescribable. There was a sudden
change in the weather. There was a storm accompanied by heavy down pour
of rain with lightening and thunder. The fishermen and boats men ran ashore
seeing the ghastly weather. It was pitch dark everywhere. No boats man
agreed to take Bilva Mangal across the river though he offered a huge
amount! Who would risk his life for mere currency! But Bilva Mangal was
knee bent on reaching Chintamani. He had lost his reasoning power long
back. He dived into water without a second thought! A dead body was floating
across the river. In the darkness around, he mistook it as a wooden plank
and held it for his support. His clothes were torn but he was not aware
Finally he reached Chintamani’s house. He told her the previous
day that he would not be able to go to her house that day due to his father’s
ceremony. So Chintamani closed all the doors and dozed off to sleep happily.
Due to the heavy down pour, his voice or the banging of the door did not
reach her ears. In the lightening flash he saw a rope along the wall.
He climbed the wall through the rope and entered Chintamani’s house
and woke her up.
Chintamani was shocked to see him. He was half naked, he was thoroughly
drenched and he was emitting a foul smell. She wondered how he reached
her in such a ghastly weather. He told her that he held a wooden plank
and climbed up through a rope. Just then the rain stopped. She came out
to see the scene outside with the lamp. The rope he mentioned was a poisonous
snake and the plank was a decaying dead body. Bilva Mangal was shocked
and the lady was irritated at his indecent behaviour - ‘Are you
not ashamed of yourself? Are you a true Brahmin? Are you not supposed
to do the religious rites to your father? Can’t you control your
senses for one day? Are you so mad after a body, which has nothing but
flesh and blood? Should you ignore your dharma for this temporary pleasure
and reach me in the dreadful night holding a dead body and a snake? Can’t
you understand the simple logic that this external beauty of mine is but
a passing phase and that sooner or later I will be floating in water like
that decaying dead body? Had you shown half the interest you show on my
body on lord Krishna he would have blessed you and you too would have
enjoyed spiritual bliss as opposed to the physical happiness you derive
These words were more powerful than a slap on his face! They struck him
like a thunder! He analyzed himself. One never knows what thoughts or
words or deeds bring about a drastic change in anybody. These words of
admonition cleansed the perverted heart of Bilva Mangal and brought him
back to his original good self. Tears rolled down his cheeks.
He fell prostrate before Chintamani and said, ‘You are my guru.
you have opened my eyes. I am very grateful to you.’ Chanting the
name of Lord Krishna he left her house.
Bilva Mangal was making a frantic search for Lord Krishna. He was wandering
all over the country ‘Old habits die hard’. One day he came
across a very beautiful lady. He followed her up to her house. Poor lady,
unaware of his admiration for her beauty walked in. Unable to forget her,
he sat outside the front gate. Her husband happened to come out after
a while. He was surprised to see a stranger at his doorstep and enquired
his whereabouts. Bilva Mangal frankly told him the truth and added ‘I
am enchanted by her beauty. If you don’t mind, I would like to stare
at her to my heart’s content. Please call her out.’ The man
was a Sethji and the woman was his wife. But unlike any other man he was
touched by the stranger’s frankness. He found no wrong in showing
his wife for quite sometime. So he went into explain it to his wife.
He found no wrong but God found it wrong. So He made Bilva Mangal realize
his mistake. Bilva Mangal cursed himself for such crazy behaviour. When
the lady came out to make a feast to his eyes, his mind had separated
from his eyes. Instead of enjoying with the eyes, his mind cursed his
lustful eyes, which brought shame upon him. So he hurriedly fetched two
thorns from a nearby tree and poked his eyes with them. He felt that was
the right punishment for his misguiding eyes. Blood rolled down his cheeks
but he was dancing away happily, chanting the name of Lord Krishna, which
echoed to the sky. The Seth and his wife were shocked to see the situation
but were helpless. But this situation cleansed him of the remnants of
his immoral behaviour.
Now the sole intention was to seek Good and have his Darshan. As Chintamani
advised, unknowingly, he was singing songs of God melodiously all the
time. He was unmindful of physical comforts like food, comfortable bed
and rest. With tears rolling down his cheeks, he was chanting the name
of God moving from one village to another. Being blind he could not move
easily but he never minded. But how will God say ‘never mind’
to the suffering of his devotees? He came down to him personally as a
shepherd boy. With a sweet voice he said ‘Dear Bilva Mangalji, you
seem to be very hungry. Please have this sweet and water. Bilva Mangal
was lured to the voice of the boy. He asked the boy his details.
Then the boy replied - I stay quite close by, I don’t have any specific
name. People call me with different names and I answer them all. I look
after the sheep. I am kind to those who are kind to me. Don’t worry.
I will come to you every day and feed you with good food. ‘So saying
he left Bilva Mangal, but took his heart with him.
Bilva Mangal was totally enchanted by the small boy. Little did he know
that the boy was the Lord himself come down to bless him. So when he was
falling a prey to the attractions of the boy, as days passed by, he began
to curse himself. ‘I thought I had passed the stage of being lured
by women. I thought I am interested only in God but I am mistaken. Still
I am pulled down towards a human being, towards this boy. How is this
attraction different from other attractions? ‘The boy read his mind
and asked him with his sweet voice.’ What are you thinking about?
Shall we go to Brindavan?’ He was thrilled at the offer but came
back to his senses. He expressed his inability. But the boy did not leave
him. He said ‘Come on, hold your stick, I’ll lead you. God
leads us all to the righteous path no doubt but here! God was literally
leading the path of a blind devotee, blinded by his love for him, to eternal
bliss. As they reached Brindavan, the boy wanted to go away, but Bilva
Mangal held his hand tightly. The very next minute he felt his body was
electrified. He could feel the current waves passing from the boy’s
hand through his body. He had divine knowledge. He could guess at once
that it was God Himself that took personal care of him. With tears of
joy he held tightly the boy’s hand and said ‘Now I know who
you are. It was very late but atleast now I know you. I will not leave
you any more. I will never leave you.
God touched his eyes with the other hand and at once he got back his eyesight.
He had a feast to his eyes. He saw to his heart’s content the magnificent,
glorious God. He couldn’t believe himself. He fell down to the feet
of God and continued to wash his feet with his continuous flow of tears
As long as he lived, he spent his life in spreading the powers of God
through his songs and when his time had come to leave this physical body
he joined Paramathma.
Thus like ‘Bilva Patra’ (a leaf used in the prayer of the
lord) Bilva Mangal proved himself worthy and remained as one of the special
devotees of God, being blessed by God.
God is moved by the total faith of his devotees and the devotees are elevated
by the blessings showered upon them by God’s immense love.