There is wonderfull story of great saint Bilvamangala Thakur. But there is very unknown story of his life before.
In his previous life he was great sanyasi and great devotee of Lord Krishna. He was at level of bhava – having intense love for Krishna.
He was found of organizing Bhagavatam festivals after which he would distribute prasadam – food to people who would attend.
Once while organizing festival he has spend all his money. He needed more money to feed devotees. So he went searching for wealth.
By walking around he saw cremation of young lady princes who has died at age of 18. There was her unhappy father, mother and all citizens.
Father has lite the fire and everyone then left away. Princess was burn with many diamonds and golden ornaments on her body.
The Sanyasi ( Bilvamangala Thakur ) saw all this and thought:
What is use to death body of princes all this valuable jewelry. Better take all this and use it in service of Krishna and devotees.
So he approached death body and tried to take jeweled ornaments but then he heard the voice:
– Stop it! Dont take this! It was voice of death princess.
Sanyasi was shocked.
– If you need wealth then go to my father the king. Tell him that i have send you. Under my bed there is box with great treasure. Ask my father for that wealth and use that wealth to serve devotees and Krishna – spoke death princess.
Sanyasi ( Bilvamangala Tahkur ) happily went to king and revealed what has happen.
King looked and really found great treasure under bed of princess.
King happily donated that great wealth to the sanyasi. Bilvamangala went and spend all wealth on Bhagavatam festival. But at the end again there was shortage of some wealth.
So he went to cremation place of princess and took the diamond necklace.
As he was going he heard voice of death princess:
You have done great mistake by taking this necklace. I curse you that although you are so advance in your love for Krishna, to take birth one more time and live immoral life.
In his next life sanyasi was born as women hunter. Princess has also taken birth again as his prostitute Cintamani. In this life time she has shown him the way acting as his instructing Guru. She has told him:
– If you have such desire for Krishna as for me you would be immediately become self realize soul!
Moral of the story:
Our wealth in life should be properly earned. Even when we want to serve Krishna and his devotees it should be properly earned otherwise we have to suffer consequences of bad karma.
‘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 to them.
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 of it.
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 from me.’
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 of joy.
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.