She Died in Joy

November 7, 2010

Mirabai in India

Slowly, my particles are regathering themselves and I am coming back into focus after an utterly yet gently transformational journey to India.

This trip dropped a missing puzzle piece into my life story, integrating my spiritual path, my lineage, my personal history and my grieving process in a way that makes me feel whole and healed.  I have loved Maharaji (Neem Karoli Baba, Ram Dass’ guru, whom he first wrote about in BE HERE NOW) since I was thirteen, yet had never been able to make my way to his ashram in the foothills of the Himalayas till now.

The motivation for this odyssey was to commemorate the ninth anniversary of Jenny’s death.  In numerology, nine is the number of completion of a cycle, and something in me felt ready to come full circle in my heart.  Shortly after Jenny’s cremation nine years ago, a friend hand-delivered some of her ashes to Maharaji’s temple in northern India, and they conducted a ceremony honoring Jenny and the mystical experience she had right before she died.  It was time for me to make a pilgrimage to the place where my daughter’s remains were offered into the sacred river that runs through the ashram.

Mataji, Maharaji’s closest devotee and successor, received me with unconditional love and a refreshing lack of sentimentality.  Although she is in her late eighties, receives scores of devotees, and oversees every detail of the immaculate ashram, she managed to recall everything about me, about Jenny, and about the state of consciousness Jenny entered prior to her death.  On the final night of Durga Puja, a 9-day festival honoring the Divine Mother, Jenny had slipped into an ecstatic  state labeled by mental health professionals as psychotic and by spiritual seekers as one of embodying the Divine Feminine.  On the third night, when I had made the difficult decision to get her to the hospital, Jenny tricked me, jumped in my car, and drove over the mountain to her death.

Until now, I have not shared this story with many.  It’s enough for most people to deal with the fact that my teenaged daughter died in a car crash.  The spiritual component of the experience seems too far-fetched to expect people to take in.  I once made the mistake of telling the story to a group of five hundred people when I had been invited by a famous spiritual teacher to speak at her conference, and someone in the audience accused me of causing my daughter’s death by exposing her to the dangers of the “Guru-Trip.”  Since then I have tried to keep this aspect of Jenny’s death mostly to myself.  And yet, for me, it remains the most essential element, and one with which I had not quite come to peace until I sat at the feet of a saint and heard her say: YOUR DAUGHTER DIED IN JOY.  So, I take the risk of posting this.

Mataji said other things too, as the weeks unfolded and I spent my time chanting, meditating, and floating around the ashram in a state of deep contentment and childlike wonder.  She told me that Jenny left this world exactly when she was supposed to and went exactly where she needed to.  She said that her soul had already transcended days before her body died.  She told me not to worry, that all is well.  She said that Jenny was a very high being, and that she is with me always, watching over me and guiding me, even if I can’t see her, and that I should not cry.

SHE DIED IN JOY, she repeated.  That is all any mother could ask for if she must endure the loss of her child: that her death did not cause her suffering.  That she died joyous.  And that she is not lost at all.  That she is right here, always, co-partnering with me in the service I offer to the world in her honor.

I could cross over into skepticism here.  I am a trained philosopher and impatient with True Believers of any flavor.  Yet the affirmation I received from this amazing woman melted my cynical impulses and filled my heart with peace.  I’ll take it wherever I can get it.  And I got it at my lifelong guru’s home high in the mountains on the border of Nepal, where spiritual gifts have abounded for millennia.  I am grateful to have been able to dip into this sacred stream and carry the blessing back into my life and work and relationships.

Sri Ma Jaya Ma Jaya Jaya Ma

21 Responses to “She Died in Joy”

  1. Hi Mirabai
    I just read “She died in Joy”. Thank you so much for sharing what you have learned. Your daughter has taught all of us a beautiful lesson. What we see in one world may be so different from the other world. I still listen to the Rabia song often and think so much about the sitting in two worlds.
    Much love and blessings,

    • Isn’t that a powerful song? For those of you who are not familiar with the Rabia song, it’s on Zuleikha’s album, Robe of Love, easy to order online. Audrey, you are in my heart always. Thank you for reaching out.

    • Sandy Whitney said

      Hello to you Mirabai and your sweet gentle soul,

      Your spiritual strength is in your courage to be fully human and your willingness to feel what that experience has required of you. And so much has been required of you . . . most especially the loss of your precious Jenny. I am honored to have attended your Beautiful Wound workshop, and more honored to be part of a small group in which you entrusted your personal story. I cannot put into words how joyous I am that you now know that your daughter died in joy. I believe that this is true, because if it were not so you would have felt it in the deepest part of your being. The Truth you were told came from a higher consciousness than your rational inquiries (albeit a good and necessary part of who we are to be whole, honest and balanced). The rational world can hold truth from its perspective – which makes it so confusing when we fluctuate between levels of consciousness. It’s only in that higher place, the place with incredible peace and clarity that quiet knowing comes to us. . . I am so glad you experienced this healing blessing.

      Thank you for your integrity and your powerful, yet vulnerable leadership.
      I have needed to attend many workshops for CEU’s over the years. . . “The Beautiful Wound” was instead, a divine appointment.

      With love and gratitude, Sandy

  2. Joe Boncek said

    So beautiful. Thank you for sharing your truth. This entry brought tears to my eyes as I felt Maharaji’s grace spring forth from your words.

  3. Tim Fullerton said

    Reading this filled me with awe and peace. I cannot put a finger right on it, but what came thru this is ineffable, gentle, and powerful.
    Thank you for sharing this.
    Tim Fullerton

  4. Vivianna Padilla said

    Hi Mirabai,
    Your story touched my heart & I believe she died in Joy, as I read the words, a vision of her happy as she took of in the car, there was joy as she ran, blessings my teacher of wisdom… Love you Vivianna.. :)~

  5. Marabai – we don’t know each other personally – I’m a part-time Taos person with a lot of Taos friends on Facebook, including you. I am often touched deeply by your posts – but never more so than after reading “She Died in Joy.” Thank you for sharing such personal experiences and insights – you have touched and moved me and I wanted you to know how grateful I am that you are on the planet at the same time that I am.

  6. Parvati said

    Dear Mirabai,
    What an incredible offering to bring to Maharajji’s temple and to Ma, and such grace-filled prasad for you to bring home. You feel whole. May you now dwell in peace.
    ramram, Parvati

  7. Dearest Mirabai,

    Having lived in India now almost two years, I have learned a few things that I would not have understood or realized back in the states. To the western mind, the ideas you write may seem “irrational” but here in this world of timeless spiritual awareness, what you write here “she died in joy” has the ring of truth for me.

    As a trained and educated psychotherapist, I can tell you the world of Western psychology and mental health does not have an elaborate language for the ecstastic states you describe. Meher Baba was in such state for seven years before he emerged with the spiritual strength to claim his spiritual heritage and take on his life’s work. The numbers of saints who go through this process are endless, as you know. I have heard of many and read accounts of quite a few. But this is not something westerners have a culture to understand. Even here in India, I am hearing that the understanding and culture of yogic sciences is disappearlng.

    I am so happy that you made your trip to visit the lineage holder of your Guru and received the words that brought your heart to peace. I can imagine that knowing that your daughter was actually a “very high being” and continues to surround you is just the words you needed to hear so that you could more easily feel into her continuing presence in your life. What an important blessing!

    I remember the one New Year’s Eve that i spent at the home of you, Mark and Terra singing songs, spending time around a camp fire, wishing in the new year. I remember your daughter Jenny as full of energy, creative and quite independent. You, Mark and Terra have had this long term relationship with Indian knowledge. Although I also had a teenage introduction into the Indian way of seeing things and my first mystical experiences, as a young adult I entered into the western world to get firmly established. Over the years, I was waiting for the door to re-open to India. Not till my mother passed over four years ago and released from my daughter’s duties of overseeing her aging and dying process was I given the opportunity to open my own wings and fly towards the sun.

    I was not able to have children of my own and for many years that was a deep sorrow. But over the past six years, the bliss of Love that is growing in this heart has entirely melted that pain and now I can see the wisdom and freedom in not having children. There is no longer any family in the states that needs me in the way my mother did. My brother and sister have a very established family life that they can rely on in an emergency. Instead, I am able to respond to the work and seva that is unfolding here at the foot of my Guru’s lineage in Ganeshpuri, Maharashtra. The need here in rural india is so great but is giving me the opportunity to open more and more to love, wonder and bliss. I am so grateful.

    (We too have a blog, two actually, one that describes our life at the ashram-like retreat center in Ganeshpuri and one that describes the seva we are involved in with Shree Nityananda Education Trust:

    I have always had this intuitive connection with you and the topics of your writing. Thank you for giving me the time to share with you some of my thoughts.

    In the One Love that we all are,
    Jeanette Monosoff Haley

    PS… the photo of you is pure beauty and bliss!

    • Jeanette, your work is amazing! I am deeply moved by Fire Mountain and the commitment you two have made to such service. Nityananda is my husband’s (Ganga Das) guru.

      Thanks too for the beautiful response to my blog. Your professional perspective is reassuring. I have always known that there is a fine line between mental imbalance and spiritual giftedness, and I appreciate when others affirm that they are not mutually exclusive.

      I send you much love and many blessings on your beautiful seva.


  8. please subscribe me to your blog!!

  9. Hanuman Tirtha said

    My Heart is touched by your Love . There are many who will benefit by your sharing such deeply personal experience with us and I know your heart is completely full of Love .
    Thank You,

  10. As someone once told me, any good teacher will always, in ways, remind us, “We’re only perceiving part of the picture.”
    The seemingly most painful existences for people in this realm, always have the deeper self that chose, to participate, in the experience.
    We never lose anything, for we never became anything than that which we weren’t to begin with. The ego structure of course is our source of attachment and pain. But in the end we have to give that up as well, only perhaps to come back and work with it again later. Because…. we want to, and choose to… I believe everyone on some level knows this, and makes this choice. It’s why Thaddeus use to, “Thank his brothers and sisters for allowing him to be here”. We all choose, and when I see this, truly see this in another or myself, then I know the freedom of choice, and a certain wholeness we all possess, never changes. Of course it is one thing to believe this, to know this is true, it is another thing to “realize it” as being true.
    Mirabai, your writings always remind me of this truth, our wholeness that never changes, and our choice to be here doing the dance. As our friend RD put it, the game of liberation, “The only dance there is.” There seems no easy steps in this dance, prepare to be pummeled, laughing and crying to the end… Doug in Traverse City

  11. Sunny Redmond said

    Ah brave sister!
    Another level on the path has been coursed.
    We come when we come and we go when we go.
    All is in Divine order with the weaving of the Sacred Tapestry of life with the delft hand of the Divine Weaver. . .
    Part of my healing was to accept that my finite mind could not accept that my daughter’s injury and subsequent death was from love, for her highest good and her soul’s evolution. . .We are blessed with grist for the mill which takes our seeking of our own personal truth higher, deeper then some or most. . because the need to know that we did not ’cause” another’s pain or harm and that they are indeed ok.
    Love and blessings, sweet sister.
    I am blessed to know you and have you in my life. . .

  12. Christine Wise said

    The grace of Maharaji is so incredible; he is always by my side. THANK YOU so very much for sharing this story. It arrives at a perfect time for me. LOVE SERVE REMEMBER. with great love & happiness for you, Chris

  13. Thank you for this precious post and its accompanying photo.

    I am wondering:
    Regarding the things that Mataji told you about your daughter (then and now), would you say that you’d known them all along but hadn’t quite committed yourself to them?
    Or is it that these ideas were wholly new to you?
    If not new, what exactly shifted for you during your pilgrimage?

    Just curious. If you don’t mind reflecting on this.

    • You’re absolutely correct, David. Mataji simply reinforced what I have been holding in my heart all along. Like a wise and kindly grandmother who loves me, she tuned in and affirmed my heart’s most cherished hopes. I had already found significant peace, but somehow going to a place (that ashram in India) that is all about the life of the spirit and values ecstatic states as spiritual gifts made me feel less alone in my own understanding of the “other” aspect of what happened to Jenny — which does not preclude the “fact” that she also suffered from psychosis, a condition that ultimately did take her life. I seem to be able to hold both truths with more equanimity now.

  14. dovalpage said

    Amiguita, I feel strangely peaceful and soothed (not a regular state for me) after reading your post. Gracias for sharing it. Somehow it strikes a cord… And ¿sabes que? your person transmits peace, I also felt that yesterday at the cafeteria. I imagine your students must all adore you, eres como una brisa suave.
    Abrazos grandes,
    La Te

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