26) Self Knowledge (Atmajnan) –Ishta Devata

TALK 26 by Prabhuji  (12 APR 2016)

We will contemplate on ‘Ishta Devatas’. It means, ‘Deity whom I like’.

We have so many deities. Now what are these deities? Who are these deities? Are there many Gods? All of us, actually, are praying to one Divine, one God, one Supreme Being or one Supreme Reality. That is called Parabrahma – Parameshwara. The Parabrahma or Parameshwara is beyond our thought, beyond our mind, beyond our intellect. There is no way we can reach Parabrahma, Parameshwara or that Supreme through our mind and intellect.

To give an example – there is a frog in well; a bird comes and sit on the wall of the well and starts singing. The frog asks the bird, ‘What are you doing?’ The bird says, ‘I am singing in the of praise of the ocean.’ The frog asks, ‘What is ocean?’ ‘The ocean is full of water,’ says the bird. The frog then asks, ‘How much water?’ The bird answers, ‘Too much.’ Then the frog shows with its hands and asks, ‘Is it this much?’ Bird says, ‘No, more.’ Frog asks, ‘As much as this well?’ The bird says, ‘No, more.’ Then the frog says, ‘You are lying.’ Similarly, our mind and intellect are very, very limited in understanding the Supreme Reality. The Supreme Reality can only be understood when the mind, body and intellect become totally silent. That’s called surrender. You can become one with the Supreme Being, but cannot know the Supreme Being. That Supreme Being we worship. But for worship, we need a concrete idea, concrete thought process, because our minds are limited in nature. Definitely we cannot comprehend the Supreme Being. So we have to take some aspects of the Supreme Being and worship them. And these aspects are represented through various deities. These are the qualities of the Supreme Being that are represented through various deities. And the quality which you like very much is called the ‘Ishta Devata’.

Devata is not the Supreme Being. Devata is nothing but the divine personification of the divine qualities of the Supreme Being. We have many Ishta devatas, and these Ishta Devatas represent the divine qualities in various aspects. You can think of the Supreme Being and its divine qualities as fire and the qualities of fire. Fire has burning ability; the fire gives out light. Now, the fire itself you cannot comprehend in totality without the light and the burning. So, if you take one aspect of fire, say the burning quality, and start looking at the fire, that’s actually equivalent to looking at the Supreme Being through one of the deities. Ultimately, the deity is not the goal, but the Supreme Being is the goal. The deity shows the path. That is what deity worship is about.

We instinctively get attracted to a certain deity. Now this deity which attracts us is called the Ishta Devata. And we worship that deity, pray to that deity, with the idea of purification of our inner consciousness so that we can reach the Supreme Being, Supreme Reality, with the mind and intellect silent and purified. The deity we worship may have different qualities. For example, when we worship Shiva, we are actually worshiping the detachment (Vairagya) and Jnana aspect, which is predominant in Shiva. Narayana, or Vishnu, is more of compassion aspect; love aspect. Lakshmi – wealth aspect. So, each of the deities have special characteristics and attributes which they bestow upon us. By constantly thinking of the deity, and chanting the mantra of the deity, those divine qualities start manifesting in us. By constantly contemplating on the deity, meditating, and thinking of those divine qualities, they manifest in us; because, you become what you think. This is what we call inner purification. Remember, we are worshiping the deity through the mind and the intellect, which are limited in nature. By constant mediation on the deity, and chanting the mantra of the deity, these instruments will be purified, so that we open up to Higher Reality or Supreme Being.

This inner purification happens in four stages. They are called – Salokya, Sameepya, Sarupya, and Sayujya.
Salokya means, you start feeling the presence of the deity when you are meditating, or you start chanting the name of the deity.
Sameepya means, your mind has become more purified, and you have mentally started feeling a closeness to the deity. Mental closeness means – when I say that I am close to somebody, really I am saying that our minds are matching. For example, if the deity you worship has Vairagya and Jnana as qualities, you also start acquiring qualities of Vairagya and Jnana in your life.

Then from there, you move on to Sarupya. Sarupya means, the mind becomes so pure that most of the qualities of the deity manifest in you. You become the embodiment of Vairagya and Jnana, if you are worshiping the deity which has Vairagya and Jnana as the main qualities. Or compassion will manifest in you fully if you are worshiping the deity with compassion as the main characteristic.
And Sayujya means – ultimately you merge with the deity. It is not with the ‘deity’. When merging happens, you mind becomes so pure, your mind becomes so silent, and merges with the qualities of the deity and you open up the realisation of the Ultimate, the Supreme Being.
This is Salokya, Sameepya, Sarupya, and Sayujya. This is also called ‘Krama Mukti’, or progressive liberation.

Transcription by Atmajyothi Satyavathi

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