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Who is Ishta Devata? | Bhakti, a stage beyond Moksha

Can God help you with your life?

We, as consciousness

Consciousness, Awareness is universal. It is the subject of all experience. It can never be experienced because it is the one that experiences, in the normal course of our existence. A living entity who is riveted in pure consciousness untainted by the mind or the distortions of subjective reality, is the one who transcends all experiences and is freed from limitations of the body and mind. The Jnanis term this deep realization as liberation.

Status beyond liberation

 

There is another type of liberation, the one that has been my life-long pursuit, which keeps me inspired and motivated. This liberation is a state ‘Beyond liberation’, beyond Moksha which Sanatana Dharma calls Bhakti. The Subject, pure consciousness is directly experienced as the “other”, as a different being, and all-perfect, which is also our highest possibility or the highest possibility of humanity as one unit. This is a great hack that the great Acharyas such as Sri Ramanujacharya, Sri Madhvacharya, Sri Nimbarkacharya, Sri Vallabhacharya, and Sriman Gauranga Mahaprabhu have made available to the common folk. When the Supreme Consciousness, which is “I”, the original “Me” becomes available to us, through our direct experience, as the other, that is the heightened levels of liberation, unimaginable by any stretch of knowledge or Wisdom. It is direct perception beyond the realm of wisdom. In this type of liberation, one need not lose one’s body-mind and merge into the ocean of Consciousness as the Jnanis proclaim. When our highest possibility becomes available to us, as the other, who remains with us as our doting parent, our own inner most self, the supremely intimate aspect, becomes available to us, by our side, always taking care of us like a mother cajoling her dear one, what will be the feeling like, can anyone even imagine? This experience is beyond any conception or experience of liberation. Many of the devotees have attained to that state of being where they continue to exist in Permanence even after the fading away of their current material body. They exist in pure spiritual form in the spiritual realm along with their original self existing as the Supreme Being by their side.

Surfing beyond the waves

Will the feeling of being in the presence of the Supreme Being not beat the “Knowledgeable Experience” of merging into the light or void? When the mother is holding the child to her waist, can any enemy touch the child? If our Highest Self makes Himself available to us in a physical-spiritual form, with emotions and intentions, just like our own selves and yet having the capacity to keep the universe at bay as far as our protection and maintenance is concerned, will that not be wonderful to experience? If we were to attain a spiritual form, an eternal form, having attained which, we continue on an endless journey, just like an adept surfer, continues to surf an inch above the endless waves of the ocean protected by the life-jacket, overseen by the personified aspect of the Universe, keeping one eternally protected, will that not be interesting and fun as compared to simply disappearing into nothingness, void or attaining an undifferentiated state of existence, as the Jnanis explain “Brahman”?

The Advent of Ishta Devata- Our cherished deity

Even as the Iron Age began, people started losing their intelligence to the power of Maya. They started to lose their memory capacity and became far too short-sighted. The high knowledge of Sri Adi Shankaracharya now appeared esoteric, inaccessible and far-fetched to the intelligence of the larger population that was losing itself in the din and pandemonium of the new-age tyrants who started taking control of the lives of innocent people. This is when in the land of Bharath, there was an overwhelming rediscovery phase that began with the advent of Sri Ramanujacharya and lasted till the departure of the Supreme Lord Sri Chaitanya when Bhakti, that was an integral aspect of Sanatana Dharma made its reappearance in a glorious and heart-touching manner. It was during this period that the concept of “Ishta Devata” became prominent more than ever. Tales of saints and their Ishta Devatas, the deity of their heart, became the talk of the common folk in Bharath, India. The Supreme Being could be summoned by the innocent heart. India became a land where the Supreme Being appeared in the form of Sri Rama, Sri Krishna, Sri Vitthal, Lord Shiva and a host of deities in ways which one can never imagine and offered direct shelter to their devotees. Who can forget the tales of Goswami Tulsidas who met Sri Hanumanji, Sri Rama and Sri Laxmana in person? The tales of Sri Thyagaraja, the singing saint of Tiruvarur district of Tamil Nadu and his rendezvous with Sri Rama have the capacity to drench one’s heart with the pure emotions of Love of God. Who can forget Sri Mirabai’s tryst with her eternal paramour Lord Sri Krishna of Dwaraka? What about Lord Gauranga Mahaprabhu in the mood of Sri Radha pining for union with his beloved Sri Krishna of Vrindavana? The list is endless. Bhakti as a practice is for those who have stopped doubting and with an innocent heart surrendered to the Supreme, summoning Him with the sole intention of being in His eternal companionship serving Him in endless ways. When this surrender is complete, there is no doubt that one’s beloved deity, “Ishta Devata’ (Lord of one’s heart) shall arrive, holding the hand of his devotee leading the way to His eternal abode. This is just not a matter of faith or conviction, it is the plain Truth. The only thing is that one should be ready to burn oneself in Love for the Supreme with no expectations whatsoever other than to be in His eternal service.

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