If you are not familiar with Indian spirituality, you are probably not familiar with the term “ishta-devata.” It’s a concept found in every spirituality or religion. Everyone has an ishta-devata, even if we don’t refer to it by that name. The ishta-devata is none other than your own vision of God. Whichever aspect of God you hold most dear to your heart, whether that be Krishna, Kali, Jesus, the Buddha, Tara, or any other form you can possibly imagine is your personal ishta-devata. This is a profound and powerful concept for contemplation. Let’s look at some of the reasons why.
The spiritual heart of all beings
The ishta-devata is said to reside in the spiritual heart, the hridaya chakra, of all people. The spiritual heart is often misunderstood. It is the place where your soul resides, where all nadis and energy points intersect and where the entire universe is embodied inside of you. In fact, all beings and all aspects of God are said to reside here. In this place, you are connected with everything in the entire universe and all things become possible. This spiritual heart center is also closely connected with the crown chakra and the bindu point that resides in the center of it; they are considered the same place of consciousness. The uniqueness of working with the spiritual heart is that it can lead us quickly towards realization on any spiritual path of our choice in an integrated fashion that supports the entire mind-body-spirit connection. When the spiritual heart governs the process of growth, all energy in the body is regulated from this place, making it far less likely to experience energy imbalances or Kundalini-related health problems, sometimes referred to as Kundalini emergencies.
The spiritual heart center can be thought of as our entire system working harmoniously together. Think of the human body and how it functions together, verses looking at a single organ system. Every organ in our body is extremely important and plays a vital role in our survival, but without all of our organs working together, we would not be alive. This is how the spiritual heart functions also. Independently, all aspects of spiritual growth, emotional health, psychological balance, etc. are extremely important, but when they don’t all work together to support a whole and integrated being, a person cannot live a happy or successful life. The heart does not choose which organs to pump blood and nutrients to; it understands everything contained within the body is of equal importance. Likewise the spiritual heart can reveal many great mysteries about the diversity of both outer life and the Self within; if you listen to it.
The Ishta-Devata and you
Perhaps one of the most beautiful things about the spiritual heart center is that it is a place within us that inspires deep faith and devotion. Faith is the epitome of beauty, as it contains the raw potential energy of everything inside of it. It is a catalyst for everything that we experience in life. The Bhagavad Gita very eloquently states that whatever the nature of a man’s faith, he (or she) attains that. Faith contains both our aspirations in life and the grace to enable them to become reality. This is sometimes talked about as agni and soma (fire and divine nectar); faith is the catalyst, the raw Shakti power, that enables both of these polarities to work together and bring about our desires in life. Faith can be understood as the central point of focus that manifests everything else in life.
The ishta-devata provides people a conduit. While faith is formless and requires no specific object of focus, devotion requires a form to be devoted to. It is essential to cultivate deep devotion for any individual who wants to grow his capacity for faith. Devotion can be understood as the bridge and linking force to our capacity for faith. Just as the human guru acts as an outer bridge connecting us with God, the ishta-devata serves as the inner bridge to our connection with God.
Here is where this concept gets interesting. all great masters have expressed the same truth that each human spark is none other than God itself. The only difference between the soul, the indwelling atman, and God lies in our own perceptions and realization of ourselves. So how does this relate to the ishta-devata? Simple; if you are none other than a spark of God, everything about your deepest self, your dreams, your aspirations, your talents, your shortcomings, your totally awesome self, is also manifestation of God.
The form of God that you feel closest to embodies all of the traits that you yourself are or are seeking to become. and here is a really beautiful truth: what you most want to become already resides deep within your being. you merely have to uncover its potential, no matter how distant it may seem! This is why God comes to us in so many different forms; masculine, feminine, animal, through ancestors, nature and more with a variety of differing traits and energetic strengths. a Goddess such as Tara is very different in many respects to a Goddess such as Kali, who is different from Lakshmi, who is different from allah, who is different from Christ and on and on. are they really different? I’d say no; the deepest portion of all of them is the same source of consciousness, but the outward manifestations of energies vary from deity to deity. For example, Kali is outwardly responsible for dissolution and destruction, whereas Lakshmi is responsible for prosperity and abundance, two opposite energetic currents, but both necessary to be whole and complete.
Self-empowerment through worship
By worshiping the aspect of God you most closely resonate with, you are opening the floodgates of Divine grace to enter in your life. By bringing out your deepest self and allowing it to function in day-to-day life, you are empowering yourself in a fundamentally unshakable way. This worship forms a solid foundation to grow on both materially and spiritually. you are ultimately what you think about and focus your energy on. By integrating your faith in day-to-day life, you will not only be empowered spiritually, but can learn to feel deeply empowered in all of your actions. This tangible experience of confidence in your deepest self is what all successful people in life have learned to master. This sort of deep unshakable confidence is also essential to enter into the heart or deep into a state of meditation.
If you don’t have an ishta-devata yet, contemplate for a while on what aspects of God most resonate with you and why. Once you know what you want in life and want to become, you can be confident that those traits are a fundamental part of yourself and choose an ishta-devata accordingly. remember, this is a practice of the heart.
While it may start in the mind, the goal is to use this worship as a way of entering into the devotion and love of the heart. When you can learn to love your ishta-devata deeply, you will be able to cultivate deep love and acceptance for yourself. By accepting all of yourself, you open up all possibilities in life. There are no limits to your potential; the only limits are the boundaries of your own imagination. The question of life is not whether you can reach your potential; you most definitely can! Every human being is born with the innate potential for greatness. The question to contemplate is how big are your dreams and what do you want to accomplish in life?
Jaya Jaya Myra is a dynamic spiritual figure dedicated to helping mankind. Her no-nonsense approach to God consciousness teaches people the necessary discernment, discipline and devotion required to enliven the highest possible consciousness in life. Myra teaches public workshops, works one-on-one with individuals, and also performs sacred fire ceremony and puja. www.gitaforthemasses.org