Approaching the Beloved: Relating to Deities

by Ekabhumi Charles Ellik

Bhakti Yoga: A Personal Relationship with the Divine

“The nature of spiritual devotion is the supreme love.” –Nārada Bhakti Sūtras1

An endearing aspect of the devotional (bhakti) yogic path is the cultivation of an intimate and personal relationship with one’s chosen deity (iṣṭa devatā). In contrast to other yogic paths that focus on ritual, austerity, or meditation, the bhakti path utilizes the power of our emotions as part of the foundation of this spiritual relationship. The flames of longing for union are intentionally stoked to melt old emotional attachments and forge a new identity in relationship to the divine. A completely immersive and personal love of a divine “other” is utilized to redirect awareness from the miserable isolation of individual ego-identity to an expansive state of unity with the divine Beloved. In a systematic way, the devotee’s tremendous love is shifted from personal to universal until the Beloved is seen in all phenomena, as all beings, and in every experience.

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