Our Ishta Devata by Eric Fremaux

We choose a Beloved Deity as a focus for Devotion.
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When in Devotion, we often choose a beloved Deity, a Creator, or Supreme being, as a focus for our prayers. A Christian may visualize Christ, a Hindu beholds Krishna, others see Mata or a Divine Mother, and some conceive the grand architect of the universe, the Almighty Father in their focus of prayer and devotion.

Our Ishta Devata
by Eric Fremaux
December, 2022

Our Personal Cherished Divinity

Ishta Deva or Ishta Devata, comes from the Sanskrit: Ishta, meaning “desired, cherished”, or preferred”; and Devata, meaning “godhead or divinity.” It can translate then as “cherished Divinity.” It is the God form one prefers, loves, or is drawn towards in worship. Ishta Devata is the personal Deity who will guide the soul home.

Ishta Deva is then the term for a worshipper's personal preferred deity. One chooses a particular and beloved deity as their focus for devotion. By this Devotion you are not transforming, but rather you are being transformed, coming nearer to you Ishta Devita, the source of Divinity and Moksha. Moksha (Sanskrit) is spiritual emancipation, enlightenment, liberation, and release. Moksha refers to freedom from the process of rebirth and the physical death, called samsara, or the cycle of death and rebirth.

Typically many practitioners worship their Ishta Deva through the form of a murti (Sanskrit; a particular devotional image) or other item of focus. This worship often involves offering items to their chosen divinity such as incense or flowers while reciting mantras, singing their Names, or for many, their tradition of worship is simply offering prayers of devotion.

Insight on Ishta Devata

Dr. Diane M. Rousseau writes: “It is important to note one's Ishta is one's most Dear God and Name of God; it acknowledges ones Deepest Love and their Faith, as the Ishta is their Mantra; Mantras are the most pleasing Name and Sound of the Name of God. This explanation comes from Guru Dev (Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, Jagadguru Maharaj).”

Dr. Rousseau continues: “This helps to understand why, in the beginning, Maharishi developed 5 Distinct aspects of the Holy Tradition Teachings: The Spiritual and holistic SRM, the Scientific for Research, Educational for Students, those who just wanted to learn Meditation; the IMS (International Meditation Society), and follow up programs to teach those interested more about Ayurveda, Jyotish, Gandarva Veda, and other Vedic Teachings. Always, we return to source and remember, ‘First Is God, and all else follows...”

His Holiness Shri Jagatguru Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, Shankaracharya of Jyotir Math, or simply: 'Guru Dev'.

Guru Dev teaches: “Consider your Ishta (your preferred form of God), as your Supreme God, Omnipotent and Blissful. Place unbounded feeling on Him, and there will never be a miserly deficiency of anything. If you firmly seize the One you will escape from flattery of the many. Otherwise you will turn from door-to-door like a stray dog and one's own priceless life will be given over only to getting food and clothing. At a few places the stray dog indeed obtains some bread, but at all places it gets beaten. He/she who has not chosen any Ishta, he/she is ever an ownerless orphan, no matter much wealth he/she has.

The significance of undivided attention to the Ishta is that at the time of worship of the Ishta, if any everyday issue arises, then disregard it. Do not get up from the worship...”

Sri Paramahansa Yogananda writes: “God is Eternal Bliss. His being is love, wisdom, and joy. He is both impersonal and personal, and manifests Himself in whatever way He pleases. He appears before His saints in the form each of them holds dear: a Christian sees Christ, a Hindu beholds Krishna or the Divine Mother, and so on. Devotees whose worship takes an impersonal turn become conscious of the Lord as an infinite Light or as the wondrous sound of Aum, the primal Word, the Holy Ghost. The highest experience man can have is to feel that Bliss in which every other aspect of Divinity - love, wisdom, immortality - is fully contained.”

Worshiping Our Beloved Deity

Once we choose our Beloved Deity as a focus for our Devotion, the devotee should seek to worship their personal choice of Divinity, their Ishta Devata, in both spirit and in truth.

Christian scripture tells us in John 4:23-24 (NASB):
23 “But a time is coming, and even now has arrived, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.
24 God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit.”

Copyright © 2023 Institute of Spiritual Sciences (ISS).
Contributions and ISS edits by Ray J. Rousseau.


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