Devatas / Divine Beings / Deities – some random musings

From my teens, I set out attracted to & tried to promote Hindu dharma through the prism of rationality. This can be gleaned from many of my writings on this website, some of which I wrote nearly 20 years ago, such as this or this article.

I would always try and make everything make sense, to try and bring out symbolic and philosophical meaning that underlied customs, rituals, images etc. I was inclined against belief in specific forms of worship and spiritual practice, thinking that these were mostly just to engage and gradually calm the easily distracted mind.

I now think that while there is considerable value to the intellectual approach – enhancing people’s understanding and intellectual appreciation isn’t as valuable and transformational as putting the wanderings of the mind to rest and opening oneself up to the grace of a Devata (roughly translated to Deity). 

I used to think that if it was even possible to access the grace of a Devata, it would be only a few rare individuals who would ever experience it; but now I feel that the grace of the Divine forces (and equally the pull of the un-Divine) may be encountered by anyone, and that these forces are more real and enduring realities than the we people who come under their influence.

At one point I would have probably dismissed Devatas solely as symbolic representation of the one supreme consciousness, but now I would put it that I don’t exactly know how to explain what Devatas are, except to say that they are real, that they are connected to one another yet paradoxically distinct from one another and can enter our lives and guide us in ways that defy explanation.

I now feel that somebody without intellectual understanding of things may embody a higher consciousness and bring divine vibrations into the world to a greater extent than someone who has vast philosophical knowledge, and that the former is generally more important.

Perhaps a Devata can be conceived of as a distinct ray or facet of cosmic intelligence and light, that can be approached for grace and guidance. If Consciousness is the ultimate reality and Consciousness became all that is, Consciousness cannot be limited by concepts like “one” or “many”. It is both and yet so much more. The Devatas are perhaps like attributes of consciousness that arise with manifestation, that have the characteristics of separate beings. However, I would not push this explanation too far, the Truth is far more nuanced and beyond the grasp of any mental explanation.

One of the main modalities for accessing the grace of a Devata is Mantra Japa (recitation of mantras). The mantra is said to be a subtle form of a Devata, and correctly done is a way to tune into His/Her frequency and manifest particular energies in our lives, which can be startlingly specific. I would have at one point been very sceptical of this. All my life I never had prayed for anything, I had only ever prayed for the sake of praying – I was confident that I had everything I needed. Yet when I was finally put into a situation when I really needed help in so many ways, I was guided to the regular practice of  various mantras, which inexplicably helped resolve each of the “problems” that I needed help with. I was still sceptical, and asked for signs that these changes were really the result of the mantras, and answers were surprisingly forthcoming. I was also cautioned that external results of these practices were not the result of my own actions and that I should not develop any ego with regards to them, else the same energies which had led to my “problems” would be set back into motion in my life. I still consider myself at a very early stage in my journey.

The question arises (and I have grappled with this question) as to why not just meditate upon the “formless absolute” rather than a name, form, formulation or attribute. The answer is that one can just meditate upon the formless (and this is a valid approach), but for most people this just remains an abstract intellectual formulation, and this can make it difficult to pierce the realm of the normal mind driven consciousness and enter into the reality. Whereas it is generally easier to grasp the rays of consciousness as they manifest and work in the world, and allow them to teach us, and take us towards the formless Brahman when we are ready.

Certainly, Hinduism – in particular its rich philosophical traditions – can be intellectually profound and appeal to the rational mind. Yet whereas in the past I felt that the primary problem of Hindu society is that many young Hindus were not taught an intellectual appreciation of Hinduism, I know feel that the primary issue for Hindu society (as with humanity at large) is to individually and collectively ensure we open ourselves up to the grace and guidance of the higher forces of consciousness and to embody their vibration as we live our lives.

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