The Focal Point of Devotion (part 1)

You can devote yourself to anything. But it must be something for which you spontaneously feel bhakti, love or devotion. The object is a means to an end. The object should not be imposed on your character. It should not be foreign or unnatural to your personality. It should be something for which devotion arises spontaneously. This is so important; but it can be anything. In the Uddhava Gita, a section of the Srimad Bhagavatam, it says: “The Supreme can be worshipped in whatever image or medium for which the worshipper feels reverence and devotion, for being the soul of the universe, I (Krishna) dwell in all things.”

You can choose anything, for whatever you worship is a form of the supreme. In the case of devotees of Krishna, he represents, symbolizes and is everything. He is the essence of all things. Though he is usually depicted in human form, playing a flute and with a peacock feather in his hair, be can actually be represented by any form, any object. The well known form of Krishna is highly venerated by large numbers of people in India. Many people feel overwhelming bhakti for this human form of Krishna. He captivates their hearts and all their aspirations. And this is wonderful, for it can easily lead to higher experience and expanded awareness. But Krishna is not restricted to this form. He can be anything. It is the focus of attention that is important. If you feel devotion for one particular form then use it as a means of expressing bhakti.

In Christianity, the focal point of bhakti is Christ or the Virgin Mary. These can also lead to transcendence if the bhakti is great enough. In fact, this is the method that many great Christian saints have utilized in order to know the unspeakable. Saints like St. Bernard, St. Teresa, St. Francis and so forth were all bhaktas. They all used their love of Christ as a means to deeper understanding of existence. In this way, they harmonized their whole being. From this arose cosmic understanding and bhakti.
In tantra, there are vast numbers of forms of Shakti, the cosmic mother. They all represent the various aspects of existence. They all represent the absolute. It does not matter whether it is Kali, Durga, Chhinnamasta, Tripurasundari, Saraswati, Dumavati, Shodashi, Bhuvaneshwari, Annapurna, or any of the hundreds of other traditional forms of Shakti. If you feel bhakti to one of these forms, and many people do in India, then you should direct your emotional and mental energy towards it. This will channelize all the forces of your being.

Incidentally this is why the spiritual climate of India is so extraordinary. There are countless numbers of different deities, all of which are perfectly acceptable as a focal point of bhakti. Such is the tolerance and freedom of worship. The worship of the supreme can be directed towards anything. Why not? All these different images act as a centre through which one can expand awareness. But there must be compelling devotion. There must be attraction towards a particular form. Without this, there cannot be bhakti.

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