Ishta-Devata Murtis and Other Musings

This past Sunday morning, I had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Manoj Challam lecture on "Ishta-Devatas," and the symbolism of Hindu Deities and murtis.

Manoj also sells very beautiful and rare murtis - statues that are infused with spiritual energy. It is believed that one can experience transformation as a result of meditating before a murti.

I had bought a murti of an upside down Siva doing a one-handed handstand when I was in Denver in May. This particular piece is about liberation, and I feel Siva transmitting his energy to me. I also bought a very beautiful murti of Siva Nataraja - the Lord of the Cosmic Dance, which is the manifestation of Siva most commonly depicted and recognized.

Manoj described the Hindu deities as archetypes which reside in the collective unconscious which we can all tap into.

I bought three other murtis on Sunday. One is of Shakti by herself - Siva's consort - who is the expression of Divine Consciousness as Creative Energy. I also bought a murti of Siva and Shakti embracing. And finally, I purchased one of Siva meditating for my altar. In this murti, Siva is portrayed as meditating on a Tiger skin, which contains the Shakti energy of his meditation. He is sitting on the top of Mount Kailash, which is revered as the mountain where Siva lives in the Himalayas.

Manoj told this wonderful story about a conversation that Siva and Parvati - one of his consorts had on Mount Kailash, where the details of everyone's life story was discussed and disclosed. It is said that seven sages listened in on this conversation and wrote these details down on parchments.

These parchments are kept in Vaithesswaran Koil in India, not too far from a great temple dedicated to Siva. Manoj, who is a scientist by training visited this place in search of his scroll. A thumb print is taken from an individual and then a series of questions is asked of the person so that the proper scroll can be found. It can take hours, or days to find. Sometimes it is not located in one's first visit.

Manoj found himself wondering if he was wasting his time after a long period had transpired. Finally, his scroll was located, revealing all the important details of his life in three year increments, including the time of his death, which he chose to know.

I was fascinated by this story. At one point Manoj looked at me, as if he was making sure I wrote down the details of where one needed to go to find one's scroll. There was this connection - this knowing between us - and I sensed a deep desire to go there one day.

An Ishta-Devata is a manifestation of the Divine to which we are drawn. It is believed that this embodiment of the Divine resides in our very energy fields and guides us. Many religious traditions have saints of one sort or another to which its adherents may be drawn. I have a collection of many of them on my meditation altar.

When I sit in my meditation room - which also serves as a practice and work area - as well as a healing space - I am surrounded by a collection of statues and murtis from many different traditions. I feel their energy and their support for they represent many different things to me. I was drawn to each and every one of them for different reasons. Sometimes I was drawn to one long before I really knew anything about it. It makes sense if one considers what an archetype is. If one is open, one taps into a rich reservoir of grace.

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