By Swami Harshananda
Istadevatā literally means ‘deity of contemplation dear to oneself ’.
Though God is one, his aspects for contemplation are many. The path of bhakti gives the freedom to the spiritual aspirants to choose any of these aspects for the purpose of meditation. Any one of these aspects which the aspirant chooses becomes his ‘iṣṭadevatā’.
The general rule is that the aspirant has to stick to one iṣṭadevatā and should receive and repeat one mantra pertaining to it till he gets realization. For this he should have only one guru or spiritual teacher. Traditionally, the guru gives the mantra along with certain ritualistic instructions like:
- Nyāsa - purificatory processes
- Dhyānaśloka - hymn of contemplation
- Mantra in which the bīja (seed letter) is imbibed
- Iṣṭadevatā means chosen deity dear to oneself.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore