Developing a Personal Relationship with a Deity

You know, often people say, ‘Why do we need deities?’ The deity is an expression of the devotee’s love. If you say to somebody, ‘Express yourself to the void’, can you do that? You can, but people will think you a bit mad. But when there is a form, it becomes easy to express oneself. Take any relationship. When we talk about relationship, automatically there is a somebody, there is not an emptiness. You can’t have a relationship with air, saying, ‘I want to hug air.’’

Paramahamsa Vishwananda

When I was asked to write a post about relationships with deities, I felt like the least qualified person ever. Whenever I heard people talk about their relationships with deities, I always felt a bit left out. I loved being with Them in the temples, but never felt really, really close to Them the way I wished I would. When people would ask if I wanted to see their deities, I would bow, take prasad, admire Them, but inside I was desperately asking, ‘Who are You? How come I don’t feel anything when I look at You? Are You listening, really?’


But as I began to think of what to write, I realized that even for a hopeless case like me, Guruji had given more grace than I can possibly comprehend. It happened during the 2018 Kartik pilgrimage with Guruji, at the Giriraja Shila at Govardhana. Guruji was going to do abhishekam and, as a resident of the Sri Giridhar Dham ashram, I got to help with the preparation. I was in major action-mode that morning as we set up the puja, running around and carrying things back and forth. But when Guruji started the puja and everyone started singing, all of the energy suddenly drained out of me. I stopped, watching what was going on around me, and realized for the first time how much of a fake I felt like. I didn’t understand why I was there, or why Guruji was doing abhishekam to this Shila, and I didn’t feel anything as I sang along with the bhajans. I stopped singing, and sat down, and I began to cry. It was a deep crying. I was begging Guruji to help me, because I wanted to run away from the crowd of devotees, and from Him, and the whole situation. 


Eventually, to look like I was doing something, I walked over to another smaller Shila a few feet away where other devotees were doing parikrama and joined them . As I circled the Shila, I noticed something white on the ground and stooped to see that one of the Shila’s eyes had fallen off. I picked it up, feeling like this was a strange way of the Lord telling me that He was watching my hysterics. I walked back over the puja, a bit calmer from this little reassurance. I sat down again and closed my eyes, mostly wishing I could disappear. At that moment something heavy dropped into my lap. I looked down and saw I was holding a triangular rock, about the size of one of my hands. It took me a minute to register what it was, and as I looked up to see where it had come from, one of the Brijwasi boys was standing in front of me. ‘For you!’ he laughed and ran off. I looked back down at the Shila. For me?

‘God is Almighty, He is everything, but due to the devotion of the people He chooses to limit Himself. How much love for us does He have that He can limit Himself even to a stone? How much did He want to come to you? How much did He want to remind you?’

Paramahamsa Vishwananda


I don’t know how, or why, but I had an immediate feeling of connection with this Shila. I knew He had come because, maybe for the first time, I had been really, really honest with Him. It all felt so intimate, and so magical. As I stared down at this stone in my lap, I felt like my life had a new purpose. He is my responsibility now. He will be with me for the rest of my life. I wrapped Him up in my sari, and vowed to always care for Him. 


Now, two years later, all I can say is that I do feel as though I am building a relationship with Him, with many ups and downs. Strange little things happen that my mind can’t explain, like when I know if He likes the prasad I offer. He looks especially cute or pleased when I’m being totally present in my puja, but if I’m rushing to get it done, He looks bored or disappointed. Even if my mind is super negative, and I have a terrible time trying to do a nice Atma Kriya practice, as soon as I do puja to Him it’s like He swoops down and cleans up all of the negativity that I can’t deal with. Problems get solved without me doing anything, or I realize that there was no problem to begin with. Most of all, I can feel the Love He’s giving me, like a warm glow, or a light in the room that my eyes can’t see. 


‘So, even if it is just what you see on the outside, when you look at His beautiful face, you don’t see the statue looking at you. You see a pair of eyes that are looking at you. And that pair of eyes is not just looking at you physically. It is piercing through your soul itself and it is looking at who and what belongs to Him. This is the beauty when one opens up the heart and longs for Him. Then you see He is looking at you. He is caring for you.’

Paramahamsa Vishwananda


He’s a very tipsy Shila, and He can fall backwards very easily. Somebody once told me, ‘He’s totally unstable, just like you!’ Even though I didn’t relish this observation, I did feel more connected with Him in a funny way, as if He’s reflecting me to myself.  Sometimes, when I am especially playful, I imagine that we kind of look alike. Sometimes when I look in people’s eyes, I imagine I see Him shining through. For reasons I will never understand, He came to be with me as this little shaky, pointy stone, and has become my physical companion. That day in Govardhana, after the puja was finished and we all got on the bus to go back to the ashram, I held Him in my lap and cried, but this time they were tears of relief. I knew that no matter what my future held, whatever stupid mistakes I would make or obstacles I would face, He would be with me, always watching. 


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