Utpaladeva on devotion

Utpaladeva is one of the lesser known philosophers of Kashmir who has composed many works of great merit. The 'Shivastotravali' is a mystic composition of his in which he has expressed his intense devotion to Lord Shiva.

Every stanza here contains profound truths which are relevant to mankind even today, despite the passage of thousands of years. In a verse that is a reiteration of the Vedantic truth that everything in the universe is but a manifestation of the supreme, he asks, "Lord, when the entire universe is your own self, which place in it is not a shrine for your devotees and in which place will not the recital of your holy names bear fruit"? He says that this chanting of holy verses is like chewing a marvelous herb which gives the juice, the elixir of liberation from earthly worries.

This devotion, says Utpala, is like an unfathomable ocean, by wandering on whose shores, many great powers are conferred on the true devotee. In this ocean, like a beautiful lotus sits the Lord, who is the very embodiment of all desirable qualities like sanctity, auspiciousness and truth.

Obeisance to this great power is the path to elevating oneself to higher planes of existence, says the poet.

In fact, says he, those whose hearts are not immersed in this true nectar of devotion indeed have no taste and are to be despised. Though man's mind is fickle, he who is able to control it and direct it towards the Lord deserves to be praised, says the poet. But alas, rues Utpala, fickleness more often than not overrides everything else, with the result that man's devotion is not steady, but manifests itself in bouts of activity, like flashes of lightning. "If only this lightning could drench me with nectarine devotion, I will get intoxicated with it to the extent that I will drop down senseless, revelling in the delectation of your divine form, where even a blade of grass will assume divine effulgence" says Utpala.

According to him, true devotion consists in always bearing the Lord within oneself, in all activities, dedicating everything to him and carrying out ones duties with the assurance that the Lord is by one's side. As Utpala significantly and tellingly says "union with you is happiness and separation from you is misery. Ever bearing your name on my lips, ever remembering that you are the sole refuge, I am ready for even any calamity". Since the Lord is the source of all beauty, whatever is offered to him, even a blade of grass becomes precious.

Thus does simple faith and devotion result in great merit. For those who seek the Lord, even miseries become joys, poison becomes nectar and bondage becomes liberation. As Utpala asks, "for those whose devotion is their affluence, what else remains to be sought and for those devoid of devotion, what else but it needs to be sought?"

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