Utpaladeva, a Kashmir Shaivite sage who lived in the tenth century, was both a venerated philosopher and an ecstatic being with immense love for Lord Shiva. In his Shivastotravali, this great sage expressed his bhakti, his devotional love, through a series of Sanskrit songs of praise that are sung in Kashmir to this very day.
In these verses from the first song, “The Pleasure of Devotion,” Utpaladeva tells us that the love we experience for our own Self is the very nature of Lord Shiva, for the Lord alone is the Self of all. In our deep recognition of the Lord’s all-encompassing and unconditional love, we experience everything in existence as saturated with the infinite bliss of devotional love.
Shivastotravali, 1.6–9; Constantina Rhodes Bailly (trans.), Shaiva Devotional Songs of Kashmir: A Translation and Study of Utpaladeva’s Shivastotravali (Albany, NY: SUNY, 1987) p. 30.
How liberating it is for me to read the sage’s words, which teach me that I can immerse myself freely in the joy of fervent devotion to the Self, and that this is the whole point of living.
Recently I have been cultivating this inner experience of devotion that Utpaladeva speaks of in these verses. It is a sublimely freeing inner experience, like a secret between me and myself, and I don’t need to hold back in any way. To my wonder, this feeling does gradually expand to include everything, without my needing to announce anything to the world. Instead, I become available to meet it in each precious, living moment.
New York, United States
As I read this passage from the Shivastotravali
, I experienced it as an expression of utter longing and deep devotion. I sat in silence for some time, attuning to this expression of love, and I felt my heart open wide.
It seems to me that we are being shown the way to become inseparable from the Lord—by seeing the Self in everyone we encounter.
I pray for this to come to fruition in me.
Heidelberg Heights, Australia
What intrigued me most while contemplating Utpaladeva’s song was the understanding that devotion and the Lord are inseparable—they are one in their very essence.
Holding this awareness, I sat and settled into meditation with the intention to explore devotion. One of the ways I express devotion is through practicing mantra japa
. And this time, as I repeated Om Namah Shivaya
, I felt my thoughts and mental state dissolve, giving way to the direct experience of love, stillness, and bliss. I felt the Lord abiding within me, as my own inner Self. I discovered such gentleness at the center of my being. In fact, from the vastness of the vantage point of my heart, even my mind was imbued with the light of the Supreme!
As a self-employed person working at home, I spend a lot of time in solitude, which often brings me into a pleasant state of contentment with my own company. So I try to go out for a walk or to do errands at least once each day so that I don’t become too isolated.
On most days, as I leave my home, I make an intention to bring my state of contentment with me out into the world. This is sometimes easy, and sometimes more challenging.
Utpaladeva’s song reminds me that when I merge with my inner Self, it’s easy to see the Lord. “And who does not see you then?” he writes. To help me better implement my intention for encountering the outside world, I now will pray along with the poet: “So may your devotion alone / Be inseparable from me.”
Massachusetts, United States
I find that by reading this song, I experience the devotion that is so beautifully described there. As my mind engages with the words, my awareness toggles between my thoughts, the Self as I am experiencing it in that moment, and the Self as the witness to all of this. I am filled with joy and gratitude.
Moments like this help me remember to practice witness consciousness as a way to transcend my own thoughts.
California, United States