According to Wiki: "Bhakti in Indian religions is "emotional devotionalism", particularly to a personal god or to spiritual ideas"

Do any principal upanishads recommend devotion to a personal God?

2 Answers 2


Svetasvatara Upanishad 6.23 states:

yasya deve parā bhaktir yathā deve tathā gurau /
tasyaite kathitā hy arthāḥ prakāśante mahātmanaḥ prakāśante mahātmanaḥ // 6.23 //

If these truths have been told to a high-minded person who feels the highest devotion for God and for his guru as for God, and then they will surely shine forth as inner experiences - then, indeed, they will shine forth.

This is talking about the necessity of having Para Bhakti (or supreme devotion) towards Deva and Guru alike.So, here the Upanishad is advocating to have devotion towards personal deities like Deva and Guru.

  • Here "Deva" may not mean any deity since this Upanishad is dedicated to bhagwan Rudra. And the verse you shared is the last verse which is concluding verse, so it must refer to Rudra alone
    – TheLittleNaruto
    Oct 15, 2021 at 7:12

There are 2 views on this issue. Western Indologists and Indian scholars trained in western ways say no.

Vedantic teachers say yes.

Mental activities relative to the Saguna Brahman - such as are described in the Shandilya Vidya are Upasanas or devotions.

Vedantasara 12 of Sadananda Yogindra

So where is Shandilya Veda? It is in Chandogya Upanishad.

Verily, all this universe is Brahman. From Him do all things originate, into Him do they dissolve and by Him are they sustained. On Him should one meditate in tranquility. For as is one's faith in this world, such one becomes on departing hence. Let one, therefore, cultivate faith.

Chandogya Upanishad 3.14.1

The bolded mantra in the above Chandogya shloka is considered by Sri Yogindra as Upanishadic support for Bhakti marga.

Additional material

I am responding to these two important comments:

Comment 1: if we have citations from Adisankara or the likes who precede the Islamic invasions elaborating on bhaktiyoga.

Philosophical discrimination (viveka) and renunciation of the unreal (vairagya) constitute for Sankara the basic disciplines for realization of Brahman. Yet he was aware that few aspirants are strong enough to climb this steep path. The majority require a tangible symbol of Truth, anthropomorphic or otherwise, and also a human relationship with a Personal God. For them prayer and supplication form an indispensable part of worship. Out of compassion for these seekers Sankara composed many hymns in praise of such popular deities of Hinduism as Siva, Vishnu, and the Divine Mother. As one reads these hymns, one is impressed by the magnanimity of Sankara, who having attained the highest vision of the Absolute, brought himself down to the level of ordinary worshippers smitten with the idea of many transgressions, assumed their attitude of insignificance and helplessness, and prayed to the Lord for grace to attain liberation from the many miseries of earthly life. These hymns are recited daily by countless devotees all over India at times of prayer and worship. ............ Sankara initiated the worship of Sakti, or the Divine Mother, in his monasteries.

Preface by Swami Nikhilananda in Atmabodha of Sri Sankaracharya

Example of a hymn by Sri Sankaracharya

Hymn to Vishnu

Save me from pride, O Vishnu! Curb my restless mind. Still my thirst for the waters of this world's mirage. Be gracious, Lord! to this Thy humble creature, And rescue him from the ocean of the world.

I worship the lotus of Thy feet, whose honey is the sacred Ganges, Whose fragrance is Knowledge, Truth, and Bliss; I worship the feet of Lakshmi's Consort, Who overcomes the fear and misery of the world.

Even when I am not duality's slave, O Lord! The Truth is that I am Thine, and not that Thou art mine; The waves may belong to the ocean, But the ocean never belongs to the waves.

Bearer of Govardhan! Slayer of the demon hosts! Almighty One, whose eyes are the sun and the moon! Can anyone doubt, O Lord of the universe! That the vision of Thy form dispels this world's mirage?

Sovereign Lord! with Thy manifold Incarnations Ever hast Thou protected the universe from harm: Come to my rescue, then, O Lord! Save me, who am afflicted by the fire of the world.

Govinda! Narayana! Thou who art possessed Of infinite virtues and surpassing charm! Thou Churner of the sea of worldliness! Be gracious unto me and destroy my extreme fear. Narayana! Thou who art ever compassionate! I have taken refuge in Thy two feet: May these six stanzas, even as a honey bee, Ever remain on the lotus of my lips!

Comment 2: I am however unconvinced that Upaniśhads spoke of personal god...

Yes, technically this is correct. Neither the Upanishads nor the Puranas talk of any Personal God. The Personal God is an approximation of Brahman.

..the form of the Personal God, ... is the highest manifestation of the Infinite that a finite mind can comprehend on the relative plane. Sankara reiterates this principle in his philosophy. The beginner learns the art of concentration through the worship of the Personal God (Saguna Brahman) and acquires purity of heart through performance of unselfish duties.

Preface by Swami Nikhilananda in Atmabodha of Sri Sankaracharya

What is the relationship between the Deities ('Personal Gods')and Brahman?

Do you know what I mean? Think of Brahman, Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute, as a shoreless ocean. Through the cooling influence as it were, of the bhakta's love, the water has frozen at places into blocks of ice. In other words, God now and then assumes various forms for His lovers and reveals Himself to them as a Person. But with the rising of the sun of knowledge, the blocks of ice melt. Then one doesn't feel any more that God is a Person, nor does one see God's forms. What He is can not be described. Who will describe Him? He who would do so disappears. He cannot find his 'I' anymore.

The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Chapter 6, The Master with the Brahmo Devotees (I)

The Deities are 'frozen' Brahman for the benefit of the devotees.

  • "Western Indologists and Indian scholars trained in western ways say no." Are you sure? It seems like something in line with Advaita vedanta...
    – Leafy
    Oct 12, 2021 at 17:40
  • These Indologists say that Bhakti came to Hinduism very late through Kabir, Nanak etc. The reason they cite for their position is that the Upanishads do not have any concept of Bhakti. Oct 13, 2021 at 4:06
  • That's not what I'm asking. I'm asking if we have citations from Adisankara or the likes who precede the Islamic invasions elaborating on bhaktiyoga.
    – Leafy
    Oct 13, 2021 at 8:56
  • 1
    I am however unconvinced that Upaniśads spoke of personal god I do know brahma sutras and yoga sutras advocate for some form of devotion. I don't see how indologists or anyone could conclude the same, given that Nayanars and Gita are dated as preceding the invasions even by Indologist standards.
    – Leafy
    Oct 13, 2021 at 8:59

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