Jessica Leu

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Religious Ecstasy, Ecstasy, Mysticism, Mystics, Christianity, Hinduism, Bhakti Yoga


What comes to mind when one hears the phrase, “Religious ecstasy”? Images of well-known Christian saints in states of bliss worthy of being artwork come to mind, especially in the West. However, this association of ecstasy with Sainthood specifically distances the lay person from the idea that they too can experience the Divine as these mystics once did. In Bhakti Yoga, a branch of practices within Hinduism, this same association that religious ecstasy is only a characteristic of mystics does not exist. Rather, states of documented religious rapture are not only strived for but believed to be universally accessible. In my paper, “The Path of Devotion: Religious Ecstasy in Hindu and Christian Mystics” I explore the narratives of 4 mystics from two different religious traditions, then compare the similarities in their testimonies. By drawing upon the experiences Julian of Norwich, Teresa of Avila, Chaitanya Mahabraphu, and Meera Bai, I explore the implications of the similarities in their love for the divine. In doing so, it is clear: not only do these mystics have more in common than meets the eye, but their experiences speak of a universal truth accessible to all of humanity. In this paper, I argue that the experience of religious ecstasy and love for the divine transcends cultural, geographic, and religious barriers.