The practice of worship is, in its beginning, a triumph over egoism, and its culmination is the transcendence of the worshipper. One can almost hear an astute listener thinking : “ Transcendence ! Surely worship should be considered as an offering to the Lord, and not as something by which you enrich yourself ! Good gracious ! ” Friends, the urgencies of the inner life are too great and insistent to be hampered by our little notions of give and take. Liberation and transcendence are spiritual laws, and whatever forwards them is acceptable and to be made use of.
To a certain extent every man guides his own course and forms his own interpretation of his experiences, whether they take place in the outer or inner world, and you will find that few people are apathetic about the practice of worship—they usually have a strong reaction for or against it. If the pupil is burdened with a logical brain, he will probably dismiss worship as old-fashioned and above all philosophically incon-~l sistent in a system of thought which is based on non-duality.
If, on the other hand, his heart rules his head, he will probably decide to rely on it. Both conceptions are based on a fallacy, because, whether he knows it or not, man must worship something, although he is fickle, and the object of his worship changes as he changes. It will, however, be a hidden source of inspiration to him, even from the first when he is at his most worldly, luring him on when he would rest in his circumstances.
Man is born to transcend his apparent nature and to live in his true nature. Even his desire to rise above his material circumstances, say his lack of importance in the world or his unsatisfactory work in it, is an outer manifestation of his desire for expansion. At first this necessity expresses itself in instinctive movements, like those of a baby, who first exerts its arms and legs, later on entices this or that from its mother, and later still enjoys disobeying her. This is the way a human being grows physically and mentally, but it is the law that he shall become, not only physically, but spiritually adult also.
Therefore, at a certain psychological point in his development, he realises that although it may seem to him that he has already experienced and experimented to satiety, nevertheless development and expansion must go on, if he is to obey the law and his deepest instinct. Therefore his attention perforce turns inward, and to his surprise and it may be to his horror if his egoism has been well developed by his worldly experiences, he finds he is again a baby, exercising his inner limbs just as he used to exercise his outer, making little darts of devotion here and little disobediences there but with nothing consciously sustained.
If a man is determined and awakening, and it is no use being anything else if he is to learn anything, he will soon see that if expansion is to take place in the inner field, a new set of values must be recognised, and powers which have up to now been relied on will have to take a second place. There is no cause for tears here—in fact it is a stimulating thought, for there is nothing so deadening to the heart and mind as to find that the nature of any activity we wish to engage in has already been mapped out, been fully investigated and is waiting like a well done-up parcel for us to put in our pocket. If for instance we believe that there is nothing new to be learnt about worship, and that all we have to do is to practise it, there comes that faint Sunday feeling which is a deterrent to experiment or growth. Worship is perhaps the activity which is the most full of possibilities, dangers and joys in the whole inner life, and if we really wish to learn something about it, we shall have to study the rousing words of those who are awake—the great Teachers and Seers.
From them we learn, not so much by words as by example, that intensity and the sense of direction, which are essential qualities if we are to reach our journey’s end, are born of concentration and contemplation, and that these in their turn are furthered and often produced by worship. Love is the quickest and surest way to gain intensity, whether in the outer or inner world ; therefore the Teachers train their disciples r to love. But love according to the Yogic terminology has nothing necessarily to do with emotion ; it is an inner conviction and recognition of basic identity with an individual or a ..concept and the consequent desire to unite with it.
Now comes the question, what then is to be the object, the focus, of the pupil’s worship—of his love ? The Advaita, on which this Yoga is founded, is the philosophy of non-dualism, which holds that the One without Attributes, the Ultimate Reality, called Brahman in Sanskrit, is beyond the subject- object relationship, and is therefore not an object of experience. It is clear that worship could never operate in such a region ; it has too rarified an atmosphere.
Worship must have an object on which to expend itself; in other words, its practice must take place in duality. Hence we must follow the Teachers down into lower and more habitable regions, in order that we may find a focus on which to train and expand the consciousness, so that one day it may enter that high realm we have just spoken about, by its own right.
There is a simile which might be helpful in this connection. Take the analogy of the Sun. We walk about under its light which penetrates every atom, and we regard it as a beneficent power, a thing of grandeur and beauty, the giver of life. But in fact the true nature of the sun is such that no thing could approach it and retain its individual form and characteristics.
It would return to its basic nature, which is also the basic nature of the sun. But nevertheless that same gigantic power, when seen through the protective medium of atmosphere and distance, appears as a round ball in the sky, as the bringer on of crops, the health-giver, and the destroyer as Well—the object of adoration of the whole world. There has been no change in the Sun to bring about this transformation ; the only change has been in the medium through which it is viewed.
Now Brahman—the Supreme, the One Reality and Truth, is comparable to the sun in its primal state. The personal God, the one whose attributes are love, compassion, protection, who is the object of man’s worship and delight, is as that same Sun when it is seen through the protective medium of Maya or objective life. The Advaita philosophy is often”) criticised as inconsistent for permitting both conceptions to ; be held, but the Teachers knew that this was psychologically essential, for a man would fall back baffled if he tried to j approach the Abstract Reality too early—that is to say, ‘ while he is still burdened with his limitations.
In the Gita there are many warnings given to the pupil of the dangers and difficulties which may assail him if he seeks to approach the Unmanifest directly and too soon.
In another Gita, the Avadhut Gita, the great Sage Duttatreya says : “ How can I salute the Self, which is indestructible and all-bliss, which in Itself and by Itself pervades everything and which is inseparable from Itself ?
It walks not on the earth, the wind cannot move it, the water cannot cover it. It stands in the midst of lights. It pervades Time-Space, nothing pervades It. From mutations ever free, eternally the same, It abides.” This is the great Sun which no one and no thing can approach and retain its phenomenal nature.
If there is to be growth, and after all this is a training for travellers and not a description of the one who has arrived, there must be a relative approach to promote it, and this approach and the instructions how to make it are taught by the holy Adhyatma Yoga. After all this is the end for which the Yoga was fashioned—the unveiling of the supreme Truth within the being by the elimination of the clouds of egoism which veil it, achieved in most cases through a self-obliterating, concentrated gaze on a divine object.
It should be said again that this transformation is not the work of a day. It is a triumph of patience and love. The Ultimate Reality may shine like the Sun, but the clouds of ignorance—of egoism—which veil and moderate its light to the beholder have remained motionless over the region for many an incarnation.
In the great spiritual epic called the Ramayana, which has been translated by Dr. Shastri in its entirety, there is an interesting story about two vultures. They are no ordinary vultures, they are royal birds and their names are Jatayu and Sampati. Out of pride in their powers of flight and endurance, they once vowed to fly up to the sun and follow its course for a whole day. They passed rapidly up through the air, and there is a wonderful description of what they saw on the way.
At last they reached a great height, at which the blazing sun seemed to be much larger than the earth itself. Then they both began to fall overcome by their nearness to that Sun, and Sampati’s wings were charred by the heat of its rays. He had been bereft of his attributes too early, they had been destroyed, not transcended ; therefore he was crippled. And so will it be with the egoistic, immature man in the same case ; or, worse still, he runs the risk of finding that after much effort he has only completed a circle of his own making and has come face to face with himself again and not with Infinite Truth and Beauty.
People sometimes say : “ Oh, I can’t worship with others.
I worship in the ‘ Green Church (which means that they go for a good walk in the country on Sundays !) ; but a newcomer to any science will do well to follow at first the traditions and indications of those who have gone before him, whatever discoveries he may be going to make later for the good of humanity. So it is with the newcomers to the spiritual science also. All the great spiritual giants have practised worship as pupils, so he must not hang up a sun of his own in the sky, for it will probably only turn out to be an objectification of his desires. If he is not to fall into this trap, he should learn to focus his heart on an Incarnation of God— on Rama, or Jesus, or Krishna, or Buddha, or on a Teacher or a saint, and he should worship until he becomes rare and subtle and rises to the Attributeless region.
One of the Christian mystics says : “ Objects are at the beginning of the way, God at the end. You cannot reach the end unless you leave the beginning.”
This does not mean that we must go straight into a cave or a cell, but that unless we pass through contemplation from the objective to the subjective world, we shall never face the Truth. Looked at through the work-a-day eyes, matter is hard, concrete stuff; when scientific knowledge is brought to bear on it, matter is revealed to be ever-moving electro-magnetic waves ; and when the spiritual intuition comes into play, Consciousness, Bliss and Existence will be seen to be the nature of all. But man must develop his inner eyes if he is to see this transformation, and the development of those inner eyes is hastened through sustained contemplation—through worship.
Now if we have, I will not say established, but demonstrated the possibility of a God with attributes, like the beneficent sun we see every day, how must we worship Him in order to immolate our egoism before Him ? We have heard from our Teacher that before anything else we must never forget the basic nature, impersonal and changeless, of this Lord, His reality as the Sun, nor our own innate divinity. Worship does not involve self-depreciation:—as has been said, it is a victory over egoism—and a tightly held opinion either of our limitations or our qualifications is local egoismi We have defined the higher love as being rooted in the sense of basic identity—well then, the worship must start from there.
“ Never belittle the Self ”, our Teacher used to say, and he called remorse the most potent weapon for obstructing progress ever devised by the Devil.
“ No remorse, inner change ” he would call, rallying his pupils who were immersed in selfdepreciation and self-pity.
He taught us that when we identified ourselves with our faults or with our virtues, we identified ourselves with our mind. First, the restless mind secretly enjoys its imagined attributes, then it secretly grieves over its fancied defects—both feelings have their root in egoism, subtle and hidden though it may be, and both must go if the man is to transcend himself.
There are three main ways in which worship may be learnt and practised, and they are interdependent: meditation, contemplation and a consciously directed life.
Meditation is the most potent means that exists for learning how to centre the mind. By its practice the mind learns to accept an idea or an object, and then to fasten itself upon it entering deeper and deeper into it until its underlying nature is sensed. Now this may seem very advanced, but these recognitions can be experienced in miniature, even by a beginner. Some think that a practice will have no result until it has been perfected, but this is not so. A baby grows from the moment it takes its first drink, and what is more, it learns to associate that drink with well-being and looks forward to it. So it is with the beginner in meditation. Truths begin to dawn upon him from the start.
Meditation is rather like getting a camera into focus before taking a picture—a proper picture—a time exposure, not a snap ! Endless concentrated experiment and movement are necessary to arrive at the proper distance from the object and to get the picture in the view-finder. When the camera is at last in focus, a new state of things begins. Now there must be no more experiment and no more movement, if the picture is to be successfully impressed on the film of the mind, and many many under-exposures have to be discarded before even a passable photograph is obtained.
No sooner has the mental camera been focused than the state of contemplation begins. At first this manifests as the realisation of a capacity—no more than that, but later, when it can be sustained, contemplation will be known as the process by which the picture , is taken ; and—if we are not pressing the simile too far—worship is the satisfaction and joy experienced on looking at even a faint representation of the divine beauty thus produced. This beauty, once sensed, cannot be completely forgotten again, and one day it will be recognised under any guise. There is a poem by a modern Yogi, Swami Rama Tirtha, which runs :
“ In a thousand forms mayst Thou attempt surprise,
But all-beloved One, straight know I thee.
Thou mayst with thousand veils Thy face disguise,
And yet, all-present One, straight know I thee.
That which my inward, outward sense proclaims,
O All-instructive One, I know through Thee,
And if I utter Allah’s hundred names,
A name with each one echoes, meant for Thee.”
Now comes the third means of awakening worship, the consciously directed life. Many may say : “ Meditation and contemplation are advanced practices of course, but anyone can live a consciously directed life, at least up to a certain point ”. But in the sense in which we have been describing meditation and contemplation, they are not advanced practices, and they can be engaged in in quite a humble way and yet reveal the capacity latent within us for which we are seeking. The consciously directed life, however, is a difficult affair from the beginning. We in the West are practical people ; most of us love organising and doing so intensely, that we run the risk of taking action as our focus for worship instead of the One who stands behind action and to Whom it should be offered as a sacrifice. Nothing is valuable in this world which does not lead out of it.
“Ah ! Escapism, I was waiting for this ”, cries a listener, but escapism it is NOT, but merely an acknowledgment of the law of growth, and a valuable item of training knowledge. The practice of regarding all actions and happenings good or bad, all failures as well as all successes as providing a ritual of sacrifice to be offered to the Lord, has the effect of robbing action of its qualities of attraction and repulsion, and like meditation and contemplation it leads within. A consciously directed life is a life which is looked upon as a ceremony, in which every happening has its inner value and meaning. This way of life will ultimately lead to true freedom and fearlessness.
The fearlessness which is unshakeable and constant comes from an inability to see duality, and this condition only arises when the three stages of training have been practised and perfected. Finally, do not be impressed by the person who says that only Consciousness Absolute, the supreme Truth, can be the object of his contemplation. He has already committed an indiscretion by using the word object in connection with the Abstract at all. The only worship that can be offered to Consciousness Absolute is identification, when the man finally emerges from his chrysalis, not as a divine being, but as Being itself.
Here are short practices on each of the stages towards worship outlined in this paper—meditation, contemplation and the consciously directed life.
First, a meditation which leads into contemplation.
Before you start your day, spend five minutes in these two practices.
Five minutes is a minimum, but if you can manage longer and can keep to it, it will be all to the good.
But whatever time you decide to spend, keep to it for a while. It is a good practice in will-power.
Remind yourself again and again that as the Lord is Omnipresent, you are doing this meditation in His presence.
The meditation is :
“ Show Thy Face to me,
Make me worthy of thy love,
O Love supreme, O Beauty Absolute.”
This is a prayer to the Unconditioned, asking that It may become conditioned.
It contains material for both meditation and contemplation.
When you have repeated it a few times, either aloud or interiorly, then gather up the central meaning in your heart, as so to say “ Reveal, reveal ” and feel and contemplate it there.
Then wait, in a quiescent receptive state—NOT for a vision of that Face—but for a sense of its reality and immanence.
Now you can enter upon the day.
Remember that you are performing action and undergoing all experience in the invisible presence of the Lord, and look on all that comes as a message from Him to you and on your reaction to it as an offering from you to Him.
Do not try to do this all day, because if you do, you will probably pass judgment against it and forget all about it.
Do it for, say, half an hour at a time, and repeat the practice at definite times during the day.
This is one of the ways by which the sense of direction and focus is awakened, and—almost more important than this— the way a rhythm is set up, which when it is perfected will work for you instead of you struggling with it. If you are one of those lucky people who always have their meals at the same time, you will know that you begin to feel hungry as the time for food approaches. So it is with all spiritual exercises.
When a rhythm has been established anticipation is born with it, and as the time for meditation—say—approaches, an inclination is felt, similar to the inclination for food, which like a wave can carry you over the rocks of laziness and diffused interests and may even sweep you out to sea for a little while.