Worship is an interesting phenomenon…it can be almost a dirty word in many new age spiritual forms, and with good reason…We have all seen religious worship that is coming from a place of separation: I am not God; God is out there somewhere. I can only contact the divine through this statue/ priest/ guru.
We sometimes see people come to worship from a place of desperation, praying to something outside of themselves for help. Sometimes this can lead to an awakening of finding that what is sought out there is found within, is our True Nature. In other cases people will worship their whole life and not awaken to this truth.
Worship is called “Bhakti” in yoga and Tantra. It enables us to enter states of ecstasy, surrendering ego self to Highest Consciousness. It is understood in Bhakti Yoga that Highest Consciousness is not separate from us (“yoga”means union). So if it is not separate from us, why would we worship it?
To externalise Divinity is a method to help us to evolve. Though we understand that the Divine is who we are, our True Nature, we often do not live as that Truth in everyday life. This is because we also carry a false nature, seeded in fears and manifesting as ego.
Many people have had moments of recognition of their True Nature, through meditation, satsang, altered states or moments of grace. However, a one-off recognition is no guarantee that you will start to live as Truth from that moment on. How many people have seen their True Nature beyond doubt, yet in everyday life (and most especially in their intimate relationships) they are not living as Love.
In moments of recognition of True Nature we see that Truth is pure love. When we recognise True Nature there is a sense of finding that we have always searched for, and a paradox that it was there all along. This paradox is a huge source of confusion in spirituality: I am That. Yet often I feel and act separate… and when there is separation, I feel suffering.
If you have recognised once, you may think all searching, practising or worship is a waste of time…after all your True Nature is Consciousness. But the question is: do you live every moment as Consciousness unfolding into form? Do you live as Love? Or do you still live as if you are separate?
Tantra is the path of living as our True Nature. That is why it includes sex and relationships…because these are places that people tend to act out of ego, fear and self. It is easy to know Oneness sat in meditation on your yoga mat, but what happens to that Oneness when your lover has left all the washing up yet again, or jealousy arises in your relationship?
Bhakti is a practice to remind ourselves of the Divine Nature. Having a statue of a deity does not mean that God only exists there in that bit of carved stone. It is a mirror to remind you that a higher consciousness exists within you.
We need that reminder because we have been given a choice: each moment we can act out of Ego or out of Truth/Love. Every time we imagine a separate “me”, we then move into fear. The actions and words that we create from that place are loveless (in yogic terms we say they create negative karma).
To worship Truth/Love/God (different words for the same thing) is to remind ourselves continuously to choose Love. To worship is an act of surrendering the ego at the altar of Highest Consciousness. To do an act of worship at the start of your day is a reminder “this day I shall live as Love, not as separation.” Until we live as Love continuously, we need that reminder.
Buddha’s last words were “samastiti”: remember.
To see Truth and then live in a state of forgetfulness is painful. To live as Love is bliss.
When we live from separation we create suffering; when we live from Truth, we create Love.
Have you ever been wallowing in your own story and problems and then gone to a kirtan (a form of Bhakti Yoga in which you chant the names of the divine in ecstatic songs called bajans)? Within moments your whole vibration has shifted from wallowing in “poor me”, into love, ecstasy and a sense of remembering who you are. Often there is laughter (laughter is the sound of ego dying) as we snap out of the perception of suffering and back to the perception of Truth. We have lifted our vibrational level. We have lifted up and out of the illusory state of ego.
So refusing to worship because you know you are God already…well, fine…your choice! But ask yourself: are you living as that God that you are, or are you living as separation?
Bhakti has existed for thousands of years to enable us to align to the highest vibration of being, and thus overcome the fear-based ego perception that keeps us separate. So go for it! Worship! What have you got to lose? True Nature cannot be destroyed, so there is nothing to lose, except illusion!
SOME FORMS OF WORSHIP
Deities can be seen in different ways. One way to view them is as personifications of perfection to aspire to. When we think of “Highest Consciousness” it is very abstract. Deities are Consciousness embodied in human form that we can relate to, and so use as inspiration. Something to aspire to.
Deities may also be thought of as different vibrations of Highest Consciousness, and you can worship them by meditating on a statue or picture, gazing upon a yantra (symbol), chanting a mantra associated with that deity or praying to them.
In this way you can bring different aspects of Highest Consciousness into your life. For example if you aspire towards peace you may be drawn to a statue of Buddha, if you wish to cultivate more compassion you may work with Kuan Yin, to embody divine beauty you could meditate on Tripura Sundari, to build presence of consciousness you might choose Shiva…and so on.
In Tantra we not only work with deities but with one another. To find the Divine in another human, to find it within ourselves, and ultimately to see God in all (to live in no-separation).
In relationships so often we denigrate into focusing on the faults of the other: how often they did not put the garbage out, their habits, all the things we don’t like: this is called anti-transfiguration.
To transfigure another person is a meditation in which you look at the divine qualities in the other: you look at the consciousness and love within them, you see God within them, rather than the mistakes they made or their egoic qualities.
Thus we can actually practice to worship the divine qualities within another, and this practice supports the other in their spiritual evolution. To bring transfiguration into your intimate relationship is to practice to surrender ego over and over again in the name of Divine Love.
We can also worship a guru, teacher or master. There are certain beings on this planet who have attained the capacity to live at very high states of consciousness. To sit or be in their presence can assist in our own awakening.
This takes a certain level of surrender. It is not so much about surrendering to the guru: it is a surrendering of your ego to Highest Consciousness, through that guru. When another human embodies this Consciousness to a higher degree than you do, by surrendering you can purify in their presence.
It is common for people to have resistance to gurus. The resistance that comes is from ego defences that want to guard the individualism, one’s separateness. You can choose: stay separate or surrender. You have free will and the choice is always yours.
So there are different forms of worship: from elaborate visible external forms such as puja (ritual of worship) to subtle inner forms such as prayer. Essentially the act is one of surrendering ego to Highest Consciousness, that we might overcome illusion of separation and live as Divine Love. This is the intention of Tantra.
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