Certain primitive tribes believe that it is possible to make a person heal, suffer from a particular disease through a look-alike clay idol which represents him. They believe that even death can be brought about in this way. For thirty years Dr. Rudolf tried to find out how it is possible to transmit disease and death through an earthen representation of someone. Rudolf approached the subject skeptically and scientifically, and hundreds of times he actually saw with his own eyes disease and death being transmitted, even if a person was a thousand miles away.
His long study convinced him of the truth of such happenings. There were three things which he came to know after experimenting on himself. Firstly, it was not necessary for the clay idol to exactly resemble the person in whom disease or death was to be invoked. It is difficult even for an expert sculptor to make a clay idol which is exactly like a particular person, but it is not necessary; what is important is to establish mentally the shape and form of the person on the earthen representation. And there is a method for doing this…. If the idol-maker closes his eyes and remembers the person and mentally imposes his will on the idol, the idol will become symbolic and active.
I have already told you about the tilak and that the third eye, which is between the two eyebrows, has been found through the science of Yoga to have great power stored in it — it is a great transmission center. If you ask your son or a servant to do something, and you feel they may refuse, you can do a small experiment. If you concentrate your energy on the center between your two eyes and tell them what you want them to do, nine times out of ten they will do it. But if you ask them without concentrating your energy that way, nine times out of ten they will not. Any idea or thought conveyed with the energy concentrated between the two eyes moves rapidly and carries with it great power.
If you concentrate on the image of a person with the energy of the agya chakra, and if that thought is then directed at the idol, it no longer remains mere clay. That mass of clay becomes energized by your concentrated will. If you mentally infuse some disease into that idol for one minute, the person who the clay idol represents will catch that disease. Howsoever far away that person may be from you, he will be affected; he may even die.
Rudolf wrote that what seemed unbelievable actually happened during his experiments. Before his very eyes he saw some tribesmen compel a tree, through an earthen replica of it, to dry up and wither. The tree, which had been lush, green and healthy, withered, and its leaves became dry. In spite of being watered, within a month the tree became diseased and died. What happened to a tree could happen to a person.
I am talking about these findings of Rudolf because idol worship is a similar experiment but on a large scale. If we can transmit disease or death to a person there is no reason why we cannot establish or re-establish a relationship with those who are dead. It is possible that we can take a jump from the idol into that which is all-pervading and unmanifest.
The whole basis of idol worship is the relationship between your mind and the cosmic mind. What is needed is just a bridge between the two, and that bridge can be made. The idol is an attempt to create that bridge. Only something which is manifest, like the form of an idol, can become the bridge — because it is not possible for you to establish a direct link with the formless.
Howsoever much one may talk about the formless and the unmanifest, it is mere talk and doesn’t convey anything to you. Whatever experiences your mind has are all experiences of some form and shape; you have no experience of the formless, and words cannot convey anything about that which hasn’t been experienced. You will go on talking about the formless and continue to live with the form. So if you want to establish a relationship with the formless, you have to make something which on one side has a form and on the other is formless. That is the secret of the idol.
Let me explain this another way. From our side we need a bridge which has a tangible form, but which also has a formless part: at our end it is manifest, and at the farther end, as it approaches the divine, it becomes unmanifest. If the idol remains just an idol, it cannot act as a bridge; if it is absolutely formless, then too it cannot become a bridge. The idol has to serve two purposes: it has to be visible on our side and dissolve into the formless on the other.
If I tell you that the term “idol worship” is wrong, you will be surprised; but actually it is absolutely wrong. It is wrong because for one who knows how to worship, the idol doesn’t remain an idol. And the one who sees only the idol does not know what worship is or how to worship. We are using two words; one is idol and the other is worship. These two concepts cannot be experienced by the same person simultaneously. The word idol is for those who have never worshiped, and the word worship belongs to those who have never seen an idol.
Put differently, we can say that worship is the art of making the idol disappear. It is the art of slowly dropping the manifest and entering into the unmanifest. The manifest form gradually dissolves into the unmanifest, and as the worship deepens only the unmanifest remains. So “idol worship” is self-contradictory. Hence someone who is worshiping is puzzled as to where the idol is, and the one who has not worshiped at all wonders what a stone idol can do. These two types of people have two different types of experiences — and between them there is no common ground.
When you go to a temple you see only an idol, because you are not able to see the worship itself. In a temple a Meera can be found totally absorbed in her worship. For her there is no idol. As soon as real worship deepens, the idol dissolves. We see idols because we do not know what worship is. As there is less and less worship in this world, we shall see more and more idols. When there are many idols, worship will as good as disappear. In that case, the idols will have to be pulled down, because what use will they be? They will be irrelevant.
Ordinarily, we think that the more primitive a man is, the more he is likely to be an idol-worshiper, and that as man becomes more intelligent he will drop his idols. But this is not true. In reality, worship has its own science, and the more ignorant we become about it the more mysterious it seems to us.
In this connection it will be helpful to tell you one more thing. Our belief that man has made progress in all directions, that he has evolved fully, is absolutely wrong. The life of man is so vast that if he makes great progress in one direction, he does not realize how far he has remained behind in another direction. If science has made great progress, we have fallen far behind in the matter of religion. Whenever religion flourishes, science lags behind. When we grow in one dimension, the other dimensions are completely forgotten.
In Europe in 1880 the caves of Altamira were discovered. In those caves there are colored pictures said to have been drawn twenty thousand years ago. But the colors of the pictures look as fresh as if they were painted yesterday. Because of this, Don Marcellano, who discovered these caves, was criticized all over Europe. Everyone thought that he had touched up the pictures. All the artists who saw the pictures said Marcellano was trying to fool the public, that such fresh colors could not be ancient.
What they were saying was right, in a way, because the paintings of Van Gogh, which are not even one hundred years old, are already fading; the pictures Picasso painted in his youth have become as old as he himself. The colors used these days by artists throughout the world don’t last more than a hundred years; they are bound to fade within a century.
But when the investigation of the caves Marcellano found was completed, it was proved beyond doubt that the caves were more than twenty thousand years old. This is a great mystery, because those who painted those colors seem to have known much more about colors than we know at present. We may have been able to reach the moon, but we have not been able to make colors that can remain fresh and last longer than a hundred years. Those who made these colors twenty thousand years ago knew much more about the science of color than we do.
The mummies of Egypt are ten thousand years old. They are the dead bodies of human beings, but they have been so well preserved — as if they had died just yesterday. We have not been able to discover the chemical preservatives that may have been used. How could these bodies have been protected for ten thousand years? — there is no deterioration at all. But we have not been able to establish which chemicals were used to preserve them.
The huge stones on top of the pyramids could not have been placed there by any crane that we may possess today. It seems beyond the power of man to have put them there, but it is very unlikely that the people of that time had cranes. They must have known some technique, which we cannot even guess at, to lift those rocks.
The truths of life are multidimensional. The same work can be done by many different methods and many different techniques. Life is so vast that when we begin to work in one dimension, we forget all the other dimensions.
Idols were created by very highly developed people. This is worth thinking about. An idol is a bridge connecting us with the cosmic force which surrounds us, so those who developed the idol made a bridge for understanding the ultimate mystery of life.
We say that we have discovered electricity. Certainly we are more advanced and civilized than earlier communities that knew nothing about electricity. We have discovered radio waves, and we can send a message from one country to another within a second, so we are definitely more advanced than people who depend only on the power of their own voice to communicate, just a few hundred feet away, by shouting.
But compared to those able to make a bridge to contact the supreme source of life, we are just children. Our electricity, our radio and similar discoveries are just toys. The art of being connected with the ultimate mystery of life was discovered by those who had worked very hard in that one direction.
As I told you earlier, one aspect of the idol faces man, and a window opens out from that form towards the formless. The window of a house must have a shape and form, just as the house does; the window cannot be formless. But when you open the window and look at the sky, you enter the formless. If I say to someone who has never opened his window to see the sky that by opening the window of my house I am able to see the formless, he will say I am mad. How can one see the infinite from a small window? — at the most whatever can be seen from a window can only be as big as the window itself. He is perfectly logical, and if he has never seen the sky through the window it will difficult to convince him that even a small window can open up onto the infinite. The window cannot set a limitation on that onto which it opens, nor can the idol set a limitation on the formless.
Those who think an idol is an obstacle in understanding the unmanifest make a great mistake. And those who think that by breaking a window the sky can be broken are mad! By destroying an idol the unmanifest cannot be disturbed. But those who do not know the art and alchemy of worship may think of destroying idols.
Worship is such an inner, subjective, personal matter that it cannot be expressed or demonstrated. Anything inner and personal in life cannot be demonstrated. If my heart is cut open you will not be able to see love in it; nor will you find anger, hate, forgiveness or compassion. You will find only a sort of pump for the circulation of blood. If after putting me on the operating table and investigating my heart, a surgeon certifies that I have never experienced any love or hate, I have no way of proving him wrong. Will the surgeon confirm my claim that I have loved? He may say that I am deluded. But if I ask the doctor whether he has had any experience of love and hate, if he is logical and honest he will say that he also has had such delusions; otherwise, the heart as seen on the operating table is only a pump-like object for the circulation of blood and there is nothing like a heart that feels love or hate.
If your eyes are operated on and examined, it will not be possible to prove that they have seen dreams. How can you know from an eye kept open on an operating table that at night, while closed, it has seen many dreams? We all see dreams, but where do they exist? Dreams may be unreal, but their existence cannot be denied. However unreal a dream might be, it happened somewhere within. If it was a frightening dream, when you wake up your heart is beating faster; even if it was unreal, if you cried during your dream, when you wake your eyes will be wet. Something has happened internally but the outer, the physical eyes, do not reveal anything: whatever is inner, subjective and personal cannot be seen outwardly.
An idol can be seen — as can the heart or the eye. But worship cannot be seen. Worship is like love or a dream; hence when you pass a temple, you can see the idol but not the worship. So if you saw Meera dancing before an idol, you would think she was mad, naturally, because her worship cannot be seen. She seems to just be dancing in front of a stone!
When Ramakrishna was appointed to be the priest in the Dakshineshwar temple in Calcutta, after a few days people began to complain about him. It was said that before offering flowers to the deity, Ramakrishna first smelled them, that before offering the deity food, he himself tasted it! This was thought to be a sacrilege.
Ramakrishna was summoned before the temple committee and asked for an explanation. He said that whenever his mother had fed him, first she would test the food to decide whether it was tasty enough for him, she would decide first whether it was worth giving to him; so he was doing the same with the deity. How could he offer food that he had not tasted? How could he offer flowers that he had not smelt? The committee said this went against all the rules of worship.
Ramakrishna asked, “Can there be any rules for worship? Can there be any rules for love?” Where there are regulations, worship dies. Where there are regulations, love dies. Love is an outpouring of inner feelings which are very personal and individual. There is a universal truth in this which can be recognized. When two lovers love, though they are both loving, they love in their own individual way. The manifestations may be entirely different, but there is a similarity of experience. In both of them, within their love the same soul resides.
I was telling you that though the idol can be seen, worship can’t be, but still we have made the word, “idol worship,” which is absolutely wrong. Worship is the method of obliterating the idol. First the devotee makes the idol and then he makes it disappear. In an earthly sense he makes the idol, and in a spiritual sense he destroys it. He makes it from mud and then lets it dissolve into the supreme existence.
I will now tell you about one more aspect…. In this country for thousands of years we have made idols and then immersed them in water. Many people feel it is strange and they have asked me why beautiful idols are made of the goddess Kali and then after a few days just thrown into the water. Why is the god Ganesha decorated ceremoniously and worshiped lovingly for a few days, and then immersed in water? — either thrown into the sea or a river or a lake. This is mad! But there is a beautiful concept behind this immersion.
The real secret of worship is in making an idol and then letting it disappear… giving a shape and form to the idol and then letting it vanish into the formless. It is all symbolic — the act of making an idol of the goddess Kali, worshiping it, and then immersing it in water. But we don’t worship in the right way: we have made the idol, decorated it beautifully and looked after it, so then we are reluctant to let it go by immersing it. If we had really worshiped, worshiped in the deepest sense, then the idol would have disappeared inside us, crystallized inside us, long before we let it disappear into the water. If the real worship had happened then there would have been no need to immerse the idol at all, it might have remained where it was but the heart of the worshiper would have been immersed into existence, into the divine. Then, if we had gone to immerse the idol it would have been like throwing away a used cartridge; it would have done its work.
But the idol which we immerse is a loaded cartridge — unused and still alive. We have just loaded the cartridge and we have to immediately throw it away, so naturally we are unhappy about it. In earlier times, during the twenty one days of worship, the cartridge was fired, it had served its purpose; during that time the immersion or disappearance of the idol had happened.
Worship is immersion.
You begin your journey from the idol, which is in front of you. Worship is the process by which you proceed. As you go ahead the idol is left behind, and only worship remains. If you stop at the idol you do not know what worship is. Whoever continues on to worship has recognized the idol, has known the root of worship and the real purpose of the idol.
In worship, what are the fundamental principles involved behind an idol? Firstly, to jump into that ultimate truth for which you are searching, you need some solid land, a jumping board. The ultimate truth does not need any solid ground, but you need a place from where to set out, from where you can take a jump. You have set out to jump into the sea, and the sea is infinite; you will need a bank or coastline from where you can take the jump. Once you jump you will be away from the shore, but won’t you turn back to thank the seashore from where you jumped into the infinite?
This seems impossible. Can you jump from form to formlessness? The form will only take you to another form. If you ask Krishnamurti he will it is not possible. How can you jump from the form to the formless? How can you jump from the word to the wordless?
All jumps are from form to formlessness, because in a deeper sense, form is the opposite of formlessness. Form is a part of formlessness, and an indivisible part. It may seem separate to us — because of our limited vision. In fact form and formlessness are indivisible.
When we stand on the seashore and look at the sea, we feel that they are separate, and that this shore and the opposite shore, far across the sea, are also separate. But if we go deep underneath the water, we will see that this shore and the opposite are connected at the bottom of the sea.
If we think in the language of scientists, there is a very interesting fact. All along the bottom of the sea there is a lot of mud or sand: if we dig into the sea we will find sand; if we dig into the land we will find water. If we express it in scientific terms, we can say that in the sea there is more water and less mud, and on the land there is more mud and less water. The difference is only in their proportions, in degrees, but they are not actually separate; everything is one and united.
Whatever we describe as having form is united with the formless, and the formless is also united with form. We are standing in the form; the concept of the idol accepts the fact that we are standing in the form. That is the situation, that is where we are, and we can only begin our journey from where we are, not from where we have to reach. Many philosophies begin from where we should be ultimately, but how is it possible to begin the journey from where we are not? The journey has to begin from where we are.
Where are we? We are living in form. All our experiences belong to form, to the manifest. We have not known anything that is not manifest, that does not have form. If we have loved, we have loved a form; if we have hated, we have hated a form. We are attracted by form and we are attracted to a form; we have practiced detachment from form. Our friends and enemies are all in form. Whatsoever we do is done with form.
The idol concept accepts this fact, so if we have to set out on our journey to the formless, we will have to give the formless some form. Of course, that form will be according to our own imagination.
One person experiences the formless in Mahavira, someone else in Krishna, and still another in Jesus. Whosoever has seen the formless in Jesus by looking into his eyes has found a door through which the formless can be seen. Whosoever held Jesus’ hand found that it ceased to be the his hand and became the hand of the infinite. Whosoever heard Jesus’ words and felt his heart vibrate, not in response to the words but to what was beyond those words, found it very easy to jump into the infinite through worshiping the image of Jesus.
Someone found the formless in Krishna; someone found it in Buddha and someone else in Mahavira. But remember that at first we will only be able to see the formless, the infinite through some form. Pure formlessness can’t be seen directly by anyone. We don’t have the capacity nor fitness to see it directly; the formless has to come to us bound in a form.
This is the meaning of incarnation — that the infinite has assumed a shape and a form, that the infinite has chosen to show you a tangible, bodily form. It seems self-contradictory, but this is what incarnation means. Incarnation is a sort of balcony from where you can see the vast sky. Incarnation is a glimpse of the formless — you can’t have any direct contact with the formless, the experience of it will be in some form. And once this happens, the experience can easily be repeated through that form again and again.
Whosoever has seen Buddha will find him rising, alive, from his picture or image. For whoever loves Buddha, the idol of him will slowly disappear and Buddha’s living being will be felt there. Buddha, Mahavira, Krishna or Christ — all of them leave behind methods of contact. Through those methods their devotees can establish contact with them. So the form of the idol is a very specific arrangement.
The art and science of making an idol consists of many concepts and calculations. If these are remembered while making an idol, then that idol can lead you deeper into meditation. In this connection it will be good to remember two or three things….
If you have seen many of Buddha’s idols you will have observed that they represent a certain state of mind rather than a particular individual. If you look deeply at an idol of Buddha, within a few moments you will feel that a great compassion is showering on you from all around. Buddha’s raised hand, his half-closed eyes, his proportionately sculptured face, his graceful expression, his delicate way of sitting — all are in some deeper sense meant to evoke compassion in you.
Someone asked a great French artist why he painted. He said, “I draw pictures only to find what form a certain emotion, a certain feeling of my heart, can take on a canvas. In my efforts to express that feeling, a picture emerges.” If someone meditates on that picture, he can experience the same emotion as was present in the painter’s heart.
When you see a painting you just see a form; you don’t realize that the soul of the artist is entering you. Those crisscross lines on the canvas are not just the lines of that form. If you concentrate on them, a picture with crisscross lines will emerge within you too… because it is the nature of the mind that it vibrates in you with a similar resonance to that which it sees outside it.
You probably do not know that the joy which you feel when you see a flower is not so much because of the flower itself but because of the symmetry of its petals, which is also induced in you. When you are attracted to a beautiful face of someone, it is not because of that person’s beauty but because it corresponds to your inner image of beauty. It produces a resonance of beauty in you which makes you feel that something within you is also beautified. In a similar way, the presence of an ugly face makes you feel uncomfortable. The experience of joy in the presence of someone who is beautiful is because of the flow of beauty which it brings about in you, making you also more beautiful. Ugliness means that something is disproportionate, crude, non-symmetrical and crooked; and this evokes in us a feeling of disharmony, repulsion, disorder and discomfort.
Nijinsky, the famous Russian ballet dancer, committed suicide. When people went to his house to investigate, they came out within ten or fifteen minutes feeling a sort of discomfort. They said that it did not feel good to go into his house, that if anyone stayed in it as long as Nijinsky had, they too would commit suicide. What was it about his house which was so unpleasant? He had painted all the walls and ceilings red and black — for two years it had been like this. It was not surprising that he went mad and that he committed suicide. Those who went inside his house said that if anyone were to stay in that house for two years they would also go mad and commit suicide. Nijinsky must have been a very courageous man — he had created around himself a very anarchic situation.
Whatsoever you see creates its echo within you, and in some deep sense you become like that which you see. All idols of Buddha are made to reflect compassion because that is his inner message. Buddha said if you have compassion you have everything. What does compassion mean? It does not mean love. Love comes and goes but compassion is a love which, once it comes, never goes. In love there is a subtle desire to get something from the other. In compassion there is the awareness that no one has anything to give; everyone is so poor that there is nothing they can give, and that is why there is compassion. There is no demand in compassion. In this state there is no desire even to give, but all the doors of the heart become wide open and something spontaneously begins to be distributed.
Buddha told his disciples, “When you meditate, worship or pray, remember to immediately distribute whatsoever peace you receive. Don’t keep it with you even a moment — I call you irreligious if you do so. When you are full of joy after meditation, immediately pray to the supreme being to let that joy be distributed to those who need it. Open the doors of your heart and let the joy flow towards all those who need it — just as water flows down the mountains.” This great compassion is described by Buddha as the ultimate liberation. So all the idols of Buddha were made in such a way that in their presence the worshiper would feel the resonance and vibrations of compassion within himself.
How can you worship Buddha? If you want to worship Buddha, the center of worship will be the heart. If you don’t know this you will never be able to understand Buddha’s idol, because the very purpose of it is to create compassion in you. The center of compassion is the heart, so while worshiping Buddha, the center of attention should be on — one end — his heart, and on the other end, our own heart. You will have to feel both hearts beating in one rhythm. Then a moment will come when you feel a thread connecting your heart to that within Buddha’s idol. You will not only feel that, but you will be able to see the pulsation of the idol’s heart. When that happens you will know that life has been imparted to it; otherwise, there is no life in it and worshiping it is meaningless.
The heart of the idol can be seen to be pulsating: if you have properly meditated on the pulsations of your heart and at the same time on Buddha’s heart, a relationship will be established between the two. Then your heart is beating with Buddha’s, just as you see your face reflected in a mirror.
Have you ever watched in a mirror your heart beating? You will say a mirror is a mirror, it is bound to reflect all movements. An idol is also a mirror in a deep sense, in a deeper religious sense. So your heart and that of the idol will pulsate. Until this happens, worship can’t begin because the idol is still only of stone and unsanctified; life has not been invoked in it.
If you want to meditate on the idol of Buddha, the center has to be the heart. If you want to meditate on Mahavira, there is a different center; for Jesus, a third center and for Krishna, a fourth…. All idols are made with a different center as the basis. Even though a society may have been worshiping a certain idol for thousands pf years, it may not be aware of its center, and if the center is not known you can’t establish a connection with the idol. You may offer flowers and incense, you may bow down to it — but you will have done it all before a mere stone. Remember, the stone has to be transformed into a deity! That part will not be done by the sculptor, it will have to be done by you. The sculptor will only give it a shape: who will pour life into it? Life has to be instilled in it by the devotee. Without that, it is just a stone. Worship only begins after life has been given to the idol.
What is worship? Once you are able to invoke life into the idol, you are worshiping a real, alive deity. Try to understand this deeply: as soon as something becomes alive, the form and the formless become one… because the body is the form, and the life that is in it is the formless. Life has no form.
If my someone cuts my hand, my life is not cut. If I am hypnotized or anesthetized and my hand is cut off, I will not feel any pain. My whole brain can be removed without my becoming aware of the operation… because life as such has no shape or form. Wherever there is life, there is a meeting of form and formlessness.
Matter has a shape, consciousness has none. As long as an idol is just a stone, there is only shape and form; but as soon as a devotee invokes life in it, it becomes alive. Remember, the worshiper who cannot bring his heart to pulsate in the idol will not be able to have the heart of the supreme pulsate within him. He is not yet a true devotee. As soon as he is able to make his heart pulsate within the idol, the idol is brought alive, and then the door to the infinite opens. On one end the idol has form; at the other it is formless. To travel through this door is worship.
Worship is the journey to formlessness through form.
There are several steps to worship, but the first and fundamental one is to understand that every individual is self-centered. Our whole way of living is such that “I am,” is the center of the whole world. “The moon and the stars rise for me, the birds are flying for my joy, and the sun too is giving light for me: the whole world is revolving around me, I am the center of the whole world.” Such a person cannot know worship. He feels that he is at the center and the rest of the world is his circumference. In worship you see the opposite: the fundamental law of worship is “I am on the circumference, the center is somewhere else.” An irreligious man’s basic philosophy is that he is the center and the rest of the world is the periphery. Even if God exists, he is on the periphery. “He is for me. If I am sick, he must cure me. If my son is unemployed, he must get him a job. If I’m in trouble, God has to run to my aid….” This type of theism is worse than atheism. Such a person does not understand what he is saying.
The right meaning of worship, the right meaning of prayer, of being religious is to understand that you are on the periphery and the infinite is the center. As soon as the idol’s heart is alive and pulsating, as soon as one experiences that the idol is alive, formlessness has entered it. So the basic rule for worship is the feeling, “I am on the periphery — I shall dance for you, sing for you, live for you and breathe for you. Whatever happens will be for you, the center.”
A great philosopher named Totapuri was once staying with Ramakrishna. He asked Ramakrishna how long he was going to remain obsessed with an idol — it was time he began his journey to the formless. Ramakrishna replied that he was ready to start his journey; he was always ready to learn anything from anybody, he was always ready to learn from whosoever wanted to teach. But he asked Totapuri to wait until he got permission from his mother.
“Which mother?’ Totapuri asked.
Ramakrishna replied, “My mother, the goddess Kali.”
Totapuri said, “That’s exactly what I am saying! How long will you go on being caught up with that stone idol of Kali? Do you want to ask that stone?”
Ramakrishna replied, “There is no way but to ask her. From the moment I began to worship her, she became the center and I moved to the circumference. Now that I am not, she has to be asked permission. Whatever I do is for her. Without her permission, even enlightenment is meaningless; and if she orders me to go to hell, I am ready. But without asking her, nothing can be done.”
Totapuri could not understand this. If Ramakrishna had to ask Kali permission to stop worshiping her, how would she grant it? Do we ask the permission of a person we want to give up? Is any permission needed to give up anything?
By this time, Ramakrishna had gone to the temple. Totapuri followed him. He saw tears coming from Ramakrishna’s eyes: he was begging Kali again and again to allow him to stop worshiping her. He told her that Totapuri was waiting for him…. Then suddenly he became joyous and began dancing. Totapuri, who was standing behind him, asked what had happened.
Ramakrishna said, “She has given her permission! Now I am ready to learn from you!”
The meaning of having someone as your center is that your life is now a surrendered life.
Worshiping means a surrendered life.
Worshiping the supreme being means living as the supreme being wants. Sitting and standing, eating and drinking, speaking and remaining silent also for the supreme being.
As soon as one has the infinite at the center, a mysterious current begins to flow, a sort of expansion begins.
As it is, we have contracted ourselves. When the seed breaks, it begins to be a tree. We have contracted ourselves in our “I”: when that “I” breaks, sprouts come out and the expansion begins. These sprouts can expand so much to encompass the whole world.
Religion is full of great mysteries. One who tries to save himself, dies; whereas one who keeps the supreme being at the center and himself at the circumference lives. We don’t understand how such a thing can happen because from our very birth we have believed ourselves to be the center of the world.
Buddha used to suggest to his disciples to spend a few days in a cremation ground. They needed to do that for three months before they could be initiated as bhikkus. They would say that they had come to learn from him, not from a crematorium. But Buddha insisted and said, “After three months in the burning place, your ‘I’ will become surrendered and it will easier to teach you. Daily, for three months, you will see dead bodies being burnt: at least on one day during these three months you will begin to think that this world is not just existing for you. When you were not here, the world existed. This person, whose body you are watching being burnt, also thought just moments before his death that the world existed for him. The world does not even know now that this person is no more. The sea did not notice that a wave has vanished.
“So you go on watching, and when you realize that the world is not existing for you, come to me; then the real meditation can begin. As long as you are at the center there is no possibility of real worship, of prayer or meditation; there is only a deep illusion. Worship will begin when that illusion vanishes. Worship begins when ‘I’ is dropped and ‘thou’ is significant.”
Remember, first the devotee makes the idol disappear and opens the door to the formless. Then he makes himself disappear and worship begins. As soon as a door to the formless opens through an idol, the dissolution of one’s ego becomes easier. As soon as the devotee realizes that a stone idol can disappear to become a door to the formless, he realizes that he too can become a door to the formless; that if he can forget his self a deeper jump becomes possible.
There can be a distinction between two forms, but not as far as the formless is concerned, because the formless is only one. When the idol has become formless and the devotee has become formless, then there is nothing like “two.” Numbers have no value in relation to the formless. The form and numbers are only props and there are methods to make props useful. In this connection there are a few things to be understood….
Sufis have given great importance to dancing as worship. Devotees like Meera and Chaitanya also attached great value to dancing — it has a few a qualities which have led many devotional schools to chose it as a method.
The first effect of dancing is that while dancing you experience that you are not the body. Because of the fast movements of dancing you feel that you and your body are separate. In reality there is an adjustment between your body and your consciousness. It is a well-arranged adjustment: in your day to day work, that adjustment remains intact.
Gurdjieff used to say that if there are many pebbles in a container, and you shake the container vigorously, the arrangement of things inside will be disturbed. A pebble that was lying at the bottom will come to the top, one lying in the middle will move to the side, and one which was on top will be in the middle: the whole arrangement within the can will become topsy-turvy. If one pebble was used to being in a certain place in relation to other pebbles, and it became identified with that position, its ego will be destroyed. The stone will feel, “I am no more,” that it was only an arrangement, and that arrangement is no more.
So the Sufis, Meera and Chaitanya, have make profound use of dancing. The Dervish dancing is very deep: in it, the dancer’s body spins so fast and with such totality that every cell and fiber of his body vibrates. This breaks the relationship between the body and the consciousness, and suddenly the dancer realizes that he is separate from his body.
So using dance for worship is very valuable.
There are two Christian sects, one of which is known as the Quakers and the other as the Shakers. The Quakers, even today, are quite influential. The names of the sects are very significant. During their worship, the Shakers shake the body so vigorously that every nerve and fiber of the body becomes a trembling. Standing in front of his idol, when his body vibrates so strongly, the Shaker perspires heavily. At that point he will experience that his consciousness is separate from his body. Then that consciousness moves into worship.
The Quakers’ name is meaningful — their bodies quake very strongly when they worship. In an earthquake, the land vibrates so much that everything comes crashing down; the Quakers also quake so much that the body’s connection with the consciousness is broken. This type of movement, dance and devotional songs, have all been used to create a gap between body and consciousness.
In this connection let us understand a little about the science of sound. Science believes that the ultimate unit of all matter is electricity. The Eastern sages believe that the ultimate unit of matter is not electricity but sound. Modern physics believes that ultimately all matter is made up of electricity, whereas the eastern sages say that sound is the basic unit of all matter. Whatever the truth may be, the thing to be understood is that there is a close relationship between electricity and sound. It is possible that the statements of the scientist and the sage are both true simultaneously. If not today, tomorrow the reality of the ultimate element will be known: one form of that element is sound, and the other is electricity. What that element is has to be discovered. Searching from the religious aspect, the sage reaches the knowledge that sound is the ultimate; searching from the material aspect the scientist has been led to electricity. Remember, the sage has searched within himself, not within matter: within your own self, the ultimate experience of your existence is that of sound. As long as you are aware of yourself, there will be the awareness of sound. The deeper you go within yourself, the less audible will be the sound, until it becomes a void. That very silence has its own sound, the “soundless sound,” which Indian sages have described as anahat nada. That anahat nada is the ultimate sound: the last experience of human consciousness, before it enters the formless, is this sound. Because of this experience, the Indian sages say that sound is the ultimate element.
The scientist divides and subdivides matter into its smallest component, and just before it disappears into the formless it is seen as the electron. Then when matter is completely lost and the formless appears, what remains is electricity.
What has to be thought about is whether the smallest, the ultimate part of consciousness, comes before the smallest part of matter. It is certain that consciousness is more subtle than matter, hence the ultimate part of consciousness must exist before that matter. So the Indian sages have held the view that sound is more subtle than electricity, that it comes before electricity, and is the ultimate source of everything.
Music, song, prayer and chanting are all uses of sound. Every sound creates a particular state within you; there is no sound which doesn’t.
Scientists who are experimenting with sound electronics now know that if special musical instruments are played in front of a plant it will grow flowers one month earlier than it otherwise would have. If special musical instruments are played in front of cows, they will give twice as much milk. If the wrong instruments, or wrong music is played, they may not give any milk at all.
Sound really reaches within you and strikes your consciousness. Your neck can be cut with a sword, but with the sword of sound your mind can be cut. The edge of sound is sharper, and it disconnects your mind from its various preoccupations. So experiments with the edge of sound have been made in which sound is used to cut off the mind of a meditator or a devotee so he can begin his journey to the infinite. All religions have used special sounds and experimented with them to cleanse and purify the mind.
Recently someone from Japan came to me. For the last two years he has been doing a practice of the Soto School of Zen. In this practice, the sound of “Mu… mu” is made most of his waking time; except when he rests and eats, this sound is continuously uttered. He gets up at three in the morning, takes a bath, and begins to repeat “Mu… mu.” He does this for three days, and his thoughts becomes less and less. The sound of “Mu… mu” continues to reverberate; a sort of storm is created within; it becomes like a sword and cuts off all thinking.
After seven days he doesn’t need to create the sound: it becomes automatic and spreads all over his body. Whatsoever he may be doing — sitting or walking… anything — within him the silent repetition of “Mu… mu” continues. Every cell and every fiber vibrates in its rhythm. It is difficult to eat, because the sound of “Mu…” is going on. After seven days sleep is difficult too because his mouth goes on repeating “Mu… mu.” During whatever sleep he does have the sound goes deeper and deeper.
After twenty-one days he begins to shout and roar the sound “Mu… mu” like a lion. His eyes, his face and his behavior change. His teacher goes on goading him to continue. Once he begins to roar, his eating, drinking and sleeping drop. In the fourth week he becomes as if mad — a state where he has no awareness of anything except the sound, “Mu… mu.” If you ask his name, he will reply, “Mu.” He loses all awareness of his body, only the awareness of “Mu…” remains. He does not know who he is. At this stage he has to be watched and guarded — he may do anything, he may go anywhere.
In the last stage, he roars with his total strength. It is as if some wound has opened or a ghost has possessed him. And then everything calms down; a huge wave of the ocean has taken its last leap and fallen apart. The climax has passed and everything within him has scattered.
He falls down and remains unconscious, without any movements, quiet and peaceful for one to three weeks. When he comes back to consciousness he is not the same person; he is a new man. The old man has died: now nothing that was old — his anger, his desires, his greed — can be traced. The continuity with his past is broken. With this experiment of “Mu,” with this great explosion of sound, his whole consciousness is transformed.
“Aum” is a similar sound. All religions have their own sounds which are used in worship. As the worship deepens, the impact of these sounds transform the devotee. Devotional songs and the playing of musical instruments are basic for transformation, and that is why repetition is significant. If you sing one song today, a different one tomorrow and a third on the next day, there will be no result. There must be a continuous hammering on the same particular center.
If you hammer a tent peg into different spots, it will never go into the ground. If you dig two feet at one place, two feet at another place and two feet at another, you will never be able to dig a well. Similarly, changing centers and places does not bring results. To dig a well, digging has to be done on one spot only. That’s why repetition has been insisted upon — so much so that for a whole month you have to repeat “Mu…” or “Aum,” or a single line of a song, again and again, in the same rhythm. But there is a danger that the repetition becomes mechanical, as if it is just a job to be done, and then it will be useless.
The repetition has to be a question of life and death, as if you are totally staking everything on it. Every hair, every cell, every fiber of the body participates; every nerve, every bone, every piece of flesh and muscle become involved… every drop of blood has to call aloud. When your whole existence becomes that sound, there will be results. The devotee has to repeat only one word, or a line of a song, for years together, for a special reason: you hammer on one spot again and again so that the door might break open — and it does!
So sound, dancing and music have all been used in worship.
These have all been done in front of an idol — let this be remembered, because dancing as such is a different matter. Many people dance but they do not become enlightened. If they are dancing for the sake of dancing, that has no relationship with the infinite. So everything has to be done in relationship to the infinite and hence in front of the idol that has been made alive. That idol will continuously remind you that the dance is not for the sake of dancing. The dancing is on the periphery; the center is the idol, the center is in the supreme being. All is in preparation for a jump into the ultimate. Otherwise there are dancers, musicians, singers who are all superb in their art — even devotees can sing very well. But this is not of any relevance; the devotee is not concerned with music or song, his purpose is different. His whole effort is to become so overwhelmed that he can dissolve and lose himself so fully that the inner flow takes over and sets him afloat in the infinite. He has to become the circumference, with the supreme at the center. He has to create such liquidity that he can remain afloat, and flow.
Usually you will find a devotee with tears flowing down his cheeks. He is not weeping out of unhappiness but out of joy. Tears flow when everything within has become liquid, fluid — either out of misery or overwhelming joy.
Up to now scientists have not been able to explain the purpose of tears. At best, they have discovered that tears are meant for cleaning the eyes of dust. Tear glands are only meant to clean the eyes. But why do tears flow when one is in pain, when one is unhappy or when one is overjoyed? Does dust only fall into the eyes at those times, and not otherwise?
Whenever there is an overflowing, when there is an extreme of either pain or pleasure, tears begin to flow. The tear glands open, and tears flow out. Devotees also weep, but their weeping has a different quality. One who is not a devotee will not be able to understand it. What happens to a devotee that makes him weep? You may think that he must have some difficulties and because of them he is weeping, with folded hands. But one who is weeping because of his difficulties still has himself as a center. He is still not a devotee; he does not know what worship is.
But there are moments when all frozenness and rigid that have solidified within us begin to liquify, and the awareness of that happening makes tears flow. Those tears flow in gratitude and thankfulness towards the supreme. We have nothing but our tears to give to the grace that is flowing towards us. We feel we don’t deserve whatever we have received and that we can’t contain the joy that is descending on us. We had never even dreamt of such a feeling — and we have nothing to show our gratitude. Neither words nor anything else can adequately express it.
In such moments the eyes weep in a different way. The devotee’s eyes weep differently from those of a lover. The lover also weeps, but that weeping has a different quality. The lover’s tears are full of small desires, demands, but in the devotee’s tears there are no demands. His eyes weep for no reason — he is simply helpless. Even while he wants to give thanks, words do not come out of his mouth, and when the mouth cannot speak, the eyes begin to speak in their own way.
The perfection, the completion of worship, is in tears, in their fluidity and their flowing out.
The idol has been used in many different ways to experience ecstasy. Those who speak against idols do not know what worship means. Anything can be said by someone who does not know; people are very ignorant and do not know anything. They accept whatever they hear — especially the negative. It is a law that the mind easily accepts that which is negative because it doesn’t have to take any trouble to prove it.
If someone says, “There is no God,” he does not have to prove anything. But whoever says, “There is a God,” has to prove it. So the mind easily accepts that which is negative, but before it accepts anything positive, it makes certain conditions; otherwise it will have to take the trouble to prove it.
Worship is positive, idols are positive. In denying something there is nothing to lose.
Turgenev has written a small story…. In a certain town there was a very intelligent man, and quite influential too. And in the same town there lived an utter fool, an idiot. One day the idiot approached the intelligent man and asked to be shown some way of becoming intelligent. The intelligent man asked the idiot whether he wanted to be intelligent or appear to be intelligent, because to become intelligent was a long process, but to look intelligent was easy. The idiot replied that he wanted to be shown the easier way — that if it was enough if he looked intelligent, he did not want to bother about becoming intelligent.
The intelligent man commented that in becoming intelligent there was a possibility to make a mistake, but in looking intelligent there could be no mistake. The idiot then became impatient and requested that the trick be revealed without any delay. The intelligent man whispered something in his ear — and from that day on the idiot gradually began to become known as intelligent throughout the town.
The people of the town began to gossip; How had this fool suddenly become intelligent? What had the intelligent man told him?
He had simply told to the fool to immediately negate every statement he heard. If anyone said, “There is something to idol worship,” the idiot was immediately to reply that there wasn’t. The idiot asked the intelligent man, “Should I say such things even when I don’t know anything about the subject?”
The intelligent man said, “You don’t have to bother about knowing anything at all — just negate whatever is said. If somebody tells you that the works of Kalidas are wonderful, just say it is all rubbish! Tell them to prove that they are! If anyone says that Beethoven’s music is heavenly, say that even in hell such music is played! And ask the person to prove what heavenly music is like. Just deny everything, and if anyone opposes you, challenge them to prove their claim.”
Within two weeks the idiot became famous throughout the town for his intelligence. People started saying that he was very deep and difficult to judge or understand. If someone said that Shakespeare’s poetry is beautiful, he would reply that it was simply rubbish — any school child could write such poems. Then the person would feel shaky because it was difficult to prove what he was saying.
This century is, in a way, a century of many types of foolishnesses. And the foundation of our foolishness is negation. For a whole century we have been denying one thing after another. When others are not able to prove something, they also join in the negating. But remember the more negative a life is, the more insignificant it becomes.
No truth can be known without being positive.
The more negative a life is, although it will seem more intelligent outwardly, inwardly it will be more stupid. The more negative a life is, the less will it be possible for truth, joy and beauty to penetrate it, because all elevating experiences happen only to a positive mind. All experiences of value can be had only by a positive mind.
Whenever someone says “no,” something within his mind closes. Have you ever thought about the effect of words? If you close yourself in your room and loudly say “no,” you will find that your whole heart contracts and becomes closed. If you loudly say “yes,” you will find that your heart opens its wings and flies into the sky. Words are not just born: the uttering of them creates some parallel event. In saying “no,” something contracts within you, and in saying “yes,” something opens within you.
Someone asked St Augustine, “What is your worship? What is your prayer?”
St. Augustine replied, “Yes, yes and yes, my Lord! This much is my worship.”
He may not have understood what he had said, but whoever says yes to his life in its totality is a theist. Theism does not mean just saying yes to the existence of God, it is the capacity to say yes. The atheist does not just deny the existence of God, the atheist has only the capacity to say no. Such a person will go on shrinking and contracting and will ultimately decay. But saying yes makes a person open up and expand so much that he merges with the infinite.
Idol worship is a very positive method. But you have to meditate and go so deep into the idol, into the worship, that you come to know that there is no idol, only worship. The idol is just the beginning.
It is true that the worship is of an idol, but in a deeper sense you will find that it is your own transformation. The idol is just an excuse, and that excuse makes it easy to transform oneself.
Dr. Rudolf, about whom I was speaking earlier, developed an important principle, which will be useful for you to know about. Whenever some thought arises in your mind, it has to travel through nerves and muscles, through the whole mechanism of the body. For example, if in my mind the thought has arisen to love you and to take your hand in mine, immediately that thought begins to travel — passing from the brain and the mechanism of the body until it reaches to my fingertips.
Rudolf says that when a thought it born it has the power of one hundred units; by the time it reaches the fingertips, only one unit remains. Ninety-nine units of power are used up in the transmission, in translating that thought into action. All thoughts become lifeless by the time they reach the outer surface of the body. That’s why more happiness is actually experienced at the thought of taking your beloved’s hand than the experience of it. At the moment of the experience you feel the experience was not as satisfying as you had expected. What happened? Why was the fulfillment of the thought less fulfilling than the thought itself?
When someone thinks about making love, he feels elated, but after making love he is left feeling depressed. He feels it was not so great after all. Why? When the thought was conceived it had the potentiality of a hundred units, but by the time it reached the periphery, it was reduced to one unit. Sometimes the potentiality is zero or is even negative. If the body is sick, the energy lost as the thought travels through consumes all the power and turns it negative. So if you are sick, you may have expected to feel happy when you held your beloved’s hand, but instead, by the time the thought has traveled to your hand, taking her hand makes you unhappy. The experience becomes negative. Rudolf says that if this is true, then man will never become happy.
Is there no way that one’s thought can directly jump into another’s mind? Religion says there is. Rudolf has also confirmed this through hundreds of experiments — that my thought can take a direct jump into another’s mind, without using the medium of my physical body. To do so, I stop my thought at the third eye center by closing my eyes, and make it jump directly to your third eye. The whole system of telepathy depends on this art.
Rudolf demonstrated this by transmitting a thought one thousand miles. In Russia, Howard, and many others in other countries’ experiments, gave proof of telepathy. In this experiment, you concentrate your thought on your third eye, as if your thought has become a small sun revolving rapidly in your mind. That small sun becomes focused and highly potent. The thought is not allowed to spread to the rest of the body, which would allow loss of energy; the energy has to accumulate at one point, where it remains focused like a strong ray of light. Just when you feel that it cannot become more focused, more concentrated — that is the moment for the thought to jump. At exactly that moment you have to project the thought into the mind of the other person. However far away the person may be, he must be in your field of imagination, and you need to imagine that the thought has entered into the mind of the other person through his third eye. Once this happens, the thought is transferred.
Telepathy is an art of projecting a thought into someone else without any physical medium. The third eye has been meditated on in many ways for religious purposes. It can be used for communicating with the cosmic mind as well as with the human mind. For example, you are sitting in front of Mahavira’s idol…. Mahavira’s consciousness has become one with the infinite, but if you concentrate your total energy at the third eye center and project it into the idol’s head, your thought will be transmitted to the consciousness of Mahavira. In this way many people who have come after Mahavira are helped. For such people, Buddha, Mahavira and Christ are not dead but alive here and now. For them there is a direct communication.
This experiment can be used to take a jump into the infinite. But how will you find the third eye of the infinite? To where will you project your thought energy? To where will you make it jump?
It will be easier to communicate through the medium of an idol. Directly projecting the thought beam into the infinite is difficult. It can be done, but for that there is a different technique. The religions which have not used idols have used that technique, but it is very difficult. So those religions which at first didn’t use idols finally came around to using them.
Islam has not used the idol, but the mosque has become the idol. And the graves of Moslem saints are worshiped. Even today, in any part of the world, when a Mohammedan says his prayers he faces the direction of the Kaaba. Those who know have used the Kaaba through which to project their thoughts. Those who don’t understand the secret meaning just stand facing the direction of the Kaaba while they pray.
It doesn’t make any difference whether you project onto the Kaaba or an idol. It makes no difference whether the feet of the idol or the stone of Kaaba is kissed: it is one and the same. There is no photograph of Mohammed, there is no idol of Mohammed, but what difference has it made? Something else was done. No idol or picture of Mohammed was ever made, but devotees shower flowers on the tombs of Moslem saints. It was not possible to find an equally powerful substitute for Mohammed.
So if Krishna instructs his devotees to bow down at the feet of his image, he is farsighted in understanding their problems. Krishna knew that it is very difficult for a man to avoid using an idol; taking a direct jump into the infinite is so difficult that only one out of ten might succeed. Then what will happen to the rest? If Krishna’s idol is not available, they may use just any idol which will be very ordinary.
What has been the effect of prohibiting the use of an idol of Mohammed? If some Muslim fakir dies in some town, Muslims gather around his tomb. The Muslims are not at fault, it is the inner nature of man that is responsible. I feel that what the idol of Mohammed could have done cannot be done by the tomb of a fakir. Though Mohammed was right in saying there is no need for an idol, that is true only for one man in a million. And for such a person there is nothing to be reached. He doesn’t need an idol, nor a Kaaba nor a Koran or the Gita; he does not need Islam, or Krishna or Buddha. For him, everything is unnecessary — he can reach directly. But what about others?
For the rest, all those things are needed, and when something is needed it is better to have the best. It is better, instead of worshiping the tomb of a fakir or the idol of some virtuous person, to have the idol of a Buddha, a Krishna, a Mohammed or a Mahavira. When you have to travel by sea, it is risky to go by a small, locally made boat; it is better to travel in a large ship or steamer. When the boat of Buddha is available, it is stupid to depend on an amulet made by some fakir, or to the grave of a person whose blessings may have helped some people to recover from a disease. But if Buddha’s idol is not available, because of man’s inner need he will look for a substitute.
Superficially it seems as if those who have rejected idol worship have said something great. But those who are for idol worship have the experience of thousands of years, and they knew from experience that a person will need an idol. Most people have a limitation in that they cannot reach the infinite directly. That is why it is better to provide the best of rest camps in between.
There has been no society on earth which did not have an idol. No group of human beings in any corner of the world has existed where there was no idol in one form or other. This indicates that the idol fulfills some inherent need, not just for the individual but for the whole of humanity. It is only in this century or the last two hundred years that the concept of an idol has been shattered. Some people argue that idols are a meaningless burden, just stones, and they must be removed. But if first the meaning behind idol worship is properly understood, I don’t think that any intelligent person will want to remove idols. But if the scientific thought behind idol worship is not understood, then idols will have to be removed; they can’t be saved. They will probably fall away by themselves.
Today people worship idols without understanding and bow down before them without knowing anything. Their hearts do not participate, it is just a formality that has remained. Such people will only be the cause of the destruction of the idol — because although they go daily go to worship idols, there is no transformation in their lives and so idol worship seems futile.
A person worships an idol for forty years — and nothing happens to him…. And he drags his son to the temple too. When the son asks his father that if he hasn’t got anything from forty years of worship, why is he being forced to go to the temple, there is no answer. If something had happened in the father, the question wouldn’t have arisen. There is a small fable of Aesop…. In a forest, a lion was asking every animal he came across whether he was the king of the forest or not. He asked a bear, and the bear said, “You are definitely king!” Then he asked a leopard, who hesitated a little but then said that yes, the lion was the king. Then the lion asked the elephant. He immediately picked him up in his trunk and threw him a long distance. While he was falling, the lion said to the elephant, “Oh, great being! If you didn’t know the answer you could have simply said so. You didn’t need to throw me off — I would have gone of my own accord!” But the elephant that is powerful enough to lift up and throw the lion does not need to make any reply. It is not necessary to say who is king.
One who worships an idol would not have to make any reply if he only knew what worship was. His life would be the answer. His eyes, the way he sits and stands, would become the reply. But those who do not know what worship is and who still go on worshiping, are responsible for the removal of the idol. They do not know what worship is, but the idols have remained in their hands.
It is because of this that I have talked to you about worship — so that you might understand that an idol is a method meant for total, inner transformation. The idol is just an excuse.
It is like hanging your coat on a peg. The purpose of the peg is just to hang the coat: if there were no peg, the coat would have been hung on the door or a chair. It has to be hung somewhere. But once it is hung up, you can’t see the peg, and so you don’t ask any questions about it.
The idol is just a peg — worship is the main purpose.
But while worshiping the idol you can’t see the worship: you can’t see the coat, you only see the peg. You feel the peg has spoiled the wall — why keep it?
You don’t know anything about worship. Only the idol remains, utterly helpless and defeated. It may not survive — it is only the life force of worship that can save it. That is why I have talked to you about worship.
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