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Series II - Chapter 10 - ‘Devotion And Worship’
A MOTHER WAS beating her child, and there were painful screams. The mother was very angry, and while she was beating she was talking to it violently. When presently we came back she was caressing the child, hugging as though she would squeeze the life out of it. She had tears in her eyes. The child was rather bewildered, but was smiling up at the mother.
Love is a strange thing, and how easily we lose the warm flame of it! The flame is lost, and the smoke remains. The smoke fills our hearts and minds, and our days are spent in tears and bitterness. The song is forgotten, and the words have lost their meaning; the perfume has gone, and our hands are empty. We never know how to keep the flame clear of smoke, and the smoke always smothers the flame. But love is not of the mind, it is not in the net of thought, it cannot be sought out, cultivated, cherished; it is there when the mind is silent and the heart is empty of the things of the mind.
The room overlooked the river, and the sun was upon its waters.
He was by no means foolish, but was full of emotion, an exuberant sentiment in which he must have taken delight, for it seemed to give him great pleasure. He was eager to talk; and when a green golden bird was pointed out to him, he turned on his sentiment and gushed over it. Then he talked of the beauty of the river, and sang a song about it. He had a pleasant voice, but the room was too small. The green-golden bird was joined by another, and the two sat very close together, preening themselves.
“Is not devotion a way to God? Is not the sacrifice of devotion the purification of the heart? Is not devotion an essential part of our life?”
What do you mean by devotion? “Love of the highest; the offering of a flower before the image, the symbol of God. Devotion is complete absorption, it is a love that excels the love of the flesh. I have sat for many hours at a time, completely lost in the love of God. In that state I am nothing and I know nothing. In that state all life is a unity, the sweeper and the king are one. It is a wondrous state. Surely you must know it.”
Is devotion love? Is it something apart from our daily existence?
Is it an act of sacrifice to be devoted to an object, to knowledge, to service, or to action? Is it self-sacrifice when you are lost in your devotion? When you have completely identified yourself with the object of your devotion, is that self-abnegation? Is it selflessness to lose yourself in a book, in a chant, in an idea? Is devotion the worship of an image, of a person, of a symbol? Has reality any symbol? Can a symbol ever represent truth? Is not the symbol static, and can a static thing ever represent that which is living? Is your picture you?
Let us see what we mean by devotion. You spend several hours a day in what you call the love, the contemplation of God. Is that devotion? The man who gives his life to social betterment is devoted to his work; and the general, whose job is to plan destruction, is also devoted to his work. Is that devotion? If I may say so, you spend your time being intoxicated by the image or idea of God, and others do the same thing in a different way. Is there a fundamental distinction between the two? Is it devotion that has an object?
“But this worship of God consumes my whole life. I am not aware of anything but God. He fills my heart.”
And the man who worships his work, his leader, his ideology, is also consumed by that with which he is occupied. You fill your heart with the word ‘God’, and another with activity; and is that devotion? You are happy with your image your symbol, and another with his books or music; and is that devotion? Is it devotion to lose oneself in something? A man is devoted to his wife for various gratifying reasons; and is gratification devotion? To identify oneself with one’s country is very intoxicating; and is identification devotion?
“But giving myself over to God does nobody any harm. On the contrary, I both keep out of harm’s way and do no harm to others.”
That at least is something; but though you may not do any outward harm, is not illusion harmful at a deeper level both to you and to society? “I am not interested in society. My needs are very few; I have controlled my passions and I spend my days in the shadow of God.”
Is it not important to find out if that shadow has any substance behind it? To worship illusion is to cling to one’s own gratification; to yield to appetite at any level is to be lustful.
“You are very disturbing, and I am not at all sure that I want to go on with this conversation. You see, I came to worship at the same altar as yourself; but I find that your worship is entirely different, and what you say is beyond me. But I would like to know what is the beauty of your worship. You have no pictures, no images, and no rituals, but you must worship. Of what nature is your worship?”
The worshipper is the worshipped. To worship another is to worship oneself; the image, the symbol, is a projection of oneself. After all, your idol, your book, your prayer, is the reflection of your background; it is your creation, though it be made by another. You choose according to your gratification; your choice is your prejudice. Your image is your intoxicant, and it is carved out of your own memory; you are worshipping yourself through the image created by your own thought. Your devotion is the love of yourself covered over by the chant of your mind. The picture is yourself, it is the reflection of your mind. Such devotion is a form of self-deception that only leads to sorrow and to isolation, which is death.
Is search devotion? To search after something is not to search; to seek truth is not to find it. We escape from ourselves through search, which is illusion; we try in every way to take flight from what we are. In ourselves we are so petty, so essentially nothing, and the worship of something greater than ourselves is as petty and stupid as we are. Identification with the great is still a projection of the small. The more is an extension of the less. The small in search of the large will find only what it is capable of finding. The escapes are many and various but the mind in escape is still fearful, narrow and ignorant.
The understanding of escape is the freedom from what is. The what is can be understood only when the mind is no longer in search of an answer. The search for an answer is an escape from what is. This search is called by various names, one of which is devotion; but to understand what is, the mind must be silent. “What do you mean by ‘what is’?”
The what is is that which is from moment to moment. To understand the whole process of your worship, of your devotion to that which you call God, is the awareness of what is. But you do not desire to understand what is; for your escape from what is, which you call devotion, is a source of greater pleasure, and so illusion becomes of greater significance than reality. The understanding of what is does not depend upon thought, for thought itself is an escape. To think about the problem is not to understand it. It is only when the mind is silent that the truth of what is unfolds.
“I am content with what I have. I am happy with my God, with my chant and my devotion. Devotion to God is the song of my heart, and my happiness is in that song. Your song may be more clear and open, but when I sing my heart is full. What more can a man ask than to have a full heart? We are brothers in my song, and I am not disturbed by your song.”
When the song is real there is neither you nor I, but only the silence of the eternal. The song is not the sound but the silence. Do not let the sound of your song fill your heart.