Adoring the Divine
(Continued from previous issue)
Adoration at the Physical Level
Adoration means to love someone or something deeply and with respect. Everyone practices adoration. While most people adore the world and its enjoyments, there are a few who adore something higher. As long as people feel that their body-mind complex is real, they see the external world as real and it occupies their whole being. When such people pray to God, they do it mostly to be freed from physical or mental affliction, or for attaining worldly prosperity and enjoyment, that is, for name, fame, power, or position. According to the Bhagavad Gita (7.16), these are two of the four types of people who worship God. Such people adore God as a human being and sometimes conceive of Him as married and with children. God responds to prayer from such devotees too.
Swami Vivekananda throws light on an important truth: the constitutional necessity for such people to worship God with a human form. He says, “Suppose a cow were philosophical and religious: it would have a cow universe and a cow solution of the problem, and it would not be able to see God as we do. Suppose cats became philosophers: they would see a cat universe and have a cat solution of the problem of the universe, and a cat ruling it.” The point to be noted is this: As long as cats and cows are conscious of their cat or cow form, they are conditioned to think of God as a cat or cow. This applies to us also. As long as our identification with our body and mind is strong, we can only adore God as a human being. For those who feel attracted to the world and its objects, religion can only be what Swami Vivekananda calls “sanctified shopkeeping,” which means a materialistic attitude with just a spiritual veneer to it. He says, “When a man prays to God, ‘Give me this, and give me that,’ it is not love. How can it be? I offer you a prayer, and you give me something in return; that is what it is, mere shopkeeping.” Sri Krishna considers such worshippers too as noble-hearted (Bhagavad Gita, 7.18). For, after all, they approach God for their wants instead of depending on their puny ego and their capacity to influence people and manipulate things.
There are people who do not believe in worshipping God with a human form. Though they may be strongly attached to the world and to their own limited personality, yet they believe that adoration of a God with a human form is unacceptable. As long as they continue to adore their own body, this attitude cannot hold water. They need to purify their mind in order to be free from body consciousness before trying to negate God with human form. Says Swami Yatiswarananda, “Before you apply the concept of formlessness and impersonality to God, apply it first to yourself. It is an important law that our concept of Reality depends upon our concept of ourselves. So in order to meditate on the formless God, we must consider ourselves to be formless. We must depersonalize ourselves before we try to depersonalize God.”
(To be continued) —Swami Yuktatmananda
Copyright© 2014, Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center of New York.