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Transformative Power of idol Worship, Mantras, Music & Dance

Certain primitive tribes believe that it is possible to make a person 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 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.

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. 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.

If you concentrate on the image of a person with the energy of the agya chakra, third eye, 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.

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.

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. 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.

Worship is an 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, a woman saint of India 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.

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.

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.

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 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 India 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 Ganesh, and then after a few days just thrown into the water.

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. 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.

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.

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.... 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.

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 of 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. 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.

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. Such a person cannot know worship. 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....” 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.”

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 three months in cremation ground before they could be initiated. Buddha said, ”After three months in the burning place, your ’I’ will become surrendered and it will easier to teach you. So you go on watching burning of dead bodies, 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....

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 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 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. 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.

”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.

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.

Usually you will find a devotee with tears flowing down his cheeks. He is not weeping out of unhappiness but out of joy. 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.

The devotee’s eyes weep differently from those of a lover. 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.

Worship is positive, idols are positive. In denying something there is nothing to lose.

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.

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. 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.

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.