Sunday, July 08, 2007

Some people have a very distorted idea about the nature of worship (ibadat). They are under the impression God is in need of worship.

However, this is not so. Human beings are in need of worshiping God. God does not need the worship of human beings.

The people who believe worship is for God's sake, apparently consider God to be so insecure that Divinity requires constant reassurance from human beings. These people make it sound as if God were saying: "Please, women and men, tell Me again how wonderful I am and how great I am. My Self-esteem is a little shaky today."

Alternatively, maybe these people are implying God is addicted to vanity and needs to hear praise over and over again. In fact, one might suppose a logical progression of this sort of thinking is to believe God punishes people who do not worship Divinity because such people become like a drug pusher who holds out on the one who desperately needs a fix. In the light of this kind of scenario, hell is the revenge, in spades, of an addict scorned.

Sufi masters have a completely different perspective on the issue of worship. To begin with, they maintain God is totally independent of any need of what human beings do or do not do.

Our existence is an act of Divine generosity and love. Something has been given to human beings for which we have done nothing to deserve and which can never be reciprocated in kind by us.

To be sure, we have been created in accordance with a Divine Plan. Yet, the purpose of this plan is all to the benefit of human beings.

God is not getting anything out of it that was not possessed already by Divinity. God, in Essence, is sharing Divinity, as manifested through Attributes, with Divinity, as manifested through human reflections of those Attributes.

Unfortunately, we are, for the most part, too dumb to appreciate what God is doing for us. Thus, the need for worship.

Worship is the path which, if God wishes, leads from, on the one hand, human ignorance, darkness and density, to, on the other hand, the gnosis, light and subtlety of Divinity. Worship, when done properly, is the on-going spiritual realization of, and bearing witness to, the Presence of Divinity in every aspect and facet of human existence.

For many of us, worship is something of a burden. We struggle and strain and huff and puff and sweat and fret to produce some pathetic, tattered, stumbling spiritual offering.

Some of us fervently hope these offerings bear a remote resemblance to expressions of worship which are minimally acceptable to God, worried as we are about the cut off points for heaven and hell. Others among us, are quite taken with "our" efforts, as if we actually had the capacity to do anything on our own. Still others among us, are resentful we should have to make any such efforts whatsoever, as if we were doing God a favor.

Our attempts at worship seem to be saturated with resistance, doubts, uncertainty, conflict, weakness, obstacles, inconsistencies and ambivalence. This is so because our false selves or egos are busy doing everything within their power and capacity to oppose worship of God.

If worship of God can be converted to worship of the ego, the difficulties often will stop. The ego will even permit the external character of the spiritual framework to remain as a front for the underlying non-spiritual reality of things. We seem to find consolation and solace in, at least, being surrounded by the trappings of spirituality, despite the absence of its essence.

Ultimately, worship is not about forms and rituals, although the journey to real worship must begin there. In fact, only when real worship is attained, does the essential value and meaning of the forms and rituals become transparent and alive with truth.

For most of us, however, the forms and rituals are like dead things to us because we are like dead things to them. We may go through the motions, but our minds and hearts are in a state of suspended animation.

For Sufi masters, worship is the essence of life itself. When one becomes attuned to the nature and purpose of life, one becomes worship.

One can never become worship as long as the ego is trying to usurp the role of Divinity. Worship cannot take place in an atmosphere of lordship, only of servanthood.

By the grace of God, worship flows through the intentions of Sufi masters. By the grace of God, worship takes flight on the wings of sincerity of the Sufi shaykhs.

Through the grace of God, the thoughts, feelings and actions of the Sufi masters all become modalities of worship. This is so because every thought, feeling and action reflects the active presence of Divinity in the life of Sufi masters.

Among the Sufi masters, family life, social interaction, worldly activities, spiritual practices, work, sleeping and eating all become occasions for worship. By the grace of God, nothing is done or undertaken by Sufi masters except as an expression of a servant's knowing and aware intention of loving service to Divinity which is present, as manifestation, in the form of the server, the service, and the served.

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