A R T  A N D  C U L T U R E  ии  W O R S H I P

R  E  S  O  U   R  C  E  S


Buddha Mind - get one, be one.


What thing...
worship what thing
is worthy ?
For many people the idea of worship has a range of negative connotations; being overly entangled with popular rites and rituals and often associated with superstition. For the 'modern' thinker worship is often seen as unreasonable or impractical, it doesn't make sense. Is it just a bunch of mumbo jumbo?
Worship: A feeling of profound love, admiration, adoration, devotion and respect.
   From the Old English weorthscipe - to ascribe worth to something.
Worship often goes astray in relation to the 'thing' that is ascribed worth. Feelings of devotion are commonly directed towards a god or some deity or idol, and if these things are not rightly understood they will inevitably bring disappointment and subsequent disdain or cynicism in relation to worship, especially religious worship. In Theravada Buddhism the emphasis is very much on investigating truth, exploring what one can know directly. Suggestions of things 'out there' are often seen as outside the model.

I would suggest that worship is an essential part of human existance, a vital factor in the healthy operation of the psyche - as a minimum. Worship can also function as a way of accessing no-thing, the 'spiritual dimension'.

investigate within
First, consider the actual meaning of the word 'worship' - "A feeling of profound love, admiration, adoration, devotion and respect". Forget the word 'profound' just for now and reflect on the qualities of the other words. Are these healthy feelings for a human being? What kind of person is it that lacks these feelings?
Second, what are we able to love, admire, adore, be devoted to and respect? What things (beings?) in your life are there that you can easily manifest these feelings toward?

As regards worship, the first place I would suggest looking is internally - toward oneself. Can I love, admire, adore, etc, this being, ME?
My experience is, that for most people self-love is one of the harder places to start; but obviously it is the most important, considering that for the next however many years this is where I will be; in this body with this mind. The idea of self-worship has the complications of egoism and sefishness but in a Buddhist context we (ideally) see both body and mind as not-self and can at least consider the "love and respect" aspect of (self) worship. Can we?
    Allowing for the difficulties this personal approach can present to many, we see some advantage in developing our capacity to worship in an outward direction. A very simple example is the relationship people develop with pets - simple, uncomplicated, unconditional love; being able to access altruistic feelings via an external.

One factor directly associated with worship is faith. To bring forth feelings of love, etc. requires a certain degree of faith, confidence, dependence and trust. Fear (of betrayal, deception, capriciousness, inconstancy) is a primary obstacle to faith. We are afraid to 'give ourselves' to something or someone through fear of being hurt or disappointed. On a worldly level this is unavoidable and we must learn wise strategies to minimise the inevitable hurt. There is physical hurt but what the Buddha directs our attention to is the pain that results from ignorance; our misperception of reality. We have learnt the meaning of pain and closed many doors to prevent 'life' getting too close - through fear of more pain. This closedness is not the solution - it is the problem !

worship to be free - be free to worship
How to soften our mistrust, our lack of faith, our closedness?
    It is important to reiterate the distinction between mundane pain and spiritual suffering - the first is relative and conditional while the second is illusory, self-created, born of ignorance.

Worship, consciously developed as a practice (as opposed to a native or cultural faith), is somewhat of a sleight of hand. We are trying to open ourselves to the ultimate, the unconditioned - yet here we are seemingly stuck in the proximate, the conditioned. Any 'thing', however refined, that we create as an object of worship, is not it.
    The trick is using the conditioned to transcend the conditioned, using kamma to go beyond kamma. At this point it would be useful to read the section on "symbols / useage" [§]
    In a Buddhist context the primary obstacle to freedom-from-suffering is selfishness, the opposite being selflessness - altruism, humility, modesty.

leap when you're ready
I'll leap
I'm ready.
We create images of how we would like to be and we worship them. This can be worldly (as in pop-idols etc.) which is all in vain (as in vanity) or altruistic and spiritually aspiring. There are many traditional symbols which can be used for worship [§] and these can be highly recommended as they allow the possiblity of collective worship. The main point being that the symbol or object of worship is felt to be (symbolically) both outside and greater than your own ego-self. We each have quite specific areas of closedness, selfishness and confusion and there is no reason why you ought not create your own collection of symbols. These can be concrete (or even wood or plaster :) or conceptual, and acribed whatever value you wish (and it is wishing - as in 'magic' stuff - not wanting).

The trick in worship is to maintain clear mindfulness but to forget the self in the act of upholding the object of worship in the process of worshipping. On the one hand I know the object is of my own creation (and is relative and conditioned), on the other hand I suffuse my being with the invested value of the object (which is ultimate and unconditioned). Worship functions as 'media' through which one leap-frogs the increasingly insubstantial paradoxes.