Have an Attitude of Worship

December 6, 2023

When we are more awake, everything we do is worship. Readings from Anandamayi Ma and Utpaladeva. A podcast from Satsang with Shambhavi

I wanted to read one of the teachings of Ma's, Anandamayi Ma, that I read during the Thanksgiving gathering when we were talking about the theme for 2021, which is worshiping together. For those of you that are new, every year, Jaya Kula has a theme for the year.

Something that we're exploring and learning about and doing sadhana with and trying to embody more. Of course, there are many teachings about worship. But I just wanted to start off this satsang with one from Ma.

She says, Worship is not a ritual. It is an attitude and experience. Worship is not a ritual. It is an attitude. It is an experience. Let's think about what this might mean to us.

And it's interesting, what just popped into my mind is that many people who did not grow up in a culture from India. Or a spiritual tradition from India or from Tibet.

When approaching practices like puja, or other more formal worship practices or practice with deities will sometimes say, I can't connect to those practices. And on an ordinary level, we can understand that.

Because those are not the traditions that many people grew up with who are from the United States. But on another level, when we're more open, when our senses are more open.

When we're more in touch with the fundamental nature of reality and of the self, anything is worship. Ma used to perform worship for her Muslim neighbors. She used to conduct funeral rites for her Muslim neighbors. Rites that she didn't even know.

Of course, she was so awake that she was just in touch with that primordial wisdom. And was, as a pundit from Varanasi said, Ma is scripture. So she was scripture to such a degree that she actually embodied the scriptures of different traditions.

But the point being that when we are more awake, everything that we do is worship. Whether it's cooking or walking or sitting around talking with people. It's not just about doing puja.

But when we are not so awake, then we think of worship as being something that is embodied by specific actions. This is what—actions like making offerings to deities or teachers, doing puja, things like that.

Ma says this is not worship, or we could say it's not necessarily worship. Because, of course, we can do worshipful things without a worshipful attitude. You all know this.

You can offer seva to the community, and you might offer it in the spirit of it's just a chore or a task. Or you might even offer it in the spirit of resentment. Then the worshipful act of offering seva, or service, is not worship. The question is, what is this worshipful attitude?

And how can we reorient from, they're things that we're doing that are worship. To how can I discover a natural, worshipful bhava, feeling orientation, bhava. How can I contact what is already there? That worshipful bhava, that worshipful feeling is everywhere.

How can I make contact with that? Sitting down on your cushion when you feel resentment or resistance. Or you just don't want to. Or you're tired. Or you're sick. Or you feel overwhelmed. Or you have a lot of other stuff to do.

Or your kids are clamoring. Or you're hungry. Or it's too cold. Or it's too hot. Or you have a pain somewhere. The act of sitting down to do sadhana, even if you feel like you're faking something, the act of sitting down is an act of confidence and sincerity.

It's an act that comes from understanding and knowing something. Not faking something. So just recognize that. Then for all the times that we feel like we aren't really in our practice, even though we're going through the motions, try to reach for that shred of sincerity.

Try to reach for the shred of real open-heartedness, even if it's just like a tiny little channel. So yeah, we can sit there and fake it till we make it. But that isn't really the method of this tradition.

There are other traditions that say, fake it till you make it. But I would say really try to go in there, noodle around and find just whatever little bit of connection you can find to make it a little bit more real. Do that work.

The other morning in the morning worship, when we were praying to the moon toward the end, you had us visualize the light of the moon coming into the third eye, and then our hearts meeting that light and going out back toward the moon. And that, to me, is like the feeling of worship.

That feeling of needing. Of something pouring in, something pouring out. And needing it as wisdom. As much as I can to remember to feel that attitude that everything is wisdom. Like even my angst and stress. I've been having a feeling of kind of offering that to Ma.

That's important to remember that right now we're having this experience we call duality, where there are others and other things. And there are many ways that this has been described by teachers in traditions such as this.

Direct realization traditions that recognize continuity as the foundation of everything. And one of the ways we could think about this is a phrase that's used by Utpaladeva. He was the grand-grand guru of Abhinavagupta, one of the founders of Trika Shaivism.

He referred to this experience of dualistic life as a feast or a festival of worship. A feast or a festival of worship. So we can have the understanding that, this life that we're living is what the Lord does.

This is the life process of the Lord, to create all of these experiences of meeting. Something is coming to meet us and we are going to meet that. This is our situation always. Something is always arriving.

This is the nature of impermanence. If we wanted to talk about impermanence in a way that was more in concert with Trika Shaivism or other direct realization traditions.

We could just simply say the experience we're having is that something is always arriving. Even if what it is is destruction. And we are always meeting that. How are we going to meet it? And as Utpaladeva said, we meet it in the spirit of a festival or a feast of worship, whatever it is.

I'll read a quote from him that I also shared on Thanksgiving. I worship Shiva, whom during the Feast of Dissolution, the Feast of Dissolution, imagine that, steadily and hugely embraces Shakti. Shakti here means manifest life, the mother, the earth, everything that's happened, all these experiences.

I worship Shiva, whom during the Feast of Dissolution, steadily and hugely embraces Shakti. Embraces manifest life. Through whom the whole universe enjoys food, drink and ornaments.

Oh, glory to the great feast of worship of the sweet and inexplicable with which even falling tears have the taste of the nectar of immortality. He's speaking from the fruits of the practice.

He's speaking as someone who is a great practitioner. Who has practiced enough to experience some of the more profound fruits of this practice, which is that everything is infused with this spirit of worship.

And that worship itself has something to do with this experience of duality. There has to be a worshiper and a worshiped. This is the great attitude, the great attitude of the Lord is playing the part of the worshiper and the worshiped, and the offerings of the worship.

This is the teaching in the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says to Arjuna that the Lord is the one making the offerings. The Lord is the offering. The Lord is the yajña, the fire that the offering is being made into. All of these things are the Lord.

And so the Lord is creating this huge stage of worship, this huge field of worship, this huge festival of worship. Our job as practitioners is to divest ourselves of the impediments we call karmic tension or realm vision, to divest ourselves of those.

So that we can naturally experience this ongoing festival of worship. Naturally experience. Not make it up, not contrive it, not talk ourselves into it, not aphorism ourselves into it.

But actually do the sadhana we need to do, and for each person that will be different. So that we can free ourselves, and with the grace of God have help doing that, from the restrictions and limitations, apparent limitations we call karma.

These are all relative ideas, karma and limitation are relative ideas. But in any case, that is our experience, and that's the game that we're playing so that we can learn to participate more in this festival of worship.

And those of you that have practiced for a while, maybe you've noticed that you're not quite so thrown off course when things go awry. Maybe you've noticed that you can now, in the midst of the falling tears of samsara, also notice your enjoyment of something about events of dissolution and destruction.

Or you can have a natural feeling that this is just another phase of life. Maybe you're a little more detached from the reactivity that you used to have, maybe just a little bit. But this is a movement in the right direction.

When we start to be able to relate to the things that are being dissolved and destroyed, and we normally think of as bad things. When we can start to relate to them a little bit differently and even see the grandeur in those things.

We do see the grandeur in those things, but we don't often admit it to ourselves. If we've sat by the bed of a dying person and we have, a little bit of perception has opened, we can notice the grandeur in that event of someone's passing.

We can notice that there's an inherent magnificence to that situation. If we are watching something be destroyed, like the bombing of the World Trade Towers.

We can feel the compassion and shock, but we can also notice the beauty of those towers falling. And the thrill that's involved, which is the same thrill as when we go to the movies and see stuff falling apart and being destroyed.

So we can start to notice that all of the things in life that we think of as horrible also have this other aspect. That because of our conceptual ways and our limitations in our ways of relating to things, we can't really notice until we are relieved of those concepts and limitations a little bit.

But then we can start to enjoy things more. Even as there's also an increase in our ability to feel compassionate, to be kind, and to be helpful.


Satsang with Shambhavi is a weekly podcast about spirituality, love, death, devotion and waking up while living in a messy world.