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Worship - Neil T. Duddy

I, too, was once human, and now you are almost me.

Parts of the receiving chamber were worn from the fervor of devotion. An uneven fray and faded colors in the Oriental rug described the pathway to and from our host, a pleasant conversationalist who is a guru in India. It was festival time, and our audience with the guru was punctuated by the flow of religious devotees who quietly edged into the chamber to worship him. Their pattern seemed instinctive, so practiced it was. Devotees, barefoot and earnest, padded up to the carpet, their bodies atilt. At a distance of five meters from our host, they lowered themselves to a crouch, then crept forward on hands and knees to the guru. They kissed his feet.

We talked with the guru about yoga, about Hindu texts, about Hindu world mission as their moist lips steadily, gently pressed the top of his instep. He never lost eye contact with us or broke the flow of conversation to acknowledge the worship and veneration being paid him. He never wiped his foot. Devotees receded from the room, their palms and fingers pressed together at chest height. The guru never batted an eye, gave them a touch or a sign. He is guru. With the exception of a few chosen disciples, it is not often that gurus are actively involved with the lives and interests of their devotees. They are passive in most instances, delivering teachings and blessings in appropriate contexts. The personal distance between guru and disciple is often wide by Christian standards, particularly when disciples worship their guru.

In the perspective of many gurus, all is one, and cosmic consciousness exists as a common energy equal throughout all the various manifestations of what Christians call creation. Many gurus see themselves as enlightened ones who enlighten others (disciples) to that same cosmic consciousness--the absolute oneness in which individuality and personality are absorbed into one great common essence. When disciples worship gurus, the gurus, theologically speaking, see the disciples as divine consciousness worshiping the guru as divine consciousness. In effect, the disciples are the consciousness of the guru. The whole scene of devotee-guru worship is perceived as the guru worshiping himself, because the disciples are the cosmic oneness which the guru is, only more realized. In a real Hindu sense, there is no need for personal communication between guru and disciple. It occurs only because the devotee is operating out of a deficit--a lack of total self-realization. Therefore, the guru occasionally encourages that process of self-realization through verbal and physical communication. The ideal state of cosmic consciousness, however, does not use communication.

In contrast, the act of worship in Christianity occurs between persons and is, necessarily, dependent upon communication. The three persons of God--the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit--communicate among themselves and with their human creatures as well. For example, when one woman came to Jesus and kissed his feet, Jesus spoke with her, verbally acknowledging her faith and defending her act of worship before the observing critics. Jesus did not perceive her presence as cosmic consciousness becoming aware of itself, returning to itself, as in the guru-disciple relationship. Rather, he saw her and himself as two independent personalities relating to one another, and so he was moved to speak.