Invocation and worship of Supreme power is prevalent worldwide since ages. With evolution of God-consciousness, people have found the following to be worthy of sacred veneration: Nature, divine messengers, deities and the Absolute Spirit. Religions have adopted and refined prevailing tradition for the benefit of followers. Ways of worship may be diverse, but they have common features in internal essence despite inconsequential difference in externals. The Bhagwad Gita confirms that irrespective of the way of worship, every sincere offering to the Almighty reaches the Supreme Self. The Hindu way of life validates religious pluralism and thereby promotes peaceful coexistence of multireligious humankind as one. It is by highlighting this specific aspect that Swami Vivekananda won worldwide acclaim for Hinduism and himself.
The Gita consolidates four groups of blessed people who turn to worship — arta, jijnasu, artharthi and jnani; that is, the distressed, the spiritually inquisitive, seekers of divine powers for material gain and realised masters. The distressed ones turn to God for mitigation of suffering.
Those who are keen to acquire spiritual wisdom pray for direct experience of the divine. Those who are after vibhuti, supernatural powers, also worship God. A realised person is always engrossed in mystic divine romance, as he is mentally withdrawn from worldly attractions.
Those who are on the path of yoga of Maharshi Patanjali do not worship gods in that way, as they are engrossed in realisation of soul and Supreme Soul. They concentrate on the mystic microcosmic power centres in the spine and brain, and focus on merging of self with cosmic Self, like merging of waves with the ocean. Buddhists also develop mindfulness and contemplate on ultimate emptiness for removal of attachment and ignorance along with cultivating compassion for all sentient beings.
Vedanta prescribes a threefold way of worship: shravan, manan and nidhidhyasan — gathering information on the essence of cosmos, analysing the same, and deeply meditating on the metaphysical ultimate with the process of elimination, to reach the unmanifested Absolute beyond all dualities.
Hinduism holds Brahmn, Universal Consicousness, as the sole metaphysical ultimate from whom ever-transforming creation apparently arises, like the shortlived waves in the ocean of Spirit. But infinite and unmanifest Spirit being the eternal subject cannot be object of worship as it is inconceivable by finite minds. Hence, for the convenience of devotees, the formless is conceived as having form, according to functional variations of the Supreme One without a second. Thus, many gods and goddesses have been contemplated on as objects of worship.
Besides external rituals, worship constitutes adoration of God, devotional offering, prayer and above all, meditation on the Supreme Self. Worship develops love for God, devotional surrender and self-purification. It also develops benevolent humanism, sense of sacrifice, penance and spiritual inquisitiveness.
Swami Vivekananda added a different dimension to the traditional way of worship with his concept of practical Vedanta, prescribing universal love, beholding One in all ■