Meaningful Worship

Dad says that worship is an expression of love. Most people have some sort of rituals that they follow when they worship their gods, saints or even nature. Many little things they do symbolize a feeling, express an emotion or are simple acts that holds some sentimental value.  

In our house, we worship Baba tattaya and the way we worship is very simple and personal to each one of us. We all have our own ways of expressing our love and relating to Baba and Daddy. There are no set rules or methods. There is immense beauty to this diversity. It’s fascinating.

When I was about 17, Daddy would often talk to me about rational thought. “Always believe in your experience”, he would say. “For instance, if someone says that this fruit tastes bitter, don’t simply take her word for it. Experience it for yourself. Taste it and find out.” And then he would pause and say, “Even if ‘I’ say it, don’t believe me! It’s my experience, not yours. Find out for yourself!”

I find that simply amazing! I understand exploring things for myself but, which father asks his 17-year daughter not to simply take his word! Daddy would insist that every little thing I did should be meaningful to me – from the kind of clothes I wear, to the kind of books I read, or even the type of music I listen to! He would say that there must be a meaning to everything we do. Not that I must find meaning in what I do, but do things that are meaningful to me. I could see that it was like that for Daddy: whatever he did was meaningful to him. 

I once asked him about the things we do when we worship Baba. And this is the conversation we had. Since I write this from memory, these are not the exact words he used but the content is accurate. 

Sruti - Why do we put deepam to Baba? What is the meaning of it? 

Daddy - Baba had a Dhuni next to him throughout his life. Dhuni is nothing but fire. Though he never said why he had it, it was pretty clear that he loved keeping the Dhuni next to him at all times. Since Baba likes a fire next to him and since we cannot maintain a Dhuni in our house for obvious reasons, we put a small deepam to Baba as a representation of the Dhuni. 

S - Why did he like to have a Dhuni next to him? 

D - We do not know, but many Sufi saints are known to do so. 

S - Why do we put agarbatti then? What significance does that hold? 

D - The same as the deepam. It represents the Dhuni that Baba loved so much. But of course many also use it to make the space of worship fragrant. Since the smell of incense is associated with worship, it helps people to get into the mood of prayer or meditation. Like in Pavlov’s Classical Conditioning.  

S - Then why do we need to have both the deepam and the agarbatti? Can't we just have one? 

D - Of course we can! Use whichever you want. 

S - What about the flowers and garlands? 

D - That is simply an expression of our love. In many cultures including ours, flowers are used to welcome, honour, thank or to express many different emotions. Do you remember how people would put a garland to me when we were in Saiyana? To them it was their way of expressing their love to me. So, it depends on you. If you feel that you can express your love to Baba by putting flowers then do so. If not, then don't. Do something that expresses your love. Never do things simply because somebody else is doing them. Do what is meaningful to you. That is what Baba likes.

S - What about giving Arati to Baba? 

D - To me personally, that too is a representation of the Dhuni. That is why I do it. But it holds a very different meaning to everyone else. Generally, Arati is done to remove something called Drishti (evil-eye). 

S - What is Drishti? 

D - It is believed that when a person looks at someone else with jealousy or with an evil intent, the targeted person is harmed because of those evil thoughts or intentions.

S - Is that really possible? Does Drishti really exist? 

D - Not in the conventional sense where Drishti is an evil influence. But I feel that intense emotions and thoughts towards a person can influence the targeted person. It doesn't necessarily mean evil or good. It's just an external influence. 

S - How can others’ thoughts and emotions influence me? Do thoughts have that kind of energy?

D -  Yes. In physics you must have learnt about matter having kinetic energy and potential energy. The same holds true for thoughts as well. Not all random thoughts have enough energy to cause a significant change in its surroundings. But every thought has a potential energy. Every thought has the potential to create a change. A thought with potential energy charged with intense emotion can turn into a thought with kinetic energy. One sees this in saints. But this happens very rarely and so doesn’t exactly apply to Dristhi. What I am trying to say is, when one sits in a room full of people, even strangers, there is always some sort of an invisible exchange that is constantly happening among everyone present.

S - What kind of an exchange? 

D - An exchange that influences the one receiving and the one giving. It's so subtle that hardly anyone can even recognize it. There are so many other dominant influences in our mind that something so subtle doesn’t even make a blip. 

S - How do you know this? If it’s invisible how can you prove that it exists? Have you experienced it? 

D - (Daddy then told me about a Russian experiment which proves the existence of this kind of subtle influence. I am attaching the sound file from a Telugu satsang from Jan 1990 where Daddy talks about this experiment in detail.)

Yes, I do experience it. When I see a lot of people, all their focus and intense emotions towards me have an effect on me. But it lasts for a very short time. Now you know why I insist that you have a bath every time you come home from talking to people.

S - I thought it was because I could be bringing germs and bacteria home which could make you sick! And you are so sensitive!

D - Yes, that too. But the other reason is that I am sensitive to what you bring to me in regards with the exchange that I just mentioned. 

S - How does having a bath remove that external influence? Can water do that?

D - No, it doesn’t, but it helps to overcome it much more easily. When you come to me afterwards your mind is much fresher and more relaxed.

S - Alright, so since you are so sensitive, you can experience it and are aware of the discomfort that it causes. But what about someone like me? How will I know that I have been influenced? 

D - Again, since it so subtle many don’t notice it. But let’s say many people focus on you at the same time and all their varied thoughts and emotions are directed at you. That collective emotion will have a substantial effect on you. And you will know it when you feel, say, sad or angry or irritated for no apparent reason. Observe it next time you are out with a lot of people. When you are alone again after such a meeting, try and see how and what you feel. Explore for yourself and find out if it’s true.

S - Coming back to my earlier question about Arati, are you saying that Baba is being influenced because of the hundreds of people that come to him?

D - No he isn't. 

S - Why not? 

D - Because he is Baba. (He chuckles!)

S - Then if Baba is not affected by Drishti, conventional or in the sense that you just told me, then what’s the point of Arati? 

D - Again, it's an expression of love. Since people do not understand that Baba is beyond such influences, they feel that they need to remove Drishti from Baba as well. It’s like offering naivedyam or water to Baba. It’s not that Baba needs it, but it’s because we need to express our love. And the way of expression is similar to how we would express love in our daily life to a loved one, a child, or a parent. They don’t want Baba to suffer from Drishti and that’s why they do Arati. 

S - Ok. Then if Drishti is so bad according to them and Arati is given to remove it, then why do we all touch the fire in reverence? Shouldn't it be thrown away? 

D -  It symbolises that even Baba's Drishti is a blessings to us. Even the worst influences, after touching him, become great blessings to us. 

S - Alright, so Drishti does not apply to Baba and the tradition of Arati is an expression of our love. But what about the influence on normal people like me? Does it really harm me? 

D - Depends on the influence. If you are surrounded by disturbed people then the effect would be negative.

S - You said that the exchange is both ways. So why can’t I influence them? Let’s say they are disturbed and I am not. Why would I be effected negatively instead of me affecting them positively?

D - The answer is, whoever is stronger will influence the other. That's why being in a saint’s presence is so precious. All our influences are nullified because his influence is so strong. Our thoughts become weak and are overcome by his strength.

S - Let's say I am a victim of negative influences. Can fire (Arati) really remove this influence? Does fire really hold that power to destroy such influences?

D - No. That is simply a belief. 

S - Then how can I get rid of it? 

D - Just sit in front of Baba. Think of Baba. Being in the presence of Baba will break such influences. That is what I do. Meditating on him for sometime helps me free myself from that discomfort. 

S - That's it? (I was surprised that the solution was so simple!)

D - Yes. That’s it! (He said with a smile.)

S - If fire isn’t the solution, then why do you let Mummy give Arati to you after you have seen many people (Darshan)? Didn’t you say that one must only do things that are meaningful to oneself?

D - It might not hold meaning to me but it does to Mummy. She believes that it will help me and I respect that. It is Mummy’s expression of love towards me and respecting that is more meaningful to me than rejecting it which would be wrong and pointless.