Volume V - Spiritual Liberty
Part V: PEARLS FROM THE OCEAN UNSEEN
There are three aspects of worship: the worship of God in heaven by those who understand Him as a separate being; the worship of God on earth, as a god or goddess, in the form of an idol, or of some being who is considered as an incarnation of God and who is worshipped by the multitudes; and the worship of the God within, the innermost Self of our being. It is this aspect of God that is understood by the Sufis, the Vedantists, and the great teachers such as Christ and Muhammad.
In the beginning, the great masters taught the worship of some concrete object to those who could not understand any higher ideal of worship, in order to lead them up to the God-ideal, that they might finally come to know the God within.
There are some people who have realized that the innermost self is God, and who say, 'Why should we approach God in forms of worship?' believing themselves to be self sufficient. This self knowledge can lead man either astray or towards perfection. It seldom leads him to perfection, but it frequently leads him astray, for although man is unlimited in the unseen world, in the outer world he is a very limited being. He is dependent upon the whole of creation around him, and is in every way dependent on his surroundings. At one end of the pole he is unlimited and self sufficient. At the other end of the pole he is limited and dependent. It is, therefore, a great mistake for a man to claim self sufficiency. In Sufi terms these states are called Allah and Banda. The Allah state is the unlimited and self sufficient, and the Banda state is the limited and dependent. As a man's ideal is, so is his state of evolution. The man who is only interested in himself is very narrow and limited, whereas, the man who has expanded his interests to his family and surroundings is greater; while he who expands them still further to his nation is yet greater, and he who extends them to the world at large is the greatest. But in all these cases a man is limited. It is the same with material ideals: one person may be content with a hundred pounds, while another may aspire to a million.
In accordance with his ideal, so man becomes. The highest ideal of man is to realize the unlimited, the immortal self within. There is no need for any higher ideal, for when man holds this ideal in his vision, he expands and becomes all he wants to be, and in time he attains to that peace which is the longing of every soul.
The worship of God expands the soul towards perfection. This is illustrated in the words of Sadi, who said, 'Praise be to Allah, whose worship is the means of drawing closer to Him, and in giving thanks to whom is involved an increase of benefits. Every breath which is inhaled, prolongs life, and, when exhaled, quickens the body. Thus in every breath two blessings are contained, and for every blessing a separate thanksgiving is due.'