You find the same thing in India in relation to the Bhagavad-Gita. In the eighteenth and last chapter, as you remember, the Lord said to Arjuna, You are dear to me. Give up all religion and ir-religion and take refuge in Me alone. I will save you from all sin.’ Some people in India say that is the major teaching of the Gita. They make a ceremony of it. When boys and girls reach a certain age, they put a mark on their body and say, I take refuge in the Lord. Henceforth I am in His hands. Everything is finished.’ If that were so, then what was the Lord saying in the other seventeen chapters of the Gital Was He just talking nonsense? Well, that is our nonsense: we human beings ignore the hard part; we always go for the easy way. We don’t want to tend the orchard or the garden, but we want the finest fruits and flowers on our table. We don’t want to fulfil the conditions, but we want the highest results in our spiritual life. People have always had this tendency in religion. Therefore Chaitanya told the majority: go through a routine of worship so as to get over your weaknesses. Then, when you undertake higher practices you will get results you will be able to love God truly. You yourself will have become the embodiment of purity and holiness; the love you want to direct towards God will have undergone a transformation. It will not be crassly human any more.
I was telling you that in ritual a combination of the human approach and the symbolic approach is absolutely necessary. And this is what I should like to point out: Ordinarily we think we are limited individuals, particulars, and the image or the symbol that we worship is also a particular, a small thing. You may meditate on the sun, but when you make an image of the sun in your mind, it is just a small sphere, not this big sun. Your mind cannot even conceive that bigness. So there is a problem. How are we to pass from smallness and limitation to the unlimited and the vast? How are we to cross the barrier?
Some of you will say, Maybe without worshipping an image anthropomorphically but by worshipping a symbol, we have a better chance.’ Yes, those who by temperament have a more or less philosophical attitude towards God generally think He is without form. Although they may consider Him as a Person endowed with attributes, their tendency is to think of Him as all-pervasive, infinite. To them it seems too human to say, Oh, He is so kind, He is so compassionate! He is my Father, my Mother’; generally they prefer symbolic worship, because it makes them feel closer to their philosophical conception of God. But unless they have crossed that barrier, to them, also, symbols will remain dry and concrete and will not disclose this ineffable Being. They, too, have to become transformed before they can feel God as God and not merely as an echo of their own human personality.
So how is this to be done? You cannot do it consciously, although conscious efforts have to be made through your worship, your meditation, your philosophical reasoning, or the upliftment of your emotion. But I should say that whatever practice you follow whether your approach is essentially human or essentially philosophical, it doesn’t matter it is only when you have transcended the limitations of human nature that the transformation is brought about. By limitations’ I mean the smallnesses of human nature. Human nature itself is, of course, a limitation, but I am not speaking of that. I am speaking of the many smallnesses we have within ourselves as human beings our attachment to sense objects and sense pleasures, and so on. When we have transcended these limitations, everything assumes a symbolic significance for us.