God as person is related to individual beings as the Lord. It is He who rules over us, and when our religious consciousness grows within us, we recognize that we are dependent upon Him. We do not fight this dependence, because we find it is very intimate, like the dependence of children upon their parents. We do not consider it a bondage, or if a bondage, it is a bondage of love and therefore not really bondage, and we try to come closer and closer to Him. Out of that comes worship. If you love someone, you want to worship him that is to say, out of your love and reverence you want to bring offerings to him. That is what worship is.
It is no use giving the term worship any kind of technical meaning, as some religions do. You can worship man; you can worship a saint; you can worship God it is all the same. There is no end to the intensity of feeling you can have for someone. How much you will revere and love the object of your worship depends upon your own capacity. One person may worship at the altar of God and be completely cold in his heart; whereas another may worship his father or mother and feel infinite love and reverence. The difference lies in the quality of love and reverence and not in the object of worship. In India it is quite natural to believe that if one can worship another human being with great wealth of devotion and pure love, he can thereby attain to the highest. Even if he has never felt anything about God but feels for his father or mother or for somebody else this tremendous love, this pure love, that will itself open his eyes to the highest truth. That is our approach to worship.
But however that may be, when you conceive of God as personal, you naturally do not feel identified with Him, as one does in all impersonal conceptions of God. You cannot think God is impersonal and at the same time say, i am separate from Him.’ You may start by saying so, because there is no rule against talking nonsensically, but when you begin to think things out, you will find that you have to end by saying that God, who is impersonal, is identical with your own being, which is also impersonal. When your concept is personal, however, you always like to maintain a certain separation between yourself and the object of your worship, even if the separation is as minimal as a distinction. Why is it so? Because otherwise you could not conceive of the wonderful attributes of God and enjoy them.
You may say, We love Him; it is not a question of enjoyment.’ But you see, in your very love for God you have an appreciation of His wonderfulness. In the heart of that which we call reverence and love is a tremendous, endless appreciation. It may not be conscious; it may not be an analytical understanding, but it is mixed up with your reverence and love. If you say of someone, Yes, I know he is good for nothing, but still I love him very much’, that won’t do. You see, either you don’t really think he is worthless, or you don’t really love him; you probably have pity or sympathy for him, but nothing more. In true love there is great appreciation. And such appreciation of the marvellous nature of God is not possible unless there is a certain separation or distinction maintained between the soul and God. It is in this relationship that ritualistic practice, external practice, becomes possible.
Now, it has been found that in almost all religions the Personal God is the object of worship, and, as I have mentioned, some think He is formless but full of wonderful attributes; they speak about Him as if He were standing behind a screen. Just as an ordinary human being would do, He talks to you, He hates you or loves you, He guides you, He does all sorts of things, only He has no form of any kind. You wonder, then, how He speaks. In all Semitic religions, where God is believed to be formless, it is often said that He has spoken to his prophets. His voice has been heard. Well, now, wherefrom comes the voice of God? The Hindus have been very matter-of-fact about this sort of problem. They say, No use quibbling about it. To ascribe everything except form to the Personal God is just fanaticism. Those who deny He has a form think and talk about Him in all other respects as a human being, an exalted human being.