As a matter of fact, one estimate made of the different spiritual practices was put in this verse: uttamo brahma sadbhavo dhyana bhavastu madhyamah. Brahma sadbhava at-onement with Brahman. That has been considered to be worship, and that is the highest, the best. The middle state of worship is dhyana bhava, the meditative state. You have plunged into meditation; that’s the middle form of worship. And the lowest form is the practice of japa and the singing of devotional songs and hymns. External worship, by which is generally meant ritualistic worship, has been called the lowest of the low. But here I should say in commentary that if, according to one’s ability, ritual is interspersed with symbolic worship, which is mental, and also with long meditation, then it is not just external worship and should not be called lowest of the low. You have to give it a higher status.
In conclusion I shall say this: those of you who have been brought up in Semitic traditions are not much accustomed to ritualistic worship. You are accustomed to some forms of ritual, it is true, but ritualistic worship that is to be performed every day by the devotee himself is somewhat alien to you, and I may say that many of you would not take to it. Further, such are the circumstances prevalent today, particularly in the Western worldIndia that people have little time for setting up a chapel and doing worship. So generally speaking, not taking into consideration solitary individuals here and there who have got a great deal of leisure and the necessary temperament, I am inclined to say that another kind of ritual is called for.
Swami Vivekananda evidently was aware of this need. His mind was not only attuned to the time in which he was born, but extended over centuries and centuries yet to come. That was his manner of thinking, and I do not believe his thinking was just speculative. You might say he had an intuitive kind of thinking; just as by deep intuition we understand the heart of another person, he understood the heart of mankind. And he said that this age will be characterized by worship of the visible God. By visible God’ he meant mankind as a representation of Divinity mankind as a whole and as individuals. According to his philosophy, Advaita Vedanta, every conscious being is God Himself; it is not merely that God dwells in the heart of every person, but that God alone is, and each one of us is God. I may forget myself, but I may not forget you who are the embodiment of Brahman. I have to say you are God Himself in human form, the visible God.
What kind of worship shall we render unto Him, this visible God? That worship you are doing every day. That is the great worship that is going on all over this universe. That is the great sacrifice. Parents make that sacrifice for their children; children sacrifice themselves in their turn. A grand sacrifice or, if you want to call it so, renunciation and service is going on; this is the very thing you are doing. A person working in a factory, in an office, or in the kitchen, a person cleaning the street, or standing on the platform and teaching that is the grand worship and sacrificial ritual that is going on. It is to be understood rightly. For instance, I am not speaking to men and women; I am making an offering unto the Lord Himself. If I am true to my philosophy, these words are the offerings I make unto the Lord who is present before me in so many different forms. If I think rightly, I am now immersed in the act of worship. Consider how much absorption and concentration there is in everything that we do in our daily life-in preparing a dinner, in cleaning the house, in working in the office, in going from place to place. Our whole heart and soul is there; deep meditation is there. This grand ceremony is going on, only we do not recognize it for what it is. That is our trouble. Nothing is wrong with this universe; it is always God Himself, manifesting Himself, serving Himself, sacrificing Himself to Himself.