In worship, we each experience the formless God through a form: person to Person. It cannot be otherwise. The intellect may insist that God is impersonal. But for the heart, it is as absurd to claim that God is impersonal as to say that one's husband or wife is impersonal.
When the Infinite becomes a Person to my heart, I surrender. Love longs for a finite form to whom the heart may surrender in personal relationship. Spirituality without this personal relationship to God is like dough without yeast, like bread without salt, like ice cream without any sweetness. There is no love-relation with the Impersonal.
The Personal becomes a doorway to the spaciousness of the Infinite. And there is no conflict between the personal form of God and God's formless radiance. Is there any conflict between a doorway and the space you enter through that door? God's face is the door, and the act of moving in and out of the Infinite through the doorway of God's personal form is devotion. It is the ultimate delight that sweetens every other aspect of our lives.
Yet in such delight is also danger: a possibility of the most refined level of human violence. Yes, violence is possible even in the saintly heart. A devotee may abandon every stroke of hatred, jealousy and vengeance, embarking on the final journey over the sea of Grace, yet still carry a poisonous germ.
The germ of violence springs to life when I am tempted, for the good of others, to insist that they worship the same form of God that Grace reveals in my own heart. I think that I am saving people. I think that I am spreading the Good News. But I am actually robbing persons of their original freedom: and this is what Christ called the unforgivable sin, the sin against Spirit itself. Insisting that there is only One Way is the seed of violence which bears fruit, later, in persecution and war. Indeed, the first sign that I have lost the way is when I declare: "My way is the only way."
Let us mature. The peace of the world depends on our growing up, spiritually. Spiritual maturity is the capacity to embrace paradox: God is the formless One, yet in boundless mercy, the One reveals many personal faces. The ancient Vedic scripture declares, "Ekam Sat vipra, bahuda vedantahih": "Truth is One, yet the wise have called it by many names." Unity is God's glory: diversity is God's Grace. Yet each time we insist that others worship as we do, we crucify our Lord again.
The exquisite Truth is that we may worship the formless radiance of God in the form of Christ, in the form of Krishna, in the form of Divine Mother, in the Tao of nature. Yet all are intimate crystalizations of the One. Water vapor is dispersed throughout the sky: yet at the right temperature, it crystalizes into snow flakes, each a unique form of infinite mathematical intelligence. So each human heart receives its personal revelation of God. A loving father has one intimate face for his eldest son, another face of intimacy for his daughter, another with his infant child, and another with his wife: yet all these relationships are facets of the same father's love. "In my father's house are many mansions...."
God's grace is boundless, but nearly as boundless is my capacity for pride. At the pinnacle of my spiritual enlightenment, I may claim ownership of God. I may abscond with God's glory and claim it as my Gnosis. "I know. My knowledge is supreme. My vision of God must be THE vision of God." From the highest rapture, I fall through a single breath of religious intolerance.
Why would a lover insist that others marry his own beloved? No two lovers can have the same love.
God reveals the secret form of the Beloved in the bridal chamber of my heart. This is, as Sufis say, "my secret to myself." There I surrender and delight in communion. In the words of the Song of Songs, I sigh, "Your love is sweeter than wine; your name is perfume poured out!" Yet I know my surrender is incomplete until I relinquish every desire to convert you to my vision.
Spiritual friendship has nothing to do with convincing you to follow my path. Spiritual friendship is helping you find yours...
A honeybee lands on the edge of a flower. He dips his foot in the pollen. His foot gets very sweet and sticky. He dips the other foot in. Later, you find the bee floating in the flower, drowned in sweetness
At midnight, a moth lands on the rim of your wine cup. You are already asleep. The moth leans down to breathe the bouquet and is intoxicated. She keels over and drowns in the wine. The next morning, you find a moth in the bottom of last night's merlot. "A pity," you say. But you can't conceive of what it's like from the moth's point of view
Are you a more intelligent bug? A bug who crawls from one flower to another, barely tasting, barely sampling the sweetness? A little here, a little there, comparing this one to the last, looking for a better taste, a better fragrance, a better place to die? What kind of intelligence is that?
There is never failure in the present moment. In the present moment, there is only success. Success means the sweetness, the intoxication, of total immersion.
Failure becomes possible where there is comparison: comparision with something in the past, some historic achievement projected into the future as the ideal. Comparison with the past divides the mind and prevents creativity.
Creativity is our spontaneous response to the unique ambiance of this moment, where there is not the slightest trace of past or future. Now is a once and once-only configuration of elements. The work of creativity is to penetrate this essence of Now.
When our awareness is immersed in the incomparable Now, we are whole, and awareness becomes so simple and solidified! This wholeness and solidity of attention in the present moment is "genius." Going deep into Now, our attention plays with the subtlest most interior threads of time and space. Our attention penetrates to the very core of eternal silence, which is the source of creation.
When we tap the ocean of silence in the core of the moment, all the power of the universe unfolds within us. Creation happens through us. The universe re-creates itself through our attention. In "great" works of art, we feel the presence of eternity.
The creative artist is non-competitive: for competition is based on fear, the fear of inadequacy. This fear depletes the genius of attention by comparing present to past, self to other. Competition cannot create, it can only imitate.
The competitor wants to accomplish only what someone else has accomplished, but a little bigger, a little faster, a little sooner. The competitor responds not to the present but to the record of the past. The competitor misses the divinity of this moment, the infinitity of Now, because the competitor is always looking for something more. How could there be more?
This moment, this cup of wine! Don't taste. Drown.