Not the outer form, but the inner essenceSwami Satchidananda had a statue of a particular god. He asked his disciple Nigamananda to worship it, but Nigamananda did not care for this statue. One day the Master said to him, "Why do you not worship the statue which I worship? How is it that you do not see or feel anything inside my beloved Lord?"
Nigamananda said, "You may see your beloved Lord there, but I see only a piece of lifeless wood."
At this the Master became furious. He insulted Nigamananda mercilessly and told him, "If you show disrespect once more to my beloved Lord, I shall throw you out of my ashram! Be careful!" Then the Master left the room and went to his office to attend to ashram business.
Nigamananda was humiliated and very angry. He immediately took the statue off the shrine and gave it a smart slap, exclaiming, "You! For you I have got such a severe scolding from my Master. You deserve my punishment." Then he placed it again on the shrine.
A few minutes later the Master came back and said to him, with a broad smile, "You said my Lord is a lifeless piece of wood, but does anybody strike a lifeless thing? Only when we see that someone or something has life do we get satisfaction by striking it. One does not speak to a lifeless thing, for a lifeless thing cannot understand or respond. No, you do see something inside the statue. I was so pleased when I heard you speaking to my Lord. My Lord not only has life, but embodies the universal and transcendental Life. So from now on please worship this statue."
Nigamananda bowed to his Master and said, "Please forgive me. I shall worship this statue, and inside the statue I shall see and feel you, Master."
The Master said, "That is absolutely the right thing for you to do, my son."
Commentary: Faith is of paramount importance. One needs faith in infinite measure in one's Master. The human mind may sometimes find it difficult to believe in the Master's way, but the aspiring heart is always one with the Master's inner and outer operations. The seeker always has to remain in the heart. To have faith in one's Master is to feel God's own Presence here, there and everywhere. It is not what the object is, not who the man is, but whether or not one retains faith in one's Master's spiritual realisation. Then one achieves success in the outer world and progress in the inner world convincingly, easily and rapidly.