Thursday, February 11, 2010
God omnipresent: Why then temples?
God exists everywhere. So, a question may be asked why there should be any temples built for Him? We know that God exists everywhere, but still the idea does not get firmly established in our mind. It does not get reflected in our daily actions. If one remembers God all the time, how can one utter any falsehood or commit evil acts?
If God is merely omnipresent, how can He help us? We all long for His grace somehow. So, we have to worship Him and get His grace. But the agamasastras tell us how this should be done. The sun’s rays contain a lot of heat energy. If we keep a piece of cloth in the sun, it does not catch fire by itself. But if we place a lens and focus the sun’s heat rays on that piece of cloth, after some time, we find that the cloth catches fire.
System to distribute
Similarly, electrical energy is everywhere, but in order to bring it to our daily use, we need to have generators to channel that energy and transmission systems to distribute it at the places where we need it. In the same way, in order to get the grace of the Omnipresent Lord, we have to build temples, where we can focus the power of the Lord in a consecrated idol for our benefit in an easy way.
So, in our country, we find that there are many temples; of course, in other countries also, there are many places of worship, but there is no question of installation of any idols, as in the case of our temples. They have just a big prayer hall where people assemble and offer some prayers or do some silent meditation and then disperse after getting some peace of mind. But in our temples, the idols are installed and they have divinity infused into them and, as such, they have a certain sanctity about them.
Until a particular day, the sculptor goes on chiselling that piece of stone, but after a certain day, it becomes invested with divinity, and we start performing abhiseka, arcana, dipaharati etc. for that deity; it acquires divine power and it obtains caitanya. We see divinity in our idols and, therefore, we do abhiseka, alankara or decoration, naivedyam, harati and many other upacaras.
Some people say that the places of worship, which belong to other religions, are quiet, but our Hindu temples are full of noise. Of course, this is true. Actually, there are two types of noises in our temples. One is the desirable type of noise such as ringing of bells, the sounding of musical instruments like nadaswaram and the sahnai; the recitation of namavalli archana, recitation of mantras and so on.
Of course, there is also the undesirable type of noise in the form of people indulging in idle gossip and purposeless talk. It is our duty to see that this idle talk, which results in undesirable noise, is totally eliminated from our temples. In other places of worship, this type of fanfare that we have in our temples is not there, because they do not recognize idol worship or worship of God in the saguna form and they believe in worship of God in his attributeless and shapeless form only.
In our temple, a huge temple bell is rung at the time of puja. This is done so that the evil spirits may go away from temple premises, and all abuses or other bad sounds may be stifled from being heard. In our houses, we do not have such a huge bell, but we ring only a small bell at the time of puja. But we do not offer musical instruments and other upacaras to the deity, but only aksata or unbroken rice.
The puja that we do in our houses in for our own welfare. We do it according to our convenience and, according to our mental frame of mind. But the puja done in the temples is for the while of society and therefor, there is so much of fanfare, and sounding of musical instruments and singing of auspicious tunes; the deity is taken out in a procession during festival days and there is display of fireworks. The reason for quietness and silence in the temples of other religions is this. In other religions, they just have a big prayer hall. People assemble at appointed times, and they offer prayers. they sing some hymns, mentally or in chorus. After that, everything is over, and people disperse. They just close their eyes for a few minutes, pray for some time, get some peace of mind and then disperse. There is no such thing as abhiseka of the idol, alankara or decoration of the idol, karpuraharati, dipha, dipaharati, naivedyam, distribution of prasadam, etc. in other temples. There are various upacaras, which are also offerings to the deity. There is also scope for singing of prayers, hymns, silent meditation and so on.
We consider God as Rajadhiraja or the king of all kings and so we offer him many upacaras such as umbrella, camera, musical instruments, vahana and so on, which are all due to a king. The divine presence in our idols, when we worship them, helps us to banish poverty as well as evil. Thus, the idol with divinity which we see in our temples is an object of beauty for us, and worthy of meditation.
If our thoughts are of a high order, then we worship the deity in the above manner, so that we may get supreme happiness. It is with this idea that we perform abhiseka and decorate the idol with ornaments etc. Thus we worship God in these various ways by doing so many upacaras. This kind of worship is possible only in the Hindu religion.
Idol worship is very important in our religion, for the ordinary people.
When we bow before an idol or pray before the deity consecrated in the idol, we never think that it is only a piece of stone, but we think that the deity in the idol is the protector and the root cause of the whole world. Thus, temples help to increase the devotion of a person to God and this devotion helps him to overcome or reduce his sufferings.
Strength of mind
Ordinary people may not have the capacity, and strength of mind to bear their sufferings. But with bhakti or devotion to Ishwara, they can face them, and get also the mental strength to bear them. It is for this purpose that an ordinary person goes to the temple.
He goes there, offers some prayers and then he feels all right. If one person talks about his sufferings to another, the other man will listen to him for some time, but after some time he will start narrating his own sufferings and say that he is having more sufferings than other individuals. So, sharing one’s sufferings with another person, who is also suffering, will not result in the removal of the sufferings.
Therefore, we go to temple and pray to Him, and we pour out before Him our tale of woe and sufferings. If we go and narrate our sufferings to another man for a long time he will start abusing us after some time, and he may even slap us if we persist with the narration of our tale of woe and suffering.
But when we go to a temple, we can tell God what ever we like, Have you not ears to listen to my prayers? Have you no eyes to see my suffering? and we may ask Him why He is not giving His grace immediately to us. After this prayer, when we come out, we shall have some peace of mind. The more we address God, the more is the peace that we get in our mind.
Saguna worship has got this capacity to give peace of mind because there is caitanya in the idol installed in the temple and after pouring out our suffering before God in the temple, we get some peace of mind. That is why we have the habit of going to the temples.
Of course, some people do not go to a temple at all, but they go to a river or a lonely place and weep there for some time and they then come back with peace of mind. People get peace of mind wherever there is no reaction to what they say. So, a suffering man goes only to those places where there is no reaction to what he says. Source – Wikipedia
Vedas and animal sacrifice
Thilaka T. Wijeratnem
This has been a vexing question for the Hindus. When non-Hindus saying “How can the Vedas condone this act?” I do feel confused. I meant satisfy myself and those puzzled about this. It was my good fortune that I came across a Brahmin - a Scholar well worsed in the subject. He is one Ananda Iyer. He told me that originally there were only three Vedas - The Rigveda which is the most ancient, The Yadurveda and Samaveda.
Rigveda contains songs and religious hymns. The other two also contain much the same. There was no mention of sacrifice. At a later stage another one called Adharvanaveda was annexed to these.
It seemed this last addition to the Vedas introduced the animal sacrifice. Before going further, I would like to relate an episode from Mahabharatha.
Before the battle at Kunikshetra, the Pandavas wanted, according to tradition, to make a human sacrifice to save the lives of many. The three possible individuals chosen were Krishna, Arjuna and Arjuna’s son Aravan.
As Krishna was of utmost importance, he was left out. Arjuna was the main actor in the battle. So the lot tell upon Aravan. He readily agreed to sacrifice himself to save the lives of many. But he laid down one request.
That he should marry and spend one night with his wife. So it happened one day after his marriage Aravan faced death willingly. No more cases of human sacrifice after this were heard.
The priest I spoke to, is also a well read, well informed and knowledgeable person.
He explained that ordinary people are not asked to sacrifice an animal but the kings. The sacrifice of an animal is to save the lives of many. The king, his soldiers and the citizens.
Hence, the sacrifice, not that any Hindu God in blood thirsty. To whom do they sacrifice? They make a Yaga pit, start a fire, feed it with ghee, rice and chant mantras to save the king and his subjects during war and make a sacrifice of an animal, appealing to the sun, rain, the planets. Brahmin priest - also a scholar told me there is a slogan which goes thus:
Find an elephant to sacrifice. If it’s not available find a horse and so on to smaller animals. They cut a pumpkin and offer to the Gods to help in the war. Even now we see pumpkins cut indicating blood and thrown at functions especially after a house warming function. During the vedic period itself it was known that plants have life.
Incidentally, when the writer had a well sunk in her compound, the labourers - none of them Hindus - suggested that they should kill a fowl and pour the blood on the side walls to keep them firm.
It was refused saying that no blood should be shed in the compound. If they wanted to have a chicken feed, they could very well have it in their homes. The well is quite well and firm without the blood of a poor creature. So other communities also sacrificed animals at times.
Hindu temples do not have animal sacrifices - perhaps in remote villager, falls deities are worshipped and goats or fouls are sacrificed as part of the rites and rituals.
The people I spoke to about this sacrifice said one life could be lost to save thousands of life. That is why such a sacrifice is done.
Before a king sets out to wage war or to defend his country. Many would have heard of an Asvamedha yaga - where a horse is to take part in the rituals of the yaga.
Selliah Rajadurai a Minister from Batticaloa relates an incident where he was asked to perform the Asvameda yaga - by a well-known sage.
He was asked to get a white horse with a white patch on its forehead. It was a royal animal it was said. He found one in Pakistan. According to him a yaga pit was formed and 108 items were put in the yaga fire.
He said he had this yaga done to bring peace and communal harmony to this island nation. It was done on the 27th of December 1985 at Kathiresan Temple at Colombo. The horse was not sacrificed as some claim, he said.
Instead, daily they took the horse for a sea bath, decorate it and bring it to the venue. Mantras are chanted and the fire God fed within his favourite item - ghee, rice, paddy, rice flour and so on. The yaga pooja was conducted for 48 days and then the horse was set free.
Beliefs and doctrines in Hinduism
Hinduism is at once a Philosophy, a religion and a way of life. The term “Hindu” is purely one of geographic origin,referring to a river, Sindhu (the Indus), where the particular religion-as also the language, arts, agriculture and civic systems-synthesised with the ancient Indus Basin civilisation of around five thousand years ago, into its present form.
“Brahmanism”, the attainment of the Universal Soul, the Brahman, or Vidya Dharma, is a nearer description of the religion itself. (Whence, the name Brahmins arrogated by the priestly class to themselves).
It accepts the reality that there are varying intellectual and spiritual levels in people’s and all cannot take the same path; it therefore offers different approaches - to philosophers, poets, mystics, men of action, intellectuals, or men of simple faith. Such persons may, therefore, be guided by his or her own individual spiritual level and experience and will, if he pursues his path with fervent intensity, attain the same goal.
Thus, its espousal as outstanding, the words spoken by Lord Krishna: “Whosoever follows any faith and worships me, under whatsoever denomination, in whatsoever form, with steadfastness, his faith shall I indeed reinforce”. Paraphrased for today, it may read: Come to me as a Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Moslem, Jew or Sikh. I shall make you a better Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Moslem, Jew, Sikh.
Its fundamental beliefs have (a) no part of superstitions and superstitious practices that go as religion; and (b) no concept of ‘competing’ religions. “Ekam Sat Viprah Bahudda Vidanthi”. All is God, is One. Sages call that by different names.
For all its wide range, the Tenets of Hinduism are clear and precise.
The Absolute Reality is simply “Nirguna Brahman,” “of Being,” Immanent, transcendent, outside the limits of the material, above time and space, Nirguna - without shape or form, without beginning and end, not male not female, so “Tat” (that, the impersonal). “Om Tat Sat” - Om, that which exists (‘Om’, the all embracing symbol). The Atman is simply the ‘unmanifest’ Brahman within finite being.
To ordinary mortals, the Absolute is translated as “Saguna Brahman”, of “Becoming”, that is, with Attributes (of Nirgunan, Ishwaran, Easan) used as objects as and means of devotion; and given “form”.
A basic concept of Saguna Brahman is that of the Trinity-Trimurti of Ishwara as Creator, Preserver and Destroyer (or Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva); and their female aspects as Sarasvati, Lakshmi and Parvati (the last also Prakriti consort of Purusha the husband, or Shakti). The offspring of Shiva and Parvati - Ganesha, Kartigeya with their other names - are equally expressions of several attributes or qualities. All these names put together are legion, picturesque and meaningful and recur in the personal names of the millions in India and South and Southeast Asia.
The cosmic concepts (a) of Shakti (primal energy), Anu (‘atom’), and Sabda Brahman (the vibrations of the universe) along with that of (b) the Trimurti, provide basis for understanding of Reality, and for a ‘science fact’ which Hinduism held, that this universe will end at a given future time (the Hindu Kalpa) and a new universe will emerge.... and repeat itself; that all forms of matter are simply transmutations of Shaktim ‘Anu’ and Sabdam, and the rest is Mayam, ‘Illusion’. The apartment separate reality called matter will ultimately get translated back as non-matter, like the Atman, part of the Infinite. Source – Wikipedia
Pilgrimage and festivals
Pilgrimage is not mandatory in Hinduism, though many adherents undertake them Hindus recognise several Indian holy cities, including Allahabad, Haridwar,
Varanasi, and Vrindavan. Notable temple cities include Puri, which hosts a major Vaishnava Jagannath temple and Rath Yatra celebration; Tirumala - Tirupati, home to the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple; and Katra, home to the Vaishno Devi temple. The four holy sites Puri, Rameswaran, Dwarka, and Badrinath (or alternatively the Himalayan towns of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri) compose the Char Dham (four abodes) pilgrimage circuit. The Kumbh Mela (the “pitcher festival”) is one of the holiest of Hindu pilgrimages that is held every four years; the location is rotated among Allahabad, Haridwar, Nashik, and Ujjain. Another important set of pilgrimages are the Shakti Peethas, where the Mother Goddess is worshipped, the two principal ones being Kalighat and Kamakhya.
Hinduism has many festivals throughout the year. The Hindu calendar usually prescribe their dates. The festivals typically celebrate events from Hindu mythology, often coinciding with seasonal changes. There are festivals which are primarily celebrated by specific sects or in certain regions of the Indian subcontinent. Some widely observed Hindu festivals are Maha Shivaratri, Holi, Ram Navami, Krishna Janmastami, Ganesh Chaturthi, Dussera, Durga Puja and Diwali. Source - Wikipedia
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