Here, I need to tell more about temples. It is only in temple atmosphere I got the message, the clues to the message and the purport of the message. Obviously, it made me study more on temples.
Generally, religious places vitalize one’s faith and devotion in God. In addition to this, temples vitalize one’s true identity – the Self or the Atman. The temples exhibit the direct link between a human and God. Temples built in accordance with Agama Sasthras, tell the truth that God is in all beings. Temples resemble the human body metabolism. The praharas or the outer walls of the temples point to the sheaths of the self. As per Agama sasthra (the scriptures for temple construction), there could be a maximum of seven praharas (Ref: Vaikhamsa of Vaishnava Agama). This represents the seven bodies that each one possesses – physical, etherical, mental, scientific or logical, astral, egoistical and blissful bodies. These bodies are related to the seven astral centers that every human has. For example, Mooladhar Chakra is related to one’s physical body. The study of the seven chakras and the bodies is a different, vast subject. These chakras and bodies get in contact with the astral divinity that prevails in the temple.
The Raja Gopuram or the tower at the entrance is said to be the foot of the astral divinity – the crown being the Moolagraha or the main place of the temple where the Atman or God resides. The towers of the temples display the plays of God. They are rich in art and beauty. The sculptures exhibit the various aspects in God’s play namely creation, preservation, destruction, hiding and rendering of grace. The kodimaram or the wooden pole that stands before Moolagraha points to the astral spine of our body. The flag is raised higher through this pole on important occasions. It resembles the raising of our kundalini divine energy through the astral nerves across our spine. Bali Peetam stands before kodimaram. The Bali Peetam is the place where one sacrifices all the fruits of one’s good and bad actions. It symbolically reveals the fact that such a sacrifice can happen only through the raising of one’s divine energy to the top of one’s spine – to the center of forehead through the mastery of mind. The Atman or God in moolagraha is only a witness to all these. The structure of Deity inside reveals deep philosophical meanings. Though, it is the very purpose of the temple, the Deity appears undisturbed. This reveals the fact that Self or God is neutral at all times though it is the very cause of the creation. As an exemption to this general trend, sometimes the Deity shows the proof of It’s existence through exhibiting some miracles. It’s nothing but the might of God.
Many temples have lesser number of outer walls. Here, only the subtler bodies are taken into account. All temples that are in accordance with Agamas reveal the fact that God resides in everyone as Atman. It may look complicated. But the intention of Agamas is to remind all individuals of their Godliness practically through the temple structures and ceremonies. The designing of temples and the devotional activities performed personally and impersonally are to purify one’s bodies through one’s wisdom and devotion. The study of temple structure is again a vast subject; we have about 200 Agamas dealing in different types of temple structures with regard to Saivam, Vaishnavam and Saktheyam.
Some controversial activities like animal sacrifices are done in some temples. Infact, the practice of animal sacrifice is present in many religions in different proportions. Matagh, as it is known, is a common practice of animal sacrifice in Armenian Church. This tradition is believed to stem from pre-Christian pagan rituals. Wealthy Muslims sacrifice a large mammal during Eid ul-Adha (the Festival of Sacrifice), which falls during the period of Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca). In Hinduism, such practices are mostly associated with either Saktheyam or with local tribal traditions. Classical Hinduism as it emerged in the medieval period de-emphasizes animal sacrifice, and even any meat processing, based on the doctrine of ahimsa (non-violence). The practice of animal sacrifice is rare and distasteful to the vast majority of modern Hindus. I too stand one with them. Other religions like Buddhism, Jainism and Sikkism that have their roots in India are totally against these animal killings.
Temples play multiple roles in addition to their spiritual realm. Temples are socio-economic-cultural centers. I am talking here only about their main role. How far people know about this main role is a question mark.
This is from the teachings of Swamy Sivananda Saraswathi: “The Agamas are theological treatises and practical manuals of divine worship. They include tantras, mantras and yantras. These treatises explain the external worship of God. All seventy-seven Agamas (Swamiji might be referring to the most authenticated agamas) contain teachings on (i) jnana or knowledge, (ii) yoga or concentration, (iii) kriya or action, and (iv) charya or doing. They also give elaborate details about the ontology, cosmology, liberation, devotion, meditation, philosophy of mantras, mystic diagrams, charms and spells, temple-building, image-making, domestic observances, social rules and public festivals.”
Agamas brought temple worship with the perfect blend of devotion and wisdom. They are artistic and equally scientific. Though the temple worship seemingly support the dualistic approach, it leads to the Formless One. Even the Adhvaithic seers like Sri Adhi Sankaracharya support temple worship. The highest end of devotion could be that the devotee gets merged in the Absolute. It leads to Adhvaitha. Andal Nachiyar, Thiru Gnana Sambandhar and Maanika Vaasagar tell this fact through their history. They all dissolved their bodies inside the temples they worshipped. The Forms led them to Formless. It is just not the structures and symbols that bring this realization. It is the devotion, fervor and wisdom of the devotees that bring the realization. The temples are one of the principal sources that invoke this devotion and wisdom. Though temple worship is said to be the preliminary teacher in spirituality; it can accompany up to liberation and even after that. That’s why even the realised sages like Sri Adhi Sankaracharya, Sri Ramanujacharya, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and many Nayanmars worshipped temples till the end of their physical existence. Though the temples are designed to invoke wisdom and devotion, the devotional aspect of temples are more predominant among the common public. What I mean by devotion is devotion on God and for God. It’s the intense thirst for the Truth. If one prays God for anything less, then it is a diluted devotion. The laymen have only diluted devotion, as they are caught up in the seven diluted bodies. If they worship temples or other religious places with truthfulness, then they too can purify their bodies and can get back home. This is why temples are organized. But practically speaking, most people do only customary rituals blindly that too for material reasons – they are unaware of the main motive. Less than 1% people only look for God realisation and try to worship temples in the right way.
The symbolic approach towards God realization is inevitable in all religions. There need to be a place for concentration on God. There may or may not be a stone idol inside; some have wooden cross instead; some have the pictures of revered souls or the books of the realized beings. Some may not have anything in their ‘temple’. Even those who find faults with the symbols of other religions, do believe that they could feel divinity MORE in a particular place, in a particular direction, in a particular time or day and through the performance of particular actions (spiritual aspirations). It is nothing but symbolic worshipping.
It doesn’t mean that all people can find God only in a few religious places like temples. God is everywhere. Those who do not need external help, can still worship God. But, those who see God internally shouldn’t criticize those who try to seek God through external means. The fact is, almost all people depend on some sort of external means of worship in some part of their lives. Besides, these religious places are saturated with the spiritual energy of divine beings and emanate divine vibrations that touch one’s inner self.
The news ‘God is in our land’ is meant in both ways. It can be said by an individual who sees God within. This can also be said in the land where peace, love and happiness prevail. These will prevail only when the land houses God realized beings.
The sages rooted in India have been boldly saying this to the world: “You are God. You are all inclusive. Know Yourself through Guru’s Grace and your Sadhana (self effort). You humans are keeping the treasures of all happiness inside and are begging for petty things outside. There is nothing else to be known in any world except Self.”
Though God is in ‘our land’ i.e. within our being, we are not able to have an easy vision of Him. The reason is our consciousness is constantly dragged towards external matters. That’s why the temple poem told us to win the ‘culprit senses’. If we can do that, then we too can feel God in our land. My job is to spread this news that God is in our land which actually means God is within our being. It is opt to quote Yoganandaji’s saying here:
“Self Realisation is the knowing – in body, mind and soul – that we are with the omnipresence of God; that we do not have to pray that it come to us, that we are not merely near it at all times, but that God’s omnipresence is our omnipresence; that we are just as much a part of Him now as we ever will be. All we have to do is improve our knowing.”