WHAT TEMPLES ARE?
We often hear people who are obsessed with what they see in churches and mosques, who attack our temples saying that they are very noisy and that worship or meditation is not possible in them. “Our temples are not churches in your sense of the word. Our temples are not organised as places for meditation, nor for congregational worship. The purpose of a temple is different. We enjoy the good things in life such as house, food, clothing, ornaments, music, dance, etc. We pay a tribute in the form of taxes to the king-now the Government-for making it possible for us to enjoy them by giving us their protection. The king-protector is provided with a place and other paraphernalia of royalty. Even as we render homage to the king for the enjoyment of these things, we are bound to render our gratitude to God who has primarily given us the good things of life. We offer a part of these good things as a token of our gratitude to Him in the temple. We first offer to Him all that He has given us, in the shape of food, clothing, jewels, music, flowers, light, incense, etc., with the grateful consciousness that they are His gifts to us; and we receive them back from Him as His prasaada. The temple is the place where these offerings are made on behalf of the collective community. Even if people do not go to the temple, it is enough if these offerings are made to God on behalf of the community. The duty of the people at the place is to see that these offerings are made in the proper manner. There are people who do not take their day’s meal till the temple-bell announces that the offering to God of food for the day has been done. Then only do they take their meal as Prasadam.
” According to the Gita if we enjoy these things without offering them first to the giver, it would tantamount to theft. It is through our five Indriyas, viz., eyes, ears, nose, tongue and touch that we receive the various impulses from outside and carry them to our brain. Each of the five senses contributes to our joy in life. It is this offering of the objects of the five-fold joys that is known as Panchopachaaraas to God, the offerings namely
1. Gandha (sandal),
2. Pushpa (flowers),
3. Dhoopa (incense),
4. Deepa (lamps)
5. Neivadya (food).
If your jnanendriyas and their stimuli are reverentially offered to the Paramatma, then we shall not be inclined to misuse these sense organs.
BY SUCH DEDICATIONS TO GOD,
we deflect these from evil propensities and sublimate them to a divine goal. Besides the requirements which are the minimum sources of material pleasure, there are other things which make for life’s comfort, like house, clothes, conveyance, etc. These too are to be used only after they are offered to God. All such offerings are inclined in what is known as shodasopachaaras (sixteen offerings). And then there are other sources of enjoyment like music, dance, chariot, elephant, horse, etc., applicable to the case of highly placed persons and which may be regarded as luxuries for the common man. All these should also be offered to God and they are included in the 64 or Chatushashti Upacharaas.