(Originally published on Nov. 09, 2011)
What is the use of a temple if its spiritual vibrancy is not enhanced day after day through rituals? Have you ever heard someone say about his or her experience, while inside a temple, on positive vibrations?
The act of consecration of Deities in a temple is only the first step towards building a place of worship which will become divine and sanctified over a period of time. This can be compared to giving birth to a baby. Does the responsibility end there? No, it just begins!
How soon a temple becomes a powerful source of spiritual energy depends on the quality of rituals that are performed from time to time. An idol which is not consecrated can be compared to a non-reflective medium with no spiritual energy. Through the process of consecration based on the Science of Tantra, we infuse life and we change its property to become a spiritually reflective medium. Thereafter, it begins embedding spiritual energy directed through rituals as well as through devotee’s prayers with true devotion or bhaavana.
Positive vs. Negative Vibrancy
A positively vibrant temple brings in the masses on its own. As the number of devotees increases, the various rituals through devotee-sponsorship also increase thereby making the Deity capable of accommodating this increase in spiritual energy and give it back to the community. This also makes the entire locality or city prosper in terms of peace, harmony and wealth.
A temple with high levels of positive vibrancy absorbs negative vibrancy in devotees and makes them capable of building positive vibrancy within themselves. Devotees who keep building positive vibrancy through prayers and meditation connect with the Deities. The spiritual benefits the devotees gain through this phenomenon are multifold which, in turn, get directed towards making everything they do successful.
On the other hand, a temple with high levels of negative vibrancy connects with devotees having negative vibrancy and shares the agony of its Deities. Such devotees, direct this agony to all their actions towards family, career, business, society and so on. Devotees with positive energy get drained off and get tired within minutes of entering the temple. A few of such devotees, who are capable of measuring the level of vibrancy inside a temple, never return to such temples.
Internal clashes among the Board or Committee members and lack of devotee participation in rituals are just a few signs of such negative vibrancy build-up.
A negatively vibrant temple should never attempt at expansion or consecration of new Deities. Attempts in this direction usually meet with several obstacles. It is seen that such actions bring in serious repercussions to those connected in the following order: the Board, the Working Committee, Priests, Volunteers, Devotees and the Locality or Region. Priests will lead this list if such an expansion takes part on their advice! A true and devoted priest will be able to measure the vibrancy on a daily basis and keep devising rituals to maintain or enhance its positive nature.
When a temple reaches very high levels of negative vibrancy, it calls for a high-level astrological scrutiny. This would call for a Deva Prasna or an Ashtamangala Deva Prasna as it is known in astrological circles. Based on the findings of this scrutiny by eminent Vedic Astrologers (who qualify as per the guidelines outlined in scriptures such as Prasna Marga to take part in such a scrutiny), special rituals are conducted, sometimes for days together, to nullify the negative vibrancy and re-establish a platform for building positive vibrancy again. I have personally witnessed in a few temples that any attempt towards building the positive vibrancy, without such an astrological scrutiny, gets no results.
Rituals and Muhurtas
Every ritual has a specific muhurta or timing associated with it. It is the auspiciousness of this muhurta that makes the ritual fruitful in augmenting the Deity’s chaitanya which in turn bless the devotees. When this muhurta falls on a specific day and time, the ritual must be conducted at that time without any compromise. When you look at temples in India, the authorities dare not change the muhurta of such rituals. Those who attend, get benefitted; others who cannot attend, also get equally benefitted when they offer their prayers later because the chaitanya is already augmented.
Today, most temples are built for a wrong purpose – that of bringing the community together and/or raising wealth through exploitation of religious beliefs. Well, if that was the objective of building a temple, the administrative body’s efforts will also continue to be in those directions. And, they think they could easily achieve it by nicely decorating the Deities and rescheduling most of the holy rituals to weekends to meet people’s convenience. This is nothing less than abusing the Vedas which the science of temples are derived from. It can be seen that most people who start such ventures have no concept of maintaining a temple and its sanctity. Just because they put in their money to begin the venture, they treat the temple like a personal property and indulge in abuse. A temple typically becomes a museum-like venue in the hands of such people.
Temples are not Clubs
Annual & Life Memberships! Did I say bronze, silver, gold, platinum and diamond memberships? Discount on rituals for members? License to misconduct & abuse for Trustees who put in more money?
What are we talking about? Do you want to raise funds so the temple can function as envisioned? Then, raise the spiritual vibrancy through quality rituals. The vibrancy or chaitanya alone acts as a super magnet to bring in the masses. All other efforts may appear to win temporarily but never sustains in fulfilling the objective.
Who’s to blame?
Though the sanctity of a temple rests mainly on its Priests, the administrative body must take the blame entirely since it is the responsibility of the administration to conduct every ritual through the priests, without compromises. The administrative body or the working committee, elected by a board of trustees for a specific term, deals with day to day affairs of the temple. While the committee is guided by the board, it should ensure that the temple priests perform the rituals as prescribed in the texts in their appropriate muhurtas. The committee and the board should also consider recommendations made by the priests, from time to time, to conduct more naimithika rituals which are not aimed at bringing in the masses but to enhance the chaitanya of each Deity.
Temple Administration – Do’s:
- Members of the board of Trustees and the Working Committee should learn about the science behind temples before assuming such roles. They should learn the basics of Tantra Sastra and Agama Sastras. These will eliminate getting exploited by priests and those with vested interests.
- Have a selfless and longstanding vision that will stand and protect the temple and its sanctity for decades to come.
- Respect the scriptures and be firm in directing the Priests for conducting such rituals at their designated muhurtas.
- Consult those religious heads, who do not practice discrimination against Saiva, Vaishnava and Saktheya Deities, for guidance on augmenting the temple’s spiritual vibrancy from time to time.
- Make the temple’s opening and closing hours as per scriptures.
- A spiritually vibrant temple, guided by visionaries at the board and committee levels, brings the people together. Do everything to achieve this vibrancy.
- Listen to and actively interact with priests and devotees on enhancing the temple’s sanctity.
- Devise a Common Code of Conduct for the Board & Committee Members, Priests and Devotees and strictly adhere to them. Have a Rule Book for everyone who is within the temple premises. Strictly enforce the rules and be very stern with those who do not bind by them.
- Obey the Temple’s very own bye-laws.
- Every trustee and committee member must volunteer to take part in temple’s rituals, by taking turns.
- Invest or spend part of the money collected through donations towards constantly improving the spiritual vibrancy of the temple and each of its Deities through more powerful rituals.
- Rituals are not always aimed at bringing in the masses. There are several rituals, purely aimed at enhancing the chaitanya, and such rituals must take place at regular intervals irrespective of devotees’ participation.
- Conduct a Veda Paata Saala to teach at least the basic Veda Mantras and Slokas to those who are genuinely interested to learn them. This would also pave the way for additional monthly income to the temple as well as its Priests.
- Encourage and promote all forms of fine arts which are derived from the Vedas.
- Temples are excellent platforms to spread the Vedic culture, richness and heritage. These are constituents of the oldest system of dharma on this planet, known as the Sanathana Dharma. Spread it and help people get more civilized in every aspect.
- Arrange to conduct discourses covering our scriptures through eminent Vedic scholars. Also encourage devotees to actively engage in such events.
Temple Administration – Don’ts:
- If the objective is to bring the community together, do not build a temple to achieve this. Build a Community hub instead and conduct all activities for the community at this facility.
- Do not award absolute freedom to Priests to do whatever they want to. This usually happens when the Board or the Committee is blissfully ignorant about their role.
- Priests are not Deities! Respect them for what they are but also monitor their performance periodically.
- Trustees, Board Members and Committee Members are not above the public in terms of power and authority; their honesty, humbleness and simplicity must lead the public and help reinforce the spiritual discipline inside the temple premises.
- If the temple has kept a Hundi for collecting donations from the Public, the Board & the Committee is answerable to every member of the Public on how the temple is run with respect to day to day administration, rituals and expenditure. Do not misuse funds collected through donations. You are answerable to the public on what you actually do with it. Do not come up with fancy ideas to spend the money.
- Do not run a temple like a business organization.
- Do not attempt at pleasing devotees by keeping the Deities decorated for days without proper rituals.
- Do not put off rituals that must be conducted on specific days and muhurtas to weekends and holidays for the convenience of devotees.
- If you are a non-vegetarian and/or consume alcoholic drinks, you are not qualified to be on the board and/or the committee. Respect the Vedic texts and gently step out.
- If you cannot volunteer, respect those who volunteer. Volunteers are not at your beck and call; they are not slaves.
- Do not include persons of bad repute or those who are known to play politics into the board or committee.
- Do not appoint Priests who discriminate among Saiva, Vaishnava and Saktheya agama sastras in a temple built on the Smartha Dharma.
- Never entertain politics. Temples are above politics.
- A Temple is not a Museum. Do not allow the public to pose with deities to take photographs. Those who know the root values of Vedas will not indulge in this stupid act. The innocent may do it; most Hindus have no clue about their own core values. Educate them.
- Do not award memberships based on a subscription fee. A temple’s structure does not allow this stupidity. A true Hindu temple never shows discrimination on basis of members, non-members, race and caste. If you want to raise funds for its day to day functioning, there are other ways to achieve it.
- Do not indulge in wrong practices citing other temples and how they are run. Focus on your temple and manage with a spiritual vision or just step out and save the temple. Every community has able persons to achieve what must be truly achieved. When they step in, do not sit on their shoulders to give (mis)directions.
Improper temple administration is not conducive to growing its spiritual energy. A spiritually well-maintained temple grows vibrant day after day and protects every member of the community.