(Originally published on May 25, 2010)

A priest is considered to be a divine interface between the Deity (GOD) and the Devotee (believer). Truly speaking, it is not just another job or career. The quality of the interface would determine the fulfillment of daily rituals that are part of the basic functioning of the temple and those rituals conducted on behalf of the devotee and his/her family on specific occasions. When the interface lacks true devotion, the result will be simply nothing. There are no gray areas here. This is how the science behind temples works.

While a priest has to make a happy living and equally support his family meeting all necessities of life, the greed for the luxuries of life and to amass wealth through religious exploitation make most of them mere mechanics at performing rituals. Such persons become a curse to the society which follow the ever eternal Vedic principles. Numerous priests and acharyas of today take the unsuspicious and innocent devotee for a ride with their greed for money. Ignorance and lack of knowledge of Sanskrit and basic religious rituals on the part of the devotee help these unauthentic acharyaas indulge in their self-made kingdom with half-baked knowledge, sugar-coated speech and well-rehearsed mannerisms.

More than the greed for money, the lack of ability to understand and experience the true essence of Vedic teachings make some indulge in activities even within the temple premises which may not be appealing to every one.

10 Essential Requisites for Priests

Discipline: This includes both self discipline and adhering to the regulations set forth by the temple management with respect to its day to day functioning.

Dedication: He should completely bind himself to his duties and responsibilities.

Devotion: A devoted priest can truly represent the devotees and thus, form a bridge between them and the Supreme. Devotion must be un-biased and respectful of every school of Vedanta.

Dignity: He should be respectful by his humility, trustworthiness and morality.

Divinity: A true priest himself will be on his path towards self-realization without which he is not qualified to guide those who seek his spiritual guidance. The first four are basic ingredients towards building divinity.

Knowledge: He should be learned in important Vedic Scriptures, essential rituals, fundamentals of Vedic Astrology and also be constantly widening his knowledge spectrum. Devotees who approach him for guidance should be able to receive the same with clarity. His guidance should be unbiased and respectful of the devotee’s school of philosophy.

Being Non-commercial: His actions related to his profession, both inside and outside the temple, should be without any commercial exploitation. This does not mean that he refuses what is voluntarily offered to him by the devotees.

Leadership: He should be able to lead the community on all religious issues. True leaders do not call or address themselves swamijis and acharyaas! Those who seek guidance and benefit give them these titles.

Communication Skills: He should have reasonably good command over different languages. Of these, Sanskrit and English are mandatory. Other desirable languages include, but not limited to, Hindi, Telugu, Kannada, Tamil and Malayalam. He should clearly explain the essence of each ritual and its benefits. A devotee’s understanding of what is being performed aids in further deepening his spiritual involvement yielding much higher rewards.

Co-operation: He should cooperate well with the administration with respect to the day to day functioning of the temple. He should be able to share the spiritual vision of the trustees and/or the management who have invested large sums of money for the temple with no commercial motives. It remains a fact that the temple does need money for its day to day expenses as well as remunerations to its employees, including its priests. The Priest plays a major role in ensuring that devotees are happy attending to the rituals which in turn ensure voluntary contributions to the temple fund.

Past Comments and Replies

Submitted on 2010/06/01 at 1:33 pm | In reply to Rajendran.

Dear Sree Rajendran,

A few more articles in this series are in progress. These include duties and responsibilities of (1) the devotees, (2) those of the temple management or the administrative committee, members & trustees, (3) the science behind temple architecture and installation of idols, (4) evolution of the concept of idol worshiping from the holy Vedas and (5) important tips on building up and maintaining the cosmic energy level in temples that will stand the test of time for the benefit of generations to come even after we are gone.

Submitted on 2010/06/01 at 12:12 pm by Rajendran

Dear Sri Narayanan,

That is a good summary regarding the duties of a temple priest. Likewise, the devotees, too, have certain duties and responsibilities. They have to facilitate the priest to faithfully carry out his responsibilities and duties. For one thing, the devotee is required to make sure that the priest’s worldly needs are adequately fulfilled. While what constitutes the priest’s worldly needs is debatable, there is, probably, no gainsaying the fact that these are subject to the dynamism of social changes. It pains me to see that many devotees, even in America, expect free or, near-free, service from the priest and/or the temple.

May I request you to list the duties and responsibilities of devotees vis-a-vis a priest and a temple?

Thank you for enlightening us with knowledge that has been denied to a majority of us.