(Originally published on Sep. 14, 2010)
While the truth is just plain, simple and only one, there are several philosophies arising out of the perception of this truth. Each philosophy has given rise to a set of religious practices. Forgetting the fact that all these philosophies arose out of the same and single truth, some people who follow different philosophies fight among one another in the name of religion.
When each group practices its beliefs without mocking at another group’s belief system, there are no issues, whatsoever. This also gives rise to unity in diversity. Depending upon the quality of devotion, each group will finally experience the Truth which is one and the same. But this seldom happens. It is seen that a few of those who follow different philosophies try to belittle every other philosophy through direct or indirect discrimination. The moment one begins to weigh his school of Vedanta against others through differentiation, ego worshipping begins.
What happens when such persons become priests in those temples which are built for the entire community which believe in different schools of Vedanta? When this happens, one can see at least five groups of people within such a community:
Those who follow the Truth; not philosophies. These persons, while practicing the core rituals aimed at realizing the Truth, also accept other philosophies since they know everything leads to the same Truth. There are no issues when the priest belongs to this category.
Those who are neither aware of any school of Vedanta nor following their own. However, they do believe in GOD as the Supreme Power. These persons visit the temple mostly weekly or monthly, do not differentiate among the various Deities, pray silently and go back with a sense of satisfaction. In fact, majority of devotees belong to this group.
Those who follow the priest’s school of Vedanta. This group can comprise of two sub-categories of people. The first sub-category do not look at other philosophies with contempt while the second sub-category openly exhibits discrimination. There are no issues if the priest also belongs to the first sub-category. However, there can be issues when the priest belongs to the second sub-category. The issues get worse when persons belonging to the second sub-category join the priest by extending “whole-hearted” support thereby encouraging open discrimination.
Those who follow a school of Vedanta that is different from that followed by the priest. This group can also comprise of two sub-categories of people. The first sub-category do not look at other philosophies with contempt and offer their prayers to all Deities. The second sub-category offers prayers “selectively” to the Deities of their choice while showing disrespect to other Deities.
Usually a minority, indulging in the power of money and influence, these persons do not come to the temple for prayers; they come for every other purpose. These include networking, meeting friends, making friends, recreation, gossiping, politics and whatnot. While some question the need for temples and ridicules at various rituals, others usually belong to the second sub-category of people from both Group-3 and Group-4 above. Some of these also take charge of the management by becoming founding members or Trustees, merely showing their weights around. When there are issues, this group will selectively join sides depending upon which side their friends belong to.
With their lack of true devotion and lack of knowledge about the science behind temples, these persons do nothing to develop and maintain a temple that should stand for centuries. They can cause the greatest nuisance to a peace process while resolving issues, if any. These persons, while being part of the administrative body, tries to manage the temple like a commercial organization. They never show up regularly, leave alone offering prayers on special occasions. While visiting the temple for attending meetings to discuss the current issues, these souls even show their contempt to the Deities by not offering prayers!
Temples are public religious institutions that should thrive on the strength of devotees and their contributions. The quality of rituals that are regularly performed would determine the spiritual vibrancy. Mass participation by devotees, setting aside philosophical differences, would bring in the wealth that is needed to run the temple.
The administrative body should consist only of people with a long-term vision towards the betterment of the temple and the society. Trouble makers must be made accountable and answerable to none other than the devotees for their misdemeanors and thoughtless actions. This can be easily achieved by being transparent to the devotees and keeping them updated on the day to day affairs of the temple, including issues, if any. Transparency is one of the foremost requisites of upholding the divinity of a temple and the administrative body should never try to cover up issues due to any reason.