What Is Hinduism?


C H A P T E R   25§

Visiting A Hindu Temple


A Guide to the Inner and Outer Workings of Hindu Places of Worship

imagehe Hindu temple is a sacred space where man and God commune. It is the home of God and the Gods. Within these sacred abodes, priests conduct puja rites—presenting flowers, water, incense, lights, food and other choice offerings—to honor God and the Gods and invoke their presence and blessings. In this Insight, we explore the experience of attending a temple, drawing from Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami’s wisdom on the mysticism of Hindu worship. While basic customs described here are common to temples of all traditions, we focus mainly on the style of puja done in the temples of South India. §

God and the Gods are real beings; they are not mere symbols or figments of imagination. If you could view the temple from the inner worlds, you would see a brilliant ray coming from the Third World right into the temple on the physical plane. This ray allows communication similar to a live video conference. The priest opens the connection by performing puja worship. When the puja is performed with loving devotion, the ray becomes strong and inner doors open from God’s world to ours; the angelic helpers, called devas, hover around and through the temple, and blessings pour out to the devotees. A Hindu temple’s devonic rays have the power to transform the course of karma, open inner doors to new opportunities, assuage long-held hurts and provide inner visions equaling the fullness of devotion.§

Devotion in Hinduism is known as bhakti. It is an entire realm of knowledge and practice unto itself, ranging from the child-like wonder of the unknown and the mysterious to the deep reverence which comes with understanding of the esoteric interworkings of the three worlds.§

In the mural below, we depict the myriad goings-on in a large temple courtyard. Here is a key to the numbered activities.§

1. A family worships at the temple entrance. Vendors sell garlands, incense, rosewater, coconuts and other traditional offering items. §

2. A woman approaches with an offering tray.§

3. A merchant at a stall watches after devotee’s footwear for a small fee. §

4. A husband and wife prostrate at the flag pole. §

5. A father and son receive blessings from the elephant, who lightly touches their forehead with his trunk. §

6. A devotee breaks a coconut near the Ganesha shrine while praying for a new job.§

7. A man bathes and worships at the temple tank as an act of purification.§

8. Led by musicians, the festival Deity is pulled around the temple in a special chariot. §

9. A youth meditates in a quiet corner.§

10. A child, held by his father, is having his ears pierced by a trained priest.§

11. A family sings devotional hymns in praise of God and the Gods.§

12. At the main shrine, a pujari offers the lighted oil lamp before the Sivalinga at the height of puja.§

13. Hovering over the temple in the inner worlds, Lord Siva gives forth blessings. §

14. A woman circumambulates the Siva shrine. §

15. A girl joyfully rings the big temple bell.§

16. Two boys listen as their teacher chants the Vedas.§

17. A man gives coins to a group of sadhus. §

18. After enjoying the morning at the temple, a family partakes of picnic lunch. §

19. At the Murugan shrine, a woman beseeches the Deity for help with a difficult problem. §