Hindu Culture and the Temple

Bodhinatha speaks on Hindu culture, the theme of the Jivana Ritau, and begins with Gurudeva's central thoughts on culture which are captured in the five Living with Siva sutras on cultural accomplishments. He continues with Gurudeva's thoughts on the importance of the temple which sustains the culture and causes peace in individuals, homes and thus in the community.

Unedited Transcript:

That was a beautiful Namakarana for Shaila Pushpa Sendan. Perhaps we were waiting for Gurudeva's murthi to be present! We postponed the ceremony. It must be for that.

This is our Jivana ritau, our 'Living with Siva' season of the year for four months. So I was giving that some thought. 'Living with Siva, Hinduism's Contemporary Culture'. I thought I would just say a few words on culture this morning. To show some of Gurudeva's central thoughts on culture, there is one page in 'Living with Siva' which has five sutras and they are all on cultural accomplishments. So we will read that first.

"All my devotees are encouraged to learn a skill requiring the use of their hands, such as pottery, sewing , weaving, painting, gardening, baking or the building arts, to manifest creative benefits for family and community.

All my devotees are encouraged to perfect a cultural accomplishment be it a form of art, singing, drama, dance or musical instrument of Siva's ensemble- vina, mridangam, tambura, cymbals and bamboo flute. Aum.

All my devotees are encouraged to embrace Sanskrit as their language of ritual worship, Shum Tyeif as their language of meditation and Tyeif script for offering prayers to the devas through the sacred homa fire. Aum.

All my devotees are encouraged to use the South Indian lunar calendar as a daily guide to auspicious planning for travel, business, innovation, ceremony and major life events. Our year begins with the month of Aries. Aum.

All my devotees are encouraged to adopt the gestures, attitudes, customs, ways of worship, dress and refinements of Tamil Saiva protocol. They learn by living and studying with traditional Saivites. Aum Namah Sivaya."

Where does culture come from? Gurudeva over the years wrote many letters for major events at temples around the world, Kumbhabhishekams. Usually, they would publish the letter in the souvenirs for the temple. I would help him with many of these letters. One of the parts he always wanted to include was to say that the temple was very important to have in a community because it is the temple which sustains the culture.

In other words, if Hindus moved to a place where there is no temple and stay there for generations eventually the culture is going to decline. That is what he is saying. The temple is very important in sustaining the culture. He was very happy to see Hindu temples coming up in the Hindu communities that were newly forming around the world, for that very reason. The culture would sustain. We are talking about generation after generation, not just in those who were the first generation to arrive because they were well trained and were raised near temples. But it is in the subsequent generations that it would tend to decline.

I had a chance to speak on that once in Perth, four or five or six years ago. We attended a Ground-breaking ceremony for the Hindu Temple Society of Western Australia, which was forming a temple in Perth. It was my first trip to Australia and I found out there is a lot of distance between Perth and the rest of the country. It is way over there on the western side. I prepared a talk for that and talks for other things and I wanted to include a statement which said this is a very simple way. One of the higher ranking government officials was there from the Western Provincial government. I wanted her to understand what the temple meant to us as well.

I chose the phrase, "Having a temple manifests greater peace in the individual, harmony at home and tolerance in the community." When I said tolerance, she lit up. "Oh, tolerance! This is good." She was obviously concerned about that. It is always a concern when you have a diversity of ethnic group. The question of tolerance comes up.

It is a very simple way of looking at it, which we will develop by reading something Gurudeva says on this in 'Living with Siva' in a second. But the idea being - Well, who gets influenced first? Well, the individual gets influenced first by becoming more peaceful. If you are more peaceful, what happens? There is more harmony at home, it is proportionate, but that is with other people. First, what is inside of us is influenced by the temple, our inner peace. Our most immediate group which is the home is more harmonious because we are more peaceful. The less peaceful we become on the inside or the more disturbed we become on the inside, then the more disharmony there is in the home because it is a reflection of it. Someone who is really unsettled and upset on the inside, cannot stand for everything to be harmonious. They have to disturb it. It is just, you know, "I am feeling terrible, I am going to make you feel terrible too, I am going to disturb things." It is a kind of an instinctive quality. It comes along with the instinctive nature. "If I am miserable, I am going to make you miserable. If I am unhappy, I am going to make you unhappy. If I am not peaceful, I am going to disturb the home with inharmonious conditions."

We get around all that by the temple. By learning how to become peaceful in the temple, we influence our home and because our home is harmonious, we then influence the community. Community harmony is tolerance, greater tolerance for differences, greater ability to get along.

There is a very nice paragraph by Gurudeva in 'Living with Siva'. I wanted to share.

"When culture is flooding out of the temple, our actions are productive and our minds are creative, our speech is pure, our hearts rejoice and we become good citizens. Religion makes us good citizens because we are peaceful inside and we want peace in our land. Peace comes first from the individual. It is unrealistic to expect peace from our neighbors unless we are peaceful first. Unless we make ourselves peaceful, through right living, right worship and right religious culture in the home. How can we destroy all of this? It is simple. Stop going to the temple. Culture will begin to go. Refinement and love will begin to go. Arguments will be heard in the homes. Divorces will fill the courts. Stress and mental illness will become the common experience. All because we stopped that one great mystical practice - temple worship. The temple is the great psychiatrist of the Hindu religion. When we forget that, we suffer the consequences of our neglect personally and as a nation. The temple has mystical powers that surpass the greatest psychiatrists on the planet. Our priesthoods have the tools to invoke and perpetuate this power. The temple cannot only analyze your problems, it can give absolution. You can leave the temple wondering what it was bothering you on the way to seek the help of the Deities. So complete is the power of the temple."