Temple Tours & Spirituality – Part 2

The question that intrigued me after our trip to temples down south is whether it was spiritually enriching. The answer is yes & No. Let me elaborate.
I always considered going to temples as a routine and a ritual, hoping that some day it would give some spiritual experience. I should confess that so far the experiences are far from spiritual. It is partly because of the manner in which we conduct temple worship. When we go to a temple, we are confronted with a big crowd and our focus is on how to deal with the crowd and get close to the deity as fast as we can. Having achieved darshan, we are confronted by a priest who looks least interested in the proceedings. He would casually pick up your offerings to the God and recite the names of the Gods & Goddesses present in the Sanctum Sanctorum in a very monotonous and dull tone. At the end everyone is happy and relieved that the ordeal is finally over.

Spirituality is an experience of something immense over and beyond what we see, hear and feel in the material world. Everything that we do to have that experience is a vehicle or a medium. In my opinion,the vehicle that we choose is entirely subjective. Religion(with all the accompanying practices of worshipping God))is one such vehicle. It is not clear how it evolved but I am told that there is no mention of God at all in Rigveda. Nature with all its immensity was the object of worship during the vedic period. Aurobindo captures the decline of the vedas in one sentence. He said it issues as language from sages then it falls to priests, then it falls to scholars and /or the academicians.

Besides religion there are a number of other vehicles available depending upon one’s nature. For instance, the vehicle could be any of the following: A great classical music,fine arts or even meditation. In fact there are people who experience spirituality through service to fellow human beings.

In my case worshipping God in a temple (as we traditionally do in temples)just doesn’t stir any spiritual feeling. In comparison a good piece of music(or a trip to Himalayas)does a lot of good for my spiritual longing.

Having said that,this trip was a mixed experience. Firstly, most of the places we visited were in remote villages and we had to wait for the priest to arrive. During that time we were all alone enjoying the natural surroundings in solitude. In some places, the priests showed a lot of enthusiasm and involvement in describing the deity, significance of the place, which ‘Alwar’ sang in praise of the Lord etc.
Unfortunately, on many occasions we would virtually hurry in and out of temples in order to complete our schedule of visits for the day and this reduced it to a ritual again. Add to that the fact that some priests were restless, greedy and were mainly interested in the money being offered etc. One is bound to be put off.

One very good experience we had was at the ‘avatara sthalam'(birth place) of Thondaradipodi Alwar at Thiru Mandangudi. The priest took great pains to explain the ‘pasurams'(slokas) in some detail.
When one contemplates on the highly profound ‘pasurams’ loaded with poetry and spirituality, it becomes easy to get influenced. The passion with which this particular ‘Alwar’ worshipped the Lord Ranganatha is summarized nicely in one of his famous ‘pasurams'(‘Pachai maamalaipol meni….’) wherein he says he would any day prefer an opportunity to worship the Lord over even the pleasures of ruling Indra’s kingdom (I am not sure whether ‘Indira Lokam’ in the pasuram means Indra’s kingdom or Vaikundam, as Indira means the Goddess Lakshmi, the consort of Vishnu).

I guess we need to undertake leisurely trips without feeling pressurized for time. We should visit only two or three temples per day and try to partake in the immensity of the experience of the ‘Alwars’ as narrated in their ‘pasurams’. It is an experiment worth carrying out.

Published in: on October 9, 2011 at 6:35 pm  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. It really gives some useful insights into one of our time/money-consuming rituals. I wish a few more on the subject of Religion which can enthuse our youngsters to understand the real spiritual practices and the earlier generation to pave the way for the new peacefully.

    • I agree with you. In the absence of a good definition of spirituality and the fact that old practices are becoming useless thanks to the greedy priests, youngsters are losing faith in spirituality and religion.

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