Sadhana for Week 29
Body Level: Temple Visit
Visit a temple daily for 7 days and offer prayers for the peace of everyone.
As your body requires daily cleansing,
So does your mind.
So long as your mind is full of negative tendencies,
You can never bring it to single-pointed concentration.
Control the mind.
Live in the inner temple of Godliness.
Once PoojyaGurudev was asked:
Question :Why do we have temples?
PoojyaGurudev: Where is the Government of India, please? Is it not everywhere, supporting every one of you? It is a democracy – government of the people, by the people, for the people. But, to contact the Government of India, one has to go to the offices in Delhi, even though the Government of India reaches all corners of the country. In the same way God is everywhere – all pervading – but if you want to contact Him, run to the nearest temple.
Question: So if you are not able to find God everywhere, that is the place to look?
PoojyaGurudev: Temples are places where you practice what you have studied in the scriptural textbooks. They are gymnasiums for the mind. If you tell me, “Swamiji, every day I go to the gymnasium and come back, but my heath is still not improving,” I will respond, “Go for another six months.”
Then if your health has still not improved, I will inquire, “What do you do there in the gym?” And I will know exactly what the problem is when you reply, “Swamiji, I go into the gymnasium and sit down there and watch everybody.” Similarly, you may go to the temple and watch everyone to see what they are wearing and what they are doing. Then there is no chance for your mental aliment to improve or cure itself. You have to go there and apply your mind to the idol. Remember, it is a mental gymnasium, not a physical one. Surrender the mind in devotion unto the Lord. He will purify it and return it back to you.
Question: Give it in a better shape?
PoojyaGurudev: Yes, definitely. Lord Krishna says, “Surrender your mind, I will clean it and give it back to you.” But we are always occupied with asking God for some solution to our problems. “Hey, Krishna! My father is not well. Make him alright!” “Oh, Rama! Please give me the promotion this time.” Our mind is soaked with our own petty problems even when we are in the presence of God in the temple.
A temple is a place where his presence can be contacted directly. Think! A receiving set is necessary to hear the broadcast from Delhi. The sound weaves are available in the ether everywhere. But if you want to enjoy the music, you must have a radio and tune it properly to that particular station. The temple is a place conducive for fine-tuning of your mental equipment in order to receive the Divine Message.
Why should I go to a temple to pray, why not simply pray at home, after all isn’t God everywhere?
Often when our parents or elders ask us to go to a temple, especially daily, we are defiant. We bombard them with questions:
If God is everywhere why do I need to go to a temple? Why is it not sufficient to pray at home in our pooja room or a place where our idol is kept? Isn’t God all pervasive? Isn’t He in my own heart, then why are you insisting that I go all the way to a temple to pray?
More often than not we do not receive any better answer than – You should go because we have been going. It’s a good deed! You should go because you are supposed to!
To our intellectual minds the above only reconfirm our belief that it is an old tradition which I have no choice but to follow to please my parents. So grudgingly we comply when we have to. At other times we outright refuse to go to a temple! It is just more practical to pray at home.
But is going to a temple really just an outdated, overvalued tradition?
- we can cook at home, so what is the need to go to a restaurant?
- we can be educated at home, what is the need to go to school?
- we can put on the music at home and dance, why go to a dance club?
- we can watch cricket on tv at home, why go to the stadium?
Yes, all this can be done at home, but the experience is much more engaging when we go out because the ambience, the visual impact, the environment, the people of similar interest, the culture, the beauty is so much more when we are in the right place, a place where there is no distraction.
Going to a temple, bowing to a shrine, smelling the agarbatti/kapoor, taking prasad etc evoke a devotional feeling in the heart of the devotee. Stronger the feeling, closer to your goal you get. While we do keep murtis at home, the overall ambience at home cannot match that at a temple, complete with larger and many murtis, the bells, the flowers and the chants.
When we enter into the temple, we feel something different inside us, we are at peace. This is not due to the statue or pictures of gods and goddesses hanging over the walls of temples. This is due to state of mind of visitors in the temple. Everyone comes in the temple with a feeling of surrender. They drop their ego and hatred for some moment and bow down with all their heart. This creates a wave of positive vibes around the temple area.
The tranquillity is a natural result of the divine vibrations that constantly pervade a temple. These vibrations result from both the presence of the Lord in His deity form as well the constant chanting of His holy names.
There is fundamental difference between idols and deities.
Deities are where "Pran Pratishtha" is performed. Pran Pratishtha means infusing life into an idol with Vedic mantras. Generally households have idols. In order to take blessing of these deities people visit temples.
This explains why we should go to a temple. Now about the second question - if God is everywhere why not pray to Him at home?
Yes, God resides in every human form, indeed in every particle of His creation, everything that is on earth and beyond. But since we are fallible mortals and we do not appreciate the fact that God is everywhere we need a form we can relate to for our minds have not been lifted to appreciate Him as the formless and attributeless. Thus we need an idol in our own image. To be able to connect to the Lord just to see and touch Him as the form is not enough. We need a special place to feel His Presence, to “talk” to Him, to be able to seek Him whenever we want. We need a place where can go to pour out our troubles without any inhibitions or taking an obligation, where we can kneel down and surrender. Such a place is a temple – the symbol of the abode of the Lord, where all are welcome.
At home we may or may not be able to connect to the Lord, depending upon our state of the mind. But the moment one steps into a temple and rings the bell for that fraction of a moment all other thoughts cease, for that one second unknowingly you stop thinking about anything else and your concentration is unified to a single point – the Lord. As one approaches the main sanctorum the priest is either doing a pooja, or abhisheka, or archana etc. Daily poojas add to the pure vibrations and shakti to the existing moorti which facilitate the environment of total acceptance of all – the ignorant, skeptic, and the devout irrespective of their level of evolution.
Now to answer the third and last question – If God is in all of us, in my own heart why do I need to pray in a temple or even at home?
For someone who has already Realized or achieved Moksha or Nirvana (call it by any name), all this becomes meaningless. Or for someone who is particularly devout, going to the temple or even praying at home does not matter (just as bright students do not need coaching classes), but for the rest of us, going to the temple helps to connect and keep our faith strong.
“I am with everyone always, but I can express Myself and manifest Myself only when you keep quiet and are dynamically silent, invoking Me with your alert expectation.” – so says the Lord. “Give Him a chance, please” is the persistence request of all scriptures of the world.
Temples and images remind us to renew our renunciation and dedication from day to day. They remind us “do not forget the origin of the idol, in whatever you see!” if you believe that God pervades everything, you must believe that you cannot enjoy anything that is not given by him. A man of prayer regards what are known as calamities as divine chastisements.
- Swami Chinmayananda
It is very important to know the what, how and why to do before, at and after the temple visit to making it a meaningful experience.
Preparation to do before visiting a temple:
1. Cleanse our bodies, our minds and our hearts.
When we have to go to a party or an important function we take time to get ready, take a shower, put on our finest clothes. While getting ready our mind is thinking about the good time we will have at the party, all people we will meet there, the great food we will eat, etc so with high spirits we go to the party. Our focus is on the party and everything else is forgotten or kept aside for the moment.
Similarly when we are to go to a temple it is preferable to take a bath. This will not just clean our body but we will feel fresh and invigorated. It makes our visit feel special. If we like to prepare a thali with flowers, fruits, diya with oil and wick, agarbatti, dhoop, water, milk for Abhishek, etc to offer to the Lord it will help bring the mind to the present and the act of preparing the thali will evoke feelings of devotion. This will slowly free the mind of any agitations, ill feelings and in the heart a sense of peace and wellbeing will be felt.
However none of the above is mandatory – not the bath or any offering to the Lord. In the Bhagwat Geeta, chapter 9 verse 6, Sri Krishna says:
patram puspam phalam toyam
yo me bhaktya prayacchati
tad aham bhakty-upahrtam
If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, or a flower, or fruit or water, I will accept it.
These are only for our need, to develop our devotion. The Lord asks nothing from us.
At the temple.
1. Enter in a prayerful mood.
We are going to meet our creator, our friend, our mother or father – whatever be our relationship with the Lord – by removing all these impurities we will be open and receptive to His Grace
2. Ring the bell.
Is it to wake up the Lord? But the Lord never sleeps. Is it to let the Lord know we have come? He does not need to be told, as He is all knowing. Is it a form of seeking permission to enter His precinct? It is a homecoming and therefore entry needs no permission. The Lord welcomes us at all times. Then why do we ring the bell? The ringing of the bell produces the auspicious sound of Om, the universal name of the Lord. There should be auspiciousness within and without, to gain the vision of the Lord who is all-auspiciousness.
The bell is not made up of just your ordinary metal. It is made of various metals including cadmium, lead, copper, zinc, nickel, chromium and manganese. The proportion with which each one of them is mixed is real science behind a bell. Each of these bells is made to produce such a distinct sound that it can create unity of your left and right brain. The moment you ring that bell, bell produces sharp but lasting sound which lasts for minimum of seven seconds in echo mode good enough to touch your seven healing centres or chakras in your body. The sound is of “OM”, an elongated one. The moment bell rings your brain is emptied of all thoughts. The mind is generally preoccupied with many thoughts and only way to awaken it is with a Shock! The Bell works as anti-dote to the mind. It is strategically placed at the entrance of the temple to awaken you and prepare you for the awareness you are about to exerience.
Even while doing the aarati, we ring the bell. It is sometimes accompanied by the auspicious sounds of the conch and other musical instruments. An added significance of ringing the bell, conch and other instruments is that they help drowned any inauspicious or irrelevant noises and comments that might disturb or distract the worshippers in their devotional ardour, concentration and inner peace.
3. Walk slowly towards the inner sanctorum
With the mind at peace and with devotion in the heart walk slowly towards the Deity of the temple. The mind is now completely absorbed and the fragrance of agarbattis, flowers, the chant of mantras or aarati, the glow of the lamp, all pull the person towards the presiding Deity of the temple.
There we see the priest performing aarti. An aarti is a fire from a lamp that he holds in his hands and encircles around the idol of the Lord. This is symbolic. The priest is like a guru who throws light upon the Lord in the dark sanctum of our heart and we have darshan of the Lord.
4. Prostrate to the deity.
This is the moment that we have been waiting for – our time with the Lord, to be in His presence, to feel His presence. Spend a few moments looking at the Deity absorbing all the minute details like the smile, the face, the clothes, the ornaments, the asana, the astras and shastras etc. going over in the mind what is the symbolic meaning of each. Then lower your eyes to His/Her feet and with folded hands bow down in prostration with closed eyes. We prostrate in complete surrender and humility to seek blessings, to express our love and devotion, and to thank Him for His grace upon us.
Now why would we go all the way to a temple if we were to close our eyes upon seeing the deity inside? This is because the Lord we search for, is within us. At the moment we are unable to see Him within us and need the support of a temple to seek Him inside. When we close our eyes we try to see the same Lord in the temple inside us.
Why do we do pradakshina (circumambulate)? A circle cannot be drawn without a center point. The Lord is the center, source and essence of our lives. Recognizing Him as the focal point in our lives, we go about doing our daily chores. This is the significance of pradakshina. Also every point on the circumference of a circle is equidistant from the center. This means that wherever or whoever we may be, we are equally close to the Lord. His grace flows towards us without partiality. So when we do Pradakshina or circumambulation we remind ourselves that our actions and thoughts should always be centred around God.
Why is pradakshina done only in a clockwise manner? The reason is not, as a person said, to avoid a traffic jam! As we do pradakshina, the Lord is always on our right side which symbolizes auspiciousness. So as we circumambulate the sanctum sanctorum we remind ourselves to lead an auspicious life of righteousness, of Dharma, with the Lord who is the indispensable source of help and strength, as our guide - the "right hand".
6. Spend quiet moments
After prostrating step back and sit quietly facing the deity. You may either close your eyes or keep them open, do not speak or look around. Feel the power of the Lord all around you and within you, feel the quietude and the peace.
7. Pray for all.
Send your prayers to the Lord. Pray for each and everyone, whether you know them or not, whether you like them or not, pray that may all be blessed. Do not ask for anything else.
After the temple visit
1. Maintain the silence for a while
Continue to be quiet and try not to utter a single word for some time – as long as you can. This will help maintain the tranquility and peace experienced.
2. Continue with the rest of the activities for the day, notice the difference!
Observe your reactions, responses, your mental equilibrium, your inner poise at the end of the day. Notice the difference in your behavior between the day you visited the temple and the days you didn’t.
Thus a visit to the temple is very special.
1. Helps to attain mental peace
Just as food, clothing and shelter are the basic needs of the body, peace is a basic need of the mind. Today, there is practically no system to provide for this basic mental need. Worse still, our fast-paced, stress-filled lifestyle agitates our mind a lot. World Health Organization (WHO) has declared that the greatest medical challenge of the current century will be not AIDS or cancer but mental health problems. The temple is one of the few places where one can immediately experience a deep peace just by going into the premises.
Many people come to the temple in the evening to de-stress themselves before returning home. They do darshan of the deities, attend the worship or sit in the temple hall taking in the divine atmosphere. Thus they become mentally recharged to cope with the challenges of life.
2. Get to spend one-to-one time with God
The temple is the only place other than going into secluded place like forests, mountains where you will be able to spend uninterrupted time with the Lord. At home though we may be in front of the idol but there are many distractions and often we are interrupted by some pressing matter or the other. To be able to do this daily is one of the surest way to progress on the spiritual path.
3. Get answers
Often we are troubled, worried, or are unable to take a decision or are overwhelmed the best solution is to visit a temple not because some surreal voice is going to provide the solution but because of the tranquil environment our own minds become still and we are able to connect with our own selves. A peaceful & still mind is able to understand the root problem and will offer the best possible solution.
4. Purify the mind & senses
If one approaches the temples with faith in them, each visit will purify oneself. We use the body to walk to the temple and the senses also get purified. Over a period of time slowly the mind will get purified of the agitations and desires.
Other than spiritual and emotional benefits listed above there are scientific benefits of visiting temples:
Generally, the temples are located in a place where the positive energy is abundantly available from the magnetic wave distribution of north/ south pole thrust. Because of its location, where high magnetic values are available, the Main Idol is placed in the center, and also because a copper plate written with some Vedic scripts is placed, which is buried, beneath the Main Idol’s placement known as “Garbhagriha” or Moolasthan. The copper absorbs the earth’s magnetic waves and radiates to the surroundings. Thus a person who regularly visits a temple and makes clockwise pradakshina of the Main Idol’s placement, automatically receives the beamed magnetic waves which get absorbed by his body. This is very slow and a regular visit will make him absorb more energy, known as positive energy.
In addition, the Sanctum Sanctorum is completely enclosed on three sides. The effect of all energies is very high in here. The lamp that is lit radiates the heat and light energy. The ringing of the bells and the chanting of prayers gives sound energy. The fragrance from the flowers, the burning of camphor gives out chemical energy. The effect of all these energies is activated by the positive energy that comes out of the idol. This is in addition to the north/south pole magnetic energy that is absorbed by the copper plate and utensils that are kept in the Moolasthan.
The water used for the Pooja is mixed with Cardamom, Holy Basil (Tulsi), Clove, etc is the “Theertham”. This water becomes more energized because it receives the positive-ness of all these energies combined. When persons go to the temple for Deepaaraadhana, and when the doors open up, the positive energy gushes out onto the persons who are there. The water that is sprinkled onto the people passes on the energy to all. That is the reason why, men are not allowed to wear shirts to the temple and ladies have to wear more ornaments because it is through these jewels (metal) that positive energy is absorbed in ladies. It is proved that Theertham is a very good blood purifier, as it is highly energized.
In addition, temples offer holy water (about three spoons). This water is mainly a source of magneto therapy as they place the copper water vessel at the Garbhagriha. It also contains cardamom, clove, saffron, etc to add taste and Tulsi (holy Basil) leaves are put into the water to increase its medicinal value! The clove essence protects one from tooth decay, the saffron & Tulsi leave essence protects one from common cold and cough, cardamom and benzoine known as Pachha Karpuram, acts as a mouth refreshing agents. This way, one’s health too is protected, by regularly visiting Temples
All these benefits are not possible in one's own house, so people go to a temple
Beginners and Advanced:
1. Do as advised above
1. Spend 15minutes in the temple contemplating on the Svarupa or the True Nature of the Lord and how our true nature is one with the Lord.
UNTO HIM OUR BEST