What is the relevance and use of a Ram or Krishna temple in a locality where Ramachandrans and Ramakrishnans are committing suicide for want of a few thousand rupees? And what can be more ridiculous than spending lakhs of rupees on finding what the God wants (by engaging astrologers) when the piled up wealth in a local temple is providing no comfort for the material misery of the devotees in the locality? Whatever and how strong be the argument for and against these propositions, I am fully convinced that temples became part and parcel of Hindu society only because it served as ‘Centres for Distribution of Commonwealth’ (CDC) in ancient times. Otherwise, an ism advocating the noble presence of God in anything and everything in this universe does not need any specific place for worship. Neither do we need the help of any middlemen in our transactions with God.
The importance of revitalising temples as relief centres for those in distress is becoming a matter of life or death for the believers in a ‘critical’ state like Kerala. The battle for demographic upper hand is in the final phase and the consequences can be fatal for the ‘majority’ community if the leaders do not realise it even now. To do this, we should all realise the simple truth that any wealth that does help in distress is wasted wealth. Most of the temple wealth in India today belongs to this category. Devotees are dying without food, committing ‘family suicide’ because of debt burden and selling children for living expenses, when millions and millions are either lying idle in bank deposits or wasted for gold plating temple masts or making crowns for the temple deity. Time has come for exploring immediate measures to save the vulnerable sections of the society from sure death or falling prey to rival predators with unlimited budgets for ‘soul harvesting’.
Temple Banks & Lands
One of the best ways to utilise the piled up wealth in any place of worship is to set up banking facilities with provision for extending loans to the needy devotees. Any devotee who is in trouble and the temple committee feels need help must be able to get easy loan with no collateral securities at nominal interest. A true devotee will never lie in front of the deity and will definitely return the money in better times. This aspect of faith and devotion must be put to maximum use while extending life saving loans to the needy. In the best traditions of Travancore kings, who used to reign on behalf of Lord Padmanabha, the loan deeds can be executed between the borrower and an authorised office bearer on behalf of the presiding deity in each temple. This would make the transaction more divine and binding on the devotees.
There are temples and temples in our country. Some of them are under the control of the government and some under private management. And there are many with enormous income and many more with little or no income at all. Thousands and thousands of acres of land are falling under these temples in official records, but encroachers are most active in these lands. For a limited geographical entity with growing population there is nothing more priced than real estate in a country like ours. Devotees must realise that protecting temple land is one of their first priorities. Time will soon dawn when rights will be fixed not only based on numbers but also on the basis of real estate held by the different communities in India. Those who are neglecting temple lands will pay a heavy price then. If there is excess land, it can always been given on lease or rent to the devotees but strictly on renewal basis every year. No one should even think of long term lease or any other arrangement.
Religious Education & Exercise
The amount of religious literature and information that is available in India is unparalleled anywhere in the world. For true researchers, it is still possible to dig out unseen works which are from different periods in history even now. Learned men throughout the world have been amazed at the depth and vastness of knowledge that Indian minds are always capable of conjuring. All Indians accept Mahabharata and Ramayana as part of their heritage but no one is willing to teach it to the younger generation in a systematic way for fear of being stamped as communal. In this strange scenario, the least expected of temples is to set up schooling facilities for keeping up these heritages. Temple funds being utilised for public education should be objectionable, especially when public money is not involved in it. Just because the secular state is involved in administration of some temples must not be reason enough for diversion of temple money for public education. Instead, the money should go only into education of those interested in heritage literature, including the remarkable Bhagavad Gita.
Yoga and meditation are the other aspects of Indian heritage that should be eligible for temple funds. Like temple schools, temple gyms must also become commonplace. Unlike modern metropolis gyms, the facilities required for yoga and meditation are very moderate and less costly. What is required in more intensity is interest and commitment on the part of the users. If adequate facilities are provided, such temple gyms alone have the potential to keep the younger folks engaged in constructive activities. As we have always believed, healthy minds are always found only in healthy bodies. And the least destructive ones in any nation are always the most healthy. India is all set to become the youngest nation in the world by 2020 and popularisation of temple gyms can make it the healthiest one as well.
In very simple terms, temple funds, lands and resources that are lying unutilised or wasted should be put to best use for the devotees by the collective will on the part of all those who are concerned about India’s future. Distribution of wealth through temple coffers must become a practice once again if we have to combat the twin terrors of terrorism or take-over. Worship of God in temples must become demystified. Theory and practice of temple rituals must correlate with contemporary realities and relative position of Hinduism among world religions. A golden mast or a sanctum sanctorum in a temple plated with gold will have true meaning if and only if all the devotees of the temple deity are living without misery. If we do not realise this, the famed wall of Indian nation will soon fade off for its real owners to write anything for their progeny.