Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Temple Tamperings

The Temple Entry Proclamation by Maharaja of Travancore in 1936 is a shining episode in the history of our nation. The best part of this episode was the lead taken by top leaders from the so-called higher castes in Hinduism. At one stroke it abolished all restrictions on the so-called lower caste Hindus from entering any of the Hindu Temples. However, the next campaign for letting in non-Hindus as well (even those who believe in temples) did not get the desired support for those who wanted it. But the demand has never died down completely and it keeps resurfacing once in a while. Religious fervour in Kerala has peaked again in the last few weeks with the open demand by one of the ruling Marxist ministers for the entry of accomplished singer K.J. Yesudas, a practising Christian, into the Guruvayoor temple premises (where the temple customs prevent non-Hindus from entering).

The minister’s opinion (or direction) has been picked up by the issues-hungry multi-channel Malayalam media and ensuing debates have already started breaching all acceptable levels of religious tolerance and moderation. One such interesting debates involved two political leaders (Sebastian and Thomas), moderated by one John with ‘expert’ comments by two atheist ministers. While the panel and participation symbolised the pathetic condition of Hindu community in present day Kerala, the firm message emanating from most such debates is one of determined intimidation. Some people and certain ideologies have tasted blood in their design to push out the native beliefs from the soil of Kerala. And the ones to defend the eternal beliefs are disorganised and unprepared for any form of resistance. If the evil designs of interested parties follow the charted course, Kerala will soon pass into a different set of Gods’ Own Country very soon.

Real Purpose of Temples

Temples have always been contentious premises in Hindu society. This is partly due to the requirement of a minority and ignorance of a vast majority. For anyone who has bothered to study about the concept of God in Hindu religion, it is crystal clear that temples are not the only abode of God. How can something that is infinite in every sense confine itself to an insignificant area? God is an energy that is all powerful and all pervasive. The only attribute that we can undoubtedly assign to it is its uncompromising discrimination in favour of whatever is positively righteous (dharma). Life could not have started and evolved itself to the vast variety as we see today but for this unique aspect of godly energy. All other attributes and forms that we see now for God are born out of Man’s imagination, desire and convenience. Temples can never fully contain God but they can be definitely become special places from where we can focus our mind on God.

Then what is the real purpose of temples in Hinduism? It is nothing more than a place for thinking about God and doing something good for the community and society at large. To do something good for others we have to be good ourselves and that is what is attempted by going to a temple. The idol and ambience in any temple provide the right mix for those who want to focus their thoughts on the ultimate source of positive energy. Heat, light and sound energy charges up the confined space in all temples for the devotees to imbibe from. Modern science has reconfirmed the ancient Indian concepts of our body being an insignificant vehicle for the soul eternally dependent on the sources of energy (we burn off our dead bodies only because of its insignificance). In addition to providing the positive energy, temples also have the more important function of being the hub for distribution of wealth in the community connected with it. The flow of temple wealth must be towards doing something good for the underprivileged devotees and not into the pockets of temple authorities and priests.

Realise Temple Purposes

Realisation of the real purpose of temples is the only way for the survival of native beliefs. If we continue to hold onto distorted beliefs of benevolent gods in certain forms, shapes and sizes being resident only in specific temples, our enemies (within and external) will come again and again to loot them for the gold and diamonds. We have read about it in history and we are seeing it in front of our eyes in almost all the temple administrations. Even atheist politicians are interested in temples only because of the wealth accumulated in it. If there are systemic and systematic provisions to make use of it for the well being of a deserving society of devotees, the real threat to our temples will vanish in no time. There should be no business for non-believers in Hindu temple matters, just like in any other religion in a secular and democratic India.

It is quite surprising and saddening to note that much adrenalin is wasted for non-issues like entry of a particular person into a particular temple. In the current issue, the person who raised the issue is a self-proclaimed atheist speaks volumes about his intentions. In a way it is good that the famed singer himself called off the politician’s bluff. Any normal person in his senses would decline from visiting a house where he is unwelcome, for whatever reasons. Temples are private institutions and like all private institutions it should be the sole privilege of the limited public in that private community to decide about who should enter and who should not enter. In a non-communist country like India, the state has no business whatsoever in interfering in non-public institutions, especially religious ones. The very existence of state run religious institutions like Devaswom and Waqf Boards undermines the secular credentials of Indian nation. It is high time the government got out of temples and mosques, leaving them accountable only to Judiciary and a responsible public media.

All said and done, there is nothing new about the constant intimidation on the concepts, beliefs and rituals of native religions in any part of the world. Attempting to disprove the beliefs, ridiculing the rituals and threatening the believers are the normal ways for external forces to weaken an existing religious system in any country. The real strength of any system of belief will be tested during such external onslaughts. Money, muscle and manpower can bring about some momentum in any proselytization exercise. But the ultimate test of any belief system solely depends on the strength of its logic, rationality and conformance with Nature. No belief that cannot rule the minds of man can rule mankind. This has been proven many times and it is good for the temple aggressors also to remember this. In the meantime, we should definitely keep the temple gates locked for those who do not respect our beliefs.

1 comment:

Sathfilms said...

My post from http://sathfilms.wordpress.com/2007/05/09/caste-system

J. Ajith Kumar (1959 - 20xx): Temple Tamperings

A very interesting blog entry that talks about numerous things mainly with regards to the Hindu religion and interpretations of how it should be practiced. If i'm correct, the writer maintains that religions and belief systems are tested the most by internal acceptance (and questioning); and thus the structure should be based on at least some sort of logic and reasoning. For example, the entrance of those from a "lower caste" doesn't really make enough sense - they are people just the same as those of a "higher caste" but do a different job. The writer also argues that the gates to a temple shouldn't be open to people who may disrupt or badly impact the integrity of the location by a lack of respect for the given beliefs. I personally agree with the post. Again, we find another example of discrimination based on ideas or interpretations regarding things which are taught as "fact," when they are not necessarily so.

One view: according to the "Geethavahini" also known as "The Divine Gospel" (written from the spoken words of Sathya Sai Baba) the caste system was not written to cause discrimination. It speaks of the castes as different parts of society that allow it to function efficiently, and therefore if any of those "parts" are missing, society will fail to operate [smoothly]. So the caste system exists for people to know their role and do it as best as they can for the benefit of the community; however, "there is no higher or lower" caste. The analogy used in this book is that the castes are merely the different parts of the same body - there is no unclean caste, thus the basis of hatred is a useless interpretation that causes discrimination. The texts continues, and articulates that the leaders preserved the caste system to avoid anarchy - to maintain culture. The discrimination was not inherent in the original ideas. However the text also says, referring to the leaders of the past, that "their intelligence, scholarship, spiritual eminence, their spirit of inquiry and their impartial unprejudiced approach to social problems can be found only among one in a hundred today." Each part, or caste, also had a part in maintaining the spiritual integrity of the community.

So, what is the text saying? It's seems to say that for society to function, for spritiual integrity to remain, various people have to perform a function - jobs that need to be done - and as such, these positions have names. However there is no ranking; there is no discrimination between the castes. It seems fine, because this is how society operates anyway. However, the text seems to also imply that someone born into a particular caste needs to earn their place and do their assigned duties since a child born into a family of, farmers let's say, will be learning about farming throughout their childhood thus more likely to better than a child born into the family of a priest who has been learning about scripture throught their childhood. I think that statement doesn't take our freedom in thinking and diversity of interests (regardless of our family) into account. And that's where the problems start - "you must do this." So, there are noble roots to the caste system, and the "allotment" attitude can account for some of the discrimination, but the rest, saying someone is "unclean," where did that come from? Only more research may reveal that - but my best guess right now is that such rubbish was derived from a combination of ridiculous interpretations, abuse of power and the existence of such a structure or system where it's difficult to stand up for yourself because you must do what you're meant to do.

Then we get people today performing repugnant rituals, such as the cleansing of lower caste children with cow urine - article here.

People and interpretations deform religion (and the image of religions) and scare people away from teachings that actually might have some value. To me, it always seems to be a lack of questioning that allows this to happen, and the adherence to "rules" that "must" be followed.