The temple….who needs it?

A temple in Eastern Uttar Pradesh.

A two-week get away seems like a great relaxing bonus for enduring the mundane. I recently took what amounted to just that when I drove my RV from Phoenix, AZ to my childhood home of Cincinnati, Oh.

One of the first things I noticed when I pulled into a rest stop and attempted to get some sleep was that I had forgotten my murti, Lord Ganesha. When I travel I always take him and or Lord Shiva with me. It is comforting to have a material representation of my deeply held beliefs, and so I was quite annoyed that I had omitted them. I have Lord Shiva on my car fob. Yet since I was in the RV I didn’t have that one either. I did however have The Gita and my mala beads and so between the reading one and doing jappa on the other, I felt in close contact with my ultimate reality.

I had a nice ride and really enjoyed my visit, the purpose of which was to attend a high school reunion. Reunions are great times to reflect the past, contemplate the future and, evaluate the present.  Having done all three, I realized how fortunate indeed I am to have embraced this path of Sanata Dharma.  Two of my former class mates have converted to Islam, and both have changed their names accordingly. I am still wrestling with that one. There are several factors involved besides just the actual name change which are best left to another post. I enjoyed seeing my friends from high school and recalling old pranks and antics long since submerged into the annals of our childhood.

It was en-route home that I noticed a feeling of void. Initially dismissed as the general decline of excitement following any event which one has long anticipated, I realized it wasn’t entirely that. While saying jappas one day, I realized that it had been over a week since I was in a temple. That was it! I missed the temple. The shoes piled outside, clusters of people greeting each other, the ringing of bells, people chanting,  kneeling, seeing fresh flowers and fruit offered to the Gods and the feel of the soft smooth tile underneath my bare feet.

I am familiar with the concept of some

Arizona Ekta Mandir, Navratr, Hindu communities
Devotees celebrate Navratri at Arizona Ekta Mandir. Much more than “just a building,” temples often serve as the social, spiritual and cultural pulse of Hindu communities.

 Hindus that if you are living right, or doing daily home puja then you “don’t need the temple.”  Until then, I never had a chance to test that theory. Perhaps it was the missing murtis, but then I was doing a bit of Bakti yogi with the “tools” at my disposal.  No, it wasn’t that. I missed all aspects of communion with the divine, I yearned for the temple. 

Temple architecture was designed to provide spaces for effortless meditation and where the various deities radiate their own energy and intelligence. As many people meet in temples to communicate with and perform rituals to these deities, the energy abounds and becomes all-consuming to those who are receptive. Put quite simply, I missed it.

When I returned, I went to the Monday night Shiva Puja. It was very uplifting and refreshing. I prostrated myself before God, participated in the Shiva abhishekam and thanked my Lord for a safe and enjoyable trip. After that, speaking to friends I had not seen in a while and just basking in temple darshan, I finally felt that sense of completeness one gets when he is finally home.

Maybe it is my western upbringing, but I cannot stay away from the temple for an extended period of time without what I call “temple withdrawal”. You see as Christians, we were  taught that “going to worship” was primarily in the church and that the gathering of the faithful should be done as community and as often as possible, which for Catholics is daily (mass), but for Protestants is Sunday, and in many of them Wed., or the mid-week services.

I wonder if other Western Hindus have such a feeling. As more of us embrace the path, we will invariably bring with us remnants of the spiritual ways of life we leave behind.

The temple is very important to some of us, especially westerners, and certainly more than “just a building,” because unlike ethnic Hindus, we do not get the cultural aspect of Dharma in our homes or businesses. No matter how spiritual we are inwardly, it is affirming and satisfying to enjoin our spiritual family at the temple. I am thankful it is there. Who needs Temples? I do.

Hindus Proselytize….but Maybe Not Enough

One of the main lessons I have learned about Hinduism is that  proselytizing is a charged word. The Hindu mindset is not to do it, even though it has and is being done to us, sometimes, even by means of chicanery and deceit.  Like many other concepts though, the act itself is neither good or bad, but all in the application.

It is safe to say that  the early Hindu missionaries to the West  were evangelist as well as a proselytizers. At this point I should stipulate that the difference between the two is purely one of perspective. Christians describe their conversion efforts as evangelism.  However in a reverse situation, Christians call the messengers proselytizers. I prefer to say that these beautiful souls and others evangelized The West.

Not too long ago I encountered some Americans in the Eastern section of the New Age book store and we began chatting. I asked if they were Hindu, and one responded with “I am not in a religion but I am spiritual.”  He spoke about his meditation practice and how it made him more calm.  His friend told me how she is trying to get him into yoga. I helped her a bit by saying how I enjoy it and scores of other men. Continue reading “Hindus Proselytize….but Maybe Not Enough”

The Final Four – Yoga Limbs 5 thru 8

This concludes the series 8 Limbs of Yoga

In brief summary, we have discussed the goal of Yoga, which is to unite one’s transitory (temporary) self, “JIVA” with the infinite “BRAHMAN”, the Hindu concept of God.  This God is not a personal God, but it is an impersonal spiritual substance which is one with nature and cosmos. Brahman is an impersonal divine substance that “pervades, envelopes and underlies everything”. Yoga comes to yogi who is one with Brahman”

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Breathing and Posing

yoga, pose, asana, meditate, breathe, pranyama
Ready to Meditate

Yoga Pt III  Breathing and Posing Third in the series, The Debt I Owe to Yoga

We now arrive at asanas. This is limb number three of yoga that gets called, well, “yoga.” Actually, it is properly named asana, or , posture. These are the poses you see in advertisements for yoga paraphernalia or poses by bodies that grace the covers of Yoga or health related magazines .  These postures practiced in asanas, comprise the third limb and the breathing exercises or pranayama comprises the fourth.  If you have been reading this series so far, you will know that asana is not a fitness system or a series of gymnastic exercises but part of a larger process of spiritual rebalancing. 1, 2

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Have You Exercised Your Limbs Today?

Part II Of The Debt I Owe to Yoga

This is thPatanjali, yoga Sutra Part II the debt I owe yogae second part of a series entitled The Debt I Owe to Yoga, subtitled Have you worked your limbs today? Part one was an introduction to yoga, some of its cultural impact, a brief history, and how it has affected me personally.

To  explain the spiritual significance and the totality of what yoga really is one must, of necessity visit Patanjali.  It was he who classified yoga at approximately  200-400 BCE, (some documents say 150 BCE) because by that time the practice, had gone into all different directions. He organized it into a format known as the Yoga Sutras.  His “eight limbs” of yoga still inform the practice today and discuss posture, breathing, meditation and correct living. He is known as “the father of modern yoga.”

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The Debt I Owe to Yoga

I owe yoga a remarkable debt. It is the vehicle by which I arrived at my spiritual home. It changed my life both physically and metaphysically, leaving me with a deep sense of gratitude and reverence. Once I began to delve into the subject, I was amazed at its breadth and depth. There are many works available for the seeker who wants to probe beyond the scope of this introduction. Topics include among others, spiritual history, scientific origins, types of practice, and even a new Western fad, “doga”, practicing yoga with one’s dog.    (Part one of a series)

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