insights into hindu temple worship

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Ganapati Tunai

Murugan Temple of North America6300 Princess Garden Parkway, Lanham, MD 20706, USA Phone: 301- 552- 4889, FAX: 301- 552- 5043 EFAX: 301- 576- 3802 Email: [email protected], Internet: www.murugantemple.org

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Why Fear? I Am Within You and Protect You AlwaysMurugan

Insights into Hindu Temple WorshipTranscript of SatGuru Bodhinatha Veylanswamis Talk In Honor of the 2008 Annual Nallur and Kathirgamam Kanthan Festival Murugan Temple of North AmericaAugust 9, 2008 Introduction Kumbhabhishekam As publisher of our magazine Hinduism Today, I am invited to a number of kumbhabhishekams for temples all over the world. Over the last few years I have had the privilege of attending kumbhabhishekams for: Siva temples in Perth, Australia and Atlanta, Georgia; a Venkateshwara temple in Central Florida; BAPS Swaminarayan temples in Houston, Texas, Toronto, Canada and Delhi, India; a Bhairava temple in Karnataka, India; Lord Ganesha in Phoenix, Arizona; a Lord Murugan temple in Montreal, Canada and today the Sthapana Mahotsv for Lord Murugan here at the Greater Baltimore Temple. The special ceremonies conducted on these occasions by a large number of well-trained priests are always exceptionally uplifting times. YouthSatguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami speaking during MTNAs Nallur Festival

On most of these occasions there is some interaction with the youth of the temple as a formal seminar, a lecture or simply an informal question and answer session. During one of the breaks, at a kumbhabhishekam for a particularly large temple, I was chatting with some of the older youth who were children of the trustees and other key members. They were challenging me with the question, since God is omnipresent, what is the need to build large temples to worship Him. The cost of construction is quite large plus then you have the ongoing cost of monthly maintenance that has to be met. Couldnt all that money be spent in a better way? My answer went something like this. Since God is omnipresent, shouldnt we be able to experience Him equally everywhere? For example, God permeates this room. By looking intently at the room shouldnt I be able to experience God? In theory you should. I then asked those present how many could see God permeating the room? All the youth present had to admit that they couldnt see God permeating the room. I then asked another question. God permeates each of us. Certainly the easiest place to see God would logically be inside ourselves. I then asked how many could see God permeating themselves. Again, all the youth had to admit that they couldnt see God permeating themselves. I then continuedpractically speaking God s omnipresence is a very subtle form of consciousness, too subtle for The Murugan Temple of North America is a Traditional Saivite Hindu Temple. It has a floor area of 7000 square feet, with main Sannidhi for Murugan (Karttikeya) and four smaller Sannidhis for Vinayaka (Ganesha), Siva, Meenakshi and Palani Aandavar. We also have an auditorium that is available for community use.

most of us to experience unless we are quite skilled in meditation. Heres an analogy with other objects that are difficult to see. If we want to see a distant galaxy, we can go to an observatory and use a powerful telescope. To see into the

Kavadi and Pal Kudam procession around the Murugan Temple pauses to view Kavadi dancers (not seen in this picture)

nucleus of a cell, we can go to a laboratory and use an electron microscope. Similarly to see God, there is also a place we can go. It is, of course, the temple and there we can experience God through the sanctified murti. Templesand especially the murtis within themhave this unique quality because they are an especially sacred place for three reasons: construction, consecration and continuous daily worship.

Hereditary temple architects, known as sthapatis, are commissioned to design and construct the temple according to certain rules laid down in scripture. The rules govern what shrines are included in the temple, the shrines location and the overall dimensions of the temple. Consecration occurs through the powerful ceremony of kumbhabhishekam which involves a large number of priests performing elaborate ceremonies for days on end. Then begins the schedule of daily pujas that are held thereafter conducted by professional priests. The pujas sustain and gradually increase the sanctity set in motion at the kumbhabhishekam. In these three ways, the temple and the murtis within them are sanctified. Gurudeva Visions Murugan In speaking at kumbhabhishekams and other temple gatherings, I always share many of Gurudevas insights into the inner functioning of the temple as a sacred environ where God and the Gods can bless devotees through the sanctified murthis. One point always peaks the interest of the audience, which is when we share some of Gurudeva's visions of Lord Subramanian and other Deities. Gurudeva had many visions of Lord Subramanian, also known as Murugan. One story has to do with the founding of our Kadavul Hindu temple in Hawaii in 1973. A large Nataraja bronze had recently arrived from India and Gurudeva was wondering in which part of the building to install the Nataraja as the central Deity for a new monastery temple. That night in a vision, Lord Murugan came and struck His Vel three times on the front steps of the building indicating where the Nataraja Deity was to be placed as well as giving spiritual energy to that spot. We placed the Nataraja there the next day and worship began. The front entrance to the building became a Siva temple and ever since to enter the building we use the side entrances.

You can now contribute to our Temple and fill-out your donation forms on-line at www.murugantemple.orgPage 2

Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami once again presided over Murugan Temples Annual Nallur Festival On many other occasions, Gurudeva would casually mention that he had a vision of Lord Murugan the previous night in which they were flying through akasa, or inner space, on their sides next to one another. Gurudeva named a book we hope to produce one day on Lord Murugan Flying with Murugan because of these frequent visions. Of course, Gurudeva was not unique in having visions of Lord Murugan. In ancient times such great saints as Arunagirinathar had visions of Lord Murugan and wrote of his experiences in his devotional poems such as in Kandar Anubhuti. Swami Sivananada , Divine Life Society Founder, wrote an excellent description of this work. The term Kandaranubhuti is derived from Kandar and Anubhuti. Kandar in Tamil is Skanda in Sanskrit. Anubhuti means becoming one with, or Experience. Hence Kandaranubhuti means to become one with Skanda and denotes GodExperience. This is a work sung by Saint Arunagirinathar as a result of his God-Experience or Kandar Anubhuti, which also directs others to that Experience. It is the experience of the Saint given expression to in such powerful words that when it is repeated by others, it is capable of bringing the same experience in them, in due course. Such is the glory of the work. A sample verse reads: Lord Murugan, wielder of the vel, whose form shines like the crimson sky! On that day you revealed to me the unique divine experience. Having it and experiencing it is the only way to understand it. Is it something to talk about? How can it be told to someone else? Gurudeva also had many visions of Lord Ganesha and shared some of his mystical perspectives and experiences of Ganapati in his book Loving Ganesha: "There are a great many liberal Hindus and/or Western-influenced Hindus who don't think of Ganesha as a real being. To them He is a symbol, a superstition, a way of explaining philosophy to children and the uneducated. But this has not been my experience of our loving Lord. I have seen Him with my own eye. He has come to me in visions several times and convinced my lower mind of His reality." Gurudeva also experienced a number of visions of God Siva but certainly the most powerful occurred in February 15, 1975, at our Hawaii monastery. Gurudeva described it: One early morning, before dawn, a three-fold vision of Lord Siva came to me. First, I beheld Lord Siva walking in a valley, then I saw His face peering into mine, then He was seated on a large stone, His reddish golden hair flowing down His back. After Gurudeva Visions After telling about Gurudevas visions, I always mention two other stories, the first about pilgrims to India and the second about the milk miracle.

We have arranged group pilgrimages to India since 1969, and some pilgrims on various programs had life-changing visions of Lord Vinayaga, as well as other Deities. Such visions, born of the intensity of pilgrimage and inner striving, would often come in the form of the stone or bronze murti moving and smiling at them, or turning into an animated, human-like figure. Some devotees, with their eyes closed, inwardly saw the Deity's face, as real as any living being. I remember a particularly powerful vision of Lord Ganesha where the devotee saw Lord Ganesha walk out of the shrine and come up to him and bless him and then return to the shrine. The mans faith in Lord Ganesha definitely strengthened after that experience! Though few have had such visions, in the year 1995 hundreds of thousands of Hindus experienced first hand the widely publicized milk miracle in temples around the world, watching as devotees offered milk to murtis of Lord Ganapati, who actually drank the milk as world media and cameras recorded the remarkable happening. This surely increased many people's faith in the reality of Lord Ganesha and the other Gods as well. Energy Though occasionally a devotee may have a vision of Lord Murugan or other Deity, the more common way we experience the Gods is as an uplifti