The Temple, Temple Rituals, the Lord’s Service and Us
Sri Gurubhyo namah, sarva lok Sri Hari bhakta namo namah
Hare Krishna, and welcome to the opening of the new temple.
In short I’ve been asked to run through an overview of what we are doing here so that it will help our mutual appreciation of the event and make it a positively memorial and enlivening step in all our lives.
The benefit to mankind for erecting a Vishnu temple:
In relation to the building a temple, in Sanskrit language to Devaalaya consisting of two words namely Deva (God’s) and Alaya (House), or Deva sthanams (place), the place where God resides.
The Lord’s priest, and deva (demigod) in charge of fire, Agni said (Agni-purana,' XXXVIII, 1-50): I will now describe the fruits of making temples for the residence of Vasudeva and other Deities. He who attempts to erect temples for the Lord is freed from the sins of a thousand births. Those who think of building a temple in their minds are freed from the sins of a hundred births. Those who approve of a man's building a temple for Krishna go to the region of Achyuta [Vishnu] freed from sins. Having desired to build a temple for Hari, a man immediately takes a million of his generations, past and future, to the region of Vishnu. The departed manes (for-fathers) of the person who builds a temple for Krishna live in the region of Vishnu, well adorned and freed from the sufferings of hell. The construction of a temple for a Deity dissipates even the sin of Brahmanicide. By building a temple one reaps the fruit, which he does not even gain by celebrating an arduous sacrifice. By building a temple one acquires the fruits of bathing at all the sacred shrines or Tirthas. The construction of a temple, which brings forth all good results, by a religious or an irreligious man, yields the fruit reaped by persons slain in a battle undertaken on behalf of the celestials. By making one temple one goes to the heavenly planets and remains there a long time; by making three one goes to the region of Brahma; by making five one goes to the region of Shambhu (Siva); by making eight one goes to the region of Hari. By making sixteen one attains all objects of enjoyment and emancipation. A poor man, by building the smallest temple, reaps the same benefit, which a rich man does by building the biggest temple for Vishnu. Having acquired wealth and built a temple with a small portion of it, a person acquires piety and gains favours from Hari. By making a temple with a lakh of rupees (Rs 100,000.), or a thousand, or a hundred, or fifty, a man goes where the Garuda-emblemed Deity resides. He, who in his childhood even playing as children do makes a temple of Vasudeva with sand, goes to His region. He, who builds temples of Vishnu at sacred places, shrines, and hermitages, reaps three-fold fruits. Those who decorate the temple of Vishnu with scents, flowers, and sacred mud, go to the city of the Lord. Having erected a temple for Hari - Krishna, a man, either fallen, about to fall, or half-fallen, reaps twofold fruits. He who brings about the fall of a man is the protector of one fallen. By making a temple for Vishnu one attains to his region. As long as the collection of bricks of Hari's temple exists, the founder of his family lives gloriously in the region of Vishnu. He becomes pious and adorable both in this world and in the next.
He who builds a temple for Krishna, the son of Vasudeva, is born as a man of good deeds and his family is purified. He, who builds temples for Vishnu, Rudra, the sun-god, and other deities, acquires fame. What is the use to him of wealth, which is hoarded by ignorant men? Useless is the acquisition of riches to one who does not have a temple built with hard earned money for Krishna, or whose wealth is not enjoyed by the Pitris, Brahmanas, celestials, and friends. As death is certain for all men, so is his destruction. The man who does not spend his money for the Lord’s enjoyment or in charities and keeps it hoarded is stupid and is fettered even when alive. What is the merit of him who, obtaining riches either by an accident or endeavour, does not spend it for a glorious work or for religion? [What is the merit of him] who, having given away his wealth to the leading twice-born, makes his gift circulated, or speaks of more than he gives away in charities? Therefore, a wise man should have temples built for Vishnu and other deities. Having entered the region of Hari, he acquires reverential faith in Narottama [Vishnu – the well wisher of all mankind]. He pervades all the three worlds containing the moveable and the immoveable, the past, future, and present, gross, subtle, and all inferior objects. From the secondary creator Brahma to a pillar everything has originated from Vishnu. Having obtained entrance into the region of the Great Soul, Vishnu, the omnipresent God of the godly, a man is not born again on earth.
In the sacrifice attendant upon the setting up of an Archa-vigraha (Deity) there is no end of fruits that naturally come. One made of wood gives greater merit than one made of clay; one made of bricks yields more than a wooden one. One made of stone yields more than one made of bricks. Deities made of gold and other metals yield the greatest religious merit. Sins accumulated in seven births are dissipated even at the very commencement. One building a temple goes to heaven; he never goes to hell. Having saved one hundred of his family, he takes them to the region of Vishnu. Yamaraj the administrator over the court at death said to his emissaries: 'Do not bring to hell persons who have built temples and adored Deities. Bring those to my view who have not contributed to build temples. Range thus rightly and follow my commands.
Yamaraj to his Yamadutta assistants, 'Persons can never disregard your commands, except those who are under the protection of the endless father of the universe – Sri Vishnu. You should always pass over those persons who have their minds fixed on the Lord. They are not to live here in the Plutonic kingdom. You should avoid from a distance those who adore Vishnu. Those who sing the glories of Govinda and those who worship Janardana [Vishnu or Krishna] with daily and occasional rites should be avoided and left alone by you from a distance. Those who attain to that station should not even be looked at by you. The persons who adore Him with flowers, incense, foodstuffs and wonderful ornaments should not be marked by you. They go to the region of Krishna. Those who smear the body [of Vishnu] with unguents, who sprinkle His body, or who bathe His body, should be left in the abode of Krishna. Even a son or any other member born in the family of one who has built a temple of Vishnu should not be touched by you. Hundreds of persons who have built temples of Vishnu with wood or stone should not be looked at by you with an evil mind as for others.'
He who has built a temple for Vishnu reaps the great fruit which one gains by celebrating sacrifices every day. By building a temple for the Lord he takes his family, a hundred generations past and a hundred to come, to the divine region of Achyuta (the infallible one). Vishnu is identical with the seven worlds. He who builds a temple for Him saves the endless worlds and himself attains his rightful place in immortality. As long as the bricks will last, the maker [of the temple] will live for so many thousands of years in the heavenly planets if he so desires. The maker of the Deity attains the region of Vishnu and he who consecrates the installation of the same is immersed in Hari. The person who builds a temple and an image, as well as he who consecrates them, come before him in due course of time as a lost son is welcomed back to the father’s abode.
The rite of pratishtha (installation) of Hari was related by Yamaraj. For creating temples and images of the Deities, Hayashirsha in his Pancharatra supplement described it transcendentally to Brahma.
Use of ritual symbology, and it’s functionality:
The scriptures such as Pancharatra, Hari Bhakti Vilas, Apasthambha sutras, etc are sometimes referred to as Vaishnava tantra. Today the word tantra is much misunderstood, actually it refers to ritual acts. Deity worship is full of ritual acts; offering incense, lamps, flowers and so on. In the course of our presentation here we will be using aspects of ritual symbology to further enhance our understanding. How it works is that Vaishnava symbology is empowered with subtle communicative images that externally our bodily experiences and emotions often do not pick up on. Yet they deeply affect us, and remind us over a long period of time of what we are doing, so I’ll do my best to explain that here.
Vedik culture to my understanding can be explained as follows, as being dynamic and living experience that allows those who partake of it an entrance into a new realm of awareness, communion and union with God.
Veda means knowledge, and culture refers to the process by which one can cultivate that understanding. Lord Sri Krishna in Bhagavad Gita 15:15., tells us:
sarvasya chäham hridi sannivishtho
mattah smritir jnänam apohanam cha
vedaish cha sarvair aham eva vedyo
vedänta-krid veda-vid eva chäham
Let us look at the second part of this verse first “By all the Vedas, I am to be known. Indeed, I am the compiler of Vedänta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.” And in the first part He says “I am seated in everyone’s heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness.”
So it is a living dynamic, not something imagined or concocted, rather Lord Sri Krishna has given methods by which we can come to Him (B.G. 10:10.), by which we can, at all stages of our conditioned maturational development in this life be again redirected toward Him, in our rightful constitutional position as His eternal servants. In this way Vedik culture is alive, and practical and gives direct perception of God through all of our daily actions and remembrances. It is very simple to do:
yat karoshi yad ashnäsi
yaj juhoshi dadäsi yat
yat tapasyasi kaunteya
tat kurushva mad-arpanam
“Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer or give away, and whatever austerities you perform — do that, O son of Kunti, as an offering to Me.” (Bhagavad Gita 9:27.)
sriyah patir yajna-patih prajä-patir
dhiyäm patir loka-patir dharä-patih
patir gatish chändhaka-vrishni-sätvatäm
prasidatäm me bhagavän satäm patih
“May Lord Sri Krishna, who is the worshippable Lord of all devotees, the protector and glory of all the kings like Andhaka and Vrishni of the Yadu dynasty, the husband of all goddesses of fortune, the director of all sacrifices and therefore the leader of all living entities, the controller of all intelligence, the proprietor of all planets, spiritual and material, and the supreme incarnation on the earth (the supreme all in all), be merciful upon me.” (Srimad Bhagavatam 2:4:20.)
Everything here in this world has, whether we recognize it or not, been manifested by God, and similarly, as mentioned here in this verse He is known as Pati, or Lord, or provider, and as any provider, He is pleased when there’s personal interaction showing gratitude by those He provided for.
Many of us are householders, having families and children, dependents who out of love we look after. That love is further magnified when it becomes reciprocal, just like I may feel some pleasure in giving my son or daughter, or wife, some sweets, but when they offer it back to me, then immediately my love for them is realized in a practical way “oh just see, such a nice……boy/girl….” So what we are doing here, in using everything at our disposal in the service of the Lord is done in the same way, being personal reciprocal acts of loving devotional service, it invokes direct appreciation and love for God – Krishna.
A man asked me once, “…show me God, I want to see God !” In seeing God, it takes some adjustment in our present consciousness. At present, we are here in this world thinking that it is our place to enjoy without recognition of the ontological proprietorship of the Lord. As we mentioned He is the provider for all beings, He is the original Person, the energetic that has structured the energy, i.e. He was there before any re-structural or elemental “big bang” of this material world, there before the engineers and technicians began to manipulate the gross elements to create.
Just as we see in a working situation, it is important that one understand who is the boss (the pati) paying the wages is, and who is the worker who follows the guidance or directive of that company is. If both are recognized, free from envy of the other’s position a sense of mutual appreciation is gained. If I, the worker refuse to recognize the boss, worse still if I try to usurp some of the boss’s property as my own I will find myself in trouble and subject to restrictive disciplinary action, itself proof of the boss’s proprietorship. Better, and more pro-active would be if I humbly recognized his proprietorship and show recognition to him.
In that way we can tangibly see the hand of God in everything, and to such a faithful and loyal servant of the “boss” it is only a matter of time until he/she too is recognized by the boss. This positive process of recognition leaves a much better flavour in the pallet than the rebellious criminal mentality of envious denial of the Lord’s proprietorship.
In this same way, if we recognize from where everything is coming, and if we use properly, as they are intended, those elements of this world as intended by the proprietor, Krishna, the company, His company, in helping us to see Him everywhere is a success.
Over the ages different persons have recognized the wonders of His nature; “Even the savage and uncivilized men in the jungle who are not trained up in the artificial conventions of civilized nations bow down to the order of the Supreme Powerful. As such they worship the emblems of theism in the form of thunderbolt, big ocean, big mountain, and gigantic natural phenomenon. The dormant obedience for the Supreme is artificially stumbled by the convention of so-called civilized men.”(Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Copied from hand written document for old BTG in SP rooms in Vrindavan. Page 4. excerpt)
Just as Moses saw the Lord in the form of a burning bush, or Mohammed heard the Lord in the form of sound, or for His devotee Prahlad the Lord manifested Himself from a pillar to kill the opponent to these His cognizant teachings etc., then if we are truly “God conscious” please then show me a place where He cannot be or reside. It’s not that we have to artificially contort the mind to see something that is not there, or strain our intelligence to capture some esoteric thing available to but an exclusive few. Given that we are at least willing to be shown, that is that we are at least open minded to the possibility that someone can show me something that I have yet to realize, there is hope. After all, we are asking, “Show me God”, it means we don’t know, we haven’t seen, but we want that audience. We are in need of approaching someone who has seen, who has access, otherwise we cannot approach.
We were talking of the boss, then what to speak of the King, “Show me the King !” We may demand like this, but the king’s position is that He doesn’t have to come at our every calling. If one at all wants to see the king, there’s a process, protocol and etiquette that must be followed. By acting in such a way that the king will readily accept seeing us changes the paradigm dramatically, for when the king wants to see us, then who can stop him. One who knows the king, and is close to the king, such as a secretary, they can make the introduction and audience is easily gained.
We need to be qualified to have that audience, no one in an undisciplined, rebellious state is invited into, or attains that association. However, anyone having been trained to observe non-envious dealings as mentioned in Bhagavad Gita’s 12th chapter (verses 8-12.). Those who have unconditioned love for Him, who are without material misconceptions, and who are spontaneously attracted to Him so much ritual is unnecessary.
The balance is given for us, in that our rituals be focused on simply pleasing Krishna, in that way, simple, and with focused objectivity the directives of the scriptures give insights that in this age reliance solely on ritual will not be fruitful. In this age where there are so many short comings, all of the requirements for elaborate Deity worship are simply not available as they were previously, and nor are the priests. Priests that are pure by thought, action and character, materially detached in nature, being fixed in devotion, have clear memories to recite perfectly mantras with exact swara-suddhi pronunciation, timing, and structure, are also not so readily available. Therefore following the yuga-dharma of congregational chanting of the Lord’s holy name (sankirtana) as taught by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and His followers the Goswamis of Vrindavana, and incorporating the practical Vaishnava tantra of their teachings such as Hari Bhakti Vilas, Dik Darshini Tika, and Narad Pancharatra, as well as Srimad Bhagavatam serve to maintain the complete package.
“Especially in this age of Kali, sankirtana alone is sufficient. If the members of our temples in the different parts of the world simply continue sankirtana before the Deity, especially before Sri Chaitanya Mahäprabhu, they will remain perfect. There is no need of any other performances. Nevertheless, to keep oneself clean in habits and mind, Deity worship and other regulative principles are required. Srila Jiva Gosvämi says that although sankirtana is sufficient for the perfection of life, the archanä, or worship of the Deity in the temple, must continue in order that the devotees may stay clean and pure. Srila Bhaktisiddhänta Sarasvati Thäkura therefore recommended that one follow both processes simultaneously. We strictly follow his principle of performing Deity worship and sankirtana along parallel lines. This we should continue.” (Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Srimad Bhagavatam 6:3:25. purport)
Thus the process and protocols that we are following under the guidance of the expert spiritual master are set, and following the direct instructions given in the revealed scriptures where the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna gives personal instruction to His dear friend and follower Uddhava (Srimad Bhagavatam 11:27th chapter) as to how engage in kriyä-yoga, or Deity worship.
“….the bhakti-yogi accepts the Deity of Krishna as worshippable because there is some bodily conception fixed in the mind, which can thus be applied. Of course, worship of the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His form within the temple is not idol worship. There is evidence in the Vedic literature that worship may be saguna and nirguna—of the Supreme possessing or not possessing attributes. Worship of the Deity in the temple is saguna worship, for the Lord is represented by material qualities. But the form of the Lord, though represented by material qualities such as stone, wood or oil paint, is not actually material. That is the absolute nature of the Supreme Lord.
A crude example may be given here. We may find some mailboxes on the street, and if we post our letters in those boxes, they will naturally go to their destination without difficulty. But any old box, or an imitation which we may find somewhere but which is not authorized by the post office, will not do the work. Similarly, God has an authorized representation in the Deity form, which is called archä-vigraha. This archä-vigraha is an incarnation of the Supreme Lord. God will accept service through that form. The Lord is omnipotent, all-powerful; therefore, by His incarnation as archä-vigraha He can accept the services of the devotee, just to make it convenient for the man in conditioned life.” (A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Bhagavad Gita 12:5., purport.)
Worshipping the Deity form of the Supreme Lord through the approved process automatically brings purity and satisfaction to the mind. Thus it is the source of all desirable gains. If a person has no engagement in Deity service he will simply remain attracted to material sense gratification, based on their own personal likes and dislikes, and he will have no hope of reforming one’s life, giving up bad association, and entangling material mannerisms. (Srimad Bhagavatam 11:27th chapter)
The Personality of Godhead has given instruction, among the regulations of the Sätvata scriptures (i.e.. Pancharatra and Agama tantra), on the process of worshipping Him as the bona fide Deity. Not only He, but Brahmä, Siva, Närada, Vyäsa and all other self realized sages have recommended this process described by the Lord as most perfectly beneficial for all the occupational classes and spiritual orders, and genders of human society, without exception.
The system we follow is practically explained as follows as panch-anga seva, being made of five departments that to the untrained eye may not be appreciated in the ceremonies done for this opening, and in the on-going Deity worship performed for the Lord’s pleasure here:
1. Abhigamana (approaching the temple): This includes the basic preparatory activities such as cleaning oneself physically by bath, the wearing of appropriate and fresh cloth, marking the body with the symbols of Vishnu tilaka and wearing sacred Tulasi beads (kanti mala) around one’s neck, cleaning the temple proper, and removing used articles and cleaning them, and decorating the temple for the Lord’s pleasure, 2. Upadana (gathering articles - dravya): This includes gathering fragrant flowers, Tulasi leaves and manjaris (buds), suitable seasonal fruits, preparing first class cooked foods, and selecting the proper utensils for the various aspects of the functional worship, 3. Yoga (attaining spiritual identity): This includes cleansing the body of material conception and assuming a spiritual body fit for service to the Lord, by means of mantra, bhuta suddhi (introspective constructive analysis of who we are as eternal servants of Krishna, where we have been in life wandering in cycles of repeated birth and death in the material existence, then coming across sad-guru by great fortune and becoming trained by him to understand our fortunate station as a devotee, being allowed to serve the Lord in this personal way, and following in the footsteps of such a mentor by practically doing so), dhyana (meditation on the personal attributes and pastimes of the Lord, Who we are aspiring to serve) and manasa puja (contemplating the subtleties of rendering such service within one’s mind as a personal intense offering), 4. Ijya (worship): This refers to the formal external worship proper, or offering of upacharas (items) such as asana (a comfortable seat), padyam (soothing footbath), tailam (pleasing oil massage), snana (full bath), vaastram (offering a fresh change of cloth), dhupam (offering pleasing fragrant incense), dipam (offering different kinds of illuminating lamps), naivedyam (offering palatable foodstuffs), tambulam (after meal mouth fresheners) etc. 5. Svadhyaya (recitation of scripture): This includes all of the processes of spreading the glories of the Lord through various means of cultivation, such as reading scripture, hearing and chanting the names and glories of the Lord, putting on festivals in observance of events related to the Lord, like Janmastami (Sri Krishna’s birthday), Radharani’s birthday, Lord Chaitanya’s birthday, or Snan yatra or Rathyatra etc.
This systematic process is sometimes also identified by its purificatory aspects: Sat suddhi (six kinds of purities that are achieved); 1. Sthana suddhi (purity of the place) means the gross and subtle purification of a place by washing, and decorating with auspicious elements that have been ritually purified with mantra; 2. Dravya suddhi (purity of the articles used) articles that according to shastra are offerable. Such articles are then spiritualized with mantra and mudra; 3. Atma suddhi (purity of body) as contamination spreads by touch, the devotee must be careful to avoid touching impure items such as the holes of the body, hair, the lower part of the body, the cloth covering the lower body, feet, floor, or any impure item (stool, urine, blood, fat, marrow, bone, tears, ear wax, phlegm etc). Offered articles are also considered impure (prasadi) for one who is going to offer fresh articles. Therefore the devotee is careful to avoid touching offered items. Before touching an unoffered item he should wash his hands. The water used to wash hands should not be thrown in such a way to contaminate other objects. The left hand, considered impure, should not touch the Deity; 4. Chitta Suddhi (purity of mind) the mind should have been purified through the samskara of Vaisnava initiation, by which he has received Vaisnava mantras for worshiping the Lord, and by his daily Vaishnava sadhana or sad-achara, keeping positive devotee association; 5. Mantra suddhi (purity of mantra) mantra given by guru with which one worships the deity is important in Pancharatrik puja, for sound is the most powerful method of associating with the Lord; 6. Murti Suddhi (purity of the Deity) basic physical purification of place, articles and body, before the puja proper; subtle purification of these elements and spiritualization of body and mind as the first step in worship (purvanga karmani); preliminary worship, such as guru puja; worship of the murti in the mind (manasa seva); worship using the external articles (bahya pujan); concluding activities to enforce the idea of full surrender to the Deity; activities of the day which are favorable for the development of loving devotion to the Lord, i.e. all types of devotional service:
These may seem like common sense things and they are, but for most of us due to our forgetful state being covered by the modes of nature in this world need to be reminded, and have explained to us what we are doing and how fortunate we are to be allowed to participate in any way in this service. However, those whose minds are fixed in the deep understanding of who we are and Who Krishna is, and the available reciprocal relationship between the two, there’s little need of ritual, purvanga karmani purification systems or classes, as it is already realized.
Srila Baladev Vidya Bhushana, a great devotee in our line of spiritual teachers, mentions that for some who are somewhat materialistic there are side effects or fruitive results that they may aim for while performing acts of service, yet for those who render service out of love instead of for gain receive spiritual results:
"As for the various fruitive results, such as the attainment of rain, a son, or residing in a celestial material planet, that are offered to the followers of the karma-kanda rituals in the Vedas. These benefits are offered to attract the minds of ordinary men. When ordinary men see that these material benefits are actually attained by performing Vedic rituals, they become attracted to study the Vedas. By studying the Vedas they become able to discriminate between what is temporary and what is eternal. In this way they gradually become averse to the temporary things of this world and they come to hanker after Brahman. In this way it may be understood that all the parts of the Vedas describe the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Vedic rituals bring material benefits as a result only when the performer of the ritual is filled with material desire. If the performer is materially desireless, then he does not gain a material result, but rather the result he obtains is purification of the heart and the manifestation of spiritual knowledge. Therefore the meaning of the verse 'tam etam vedanuvacanena brahman vividisanti', 'brahmanas study the Veda to understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead' (Brhad Aranyaka Upanishad 4:4:22.) is that in the Vedic rituals when one is required to worship a particular deva, one does so as a limb or representative of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and thus by worshipping them one is actually worshiping the Supreme Lord, the result being that one gradually becomes pure in heart and awake with spiritual knowledge."(Baladev Vidyabhushana. Govinda Bhasya commentary on Vedanta Sutra 1:4:4. Adhkarana sutra 4.)
This is practically experienced when one builds an elaborate temple for the Deity of the Lord to reside in, the perfect arrangement in the perfect setting, for the perfect Person. Some however see the Deity as being made of stone, a most unfortunate and depriving thing for them. We are reminded again and again that the Deity should never be seen as mere stone, rather if we are to appreciate God’s omnipotent position we must be careful to see Him standing before us in an easily manageable form that we can relate to and practically through daily offering loving service interact with. To those who worship Me with love I give the understanding by which they can come to Me (Bhagavad Gita 10:10.)
As the Lord is living, so the Vaishnava temple is also considered to be “alive”, and as such a suitable body in which the Deity may reside. Just as you or I are the living being who resides within this body, and who permeates it with consciousness, so similarly the gross outer covering of the temple building should resemble the form of a person as depicted in the illustration from south India below.
It is no meager choice of words to say that the body of devotees also represents the Lord in His various functionary aspects according to varna and ashram (one’s work and social status), thus it is called Daivi-varnashram or the social system dedicated to the Lord. We make ourselves available to greet and engage those who the Lord sends, and assist them as we too have been engaged to serve the Lord according to His plan. So often we have experienced that when a particular thing needs doing, suddenly out of the blue a willing person or resource becomes available, how is that, if not by the Lord’s design. There is much more to erecting a temple than mere bricks and mortar, there are many subtleties evolving being germinated by the mercy of the Lord on the jiva souls in the region.
The temple proper as depicted above is like our body made of various limbs; the Kalash dome is situated upon the top of the Vimana or Shikhara which is symbolically considered to be the head of the temple, the inner sanctum or griha garbha (Garbhagraha - Sanctum Sanctorum) where the Deity resides is like the central nervous system and core of the neck, the kirtan mandap or temple room as we call, where the Lord is glorified by loving body of devotees, is considered the body area and in our case the holy feet of the temple body are situated where the spiritual preceptor or Acharya is seated.
In the course of the opening of the temple we will also formally recognize the Lord’s perfect hierarchal plan of maintenance. He appoints a personality called Vaastudeva or Vaastu Purusha to inhabit all buildings; he’s like the caretaker. Theology affords us the to be conscious of everything in the Lord’s universe, where it all fits in and how to properly use and honour it. In all the old world cultures of what is now deemed the Pagan world an awareness of all aspects of the universe and it’s cognizant role bridging the realm from God to mankind was recognized. In New Zealand we see it with local Maori, showing respect to the Earth mother, to the deity of the sea or sky, in rain, or the Sun providing for our every need. It’s the same simplicity and honesty founded in loving gratitude that is taught in Isopanishad 4 - 6, it’s intrinsically natural to us.
The temple ceremonies:
Usually when constructing a temple one consults someone who knows the science of Vedik Architecture and together with the Astrologer one finds an auspicious day, and time that is steady in nature and free from blemishes that may otherwise afflict a community. When the day is secured the purohit (priest) would direct with consultation with the Sthapati (Vedik architect) that upon the selected ground the first cut be at an auspicious time, the ground is then ploughed from east to west by bullock with plough share avoiding the killing of any living entity in the ground in the process, as was done here.
When we perform the Admestika (the first cutting of the ground), Sila-ropana (placing of the five foundation stones and Ananta Sesha – the Lord’s pith seat), and other Deva-Griha-rambha rites which incorporate the worship of Vastupurusha, he, as the humble servant of the Lord first says; no I cannot accept this worship independently, first you worship Sri Vishnu and His consort Griha-Laxmi (Dhana-laxmi), which is then done.
It marks the difference between the devotee and the none-devotee, just as with all of us, some recognize the proprietorship of the Lord some do not. There are millions of people who have bodily coverings like you and me – we all eat, sleep, mate and defend, but not all honour the real creator from whence all that this body is, has come. We as predominating personality of this body among so many bugs, worms, germs, etc., living within it recognize this fact, and pay homage. The same is there for the universe, Lord Brahma and his associate Devas (demigods) who clear obstacles in the way, and co-ordinate universal affairs under the sanction of the Lord’s taratamya – hierarchal decree. Vastupurusha has his functionary service to the Lord taking care of all that is built upon the Earth.
The fact of the matter is also there that even if one doesn't honour the minister of the king, so to speak, he's still the representative of the king and he's still there - and such neglect may be taken as an act of offensive rebellion. Yet if one shows him due respect as a loyal servant of the king, or in this case the Lord the Vastupurusha, as a nut or screw properly fitted in the universal machine, he looks after the internal and external affairs of the building and surrounding areas and assists to create an ambience conducive to devotional service to The Supreme Lord. Such a simple thing….
In the ceremonies that we will be conducting, rather than trying to individually honour all 33 million of the Lord’s departmental heads, just as one does when watering a tree that supports many leaves, we will be aiming our main focus at the root – Sri Krishna, and in that way in unison with His being satisfied all branches and limbs also are addressed.
Formal declarations of intent (sankalpam) will be enunciated by the temple authorities (pratiprathastri) addressing the Deities, to declare the commitment of the devotees, what the plans are, to beg forgiveness for any inconveniences caused and to ask for the Lord’s mercy that we may complete the task.
All kinds of practical tests are set to ceremony to please the Lord, such as Mrd Harana where we gather soil and plant seeds on the site after it has been cleared to see how the site will bear fruits of sacrifice. Removal of Dristi (unwanted negative effects) is symbolically done by calling it to one central place and disposing of it, being burned into fire into the northeastern corner of the property.
Some of you may be familiar with other fire ceremonies where oblations of ghee (clarified butter) are sacrificially offered with mantra into the sthandila hearth where the element of fire stands to accept the offering. This is sometimes called Yajna, Homan, Havan, and while the fire itself is said to be the medium to carry the offerings of ghee, grains, flowers, spices, milk, honey and fruits through the fire, which acts as the mouth or consuming agent which carries the offering to Vishnu, through His priestly ambassador Agni. It is said the wood is/are the ears of the fire; the smoke is/are the nostrils; the meager flames are the eyes; the coals are His head; the full flames are His tongue. Therefore shastra (scripture) highly recommends that one should make offerings to the tongue of the fire. That means one should offer oblations into a fully blazing fire.
om agnai ayahi voi toi ayaa
toiaya grinanho vyadatoiaya toiya
ni ho ha ta sa sai baa ho va hi shi harih om
"Oh Agni, come to the banquet, after being extolled, come to the gift of offerings, sit down invoker of Vishnu, take your seat on this sthandila hearth." (Gramageyagana 'Ganapat' 1-1-3., Rk 6-16-10., samaved)
The offering is accompanied by Vedic mantras, which address the Lord in a specific form and carry a specific request.
yajnärthät karmano ’nyatra
loko ’yam karma-bandhanah
tad-artham karma kaunteya
"Activity or work(s) done as a sacrifice for Vishnu has to be performed, otherwise work causes bondage in this material world. Therefore, O son of Kunti, perform your prescribed duties for His satisfaction, and in that way you will always remain free from bondage."(Bhagavad Gita 3:9.)
In the Sudarshan tatha homan, various mantras to invoke and appease the Sudarshan discus weapon of the Lord will be recited and invoked into the waters of the Kalash that will later be taken around on procession to purify and protect the temple and Deities within, and also used to install the main Kalashas, and the Sudarshan chakra symbol and Dhwaj (Pataka) flag on the roof of the temple with abhiseka bathing and panch upachar seva (offering five items).
You will also note that during the proceedings the honourific ceremonial public bathing ritual or Abhishek is offered to the Deity upon arrival at the new temple. The Deities will then be placed on Their altar amid profuse glorification of sankirtan by Their loving devotees as a culmination of so many years coming, after being bathed in the waters from the Sudarshan homan.
As we understand from Bhagavad Gita that the eternal soul, in this case the Lord (the Archa-vigraha), moves from one body to another at the time when the former body is no longer functional for it’s use. In this case, the new body, the temple decorated with blood sweat and tears is ready for the Lord to inhabit. Seeing like this it is easy to understand that the Deity as being the life and soul of the community is moving to a new and more suitable body analogous of a rebirth, for a growing devotional community.
Once the Deity is placed in Their final resting place, They are offered many items of worship in great pomp adding to 64 items. Purusha sukta homan, Vaishnava homan, Prayascitta homan fire ceremonies will all be performed to invoke the blessings of the Deities upon the community, and to counter any and all short-comings.
This is a very special ceremony, and later in the day some members of the devotional congregation who have sponsored will themselves come forward to honour the Deity in this way. For this the Lord’s Utsava bera or Vijay vigraha – functional or festive representative will come forward to allow access to the many devotees coming forward and those devotees will bathe the Deities with 1008 kalashas. At that time, the newly placed Deities will have taken some rest in the afternoon, to appear in Their opulent new set of clothes for the evening program.
Over the next couple of days various cultural programs as mentioned in the programme will go on, and on the Monday some devotees will take diksha in front of the Deities in the new temple.
We trust that all will have a wonderful time and that with the Lord firmly situated in Their new temple, that They inspire and enthuse all of us to serve Them nicely in whatever capacity we can, and that by so doing, the ripple effect infect more and more to do the same, and in so doing all engage in glorifying Sri Sri Gaura Nitai, Sri Sri Radha Girdhari, Sri Sryuts Jagannath Baladev Subhadra, through Their dear servant and Founder Acharya of Iskcon, Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
I beg to remain humbly in the service of the Lord and His devotees.
Yours in service, Pt. Jaya Tirtha Charan dasa