Let us consolidate our Temple Traditions Started by Adi Sankara
(COMPILATION FOR A DISCOURSE BY N. R. SRINIVASAN, NASHVILLE, TN, USA, OCTOBER 2016)
“Hinduism is a more recent nomenclature given to a conglomeration of heterogeneous traditions and plurality of beliefs and worship with a long history of development from the Vedic (that which has originated from Vedas—the four ancient texts which contain the core of Hindu Philosophy and beliefs) sacrificial religion through the worship of epic and Puranic heroes and personal deities, cults and sects, as well as philosophical system rather than to a monolithic tradition or structure based on a single system of beliefs and worships or single text as scripture” says Champaka Lakshmi in her book on The Hindu Temples. Today it draws lot of support from Bhagavad Gita which itself is a compendium of all Upanishads and philosophic thoughts.
The Temple Tradition was started by simple Tribal Folks calling their gods as Venkateswara, Jaganntha and Muruka. Today we see them as the true Symbols of one and only Universal Lord. The rock of the sacred enclosure was considered the static Linga or Salagrama, earthly, 'masculine' aspect, the sacred tree was the dynamic, fertilizing, 'feminine' aspect, and together they represented the creative foundation of life Kameswari. Jagannatha in Pullani as Aswattha Tree, Viswanatha in Varanasi as natural Linga and Kamakhya Devi as natural rock in Assam are notable examples. Below the earth of the sacred stone and in the branches of the sacred tree lived the mystic serpent. Winding its way sinuously and easily through the two realms, the mysterious and long-living serpent is understood to represent both realms and, more importantly, to energetically connect the two. Throughout the great expanse of ancient India, from the Dravidian South to the Indus Valley civilizations of the North, the serpent is thus associated with the magical sites of the hermaphroditic earth spirit. Skanda, the Sanatan hailed as Subrahmanya (Ultimate Knowledge) and Muruka (Mukunda+ Rudra+Katyayini=Supreme Spirit) in Esoteric Traditions of East to West is worshiped as Serpent in Kukke Subrahmanya in Karnataka. Here pooja is offered to Lord Subrahmanya merged with serpent king Vasuki. Hence, believed to be the ultimate solace for salvation.
Veda Samhitas are a collection of mantras or hymns of praise of the different deities (devatas) representing the various facets of the natural world and include 33 major deities grouped into 3 categories of 11 each presiding over celestial, atmospheric and terrestrial regions and covering as many as 330 million subordinate deities or upa-devatas. At the same time Vedas repeatedly say Devo Ekah (Deva is one) and that is Truth (Tat Satyam). The word Truth in Vedas constitutes 3 syllables sat+ thi+yam=Satyam. Sat means immortal, thi means mortal and yam means that which regulates these two. It stands for Brahman who regulates both sentient and non- sentient. Over a period people got confused between Deva, Devatas and upa-devatas and started worshiping Devatas and upadevatas as Deva.
Lot of confusion prevails in Hindu Temples of America among the highly educated Hindu Americans by simply copying India and following the conceptualization of our founding fathers of the temple serving the religious needs of migrant Hindus not only drawn from India, though in majority, but also from other migrant countries in one temple for all traditions which may be called Hindu Confusion-ism. If they are rich in sufficient numbers they just walk out in protest and build their own sectarian temples or all together avoid going to temples.
Hindu Temple is a constellation of symbolism. It is an image that at once relevant to human aspirations and persistent in human thoughts and actions. The texts of Indian architecture which provides us with also details of measurement and parts of the temples, and prescribe the rites of installation and rituals of worship also indicates the real value of a shrine.
Even Sankara who advocated Monism and “Aham Brhmasmi” meaning you (Brahman or Self) and I are one, could not control the Hindu Confusion-ism that prevailed during his times. He therefore compromised to at least minimize the confusion and came out with his Shanmata Sthapana and Panchayatana puja—six-fold deities worship—Ganapati, Siva, Vishnu, Amba, Skanda and Surya without upsetting the Hindu religious followers. He was trying to bring together fighting factions of Siva, Vishnu and Sakti. Aditya is Vedic Devata included among 33 controllers of Parabrahman.
It is amazing how a myth based Ganesha deity caught up the religious sentiments of majority of Hindus who were desire and quick result oriented and so addressed him as Prathamavandita and kept up its iconic representation the same as in Puranas, unlike Siva, Vishnu and Amba that are worshiped in several forms over millenniums. They even wrongly identified Ganapati with Indra (ganaanatva ganpati) devata of Vedas and also brought out an Upanishad (Ganapati Atharvaseershopanishad), and introduced a Gayatri Mantra in MNU. Icons of Subhramanya in temples (Murugan, Kartikeya etc.) are in the fifth position being only popular in South India in general and Tamil Nadu in Particular. Aditya is almost forgotten though Vedas praise Aditya as Brahman However he is clubbed with Navagrahas in Siva temples only. Saivites mostly focus on Popular Linga form of Siva in their worship. Vishnu icons lost focus being diversified to various incarnations and Vishnu Parivaras. May be the popular deities of today like Rama, Krishna and Narasimha among Vishnu deities were not popular then and so Sanakara did not think about them while establishing Shanamata! Ramanuja, Madhva, Jaydeva, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Prabhupada tried very hard to push Vishnu deity to number one position but failed due to Advaita philosophy having by then taken firm grounds which got associated with Siva. Jayadeva restored back Buddhavatar to Hindu-fold by glorifying him in his Dasvatara stotra. Vishnu is in second position. Amba enjoying equal status with Saivites and Vaishnavites as Lakshmi, Durga, Kali, Sarasvati, Mariamman etc., is firmly established in third position with Saktas adding their muscle. They even created a Devi called Sheetal Devi or Small-pox Devi! Saints with their Bhajana Sampradaya pushed their Ishtadevatas to forefront and in the process got themselves deified. To represent all these Gurus and sentiments we have Dattatreya deity who represents Trinity as well as Guru of all Gurus if we do not like Hayagrieva celebrated in Vajasaneyee Samhita, a divine Guru who even taught Sarasvati (Aadhaaram sarvavidyaanaam).
In spite of boasting as Monism and a brain child of Sanatana Dharma or Vedic Religion, Hinduism remains confused with its bewildering faiths, beliefs and myths and gets perturbed when others point out these confusions. Nobody wants to correct it or has the authority of correcting. The name Hinduism itself is very confusing! No one knows what is Hindutva? There is no house cleaning in Hinduism as in other religions. Recently Puri Sankaracharya removed the idol of Saibaba from the temple against stiff opposition. Recently at Thiruvaiyaru in Tamil Nadu all the Navagrahas, 63 Nayanmars, and all the deities except Shiva Lingam, Daskshinamurthy, Murugan, Ganesha and Ambaal Dharmasamvardini were completely removed from temple. Hundreds of deities and hundreds of priests were all thrown out of temple in the process of house-cleaning but for one priest for Shiva and one priest for Devi.
The concept of Navagrahas that makes all Grahas as planets is questionable while stars, satellites planets and nodal points are well defined in astronomy? Rama never worshiped Navagrahas as publicized by astrologers but only chanted Aditya-Hridayam as administered by Agastya. Aditya Hridyam is directed to Brahman. Aditya-hridayam means Brahman installed in the heart of Sun (in the orb of the Sun). Rama focused his prayers not on Aditya Devata but only on Aditya-Hridayam that is Brahman. Ramayana also mentions Him as “Nakshatra Graha Taaraanaam Adhipatih”— the controller of all lunar mansions, planets and stars. We can thus see how falsified is our concept of Navagrahas and their worship. The only other time Rama worshiped Brahman is worshiping Jagannatha which he recommended to Vibhishana in his parting advice.
Against Saastric injunctions we observe Uttarayana Punyakala on Makara Sankaranti Day on January 1 in 2017. The actual Uttarayana Punyakala falls on 21-23 December, 2016 depending on where one is located on the Globe. When it is Winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere it is Summer Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere. But misguided by modern astrologers all Hindus wherever they are located observe January 14th as Uttarayana Punyakala. This is because Hindu Panchangas (almanacs) including North American Panchagams have never been corrected periodically for the correction needed for the movement of Earth in relation to Sun. Gregorian calendar continuously keep watch and make the necessary corrections based on astronomy. We can thus understand how falsified we are in religious observance!
Jagannatha was a family deity of Ikshvakus. Rama in his parting advice to Vibhishana advises him to do Jagannatha Aradhana in Uttara Kanda as follows: In Sarga 108, Slokas 30-31 he said to Vibhishana: “Rakshsendra Mahaa bala! Aaraadhaya Jagannaatham Ikshvaaku Kuladaivatam | Aaraadhaneeyamanisam devairapi savaasavaih ||”—O mighty Rakshasa King! Worship Lord Jagannatha the presiding deity of Ikshvaaku dynasty. He (Vishnu) is to be worshiped even by the Devas (divines) together with Indra”. Jagnnatha was worshiped in Tretayuga or even earlier by Ikshvaku dynasty. He was the Kuladeiva (family deity) of Ikshvakus and so much older to the dynasty.
North America has attracted highly educated elites of Hindu Society from all parts of the globe majority being from India as settlers who if they wish can remove the confusion and revert back to Sanatana Dharma and not Hinduism as practiced in India, as being pushed forward and made popular boasting they follow Sanatana Dharma, still with sectarian interests. Though considerable damage is already done it is not beyond redemption. This cannot be done by revolution but by gradual evolution. For this they should consolidate their thoughts to focus on idols that symbolize the concept of GOD which is coined out of 3 English letters—G standing for Generation, O for operation and D for Dissolution—Srishthi, Sthiti and Laya or the 3 aspects of Supreme Principle. Among all the existing deities worshipped in Multi Traditional Temples in USA Jagannatha and Venkateswara idols represent all these aspects and at the same time make us follow the worship Shanmatha deities all at the same time promoted by Sankara. Dattatreya a minor avatar of Vishnu is yet another deity important for all Hindu traditions. Vishnu appeared on earth as Dattatreya to restore Dharma and Jnana. He is celebrated as great sage proficient in Yoga and also venerated as Guru of all Gurus. He is represented as a deity with three heads (Brahma, Vishnu and Siva) surrounded by four dogs symbolizing four Vedas and a bull which is Siva’s vehicle. How do we justify the four dogs as four Vedas? Bull before Sivalinga is understandable as it is the mount of Siva.
Jagannaatha symbolizes Brahma the Creator besides, to whom worship is denied. The idol is identified with Brahma-padaartha which signifies Hiranyagarbha, the Creative impulse. Perhaps you are aware there is another famous Jagannaatha Temple in Tamil Nadu too! Its processional deities can serve as model processional deities to Jagannaatha of Puri icons installed in USA appealing to Southern Tradition bringing North Indian and South Indian cultures together. This would enable Hindu American Temples to consolidate their thoughts, unify them as one community and focus on few important festivals and ritual suited to all and to focus on Spirituality gradually. When we consolidate Hindu Deities it is also advisable to display symbol Om (Om ity-ekaksharam Brahma) behind the deities and reverberate the sound in the temple atmosphere to electrify the mind of the devotees.
The above reference Tamil Nadu Jaganntha Temple is to Jagannatha of Pullani where Dasaratha worshiped Jagannatha for begetting sons with his three wives, then followed by Rama for his success to cross the sea building a bridge across where Jagnnatha successively appeared as Aswattha Tree, Koorma Salagrama and then as Jagannatha with Sridevi and Bhudevi in Vishnu form to his ardent devotees. Thus Jagannatha worship is advised by Rama to all of us though addressed to Vibhishana based on his own worship. Further Rigveda also mentions of worshipping Daru-Brahman indicative of Aswattha Tree. In Gita Bhagawan says among trees He is Aswattha. Jaganntha in Pullani appeared progressively as Aswattha Tree, then Koorma salagrama and then as udbhava moorti of Jagannatha with Sridevi and Bhoodevi.
We do not violate Agamas or Tantras if we focus on Jaganntha as one and only deity and it would be pleasing all traditions. Otherwise we are worried always to add more deities from 3300 deities if not 33 crores to represent Brahman and his 33 controllers continuing our sectarian traditions followed in India to please someone or other. To do this they should understand what Sanatana Dharma means? (Please refer to my detailed discourse on the subject). This kind of consolidated thinking generated off-shores will slowly influence Hindus in India too in due course. Similar changes are already taking place in India as explained above. Hindus in India are the earliest to copy USA culture in their society in dress and mannerisms influenced by their relatives and friends. It can’t be said similarly about South America. Conquistadors were successful to wipe out all Vedic culture on their soils which remain only as archeological interest today like they did all other cultures whereas it is flourishing in North America. Of late Argentina has turned its eyes on Hinduism by establishing a Hindu center named Hastinapura near Buenos Aires about which I discussed before. Hinduism is flourishing in USA due to untiring work put out by many Spiritual Organizations like Ramakrishna Math, Chinmaya Mission, Divine Life Society, Arshavidya Gurukulam, ISKCON, Himalayan Academy, ISHA Foundation and Art of Living, FOWAI Forum of Swami Chidananda and International Society of Divine Love etc. It may so happen Hindus in India may go by the wisdom of Hindu Americans!
ATTEMPTS TO CONSOLIDATE HINDU DEITIES IN TEMPLE WORSHIP
Hindu religious sentiments may at one rise in revolt if I say Marketing Techniques used by religious groups to promote Sectarianism. In this Navagraha worship, Ganesha worship, Radhakrishna worship and Saibaba worship in temples come to the forefront. I would therefore like to deal with the subject from different angle.
Hinduism is growing at a steady rate in spite of all machinations due to its clever religious promotional techniques than the earlier preaching of Sanatana Dharma and Universal Oneness. In the process they are also made blind followers like other religious followers and make Hinduism a faith based religion. One may say this growth is due to the rapid growth of population which is not very true. Population technique has been employed by Islam which religion permits marriage up to maximum four wives and easy religious divorce by Talaq not needing cumbersome court procedures and long waiting period. Of late they have found another forceful technique by self-tied bomb–blast to reduce the other popular religions and in the bargain attain salvation easy-way than long prayers and meditation. They understand Quran through the wisdom of their prophets wrongly and believe by killing non-believers of their religion they reach heaven. Christianity is trying very hard with its proselytization technique and carrot hanging (economic) attraction that Islam made use of it to maximum when it was in power in India even resorting to use of force which makes India now the third largest Muslim Country in the world. None of these techniques are used by Hinduism. Major religions have their different schools and also try to propagate their school of thought like Catholics and Protestants and Shias and Sunnis etc. Here again Hinduism has mastered the technique for sectarian growth of its three major religious groups Vaishnavism, Saivism and Sakti-ism. Here they use attraction technique and not compulsion, bound by the natural leanings to ahimsa. Of course compulsion technique was used for some time during the period of Ramanuja and Basveswara but it miserably failed.
Sankara used his consolidating technique by promoting Shanamatas and suggested musical-chair worship though he strongly believed that he and the Supreme are one. He also made one deity among the five the presiding deity leaving the choice to individuals. Here again based on the then popularity he was obliged to highlight Saivism with the four deities included in five that were Siva, Ganesha, Kartikeya and Devi. Devi is often identified by Hindus as Durga, Uma or Parvati all leading to Saivism. Durga is strongly projected by Bengalese in Sakti concept. Even though temples for Durga are rare in Bengal, Kali temples are popular and she is worshiped as Kali in Temples and Durga Puja is celebrated on a grand scale. Sarasvati and Brahma are kept out of the picture in temple worship by Puranas, probably due to Brahma had already done his job and his consort is needed by only a few who needed knowledge. Her domain fields of music, dance and drama are all successfully used to promote their Ishtadevatas or choice deities like Ganesha. Sometimes they feel even they don’t need her and Ganesha can take care of it. So all Hindu concerts start with the grace of the most popular mythical God Ganesha (Lambodara Lakumikara).
In the Panchayatana Puja Siva Parivara is in majority and popularity—Siva, Ganesha, Subhramanya and Parvati as Devi. Further Siva-Parvati have been glorified as World parents in all worships as Jagatah Pitarah, with Pratham Vandita status being granted by Siva to Ganesha to keep his better half on the right side because without Sakti, Siva is sava (corpse). I do not question all these but these look as if they are clever religious marketing techniques used by Saivites using the name of Sankara. Probably Sanakara was a Smarta and it was natural for him to be convinced of Siva-Vishnu worship together.
Parivara concept of worships in main sanctums can be seen in the famous Parthasarathy Temple in Chennai and on Ratnavedhi in Jaganntha Temple of Puri. In Chennai Krishna, Rukmini, Balarama, Pradyumna, Aniruddha and Satyaki, an intimate friend are all consecrated in one sanctum and worshiped together as family. In Puri Jagannath Krishna, Balarama, Subhadra are worshiped together as family. At one time Ratnavedhi occupied Siva and Lakshmi also but were removed at some time in the past and Lakshmi remains as a small metallic idol besides the giant Jagannatha wooden idol. Such house-cleaning is not done in ancient South Indian Hindu temples. The credit goes to Jayadeva the fore-runner of Chaitanya Movement followed by ISKCON moment focusing on eighth incarnation of Vishnu, Lord Krishna of Dwapara Yuga and the original deity ascribed to be carved out of wood that Indradyumna recovered floating on the sea waters travelling from Gujarat where Dvaraka got submerged when Krishna departed. Adi Jagaannatha Temple in Tiruppullani and Sri Kurma in Andhara Prsdesh believe that Vishnu appeared as Jaganntha in Tretayuga as Kurma -Varaha avatar. Thirupati history also tells Vishnu in his Varaha Avatar wished to remain on earth to welcome Venkateswara. In Adi Jagnnatha Temple the deity is considered svayambhu (self-appeared) and the temple is one among the ancient 108 Divyakshetras (but not Puri). The deity in Tiruppullani is made of stone. The temples in Chennai and Puri promote Family Values whose importance is a good marketing technique appealing to multi traditional Hindu American crowds.
It is believed Venkateshwara deity in Tirupati is also made of wood like the first icons of Indradyumna days which tradition still continues, though the icons in Puri are freshly made and installed by an elaborate ritual called Nav Kalevar every 12 or 19 years leaving no scope to check the historic background! "Wooden icons facilitate scientific dating of wood, which can based on carbon study. This is not the case with evidences like stone, beads, glass and Terracotta ancient artifacts” says Alok Tripathi, an expert Archeologist. It is unfortunate the first every deity of Jagannatha is not available today! It is easy to do scientific studies on Venkateswara deity if it is made of wood and religious authorities allow sampling.
Vedavyasa consolidated various Puranas some highly sectarian in approach praising one aspect of trinity (Siva or Vishnu or Brahma) focused in the Purana to skies while downgrading other aspects as subservient. He therefore felt the need to explain that these are of equal importance being the Creation, Sustenance and Dissolution aspects of Brahman without offending authors and inserted cleverly few slokas in each Purana while editing to bring home this unity. Vedavyasa was very clever in popularizing his work as you can learn from Bhagavad Gita. Here are the research findings of Kalapatharu Research Academy of Sharda Peetham, Sringeri Shanakarmutt to that effect: “The Song of the Celestial was originally a Yoga Upanishad which was later Vaishnavized. It was a consolidation of all Major Upanishads focused on Katha and Svetaaswatara. Krishna was himself in the habit of meditating on Brahman in the early hours before sunrise. The spokesman of Bhagavad Gita was one Krishna who was Sudra by birth being Yadu, who was later raised to the status of a Kshatriya. The devotional school was founded by one Krishna Vasudeva belonging to the Saasvata sect of the Yadu class and he was reverently referred to as Bhagawan who is the original author of Gita. Vedavyasa presented the poem in the form of a dialogue between Arjuna (who was Nara in earlier birth who meditated with Narayana) the Pandava prince who was in mental agony and emotional conflict, and his friend Krishna who in this work appears as a philosopher and teacher, and not as popular god of later Hinduism.” Today Gita is worshiped as a Holy Scripture and worshiped on Gita Jayanti Day by all Hindus with Krishna as the presiding deity. Vedavyasa its compiler was no ordinary person but a contemporary Avatar of Vishnu along with Balarama and Krishna and hence the holy value is neither an exaggeration nor its wisdom less which is based on wisdom of Vedas and Upanishads. It is also surprising Vishnu Sahasranama also came to the scene during the same time directed to Lord Krishna who revealed his true identity as Viratpurusha in Gita to Bhishma. It is unfortunate Vedavyasa is forgotten in temple traditions since he kept his identity a secret even in Gita unlike Sankara who revealed his identity in all slokas and religious books. Vedavyasa deserves worship on Guru Purnima day!
Sankara thinking on all these gave his parting advice to consolidate all religious thoughts and worship directed to Vishnu as inferred from Bhajagovindam, his last composition, consolidating further his earlier recommendation of Panchanana Puja. The first twelve hymns of Bhajagovindam are called Dwadasamanjarika written by Adisankara and the rest Chapata Panjarika written by other Sankaracharyas who are his followers that completed the task unfinished by their master. The hymns pertaining to his recommending to focus on Vishnu are as follows written by Medhatithi Sankaracharya in verses 24 and 25 of Bhajagovindam:
Tvayi mayi sarvatraiko vishnurvyartham kupyaci mayyasahihnuh | sarvasminnapi pasyaatmaanam sarvatrotsrija bhedajnaanam ||
Vishnu is there in me, in you and in all others. You are angry with me being unnecessarily intolerant. Please visualize the same Self (Atman) in all. Leave all your thoughts of difference.
Satrou mitre putre bandho maa kuru yatnam vigrahasansanghau | bhava samachittah sarvatra tvam vaanchasyachiraad-yadi Vishnutvam ||
Don’t try to quarrel or compromise with friends, sons or relatives. If you desire the status of Vishnu you should soon become balanced in your thoughts.
Again in Aatma Bodha Sankara strongly promoted worship and meditation of Vishnu;
Sacchidaatmanya-nusyoote nitye-Vishnau prakalpitah |
Vyaktayo vividhaassarvaa haatake katakaadivat ||9 ||
All the manifested world of things and beings are projected by imagination upon the substratum which is the Eternal All-pervading Vishnu, whose nature is Existence-Intelligence; just as the different ornaments are all made of the same gold.
Motivated by the parting advice of Sankara and Bhagavd Gita later Ramanuja pursued the unfinished task and strongly recommended worship of Vishnu who as Sthiti aspect of Parabrahman who is all-pervasive taking care of us throughout of our life period and who hands us over to the care of Siva the Dissolution aspect of Parabrahman and then on to Brahma the Creation aspect of Parabrahman to start the life-cycle again. Ramanuja also stressed that we are all children of God and individual Atman or Self is only a ray emanating from Parabrahman, the universal light to which source all rays strive to get back.
Later Madhvacharya continued the task of consolidating and popularizing focus of worship on Sthiti aspect of Supreme Spirit (Vishnu) but differed from other two thinkers and said Paramatman and Atman (Supreme Self and Self) are two different entities and depending on our merits we can all be in Paramapada (abode of Vishnu) in the state of Salokya (in the area), Sameepya (in the neighborhood of Vishnu) or Sayujaya (merging with Vishnu). He also worshiped Vishnu as Krishna, his eighth Avatar as Jagannatha which appealed to advanced minds.
But to children and those Hindus at Kindergarten level of religion who are in majority, mythological Ganesha with his fun-appeal toy feature with sweet pudding in hand praised by Sanakara as “Mudakaraartha Modakam” appeals most! They run to Ganesha for little goodies every day and do not think beyond. Vaishnavites do not lag behind and popularized Balakrishna icons inspired by Vatapatrasayee (Narayana floating on Aswattha leaf) with butter in his hands to fore-front focusing with his boyhood day pranks appealing to Kindergarten levels rather than his later part as the Spokesperson of Gita appealing to people at high school level and beyond. They went further to popularize Krishna bringing to limelight his romantic life as Radha Krishna than Krishna of Gitopadesa. People are mostly bogged down with fear of death and therefore run to Siva with prayers who is most appealing as we have seen when even Sages started with their appeal to the Unknown crying “Mrityor maa amritam gamaya” and “mrityor mokshiya maamritaat”. Then they realized reality and started meditating on “Om tad Brahma…… tat Sarvam” and “Tadekam”, for repeated death and births are inevitable and has to be found how to minimize if not avoid from now on, in this very life onwards.
Salagrama, naturally occurring ammonite fossil stones are considered most sacred by followers of Vishnu in the vyakta-avyakta (manifest-un-manifest) form and Siva followers resort to Linga form. In view of huge popularity of Siva the Lingas are hand sculpted unlike Salagramas. Salagramas are available in large numbers and varieties got from Gandaki River in Nepal. Famous temples in Varanasi, Bhuvaneaswar and Srikoorma have only these kinds of Natural stone deities. Such a worship would have made temple worship simple and would have left vast scope and time for spiritual thinking and meditation! Then people will miss all sorts of fun and enjoyment.
Somehow Advaita philosophy goes with Siva worship and popularized by active saints and is the following of innocent and ignorant who are in majority to whom religion is a fear and myth- oriented worship rather than spiritual advancement. Vaishnavites instead of educating and bringing Siva-Vishnu concept together including the mistaken notion of neglecting Brahma aspect together are going in their own way to establish their superiority without heeding to the parting advice of Sanakara and later Ramanuja. Even powerful deities like Venkateswara, Jagannatha and Dattatreya are not able to consolidate and unify Hindu Temple Traditions. These deities fully represent all aspects of Supreme Principle—Srishthi, Sthiti, Laya and Sakti. The bizarre Jagannatha iconography of Puri conveys the profound philosophy that Supreme Principle is standing in the world with his eyes and ears open to listen to us and hear us. The later addition of hands means He is there with his hands stretched all over blessing us for our well –being and progress. The sculptor felt no need for other parts of the body found in all deities. This was improvement over Salagrama and Linga icons making it Saguna aspect being focused. Ishtadevata worship could very well confine to homes and temples could focus on deities acceptable to all traditions in a common place of worship. That would reduce the fun and frolic and showmanship and also reduce the values of pundits, priests and astrologers and also affect their income. So much confused temple traditions continue with large diversity with the slogan Unity in Diversity forgetting the very purpose of spiritual elevation, as if it is a religious marketing! It is all confusion and diversification!
When Puranas brought in the Avatar concept, large number of Hindus switched over to worship Vishnu and his avatars. Narayana relaxing on Adisesha on the waters of the ocean in the company of Lakshmi influenced temple to worship avatars as new devatas not forgetting Lakshmi. Hayagrieva with Lakshmi as well as Narasimha with Lakshmi attracted the attention of Iconographers and sculptors influenced by followers of Ganesha (man-animal aspect). With Rama Avatar as normal human being Lakshmi was replaced by Sita who was again considered to be Avatar of Lakshmi. Buddha’s consort lost the chance as she was forgotten when Buddha walked out of Vedic Religion but was brought back as a Guru to be worshiped as a saint after his demise. This opened another Pandora’s Box to make icons of Gurus and worship them to name a few, Sankara, Ramanuja, Madhva, Saibaba, Meerabai, Nayanmars, and Azhwars etc., in temples. In today’s temple traditions of Vaishnavites, Vishnu or his Avatar aspect is worshipped as Moolavigraha (Permanent icon) alone with his power aspect Lakshmi as pendant on deity’s chest. Saivites on the other hand have popularized even the second generation of Puranic devatas, Ganesha and Subhramanya and his consorts. Saivism has not promoted continuous Avatar process. Sometimes these second generation Devatas as sons of Siva are more popular than their father Siva himself. No such attempt is made by Vaishnava followers to promote the second generation except in a lone temple in South India--Parthasarathy Temple, where Lord Krishna’s son and grandson are installed as permanent deities along with Rukmini, the crowned princess, in the sanctum sanctorum but not in processional deities. So also in Puri Jagannath. We cannot ignore these facts as our temple traditions are strongly influenced by Puranas. If at all we have to consolidate we have to go only by Puranic approach and consolidate as Sankara did. It is also interesting to note Vaishanvas worship the sub-devatas Garuda, Hanuman and Vishwaksena confined to separate small sanctums within the temple far from the main deity with minimum focus and refrain from worshiping them as main deities in Garbha-griha. But of late Hanuman Temples are being built and worshiped as main deity though no such temples existed for him in early period of ancient times but later to compete with the popularity of Ganesha of Saivism.
Popular Ganesha came to lime-light as a scribe of Mahabharata. Yet another deity coming to prominence in recent days is Hanuman, the GYM Deity. Some educated Hindu Americans may question the authenticity of human-animal combination as no such species is found according to science and might like Hanuman form only. Recently some experiments were made to bring out TIGON editing genes of tiger and lion but that is only among animals. To them an intelligent animal close to human being as deity like Hanuman is more acceptable and adorable. Hanuman is said to be an incarnation of Siva born to Punjikasthala an attendant on Brihaspati, who by a curse was born as a monkey. By another story he was a brother of Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata and Satrughna, but born to Anjana, out of sharing the same nectar (Amrita) of Putrakaameshti sacrifice of Dasaratha. He is also Vayuputra as you know from Valmiki Raamayana. His Guru was Soorya by Choice. Both Vaayu and Soorya are aggregates of Supreme Principle Brahman talked often in Rigveda and so he is Parabrahman himself as Jayadeva thinks about Lord Krishna. You all know even Brahmaastra or Agni could cause no harm to him. Puranas linked also Hanuman to Dvapara Yuga meeting his brother Bheema. He is also Chirnjeevi and always available! Hanuman Temple in Connaught Place, New Delhi, is an ancient Hindu temple and promoted to be one of the five temples of Mahabharata days in Delhi. The temple, which has a self-manifest idol of Hanuman (Svayambhu), has an unusual feature fixed in the spire (Viman) in the form of a crescent moon (an Islamic symbol) instead of the Hindu symbol of AUM or Sun that is commonly seen in most Hindu temples. This temple became prominent during the Mughal period corroborating this extraordinary depiction as Hindu-Muslim unity! The idol in the temple, devotionally worshipped as “Sri Hanumanji Maharaj” (Great Lord Hanuman), is that of Bala Hanuman namely, Hanuman as a child like the Bala Ganapati attractive to children. Other Hanuman Temples that claim as ancient are: The Hanumangadhi temple is in Ayodhya. Balaji Hanuman Temple, Mehendipur (Rajasthan) Salasar Hanuman Temple, Salasar (Rajasthan) Hanumandhara, Chitrakut, Sankatmochan Temple, Banaras (UP), Shri Hanuman Temple, Jamnagar (Gujarat) Mahavir Hanuman Temple, Patna (Bihar) Hanuman Temple, Allahabad (UP) and Pankhi neaer Kanpur. With the present success in taking Yoga to United Nations that is being celebrated as the International Yoga Day every year, Hindus may hope also to convince United Nations for instituting International Hanuman Day! Hanuman is their GYM (Garudi, Yoga and Meditation) GOD, universal in appeal! For this they have to convince their most difficult religious partner Islam. If Saibaba of Shirdi is acceptable to Hindus, Hanuman of Indraprastha should be acceptable to Muslims. Muslims in Indonesia popularly play ballet with Ramayana theme in which Hanuman plays a key role. After all we still believe all humans came out of Monkey and our ancestor, if we do not believe in intelligence creation and strongly believe in evolution. Present advanced thinking that human ancestry is that of Fish or Fungus is still debated upon! At Kindergarten Religious level who are in majority and for children Vadmala Hanuman and Modaka Ganesha are very attractive as savory and sweet givers! If Islam accepts Hanuman, for he is not an idol (Muslims do not accept idols) and inspired by Hanumanji Temple in Delhi, other religions will immediately endorse him as Yoga God! Once Indian Muslims accept the world Muslims may soon follow except Pakistan! You can thus see how confusion is ever-growing in Hinduism!
Hindu Americans have a rich background of secular education and mind set for serious thinking. Hindu traditions in India play to the gallery of innocents and ignorant and feels everyone should be taught at Kindergarten level only without realizing valuable time in our life is wasted focusing only elementary knowledge to spiritually elevate ourselves. Gita says na hi jnanena sadrisham pavitram iha vidyate, in verse 4.38 (There indeed nothing purifying here as knowledge) and leaves us thinking with various questions to be answered. This Knowledge refers to Spiritual knowledge and not the secular knowledge for which we struggle in most part of our life. Nevertheless secular knowledge helps us to become wise and makes us think about ways and means to acquire spiritual knowledge . Here Temple could be of great help. Our worship and rituals should therefore focus on spiritual advancement drawing additional help from our sacred scriptures and Puranas and not simply copy Kindergarten type of Knowledge and worship from India for we are a different Hindu crowd drawn from the cream of the society. Those who need advanced knowledge (Jnana) in India have facilities and people to guide but here we look up to our temples to spiritually advance.
Somehow we cannot get out of our firm belief in temple traditions and iconic worship that was started by Rama. Rama in Valmiki Ramayana is said to have chanted slokas on Aditya-Hridaya to achieve his specific goal with specific prayers. He not only worshiped Adi Jaganntha with Sridevi and Bhudevi before starting his bridge construction across sea and also sculpted Linga in Rameswaram on return from war but recommended to Vibhishana to worship the family deity of Ikshwakus, Jagannatha. Since we come across such an advice on Murti Upasana by prayers by Rama it is reasonable to assume these are divine directives. Rama for the first time introduced the word “Aradhana” in Ramayana for Jagannatha worship and “Puja” for focus on Aditya –Hridaya. In both he meant Parabrahaman and not Sun and Graha as many interpret. Now we use these terms freely in Temple traditions as “Deva Aradhana” (worship directed to Brahman), Devasthanam and Devalayam--the place where we go to worship Brahman. But in our chase for puranic devatas we forget Deva and also referring to it as Brahman only as conveyed in Veda-“Eko Devah” and “Tadekam”, in spite of the caution sounded by Bhagawan in Gita that only who worship Brahman come to Brahmaloka!
Our temple traditions in rituals and worships today are based on Puranic deities and incidences. Limited symbolic Puranic deities, spiritually focused rituals in mass worship and more time spent on spiritual Yoga and Meditation in temple calm atmosphere are needed. I have therefore focused on these aspects in some of my discourses referred in this discourse as well as others sent to you while highlighting present confusions and constant attempt by intellectuals and saints to redeem the situation in this discourse. In our enthusiasm to bring our children into religious fold we cannot neglect adults who need it most. If adults are educated half the job is done and they will in turn lay the foundation and complete major part of Kindergarten education at home. Mother and father are more important as Gurus to educate the children in their early days and for that they should be knowledgeable. Unfortunately many have left India without that exposure and look to temples for guidance in migrant countries.
Venkateswara of Tirupati with his hypnotic spell is pleasing to all sectarian followers of Vishnu, Siva as well as Sakta for he is Three-in-One (Vishnu, Siva and Sakti) deity like Jagannatha of Puri. Even today Venkateswara is worshiped as Devi for 4 days, Vishnu for 2 days and Siva for 1 day. With this one deity one can also avoid going to different temples at different times for special worship. This is all the more important to Hindu Americans who usually find One Temple for All Traditions and Sampradayas. Thus they can focus on few major rituals and festivals as well as a grand annual function of Brahmotsava including Ratha Yatra and at the same time focus on Parabrahman as the sustenance aspect, Vishnu propagated by all philosophers which is most important in our day-to day practical life. That is why you find invariably a main sanctum for Venkteswara in all Hindu American Temples.
Do Vedas prescribe idol worship? Yes and Jaganntha was the first idol that was sculpted from wood. Here is a mantra from Rigveda: “Ado yaddaru plavate sindhoh pare apoorusham | tadaarabhasva durhano tenagaccha parastarm”— In yonder shores there comes floating a wooden log which no man has created; follow that log and meditate upon it; with its support reach Parmapada or Supreme abode. (Daru could also mean tree as in Devadaru) Sayana the well-known commentator on Vedas identifies the log with the one Indradyumna found came floating from Dwaraka and Viswakarma started working on it to sculpt Jaganntha. Of late Jagannatha of Puri has also caught up the imagination of Hindu Americans influenced by the Jaganntha Philosophy. But Indians hailing from South India have the reservation in temple worship of Jagannatha because of the unusual form of the icon which is incomplete in main limbs in the wooden icon of Puri. This need not be so because Jagannatha is no stranger to South Indians; before Jaganntha of Puri there was Adi Jaganntha of Pullani worshiped by Dasaratha and Rama. They can therefore install in addition Adi Jaganntha with Sridevi and Bhudevi as in Thiruppullani near Rameswram along with Jaganntah Parivar of Puri acceptable to both to Northern and Southern Indian Temple Traditions in the same sanctum. Alternately the processional deities can be that of Adi Jagnnatha with Sridevi and Bhudevi while main deity can be that of Puri. Jaganntha of Puri historically extends to other major Religions of the world also. Other religions will be more inclined towards the basic philosophy of Hindu Sanatana Dharma “Eko viprah bahudaa Vadanti”--the One Supreme Being the Pundits call by many names (and religions too!). But the problem today is these deities are also treated like any other deity of Puranic lore and not symbolic of Parabrahman and Parasakti in the role of sustenance, copying religious worship practices in India.
It is logical to conclude that Temple Tradition started with Jagannatha worship as Nature, in the form of Aswattha Tree that reappeared as Koorma Saligrama, in Thiruppullanui in ancient times. In Gita Bhagawan declared that among trees I am Aswattha and also said he will be pleased with the offerings of “Patram, pushpam, phalam, toyam” a leaf, a flower, a fruit or little water--all materials of nature. In Puri such a worship was started by simple Tribal folks with pure hearts before civilized people came to picture to build gigantic temples and complicate worship. They worshiped a simple icon in an enclosure whose eyes, ears and hands only mattered to them to take care of their welfare (yogakshemam vahamyam). Moorti Upasana, iconic worship in the form of Salagrama and Linga (vyktaavyakta form) in Thiruppuillani and Rameswaram was started by Rama himself as Puranas tell us. Before that it was all sacrificial (yajna) form of worship. Whether it is Krishna or Krishna Dwaipayana in Gita one can come across divine assurance that: “Om ityekaksharam brahma anusmaran…… yaati parammam gatim” --Whosoever meditates on single syllable AUM knowing that it represents the Supreme Brahman, he will certainly attain the Supreme abode. This is the principle of Aaraadhana (Moorti upaasana) or Hindu Temple Worship.
While India is notable for its great temple complexes, it is important to understand that each of the great temples had their genesis as a small shrine of a rural folk people. Long before pilgrims came to visit from distant lands and long before royal patronage enabled the construction of huge, stylized temple structures, particular river sites, springs, caves, trees and rocks were known by local people to be the dwelling place of a variety of different earth spirits. The first shrines were simple thatch or wooden enclosures built over a sacred spirit stone or beneath a sacred tree. These structures were primarily utilitarian in the sense that they delineated the perimeter of the sacred space and facilitated the gathering of the local folk people for ritual purposes.
Both Venkateswara and Jagannatha have a tribal background as already explained. The Temple tradition was started by tribal folks who started putting an enclosure around a natural object they worshiped and where they congregated to perform worships and rituals. Our customs and practices today, both at home and in the community, distinctly reveal our tribal background. Especially our religious assumptions and aspirations, however concealed by layers of modernity, hearken to the tribal moorings. In many of the great temples such as the Jagannath of Puri, Jaganntha of Pullani, Vidhyaavasini Temlpe, Kamakhya Temple, Tirumalai Temple, Gaya temple of Vatavriksha, Pazhani of Murugan etc., we find even today survival of customs and practices that throng at these shrines tribal figure prominently. Our worship started with the worship of nature as trees (Vatavriksha) and mountains (Govardhan). Hence the earliest material for the artifact of icons was also wood or stone. Some of the ancient deities have emerged or carved out of wood by unknown hands for example, Jagannatha and Venkateswara. Venkateswara is supposed to be Udbhava Murti (instant appearance) be it stone or wood and so is Adi Jaganntha of stone with his consorts. These original deities have never been replaced by a new one since their first consecration. One may doubt how wood could last that long for several centuries. To them the five story pagoda of the temple of the Flourishing Law in the Nara prefecture of Japan more than 1400 years old stands as a living monument. The Economist September 2016 says: “The five-story pagoda of The Temple of Flourishing Law in the Nara prefecture of Japan is one of the world's oldest wooden building. It has withstood wind, rain, fire and earthquakes for 1400 years. Analysis of the rings in the central pillar supporting the 32-meter structure suggests the wood that it is made from was felled in 594 A.D. and construction is thought to have taken place soon after." There are more scientific explanation and modern research to improve wood modifying its annular structure to beat steel etc., to last long against the cruelty of weathering but I would not like to go deep into it as I am not dealing with science here. It is amazing how our ancient temple architects and Sthapanis (sculptors) had such scientific knowledge several centuries ago which baffles modern scientists. The timber of Aswattha tree which is glorified as divine in Bhagavad Gita and many scriptures is believed to possess such durable qualities.
While Jaganntha and Venkateswara are both appealing to all Siva, Vishnu and Sakta followers as Supreme Being and Vyahriti of Parabrahman and Parasakti Jagannatha is appealing to various other faiths like Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Islam and Christianity as the history reveals that Jagannatha was worshiped or venerated by all these faiths in the distant past. Jaganntha will be ideal deity at once appealing to all faiths that branched out of sacrificial Vedic Religion. This will also help in solving the problem of not creating additional sanctums for Mahavir and Buddha. Orissa was successfully ruled for long period by Buddhists and Jains and were strongly influenced by the ruling party. Also these two religions were closely associated with Hinduism originating from Vedic Religion and Puranas. Jain Harivamsa mentions Krishna as the cousin and contemporary of the celebrated ford-maker Neminatha who is believed to have lived about eight centuries earlier than Christ. The famous Mahabharata War which was fought on the Kurukshetra grounds is dated about eight or ninrth century BCE. Krishna belonging to the Pandava hosts gave out the Song Celestial Bhagavad Gita while two opposing forces were facing each other and ready to fight.
But Venkateswara Philosophy is even more inclusive than exclusive not confining to Hinduism alone focusing on Siva, Vishnu and Devi or the religion that were carved out of it but includes all religions and traditions as I discussed in my lecture “ Skanda, Hindu God and Guru is Sanatkumara in all Traditions”. Venkateswara in Tirupati was worshiped earlier as Skanda, before Ramanuja came on the scene, who is Sanatkumara according to Chandogya Upanishad. Sanatkumara came to Planet Earth from Planet Venus when Earth had already become so polluted by fallen influences that the planet could no longer be spiritually and physically sustained says Esoteric Sanat Kumara East West Tradition. Venkatesa Mahatmya says there is no deity greater than Venkateswara in Kaliyuga and Lord Vishnu descended on Earth as Venkatewara. Again Hinduism says Dharma is in its one foot in Kaliyuga that started with full –compliment in Kritayug echoing Esoteric view above. Murugan means Azhagan in Tamil which means beauty. It is therefore logical to conclude Venkateswara is Sanatkumara who descended on Earth in Kaliyuga, who is venerated by all Esoteric Traditions including Hindus. It is no wonder why many Westerners worshiped Venkateswara when British ruled India influenced by their past Esoteric Traditions and magic powers to relieve them from sufferings.
Hindu Americans hailing from many countries have been successful in taking Hindu Religion to White house which not only celebrates Diwali but also issued a stamp in commemoration. Now Jains and Sikhs of Indian origin have also successfully influenced White House. Buddhism needed no support from Indian Buddhists. They are strong in South East and Far-East. They strongly represented their case to white House and also have successfully found their way into Hindu temples in USA blending with its Indian culture and spreading their message of Dharma. It was a cake-walk for them for The Odisha Jaganntha Philosophy has successfully launched Buddha as an Avatar of Vishnu. So they have the best of both sides. The Jains who have initiated this move are from India who have flown their battalion of Jain Munis to white House. Probably their next move may be to get out of Hindu Temples where Mahbir Vardhaman idols are installed and worshiped. There had been lot of in-fights to install Mahavir and Buddha because the same is not in favor in India. But Hindus go to Jain and Buddhist Temples and worship with no reservation and so do Jains in India. Buddhists are in minority and are mostly in the North.
Jains join Hindus for Lakshmi Puja on Diwali nights. Jains have also built many Hindu Temples. American Jains of Hindu origin visit mostly Hindu American Temples like American Shaven Sikhs and Sindhis. This fusion is very interesting. Also Inter-faith weddings are quite common and Hindu partners have greater influence on their partners who both visit Hindu temples. This is so even in those who are married to Christian and other faiths. Hindu Temples in America here can find an excellent opportunity to consolidate their deities, focus on deities Jagannatha or Venkateswara and also restrict their activities to few meaningful festivals and rituals to please all traditions and their children caught-up in wedlock with partners from other faiths and in that process spread the philosophy of Universal Oneness to all and focus on spirituality to spread the message of Sanatana Dharma.
How such a house-cleaning is possible one may ask? Here we can draw support from what Adisanakra once did in establishing Shanmata and Panchayatana Puja and seeing what is happening in India today--Recently Puri Sankaracharya removed the idol of Saibaba from the temple against stiff opposition in Orissa. As said above. Saints are to be respected but not made deities to worship as Vyahriti of Brahman.
Hindu Americans coming from a rich background and heritage of religious practices are greatly influenced by people of major faiths, a growing secular culture. This is all the more concern because of the steady increasing inter-marriage racial alliances that results in Neo Hindus sitting on a wall with no direction to go. This happened in Europe decades ago, and it is happening in the US and we should not be lost in the crowd. There is nothing wrong in having a number of as many as Ishtadevatas to please all traditions of Hindu Americans drawn globally to greener economic pastures. It can be good if we keep a balance while doing so. The problem comes when we lose perspective on the basic perspective on “Eko Viprah bahuda Vadanti”and “Tadekam” and devotion goes to these Ishtadevatas by the powerful influence of priest and astrologers for specific or short gains. Hindu priests are not actually Gurus or Swamijis that are philanthropists who are not career oriented, but religiously trained by Aagmas and are career oriented who always have an eye on their own prosperity and growth frequently changing their jobs. One of the priests own s his own temple and a private airplane too!
Wisdom comes when we learn to see secular culture for what it is and then rise above it. Wisdom comes when we confront our egos and wisdom comes when we can surround ourselves with people who have spiritual depth and compassion and not money minded priests and astrologers. If we are unable to do this, the secular culture will eat us alive, keep restless and lonely and leave us devoid of spiritual meaning and fulfillment. For this we have to look back how we were once strong in our spiritual culture in spreading the message round the globe that had impact on all faiths and beliefs. We need to focus on Universal Oneness, fusion not fission, and understand that Truth is One and common for all. The world is One family—Vasudeka Kutumbakam. Esoteric Sanat Kumara Tradition that came out of Hinduism had a very strong influence on people but people went out of it for convenience to work as small faith based groups under a leader or Guru.
Unlike the Holy Bible which was revised several times Vedas and Upanishads are kept intact with the original content in the well-developed Sanskrit language and therefore it is logical to take the Vedic dictum Vedokhilam Dharmamoolam that Vedas are final authority as sound basis for our religious worship and spiritual practice.
It is heartening to note that most of the American Jains align themselves with Hinduism and participate in religious worship in Hindu American temples. They have also liberally contributed for building the temples and I know personally Albany Temple is one. Here they have consecrated Mahavir Vardhamana much to the dislike of the sectarian priest and some conservative American Hindus. Here they would have been wiser if they had installed the idol of Rishaba the Ford Founder (The first Teerthankara) and the founder of Jainism whose arrival Valmiki predicted in Ramayana”. Valmiki says in the last chapter of Uttara Khanda Sloka 10: “Ayodhyaapi Puree ramyaa soonyaa varshaganaan bahoon| Rishabham praapya Rajagnam nivaasamupaayaasyati || Beautiful Ayodhya remaining desolate for long years, will become habitable again having secured the protection of King Rishabha. Rishabha is an incarnation of Vishnu acceptable to both Jains and Hindus like Buddha about which I have talked in detail.
Orthodox Hindus do not like to worship Buddha as an incarnation of Vishnu. Buddha walked out of Vedic Religion and his followers were called Buddhists. But he was brought back as a Saint and Guru Deity and as ninth Avatar of Vishnu by progressive Hindus, celebrated by Jayadeva and others raising Krishna to Prarabrahman status and making Balarama and Buddha as eighth and ninth avatars. Therefore he is one avatar not seen with his consort as a Sanyasi. Ambedkar at one time advised scheduled castes to convert themselves to Buddhism to improve their status in Indian society. They did in large numbers. These Neo-Buddhists along with the original left-out Buddhists in India though small in number are today in good numbers are in favor of Buddha being installed in Hindu Temples. Though they are not successful in India against Hindu Orthodoxy and conservatism, as Indian migrants they have succeeded in USA. There are few temples in USA where Buddha and Jina are consecrated including saints like Swami Narayan, Sai Baba etc., where there is One Temple for All Traditions. This has made Buddhists and Jain migrants from India culturally and religiously align themselves with American Hindus than with other migrants of their own creed. This is in a way promoting the basic concept of Sanatana Dharma “Eko Viprah bahuda vadanti” “sarve janaah sukhino bhavantu” and “Vasudaiva kutumbakam” and horizontal integration besides the effort already made by vertical integration by founding fathers of temples to accommodate as many deities as possible in a small space with not even provision for circumambulation to please all traditions. These temples looks like art galleries and exhibits of artifacts.
Once the fusion of the religions based on cultural and social similarity that branched out of Sanatana Dharma takes place as in Jaganntha Philosphy other major religions and atheists with the exception of Islam may be attracted to Hinduism attracted by its focus on Dharma and Spirituality. Islam may also become a non-militant religion understanding Venkateswara as Sanat Kumara (Al Kadar) and Pazhani Baba Murugan. No other religion has such a unifying force as Sanatana Dharma or speaks of God like Vedic Skanda known as Sanat Kumara in all Esoteric traditions including Islam. This fusion has to be in stages. Hindu American Temples should confine initially to deities like Jagannatha, Venkateswara, Adinatha and Buddha to come together and later concentrate on Venkateswara as the sole deity with focus on Sanatana Dharma and Spirituality to achieve Universal Oneness that Vivekananda dreamt as “Vedanta is the religion of the Future” and as described in my discourse “Vedanta Religion- Everlasting, Universal and Unifying Spirituality”.
Hindu Americans will be ultimately wiser to have only Venkateswara for worship in all Hindu American Temples if they want to be in Interfaith Forum and attract all religions also to Sanatana Dharma and Spirituality promoting Sanat Kumara concept. This will help them in consolidating their worship focused on one deity with significant rituals and festivals concentrating on Supreme Spirit who is none other than the Holy Spirit of Christianity, Jehova of Jews, Allah of Islam, Buddha of Buddhists, Vardhamana of Jains, etc.
There should be an awareness among religious followers that all the excitement of Shoedasa Upachara Puja and Sambhrama (excitements) on festive days in present day temple traditions incidental to the external rituals is only for entertainment and enjoyment, and that it is but secondary to the main worship which is exclusively symbolic (mental worship). External ritual (Baahya Yaaga) can be described as of overflow of religious devotion. The real worship is Antar Yaaga or internal ritual while the external one is Upachaara. In the former, God is recognized as the worshiper’s own innermost spirit while in the latter the personified God represented by the icon is treated like an honored guest. Without focus on Antar yaaga the whole worship reduces to Kindergarten level or a mere show.
Agnirdevoe dwijaateenaam muneenaam hridi daivatam |
Prathima svlpabuddheenaam sarvatrea viditaatmanaam ||
The ritualists have their God in the fire (Agni); but the wise folk find him in their own heart. It is the dull-witted one that seeks God in the icon. Those who have higher understanding see God in
“Ekam Avyaktm Anantaroopam”—One without a second--imperceptible limitless form (MNU)
“Dyaavaaprithivyau Deva Ekah”—The Self-luminous Reality is one without a second and is the creator of Heaven and Earth (MNU)
1) Ramachandra Rao, S.K., Indian Temple Traditions, Kalpatharu Research Academy, Benghaluru, India.
2) Ramachandra Rao, S.K., Gita Kosha, Kalpatharu Research Academy, Bengaluru. India.
3) Anna, Bhajagovindam, Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, India.
4) Swami Vimalananda, Mahanarayana Upanishad, Chennai, India.
5) Wikipedia and other Internet sources
6) Swami Chinmayananda, Atma Bodha, Central Chinmaya Mission Trust, Mumbai, India.