What is a better life in the traditional indian mind?
In today's definition it probably is pots of money, good adouring wife who cooks great food and a good hubby who is loving and caring, children who are naughty for entertainment but well behaved otherwise and bright at school, a car or two at the backyard of preferably a self owned house. Dad's property being part of inheritence (i was shocked when a few people were really vocal about it!). Fantastic gadgets around the house, say a hify home entertainment system and other electronic equipment. a laptop and an ipod at arms reach and not a hit on the pocket. latest phone models that your friends would die for and maybe a plasma screen on your wall for a movie from your favourite movie collection. A bunch of real fun loving good friends who are there and not there at the same time. Peace between mom and wife. etc etc etc etc etc ....
a programmer would aspire for all this, thats the kinda life he is looking for. a priest is torn between two worlds. the world of the spiritual and the world of materialism. so lets see the other side of a priest's life. priests of all temples are trained in the art of performance of ritual, in recitation of sacred hymns, meanings of it, purpose of it, dos and donts, benefits and damages. they are historically and traditionally superior because of their intellect. (i have learnt to understand that intelligence is a luxury once the stomach is full).
the priests are normally the resposibility of the ruling matt, that takes care of all thier food, residence, maintenance of family, education of children preferably back into the matt's gurukul etc. all this while they perform ritual for the masses. The historical life of a priest down the ages has been one of renunciation from worldly interests and retreating into a world of intellect and spiritualism and passing the tradition of gurukul system down the ages which still continues today at shankara matt and others. their life revolves around the temple, their education is that of holy texts and not maths and chemistry equations that we go through in school.
their syllabus is that of occult sciences and ancient systems and sacred texts of subtle truth, of mythology and its impact on the spiritual progress of the human being classified in indian society as brahmin, kshatriya, vaishya and shudra, the labour of each community once upon a time being respected and not looked down upon. leading a virtuous life was of prime importance in society and these were the messengers who taught the ignorant masses how to lead it.
where the priests spoilt the show historically is:
1. converting devadasis(temple dancers also learned in other arts) to prostitues and therefore leaving behind a lot of illegitimate children(nambudiris of kerala and tamil priests),
2. being the rich folk and exploiting position when the ruling patronage decided to pay them hefty incomes for being respectable intellects and earning them a position at the courts(cholas were known for this)
3. being born brahmins and taking advantage of so called superior birth
4. taking milleage out of gullible ignorant audience and making them pay through their noses on the grounds of superstition that cannot be scientifically proven.
5. losing the honest trust most people had on them as being true to their faith and business of priesthood.
1. lack of trust and faith among people towards the actual occult sciences when its the priest to blame for not delivering the right goods.
2. mass disbelief and scorn on superstition which has left most of average indian house holds confused about what to believe and what not to believe.
3. lack of faith in paying for pujas, archanas, homams, etc. when the priest sits right next door talking on a cellphone when he is supposed to be singing mantras and calling the spirits down to earth to protect and bless the householders.
4. lack of interest in correcting wrong moves made by political parties or temple commities when temples are being slowly desecrated by
(a) the introduction of electric light into the garbha griha,
(b) lack of interest towards regular worship of the deity inside and subsequent steps of temple ritual being missed out (maybe because of lack of funds).
(c) cleaning of temple tanks and getting rid of plastics which clog the drainage systems and leave most of the tanks dry when they should be full of clear water so that devotees can purify themselves before the trip to the temple.
(d) blocking and closing of pradakshina paths around temples and restricting access, leaving the worship incomplete as circum-ambulation is important to ritual worship.
so on and so forth.
historically, temple priests in india have been the highest paid by the ruling patronage in society and today its their own greed that has brought about their down fall and resultant lack of trust. so today's generation of priests are reaping the deeds of the past.
if you still wish to pay them and give them a better life and feel sympathetic for them...go ahead.