Thirst for a better life - the temple priest

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.

the result:
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.


krishna said...

yeah..we can find that even the priests in the kali yuga are corrupted

JC Joshi said...

In the Eighties, when Indira Gandhi, the then Indian P.M., said in the Parliament that corruption was a world wide phenomenon there was a big uproar. However, still no one can at any time deny without lowering one’s head that in some form or the other each and every individual is participating in one or another form of ‘corruption’, maybe finding oneself ‘helpless’ against the grinding wheel like systems within the overall administrative system of our country that has come into existence starting thousands of years ago (say at the fall of the believably once-upon-a-time highly advanced Vedic Era in the sixth century B.C., attempts for reviving which seem to have been made in certain pockets from time to time) - just like the concerned ones find themselves helpless at any given time in the present as there apparently is no cure yet for certain physical ailments in the Christian Era… There is a quotation based on overall observations, “Everyone is a slave of time/ only a few can come up above time.” Guru Nanak also said to the effect that the whole world is unhappy…

With the above background, to cite an example, although ‘good’ and yet helpless people also exist at all levels of the systems, some politicians and their ‘powerful’ supporters are well known today in India for their high handedness, and are widely discussed by the media rendering them to become more ‘thick skinned’. Perhaps this, as the apparent root cause, finds its reflections in all other important systems, viz., education, health, law and order, temples as is being raised by Kavitha here, and so on… And therefore one should logically think ways to remove corruption at the root level...

After the fall of powerful ‘Hindus’ in the VE, Christ and also Buddha, besides many other such ‘highly elevated’ personalities or souls, appear to have had extraordinary powers to bring about drastic change in the societies, and say in curing, for example, lepers and blinds. In fact at a certain period in Britain (as also among Sikh Gurus in India) only people having ‘spiritual powers’ were entitled to become the king. It is reported that for long, traditionally, lepers and blinds continued to stand in the front row on the route taken by the king of England to receive his blessings and the cure even when the kings didn't have the powers!

Even today in India there are instances heard about people, who aren’t even priests, but have been empowered by certain ‘elevated souls’ to provide cure for certain ailments, which of course might not be beneficial to some, perhaps those who lack faith or are possessed by stronger souls as per experience of one of my maternal uncles who had tried all systems of medicine available prior to that! This indicates that certain ancients believed possession by more powerful souls than the individual's original one as the root cause of chronic illnesses. Some practitioners of the 'modern' system of medicine also indicate want of knowledge of the exact dose required for the concerned patient as the biggest handicap in administration of otherwise very effective Allopathic drugs, for a lower dosage results in the micro-organism (elevted soul?) concerned to become more powerful and immune to the concerend drug and a higher dose results in side reactions due to killing of helpful bacteria by the extra dose!

JC Joshi said...

I think Kavitha what one needs is to read the Hindu mythological stories ‘between the lines’. The story of Samudramanthan, or churning of the milky ocean, for example, indicates the process of evolution in which both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ people participate equally…

Stage # 1 – We read that in the first stage, halahal or the deadliest poison - that resulted from the churning that affected both the categories of people - which on their request, on advice from Vishnu (Centre of galaxy), Shiva agreed to hold in His throat (Planet Venus or the ‘Throat of Mahashiva the solar system’ has a poisonous atmosphere)… Let’s pause here and try to reach the intended communication in this line. You would notice that it describes a universal phenomenon in a cryptic code, as decoded by me according to my limited studies, and indicated in the brackets)…

You have also said that you had to pass through difficult times (like most of us) in the initial stage, but you didn’t succumb to the pressure and after overcoming the initial difficulties (like the kite flier who also needs to overcome initial hurdles to make his kite symbolically reach anant or infinity) you have continued further, i.e., ‘the Shiva in you had to drink poison before you proceeded further’… (However, like the majority of us, you still seem to be under some influence of the ‘poison’, which apparently gets reflected in your writings on the issue of ‘corruption’, maybe because ultimate capacity of Venus to hold poison is almost reached… )

Stage # 2 – With the continued churning thereafter, there appeared, one by one, many items of luxury… (As you also appear to be expecting like others, who still lack in it, to amass in future - and perhaps in a hurry maybe because you ‘intuitively’ feel that there may not be in hand enough time for that!)

Stage # 3 – As the story apparently cites only males, the third item is ‘Apsaras’ or 'beauty queens' to seduce the majority (as one of the steps in the elimination process that is generally adopted universally) and thus withdraw before the final stage itself…

Stage # 4 – In the fourth and the final stage appeared (immortal) Vishnu in Mohini form with the pot of nectar, to lure the ‘bad’ people away with the outward appearance so that only ‘good’ people receive the nectar (essence) to give them immortality, i.e., freedom from ‘birth and rebirth in human form’, the believable goal set for all humans… (This stage apparently only was reached by a few even in the relatively recent times, viz., Buddha, and many others as per stories popular in different regions, which is beyond authentication by any known means.)

Sriram C S said...

K K, a really useful and informational BLOG you have there. I'm yet to read through the posts with complete attention, so will comment on the content at leisure. But it is nice to see someone who takes interest in Indian traditions and more importantly is willing to do something about it. On those lines, a few like-minded people amongst us in the BLOG world are trying to get together to do our best in holding up the idea of Indian art, culture and philosophy. You can find some details here http://offnoimportance.blogspot.com/2005/09/what-can-we-do.html. I believe having you in this association would be an asset as you add a dimension to it which is missing (the architectural wonder of Indian temples). If you are interested, please leave a comment on the post or send a mail to agnibarathi@gmail.com/tpadmasani@gmail.com. Thanks!

Kasthuri Srinivasan said...

Dear Kavitha,
You seem to posses not so usual interest - Indian Temples and Iconography, which is a real necessity in today's world. As u rightly pointed out, when there is a trend of aping the west, the work you are doing is phenomenally great which can help us in tracing back to our past glory. I am greatly impressed by your posts and the blog. Kudos to u'r efforts. Being in the US, I can see how little things gets hyped here. Having an age old tradition, we are not only silent but undermining our heritage. While I certainly agree that its very difficult to concentrate on all the Temples and Iconographies in India, it would be good if some one like you tries to bring out interesting things from Vishnavite temples as well. I'll blogroll u.

Sriram C S said...

Have just read through this post. Just a thought, how many of us people who wish to seek spirituality, find out the truth be willing to take up the job of a priest and do it in the way it must be done? Or how many of us would allow our children to lead that life? Perhaps this question needs more thinking...

JC Joshi said...

By the way, Kavitha, did you know that Thomas Hardy (1840-1928), the author of many popular fictional works, including Far from the Madding Crowd, had originally started his career as an Architect?

Architecture, like all other ‘fine arts’/ ‘applied arts’, basically necessitates 'churning of thoughts' within one's head - retaining/ accepting only finer thoughts while, on the other hand, ejecting/ not accepting the gross or the coarser ones from time to time - by the concerned to rise to a ‘higher level’ of imagination (doesn’t it sound like the basic principle of Buddhism, or even handling garbage in a bin?), to create works of utility combined with the aesthetical aspect of life, as observed in ancient 'Hindu' temples also - ideally speaking of course. Incidentaly, it is a fact that remnants of the oldest man-made building found (in South America)reportedly indicated it to be merely about 12,000 years old, although the Homo Sapien or the advanced human race (say Indo Aryans), apparently starting originally from Africa, reached much higher levels in India much before that... Today we have only Mythological stories left by chance or by design that indicate human potential to be infinite and possibly within reach of everyone!

It is the physically un-satiable basic need that is growing in geometrical proportions today with the growth in population and artificially generated demand due to availability of related products in the market due to a philosophy originating in the West in the CE, which apparently keeps us away from the Truth…

The ancient ‘Hindus’ believed this to be a natural phenomenon associated with Panchabhootas and Time Cycle or Kalchakra, which the present generation however isn't prepared to accept as yet!

Things however are apparently changing after the December 26, '04 Tsunami caused havoc in South east Asia. It was followed by unexpected damage caused in Mumbai/ Maharashtra by unprecedented July '05 rains, Hurricane Katrina mainly affected Black Americans in the Gulf region of USA in August, and is still threatening them with the approaching tropical storm Rita (reflected forms of energy, Sati'/ 'Kali' the consort of the otherwise Simple God or Bholanath or Shiva?...)

kavitha said...

hi srinivasan,

it has hurt me a lot to see how miserably our parents and grand parents have brought us up on the spiritual front. Yet i cant blame them. thats all they knew and they came from backgrounds where they didnt have the rite or the gutts to question anything. I feel sorry for them all, the entire generation who has learnt without questioning and today faces a problem on not being able to answer their children. They infact tend to discourage if one decides to take this head on. SAD

But as children and as individuals looking for our own identity and roots to our past, we have fallen to easy attractions of the west that require no effort in understanding. I have had this pain for a very long time, hence i dedicated myself to understanding our culture tradition and faith, and bring it back to our generation in a language they will understand, and hope they dont ask too many questions before they get started. Our religion starts where the logic of the west ends.

I have been in this temple business for the last 12 years, i have collected photographs and videos and tried making my own personal archive, apart from a reasonably strong book collection. Yet i do not feel anywhere near "its enough".

the problem with our parents and their parents is that they think, a walk to the temple and a lighting of diyas at home and blind recitation without understanding shlokas is "enough" yet they do not consider a 5000Rs salary as enough. This resulted in an exodus to the west, our entire generation. I am probably one of the few who stayed put here, the reason was childish though! - when i want to see chola architecture i dont want to fly 7 seven seas to see it!

am now extremely happy about the decision i took, for i have learnt so much in the bargain, its been a great journey into history and intrigue. Am only hoping the rest of you see value in what i am trying to do. Your comment was really most appreciated!


kavitha said...

Hi agnibarathi,

Would i send my children to a gurukul/mutt and make them priests?

good question. if i were in a society that respected it, i would do it blindly.
the reason's why i wouldn't are as follows!
(1)will my children blame me later for not giving them the kind of education other kids around them get in the same society.

(2) Do i want to face the world tomorrow and try to feel proud that my child is a priest in a temple(not sure).

Yet, if he/she takes to it on his/her own ground and interest and not because he/she has been drilled to do so , i will support him/her, i will not stop him/her and i will protect him/her from all who say he/she has wasted his/her life.

end of it, i will try to learn what ever i have missed out on the grounds of:
1. opportunity
2. being born a woman (in case of a son)

this is what i think, i dont know about other women/ people.

Sriram C S said...

Kavitha, very wise answer there. The questions that I asked were directed more towards myself than towards others. A lot more to think on that lines...we hear people aspiring their children to be engineers, doctors, lawyers, even artists, etc., but I'm yet to hear of a parent who would say boldly that he/she would like to make their child a seeker of that truth which our country has sought through the ages, a heritage where a father opted for a son who would only live 16 years but be a son of divine devotion in the place of a son who would live 100 years with no devotion whatsoever! But again, what are we doing to revive it? Even our art today remains a means of making money, acquiring fame...only that. There is work to be done...serious work...

JC Joshi said...

I think I am required to say something in defense of the older generation with my limited knowledge of the present day 'advancement' in the 'material world'! I have only heard and also believed, "The grass is greener on the other side." I present below a 'bitter pill'. Sorry for doing that despite knowing that any numbers of words are incapable of communicating the abstract or the 'spiritual'!

"Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was a man considered one of the great sages and prophets. He was held as another Buddha, another Jesus. Indians called him the ‘Father of the Nation’… For them, he was almost an incarnation of God, who had come to break the chains of their slavery…

Mohandas Gandhi was, however, not a great scholar, nor was he a great warrior. He was not born with exceptional faculties. Neither was he a good orator, nor a great writer. He did not claim anything exclusively divine in him. He did not claim being a prophet or having superhuman powers. He considered himself an average man with average abilities. Born in a middle class Bania family in an obscure princely State in a corner of India, he was a mediocre student, shy and nervous. He could not muster courage to speak in public. His first attempt at legal practice miserably failed…"

"Mohandas … was the youngest child of his parents, Karamchand and Putlibai.

Gandhis belonged to the Modh Bania community. They were originally grocers. However, Uttamchand, Mohan’s grandfather, rose to become Dewan of the Porbandar State. Mohan’s father. Karamchand, also served as the Dewan of Porbandar, Rajkot and Vankaner States. Kathiawar then had about 300 small States. Court intrigues were the order of the day. At times, Gandhis became their victim. Uttamchand’s house was once surrounded and shelled by the State troops. Karamchand was once arrested. However, their courage and wisdom earned them respect…
Karamchand had little education, but had shrewdness of judgment and practical knowledge acquired through experience… He married four times, had two daughters by the first two marriages and one daughter and three sons by his fourth marriage. Putlibai, his fourth wife, was younger to him by 25 years. She was not much educated but was well-informed about practical matters… Mohan loved his mother. He used to accompany her to the Haveli (Vaishnav temple)…"

The above is a brief extract from his biography available on the Web http://www.mkgandhi-sarvodaya.org/index.htm
which one genarally would skip as it doesn't discuss ways to mint money!

Some among the present day generation might even blame him as the root cause for certain evils in the Post-independence India. However, from the above - as the background knowledge about Gandhis - and also reading his autobiography ‘My experiments with Truth’ and other records on his life by 'eminent' writers, one could perhaps see how circumstances, or 'forces in Nature’ as they exist at any given time determine the apparent ‘turning moments’ in the life of each individual. There is no standard formula for becoming big, perhaps because of God’s mysterious ways! For example, had Prince Siddhartha not abandoned his family, maybe nobody would have heard of 'Buddha' today the world over, and, of course, one must beware that all those who abandon their families do not become 'Siddhas'! And, one can't help as no young one likes to hear an old man - even a sixteen year old today, like a parrot, proudly says, "I don't believe in God!" Or, "Mind your own business!" I have heard children telling their own parent not to speak as he/ she knows nothing! We still say that there is so much interaction between the generations today - perhaps on issues that really do not matter! During our days there wasn't much interaction even between members of different age groups...

And also, had Mohandas not been thrown out of the first class compartment of a train in South Africa, maybe we wouldn’t even have heard of him! And so on…

We have become immune to the pitiable condition that exists even in Independent India’s Railways today. We mechanically read/ watch all the news about the hazards of travel by train off and on. Most of the people feel so insecure, say when one hears about some Minister’s goons occupying seats originally reserved in some present day Gandhis’ name, leaving them on the platform. The reader/ viewer helplessly hopes that someone out of those 'Gandhis' might one day liberate him from his shackles! The ancients however said that one has to seek the Truth or essence of the external universe, the Satva or the Satya within oneself...

Arjuna_Speaks said...

Kavitha - do check out my post on this issue :)

Kasthuri Srinivasan said...

Dear Kavitha,
I really appreciate your comments. I slightly disagree with your view that "Our religion starts where the logic of the west ends". While, I certainly agree that western logic is more concerned with dichotomy than harmony, it is completely left to us how we make use of the knowledge. I have a great affinity towards our scriptural testimonies and by God's grace I'am getting to understand the purport behind them. But I think western logic is necessary to make the present generation understand our values which I am earnestly pursuing in my blog. We cannot reject the old as stupid, nor the new as great. We have to strike a balance between them where ever we go and by HIS grace I am trying to accomplish that. Spirituality and not the religion is the need of the hour.

Ganesh said...

"Spirituality and not the religion is the need of the hour"

indha statementpathi
chennai bashayil sollanummna

Nethiadi mamu ;)
He he

kavitha said...

hi srinivas,

by the line "Our religion starts where the logic of the west ends" i had meant strict references to occult sciences. The effects of yantra worship. they cannot be explained by science as we know it.

explaining this to our generation - well we will have to move mountains to make them understand. its not meant for everybody! which is the whole reason why the knowledge is not so obviously available.

Anonymous said...

Well. All i would suggest is that give them the life they deserve as per the status of their job and then see if corruption still creeps in. If it does lets all wait for pralaya.

JC Joshi said...

I think outwardly it is indiscipline that is the root cause, which might just be an excuse for occurrence of 'Pralaya' as a means to bring in change into Satyuga by the formless God!

I give below an edited reaction that has appeared in the Capital's edition of the Times of India (Sep 22), titled 'No Match' in the column 'Conversations with the readers'.

With reference to your editorial ‘Play Straight’ (Sep 19), isn’t it unrealistic to expect discipline from the Indian cricket team when indiscipline pervades all walks of life. As for Sania Mirza’s brilliance that you talk about, it’s like the on-off glow of the firefly. Comparing her performance with the brilliance of our cricketers who’ve been shining for so long like the sun is unfair. In any case, the poor girl might soon be forced to go behind the burqa.

JC Joshi via e-mail
Ref. TOI, Sep 22.

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