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Temple Jargon

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DD's posts are a reason why I asked the OP to focus on a particular region or type of temple, since generalizations lead to great error and misunderstanding. And thus, the thread will be cluttered with endless and petty refutations, and confusion that will fail to enlighten the OP.

For example, in Bengal, you will not find any navagrahas, and in the Shakta ritual and images, the circumambulation is anti-clockwise, as also in the Kashmir Shaiva tradition. India is so varied and contrary, whatever is true at one place, the opposite must also be true at another. In the Tamil country, I have heard that some Ayyangars will avert their eyes from a Shakti temple!! Or used to.

In Bengal, all the temples are open to anyone, provided they come to worship. Even foreigners, so long as they come to worship, in proper form, minus cameras. There is not the slightest issue of caste or gender: one is asked one's name and gotra for puja, a gotra being the theoretical clan, which is a vertical division that includes brahmans, and everyone else in "cake slices" of various Vedic lineages derived from sages named in the Rksamhita.

In South India, there are Temple cities like Madurai, where the temple itself is a small town with various commercial and religious simultaneously going on. If I understand correctly, in TN and Kerala, a quick visit is integrated into the daily lives of many ffamilies, or used to be one generation ago, than in many other parts of India.

In contrast, the Shakta temples of Bengal have complex roles, not all worth discussing in public. Each of the important ones anchor a major cremation ground. In Bengal, only the holiest individuals are ever buried, unlike the South where burial is a common practice and in the North too, in UP and Bihar, among the so-called Scheduled Castes. So a creamtion ground is a busy center of community activity, one serving a large number of communities or villages, because it is deemed to be particularly holy. So the cremation ground itself is a special field of worship and the temple is its extension. There are many permanent worshippers installed at the cremation grounds. The real worship of the deity begins after the titular public worship has ended for the day. This Shakta worship is the responsibility of the Mahant or spiritual leader of the temple. Unlike any South Indian temple, he, a brahman, has a coterie of equals, all non-brahmans drawn from so-called low castes, who during the day officiate in certain temple duties or go about their prescribed work.

Chief among these is the person who performs the blood sacrifice, always drawn from the ironsmith caste, always a consecrated Shakta with many consecutive high initiations. He and HIS WIFE are the GURU SIBLINGS of the Mahant and his wife, a vajra relationship more binding than any other in the universe. They, all four, willingly have accepted consecration with all its rigid vows of purity, and harsh demands. Similar ties bind the rest of the circle, the ganachakra, all of whom WILL and must come from the lowest: must include barber, dom and chandala, each with their wife. After that quorum is met, others may join, only those consecrated with high initiation. This worship is not a joke and vanishingly few are able to succeed well in this. It is fearsome and dangerous, but this is the real worship of the deity, the real reason for the Shakta diksha that is in addition to the SAvitra diksha.

It is also the reason why there is no aspect of caste or gender when enters the boundaries of a Shakta temple in Bengal, PROVIDED you come to worship, not fool around. A real Shakta mahant is in a high state of nervous energy. He will often fast for extended periods, without water, usually 36 hours, sometimes 3 days. He or they will sleep very little in their lives, usually sitting up, or reclining slightly. In former timer times, there would be no hesitation in bathing a miscreant and offering his head at the sacrificial post. This reputation kept out troublemakers and pickpockets, until the civil government stepped in, alas!

So you see the real worship of the "awakened" Shakta deity, who generally is awake when others sleep, cannot be satisfactorily completed without the participation of 5 men and 5 women, 4 pair of whom must come from the "lowest" strata, and who are equals of the brahman functionary in the "real" worship. The morning worship for the public where brahmans alone functions is just intercessionary worship, not "real" generation of the deity and all that it implies. We have some folk elsewhere on IT who write about all sorts of things without knowing or understanding anything at all. Sometimes I feel, but that is impossible, to have them sit on a pancamundi or a navamundi asana for even half an hour at night and then videotape their state. Proof of the pudding.

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The direction of pradakshina is the reason I asked the question! Should it be clockwise, counterclockwise, or should all the bases be covered in doing one and then the opposite! That ritual part of religion I do not like (though there are sound reasons behind many of the rituals), in ritualism spirituality is lost!

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Dear NFL,

As you are a Electronics engineer or computer specialist, you had to study information science or computer science. many of these include obscure logic absurd to an outsider but sparkling and vital to you now that you understand WHY, and now you use it all the time and cannot get along without it, just as a programmer cannot get along withouts strings of "gibberish" and arcane logic systems.

Now you are asking, or making a complaint, that "religion is not compliant to your will or desires." Behind this complaint, and your statement, "cover all bases" is implicit the idea of wielding "religion" as a tool to "extract" something from somewhere. Otherwise, what bases are there to cover, if not to propitiate some OTHER? So you have conflated ritual with ritualism, and ritual with propitiatory magic. That syllogic chain has been extended to religion that now has been dismissed by you as both inscrutable and morally and spiritually lacking, inferior.

What has been lacking is your own understanding, and the desire to understand, or even the feeling or urgency to understand. I know that in the third category I am doing you a grievous wron. I do it only to provoke you, to arouse you, so that maybe you will search your insides privately and join your own quest, also privately. No need for anyone to know. Whoever is engaged in this quest is mentored.

Let us be even more explicit. Consider this schematic. it is only a metaphor. Don't get hung up over its technical minutiae. That's not the point, which is broadly to point the mind in a certain direction.

Absolute, Undefinable, Without Limits or Boundaries,beyond words and this present "mind" [ 12 ]

self: i, me, myself, mine [9] other: you, the world, the consensual reality observed by all of us [3]

guru [6]

guide, mentor, one who makes (someone) substantial, gravid

Let us label these clockwise, from 12 o' clock onwards as A, B, C, D.

So, answer me, what is the nature of the relationship between each in all their permutations and combinations?

Why does that matter?

What is the nature of each?

How would we know that?

How would we know what we know? What would be proof, since we have said that one element is already inaccessible to "mind" ? Paradox or nonsense?

Why is each human so strongly driven to make life meaningful? Is this not behind this strking of petty bargains? because people want success, potentiated by a little deus ex machina?

Why si that urge for meaningful life so strong? Is it because we are, directly or indirectly, very consciously of our mortality, and want to make some sort of mark befor we are overcome by death.

Most of the religions I know make some sort of claim to overcome death, to extend your identity beyond death, to guarntee permanence. That is their draw, besised some earthly ghoos-ghaas. True.

I can only comment thoroughly on the Sanatana Dharma in almost all its aspects, including the Buddha-sasana, as explained to me by my holy teachers , as taught in valid scriptures and as validated in other ways. These are the triple validation.

Let me assure you about one thing. There is no ghoos-ghaas. What you understand about God and so forth can only become real and useful when you have put considerable effort into understanding the schematic outlined above.

Then, one stops skittering around on the surface of the water like a water-skeeter and is able to break through the surface tension. Painful, requires effort and sacrifice. Just like computer science. But rewarding.

Having done that, one realizes that it is the mere beginning, the ocean is many thousands of feet deep, and conditions change dramatically as one descends. What is true at X feet become nullified at Y feet. Again we are using similes. Don't get caught up with the technicalities of the idiom. Focus on the general sense.

In that time, you will have found several teachers, internal and external, each at the appropriate time, each to explain and discipline the unruly elephant of our mind. If one cannot entertain that disciplining, no progress.

Our consciousness can investigate itself, it is reflexive. This is extensively explored in Indian thought, the quality of VIMARSA. In the Siva Sutras there is an aphorism: GURUPAYAH


Each of the Siva Sutras is an example of the quality of Vimarsa. Even meditating on one is sufficient for one lifetime. SriRamakrishna used to say, to kill others, one needs swords and armour, for oneself a sharp "needle" is enough; meaning, either to teach others, or to demonstrate cleverness, one needs to show great scholarship. To grow oneself spiritually, a simple apth is enough.

When one enters a valid path, the nature of a few, selected rituals appropriate for oneself and determined by the teacher is effective. A valid teacher is someone who is like an excellent athletic coach: immediately able to diagnose your particular needs and caoch you one-on-one on those isues. There are also some other aspects.

I pray, that with the grace of the Guru-Deity, having read through this, it makes some sense to you and that you may have come to a slightly less jaundiced opinion of Indian religion. Subhamastu.

Edited by gautam

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Well I guess this trip will be about the Sun Temple at Modhera, temples of Dwarka and the Chitai Temple near Almora/Binsar

cy, there's a fantastic jain temple (huseething) in ahmedabad well worth a visit for the exquisite carvings. I was lucky enough to visit with a jain friend who explained how jains move around their temples.

I don't have any photos unfortunately.

and there's also the tiny mosque of siddi sayed in the old city which has some amazing jalis. I think that both malkers and I have uploaded photos of it here.

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CH, do not miss the visit in the evening to famous Law garden (Locals call it Love garden) in Ahmedabad in the evening, you will also see tibetan vendors outside!

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GautamDada, thanks for your educating reply (and it will take some time to digest), but all my Bengali communist friends have always tried to beat religion out of me just before they go to help with arranging DurgaPuja festivities! Ke Korbo?

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One important feature is a temple that is functioning as a place of worship in contrast to those that are empty shells, mere archaeological sites. These may include various lingams that are no longer receiving regular service, are "dead". Images can be dead as well.

The only thematic feature that all temples, north, south, east, west, dead or alive will possess is a garbha or garbhagrha: womb or sanctum sanctorum. This is usually, but not always, where the arcaka murti, the worshipped embodiment/emblem resides. Sometimes, as in Arunachala, it will be in a structure under the ground, below the emblematic representation. This area is restricted to even the serving priests, ususally only one or two of any lineage are entrusted to enter, perhaps only the lineage holder or the mahant of the sanctuary.

An Arcaka Murti [worshipped embodiment] may be an image but many of the most hallowed temples contain objects that are merely emblematic: ammonite fossils known as Shalgram shilas, special forms of which are given various names, some are said to be self-manifested, a term applied to certain lingams. Some very important shrines with self-manifested Damodara shila-images in Vrindavan have simply a golden plate as the symbol for SriRadhika, the consort of the SriKrishna in that manifestation. Other places you have visited like Jwalamukhi and more than one Jyotirlingan may be a combination of flames and emblems. Shakta temples have emblems like a silver mask concealing theyantra at Tarapitha in Bengal , images and hidden womb sanctuaries. The supremely holy and important Kamakshya Pitha in Assam has as its core emblem or most hallowed focus nothing but a hole in the ground, and the sacred offering is menstrual blood, something taboo in all the male-oriented temples of Southern India.

This sanctum sanctorum and inner sanctum together comprise the necessary and sufficient part of the temple, the Bhupura mandala within which sits the yantra upon which the murti or garbha is situated. That's the whole. Around that, a subsidiary mandala may be constructed, of whatever elaboration desired. Themes, symbols and so forth can be brought into play, as may artistry. Note that none of this is either present or permitted in the garbha, or in the inner sanctum, where it is strictly business.

P.S. Upthread I made a slip of the tongue as it were, hurriedly translating 'rajakini' in my head: in place of barber read washerwoman

The history of stand-alone Sun temples is an interesting chapter in Indian religious history. In the Vedic, there is a three-fold division of "deities": prithivi-sthana devata-s [earth level], dyau-sthana [middle heavens]. antariksa sthana [uppermost level].

[I would strongly suggest disregarding the interpretations of super-clever people like Wendy Doniger and the interpretive traditions emerging from European scholarship. Absorb the philology and translation, fine, just don't get pulled into stuff whose depths have not been explored: they write to gain reknown, not for any real purpose. And I know many of these people for the last 40 years.]

There are sequentially deeper and more esoteric levels to the Rksamhita symbolology. Just like the Saundaryalahari, at one level it can be used as compulsive magic, and then it interacts with that part of the self that is generated as the lower two levels of "deities." In the very same manner, the Kalachakra Tantra can be manipulated at a very gross level or a sublime one. Kalachakra in one sense can mean the Wheel of Destiny or Time. This will give you an inkling of the purpose of creating the cult of the Sun and stand-alone Sun temples, as also the branch of worship called the Saura Tantras.

In the Vedic stream, though, the integrative vision assigns a very deep and grave symbolism to the Mitra-Varuna dyad, that prevents it being employed in any of the two lower planes, no viniyoga there at all!! Can't be misused or demeaned through being harnessed in one's rubbish schemes! So what to do now? Let's turn to the great lauds in their manifestation as Surya: vibhrAt vrhat vAjasAtamam/dharmandi bodhArune satyam arpitam: "dedicated to the Truth" grand, fierce, magnificent poetry, unsparing sentiments. No nonsense here either.

What to do? Create your own loopholes. Find ways of propitiatory magic not canonical, but satisfying to rulers who are supposed to be descended from the Sun or some such. So, see paragraph before last. Temples such as these are public drama. The sculptors occasionally injected their own small, hidden sarcasms and malice at their employers. In one of the Pandyan beach temples, there is a little carved kitty standing on one leg, mockingly imitating a yogi who was praying to have the River Ganga released to the Earth.

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