Practicing Sanathana Dharma
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Abuse by Priests: Part-1

A Temple is a place of worship.  It is the abode of GOD (at least in a world of Dualism).  It is a revered place wherein anyone and everyone must follow the prescribed code of ethics which are outlined in our Vedic texts.

A place of worship is not the place to exhibit someone’s ego, arrogance & ignorance nor execute a hidden religious agenda which is aimed at upholding a particular sect or belief system and condemning the rest.  These acts defeat the very purpose for which temples are built and consecrated.

The worst thing that can happen to a temple is when these acts are performed by the Temple Priest, who is considered to be a divine interface between GOD and His devotees.

One of the objectives of this blog is to help those in charge of temples to identify and correct such wrong practices which creep in from time to time.

Posts under this category reflects its members’ views & comments on current issues in Hindu Temples whose elected representatives or priests knowingly or unknowingly abuse or violate the principles of Sanathana Dharma (the eternal truth).

While a Priest is an important link between the devotee and the Deity in a temple, it is quite unfortunate that some priests do not conduct themselves in a way that demands honesty, dignity, devotion and dedication.  Sometimes, a fanatic attitude towards one’s own philosophy can result in playing with logic to put down a section of Deities in a temple.

Logic never goes with Bhakthi.  Where there is Bhakthi, there can be no logic and vice versa.

I am giving below a few episodes that I have personally experienced in one of the temples.

First impression was not the best…

I happened to visit this temple in 2007.  The occasion was “Hanumath Jayanthi” and there were about a hundred devotees inside the temple.  Most of them were chanting the “Hanuman Chalissa”.  As I occupied a seat on the floor near the center of the hall, I saw the priest performing the abhisheka to Lord Anjaneya.

He too was chanting Hanuman chalisa; but gradually he was increasing the speed and people in the group, who were chanting it in chorus, slowly began withdrawing because they just could not keep up to the speed.

The chanting appeared to be just a mechanical exercise with absolutely no devotion.  I asked my colleague who took me to this temple as to why this was chanted in such a hasty manner.  He said, the priest wanted to chant it 108 times and he was just doing it!

Chanting it just one time with devotion and dedication would have been better. I was quite disappointed witnessing this exercise as most of the ignorant masses were getting engaged in conversations.  When I expected to see a temple which is as good as those I have been associated with for over three decades in India, I realized that this one was going to be different.

This is, in fact, a very disturbing development in many temples wherein devotion is replaced by “mechanical rituals” which are carried out just “for the sake of it”.  Whom we are trying to convince?  What benefits do we derive from such futile exercises?

Ganesa gets Gajasura’s head!

It was Ganesa Chaturthi day (2008) and the priest was giving a lecture on Lord Ganesa. Instead of narrating the well established story of Ganesa, he was presenting a story which I had never heard of.  I am not outlining the story here.  The story concluded stating that Lord Siva implanted the daemon Gajasura’s head on Ganesa in order to bring Ganesa back to life!

After the function, I could see most of the devotees discussing about this new story which they too had not heard of!

During my earlier visits to this temple, it was becoming increasingly evident that the priest did not enjoy doing rituals to any of the Saiva Deities in the temple.

This was the first time, I was coming across a temple wherein a priest, who follows Shri Vaishnavism (Ramanuja’s Vishishtadvaitam) openly exhibited discrimination to the Saiva deities, including Lord Siva, Ganesa and Subrahmanya.

The irony was that majority of the devotees and the trustees were mute spectators to the arrogant and rather autocratic behavior of the priest ever since the temple was built and consecrated years ago.  While the majority of the devotees did not care nor understood his wrong practices inside the temple, a few trustees and devotees who subscribed to his philosophy silently supported him.

In fact, people started noticing  his selective discrimination to the deities only when I started pointing out the gross violations which one usually refrains from carrying out in a temple, under full public view.  I do not blame the innocent devotees and those trustees who are blissfully ignorant about the core principles of Sanatana Dharma and the concepts on which temples are built and consecrated.

The actions of the priest clearly violated the Temple Bylaws when it came to performing rituals to the deities Ganesa, Subrahmanya and Siva.

Suklambaradharam issue

It was new year day (1-1-2009) when the priest delivered a speech after performing a Ganapathi Homam. The main topic was the “Suklambaradharam” slokam and its meaning.

I give below the slokam:

Suklambaradharam Vishnum
Sasivarnam Chathurbhujam
Prasanna Vadanam  Dhyayeth
Sarva Vighnopasanthaye ||

Having known for making derogatory remarks on Lord Ganesa, he elaborated the meaning of the sloka to conclude that it was never meant for Lord Ganesa;  it was meant for Lord Vishnu instead.  His conclusion was just because the sloka had the word “Vishnum” in it.  This speech was shocking and uncalled for to all those devotees as well as Trustees who were present on that occasion.

In my opinion, this sloka is one of the weapons often used by a section of those who follow Sri Vaishnavism to prove a point in support of their beliefs.  A true Vaishnava, with a pure heart and spotless devotion, never gets into these types of gimmicks to elevate one form of GOD and degrade another.

These kinds of behavior exhibited by certain Vaishnavas against Saiva deities always make one think if Sri Ramanujacharya was the one who taught his disciples to indulge in discrimination, even at a spiritual level.  Had it been passed onto generations based on Sri Ramanujacharya’s “ajna” (command)?  I would never believe so.  But, the practice is definitely wrong.

Newsletter

This was the time when I was getting ready to launch my Newsletter SHANMUKHAPRIYA covering various topics under Vedas & Upanishads as well as their derivatives including Astrology, Yoga and Music.

The priest’s remarks against Lord Genesa prompted me to include the sloka & its meaning in its very first issue.

The Newsletter was printed and copies were given to a few trustees, the treasurer, secretary and manager.  Copies were then kept in the temple for distribution, after getting permission from the temple manager.  A $25 fee was also paid to the temple for this purpose.

Newsletter disappears!

Within a week, I received a call from the temple manager informing me that the Newsletters had suddenly disappeared from the manager’s desk!  (In fact, I had told the manager that the Newsletter copies would disappear soon and had also requested to get notified of the same). A thorough search by the manager revealed the copies, being hidden in one of the storage cabinets inside the office room and they were brought back to the desk for distribution.

Seeing this, the priest quickly came out of the prayer hall and shouted at the manager as to why they were brought back to the desk.  He said, whoever published the Newsletter should have submitted a copy to him for his scrutiny and approval, prior to distribution!  According to him, the Newsletter had inappropriate content and should not be distributed.  He, then, insisted that the copies be removed right away.

Coming to know about this situation, I wrote to the priest, asking him as to why he had acted in a way that did not look appropriate.  He justified his action and went on to explaining by taking the word “Vishnum” and attributing its meaning to the personified form of GOD, Mahavishnu.  When I had begun a debate, purely on a one-to-one basis, he was forwarding his reply to hundreds of his acquaintances, some of the temple trustees and devotees who favored his theory.  One of my friends happened to receive such a copy and immediately notified me about what was going on.  I, then, decided to keep the debate transparent among all trustees and devotees.

Having witnessed contemptuous practices towards the Saiva Deities by this priest over two years, to be honest, I was not very kind in my words while countering his logic. He did not want to continue with the debate and informed me that ‘he was going to use other options to continue with his presentations on the subject’.

Ganesa is a Rakshasa!

One of my friends discovered that the priest in question was running his own website.  When he was asked not to interfere with Newsletter distribution in the temple, he went on elaborating against Lord Vinayaka on his site.

He (mis)interpreted certain mantras / slokas to prove that Ganesa was indeed a daemon:

Two archana mantras for Ganesa – Om Vighna Kartre Namah, Om Vighna Hartre Namah – were taken as example to educate the devotees that Ganesa “creates” obstacles and upon receiving favor from the affected, He removes the very obstacle he created!

A sloka from Narayana Kavacham (Bhagavatham 6th Canto, 8th Chapter) was quoted as another example. Here, the word “Vainayaka” was (mis)interpreted as representing Lord Vinayaka!

He added further proof that according to the Aparajitha Mantra from Pancharathra Agama Tantra Siddhantham, Sri Vaishnavites pray to the Chakra and Gada (mace) of Srimannarayana to destroy Vinayaka and other rakshasas (daemons)!

He concluded that if Ganesa is given a higher place than what He deserved, He gets very irritated and embarrassed!!!

Anyone who reads the above reasons, founded on absolute misinterpretation, can see the amount of discrimination and hatred he was nurturing for years, obviously from his school of Vedanta, and silently implementing them inside the divine boundaries of  a temple which he was entrusted to ever since it was built and consecrated.

When I brought this article to the notice of the temple administration, the priest was given a stern warning and subsequently, the offending post was removed from his website.

When one of the devotees asked this priest about the meaning of Sree Rudram, the devotee was told “it’s all some angry chanting”!

When his Sri Vaishnavite Guru visited this temple, he did not go near the Sannidhis (Sanctum Sanctorum) of Ganesa and Siva. While leaving the temple, he advised the management to move Them outside!

Past Comments

By Ramesh on 01/21/2010

Those are extremely divisive statements posted by the priest. I look to priests to unite our community rather than dividing us by drawing all these lines. Ganesha is revered by millions around the world. To many Ganesha is the most important face of Hinduism. To blatantly and publicly desecrate Ganesha and claiming that to be based on scripture is not something I expect from a priest.

By Narayanan Kameswaran on 01/26/2010

In Bhagavatam (canto 6, chapter 8, verse 24) reference no. 3 in priest’s statements above, the verse begins as follows:

“Kushmanda Vainayaka Yaksha Raksho Bhootha Graham Choornaya…”

The word in question is VAINAAYAKA and in its context, it actually refers to forces which are against Sanatana Dharma.

Vainayaka also means related to Vinayaka, similar to the words Saiva (related to Siva), Vaishnava (related to Vishnu), etc.  However, the exact meaning is to be inferred to, based on the context, as learned sanskrit scholars always do.

The Ex-priest interpreted this as LORD VINAYAKA!

In the above article of his, the priest clearly refers to Lord Vinayaka from start to finish.  Let us remember that he wrote this article on his website in response to the “Suklambaradharam” newsletter issue.  In one of the references cited by him, he has tried to put Lord Vinayaka in disguise as the evil force named “VAINAYAKA”.

To give you another example, there was a daemon by name “HAYAGREEVA”.  Lord Vishnu became Lord Hayagreeva (the one with a human body and a horse-head) to kill the daemon who is also called HAYAGREEVA. Can the priest also conclude that Lord Vishnu or Lord Hayagreeva is indeed a daemon?  Or, can he conclude that Lord Vishnu himself was actually the daemon Hayagreeva to trouble the devotees so that He will receive more benefits through Poojas and Yajnas?

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