“The Supreme Lord is situated in everyone’s heart, O Arjuna, and is directing the wanderings of all living entities, who are seated as on a machine, made of the material energy.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.61)
Friend1: You ever meet people who are against the idea of going to the temple?
Friend2: Because they don’t believe in God or that within the realm of religion they are not fond of that particular practice?
Friend1: The latter. They believe in God., but others broadcasting that information is like an affront to their sensibilities.
Friend2: You mean if I were to say I visit such and such place of worship every week, you would take offense. “Who are you to think that you are more religious than me?”
Friend1: That’s exactly it. The intention on your side is not to compare. You are engaging in basic conversation. It’s the answer to the question of what you do on the weekends. However, they become defensive and start to make excuses. Sometimes if the argument goes deep enough, they’ll condemn the practice altogether.
Friend2: On what grounds?
Friend1: That it is unnecessary. You can worship in the home. Set up an altar. Offer incense, flowers, fruit and the like.
Friend2: Well, that is certainly authorized. You can take the direct quote from the Bhagavad-gita:
“If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water, I will accept it.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.26)
Friend1: Another argument is that God is within everyone. Meditate on the Almighty residing within the heart.
Friend2: Well, another quote from the Bhagavad-gita supports that. Krishna is resting within everyone’s heart. This includes the non-human species. He is the superior director. The individual is really seated on a machine that they think they have full control over.
Friend1: What are you saying here? Visiting the temple is not worth it? These people are correct?
Friend2: No single practice in the bhakti culture is a nonnegotiable requirement. That is why Prahlada Maharaja mentions nine different processes when answering his Daitya father. You can bet there was no temple worship in that kingdom. Prahlada had no place to go. He meditated internally, and yet he didn’t condemn other outlets of devotion. Just hearing is enough. You put enough time and attention into hearing about Hari, the personal side of the Divine, and your life will become perfect.
Friend1: I think I know the answers here, but from hearing this discussion a person might ask what is the purpose of the temple to begin with. If I can achieve perfection through hearing or meditating, why set up some place that is always in need of funds, that might be run by cheaters and thieves, and which today involves socializing and other such distracting behavior?
Friend2: Consciousness is the key. Whatever way to get it to change from material to spiritual.
Friend1: The nature itself or what the focus is on?
Friend2: Mind, intelligence and ego are material. They are subtle elements. Consciousness is what accompanies the individual from body to body. Sometimes that consciousness cannot develop fully, like with the non-human species. It is there to some degree, because that is the definition of living. The nature of the individual doesn’t change, since they are always spiritual, part of the marginal Divine energy. The focus of the consciousness is what determines the nature of living, known as bhava.
“Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.6)
Friend1: The temple is about consciousness, then?
Friend2: Think of it this way. If you want to educate your child, there are options, correct?
Friend1: As in what school to go to.
Friend2: Go beyond that. There are different schools, but homeschooling is an option, also. Why doesn’t every person do that?
Friend1: Oh, there are many reasons. The parents want the kids to socialize. They don’t have the time to spend with the children. They don’t feel up to the task of educating someone else on topics they learned many years before.
Friend2: Those are valid reasons. Another is that the environment of school is more conducive to learning. The same education can be achieved while sitting at the kitchen table. It can be accomplished while lying down in bed, even. But when active participation is a requirement, sitting up on a solid chair is a better position, in most cases. Having other students around should help, as well.
Friend1: I see.
Friend2: Another example is going to the office for work. In the modern day, so many people telecommute; i.e. they work from home. It’s helpful for a lot of reasons, but there are negatives. It is easier to procrastinate when your bedroom is only feet away. There are more distractions at home. Going to the office might be the only way a person can get any work done.
Friend1: And so the temple is like a place that is more conducive to practicing spiritual life, though ostensibly the same can be accomplished anywhere.
Friend2: Yes, there are other people interested in the same thing. It’s like going to a club meeting. If you make a habit of it, from just seeing the deity, offering obeisances, and smelling the flowers offered you will make advancement. Throw in chanting the holy names and you are on your way back home, back to Godhead.
Just from routine to pray,
To Godhead on your way.
Benefit from temple deity seeing,
From material consciousness freeing.
Like having an office routine renew,
The distractions limited and few.
Conducive for progress making,
So advantage of temple taking.