“O Lakshmana, do you rule this earth with Me. You are like My second self, so this glorious opportunity has been presented to you as well. O Saumitra, do you enjoy all the pleasures you desire and the fruits of the regal life. My life and this kingdom I covet for your sake alone.” (Lord Rama speaking to Lakshmana, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 4.43-44)
लक्ष्मणेमां मया सार्धं प्रशाधि त्वं वसुन्धराम्।
द्वितीयं मेऽन्तरात्मानं त्वामियं श्रीरुपस्थिता।।
सौमित्रे भुङ्क्ष्व भोगांत्स्वमिष्टान्राज्यफलानि च।
जीवितं च हि राज्यं च त्वदर्थमभिकामये।।
lakṣmaṇemāṃ mayā sārdhaṃ praśādhi tvaṃ vasundharām।
dvitīyaṃ me’ntarātmānaṃ tvāmiyaṃ śrīrupasthitā।।
saumitre bhuṅkṣva bhogāṃtsvamiṣṭānrājyaphalāni ca।
jīvitaṃ ca hi rājyaṃ ca tvadarthamabhikāmaye।।
“I want to say I really enjoy the pictures that you post. Especially the ones of deities from the various temples – they remind me of my own experiences. I am generally not as serious about religion as I should be, but there is something to these places. When I visit them a feeling of peace and calm overcomes me.
“It is completely lacking otherwise. There must be a reason. After a while I long for a return, but I never seem to find the time. Is there a deeper explanation, perhaps a background to the construction that delivers this effect?”
1. God is all-attractive
The temple is nothing more than a place of worship with a chief resident. The place is not established as such by an institution. It does not have to be government approved or receive the endorsement of a commission consisting of highly-credentialed panelists.
In fact, if there is a single room dedicated to such worship in the common person’s home, then the place becomes like a tirtha. The presence of Tulasi Devi, who is a plant very dear to the Supreme Lord, can accomplish the same.
“Let me offer my respectful obeisances unto the tulasi tree, which can immediately vanquish volumes of sinful activities. Simply by seeing or touching this tree one can become relieved from all distresses and diseases. Simply by offering obeisances to and pouring water on the tulasi tree, one can become freed from the fear of being sent to the court of Yamaraj [the King of death, who punishes the sinful]. If someone sows a tulasi tree somewhere, certainly he becomes devoted to Lord Krishna. And when the tulasi leaves are offered in devotion at the lotus feet of Krishna, there is the full development of love of Godhead.” (The Nectar Of Devotion quoting the Skanda Purana)
The temple atmosphere is the personification of the truth that God is all-attractive. The corresponding name is Krishna. There are other similar suitable name-descriptions, such as Shyamasundara and Bhagavan. Since He is Govinda, God is pleasing to the senses.
The eyes especially get the benefit from the temple visit. Not that God can be limited to a statue, but the depiction is so potent that it takes on an equivalence. It is a conduit for accepting prayers and items of worship. It is a way authorized since time immemorial to connect with someone who is otherwise beyond our comprehension.
2. He teaches that there is always a chance
The human birth is certainly the best opportunity for liberation. In other species the ability to critically think and ponder the situation moving forward is hampered by the type of body. It is the same individual, but taking residence in a different kind of establishment, for a period of time.
Yet just because we are in the human experience now does not mean we will spoil our chance forever through dismissal of the devotional principles. If we fail to achieve the proper consciousness, then surely our fate could be doomed for the future, but the eternal nature of the soul continues.
The temple reminds us that Krishna will always accept us, no matter how long we have forgotten Him. The connection with the deity is like meeting a long-lost friend, a person who always has our best interests at heart. We have already been condemned in a sense, through placement in the material world, but there is no malice on His part. He is constant as our well-wishing friend.
3. Spiritual life should be blissful
There is beauty throughout the creation. There is artistic expression in so many areas of life. Why should pleasant surroundings be absent in the connection with the person who is the origin of everything? Why should that experience be lacking a kind of joy that is already the objective in every other endeavor?
The temple experience gives a glimpse into the eternal life of bliss, ananda. There is singing, dancing, and eating. Meeting with like-minded people. Association with sadhu, shastra and guru. The saintly person, the sacred texts, and the active representative of those teachings.
Rather than being scolded for our sins or living in fear of a higher being, we are encouraged to give up our inhibitions and surrender completely in sharanagati, which will make us genuinely happy moving forward.
4. He allows us to visit as much as we want
Barring a ridiculous government imposition to supposedly keep people safe, I can pay a visit once a month, only on special occasions, once a week, or every single day. If I am really inspired and feeling pains of separation, I can try to replicate the environment in my home. An incident from Shri Rama’s pastimes reveals the attitude on the other end.
There was a brahmana in Rama’s kingdom of Ayodhya who would feel terrible pains of separation whenever Rama had to go away on official business. To alleviate the suffering, the leader had a deity installed in this person’s home. The idea was that through such worship it was as if the husband of Sita was still by their side.
This means that the entire temple structure is mercy arriving directly from the Almighty. It is His way of helping us, even though we have turned away from Him for so long.
5. He makes sacrifices for everyone else
When Rama first heard the news about becoming the next king, He immediately thought of sharing the honor with His younger brother Lakshmana. This was not a token gesture; Rama is always sacrificing for others.
The temple is His way of approaching us, and so of course there would be an accompanying peaceful atmosphere. Even if a person is homeless or lacks the means of reaching such an environment, they can still connect through the power of the holy name: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Overcome by calm and peace,
When temple destination to reach.
Something must be there,
But perhaps not aware.
Because God resident in chief,
Vision of friend to eyes relief.
Showing blissful life persisting,
Forgiven despite so long resisting.