FSIM Hindu Temple Tour
Recap by Mary Conley, FSIM Board Member
There are 21 Hindu Temples in the US. The Hindu Temple in Maple Grove is the largest in the US. Hindus believe the Divine can take many forms as well as be formless. This temple has eight beautiful representations of the Divinity forms. Each of these forms has a symbolic meaning that inspires devotion and instills ethical values.
In India, there are 22 official languages and within these are many dialects. Because of the variances of languages and dialects, as well that the teachings were originally passed down via an oral tradition for thousands of years before being written down, there is diversity in Hinduism. Based on this diversity, the various Divine deities evolved relative to different parts of India.
At the core of Hinduism is the belief that the same Divine Spirit or Divine Spark resides within everyone, regardless of differences of race, gender, species or other differences. Brahman, or the Divine, who is present in all living beings, is the creator, the sustainer, and the transformer that puts things back to their primal form. This is a repeating cycle.
We all have the Divine Spark and can connect with It in different ways; therefore, there are many ways to achieve divinity. Meditation is one way that we can connect with the Divine. When meditating together or individually, there is a positive energy that is felt and we feel better from this experience. Or doing our duty or daily tasks with selflessness is another way to express and connect with the Divine.
We all have choices to make each day, such as what do I do? Is it good or bad? Everything that we do has an imprint, which is karma. What choices we make present a specific life. Based on choices made in this life, will bring us to the next life. Thus, with choices and actions made from our free will, there is a cause and effect that shapes the path of our present life and our next life.
Vastu Shastra, is India’s form of Feng Shui that predates Chinese Feng Shui by about 1500 years. Vastu translates to place and Shastra translates to science. Vastu Shastra is the science of architecture and design of temples, homes and buildings. In this system, the Elements are forms of energy that come from the Divine and make up the physical body as well as the external world. Designing a house with the five Elements creates an environment with life force energy, known as Prana. It is Prana that keeps everything going.
Vastu Shastra identifies the five Elements as Earth, Water, Air, Fire and Space, which create balance and harmony in homes and in the human body. The body is our personal house and if it is out of balance our wellbeing and physical being is affected. The Elements are used to help maintain and restore this balance.
In the case of the Temple, it was purposefully built with it facing East. Having an East/West orientation, provides the solar connection with the sun. As the sun rises it shines on the front of the building and in your face as you look out to the east. Nearby, is a creek that provides flowing water. There is reverence and worship of the land that provides the ability to be grounded, which is needed to be effective. Air and space are amply available on the property.
We then spent time learning about some of the Deities that are so beautifully presented in the worship space. A short description follows for these:
The avatar of three heads - representing morning, evening, night; the trinity; giving form in 3 ways as the creator, sustainer and putting things back to primal form.
The elephant, who is very smart and large with sharp eyes and big ears - symbolic of listening more and speaking less as well as strength with humility. Shut out external desire to understand ourselves.
Sri Shiva -
This Deity transforms energy back to its original form when there is no form (Destroyer)
The standing avatar protects and restores balance (Preserver)
Sri Jagannath -
Three icons that consist of Krishna with his sister and brother
Sri Krishna -
This Diety is recognized as the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu.
He is known as the god of compassion, tenderness and love.
We also viewed our planetary system with the sun in the middle, which was represented by 9 people grouped together. Worshipers walk around this group 108 times or they may walk around the worship space 108 times saying prayers. There is symbolism related to the number 108 as there are 108 energy systems in the body as well as 108 energy systems between the Earth and Sun.
Similar to the effects of the Moon’s gravitational pull on the ocean tides on Earth, humans too are affected by its gravitational effect because of being made up of 70% water. There is magnetic pull of the Earth as well. With these interrelationships, Hinduism has a strong connection with astronomy.
A few questions were asked that had to do with ceremonial worship and purification. The answers follow:
Paja is ceremonial worship, where we sit to connect with the Divine. The divine is treated as a special gift. The Divine comes to our place and is given the human touch with the intention to humanize the Divine by giving blessed food, water flowers, etc.
Purification can be achieved through the use of fire and sound. Fire purifies by changing the energy back to its primal form where it goes back into the aethers. The use of a bell creates a vibration that purifies certain energy in a space. Both are used for clearing purposes.