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Contracting God

Does God like butter worth $40 on the idol more than happy faces of 10 children?

Supreme Court’s landmark decision that Brahmins have no monopoly in priesthood prompted me to write about another thing about Hinduism that bothers me quite a bit. Extravagant rituals and offerings at temples. I believe that majority of rituals conducted in temples are excessive and useless.

Important note - I believe that we created God to a certain extent. Still, at times, I find myself thinking wishfully that some greater power will take an interest in me.

More popular a temple, costlier and more extravagant the rituals. These rituals and offerings are supposed to make God more pleased. I believe most Gods are pleased when you help a fellow human being or a fellow creature or anyone in need.

Guruvayoor is a very popular temple near my home town. It is a very rich temple, with its roof completely covered with solid gold. Several thousands visit this temple every day. Let me take this temple as an example.

Here are some sample offerings available:

With the cost of living in rural India, $40 is a sizable sum for a poor family. If I’ve $40 to make an offering to cover the idol with sandalwood paste, am I supposed to convince myself that God would value this paste more than the smiles $40 could possibly bring to several hungry people - most of them also go to the temple and pray to show them find ways to feed their children?

Is God more happy to see people spending lots of money for wasting gallons of butter poured over the statue; in a country where a significant percentage of children don’t even get milk?

Lord Krishna is the main deity at this particular temple. The most famous story about Krishna specifically explains how happy he was to get some food from one of his visiting childhood friends, who was dirt poor. And it was the same Lord Krishna who answered a disciple’s questions in Bhagavad Gita. It is my opinion that all the spiritual and philosophical wisdom ever needed by mankind is there in this text.

Here are my suggestions to religious readers who are inclined to spend money for costly rituals.

I think the feeling is that when costly rituals are offered, we are entering into a contract with the God. Then God will take care of us, atleast to some percentage of the amount we spent! No. As far as I know, none of the Hindu religious texts tell that you can buy services from God.

Temples for a better society

One thing I really like about the way Christianity, Islam and pretty much every other religion is practiced is that, their places of worship also serve as a community building center. In a world that is divisive by nature, these centers act as corner stones of society. I’m yet to see a Hindu temple that achieves this. Make no mistake, I’m not talking about the community building as practiced by religious fanatics. But, just a good feeling you get when you are in a society that shares common interests. Something like user groups :-)

Places of worship can be very much used to share your interests, happiness, ideas, frustrations and sorrows, still within a perimeter defining a common goal and authority, that everyone has agreed is greater than everyone of them, and all of them. This, pretty much is the definition of good teams and great leadership. So, these places can be used to move forward with our fellow dwellers of this lovely planet.

  1. Hi,
    for the first time have I come across a site that has voiced something i believed from a long time. You may add about the "langars" that we see in many Gurudwaras. Annadanam as you rightly put is a much better way to start our day, as against, costly offerings to the temple.

    Posted by: trueBeliever on July 27, 2003 10:20 AM
  2. Hi,
    I do agree if not fully paritally with this aritcle but, what i have seen is if we hand over money to some needy person, he normally endup in bar or casino kind of place. If we restict ourself to annadanam it does make sense to me. I personally have meet needy who is not ready to take food or other consumable , these kind of expereince did made me stop helping need people around.

    Posted by: J K Khurana on July 28, 2003 01:59 AM
  3. I have seen so many people giving gold, silver in temples, wasting milk and even killing animals.
    I really dont feel that by doing such things one can please God and get your things done.
    The worst of it is killing animals. Ones wishes can never be fulfilled by taking anybody's life. How is it possible that God the creator of life will ever demand for killing his creation for fulfilling others wishes!
    I fully beleive that "service to man is service to God" and by hepling the needy you will always be happy.

    Posted by: Bhakti Rathod on August 10, 2003 01:22 PM