By Promod Puri
“Temple-Hinduism” is an expression introduced by Vasudha Narayanan, Professor of Religion, University of Florida. The terminology is not an academic phrasing, nor does it reflect a new sect in Hinduism. It is an interpretation of Hinduism related to the devotional practices of rituals and prayers in temple’s iconological environment.
As we know Hinduism in its liberal and diverse traditions offers a range of options for worshipping and contemplation, temple-Hinduism is the dominant and popular choice of devout Hindus.
An accepted convention among Hindus is to have home shrines, but a temple aside from a place of worship offers visible embodiment of identity to the religion. The instinct vibe of the divine spirit in an idol itself is the prime invitation to the temple.
The overall mood in temple environs causes an ardent psychological conviction that this is the abode of God. It offers a dedicated and disciplined setting for ritual worship, prayers, and contemplation.
The tradition of humility and total submission by devotees further contribute to the consecration of temple environment. Taking off shoes before entering the sacred premises, bowing in front of sacred idols’ sanctum, sitting on the floor, observing silence, are some the very basic and observed customs of Hindu worship etiquettes.
In this spiritual abode the smell of incense, the sight of lighted Diya (clay oil lamp), the ring of the temple bell, the singing of prayers, the reciting and hum of mantras, all create an ambiance of divine feel and resonance to have moments with the divinity. The sanctity of the place is thus defined.
Temple-Hinduism involves routine visits to a temple for ritualistic, devotional, and contemplative purposes. But temple-Hinduism embodying these practices is not mandatory for a devout Hindu. Meditative Hinduism and spiritual yoga disciplines can also be the entitlements of the multi-disciplinary spiritual order of the religion.
In the diverse and secular fundamentals of Hinduism, meditation and yoga are the recognized and rife movements which appeal to both Hindus and non-Hindus.
Meditation in all its varied contemplations is a much-practiced Hindu tradition from ancient to the present times. Hindu meditation is both secular and spiritual in its nature and practice.
Seeking enlightenment is one reverent aspect of meditation which has its Vedic roots in Hindu spiritual traditions. However, the most favored and helpful feature of meditation in our day to day lives is to procreate a tranquil temperament amidst the ceaseless chaos of personal anxieties and worldly troubles.
Meditation basically is an exercise of steering the mind toward a focus during the entire meditative period. And the focus can be any chosen or guru-given mantra, a thought, some auditory sensation like breath, a sacred sound like Om, or even an object. Theoretically, it is a simple and focused discipline, and its practice leads to serenity.
A contemporary observation of Hinduism suggests meditation and yoga are on the same platform from the aspects of spirituality and praxis. The practicality of yoga in offering health benefits has achieved its own universal recognition and acceptance.
The word yoga is derived from its Sanskrit root ‘yuj’ which means to join. The sanctioned concept is that the practice of yoga leads toward the union of Jiva-Atma and Parm-Atma, in other words between the self and the Supreme.
However, the fusion can also be interrupted as between spirituality and physical wellness within the yoga discipline. As such the yoga school of Hinduism offers a unique feature emphasizing that healthy mind and healthy body are complimentary as well as linked to each other through the discipline of yoga.
Despite their bonded identity with Hinduism, the contemporary trends in meditation and yoga “underplay or distance their connections with the word ‘Hindu,’ and some use labels such ‘spiritual’ to emphasize their ‘universal’ content, according to Prof. Narayanan.
In this expanse, the spirituality and exercise of the Hindu faith go beyond temple-Hinduism or the institutions of meditation and yoga.
Hinduism also belongs to those who neither go to temple on regular and ritualistic basis nor do they involve themselves in either meditation or yoga tradition as part of their spiritual pursuits or devotional routines.
Their Hinduism lies in an order often referred as “a way of life.” Here the Hindu theology is induced with divinity in thoughts, words, and deeds based on knowledge and rationality.
In this regime, which I would call Karma Hinduism, ethical and righteous thoughts and karmas guide the management of the self and its divinity. Nonetheless, temple visits, meditation, and yoga remain complimentary to Karma Hinduism.
(Promod Puri is the author of “Hinduism beyond rituals, customs, and traditions.” He is also a frequent writer on topics related to Hinduism, politics and human interest.)