Defining Your Hindu
Temple in America
From HPI &
TODAY: KAUAI, HAWAII, USA, April 9, 2005:
The following paper was prepared
under the direction of Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami for the Dharma Summit
2005. It is intended to serve as a template model for Hindu Temples in the
USA to follow in conveying to the publish what tradition their temple
Bodhinatha advocates that each
temple clearly define five points:
- Mata - The Hindu Denomination;
- Agama - The Scriptures;
- Archaka - The Priesthood;
- Darshana - The Philosophy; and
- Anubhava - The Vision.
As well, the temple can provide an
introduction with a history and general description.
We reproduce this paper here
because this same information should be incorporated in any temple's
by-laws. Following is an example write-up of Kadavul Hindu Temple here in
Kauai at the home of HPI and Hinduism Today.
Kadavul Hindu Temple is a
traditional South Indian style Siva temple. It is part of Kauai Aadheenam,
a 458-acre monastery/temple complex also known as Kauai's Hindu Monastery.
As it is the primary temple for
the 20 resident monastics, the monks rotate in three-hour-long vigils
round-the-clock during which time they worship, meditate and perform other
spiritual disciplines. This sadhana has been maintained in unbroken
continuity since the temple was established in 1973, adding to the
temple's profound power which changes the lives of many a visitor, much
like the ancient temples of South India.
Supreme God Siva, in the form of
Nataraja and a crystal Sivalinga, is enshrined in the main sanctum. In
front of Siva's sanctum is the temporary abode for the 700-pound,
3-foot-tall, naturally formed crystal Sivalingam (the largest known
sphatika svayambhulingam in the world) which will one day become the
primary image of worship in the hand-carved white granite Iraivan Temple
now being built nearby on the monastery property. Six-foot-tall black
granite murtis of Lord Ganesha and Lord Murugan (Karttikeya, riding on a
peacock and thus called Shikivahana) are installed in two large side
There is also an Ardhanarishvara
murti and an elaborate, full-size silver trident (trisula), symbol of God
Siva's three fundamental powers of desire, action and wisdom.
Lining the main walls of the
temple is a rare collection of Siva's 108 tandava dance poses in
16-inch-tall bronze icons covered with gold leaf. A shrine for the
Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami,
affectionately known as Gurudeva (1927-2001), was established on the first
anniversary of his mahasamadhi.
Just outside the entryway is a
pavilion for Nandi the bull, Siva's mount and devotee, a giant form
weighing 32,000 pounds, carved from a single stone.
Mata - The Hindu
Kadavul Hindu Temple is of the
Saivite tradition, the oldest of the four main denominations of Hinduism.
In the Tamil language of South
India, our religion is known as Saiva Samayam, or simply Saivam.
As Saivites, we worship the one
Supreme Being as God Siva, and Lords Ganesha and Murugan, whom God Siva
created to assist Him in the care of His great creation. In Saivism,
Shakti is God Siva's power and is not separate from Him.
This is depicted most clearly in
the image of God Siva as Ardhanarishvara, whose left side is female and
right side is male. Here there is no separate Deity representing Shakti,
for in our tradition the Supreme Being is neither male nor female, but
Agama - The
Every Hindu temple relies on a
sacred text as its source of spiritual ritual, usually an agama.
The Agamas are an enormous
collection of Sanskrit scriptures which, along with the Vedas, are revered
as revealed scripture.
Like the Vedas, the Agamas
(literally "that which came down") were part of an oral tradition and are
as old as 7,000-8,000 years. They are the primary source and authority for
ritual, yoga and temple construction.
In the South Indian Saivite
tradition, there are 28 Saiva Agamas. As in temples run by the Sivacharyas
of South India, the traditional liturgy performed in Kadavul Hindu Temple
takes as its spiritual authority the Kamika and Karana Agamas, and their
derivative priestly manuals.
Murti - The
We worship the Supreme Being as
Siva, enshrined in the main sanctum in the form of a spotless crystal
Lingam and a 6-foot-tall bronze murti of Nataraja.
Worship of the Sivalingam in
India dates back to the very beginning of the Saivite religion, millennia
ago. The Lingam is the most prevalent emblem of Siva, found in virtually
all Siva temples. It is the simplest and most ancient symbol of God
representing Absolute Reality, beyond all forms and qualities, Parasiva.
shiv-ling in Shrinagar, Kashmir, India
Nataraja, "King of
Dance," is perhaps Hinduism's richest and most eloquent symbol, representing
God with form, known as Parameshvara, the "Supreme Ruler" or Primal Soul.
The dance of Siva is the dance of the entire cosmos. Within the symbolism of
Siva's dance we find His five shaktis, or powers:
1) creation, or emanation;
3) destruction, dissolution or
4) obscuring grace, the power which
hides the truth, thereby permitting experience, growth and fulfillment of
5) revealing grace, which grants
knowledge and severs the soul's bonds. Temples with prominent Nataraja
images are rare and are found primarily in South India, most notably at
Archaka - The
As Kadavul Hindu Temple is part
of a monastery, the mathavasis, or monastics, naturally form its primary
The monks' potent spiritual
disciplines make the temple powerful, its vibration pure.
The monks perform pujas every
three hours in Kadavul Temple, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The
primary daily puja is held at 9:00am.
Under the aegis of the late
Sivashri Dr. T.S. Sambamurthy Sivachariar, head of the South India Archaka
Sangam, Adisaiva priests came to Kauai's Hindu Monastery in the mid-1980s
to train qualified monastics in the art of parartha puja, "worship for the
benefit of others," to be performed daily in the Aadheenam's established
temples. Up until this time, only Saivite brahmins of the hereditary
Adisaiva priest lineage were entitled to conduct rites in Agamic Siva
temples. Kadavul Temple brings adept Adisaiva priests from South India or
elsewhere for special ceremonies, such as kumbhabhishekams and other major
Sometimes we also have
unmarried Adisaivas help with the daily pujas in the temple and provide
additional chanting and pujari training to the mathavasis.
Darshana - The Philosophy
The philosophy followed and taught at Kadavul Hindu Temple is the
non-dualistic Saiva Siddhanta (Advaita Siddhanta) of Rishi Tirumular and
his guru, Maharishi Nandinatha (ca 250 bce), which proclaims that God Siva
is Love, both immanent and transcendent, both the creator and the
creation. He is the totality of all, understood in three perfections:
- Parameshvara (the Personal
- Parashakti (the energy which
permeates all form) and
- Parasiva (Absolute Reality
which transcends all).
Simply put, God Siva is all, and
is in all. Souls and world are identical in essence with Siva, yet also
differ in that they are evolving.
This philosophy differs from the
dualistic form of Saiva Siddhanta propounded by Meykandar (ca 1250 ce),
which teaches that God is Lord and Creator, but He remains ever separate
from man and the world.
For more information about the
Saiva Siddhanta philosophy, see Gurudeva's book Dancing with Siva,
Hinduism's Contemporary Catechism.
Anubhava - The
It is said that the most powerful
temples are those founded by the Gods themselves through visions. Kadavul
Hindu Temple is such a temple.
Gurudeva describes his vision and
the events leading up to the temple's founding:
- "At Mahasivaratri time in
1973, in the jungles of Kauai, our Kadavul Nataraja Deity, Lord of the
Dance, arrived at Kauai Aadheenam and was placed in the gardens
overlooking the sacred Wailua River, where it was spontaneously
decorated, bathed and worshiped.
- That night the exact location
of the Deity's installation was chosen by Lord Muruga Himself when He
appeared to me in an early morning vision, upturned His glistening vel,
His scepter of spiritual discernment, and powerfully pounded its point
three times on the cement steps at the Aadheenam entrance, marking the
precise spot to place the Deity.
- " This mystical vision marked
the founding of Kadavul Hindu Temple.
- Shortly after the installation
of the Nataraja Deity, Gurudeva received what he called "a magical boon"
of reading clairvoyantly from inner-plane manuscripts, which he then
dictated to his monks over a two-year period.
- These writings from the devas
and Mahadevas formed the shastras, spiritual instructions, that now
guide his monastic order.
- During the same time, Gurudeva
received devonic directions that written prayers could be sent to the
inner world devas by being burned in the sacred fire inside Kadavul
- On auspicious days, hundreds
of prayers from all over the world are offered into the temple fire. The
magical happenings and answers to these petitions have become part of
the temple's renown.
- Writing and delivering
prayers to the Devaloka through the sacred fire is an ancient Natha
- Today this method of
communication is still employed in Shinto and Taoist temples in Japan,
China, Singapore, Malaysia and other areas of Southeast Asia.
- The prayers are written down
and placed in the temple fire. As the paper burns, the astral double of
the prayer appears in the Devaloka. The prayer is then read by the
devas, who proceed to carry out the devotee's requests.
- These temple devas are fully
dedicated to assist all who come through the temple doors with their
emotional, mental and physical problems.