I have always wondered how Hindus worship; even if I have heard some stories and read blogs about the religion, I have never had a chance to experience personally the proceedings of this popular religion. The Hindu religion is known for a number of reasons but the common ones are the massacre of Hindus and those who in any way supported or funded Hindu activities in a number of cases in the history. But, despite that, I just wish to know their operations and practices that maybe have led to the death of many followers. For the urge to know more about this religion, I set out with my friend to Parasedena Sivan Hindu temple.
So, I became well-prepared and hoped for revelations that will not be so different from my personal religious beliefs. I was worried about language and customs that are practiced by Hindus, wondering if I had to practice Hindu welcome and other language words. Indeed, from information I had, Hindu beliefs and practices are so odd. I could not get a credible internet or other source that could guide me, but I was prepared to experience an environment just like the Muslim religion or a bit more different. Hindu is a religion known for its multiple gods worshiping and is popular in India and other larger parts of the Indian sub-continent. Hindu practices are based on certain laws and regulations that are grounded on two societal norms: dharma and Karma. With that information, I was ready to visit and experience the scenes of rather pure and organized religion in the history.
The Hindu religion is believed to be the oldest and major in History. The Hindus worship a number of deities or gods and goddesses. Their definition on true worship of one God is basically from one sect of the Hindus to the other. The most common gods or deities associated with Hindu worshiping are Brahman and Shiva, Vinshu and Shakti. There are those men who does not believe in any gods but seek the worship through realization of true self by meditation. The Hindu religion is wide and is arranged in many sections and beliefs.
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Arriving at Paranesada Sivan Hindu Temple, I had all that in mind. My friend has a great admiration of the Hindu religion that he was just telling me that if he was such a religious man, he could only be a Hindu. Asking him why, he said that the depiction and understanding of God and religion is very well-guided by the Hindu culture; no matter you worship one or all gods, your humility is found in your personal morality and a clean heart. All is true. The Paranesada Sivan Temple is a huge round building that has several extensions. To me, it looked like those old Roman Catholic churches built in Italy. Indeed, they used the ancient Indian architecture to build this huge and Victorian temple. They have an expansive parking space. I stood out of the car and looked at a building which my younger cousin, who likes old war movies, will call a castle. Huge pillars and a solid foundation made the Temple look like the outstanding Temple of New Dheli , India. Our guide, a Hindu comrade who is my classmate, leads to this glamorous temple. On the foot of the temple, there are bowls of water, huge bowls that are fitted in the pillars of the temple. Our guide tells us that the Hindu temples are built near water streams or where there is a source of water. But because the Los Angeles landscape does not have such places and if they are there, rich men and government had taken over them. Hence, they put water in front of a temple to present the purity of the temple.
Water is believed to be pure, and wherever there is a stream of water, that place is deemed to be pure. The magic of building a temple is based on the ritual of water and land signifying purity and fertility (Elgood 1991). I was shocked to learn that the soil type should also be determined as well as the colour and smell of the soil. Then, on the part of tiling, our guide gave us an explanation that irrespective of the significance of a soil type, tiling signifies the new life that soil has been given. This is to ensure that nature has not been disturbed in any way. The Hindu religion holds dear nature and its surroundings.
The Hindu temple architecture is based on specific criteria that are used to make all temples. The metaphysical art of designing a temple is based on a geometric plan that intersects a square and circle. The Paranesada Sivan Hindu temple was crafted in such an architecture defining an art of geometry that is beautiful to watch (Danielou 2001). The morals and etiquette of Hindu believers is totally in order. You could see believers going in and out and bowing to each other as a sign of respect to and saying “hi”. Their humble conversations and interactions could be seen everywhere. Once I saw a younger boy near to us, I was dumbfounded not knowing what to do. The respect and organization of these believers is practically above the level I see in my local Catholic church. They command scenery of love and worship more than any other place I have ever seen. The architecture and design art is more dominant in the Temple. After removing our shoes and being in a proper dress code, we headed to the temple. Indeed, when you are in Rome, do as the Romans do. The dress code involved tying a scarf on your head and another garment around your body; luckily, we had planned for that. I have never seen an inside of a church that is so beautiful and organized like the Paranesada Sival Hindu Temple. They have organized the temple beautifully with most parts of the temple empty. The temple was kept like a shrine, with numerous idols of various gods and goddesses. I looked like Muslims the Hindu temples that have no chairs. You will have to sit down in a specific manner and worship your god.
It was also a shock that Hindus do not have to go to the Temple to worship. A Hindu temple is like a shrine, there are all types of gods and goddesses. So, according to your belief and understanding, you will only need these gods and goddesses in your house. Most Hindu believers have shrines in their houses and worship their gods wherever they want. But then Temples are there for general attendance and seeking the service of the priest. At Paranesada Sival Hindu temple, there were not many people who came for the worship. So, we went and sat on the back so as to see the proceedings clearly. To worship one god in the temple, you will need all your senses to connect with god. The priest will pray for you in temple by chanting and bowing to the gods and goddesses. You will only have to go to the temple, sit down and then start bowing and praying to the gods. The priest is an intercessory who receives your players and then presents them to the gods and goddesses. The players are short and only involve bowing in front of your god and praying seeking advice and guidance. There was not much I would discover to understand more about Hindu worship. But our guide explained that Hindu worship is about respect and praise to the gods and goddesses; hence the most important things are the idols of the gods and goddesses present at the church. By looking and bowing at them and giving your player, you could have finished your worship. The temple also had certain scriptures of a book which they use in worship. The book only gives guidance on proper worship. After the bowing was over, some worshipers will go to the priest and seek guidance and intercession. The priest will then direct them on what to do.
I learned three things from the visit to the Paranesada Sival Hindu Temple. I learned values of respect and humility. Hindu believers are very humble and respectful. Their Namaste holding of hands together and bowing is full of respect and understanding of heart. Secondly, I learned the value of worship. Most of us go to church because we ought to, but I saw the determination and heart of Hindu believers that was amazing. The third issue that I find discouraging about Hindu worship is idol worship. I do not understand the reasons for their gods and goddesses worship but I find it confusing. They worship a number of gods with different and conflict ideals.
“The unexamined life is not worth living”
Perhaps Socrates was one of the best philosophers of the 5th century. The quote “The unexamined life is not worth living” has a vivid meaning and practice in the Hindu worship culture. As it was earlier noted, the Hindu worship is the most controversial with the number of beliefs, gods, and goddesses they follow. There are those who do not belief in any god or goddess but believe in the ritual of realization of their own life. These worship orchestrated through meditation and adherence to societal morals and norms help believers to understand their own life. It is a reflective worship that seeks to help an individual look at his past and determine the right and wrong choices he made. Then he will be able to understand his true self and set to live a worthy live.
Through worship and acceptance, we will be able to understand our own lives and live for the better. The understanding that Socrates put forward has made many ask themselves questions is the reality of being open to others and allowing to be asked questions on your thoughts and actions. It will be a “superficial act” to live in a life of denial and the lack of motivations that does not prompt your thoughts. Indeed, these words teach us a great wisdom of life. Just like attending the worship where we go to seek understanding and faith from our God, we should be able to live a free life full of honesty and acceptance. Worship at great length helps us understand our inner values and acts through benevolence and repentance. Through our hearts, we seek acceptance and redemption from our God. These intercessions will help us to reflect our pasts and see what we ought to do in order to change (Socrates: A philosophical life, 1997)
Socrates also demanded that we should allow to be judged and spoke against as a means of understanding ourselves better. In conclusion, Socrates provides a basis for worship, the past and the revelation of our true character.