[Advaita-l] Temple Worship by all

S Jayanarayanan sjayana at yahoo.com
Wed Jun 2 20:39:50 CDT 2010

--- On Wed, 6/2/10, V Subrahmanian <v.subrahmanian at gmail.com> wrote:

> On Wed, Jun 2, 2010 at 3:22 AM, S
> Jayanarayanan <sjayana at yahoo.com>
> wrote:
> > There are specific rules laid down in the Shruti and
> Smriti that only
> > Brahmins should officiate as priests in Yajnas and
> Homas. But are there
> > similar commands laid down in the scriptures (in the
> Agamas for instance)
> > that only Brahmins can perform priestly temple
> worship?
> >
> > I got this question when I was reading about saint
> Kannappa, who though
> > born as a hunter, worshipped in a Shiva temple where a
> Brahmin was the
> > "official" priest. Is this story not evidence that all
> castes are permitted
> > to **physically worship** in the temples? I'm not
> talking about mental
> > devotion alone, but also things like performing
> Abhishekam, Aradhana etc.
> >
> Namaste Karthik,
> The story of Thinnan, as reported in the saivam.org site:
> http://www.shaivam.org/nakannap.html  says that
> Thinnan was doing the
> worship, in his own way, of offering meat, etc. which was
> not to the liking
> of the official priest.  The latter would clean all
> this and do the
> 'permitted' mode of worship and Thinnan, for his turn,
> would come and clear
> up all this and offer his own kind of worship.


> From the above excerpted account, I understand that Thinnan
> was doing this
> kind of worship only  for a week before the great
> event took place.  Also, I
> do not see that this kind of, unAgamic, worship was
> 'permitted' officially.


Bhagavan Tells of Kannappar the Saint

Bhagavan began to read the life of Kannappar, the great devotee-saint. He went on reading incidents in his early life, and how he went to the forest and found Kudumi Dever, the Sivalinga, his Lord, up the Kalahasti Hill in the Chittoor district (of Andhra State). Then he told how Kannappar worshipped the Sivalinga with water carried in his mouth, flowers taken from his own hair, and the well-cooked and tasted beef prepared from his own meal - knowing no better and having no better to offer his beloved Lord. The way in which the ordained priest, Siva Gochariar, resented the intruding defiler of the sacred Sivalinga was so characteristically brought out by Bhagavan, who with his own explanations of the rites and the meaning of the mantras used in the worship, that it enriched the recital greatly to the benefit and admiration of the devotees.

Then came the scene of scenes, when the Lord in that Sivalinga tested Kannappar and incidentally revealed to Siva Gochariar the intensity of the forest hunter's love. Lord had directed him to witness Kannappar's worship from a place of hiding. He saw the unexpected trickling of blood from one of the eyes on that Sivalinga; he saw Kannappar running to and fro for herbs, and treating the Lord's eye with them. Then he saw how, finding them all useless, Kannappar plucked out one of his eyes and applied it to that in the Sivalinga; then, seeing the treatment was effective, he ran into ecstasies of joyful dance.

When Bhagavan came to the story of how Kannappar was plucking out his second eye to heal the second of the Lord, and of how the Sivalinga extended a hand to stop him, saying "Stop, Kannappar!'' Bhagavan's voice choked, His body perspired profusely, His hairs stood on end, tears gushed out from his eyes;

He could hardly utter a word, and there was silence, pin-drop silence in the Hall. All there were dumbfounded that this great jnani could be so much overpowered by emotion and ecstasy at the great hunter-saint's devotion. After a while Sri Bhagavan quietly closed the book, dried his tears in His eyes with the ends of His towel, and laid aside the book, saying, "No, I can't go on any further.''

Then we could realise the import of His words in the Aksharamanamalai: "Having become silent, if one remains like a stone, can that be called real silence?'' His blossomed Heart had in it the perfect warmth of devotion, no less than the supreme light of Knowledge.

~ T. K. Sundaresa Iyer, At The Feet of Bhagavan

Note the phrase, "The way in which the ordained priest, Siva Gochariar, resented the intruding defiler of the sacred Sivalinga was so characteristically brought out by Bhagavan...". Ramana Maharshi narrates just how shocked the Brahmin priest was by the "impure" activities of Thinnan as a study in contrast. In other words, it is not that Thinnan had made a mistake by his worship, but because he was performing worship at a **higher** level than the priest! Thinnan's worship with meat, water from the mouth, etc. had the approval of Ramana Maharshi.

The only objection that one may have with taking this story as an example of castes other than Brahmins performing priestly worship in temples is that Thinnan could be considered an "exception" because his Bhakti was sufficiently great as to permit such worship in his instance alone. But Thinnan must have started worship at a lower stage to scale up in Bhakti Sadhana, yet there is no hint that Ramana disapproved of Thinnan's worship at any stage.

> And this account also does not say that Kannappar (nee
> Thinnan) continued to
> worship there after the Event.  Is there any other
> account of the story?
> Pl. correct me if my observations are not in accordance
> with the complete
> story of Kannappa Nayanar.
> On another note, it is in the nature of great saints not to
> interfere with
> the established custom.

For one thing, it was a theoretical question - whether or not temple worship in the physical sense of Abhishekam, Aradhana, etc. was forbidden to castes other than Brahmins as per the scriptures. I still haven't received an answer for this.

Secondly, there are many temples where priests are not Brahmins that even I personally am aware of (surmise there should be dozens if not hundreds of such temples in reality). There are Shiva linga shrines around the Arunachala mountain where the priests are not Brahmins. I also know of a Vishnu temple in South India where the priest is not a Brahmin. I was wondering what the scripture says about priestly worship in such temples.

BTW, I came across the story of Kannappa again when I read about the recent collapse of the Gopuram of the Sri Kalahasti temple in Andhra. The local story is that the temple's linga was worshipped by Kannappa.

> Regards,
> subrahmanian.v


> >
> > If one claims that "Kannappa was a great saint and
> hence an exception to
> > the general rule", I must point out that it was
> Thinnan (Kannappa's name
> > before Shiva appeared before him) who began worship at
> the Shiva temple.
> > Thinnan was only a hunter who perchance happened upon
> a Shiva temple and
> > then began his Sadhana of worshipping the Shiva Linga
> on a regular basis.
> >
> > Ramana Maharshi was very attracted to the story of
> Kannappa and has
> > narrated it on occasion.
> >
> > Regards,
> > Kartik
> >


More information about the Advaita-l mailing list