[Advaita-l] Temple Worship by all

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Thu Jun 3 04:57:58 CDT 2010

On Thu, Jun 3, 2010 at 7:09 AM, S Jayanarayanan <sjayana at yahoo.com> wrote:

> -
> ---
> 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.

Surely, no one would accuse Thinnan of making a mistake by that kind of
but certainly no one would recommend everyone else to follow such a kind of
worship.  Even in Thinnan's case, it was spontaneous.  No one would have
taught him to practice bhakti by doing that kind of worship.  Bhagavan's or
anyone else's quite natural appreciation of the story cannot be taken as a
token of one's approval of such modes of worship.  If such were really
approved / approvable modes, why would not the scriptures prescribe them?
On the contrary the scriptures prescribe only the kind of worship the
Brahmin priest did in the story concerned.  That Thinnan's was a genuinely
surpeme bhakti is not questioned at all.  And no one would fault the Brahmin
priest either for not displaying that kind of supreme Bhakti.  I do not
think the priest's objection/reaction is censurable.  Nor Bhagavan's reading
out the story should give one such an impression.  In the absence of his
knowledge of Thinnan's Bhakti, it is natural that he resented to such
sacrilege.  Not to do so would be a mistake and that would only encourage
anyone and everyone to conduct worship the way Thinnan did.

> 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.

Even here, I am unable to concur with the above perception.  I cannot think
of any lower stage of worship aimed at culminating in a person worshiping
the way Thinnan did.  I do not think if the kind of worship prescribed by
the scripture, if it be taken as a lower stage, for everyone to practice,
will culminate in that kind of worshiping where one will carry water in the
mouth and spit it on the deity.  Nor will one cease to offer fruit, payasam
etc. for neivedyam and start offering cooked meat after tasting it, as a
mark of culmination of bhakti sadhana.  There is a story of another Nayanar
who was persecuted for being a Siva bhakta by perhaps the Jains and this
bhakta instead of worshiping the Lingam with flowers threw small pebbles at
the Lingam as archanai.  Bhagavan Ramana would surely have greatly admired
this bhakti too.  That would not mean that He would approve such practices
in the Mathrubhuteshwara Temple in the Ashram.  There is yet another story,
also a favourite of Bhagavan,  of a Bhakta who severed the head of his son
to prevent being identified in an act of theft.  I do not think this should
be a model for others to emulate.

I remember an incident in connection with Sri Abhinava Vidyatirtha Swamigal
(narrated by Himself):

//  Some years ago a huge Sabha was organised well at Paramahamsi Ganga
Ashram in Madhya Pradesh, by Swami Swaroopananda Saraswati, who is close to
Me. Between 10,000 and 20,000 people attended. One speaker narrated the
following story.

There was a Sadhu who was a great devotee of God. He never took food without
first offering it to the Lord. One day, the item that he had kept for
offering got contaminated by snake venom. Unaware of this, he offered it to
God. Subsequently, he ate the food and went to sleep. He woke up in the
morning, quite healthy. However, he found that the image of God that he
worshiped had fallen to the ground. What had happened was that when God ate
the food, it became pure. So, the devotee was left unaffected. It was the
Lord’s idol that suffered the consequences.

On hearing the story, I told the narrator, “Please do not say such things.
Many children are present in the audience. They may offer some milk to God
even if it happens to be contaminated and, influenced by your story, may
casually drink it, expecting to remain unaffected. Do not take the
responsibility for such disasters. All that you have said pertains to
“Bhakthyudreka” or extreme devotion. When it is there, extraordinary acts,
such as the eating of poisoned food, may be carried out. But the normal
situation is different. It is necessary to keep the competence of the hearer
in mind”. //

One can cite instances of Bhaktyudreka in the case of Mira drinking the cup
of poison and Prahlada drinking the poison given by his mother at the
instance of Hiranyakashipu.  Sri Ramakrishna put the flowers meant for
offering to Kali on his head.

There is a verse in the Bhagavatam (which I forget, someone pl. provide it)
where Shuka is asked by someone if the extremely odd behaviour of Shiva
drinking the Halahala poison or Krishna indulging in Rasa with the women of
the cowherds are all right.  Shuka cautions that it is fine if these great
personalities did that but if anyone else did that by way of imitation, it
would be a great sin.

> > 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.

I have myself seen several Amman temples where the priests are not
brahmins.  In some places the priest is even a woman.The Temple at
Melmaruvathur in the outskirts of Chennai is owned and worshiped by a
popular male called 'Amma'.  He is not a brahmin.  Yet the temple has a very
large following including brahmins.  I doubt if these temples, which do have
a large following/patronage, have the Agamic approval.  In fact the Govt in
Tamilnadu has been trying very hard to make non-brahmins take over temple
priesthood and this is stiffly opposed by the priests and I hear the case
has gone to the supreme court even.

> 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.

This is fine but it is a question whether Kannappa, after the Event,
continued to worship in the manner he did before the event. And whether
'worshiped by Kannappa' means 'just before the great event' only and not
thereafter.  By the way, who is maintaining that Temple in the present
times?  Is the priest now a brahmin or not?

Also,  I have come across orthodox Srivaishnavas (Iyengars) who visiting a
smartha temple by chance would not take teertham or any other prasadam given
by even brahmin priests!!   Are the non-brahmin priests allowed to use vedic
mantras for worship?

> regards,
> subrahmanian.v

More information about the Advaita-l mailing list