The Temple, its Deities, and Their Meaning
Approaching the Dallas/Forth Worth Hindu Temple from the parking lot presents this view:
Walking around to the front gives these views of the temple itself:
Looking out from the temple shows the prayer annex, a meeting room where gatherings are held to allow participation in ancient prayer rituals, for example:
The tan building to the right in the above photograph is also part of the temple complex and is a theater for religiously themed dance and music performances.
To see what is being held for the faithful and the visitor in these facilities at any given time the temple maintains a very well done website (click here to go there. In fact, if you want to learn about this temple or about Hindusim, don't hang around here to share my ignorance but go to the official website and its many links.
There is a statue of a deity in front of the temple:
And the main temple room is a place where this same deity and a number of others can be worshipped and petitioned through prayer and offerings:
I made it a point to not include the names of the deities in these photos since a name tells nothing without a context, and the context for each deity is explained on the official website linked above.
In the prayer annex (what I call it, not its actual name) I witnessed two priests surrounded by people sitting on mats, whole families, with the two priests chanting an ancient story of a god and his experiences. I turned to the person next to me and asked if he could understand: he said no, this is an ancient language only known to priests and scholars. I told him that made us even then, but I could feel something as they chanted. Good, he said, we are still even then, that is why most of us are here. We know the outlines of the story, we are here not to learn the story but to feel the power emanating from the ancient words as the story is dramatically chanted. To read about this service and see photos, please click here.
In my western impatient manner I left this service and went looking for a short explanation of what the temple is all about. Finally found this very nice statement concerning the Cinicinatti Hindu Temple and its link to real life:
Here is what it said about the deities depicted in the temples:
Are Hindus idol worshipers? Hindus do not worship a stone or metal 'idol' as God. We worship God through the image. We invoke the presence of God from the higher, unseen worlds, into the image so that we can commune with Him and receive His blessings. The stone or metal deity images in Hindu temples, shrines and homes are not mere symbols of the Gods, they are the form through which their love, power and blessings flood forth into the world.
. . . Another way to explain icon worship is to acknowledge that Hindus believe God is everywhere, in all things, whether stone, wood, creatures or people. So, it is not surprising that they feel comfortable worshiping the Divine in His material manifestation. The Hindu can see God in stone and water, fire, air and ether, and inside his own soul. Indeed, there are Hindu temples which have in the sanctum sanctorum no image at all but a yantra, a symbolic or mystic diagram. However, the sight of the image enhances the devotee's worship.
I liked this explanation of the overall Hindu view on deities (taken from the 10 Questions on Hinduism paper linked here):
All Hindus worship one Supreme Reality, though they call it by many names. There is no eternal hell, no damnation, in Hinduism, and no intrinsic evil--no satanic force that opposes the will of God. Hindus believe that the cosmos was created out of God and is permeated by Him--a Supreme Being who both is form and pervades form, who creates, sustains and destroys the universe only to recreate it again in unending cycles.
In another article on this website I give my impressions from reading this book: The Upanishads, Breath of the Eternal. The Wisdom of the Hindu Mystics.
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