The following is an Excerpt from the English translation of Jagadguru Sri Sri Bharati Tirtha Mahaswamiji’s Anugrahabhashanam expounding the importance of temples.
God is everywhere. He is omnipresent, there is no place where He does not exist. This is the established conclusion of our Sanatana Vaidika Dharma.Thus when God is everywhere.
Is it proper to think that God only exists in a temple ? Is it proper to install God, who is omnipresent, inside a temple ?
This doubt arises in some people. God is omnipresent - this is the Truth. God is everywhere, God exists in every particle - this is the Truth.
It is only to reveal this truth that God emerged out of a pillar as Lord Narasimha. In the Bhagavatam, when the Lord’s incarnation as Narasimha is narrated. This same subject (omnipresence of God) is mentioned. Hiranyakashipu asks Prahlada, “You tell me that God is everywhere, is He there in this pillar?”. In reply to that Prahlada said, “Yes, God does exist in this pillar as well”. That enraged Hiranyakashipu even further. If He is there, let Him come out - saying thus he struck the pillar with his mace. At that time, Lord Narasimha emerged.
The reason for this is mentioned in the Bhagvatham. The Lord, in order to make the words of His devotee, Prahalada true, and to reveal to the world that He is omipresent, emerged from that pillar. The words of His devotee, Prahlada should not go in vain. His words must come true, at the same time the world should know that He (God) is omnipresent. Hence the Lord emerged from the pillar. Hence it is true that God is omnipresent - there is no doubt in that.
Why build a temple? Why must we consecrate the form of God here?
The answer to this question is that not all humans are alike, that is, the spiritual maturity (samskaara) of humans will not be alike. Hence we have in the Shastras Mandaadhikaari (least qualified), Madhyamaadhikaari (moderately qualified), Uttamaadhikaari (highly qualified). It is said in the Shastras that there is a gradation in qualification. That is, in the case of an Uttamaadhikaari, he will have the Lord’s vision everywhere, he knows very well that God is everywhere, he experiences it. An example of that kind is Prahlada. Prahlada tells his father in reply to his father’s question …
Where is God?
Prahlada Says, “How can I tell you of a place where God is not present? I see only God in all places, I do not know of any place where God is not present.”
A person with this kind of spiritual maturity is called a Uttamaadhikaari. Such a Uttamaadhikaari need not go to a temple - the place where he is, is itself a temple. Since he is having the vision of God in the very place where he is, that place itself is a temple, he need not go to another temple.
However, how many people exist whose spirtual maturity is on par with that of Prahlada’s ?
That is the issue. We do not know if even one person in 1 crore or 10 crore people, will have such a spiritual maturity. For the rest of the people, if we ask whether they have the vision of God everywhere - they cannot say that it happens, they won’t say it (either). What is this? People will say that this article is a chain made out of iron. No one will say that this is God. Because according to his Samskaara (spiritual maturity), his intellect tells him that it is only a chain. Because he is a Mandaadhikaari. For such Mandaadhikaaris, if we fix a place, consecreate an idol there, according to injunctions of the Shastras, and tell him that God exists here; perform your worship here - then he will worship there. We are all Mandaadhikaaris, we don’t have the highest level of spiritual maturity.
In order that we Mandaadhikaaris also obtain the grace of God, our ancients established the medium of temples. A structure must be built and an idol of God must be consecrated according to the injunctions of the Shastras.
If a sculptor sculpts an idol, we cannot say immediately that the idol is God. According to Shastric injunctions, the necessary procedures must be performed on the idol. Only then will the Divine Presence of the Lord be established there. This is a matter of faith. We need not say anything to non-believers, neither will they listen to what we have to say. Hence we cannot consider non-believers. Astika - the person who has faith in the Shastras. We can only teach this to the one who has faith in Dharma-Adharma; Virtue-Sin; Higher Worlds; Re-birth; Heaven-Hell. The Shastras tell us that the Lord’s Divine Presence is established there by consecrating (the idol) according to the injunctions mentioned in the Shastras - we must have faith in this.
The Lord says in the Bhagavad Gita - Look! Faith is very essential for you, Whatever actions you do without faith, will not bear fruit. Whatever work you do, do it with faith.Shraddha (Faith) means belief.
शास्त्रस्य गुरुवाक्यस्य सत्यबुद्ध्यावधारणा ।
सा श्रद्धा कथिता सद्भिः यया वास्तूपलभ्यते ॥
thus said Sri Bhagavatpada. The teachings of the Shastras are true. The teachings of the Guru are true. This firm belief is called Shraddha (faith). Hence, we need faith. Without faith, our actions will not bear fruit.
Many people have a big doubt, we performed everything according to the instructions of the priest, yet our actions have not been successful. Then, is not all of this in vain? Many people have this doubt. Well, all of this is not in vain. Rather, its because we do not have proper faith.
As Lord Krishna says in the Gita -
अश्रद्धया हुतं दत्तं तपस्तप्तं कृतं च यत् ।
असदित्युच्यते पार्थ न च तत्प्रेत्य नो इह ॥
Whatever you do without faith - be it homa, tapas, charity, or anything else - that will not bear fruit for you. Then, just because we did not get the fruits of our actions because of our lack of faith, criticising the Shastras or critising the great people who wrote the Shastras, is not in the least bit right. Hence faith is very necessary for us, belief is very necessary.
Hence, if we consecrate (the idol) according to Shastric injunctions, the Divine Presence will prevail there. We must have complete belief in this teaching of the Shastras. We should perform that task with this belief. Further, if one asks why we build a temple , why we consecrate (an idol of) God inside…it is for common man who is a Mandaadhikaari, who does not have the spiritual maturity to see God everywhere. This is one way to secure for him, the grace of God.
In our lives, sorrow and happiness are come one after the other. During happiness, we do not even know the days are passing, But when difficulties arise, we will be suffering not knowing what to do. At that time, to whom can we go? Whom shall we tell our sufferings to? Who will dispel our sufferings?
The only answer to these questions is - a temple
Coming to the temple, we can pour out our sufferings in the presence of the Lord, if we sit in the Lord’s presence for some time and meditate, we will get a solution for our difficulties; we have direct experience of this and there is no need for any other validation. Only God helps man during difficult times - no one else. If we worship God with utmost devotion and faith and surrender, we can definitely attain the grace of God - there is no doubt in that. If we do not have that faith, the difficulty is only for us, not for God. Hence, with utmost faith and devotion, for the very reason that we would need to get all that what we desire/wish , we worship and depend on God, by consecrating Him in the temple according to Shastric injunctions.