Baba says, before undertaking any spiritual activity, understanding its significance and its purpose provides a platform for its acceptance. Swami Chinmayananda answers a few questions about the certain ritualistic practices that are followed when people in India visit a temple. These rituals have deep rooted spiritual meaning. Perhaps it would help us to follow them mindfully.
- Why do we ring the bell in a temple ?
In most temples there are one or more bells hung from the top, near the entrance. The devotee rings the bell as soon as he enters, thereafter proceeding for darshan of the Lord and prayers. Children love jumping up or being carried high in order to reach the bell. Is it to wake up the Lord ? But the Lord never sleeps. Is it to let the Lord know we have come? He does not need to be told, as He is all – knowing. Is it a form of seeking permission to enter His precinct? It is a homecoming and therefore entry needs no permission. The Lord welcomes us at all times. These why do we ring the bell ? The ringing of the bell produces what is regarded as an auspicious sound. It produces the sound Om, the universal name of the Lord. There should be auspiciousness within and without, to gain the vision of the Lord who is all-auspiciousness. Even while doing the ritualistic aarati, we ring the bell It is sometimes accompanied by the auspicious sounds of the conch and other musical instruments. An added significance of ringing bell, conch and other instruments is that they help drowned any inauspicious or irrelevant noises and comments that might disturb or distract the worshippers in their devotional ardor, concentration and inner peace.
Also, some people ring the bell three times while entering the temple. It is a symbolic gesture to remind the body, mind and the intellect that it is in the abode of God.
- Why do we do pradakshina (circumambulate)? Why do people go around the idol in the temple?
We cannot draw a circle without a center point. The Lord is the center, source and essence of our lives. Recognizing Him as the focal point in our lives, we go about doing our daily chores. This is the significance of pradakshina.
Also every point on the circumference of a circle is equidistant from the center. This means that wherever or whoever we may be, we are equally close to the Lord. His grace flows towards us without partiality.
- Why is pradakshina done only in a clockwise manner?
The reason is not, as a person said, to avoid a traffic jam! As we do pradakshina, the Lord is always on our right. In India the right side symbolizes auspiciousness. So as we circumambulate the sanctum sanctorum we remind ourselves to lead an auspicious life of righteousness, with the Lord who is the indispensable source of help and strength, as our guide – the “right hand”.
Indian scriptures enjoin – matrudevo bhava, pitrudevo bhava, acharyadevo bhava. May you consider your parents and teachers as you would the Lord. With this in mind we also do pradakshina around our parents and divine personages.
After the completion of traditional worship (pooja), we customarily do pradakshina around ourselves. In this way we recognize and remember the supreme divinity within us, which alone is idolized in the form of the Lord that we worship outside.