ISHA FOUNDATION: The very nature of human perception is such that, right now, whatever a human being is involved with, that will be the only truth for him in his experience.
A Hindu temple is a symbolic house, seat and body of divinity. It is a structure designed to bring human beings and gods together, using symbolism to express the ideas and beliefs of Hinduism. The symbolism and structure of a Hindu temple are rooted in Vedic traditions, deploying circles and squares. It also represents recursion and equivalence of the macrocosm and the microcosm by astronomical numbers, and by “specific alignments related to the geography of the place and the presumed linkages of the deity and the patron”. A temple incorporates all elements of Hindu cosmos—presenting the good, the evil and the human, as well as the elements of Hindu sense of cyclic time and the essence of life—symbolically presenting dharma, kama, artha, moksa, and karma.
Right now, most people are involved with the five sense organs and that seems to be the only truth, nothing else. Sense organs can only perceive that which is physical and because your perception is limited to the five sense organs, everything that you know as life is only the physicality – your body, your mind, your emotion and your life energies are all physical.
If you see the physical existence as a fabric, then we can say you are living on the fabric of the physical. You are walking on this cloth and what you are walking on is all that is real. When you look up, there seems to be a vast emptiness above, but even there you only recognize the physical. You look at the stars or the sun or the moon – this is all physical. You don’t perceive that what is not physical, isn’t it?
A temple is a hole through which you enter into a space “which is not.”
What you call a temple is like putting a hole in the fabric, creating a space where the physical becomes thin and something beyond becomes visible to you. This science of making the physical less manifest is the science of consecration, so that dimension beyond the physical becomes apparent or visible to you if you are willing. To take the analogy further, it is like the temple is a hole in the fabric of the physical, where you could fall through easily and go beyond.
Today temples may be built just like shopping complexes with concrete and steel, probably for the same purpose, because everything has become commerce. When I talk about temples, I am talking about the way ancient temples were created. In this country, in ancient times, temples were built only for Shiva, nobody else. It was only later that the other temples came up because people started focusing on immediate wellbeing. Using this science, they started creating various other forms, which they could use to benefit themselves in so many different ways in terms of health, wealth, and wellbeing. They created different types of energies and different kinds of deities. If you want money, you create one kind of form or if you are full of fear, you create another kind of form, which will assist with that. These temples came up in the last 1100 or 1200 years, but before that, there were no other temples in the country except Shiva temples.
The word ‘Shiva’ literally means ‘that which is not.’ So the temple was built for ‘that which is not.’ ‘That which is’ is physical manifestation; ‘that which is not’ is that which is beyond the physical. So a temple is a hole through which you enter into a space “which is not.”