Friday, May 25, 2012

The Merit of building a temple: from, Agni Purana

The ancient text details how the act of building a temple to the Gods gains merit for an individual and his family through time. By building a golden temple one is freed from all sins, and so on. A poor man who builds a temple expending a large portion of his scant resources to build even a humble one gains as much merit as a rich man who builds a large temple, so there is actually some equity built into this ancient Sanskrit text.

I know this reminds me of Biblical parallels, or Buddhist precepts but where the thought lead me was a reaching through the literal meaning toward a way of understanding this within my own life and times. Why build a temple? What does that act really mean? Why gain merit? What are sins really?

Thoreau, on his death bed, was asked, conventionally, if he had made his peace with his Maker. He replied that he was not aware that they had ever quarreled. He was questioning, reframing, conventional ways of thinking. So if I reframe 'building a temple' in a like manner and ask of the universe what it is that I can do to gain merit, to be sinless, to build a temple to the Gods, what would that be? I mean, other than actually building a bricks and mortar structure. Are there things that I do, or could do, which would be equivalents? Would loving my fellow human beings be building a temple? Being compassionate? Caring for the whole natural world in practical ways? What about my central ability, my creativity; is that an important place for me in building a temple?

Now I have created a form of dialogue with Sanskrit text and in doing so have built a bridge of thought. By not taking the text literally I have freed a concreted idea and opened it to new life in the mind.

If an artist is lead to a deeper place through pouring himself into his work and new creative expression is produced could that be 'building a temple', or what about the long history of works of literature, philosophy, music? Was not Gauguin`s paintings of Pacific Island girls a way of building a temple, of opening a new door of perception at the very least.

I have a feeling that 'The Gods' ask us to build a temple as a way of affirming a relationship, of laying down a path and then following it. What that path is though, must be the business of every individual. If we blandly follow a road up the mountain to a glorious temple that someone else has built it will be an uplifting experience in the company of our fellow travelers and we will get the results commensurate with that particular journey. But we ourselves will not have built a temple, and that the scribe tells us we must do.

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