Why do we need big temples when God doesn’t need them?
God doesn’t need them; we do. By expressing our love to God, we deepen our relationship with him, just as a child by giving a birthday gift to the parent deepens that relationship.
And the gifts need to be offered according to the stature of the person. We spend millions of rupees to arrange for the reception of the President of America when he comes to India. Then if the President of all Presidents, the Supreme Person God himself descends, shouldn’t we offer him a reception befitting his stature?
And the temple is not just a place for religious worship; it offers many valuable services to society. These services can be summarized in the acronym TEMPLE (Tranquility Education Medication Purification Love Engagement):
1. Tranquility: The temple atmosphere with its soothing vibrations of holy chants and the sanctifying presence of the Deity serves as a tranquil retreat center. It offers essential refreshing breaks that empower people to face the stresses of life. To get similar breaks, many people seek entertainment, which is an industry costing millions. When we don’t object to the money spent on arranging for that sort of breaks, then why object to money being spent on arranging for spiritual breaks that offer similar and arguably better refreshment for many religious people?
2. Education: The temple serves as a center for higher spiritual education wherein people learn principles and practices for leading a life of moral and spiritual integrity. This education in foundational values enables people to use all their other education for socially beneficial purposes. When we consider establishing new universities for material education a sign of national progress, then why not similarly celebrate the building of a university for spiritual education?
3. Medication: The temple acts like a hospital for the mind. The medication it provides heals the diseased mentality that impels people to addiction and criminality, both of which cause an enormous drain on the national economy. If we recognize as a social necessity the building of hospitals that heal the body, then why not similarly recognize as a social necessity the erection of hospitals that heal the mind?
4. Purification: The temple purifies the hearts of those who visit it regularly. This purification inspires talented people with leadership potential to blossom into pure-hearted, selfless, principle-centered leaders. When leaders with character are acutely needed in every organization from the family to the government, then why not welcome an institute that can produce high-quality leaders?
5. Love: The temple offers us a glimpse of the kingdom of God, where we are all together as family members in God’s family. In a vibrant temple, people learn to form relationships at the spiritual level. This leads to the experience a profound God-centered love that provides them deep satisfaction and dramatically improves their relationships. When relationship conflicts are causing unprecedented misery in society, then why not support an institution that can provide a solid foundation for lasting relationships?
6. Engagement: The temple provides people various satisfying engagements that preserve our national culture, and also productively channelize their talents and energies. When our national culture is being lost at an alarming rate, then why not help a forum that is not only protecting but also reviving it?
And if one institution can offer all these six benefits simultaneously, why should we oppose? The bigness of the temple is not a gaudy luxury, but a functional necessity; it has big roles to play, big services to offer. To serve as an effective university for spiritual education, it needs seminar halls, conference rooms and libraries. To serve as a vibrant cultural center that can properly serve the thousands of people who crowd it on festivals, it needs a large temple hall, a large prasad hall and a large discourse hall. Thus the temple provides essential, even indispensable services to the society and so dynamic temples are one of the greatest needs of our times.
(Extracted from the the author’s book Why do we need a temple?)