Temples Abroad

Apart from giving a glow of beauty to the individual performance in life, culture has a great purpose to fulfill in any community. It is culture which, in its loving embrace, holds the community into an intrinsic whole, lending to it a distinct identity, both in its thoughts and actions. Where this binding force is not, there the community has no strength or vitality. The individuals may be intelligent, rich, successful and morally good, but the community will have no purposeful strength, or a distinct personality of its own. In the dire competitive world if this united strength is not in a people, their day-to-day community is living away from its native soil, striving to make their career abroad on alien soil.

This becomes all the more imperative and urgent when community lacks guiding teachers, or consoling advisers from a trained team of priests to serve individuals as Counselors.

At this moment, the Indian Government is very much pre¬occupied with our endless national problems: political, economic and social. We should not expect them to provide any active vigilance over us to secure for us our rights and to protect us when we are threatened by the selfish desires of the nationals. Our Government cannot, as the foreign embassy of all other developed nations would, jump up to uphold our cause or to protest vigorously against ignoring our rights. We have to look after ourselves.

The problem becomes more acute when the members of the community, before they left their homeland, had not any thorough orientation in the cultural duties and spiri¬tual values, which are our heritage. A false, education generated in us a misguided reverence for science and technology and the material prosperity of the suffocat¬ing restless West, and we learnt to ignore the peaceful cheer and joy, mutual, concern and family integrity, which are the distinct beauties of the Hindu Culture.

Exiled thus from both the Western and Eastern values we have become a pseudo-group with no nationality to claim, no land to own, no tradition to respect, no culture to bind us. Certainly we are individually successful, pros¬perous and could command all the luxuries of life, but as a Community we are weak, disjointed, scattered and poor in vitality and power.

I am not of the opinion that we must insist upon having our food or our clothing or our language in the foreign lands. Certainly, we must learn to play their games in their fields—but not at the expense of our identity and proud individuality. Let us imitate, but not become; we cannot, and even if we do, they will not accept us fully—never. Let us be ourselves. We shall certainly command their respects. Let us live our values of intense family identity, foster our love for our children, develop their respect and reverence for their parents. Without excesses we must learn to live in self-control and family happiness. Let us learn our scriptures, understand some¬thing of our Hindu way-of-life, not so much for ourselves, but at least for the benefit of our children. Had they been in India they would have picked it all up from the very atmosphere around them—just as you had done it yourself. Here, in the country the air is so saturated with the perennial values of Vedanta that a person need not be taught, but an intelligent growing child can pick up the tradition by watching around. At the altar of personal profit and success we have every right to seek our fields of work and seek our fulfillment and achieve¬ment. But what right have we to create a bastard .generation out of our children, who are innocent. At best they may pick up all the vulgar tastes of an alien culture and grow up in a foreign land. Do you really believe that the American will accept you as an Ameri¬can? I am sure you are not such a foolish dreamer. And no intelligent man would expect the American to accept your children as their own.
Let us be honest. Today they need us, and so they res¬pect us. The day they no longer need us, will they have any hesitation to ask us to quit, or to make it impos¬sible for us to continue living there in self-respect? Remember, whatever is your achievement, and whatever is your contribution to that nation, or to the world of science, art or literature, you can be a full citizen only in your own country. Everywhere else you are but a third-rate citizen.

If the above has been well digested it becomes clear that we must have some methods by which we could impart our cultural touch to our growing children. How are we going to do it? The only method that is now available for us is to open up Halls of Prayers, where once a week you and your family can come round and meet other members of the community, in one common place, not for the purpose of mere socialization, but in an atmosphere of prayerful dedication to the Lord. For this we need an altar and an inspiring shelter, wherein our children can be taught to pray and to invoke. These Temples abroad must have more duties to perform than the Temples in India. Each Temple has to serve as a total schooling for the growing children to be Indian at heart. I am extremely glad that during my last year’s visit I had occasions to meet, discuss and intimately get involved myself in the plans and schemes that are being put forth in more than three centers in America where inspired men and women have felt the need, collected the funds and have decided to start a decent and beauti¬ful Temple-complex. Good. I congratulate all of them. But nowhere does the work proceed ahead—not because of the lack of enthusiasm, but only due to the absence of a guiding respectful Guru.
I am not using the word in its cheapest sense into which it has sunk today, in the American atmosphere of excesses. Even in India, mind you, Temples are built by the members of the Community, through a Temple-building Committee. But every such Temple Committee is fulfilling the wishes of a Guru or of an Acharya. The Guru accepts the plan, sanctions the administrative set up, decides upon the altar to be raised, and generally lays down the tradition to be followed by that DEVAS-THANA. He watches over its conduct and appoints one or two of his people into the Executive Committee to be his eyes and ears in the day-to-day affairs and conduct of the Temple.

If there is no such Preceptor to guide and give final decision in all points of controversy, an organization like a Temple, can never be successfully run. After all we are frail human beings. Our vanities may get tickled, our ego bruised, our honor questioned, or our prejudices excited! All these things must have happened, not necessarily because of any deliberate action from others, but we could misunderstand the intentions and motives of others, and build up tensions in our mind, which can burst to spill out horrible filth and ugly indecencies. It has happened everywhere, and don’t tell me it has not happened in U.S.A. It is not anybody’s fault. It is but human nature. The antidote for this calamitous commu¬nal problem is to have, for every one of such institutions a reverential personality, who has no personal interest in the individual institutions as such, and in whose bona-fides nobody has any doubt or suspicion.

If the New York Temple has come up, they respected and obeyed the wishes of Sri Shankaracharya. At Pittsburgh they respected and obeyed the advice and suggestions of Venkateswara Samsthana. I am quoting these only to show you that it is a general principle, which cannot be hastily ignored. Even in India a dozen or more Temples have been opened up during the last three years by either me or by Swami Dayananda. In all of them they had their respect and reverence for the Swamis and all of them are beautifully running at this moment.

Money, enthusiasm and spirit of service are needed for organizing such communal harbors, where the members of the community can come together and unwind them¬selves. When properly organized, I undertake that the Chinmaya Mission will be able to send each one of you a trained Brahmachari, who can take up classes in the Hindu Scriptures, for your little children (6-12) and young boys and girls (12-18). You will have to see that they get their Green Card for “religious work” (as Priests), and look after them, and perhaps, initially prepare for them, for a year or two, comfortable fields for their discourses.

As I said, money, enthusiasm and spirit of service are the limbs. But the very breath in the Temple Commit¬tees is to be their unequivocal and unanimous respect and reverence for the Acharya and their willingness to obey implicitly his wishes. Without this, Temples can¬not be built. Even if you build it, it will become, at best, only a Club run for holy purposes and unholy practices.

The pressure of demand, from the 12 million Indians, who are now successfully living outside India, has com¬pelled me to start a 10 acre Residential Campus in the salubrious climate of Coimbatore, South India, nestling at the foot of the Nilgiris, opposite to the University Campus there we have already started building the institution. In this Chinmaya Vidyalaya we propose ‘”to bring in American1 Teachers in sufficient numbers, to procure accreditation for our School with the American Educational system, so that, the Indian students both boys and girls, can be transferred from age 12 to 18 for their continued education in India. The parents will pay in dollars, the same fees that they pay for the children there, and the students will be with us these 6 years; at age 18, they will return to U.S. to join colleges there. During these 6 years we will allow them to go to America only twice (once in 3 years). In between, the parents can visit the children here. The School will be run for all the 12 months of the year, in as much as in the vacation time the students will be taken on Study Tours round the country, each year with a special theme ; Geography, History, Art, Architecture, Pilgrim Centers, etc. During every vacation, for 10 or 15 days, they will be made to live as guests in a lower-middle-class-family so that they will get a feel of the Hindu family traditions —the endless love that parents bear for their children, the extra-ordinary concern of all other members in the family, relatively poor but extremely cheerful people, the inordinate respect that the youngsters have towards the elders and the love that the children bear towards their parents, religious festivals, etc. Our foreign-born children will have a chance to experience all these.

It has not been very easy for me to organize this Cam¬pus. But I am doing it in order to avoid seeing a mongrel generation of Hindus being spawn all over the world as a by-product of intelligent Indians! In our youth we may think in terms of “International relation¬ships”, and allow our boys to marry foreign girls, and condone our girls marrying foreign men. We may appreciate such parents and their large heartedness, but we must condemn their lack of foresight to see what would happen to their children or your grandchildren.

I have been rather open hearted. Generally these are thoughts we never express so loudly, but only whisper among ourselves and secretly worry over them! I have spelt them out shamelessly, because the disease is growing rampant, and the diagnosis will have to be elaborate. It must be openly discussed and the remedy to be discovered—urgently, quickly. I have done my best. If you all co-operate I see clear possibilities of complete cure and a healthier future. Our children with a Western education and a touch of Indian culture can grow as ideal men and women, in that country, materi¬ally successful outside and spiritually peaceful within. You are welcome to think: “the Swamiji is wrong”; but I am sure; “the Swamiji is right”.