Temples and Idols in this age of reasoning

What do temples and idols mean for your life in the modern age? Beliefnet expert Ram Lingam provides enlightenment on the issue.

The Indian terms for temple are mandir, ambalam, koil or kovil, deool, devasthaanam, devaalaya etc depending on the regional language. The commonly used word ‘Mandir’ comes from the Sanskrut root ‘Mandaté’, which means to be filled with transcendent emotion, to delight or to shine.

Temples in the age of reasoning

In Sanaatana dharma (Hinduism), GOD or supreme reality is invoked, contemplated upon and worshipped in three abodes depending on the mental capacity of the seeker. In the dharma traditions of India, GOD is worshipped within a) one’s own self; b) at an altar in our homes and c) in a temple or holy place out in the community.

There are numerous instances of saints who have got their complete insight (darshan) of the ‘Absolute Truth’, which have now become holy pilgrimage places. While the enlightened person realises God in all the three abodes, the sceptic struggles to find GOD in any of them. In our age of reasoning, questions like ‘why should I visit a temple’ or ‘why we use idols in temples' are but natural, to which even the temple goers or pundits fail to give contemporary answers.


Rational answers for practices in dharma can be found in the teachings of Master from the wisdom traditions of India where reasoning has a firm foundation. The wisdom traditions of India particularly Vedanta (end portion of Vedas) allows inquiry into truth. There is no place for blind faith and the questions on dharmic religions are answered in a free atmosphere of investigation.

Why temples?

‘If God is all-pervading but why do we have to worship at temples?”. To this a Vedanta teacher explains, “In a democracy, the government of a country is present at every point within the frontiers of that nation. Yet when I want to invoke the government for permit or for help, I must reach the capital city, approach the right departmental head, and invoke government’s protection or patronage. Though the Lord is all pervading, to invoke Him we need an altar.”He adds, “You know that the essence in the cow is in her milk and it pervades her entire vital body. Yet, if I want to milk the cow, though milk is all pervading, I cannot get it by squeezing her horns or tail. We must go to the udder. Think!”

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