Jain Temples & Puja Auctions


By Mr. Sudhir M. Shah

Author argues that the ritual of "ghee-boli" has become out-of-date and needs to be abolished.


During a recent social occasion at a prominent Jain center, I observed an event that compelled me to write this article. In the temple there was a ghee-boli (auctioning) for aarti and deevo (worship ceremony). When it was time to do aarti, a group of children that usually participate enthusiastically were just sitting around. One of the younger children innocently said, "Let us go for aarti". To that an older child in the group replied, "We can't go because our parents did not bid for aarti". Realizing that I was listening, the child looked at me and I looked down in shame. I was ashamed that I kept quiet and tolerated this irrational tradition, a ritual carried out in the name of religion in a temple, that in fact opposes everything Jainism stands for!

Auctioneering promotes ego, greed and jealousy and in some cases even anger! There is a competition for exhibition. The temptation for the show dominates kindness and compassion. Through this tradition we have allowed hypocrisies, charades and exhibitionism to permeate into Jainism. We teach our children to control their passions and yet we invent like ghee-boli to satisfy our ego, our passion for fame, praise and social position. Even monks encourage these events.

Sure funds are needed to run organisation, but proper ways of fund raising and giving are clearly prescribed in our scriptures. Acharanga Sutra, the oldest of our scriptures clarifies the needs to separate dharma (religious activity) from vyavahar (social activity). Acharya Amrit Chandra Suri explains that a donor has no desire for reward or compensation of any kind such as fame and fortune, profit and prosperity. A donor refrains from envy and competition. He is modest and free form ego! We all have learned from childhood that when a right hand gives, only the left hand should know about it and yet we refrain from giving unless our name is recognised, our statues are erected or our photos re put up. It is shameful to see in our temples photos of the donors hung up on walls, the names of the donors carved in stone instead of spiritual verses from agamas or the reminders to help us control our inner weaknesses. The purpose of bhandaras (donation box) in the temple is to promote anonymous donations within each individual's capacity with not selfish motive. There is something really special in the ultimate joy that comes from within when one gives without anyone knowing about it. Let us not deprive ourselves of internal bliss just for the sake of satisfying our ego.

I have talked to many young Jains at our Center as well as many others at the conventions and workshops, and almost without exception all Jain youths are turned of by ghee-boli. Not only do they not participate in this event, they simply leave the room in boycott. Youth groups had raised this issue at a decent teachers and educators convention. There was a lengthy discussion on this subject. On adult passionately spoke in favour, arguing that without ghee-boli we would not be able to raise the kind of money needed to build big temples in this country. To this the youth representatives made their choice clear. "If we cannot raise funds in line with Jain philosophy, we would rather not have temples built for our future." They would much rather have smaller and simpler temples or community centers that can be managed without tainted money from ghee-boli.

There are people who think that ghee-boli is wrong way of fund raising and yet support this tradition saying; "Let's be practical, we need funds and this method works". Here is the question for them: are we willing to sacrifice our principles for this tradition? Are we willing to lineate the young generation, the future of Jainism? Is this really being practical? Hs our creativity dried up completely or has our society fallen so low that we cannot come up with an alternative in line with our philosophy? Let us determine to abolish ghee-boli from Jain tradition and enthusiastically embrace the true Jain tradition of anonymous donations.

Sudhir Shah lives in New Haven, Connecticut, USA and is a keen writer and promoter of Jainism (helped by his whole family). He has his own fascinating website www.anekant.org



Source : From 'Jain Spirit ' International Publication from London


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