Question: What is the purpose of temples?
Radhanath Swami: A temple is a place where people are in a selfless spirit of compassion and love, and are truly worshipping God and surrendering their hearts to him. A temple is a place that transforms your life, by illuminating you and bringing you to higher states of consciousness and higher states of living.
Temples are not just places where you give donations, see the deities and say a prayer. It’s pious to go to a temple and give a donation and walk away. That’s nice, but you will not get enlightened by that. Temples have always been established by acaryas as spiritual, educational institutions.
We have so many educational institutions. My Guru Maharaj, Srila Prabhupada, went to MIT, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in Boston. He said, “You have thousands of courses in your syllabus but there’s not a single course in this whole college that’s teaching people who they are and what the ultimate aim of life is. In all of these great tools that they are learning in MIT, they are only really as valuable as the ideals and intentions of a person’s utilization of them.” The most dangerous people in the world are not the uneducated peasants, but the people with big educations but filthy, dirty hearts filled with envy, pride and hatred.They are the greatest dangers to the world. Academic knowledge are facilities, they are tools. The more powerful the tool, the more they could either do benefit or harm depending on whose hand it’s in.
So the purpose of religious buildings is to educate people to be first-class human beings, people who can actually be examples of integrity and spiritual principle. When you go to that type of temple, church or mosque or gurdwara, if we go to that place, where we are actually getting that higher consciousness, then our life becomes very deep and substantial.