- Topics & Settings
Devotion to the Guru
Guru Maharaj is the focus of devotion at the temple. He is worshiped in a variety of divine roles, including as the incarnation of Shiva, a Hindu deity, and as the embodiment of shakti, or power in its feminine form. The satsang service includes many rituals of devotion to his image. The final ritual of the satsang is usually aarti, which includes the waving of lit lamps in front of the image and bowing before it. Before the guru sits a variety of religious objects and offerings, including a set of wooden sandals, which are washed with water, milk, and ghee for each satsang. To the right of the guru statue is a vacant chair in which sits a portrait of guru Maharaj.
The Guru is celebrated in different ways at different times throughout the year. During a Navratri, a holiday devoted to Goddess Durga, Guru Maharaj takes on a more female appearance to the devotees, according to Satya Balroop. For more on the understanding of gender at the mandir, refer to the Shakti, Karmayoga, and Gender Roles page.
A major event to celebrate Guru Maharaj is his birthday. As one can see in the invitation and poster, the event combines devotional activities to the guru's image, and an appreciation of his life story.
Maharaj as Archetype
Maharaj’s early life story is an archetype for Satya Balroop’s religious life. In the audio on the left Satya Balroop explains her understanding of their shared goal in building a temple and a community.
The description of the first temple that Satya references is from Guru Mahraj's biography, Prophet of a New Hindu Age, by Ninian Smart and Swami Purnananda:
The Ashram was built, as we have seen on a raised platform on what had been a dense piece that sometimes turned to swamp after the monsoon. A canalized stream ran along one side of it. One reason why the area was cut off was that at first there was no bridge over the canal; in those early days [Guru Maharaj] would wade across. There was a straw hut as the place for meditation and for young sadhu to rest in. Another shed was for cooking. Later another tin building was put up as a place for assembly and the singing of kirtans or devotional hymns.
Maharaj and Relationships
Guru Maharaj also plays a large role in how devotees view divine presence in the present. In the recordings devotees apply their faith in Maharaj to their understanding of relationships and life concerns.