Make temple central to the daily life of a Hindu – Urges Malaysian Hindu Leader

via published on May 25, 2009

Speech by President at the National Conference on Temples     

Speech by Y. Bhg Datuk A Vaithilingam, President of the Malaysia Hindu Sangam, at the National Conference on Temples at the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple Hall, Kuala Lumpur on Sunday, 9th May 2009.

YB Dato’ Dr S Subramaniam, Minister for Human Resources.

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.

We are here today as part of the Malaysia Hindu Sangam’s Hindu Renaissance Action Plan in order to chart our future.

Our overall aim is to ensure that Hindus and Hinduism will flourish in our beloved country for many years to come.

At the same time, we must also play our proper role in affirming and reinforcing the strength of Malaysia’s multi-ethnic multi-religious and multi-cultural society.

We welcome the Prime Minister’s vision of 1Malaysia, in line with our ultimate national vision for Malaysia to be a developed nation by 2020.

The Indian community presently faces very serious problems. We are faced with a community fighting increased suicide rates, increased crime rates, gangsterism and substance abuse.

We hope to see greater financial allocations and benefits to Hindu based NGOs. Until now, we have not been consulted on allocations prior to the budget. We ask for substantial governmental allocations for Hindu based activities, especially in providing religious and moral education.

By strengthening our temples, by providing greater moral and religious training and by opening up educational opportunities for our youngsters, we can perhaps go some way in alleviating these serious social problems facing our community.

In line with the 1Malaysia concept, we would ask the Government to acknowledge that there is no such thing as an “illegal” temple.

Many temples which are now on State land or on private land were built with the encouragement of the Government or the plantation owners at that time, in order to serve the needs of Indian labourers at that time.

With the increased development of Malaysia, and increased urbanisation, those temples are now located on very valuable lands. Nevertheless, we must acknowledge the reality that these temples were originally built with the consent of the land owner.

The status of those temples should be regularized, and we urge the Government to come up with a holistic proposal to accommodate such temples.

But so much for the Government. We are here today to look into ourselves, and to improve ourselves and how we manage our temples.

Nowadays, most of us only go to the temple to pray.

But when we are in the presence of the Divine, should we not also take the opportunity to increase our understanding and knowledge of the richness of our ancient religion.

We should treat the temple not just as a prayer hall but also a place to educate ourselves, to gather socially and to interact with each other.

Temples which provide religious education and give training to our children in our rich cultural heritage should become the norm.

Very importantly, many of our devotees are in need of other assistance. Many temples already provide food, shelter and clothing to the less fortunate. But how wonderful it would be if this could be expanded so that other social services, counselling services and other forms of welfare aid are provided by our temples.

Temples can then become a one stop centres for our devotees, and in this way our temples will become even closer to the hearts of the people. This will also give an opportunity to members of the community to be a part of the temple’s activities

Bigger temples can also adopt a school, especially a Tamil school, in their area. And ideally all temples should also have a nursery or kindergarten, providing child care services or at least weekly activities for our children.

Our women and youth should also be encouraged to actively participate in the management of temples. That is the only way to ensure the continuity of our activities.

It is also my hope that temple administrators and temple staff improve themselves. Some temples have received ISO certification. They provide efficient courteous and caring administration in the temple.

We should emulate them, and strive to ensure that in dealings with devotees, our temples are models of good governance.

Transparency and accountability should be the norm. This will increase the community’s respect to our temple leaders, and will increase public confidence in temple management

We must ultimately have a sense of caring for devotees. One aspect of this is by providing proper facilities for the disabled, by installing ramps and toilet facilities.

Some temples do not even allow a chair to be brought into the temple premises for the elderly. Practices such as this must be reconsidered.

It is also very important that temple administrators must make themselves fully aware of the laws and procedures governing their activities. This is especially important in terms of land development and planning, so that temples do not illegally trespass onto neighbouring or State land and their buildings all comply with planning rules.

Although temples are legal entities in themselves, with no need for registration, temple devotees should consider setting up independent societies or trust funds. This will assist in obtaining grants and financial aid from the authorities and other donors in order to assist in providing these activities.

Our vision is to make the temple central to the daily life of a Hindu. This must become a reality.

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