In almost all Hindu temples there is a Hundi (money pot) where people deposit money or offer it to God during an aarthi. Are they giving money to God? If yes, why? God creates everything, why would He need anything from us?
One thing which often confuses me is the fact that money and prosperity is depicted by Goddess Lakshmi. Do we see money as a gift from goddess or goddess herself. If it's a gift why would we offer this to a different god? Isn't this offending other gods or morally wrong?
What does Hindu scripture say about the offerings given to god (or in the name of god)? Is it only money which needs to be given at temples? What are other ways to thank god apart from giving money?
PS: In most temples if you don't give money to the priest doing aarthi, either he neglects you or frowns upon you. I find this very sad and very disturbing. That is the reason I am asking this question.
The devtas are not extortionists who want to extort money from you and if you don't give send you to hell.
Giving in Hindu tradition is called dāna. The tradition of dāna goes back to Rig Veda. Yajñāḥ is making offering to the Devas(often translated as 'sacrifice'). Usually dravya i.e grains, ghee, etc are offered through agni(fire). This was an act of gratitude to the pancha bhootas and the devas also a means for connection with the divine as a friend and a guide.
Dāna was not only given to the devas but also to those who are in need. Bhagavad Gita 17.20 - 17.22 talks about giving dāna(translations by Swami Mukundananda):
BG 17.20: Charity given to a worthy person simply because it is right
to give, without consideration of anything in return, at the proper
time and in the proper place, is stated to be in the mode of goodness.
BG 17.21: But charity given with reluctance, with the hope of a return
or in expectation of a reward, is said to be in the mode of passion.
BG 17.22: And that charity, which is given at the wrong place and
wrong time to unworthy persons, without showing respect, or with
contempt, is held to be of the nature of nescience.
Hindu temples served as charitable institutions. Burton Stein states
that South Indian temples collected donations (melvarum) from
devotees, during the Chola dynasty and Vijayanagara Empire periods in
1st millennium through first half of 2nd millennium AD. These dāna
were then used to feed people in distress as well as fund public
projects such as irrigation and land reclamation.
Even today despite the apathy of the 'secular' government of India which grabs the money collected from temples, most temples offer anna dāna(food offering) to the public.
Giving Dāna to Priests
Priests(pujaris/pundits) belong to the Brahmana varna. Dharmaśāstras(e.g. Manu Smriti 4-4:6, 4-7:8) prohibit them from owning property or earning income. They are supposed to live only by taking bhiksha(collecting alms by begging) from people. This was honored in the ancient times. In modern times, this system is almost non-existent. Giving money to the pujari is the modern equivalent of bhiksha. In times of need, the king used to provide to the pundits but in today's time the secular government excludes those of the Brahmana varna from most of social welfare schemes.
On a side note, dāna also plays a central role in Mahayana Buddhism where it is one of the 6 Pāramitās(perfections) to be achieved by a practitioner.
1) The money put in "Hundi" is for temple maintenance
2) Money put on "arati" plate is for the temple priest sustenance
3) In good old days, the temples were taken care by the King / Rulers.
4) With changing times, there are no rules, so the "hundi" system came into being
5) With dwindling donations, the priest to sustain their own daily living has
become an issue
6) A good priest to sustain, the "donations" made through "aarti platter' is like
rewarding someone for an good or holy act.
7) Supporting the holy people, does good to the society
8) Caution is to be exercised for there are many fake babas & swami's in society
bringing bad name to Hinduism
9) Best is to trust spiritual organizations established by
Sri Adi shankaracharya
Any donation or money (material contribution) is to done with detachment. It is immaterial how much one has donated to Priest or Temple, so long it is done with a detachment results are same. The first and foremost thing to remember, is to forget all the good deeds that you might have done since birth, to gain return benefits. Death occurs when your present karma gets exhausted or "power" in one's nadi get depleted. The demarcating line between karmic benefits of good and bad actions of present birth & next birth is death. In death, one loses all memory to the extent that even if mind is "shaken" with a hammer, one cannot recollect things of past.
So instant forgetfulness of any good or bad karmic act is beneficial.
A donation to temple (larger society) or to an individual priest, hindu scriptures says god is ominipresent in all, further, scriptures also say - "manava dharma, madhava dharma". Serving or helping or donating to people is equivalent to serving the god, who is inherent in every animate and inanimate being.
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