Apr 2, 2012

Sunnyvale Hindu Temple Lawsuit

Sunnyvale Hindu Temple, California vs Hindu Temple South Bay Reform Committee

Sunnyvale has about 130,000 residents of Asian Indian origin.   Sunnyvale Hindu Temple serves this large population of Asian Indians and is located at 420-450 Persian Drive in Sunnyvale in South Bay/Bay area of California.  According to the temple website, the temple has 3 priests and its officers are Niranji Patel, Balwant Birla, Raj Bhanot etc.

Sunnyvale Hindu Temple protest-Image source hindureforms.com

Sunita Sohrabji, Staff Reporter of Indiawest writes that the Board of Directors of the Sunnyvale Hindu Temple has filed a defamation suit against a group of Asian Indian American dissenters who are asking for greater transparency in the management of the organization’s finances.  Manu Modi, Krishna Kumari, Nishan Singh, Atul Sharma, Rakesh Sharma, Yash Verma and Ramana Reddy have all been named as defendants in the lawsuit.

An Hindu community Kurukshetra centered around the temple is not rare.  At a temple, my way or no way kind of fellows might become official/s.  A majority of these officials are likely to have, at best, zero to a vague understanding of sanata dharma.  Hindu temples are a hobby/side activity for some.  For some, the socialization around the hindu temples is of value.  For some it may be about money (I suspect the S. V. Temple in Tirupati would probably fall in this category) and as we know it has been milking honey from "devotees" for centuries.  For some, altruism may be a factor.  For a few, Hindu temple volunteerism may serve as a mask of respectability and social totem pole ranking.  A few certainly have golden hearts and genuinely care about the hindu community.

The kinds of battles, over, little or nothing, noted at Sunnyvale Hindu Temple are unfortunate from a number of angles.  For example, Sunita notes that Subrah Iyer, founder and CEO of WebEx, reportedly considered making a 1 million donation to the Sunnyvale Hindu Temple but understandably and rightly backed out when accountability at Sunnyvale Hindu Temple seemed nebulous.

However, I suppose this is probably the Indian way because this type of altercation is also commonly seen in student and community organizations where groups and/or public monies are involved.  When things are peaceful, a temple is viewed as a place of worship and spiritual and community development.  When things are not peaceful, only legal rules matter I suppose and the purpose of the temple and God is degraded by egos and politics.  This is how we are. 

Temples core offer is ritualistic spiritual development.  The rituals are supposed to have a beneficial meaning for Hindus.  Whether rituals alone lead to spiritual development is easily arguable.  Rituals are placebos are best and deception at worse and Hindu Gods are imaginary fellows.  Temples merely kind of lead the horse to the water and that is where the function of temples ends, unfortunately.  This hands off policy has its advantages and disadvantages.  The advantages serve the institution.  They keep the average Hindu devotee confused enough to keep the dollars flowing.  Like the scholar Krishnamurti indicated hindu temples love the babu mindset.  The good news is that Hinduism is temple independent and so are other religions, I think.  

Folks say that temples have to operated like a temple and not a business.  The reality is that sometimes a temple has to operated like a business because the temple has bills to pay and this is in the interest of the entity.  And its not rare to note that temple toilets stink (several public loos do), sometimes so badly that you don't even want to go near there and this could be handled better to meet the expectations of younger ones who are accustomed to American standards of cleanliness.  This requires $ and we desis don't want to do spend in this area.  I guess it is reasonable to expect to have a process in which the T square era temple folks will allow the Ipad era temple folks to participate in the decision making process for the temple.   
Sunnyvale Hindu Temple Bay Area California

Expectation is the root of all heartache, said William Shakespeare?  My Marathi teacher used to say, expect the worst, hope for the best.  How about just expecting the worst by having less than worst expectations?   

I guess our Hindu rishis were pretty smart because they probably foresaw these kinds of disputes at Hindu temples and therefore instituted the convention of establishment of temples in each home.  Also, in Hinduism, its not mandatory that Hindus should go or donate money to a Hindu temple.  It is a choice that devotees make.  Associating this choice with a return on the donation is not kosher.     

After temples are stable, money is likely better spent serving the millions of less fortunate.  There is a tendency by, many if not all, Hindu temples to not include service to the needy, in the United States and that is not appropriate.  United States may not be our janma bhoomi (birth country) but other than this USA is our everything.  We live here and we are going to die here....

Save Sunnyvale Hindu Temple
Pictures from Save Sunnyvale Hindu Temple Group


Krishna said...

first thanks for mentioning this in your blog. secondly lot of things you mentioned are right. to some extent temples has to run like business as they also have bills to pay. But important point is: is management is running the temple in benefit (either spiritual or peaceful) of community OR using the communities faith for their OWN benefit. I don't mind if they run it like fortune 500 company and provide nice temple, several programs to community (by they way temple is completely build by devotees donation. NO SINGLE person did everything). Unfortunately they are taking money from devotees in form of donations and using for their benefit. In India we can't do anything because of obvious reasons. Here we need to take out that weed so that we keep honest people. By not questioning we are making our faith a blind one and not only that letting these not-so honest people define our faith and great cultural symbols.

Anonymous said...

Temples may be registered as a not-for-profit corporation. So a temple is not a public property like a municipal park even though it is funded by public donations.

It should be difficult to believe for anyone that people who founded Sunnyvale Hindu temple would use the temple for their own benefit without facts.

Expired Rasna, that's a minor issue. Some people take expired medicines. Placing ganesh idols in a pail of water, worse things happen to ganesh idols.

Anonymous said...

Faith is blind.