On a recent temple-hopping trip, there were some interesting experiences.
1. The priest at the inner sanctum sactorum of a large renknowned temple spoke very sweetly as we approached the deity. He gave us a 2 minute “extra” darshan, asked me to stand on the side, and then said in no uncertain words “take out your wallet and give me the big notes”. Despite literally being at the feet of the Lord, how much time did I get to really think about Him, versus trying to assess the situation after recovering from initial shock?
2. The priest at a small relatively unknown temple, explained the full history-geography of that deity – all without asking, gave extra blessings, and took no money.
3. After we paid for a special darshan queue at a famous temple, we were asked to pay the same amount again at the end, off-the-record, just in order to receive a few flowers and one coconut.
How to think about these things? Does money come in the way of spirituality? Is God really asking for cash from his devotees? Should we stop going to temples altogether?