Sunday, July 20, 2008

BAPS Swaminarayan Temple

Spent an afternoon at this place:

Been reading the Bhagavad Gita, core writing of the Hindu faiths, and finding it wildly fascinating. I figured this temple, with it's new 40 million dollar Mandir addition, might be an interesting, if not useful environment in which to further explore the work. I was not disappointed.

Whatever dogma necessitated I leave my shoes in one of the couple thousand numbered cubby holes in the entrance area, I'm grateful for it. From a practical standpoint, it makes for a quiet environment with so many visitors padding about on stone floors.

I hadn't realized my visit would coincide with the one-year anniversary of the opening of the Mandir. The occasion drew large crowds. The main meeting hall, filled not with pews, as this former Catholic might have assumed, but with vast rows of comfortable chairs, presented the most welcoming working space but I didn't want to take up a valuable seat with so many faithful present who might understand the language of the orange-robed clerics who addressed the congregation from the couches that shared a high stage with many spectacular statues of Indian deities.

Instead I set up shop in the stunning stone and intricately carved Italian marble Mandir - a meditation hall. I sat on the floor, off to the side, back against the wall and studied, hoping that such an activity in such a place contravened no rule or custom.

The many gated alcoves held brilliantly crafted and adorned figures; strikingly lit likenesses of Krishna, Vishnu, Ganesh and a host of other divine personages. They were the focus of much prayer from the many worshippers not otherwise engaged in cross-legged meditation.

The sacred syllable, 'OM' issued always from surrounding speakers.

A couple short years ago I would have felt awkward or intimidated to be here; like an intruder perhaps, but not now. The connection I've made with this book is profound. It describes rather involved processes perfectly which I have myself experienced in these last couple years of purely organic exploration; things I do not hear from my living associates.

I also read things in here that are of concern and alarm but I must be very careful not to judge the Gita. My connection here is not with the Gita or its creator(s) but only with a collection of words that have arisen through multiple translations; first a paraphrasing from Sri Aurobindo; a Guru/Yogi/Philosopher that you will undoubtedly hear me speak more of; and then a translation to English by one Anil Baran Roy. I profess no thorough understanding of the work.

It is amazing though, that in rejecting all religion and embarking on a journey of truth-seeking; one dedicated to the evidence of first-hand observation and regard to scientific process, that the core revelations emerging from these explorations two years onward, so profoundly mirror some of the original poetic testimony of religions and quasi-religions, despite what fallible human priests may or may not have done with their institutions over time; for better or, much more apparently, for worse.

Interior photography is strictly prohibited here. I yanked these photos from their web site; surely the lesser of two evils.

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