My wife is one of two women running a private school for children with dyslexia. Currently the school is located three or four blocks from a BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, or temple, which has been under construction for some time… the grounds are, in fact, still under construction. The temple itself was blessed a few months ago and services have been ongoing for some time.
The kids have been studying India, so my wife decided a field trip to the nearby temple was in order. I tagged along to take pictures for their website. That wasn’t hard, given my longtime interest in Eastern religion.
With unerring accuracy, we arrived during the tour guide’s lunch hour, but the security guard, obviously having heard the spiel many times, did a very good job of guiding us around to the various parts of the temple, and explaining the iconography.
It is requested that photos not be taken inside the temple. Respecting their wishes, I powered down the camera – but I could have easily filled up my SD card inside. Words are a poor substitute for the beauty within, where every square inch of marble seems to be full to overflowing with intricately detailed carvings of gods and demigods. Look up, and be overwhelmed by the magnificent sculptured domes, where representations of the lotus blossom, a cosmic spider web, or sixteen separate gods look down benignly upon you.
Everything in the temple is of current vintage – the marble still pristene and white – but the tradition of centuries seems to wrap itself around you as you enter. There is a marvelous feeling of peace there, though the kids were mainly confused by the concept of polytheism – but it was, overall I think, a positive experience for them.
Though not according to one mother, who upon hearing of the field trip, demanded to know if my wife was going to tell the Hindus working at the temple that “they’re wrong”. Another heavy sigh-provoking moment for me. My wife also reports that there was some bad feeling toward the temple in her church discussion group… after all, this graven-image packed place was obviously an abomination. This is the sort of thing that makes my head throb violently. I may be one of the few heathens actively looking forward to Judgement Day (in whatever form your religion says it will come), simply because it will put a stop to all this useless bickering and proselytizing. I’ll be the one laughing over there, especially if it turns out that Mumbo Jumbo, the Lord of the Jungle was pulling the strings the whole time.
Well, this entry got very dark very quickly. Perhaps I need to go back to the mandir, to partake again of the peace of ages, or to take that long put-off trip to the local Buddhist temple, in the rather forlorn hope that simply walking in will provoke a mighty incense-laden wind, blowing away all this bad emotion and karma hanging about me. I’d stand a little straighter, I imagine, and breathe more easily.
Be nice if it worked that way.