words cannot describe,
photos cannot convey,
and video may only share a taste:
Maybe the first 40 seconds of this one can help:
Currently, I feel blessed, I feel lucky, I even feel lighter having witnessed the manifestation of human intentions, aligned with a divine reality. To build a temple like the one I visited today: the vision, the money, the man power, just wow.
I have never been to a temple other than Christian churches, but I’ve always had this feeling that I’d love to visit a Buddhist or Hindu temple. When and where to visit were just simple issues that seemed to hold me back. Just the other day I mentioned that I wanted to visit a Zen Center located in the woods, which is Me to a T: meditation and nature. However, when the opportunity to visit an 18 million dollar temple just an hour away appeared, I said, “Let’s go!”
I was briefly schooled on what not to do while in the temple: no PDA, no extreme laughing, no photography. If you know me, that 2nd one might be tough.
Also, what to bring: an offering, fruit or flowers.
My boyfriend did not say anything about a dress code other than the phrase “business casual.” With no time to research anything, I put my trust in him.
Greeted by great gates, and a winding driveway, we made our way to the temple which was recently constructed, but not yet finished. He commented, “We’re the only “gringos” here! Are we supposed to be here?! I don’t want to go in.” I assured him that they will be welcoming: Hindus See God in Everybody.
Beautiful saris snaked around each woman’s shoulders and swirled past their hips. I felt appropriately dressed until we read the welcoming sign stating “Sari”… I mean “Sorry, your open arms, no. That dress that is just slightly above your knee, no way.” We were shocked to see a dress code. Rob explained that he had spent time online looking for the dress code, and found nothing. (I just found the dress code in two clicks.) I even had the gut feeling to bring a shawl. “We can’t get in! After all that!” (It wasn’t an easy ride there 😦 ) “Well, we’ll just walk around and look at the outside.”
I hardly ever feel horrible, but I instantly felt like the worst person in the world. A modest dresser, I felt like a tramp all of a sudden. I couldn’t have felt more disrespectful! We already stood out like sore thumbs, but I remembered why I was there.
Shanti, shanti, shanti. Peace, peace, peace.
(Squinting-sooooo-sunny! & still under construction.)
After getting some incense, soap, joint relief gel, masala, and some dirty looks I said, “Let’s look at this sign, because I didn’t read anything after the exposed arms and knees part!” There it was, “Ask the guard for a Sari if needed.”
“Oh my gosh, we almost missed everything due to our shock!” I got back into the mindset that I created from a morning of yoga and meditation, lost the shoes, and wrapped up my shameful skin.
Upon entering the temple, I cleared my thoughts, and then I didn’t even know where to start. Deities all around, up and down. Left and right.
From around an ornate column came a lovely volunteer tour guide, Harish. There were a few guides about, ready to answer questions or give you a tough time for taking pictures (we saw our guy assert dominance on that one!). He explained that these carvings were playing music for us, and these were burning away parts of ourselves at the door. He had us look up at the carving of the BAPS founder, Shastriji Maharaj, whose eyes were carved in such a way that it appeared he was watching you no matter where you stood. (Image number five on their site.)
We pointed to Patanjali, Radha-Krishna, Hanuman, and Ganesh, but explained we didn’t know much of the rest. Harish explained, “We instill each diety, and then bring what we learned from the deity out into the world.” He explained that the elephant is strong, yet humble. “You can pull its tail, a dog can jump on it’s back, and it will remain calm, but when it needs to stand up and assert, it will.”
As we walked into the grand space Harish explained that we were surrounded by marble from Italy. He looked down and pointed to the floor that was inlaid with many different stones. He pointed to the artwork that was across the room, also inlaid with stone.
Then it came to my awareness that people of this temple worshiped a particular guru. Rob led me to understand that this was built to all of the deities. However, everything on the walls of this temple was of this one particular guru.
Swaminarayan a.k.a. Sahajanand Swami:
Our guide explained that “He is said to have mastered Hindu scriptures including the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Puranas, the Ramayana, and the Mahabharata by the age of seven.” (wikipedia) Our guide explained that he was at Ph.D. status by this age. I likened him to the Mozart of Hinduism. However you want to explain him, this guy (or to them, God) perked my ears.
As we walked through the temple, I didn’t quite grasp Swaminarayan. Honestly, that didn’t happen until I came home and googled him. During our visit I stayed open to the Present Moment.
As we parted ways with Harish, we felt like we were going to do something wrong, and we did. We walked to the right side, instead of through the left side. A guard stopped us, and kindly explained that it was a story line, and to follow it from the beginning. Actually, the end of the story did make more sense once I read the beginning!
I was beginning to feel lighter. My boyfriend was definitely in a better mood than just an hour or so ago, so I knew this place had some power. I like what he then shared with me. While looking at the carvings he said, “You know, each piece in here has been blessed: by the people who made it, and by the people who consecrated it.” As soon as he said that my whole experience changed! Here, I had been walking around feeling open, but not connected. Like I said, I was eyeing the place in the woods. But to feel a spiritual presence, in stone, in lots of ornate stone, is much different than the living, breathing connection you can find in Nature. I instantly saw the hidden dimension of time and presence, and I felt a vibration surrounding me, and then penetrating me. I almost got emotional.
As we were making our last steps through, a kind guide asked if I had any questions. The first guide explained so much, so I kindly responded, “No thanks. Just taking it all in.” However, she reacted as if she felt rejected, even though I responded so nicely! I felt bad, so I thought, “Let me think of something to ask her!” I looked around, and noticed a part of the carving that had intrigued me earlier:
Earlier, when we were walking around the gift shop, I noticed a boy with a symbol on his forehead. Then moments later, I saw the washable tattoo of the image.
A Talik Chandlo (The red dot with the U)
So I walked back over to the young woman and asked her what this symbol meant. (I later realized it’s their, The Baps, symbol!) She walked over to another carving of it and explained, “It’s a tilak-chandlo. The tilak, the U, represents the lotus feet of God. The chandlo represents the devotion of God. It symbolizes we have surrendered ourselves to His lotus feet.” She further explained that only the men can wear the U.
Instantly a flashback hit me. One of my most intense meditation experiences ever:
I had been meditating at a high frequency within a white triangle-pyramid of myself. With great intensity, I met the great lotus feet of God. My face was being careened by the immensity, plastered up and against the endless field of the lower lotus petals of “God.” So heavy, the weight of “God” was so heavy. All I could think was “Wow! You’re sooooo impressive, God!” And then God answered back, “But I’m You!” I thought, “WHOAH GOD! WOW! WOW! WOW! I can’t contain You!” But it was laughing, “I’m You!” “Your power is so mighty, I can’t even face this anymore, I can’t!!! You’re truly almighty, this is too much!!!” And this time he yelled, “I’M YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Again, words cannot explain. The immensity.
It was this meditative experience that changed my life forever, bringing my consciousness to a new playing Field, taking what I found on the inside, and seeing it on the outside. I spent months studying and practicing how to surrender myself to the moment with pure body and mind. So to be in a temple that was created in memory of someone who was born 234 years ago that knew of the same thing, felt like I’m still on the right path.
Walking step by step in God’s Grace.
Being open to each new experience about to take place.
Pure heart, cool mind.
The Ultimate Peace Police