Friday, July 20, 2012

In every town and village

 As you walk on to the property of the Sri Radha Madana Mohan temple the first thing you notice is the building itself. The structure has seen better days and for the past few years it has carried the appearance of always being in mid-repair. But she is still a sweet sight with her beehive like shafts (Sikhara) extending out from the roof and the towering statue of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu quite literally lording over the back yard. Yes this is another world, especially when coming from the bustle of the city. Here there are no suits or stressed out furrowed brows. Here you’ll find humble monks in white or saffron robes, Indian families dressed in their Sundays best and guests from all walks of life.

 If you’re not immediately transported to another dimension by walking onto the property the constant ring of kartals (small cymbals held between the fingers) and mridanga drums filling the temple room inside might do the trick. This isn’t your typical Sunday church service. This is the Sunday love feast held every weekend at the Hare Krishna temple in Burnaby and even if you have an allergic reaction to religious dogma it’s hard not to get swept up in the emotion of this sacred space. 

 One of the most beautiful parts of this entire experience for me personally is stepping foot into the main room, but not only because this is where the action happens, this is also where the main altar is and unless you have a heart made of salt and vinegar those deities dressed so immaculately will kick your ass every time. I have often walked in there, gazed upon Krishna, Radha, Chaitanya and their groovy Vedic-age pals hanging out on that altar and have fallen deeply in love. I’m not sure if it is the years of worship thickening the air or the opulent dressings of these seemingly simple statues made of plastic and carbon…whatever it is it’s potent and worth every visit. 

 After taking a seat on the floor and navigating through the 45-minute class on Vedic philosophy which you may or may not choose to sit through you’re treated to almost an hour of devotional music. Building from a few lines of opening Sanskrit prayer and exploding into a full on Hare Krishna mantra melt down that has even the oldest and most staunch disbeliever bobbing their head it begins to feel that this is part of what you’ve come for. This is what celebration at the feet of God ought to look like. I don’t care if you’re a Krishna, Mormon or a devout catholic, if you love the Lord that damned much then celebrate shamelessly! Whether among the faithful or just an observer, being in a room full of adults throwing their hands and voices into the air is an amazing thing to behold. This is part of why I come here. This is part of why I believe.

 So if the singing and chanting in this beautiful temple room haven’t won you over, the free vegetarian feast will rope you in and make you a convert wanting to come back for more. Here is food prepared by people who understand Indian cuisine with the added bonus of it having been offered with prayer and devotion. Now, suspend your disbelief for a moment and imagine pure, easily digestible food being prepared under the steady energy of devotion, served with a smile and the promise of more if you are hungry for it. Think of curries, subji, daal, fresh roti and fruit nectar taken alongside strangers and otherwise in a large room that resembles an open-air grotto in the morning sky. Imagine eating your fill and still walking out feeling lighter, as if you've been somehow "spiritualized". 

That's how it feels for me. And that is why i keep coming back. 

 There is something pretty magical about the whole Sunday love feast experience, be it the drawn out discourses given by one of Krishna’s yogis whose thick accent might make it hard to decipher. Or the hour-long God conscious dance party that turns adults into blissful children again. Or the fill up of purified food that treats your taste buds to one heck of a gift. I may not be near to a vegetarian, intoxicant free, non-gambling and promiscuous sex abstaining Krishna devotee, but that odd Sunday evening when I find myself between those 4 walls I leave feeling lighter and happier than I “should be” having just been to a church service.

 No matter where I am in life it is the things such as having drunken the kool-aid of an ages old tradition or a perfect gritty sunset or a fun day riding bikes with my lover that makes for a sweetened life. It is this stuff that I try to remember as I stress and fuss over ‘not having it good enough’ and it is this stuff that consistently brings me back to living. Life isn’t always a gas but there is always ample opportunity to refuel and I suggest that while you are here and able you find your spark and worship fully and completely. You’ve really got nothing to lose.
Many lovings,