I am beginning to suspect my wife is lovely. Last week she and I realized that it was the first weekend in time out of mind that we did not have anything planned. At first my wife said that was great because she wanted to just be home and relax for once. Since her job is infinitely more stressful than mine, I was fine with that. Then, one day, out of the ether as it were, she asked me if I wanted to go visit one of the very few Hindu temples in the state of Minnesota. It was one that we had intended to visit with a couple of friends who visited earlier this month from out of state, but time did not allow. I think my wife recognizes that I sometimes neglect to name the things that I really want, a visit to said temple being one of them. The Sri Venkateshwara (Baliji) temple is about 90 minutes from our home, so when she asked me, I said “Are there other things you want to do in the city?”
She said no.
I was amused and she was further endeared to me by this random loveliness.
So we drove up there, actually taking the opportunity to make further arrangements for a trip we will be taking up there next week. But the main thing was the temple. As she got ready that morning she said “I don’t know what to wear.” To which I responded “You don’t know what to wear? I’m the one going to have darshan with my Ishta-devata!” which gave my wife a giggle and amused me in retrospect, understanding that when one comes before God, less than a single damn is Given about what the devotee is wearing as long as he/she comes with devotion and love.
The Sri Venkateshwara Temple is in Edina, MN and we found it a bit difficult to find via Google map. I think the road it is on is a fairly well-traveled one, but the Temple is a bit tucked away. But we found it. And once we did, even though there was a ramp leading up to the front door, there was a sign which suggested that wheelchair access was to be found around the back of the building. So we did as suggested. Once inside, shoes off, we found the sign which claimed to point to the elevator. Unfortunately this led us down an unending labyrinth of hallways, checking every door we came to thinking the elevator had to be hidden somewhere. We did not find it until we came all the way around to the front part of the building. Turns out had we gone in the front the elevator would have been immediately apparent.
After the very human and therefore obligatory grumbling, we took the elevator upstairs and came into the inner sanctum, and into an immediate state of peace. It is smaller than the Hindu Temple of Minnesota in Maple Grove, which I may write about at a later date. We came to Venkateshwara on a very quiet Sunday morning, and the temple is carpeted so probably much quieter even when there are more than the 4 devotees (counting myself and my wife).
We found Sri Ganesha, I offered many pranams, then began the circumambulation. The Ashta-Lakshmi, the 8 forms of Maa Lakshmi dwell within this temple, which was lovely. And alongside Sri Venkateshwara (w/Bhu-devi and Shri-devi) is a Vishnu murti. And that is the extent of the murtis. As you can see this is a very Vaisnavite temple, which felt like home for me.
After visits and meditations on each one’s presence within this old jivan, my wife and I took a stroll around again because on the walls are mounted golden plates depicting the Dashavatara. So, though we actually went backward, it was still nice to take my wife around and tell her my version of the significance of each avatar. She asked questions, and corrected me when I told her the second avatar was a fish. Anyway I told her later that was my favorite part of the visit, to have that time to explain that part of my religion with her. Could have been in more depth, but I didn’t have time to run down the entire Vishnu Purana.
There were two priests and we did take in a short puja to the deity for which the temple is named just before leaving. The priests were quite friendly and probably having gained a sense for new-comers, the priest allowed me to take aarti then offering the flame to my wife, whispered “do just like he did.” During the few times she has taken puja with me, she generally does just watch what I do, and follow, but it was still nice.
There is no bookstore or gift shop as there is at the Hindu Temple of MN, but they did have a small table with some DVDs, one in particular of the Hanuman Chalisa, which I find to be lovely every time I hear it, and a few copies of Autobiography of a Yogi, which, if you know me, you will know that made the Sri Venkateshwara Temple dear to me straight away.
As my wife and I drove around later trying to plan our route between our hotel and a venue we will be attending next week, I could still taste the water from the puja, and it brought me back to that place of simplicity and Oneness. The difficulty finding the place and in finding the elevator once inside was definitely worth the while. I may visit it again next week, but if not, then some other time for certain.
Okay so this was not really meant to become a “temple review” as there is no sense in such a thing, I think. But I just wanted to give you an account of my thoughts upon the atmosphere.
Jai Hari Aum!