“Did You Happen To Notice Where the Vaisnav Temple Is In Town, By Chance?”

In “The Catcher in the Rye” Holden Caulfield tells of a classmate he’d had who casually asked upon first meeting him “Did you happen to notice where the Catholic church is in town?” and how that was clearly this kid’s way of finding out whether you were Catholic or not.

I wouldn’t ask for that purpose, but it is getting to the point now where any time I go out of town, at least when I go to a larger city, I want to find the Hindu temple if they’ve got one. There is still a week left but in the month of July already I have visited Hindu Temples in Indianapolis, Nashville and Winnipeg. I don’t have any further templing on my agenda until at least next summer. Other than my home town, and two in the Minneapolis area, those are the only ones I’ve been to. Well, I did see the one in San Francisco which was started by Vivekananda, but was not able to go inside. Alas.

But that is not what I feel like talking about. I want to talk about my own feelings towards seeking out these places, and what the perception might be toward my doing so.

I think most Hindus can agree that visiting a temple is a different experience than visiting a church. And hopefully anyone reading this who is not Hindu can come to understand why. I think that the purpose for visiting either one are fairly similar. Except that most people go to their church when there is a mass whereas going to a Hindu temple is more of an individual thing. You don’t need a priest there to approach God. You don’t need one at a church either, but most people don’t just go in to pray. They do that at home, where you also don’t need a conductor to connect with God. Many people have written about the architecture of a Hindu temple and how its very construction is meant to promote a very specific vibratory atmosphere following guidelines passed down through the ages, whereas churches, well… if viewed from above they are often cross-shaped. Maybe there is more to it than that.

But I am getting off track. The point is in my hometown there is literally an intersection where there is a church on all four street corners. There are fewer Hindu temples than that in the state of Minnesota. That makes it a very unique experience already when a person like me visits a place that has one. But that bit I wrote above about perception is this. My wife and I visited her family in Winnipeg recently and the second day we had some time so we decided to visit the temple. Leaving the house of a family member we were staying with we said that we were off to go and visit the temple. We were not met with any kind of funny look or snide comment or anything. They wouldn’t do that, but I had this feeling that there was the thought in the room, like “you’re on vacation, visiting, and you’re goin’ to church?!” They were probably just surprised. Maybe a part of it was one of them seemed to not be aware that I’d become a Hindu in 2010.

It is not a religious obligation to do so even if I am out of town, and it is not a sight seeing thing either. It is a spiritual experience, and it is indeed a bit of curiosity to see how each temple does things. So its a bit of both, in some ways.

I’ve begun seeking them out after a templing trip we took with friends, and noticing a very specific atmosphere they each have. There is a lot of similarity between the one in Maple Grove, MN and the one in Indianapolis, IN but at the same time each manifests its own identity. I’m not saying it isn’t the same with churches. But you don’t go to a temple to listen to some bloke give a sermon (sometimes there are guest speakers which can be quite valuable). It is a very personal experience with a lot of individual responsibility for how much you get out of it.

Jai Hari Aum!

This entry was posted in churches, Hindu architecture, Hindu Temple, Hindu Temples in the United States, Hinduism, Hinduism in America, Western Hinduism and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to “Did You Happen To Notice Where the Vaisnav Temple Is In Town, By Chance?”

  1. Dhrishti says:

    Well said, Bhai. It’s probably hard to explain to “outsiders” the difference between going to a Hindu temple and going to a Christian church. I’d wager that there are more people who are Hindu and have been to both than there are who are Christian and have been to both.

    The buildings are certainly constructed using different means and toward different ends. All the science – secular and sacred – that goes into a Hindu temple, I feel, makes it more …. legit, for lack of a better word. But one thing I recognize about Christian worship spaces – and which I really wish applied to Hindu temples – is that the building itself isn’t seen as uniquely holy. As you said, in both religions, a conductor isn’t technically needed. In the Hindu context, it’s precisely formulated though and there are a lot of valid but dumb rules surrounding it. Christians seem freed from that kind of baggage.

    • treadmarkz says:

      hehe “valid but dumb”…also I think you are 108% correct about the Hindus who’ve been in a church vs. Christians who’ve been in a temple.

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