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Radha's Life of Service X

June 18, 2008 by Lightwaves

The history of the ashram’s early days continues with the story of Swami Radha’s discovery of the temple site and the beginning of its construction.

(click the photos for a larger version)

Swami Radha once said, “Nothing really comes out of the blue. Everything has a much earlier beginning somewhere in the unseen.” This was certainly true for the Temple.

Her early correspondence to friends is full of references to the future building of a Temple of All Religions, and in the meantime the importance of having a place for prayer and meditation. In the last issue we featured the building of the Prayer Room on the beach. Before this, ashram residents used a small area in Main House for this purpose. It was all they had at the time and it has a story connected to it:

Newsletter #1, July 1963

Meditation and prayer are conducted every evening under the direction of Swami Radha, and we have been pleased to have some of our local friends present from time to time. A small meditation room has been set up in the existing main residence, and for the time being this is serving the purpose until the chapel will be erected. A window above the altar in the room has been painted in transparent colors by Swami Saradanada (Peter Burton). It depicts the figure of the Buddha seated in contemplation on a golden lotus, and this helps to convey a sense of spiritual quiet to the room itself.

Unfortunately at a later time an over enthusiastic visitor washed the window and smeared the painting so it had to be cleaned off. Swami Radha used this as an example of people who don’t check things out first but dive into a job with too much gusto. She was very irritated that Peter’s careful and beautiful work was ruined.

The July 1963 Newsletter continued:

Site location of the proposed temple has been decided upon and ‘Easter Rock’ has been chosen. It seems an eminently suitable location to erect a place of worship. Situated in a prominent position on a high part of the property, the new temple will command a sweeping vista of the Kootenay Lake and should be a significant feature in the surrounding landscape.

Easter Rock has become the focus of a walk for everyone through the woods each Easter following a path up to a clearing high up on the wooded hill.

I think Swami Radha had a change of mind about the location of the Temple. In the July 1992 Ascent, she tells the story of a vision which included an image of the site.

I was fourteen years old when I had my first experience of the Temple. I…followed an old habit of sitting with my eyes closed. Then I could step out of my body and do my homework in no time flat. But one time I found myself…walking along a road and I came to a beautiful white building-a kind of church or temple-round with many windows and doors…. Then the experience ended…but it returned about once a year for many years…seeing what I called ‘my little Temple’. It was set overlooking a bay. There was a peculiar shoreline with a jetty…and near the water a small building. Branches dipped into the water and…I could see the mountains on the other shore.

Here, then, “in the unseen”, was the real beginning of the Temple.

It wasn’t until 1965, however, that her vision of the site took visible form. One of the young fellows had asked Swami Radha to come see where he had put up a tiny cabin for himself on a secluded spot on a cliff overlooking the water. She says, “I nearly fell off the cliff. From one particular angle I saw the exact scene from the visionary experience I had, the same shoreline and bay, the jetty, the branches dipping in, the winding path to the lake….So here was the place for the Temple.” She said that the vision never came back once the work started on the foundation.

Newsletter #25, July 1965, announced:

It has begun! The first stage of the construction of the Temple of All Religions got underway with the clearing of the site on which it will stand, and a small service was held to commemorate the event….In the small group present for the celebration was Dr. Marcus Bach, well-known author of many books on world religious movements … He said, ‘It was wonderfully fitting that we should have opened the services with the intonation of Om and set in motion cosmic vibrations that may…be felt in places far from this hilltop.’ He spoke of the Temple being an open door to the heart of the world….He ended with the prayer, ‘At the closing of this beautiful day here in the Kootenays, as we dedicate and bless this ground, we feel a call to service in the midst of a complex and troubled world….’

From this time on, reports on the Temple Fund became a part of each Newsletter.

Newsletter #26, August 1965

$530 has been given so far and $119 was used to clear the Temple site…. May we mention further the need of this fund and the nobility of the cause-the Temple of All Religions. And may we express our appreciation for all that has been given, both materially and in prayer.

Newsletter #33, March 1966

The details of the design of the temple are still under consideration. However we have a working outline of the basic structure which will allow us to go ahead with the foundation, the floor and a lotus shaped patio at ground level. This is the target for this year’s building project. This will not be a simple task for the temple will be a large building (some fifty feet in diameter) having many sides to house the many different religions. As the site is not level, the concrete foundation will stand approximately ten feet high at the low end. The petal shaped patio will also be made of concrete and will be cantilevered from the foundation.

The trees, which will eventually become the beams for the understructure of the floor, have already been felled and stripped of their bark in order that they may be seasoned for their use this summer.

Newsletter # 36, June 1966

This summer it is hoped that the foundation for the temple will be completed. The difficulty (aside from the financial one) is finding the time to do so…. Krishnananda will continue surveying with two hired helpers, while Premananda and Turiyananda spend at least a month and a half working on the temple. The foundation will be of concrete, some 60 yards or so being required for the pedestals that will support the 50 ft. diameter structure. The temple fund now stands at $2,652….The support received has been generous and encouraging. It seems there are many who find the temple an expression of their own ecumenical vision.

Newsletter #37, July 1966

In beginning the construction of our Temple of All Religions the first thing…was to prepare a centre stone. Embedded in the centre stone is a point from which all measurements begin and around which the Temple will be raised…. The placing of a stone with this significance…requires some sort of ceremony.

A ceremony followed which incorporated much symbolism and objects with meaning such as a half dollar piece representing spiritual power that was placed with the centre stone. Rabbi Steinberg gave the traditional Jewish blessing with bread and wine…. Swami Radha offered her blessings and said, “…there are really no words of gratitude that I can offer to God for all the things that have happened…. I fully realize that I owe everything to the Divine, but I know also that He can only work through the head and hands of those who will dedicate themselves to His work…. I say to everyone, really and truly, ‘thank you.’

After this, each of those present dedicated a short prayer to the blessing of the Temple and all departed for the prayer room and the evening’s Satsang.”

The story of this part of the Temple construction will be concluded in the next issue of Lightwaves. We will also look at the concerns on which the Ashram was focused at the start of the 1970’s.

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