View pictures of Prem Mandir Inauguration on facebook
When you're at an ashram, every step you take is a little bit more like paradise. JKP's mandirs, ashrams and centers are all special in blissfully unique ways. I like to think of them as facets of Maharajji's personality, places where our beloved Jagadguru has come, enacted leelas, sung kirtans and made us all happy to the core of our souls.
With the recent inauguration of Prem Mandir in Vrindaban, a testament to the power of Divine Love, our Guru's grace has extended even more. Prem Mandir is a white marble temple, with no steel or cement in its walls or foundation. It is one of the largest Hindu temples in India, featuring 84 beautiful scenes of Radha and Krishn leelas, and a 10,000-seat prayer hall in the works, all on a 50-acre lot. In a country known for its grand temples, Prem Mandir represents a massively powerful addition to religious and devotional life.
The inaugural ceremony itself went from February 15th to 17th; an event full of chanting, parikrimas and intense devotion. Maharajji performed many functions during those three days, to the delight of devotees in attendance and around the world. And from where I sit, at my computer watching the videos, I feel a longing for India more intense than the longing for home. I want to be there, in the crowd of loving worship, offering myself as much as I can to the service of God and Guru. I want to feel the cold marble of Prem Mandir on my feet, the warm breeze and the sun on my face. I carry the desire for all of this within my body, as it meanders around the gray skies and icy pavement of Western Pennsylvania.
It is one of the ephemeral curses of being a college student that I have had no money to buy a ticket to India after four years of being here, and it is one of those curses that has a habit of sticking around after graduation. The inauguration of this new temple is a moment I should not have missed, but did, like so many other events and ceremonies in the last four years. The last time I saw Maharajji was more than two years ago, and at the very least I should have done something to change that. Instead, I have placed more roots in the community here, tried to establish a center for Hindu worship, and made myself look like a fool in the process. The lesson Maharajji gives about attachments, and how we should strive to only form newer ones with the Divine, I have taken in reverse, and built a kingdom of worldliness on top of my devotional upbringing. In brief, I have not become the person I expected to see at the end of my undergraduate life.
But Maharajji also teaches us not to hate ourselves. It is a road that leads nowhere. What has been done is undeniable, but it is also beyond our power to change the past. Our hopes for the future are laid out as best we can, with as much assurance and insurance as is humanly possible, but all can still fail. Our best interests, Guru says, lie in what we do in the present. Who we are now serves to define us more than what we have done or will do. Being unhappy changes nothing, but attempting to make a shift in who we are and what we do, regardless of success or failure, can change everything we know to be true.