Approaching the Space: When we turned down Sunol street to walk to the temple, I started feeling skeptical about where we were going. I was surprised when we arrived and it was just a simple building that looks like a house among many other residencies. The house next to the temple had a porch decorated with cactus plants and lights and a white male was sitting on his porch. This suggests that this sacred space is embedded within a larger residential community, but is at the same time detached. This detachment and difference was marked by the gate and the illustration of a lotus flower on the ground that distinguished the temple among other residencies. Personally, the image of a lotus flower is one that I find very recognizable and comforting. Additionally, it is a symbol of welcoming that made me feel at ease. Being able to physically walk over this image suggests that once visitors have successfully found this hidden little temple, they are welcomed.
Entering the Space: We entered through an open metal gate and put our shoes in a wooden rack outside the building. These structures indicated that this was a space in which we had to enter, alter our bodily behaviors (like removing our shoes), and become part of a space in which we had never before been. The gate made me feel as if this was a space separate from the community, and in this way it becomes more of a sacred experience as I have to be permitted entrance. After placing our shoes in the wooden racks, we walked on a concrete path towards the main building. In this central patio we passed a banana tree, which to me, suggested an emphasis on natural goods that may be part of an idiomatic practice.
During the main Puja practice I felt an overwhelming sense of rhythm, grounded in the chants and prayers of the leaders and visitors. The room was vibrating with sound, but in an entirely peaceful and calm way. There was one chant that began with an ‘Ohm’ sound, and during this chant I was most inclined to participate because I am familiar with the ‘Ohm’ practice. I felt myself drawn to close my eyes and I felt my body swaying. The group synergy of this practice had a physical effect on me that was grounding and meditative. Although the group energy was calming, everyone was keeping their own beat which suggested the individuality of the experience. The age demographic ranged from very young children to elderly people. The majority of people seemed to be in their twenties to thirties. Some were dressed in idiomatic clothing such as the saris seen in this image, but you can also see that people are in very informal clothing. However, the main leaders on the elevated stage wore distinct formal dress. This idiomatic expression suggested the social structuring of class and status, that these individuals were esteemed among others. Although there was an overarching sense of community grounded in the shared practice, it seemed more so that people were engaging with the people they came with rather than the congregation as a whole. I didn’t notice people saying hello to each other unless they came together or seemed that they planned to meet up. This suggests that the service itself is valued above a community support system. In fact, many people we spoke to noted that they come to this temple because it is convenient, and on a Thursday night after work they need to go somewhere close by. This implies that the temple is part of a more informal culture, but is still valued very deeply by those who attend. In this way, the religious reverence to Hinduism is more important than the structure of the space itself.
Reading: In order to follow along to the chants there were prayer books, that for me, were entirely unreadable. I attempted to find the place in the book in which they were chanting, but it was incredibly difficult to discern and I was unsuccessful. People that did not have books used their smartphones to look up the words to the chants. I found this very intriguing considering our discussion in class about having the Virgin Guadalupe on a phone case. Should technology be used during a holy practice?
Roses: After dinner we proceeded outside to water taps to wash our hands. I noticed that where the water taps are located, roses grow beneath the water. During the service, I also noticed roses being carried through the space and placed on the stage in addition to the bananas. The leader even spread rose petals during one moment. Outside, considering how much water gets poured out of the taps, I found it amazing that any plant could survive so beautifully there. The roses were bright pink and in perfect bloom. The water washed off our hands after dinner appeared to be aiding the life of the roses. This suggests a possible Hindu belief in the ties between sacred and natural practices, and human life and the natural, spiritual world.
Created with images by rawpixel - "hand teamwork cooperation" • Tanuj_handa - "diya light flame" • Jeremy Yap - "untitled image" • Bagus Hernawan - "untitled image" • solut_rai - "mudra meditate energy" • Anastasia Taioglou - "untitled image" • Vitamin - "fresh jalebi indian sweet dessert" • César Abner Martínez Aguilar - "untitled image" • Ryoji Iwata - "untitled image"