Adventures in Humility

News, Views, and Chews on spiritual issues.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Madhava's humour

My friend Madhava has an excellent line in humour. I find a lot of his jokes and sarcasm extremely funny, and it often has me rolling in fits of laughter. Sometimes his jokes are way above my head and which I suppose only pundits can understand, which shows his level of knowledge.

Yesterday I visited another forum after a long absence, to find Madhava engaged in a discussion about how Bhagavata 11.5.32 is interpreted to refer to Mahaprabhu. Upon being asked how he knew if Nityananda and Advaita Prabhus were Vishnu-tattva, he remarked:
I checked their ID cards. There was a field right below "Nationality" for "Tattva", and it said "Vishnu" there.
Hahahahahaha! :D

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Bedtime reading

I got a load of books out of the library the other day. I guess I should brush up on my psychology stuff now that Uni is due to start next week. Oh, what a sheer collection I got, and I am not even going to read all of it but to pick up some great snippets from here and there! Hmm, I guess I have about 12 books in total to flick through and all of them very interesting subjects indeed!

And just check out the topics at hand: the origin of consciousness, the worldwide decline of atheism, mythology of the Middle East, scientific religion and reasoning, and so on! The two I've been most attracted to read is 'Rocks of Ages' by Stephen Jay Gould, and 'Dawkins' God' by Alistair McGrath. The latter author is interesting for the fact that he is a scholarly scientist who is also an avowed atheist turned Christian. How he made the transition from unbeliever to believer would be something interesting to for me to find out, but I'm more interested in the main topic of his book; a full-fledged rational challenge to 'The Selfish Gene' by Richard Dawkins!

Mind you, I don't think it's altogether fair to read these things backward, so I went to the library today and booked out a copy of Dawkins' 'Selfish Gene' so I can study it it and then read the challenge. I had the choice to study Dawkins' text last year at uni for a book review, but I decided to drop it for the excellent 'Phantoms In The Brain' by V.S. Ramachandran. At that time I knew that Selfish Gene was a good book that I should think about putting aside, but I guess I never had the time. So I guess I can finally pick it up now and try to understand his case for Darwinian evolution.

Mind you, that would also be a tad backward since if I wanted to read up on evolution it would be most appropriate to study Darwin's original text. But you know, I can't be bothered to go back and forth to the library and especially since I have so little time to read on my hands.

Mind you (OK that's becoming a little annoying!), 'The Twilight of Atheism' by McGrath that I also got looks to be something good to chew over. In his Intro to Dawkins' God, he mentioned that he realised how atheism was not self-evident as it was supposed to be, but was just a "belief system" like any other religion. I have trouble wondering whether his viewpoint comes from an objective study or if it originates in his own disillusionoment. Rather than the typical Nicky Cruz 'Christian conversion' novels that are profusely available nowadays, it seems that McGrath is very much of a scientists and is able to challenge Dawkins on scientific and rational ground. The fact that he happens to be a professor of Christian theology shouldn't make much of a difference to his other numerous scientific credentials.

But oh, when will I find the time to dive into the Caitanya-bhagavata?! I will have to steal a few precious moments to bathe in that ocean!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Delicate dealings

Now that the Loneliest Day has passed, I feel that an overwhelming burden of tension and anxiety has been lifted off my shoulders even though I still feel a little gloomy. I have no idea if this is a question of cultural conditioning or pure biological programming, but it seems that with every birthday that passes I experience a significant change in intellect and consciousness, which forces me to evaluate where I am at and what I need to do to progress.

I can't say that this has happened instantaneously this year, unlike other years, but I think I have got some direction on what to do, albeit very vague. Or on the other hand I feel like I am in cruise-control and I should not take control of the car just yet. In any case, it turns out that I should just continue with what I am doing; reading CB and enjoying it immensely.

The recent hoo-haa at GD yet again prompted me to think of the standards of Vaishnava relationships, and what standards they should adhere to. I find myself thinking about the friendly quarrels between Nityananda and Advaita Prabhus, and how poorly reflected that is among their followers in this day and age especially on GD. It is written somewhere in CB that these loving quarrels between Nityananda and Advaita brought pleasure to Gauranga Mahaprabhu and made Him smile. It is also stated how Nityananda and Advaita smiled and winked at each other. Such nice and affectionate dealings. The deep friendship that exists between Prem Gopal Gosvami and Radha-Vinod Thakur is also something to consider, their being familial representatives of Nityanand Prabhu and Dhananjay Pandit respectively. Such things set the example for Vaishnavas to follow.

It is also undeniable that there may be incidence where two or more individuals just do not get along no matter what. So how do we deal with such personality clashes in Gaudiya Vaishnavism? Too bad I am not a sociologist nor am I an expert in sastra to find some good quotes, but it is quite the dilemma. Gaudiya Vaishnavas having personality clashes? Surely not! Think of the offenses!! But how to resolve these?

A similar question or dilemma exists with the problem of fault-finding. I once read something by Gour Govinda Swami where he outlined the Vaishnava etiquette that is to be followed when faultfinding. What! There is a specific etiquette for faultfinding?? I can't remember it word-for-word and I can't seem to find the exact passage at this moment, but his general point of view was that the Vaishnava should be extremely humble and "completely devoid of the propensity to criticise others", and that if anyone should do any faultfinding it was the business of the Guru to chastise such an errant disciple. When further pressed, he said that if the incidence is extreme, then when there is no other avenue the Vaishnava must humbly approach the errant individual and say politely, "my dear devotee, what you are saying or doing is wrong and is not according to Vaishnava principles, so please kindly stop this."

In any case, there is a principle of humility and politeness to delicate Vaishnava dealings so as to avoid offences on both sides. And of course, this is to be done in private so as not to embarrass the supposedly errant fellow in public. Whaddya know?

It is also interesting how it was Advaita Prabhu who used to object to Nitai's behaviour most of the time. When I read that lila I laugh at Nitai's smiles and replies. Why is CB written so vividly? It is such a wonderful book to read. You are transported from your armchair into another dimension where all of these personalities are present and enacting their pastimes. You are sitting cross-legged on the floor in your dhoti in a corner somewhere and watching all of this. You may or may not be allowed to participate in anything as They see fit, but oi! How much fun will it be not to interrupt the scene with typical dunderheadedness and just watch the whole sweet thing unfold. Laugh with them, cry with them, dance with them, hear their voices and sing along to the melody of the Bengali verse.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Birthday Blues

Another birthday comes and goes. For me, it is really THE most loneliest day in the year, and this one was no different to any of the others. Why? Why because, it's been a little different what with Dad's accident and all, having to take care of him which I don't mind doing of course, but heck, you'd think that some people might actually remember it and actually wish you or something, even when it becomes public knowledge.

Well it was nice of them to call from Sri Lanka to wish me, but I guess it doesn't mean as much when you have no one around to celebrate with. I wanted to talk about how worried I am about depression. Prolonged depression can kill according to the latest scientific studies. It has a stressful effect on the heart and can probably be an indirect cause of heart disease, as I read on BBC health some time ago. So um, I've been feeling like this for around 3 months now and this has GOT to stop or I'll end up freaking out on the street or something.

It's almost like my entire soul seems to be filled with poison. I don't know how else to describe it. I either feel just very vacant or empty, and at other times I just feel consumed by bitterness, anger and hatred. Consumed by poison.

It's like when I close my eyes, I can actually feel the loneliness surrounding me, choking and suffocating me. Or at least my senses seem to sink within myself and become dull. A pessimistic attitude tints my vision and I cannot seem to understand other people's emotions except mine. Yes, I may laugh at comedies but usually only at the sarcastic jokes, which seem to be an extension of the frustration and bitterness in my soul. It's like I am just aimless these days, going along no particular direction.

It is something that I had perhaps get used to. It's probably likely that I will end up a bitter twisted old man and I should look forward to that and embrace it. It's looking unreasonable to expect anything else.

I started thinking again about the 'guhyam AkhyAti pRcchati' clause in Upadeshamrit. In a translation file of Madhava's, he translates it as "revealing to devotees one’s confidential realisations concerning bhajana [and] inquiring from them about their confidential realisations". Well this may be so but I cannot bring myself to believe that this is the sum total of Rupa Gosvami's intention. Where is 'bhajan' mentioned in the original text? Is it mentioned in a commentary? In any case, what about social relationships with fellow Vaishnavas? What about friendship, companionship and general fraternity? Isn't it so that belonging to a community of "Vaishnavas" the existence of a bond of sorts? Isn't this why there are so many "social" custioms in rlation to "spiritual" duties such as the taking of prasada with fellow Vaishnavas?

Well in any case, I've heard much about "Vaishnava friendships" and the like, and I'm not sure if it even exists purely until people learn to CLEAN themselves off all the dross that they've acquired over several lifetimes. They say that habits are hard to break whereas I just wonder why they even continue to exist. This is a theme I need to return to in the future as I ponder it.

Well my mood kind of lifted a little when I picked up CB. There is something inexpressibly sweet about Gaura-lila. I have no idea what it is, but after I finished my reading I felt better and more happier. The depression is still very much there though. I guess I should dive more into Gaura-lila so that I don't end up drowning in an ocean of sorrows. I still feel bad.

It was only after I put the book down when I realised that I had just read about Sriman Mahaprabhu's janma-lila on my own birthday. What fascinating coincidence. It cheered me up a little for a while.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

CB deeper thoughts

I haven't progressed with CB in the last two days due to taking care of my father and so on, and there may have been an element of laziness in there somewhere too. But tonight my memory went back to a verse about the dismal situation (of Kali-yuga) around the time of Mahaprabhu's imminent appearance. In verse 63 of Chapter 2, Sri VDT says:

kRSNa-rAma-bhakti-zUnya sakala saMsAra
prathama-kalite haila bhaviSya-AcAra

"The whole creation was devoid of devotion for Krsna and Balaram, and the future symptoms of Kali-yuga were manifest in the beginning of the age."

But the particular characteristic that made me wonder was Verse 71:

ati-vaDa sukRti snAnera samaya
'govinda' 'puNDarIkAkSa'-nAma uccAraya

"Only the most pious people would recite the names of 'Govinda' and 'Pundarikaksa' at the time of taing bath."

I was puzzled. I had heard that talking at the time of taking bath makes the bather lose the spiritual potency or energy that is gained from bathing, what to speak of the popular habit of singing in the shower that is widely prevalent in the West! On some occasions when I was showering, Sri Harinama danced around in my mind and I indulged it but I don't ever recall chanting it or singing it in the shower. For some reason my crazy mind stuck to that notion that to talk or sing during a shower would dissipate spiritual potency, hmmmm I think that qualifies as an offence to Sri Harinam Itself, eh?

Well, it surprised me when I read Text 71. It seems that while describing the pitiful situation of dharma in Kali-yuga, the author mentions that 'only' the most pious would chant the Names at the time of taking bath. The way it sounds as if this was one of the few good qualities of Kali-yuga at the time of Mahaprabhu's appearance. Well at least as far as this text is concerned, it seems to be a rather good activity to chant the Names at bath-time after all. What was I thinking all of this time?! Chanting the names at bath-time can only increase whatever potency you're getting from the bath. Man, do I need to get some queer ideas out of my head or what. I guess I know who I should blame, but let's not play that game here.

'prathama-kalite haila bhaviSya-AcAra' from Text 63 is also an interesting consideration. For a fuller explanation of this line, Srimat Kanupriya Gosvami has written an excellent treatise entitled 'The Dawn of The Age of Love' in which he mentions the reasons why the symptoms of Kali-yuga are so prominent in this Kali-yuga than it is in previous or future Kali-yugas. I have copied this text and uploaded this file somewhere on GD. I think I should update it and 'modernise' it with proper diacritics and all, as I just copied the original text in order to retain the flavour of the Bengali English. That's a project I can get along with. If only I could remember where I kept my copy of the original text....

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RKGD deeper thoughts

I wrote yesterday's blog rather hurriedly, in a flush of excitement and enthusiasm. What I was trying to convey was my inability to meditate on Srimati properly. I have hardly devoted any time to reading of the lila-sastras, even those that are available everywhere on the Net.

I do not know why this is so. I guess I am much more focused on Gaura-lila or I am just addicted to GD. But I think it is rather shameful that I have virtually no knowledge of what is written in the texts about Sri Sri Yugal-Kishor. Well I know a few things, but not enough to have a satisfactory meditation. And then of course I intellectually know these things but when I think of Krishna's amulet then I forget what characteristics it has, and so on. So this is not good and so I will have to brush up on my knowledge in that area, so that whenever there is any occasion I can read the narrative about it and merge it with the intimate knowledge available in Sri Rupa Gosvami's literatures and have a nice meditation. For example, if I read the story of how Sri Srinivasa Acarya got "involved" in the lila of Srimati's losing of Her besara, I need to know what this besara looks like, so I can probably find that information somewhere.

And this is not something that I may instantly remember either; I'll need to read it over and over in order to have that knowledge imprinted on my consciousness and memory. I had an extremely sharp memory when I was younger, I don't know what happened to it, maybe I "forgot" to pick it up when I left the house. :/
Nah, I still have a sharp memory when it counts; what a shame it doesn't work when I need it to. :/

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

CB readings and RKGD

Continuing my readings of Caitanya-bhagavata, I am right upto the point where Krsna incarnates (as Gaurahari) in the bodies of Sri Jagannath Mishra and Sri Saci-mata, and the demigods are offering their praises to Him in the womb or so.

I am enjoying the reading of CB. There is something very vivid about the writing style of Sri Vrndavan das Thakur; everytime I have ever picked up a CB book at random and read it, I have felt as if I was right there in the midst of the lila and surrounded by whatever pastime was going on. Sometimes the excitement got so much that I just had to put the book down to take a breather. It is so amazing, the vivid style of writing.

Even now as I am reading about the imminent birth of Sriman Mahaprabhu, there is a palpable excitement as if a great (VERY great) event is about to take place. The heartbeat accelerates and the breathing becomes more heavier as one keeps reading. It is becoming almost annoying to stop and read the purports, I feel like just reading it straight.

Also, I recently purchased 'Radha-Krsna Ganoddesa Dipika' from the temple, I have this text anyway through the Net but sometimes it is more convenient to have a physical copy for offline reading. On Radhastami it was nice to read the descriptions of Srimati in the said text. I realised how useless I was at remembering the details of Her lovely form, so how could I meditate on Her while doing my japa? How can I meditate on Her in general, if I do not know what she looks like.

So I decided that I had better familiarise myself with the details of Her appearance, as well as everybody elses', just so I can have a better idea of what They all look like, the details about Their forms and so on. But it was nice to chant anyway while remembering how Her pearl necklace reflects or adds shine (can't remember, argh!) shine to the blue sari that She wears. Her nose-jewel, and other things. So beautiful and so glorious.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The Whole World Is Vacant Without You

On that note, it is sometimes the way I feel about how alone I feel without the direct presence of Sriman Mahaprabhu. Mahaprabhu once said sunyayitam jagad sarvam, but He was talking about Krishna. But this is how I feel without Mahaprabhu. The whole world is vacant and empty, and I feel so alone without Him.

Why are we all so cursed to walk this earth without Him being here? How close we were to being inHis direct presence, but missed out by just a few centuries!

Sometimes if you open your ears, you can hear that sankirtan going on. And sometimes if you can get around the joyous din of karatals and mrdangas, perhaps you may hear His voice. I wish..

Posturing as a poseur

I forgot to mention some important points in my last post about smart guys. I figured that when thinking of Siksastaka 4 it is almost impossible not to think of and ruminate upon Siksastaka 3. After all, that's the verse that Sri Kaviraj Gosvami said that we should tie into a garland and place around our necks. I also mentioned that no matter how big my ego grows sometimes, Mahaprabhu always finds some way o fmaking me level with the straw in the street.

Well it occurred to me that I have to work on my humility, who doesn't? I might try to flatter myself into thinking that I am more humbler than anyone as I definitely feel humble. However, my standard of "humble" may be very different from Mahaprabhu's, and this is why I am not blessed with any great insights or progress of sorts.

Specifically it occurred to me that I need to reduce my level of participation on GD. Not in the sense of pulling out altogether as it is THE fantstic forum with a lot of great people around, but I kind of get the feeling that I am acting as some great big pundit over there, which I am certainly not. There are too many devotees around who are way WAY more smarter and knowledgeable than me when it comes to siddhanta, yet somehow there comes along a feeling of showing off. "Hey, I find these great verses and I can even put them into HK!" Well, I'm not sure if Mahaprabhu is impressed if I can write in Harvard-Kyoto encoding, I think He is is much more interested in how far I put any of those verses into practice in my daily life. I think that Mahaprabhu is much more interested in the quality of my japa and seva and bhajan rather than my "expertise" at writing in HK or how many posts I make per day. So my wiriting in HK is restricted to posting of verses or perhaps inclusion of a verse in prose, as some do. It's not endearing to show off by typing every word of Sanskrit in HK.

So it seems that most of the time I just like to pose as some big pundit and throw my weight around like some big know-it-all. Sometimes I think it is unfair to label someone as a know-it-all, especially when that is ultimately an admirable quality, knowing so much about Krishna or Gaura-lila. I guess I mean that being an arrogant know-it-all is an annoyance. But perhaps in the true spirit of a Vaishnava, it is appropriate to give credit to anyone and everyone for their standard of learning. I definitely need to restrict my participation to questions and clarification-seeking, and perhaps the odd glorification of transcendent personalities.

I really don't have much to contribute anyways. I am not initiated like most of them are, and I don't have a great collection of Gosvami-granthas. I only have the total set of ISKCON books as well as some of their translations of granthas. I definitely need to add to my huge collecton of books when I finally get the chance to visi the dhamas. I sometimes ask people to ge things for me as a favour, not for free of course (!), but they always have some excuse or other or they just don't bother to reply. Fair enough, I guess we all have to travel on our own journeys but it would be nice to receive a bit of help along the way. I have 3 books by Sri Ananta das Babaji but not much else by anyone else. I badly need to get a good collection of Gosvami and Acarya-granthas. It will help me to deepen my understanding of the siddhanta.

Along those lines, I have to admit that the issue of guhyam AkhyAti pRcchati (UpadezamRta 4) has been on my mind for a long while. Despite the friendly dealings that Vaishnava's are supposed to have, I still do not feel that I have found anyone to whom I can totally reveal my mind in confidence without fearing some sort of rebuke or other. On one hand it is merficul to receive chastisement if one has done anything wrong or is guilty of speculating on the wrong lines and is grateful to be corrected with the correct siddhanta, I have to wonder what Sri Rupa Gosvami is getting at when he mentions this. Does he really talk about the discussion of personal issues also? What does he refer to? Revealing and inquiring confidentially about matters of siddhanta and/or bhajan? Or can it refer to personal issues also? It is something I've had to wrestle with; the exact and precise parameters of 'guhyam AkhyAti pRcchati' as well as the content of it.

How nice it would be to find a Vaishnava who only looks at you through eyes of kindness and a smile always on his lips for you. And an embrace too. Someone I can reveal the totality of my heart and mind to. And who will understand.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

More Swaminarayan pics

A lot of my friends both on and offline have asked to see more of my pics of the Swaminarayan temple, having been so impressed with the three shots uploaded thus far. So here goes:

I think I took this one just before I entered the temple. The sun is setting and it's last rays hit the temple rather beautifully.

This is the marble arch that is the classical entrance to the temple. It is a bit out in front of the staircase that was shown in earlier pics. It is very large and rather awe-inspiring if not overwhelming. I wish I had taken more close-ups of the details of this arch.

A couple of shots of the front. Just playing around with the zoom lens.

A couple of nice sunset shots while experimenting with different light filtrations.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Smart guys

Sometimes I feel humbled by the people whose association I am madly running after. Devotees like Madhava, Jagat, Advaita, Braja, etc., they all know so much about Gaudiya siddhanta and I feel so small in front of them with my meagre knowledge. Madhava has spent a lot of time studying shastras and still does, and so does Jagat. Advaita practically knows all of the Bhagavatam by heart and Braja SELLS BOOKS on the Net so does a lot of reading too.

Maybe it is a good thing to feel small, trinad api sunicena and all that. In the past I have been praised as highly knowledgeable and so on. Some friends of mine who are initiated in ISKCON openly admit that I know more siddhanta than them. I feel strange when people praise me, I don't really like it. Maybe I do secretly, or rather my ego loves it, but I feel that there is an overriding current of thought in my mind that allows me to remember that a big ego will never impress Mahaprabhu and He will always find some way to make me level with the straw in the street.

So when I meet such Gaudiyas whose knowledge of siddhanta is stunning, I like it and I like associating with them. There is a LOT that I can say about sat-sanga and it's various benefits, but for now I can just say that the sanga of such bhaktas is so great that it always impels you to learn more. The very association of a 'higher' grade bhakta inspires you to reach for greater heights too. That can only be a good thing, to reach higher.

Today I attended the Janmastami Volunteer's Party, which is an event that Bhaktivedanta Manor holds as a way of saying "thank you" to all the volunteers who helped out over the Janmastami festival. Pretty cool. Apparently over 65,000 people attended this year, and that was just one of the many other impressive statistics. Radhanatha Swami was there and he gave a nice lecture. In between the speeches and the kirtans and the movies and the drama skits, my mind couldn't help wandering into the realms of siddhanta. Bhagadatta das sat next to me; he is one of the really good conscientous devotees who actually care about you and will go out of his way to make you feel comfortable. He is also the temple commander which I like. It is always nic when there is a good person who wields power. A real Rajarishi, you can say.

I started thinking about diksa. Since I do not have diksa, I feel unworthy to contemplate the subject with my untrained mind but I couldn't help acknowledging the concepts that were coursing through my brain. It occurred to me that diksa is very much like a seed (guru-krsna prasade paya bhakti-lata-bija) that grows into a tree (creeper to be exact) and attains fruition. Would I be on the right track? While we should be careful not to minimise the importance of diksa, I think that it is reasonable to suggest that an overnight transformation does not take place. Naturally there is a transformation of consciousness, but I don't think that anyone became a siddha overnight. So while the sadhaka is in possession of the seed by the guru's kripa, watering of the tree (creeper) in the form of sravanam-kirtanam etc is very much necessary for the seed to attain fruition. A long-term process indeed.

All of this must be kiddy-stuff for a lot of people, but it's pretty interesting when the realisation hits you all at once. There's a wide gulf of difference between reading something and accepting it intellectually, and actually realising it. Whether I will ever realise the possibilities of diksa remains a matter of time. That is really in Mahaprabhu's hands, as I have told Him so. I think I am still waiting for His reply.

I guess I don't know what is going to happen to me, I just leave it in the hands of my Nitai Gaurasundara.

Siksastakam 4 also came to my mind while the speeches and such were goin on. Mama janmani-janmanisvare bhavatad bhaktir ahaituki tvayi. So "I don't want anything except devotion unto You"dependence arose.

Dependence on what? I have no idea if I am off-track or on the right track here, but I figured that ... hmm, I'm confused now. It was clear-cut when I thought of it during the program so why has it become hazy now? Then, I thought that the desire to have manjari-bhava was by the desire of the guru, a way to occupy the sadhaka's mind in bhajan if you will, and actual realisation of manjari-sadhana will come about by Radha's kripa while the sadhaka HIMSELF is dependent on the mercy of Radha and is not ultimately bothered about attainment of siddhi, being content to be reborn again and again so long as he doesn't lose his devotion.

Now it just occurred to me that it wouldn't be fair to say that manjari-sadhana is just a way to "kill time" by way of the guru's desire, since the whole idea of raga is that it is very much a "desire" - an overwhelming desire - to attain the shelter of Radha. It makes much more sense to think that Siksastaka 4 speaks about not desiring for material things and that the only engagement should be that of bhakti even if it lasts birth after birth. Nothing wrong with having spiritual desires! Heck!

Hmmm, again this is so childish and babyish stuff that it's almost embarrassing. Still, as I said earlier there's a very wide difference between intellectually accepting something and actually realising it.

God, I must be dumber than I thought..

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Swaminarayan temple

I just discovered something pretty nifty about Blogger. I no longer have to worry if I 'upload' the pictures as small, because clicking on a pic opens them up in a new window and a bigger size!

So I took my visiting aunt on a tour of London. A couple of days ago we took her to visit the world-renowned Swaminarayan temple here in London, which is always a pretty cool place to visit. The entire structure is made from marble that was hand-carved in Italy and imported from there. This has to be the third time I've visited the place, and it was breathtaking as usual. Haha, the first time I visited this temple was the first time I ever used the word 'breathtaking' as a description, and it fits! The inside of the main dome is a sight to behold, what a pity that no cameras or camcorders were allowed inside. In fact, it was upon seeing this temple both from the outside and the inside for the first time that I fully understood how beautiful architecture can be. It definitely is an expression of pure art.

Still, I got some nice shots of the exterior which was very beautiful against the cool-blue backdrop of the evening sky just before the sun set. Here's the view from the side and from the front:

I think that the visit was more rushed than on previous occasions though. Before I had time to walk around and visit the bookstore there and have a look at their books, view their trinkets, talk with some people and so on. This trip was much more rushed in that I hardly saw any of their books and didn't even get a chance to sample the rock-sugar prasad. Oh well, I had a nice time taking plenty of pics of the structure as well as videoing the entire trip to make a nice home movie. I also took this pic of the side of the front marble staircase, the detail is truly astounding. Last time I was there I purchased a little book entitled the 'The Swaminarayan Sampraday', and the time before that I purchased the three parts of the biography of Sahajanand Swami, whom they call Bhagavan Swaminarayan. Surprisingly I still haven't got around to reading any of these texts. I've seen a few clashes between Gaudiyas and Swaminarayan followers on the Audarya forums, but I couldn't make sense of it all as the clashes revolved mostly around two issues; the authenticity of Swaminarayan as God (compared to how Gaudiyas believe that Mahaprabhu is Krishna), and succession issues. Still, it's definitely a famous London landmark and a place that I'd definitely like to visit again, especially around sunrise or sunset in order to take more amazing pics. Buying pics from the temple store is just not that fun. :-)