What a treat it was to be able to attend the opening of the new Temple of Light at the Yasodhara Ashram on Saturday. It felt like a momentous occasion to see the ribbon-cutting by Swami Lalitananda, the Ashram president, and to enter the new space shortly afterward.
I have only visited the site near Kootenay Bay a few times, but knowing it holds special significance for so many makes my own experience all the better, no different than sitting, or even attending services, as we have done in places like St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, St. Peter’s in Rome, Notre Dame Cathedral or Sacre Couer Basilica in Paris or even Sanctuaire Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre in Quebec. While I am not affiliated with any religion, places of spiritual significance have always drawn me in.
We left Creston during the noon hour on Saturday, skies darkened and the smell of rain in the air. An hour or so later we were walking about half a kilometre from our roadside parking spot to the Ashram, still under a cloud-filled sky. Soon we were standing and waiting for the official opening in the warmth of the sun and a blue sky, which made the clouds seem like a distant memory. The prevailing attitude around us seemed to be, “Why wouldn’t the sun shine for this occasion?”
In earlier visits, of course, we had entered the old Temple of Light, which was built in 1992. It was a beautiful structure and it was truly saddening to hear the news four years ago that it been destroyed by fire. The new temple is an architectural wonder, simple in its eight petal-like walls, but complex in the way the curves connect with glass walls that offer visitors a dramatic view of Kootenay Lake just below.
After the ribbon was cut, we first walked around the deck, which provided not just more wonderful views of the lake, but a chance to look inside as the crowd filed in for a program of speeches, then music and dance. For me, it was a particular thrill to complete the 360-degree exterior tour and come upon former Nelson-Creston MLA and cabinet minister Corky Evans. I have fond memories of the way he and Mayor Lela Irvine, polar political opposites, got on so well that they became a little mutual admiration society. We spoke briefly and Corky confessed that he had barely left his Slocan Valley farm in the past few months, but that he felt he had to make the effort to check out the new Temple of Light.
“It’s funny how politics gets into your blood, and when you are in it, you feel like there is nowhere better to be, and you can’t imagine not being what you have become,” he said. “And then you leave politics behind and you discover there is a whole different world to become part of.”
Because we didn’t rush inside immediately after the ribbon-cutting, we didn’t expect to find room. No worries, the music and dance would be repeated in an hour or so. But we did find room and I found a comfortable standing spot from which to take photos. The speeches by dignitaries including Swami Lalitananda, MP Wayne Stetski and MLA Garry Jackman were mercifully short and soon we were watching a series of dances by Nelson’s Slava Doval and her DanceFusion students. I was transfixed. The temple’s acoustics helped the music fill the air, and the dances were brilliantly choreographed. Kootenay Lake provided the perfect visual backdrop. I think everyone in the building smiled at a point where the dancers faced windows to the side, making hand gestures that could be mistaken for waves. Surely they could not have anticipated when rehearsing that people would gather on the deck outside to look in on their performance, and that they would be waving through the glass to people only a few feet away.
Later we made our way back to the main building and took a seat to enjoy strawberry shortcake and tea. The energy and joy could be felt everywhere. When we walked back to the car, turned it around and headed back to the ferry landing it was amazing to see that vehicles were parked beside the road a full kilometer from the Ashram property. The event was a truly magnetic draw for people on both sides of the lake.
I look forward, at some point, to do doing a yoga session inside the Temple of Light, and also to experience the building in the evening light. It is truly a marvelous addition the Kootenays, this place we call home.