Our traveling swamis’ Monday afternoon was different. Off to the Toronto subway, to end at the Richmond Hill Vishnu Mandir of Dr. Budhendranauth Doobay, whose life was also changed by Gurudeva. A tour of the Canadian Museum of Hindu Civilization surprised us. It was a surprisingly well-designed series of exhibits. One entire room as filled with the charming home shrines that had been part of the "Meeting God" exhibit at the Sackler Museum at the Smithsonian, and the monks were responsible for this one. Years back we were approached by Stephen Huyler (Hinduism Today had done a major story on his book and this exhibit in Washington DC and later published significant excerpts from his book) who asked where his artifacts might find a permanent home. We connected him with Dr. Doobay, and there it was, fulfilled. We offered our gifts of our latest children's books (Hindu Children's Modern Stories series on the yamas and niyamas), and within three minutes the head teacher, Roopa, was there, saying this was exactly what they were teaching their 125 kids and asking if parents and teachers could buy more, where, how much, when?
But the most amazing part of the tour was the Cosmic Theater. We were ushered into a theater, about 30 feet in diameter, with a blue screen above us, spherical, like we were sitting inside a 30-foot-wide beach ball. In the middle of the floor a small fish-eye lens poking up through the white floor. Then suddenly it all came to life, and there followed the most delightful journey through the mind of Hinduism in the form of a full-wrap-around movie called "Cosmic Dance." To say this experience was powerful is to understate. To say it was cosmic would overstate, but between the two it was amazing. Essentially, a twenty-something Indian girl takes us on a journey of her reflections about Hinduism, with effects, and interviews with swamis and physicists and shamans, all speaking of the interface of Hindu cosmology and science. She dances and engages with others on the screen, and basically ends up convincing you this thing called Hinduism is really cool and important and special, and makes you proud to be a Hindu. The writing is perfect, the tone dead-on, the special effects clearly designed to play (with unnerving success) with your neural network. We were so taken by this film, we asked Dr. Doobay to give us an HD flat widescreen version, and he called the German gentleman who helped make the $400,000 film. We think this could be a great thing for all our visitors to see, and for Hindus to have on YouTube to see and point people to. Hopefully, he will make it happen.
(Photo: A beautiful, intricate soapstone Nataraja in the museum.)
An important side note regards this building on the property of the Vishnu Mandir. Gurudeva envisioned that Hindu temples in North America should have homes for the elderly nearby, in the same compound, so that Hindu elders could be looked after, visit with each other, walk to the temple every day. He actively encouraged wealthy temple builders to make this happen, and Dr. Doobay listened, hiring a developer versed in building chain hotels such as Hilton Garden Inns to build just such a center. With 25 apartments, each of them now filled, Ananda Bhavan Senior Residences fulfills Gurudeva's vision--at least in Toronto. This is a fantastic accomplishment, and we commend Dr. Doobay for being a shining example of Gurudeva's instructions to put every bit of one's surplus personal wealth to work to fulfill Hindu Dharma.