Game of Gods:

The Temple of Man in the Age of Re-Enchantment


By Carl Teichrib


* The following is an excerpt from the first pages of chapter six.


Chapter 6

Enchanting Ourselves


We must be bold to say, that an Earthly man, is a mortal God; and that the heavenly God, is an immortal Man. – Trismegistus.[1]

…the new God would be in the relative. – Carl G. Jung.[2]

Kirtan music floated in the background. Colorful silk saris and white arched windows and exotic pictures of an ancient culture greeted my eyes. Miniature deity statues stared amidst the peacock feathers and souvenir trinkets. A small but tempting buffet beckoned, filling the air with the rich aroma of curry and cloves, and the subtle notes of cardamom.

   I made a beeline for the food.

After my second helping of palak paneer – a savory dish of spinach and paneer cheese – and far too much mango lassi, the guru beckoned me to join him in a cozy alcove under a white staircase. A painting hung on the back wall; adoring women and cows watching Krishna playing a flute. The staircase ascending above our heads, I correctly assumed, was the inside access to the temple space.

   “When you came in,” my host gestured with an exaggerated sweep of an arm, “the smells and sights caught your attention, yes?”

   “Yes,” I answered, “and the food was very tasty.”[3]

   His wife and assistant quietly joined us in a mostly one-sided conversation. English was not my host’s native tongue, and he had much to say.

   “Why here?” I interjected. “Why Utah?”

   “Krishna directed us to this place.”

   Since 1998, the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple – also known as the Lotus Temple – has been a landmark in the predominantly Mormon community of Spanish Fork, located approximately 50 miles south of Salt Lake City. The Temple is comprised of gleaming white domes, over 100 arches and columns, a grand outdoor staircase guarded by two bronze elephants, and a spacious upper level walk-around patio. This remarkable edifice, set against a mountain backdrop, is visible from Interstate 15.

   Established as part of the ISKCON network – the International Society of Krishna Consciousness, also known as the Hare Krishna Movement – the Lotus Temple’s heritage is built on the teachings of the late A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Thirty-nine other ISKCON temples and Vedic centers currently dot the United States, each advancing the mission of Prabhupada.

   Renowned for his volumes of Hindu commentary and influence upon Western spiritual change, Swami Prabhupada’s message was one of religious universalism and conscious transformation.

   “Actually, it doesn’t matter – Krisna or Christ – the name is the same,” he told Benedictine monk, Emmanuel Jungclaussen, during their notable 1974 meeting. “The main point is to follow the injunctions of the Vedic scriptures that recommend chanting the name of God in this age.”[4]

   The name chanted is Krishna, avatar of the Hindu deity, Vishnu. In reciting the Hare Krishna mantra and through the practice of Bhakti yoga – devotion through yoga – the follower embraces the unity of religions. Prabhupada explained it this way as he walked with Father Jungclaussen,

To practice bhakti-yoga means to become free from designations like ‘Hindu,’ ‘Muslim,’ ‘Christian,’ this or that, and simply to serve God. We have created Christian, Hindu, and Mohammedan religions, but when we come to a religion without designations, in which we don’t think we are Hindus or Christians or Mohammedans, then we can speak of pure religion, or bhakti.[5]

   While I was at the Lotus Temple, the resident teacher told me that Hinduism has been evangelizing the West through yoga, and to a lesser but growing extent the Holi Festival of Colors.[6] The thought struck me: The West is being Hinduized in-fact but not in-name. We are not converting to an organized form of the Eastern religion; rather, we are embracing its thinking and spirit as we mimic its religious practices. We are enchanting ourselves.

   Referring to Spanish Fork, the guru boasted: “Every Sunday, 100 to 150 Mormons come to the temple for yoga and the Maha Mantra.”[7]

   Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna…

   Motioning I was free to go-and-explore, I climbed the stairs and entered the temple proper. To my right was a life-like statue of Swami Prabhupada sitting in meditation, on my left was a staging area for speakers and musicians, and to my front was an elaborate, hand-carved teakwood altar with the mounted figures of Krishna and Radha. Squatting in the wide windowsill to the immediate right of Krishna’s altar was Ganesha, “the elephant-headed god of wisdom.”[8]

   I had seen Ganesha represented many times before. But this encounter in the Lotus Temple sparked a particular memory; the closing hours of the Global Citizenship 2000 Youth Congress and the words of oneness uttered to the delight of school children – Ganesha is none other than you.

   My experience at the Lotus Temple and the Global Citizenship 2000 Youth Congress may not be the norm for most people, but both represent a monumental shift. Not too far back in the annals of history, Western civilization was primarily grounded in a Christian context, with associated blessings and responsibilities. That has changed; now we live in a global age with new influences and different expectations.[9]

   In fact, earlier in my own lifetime the likeness of these two experiences would have only been found in distant corners: tight-knit communities, specialized academic circles, or little-known retreat centers. Not any more.

   Today we interact with an array of religions, ideologies and competing worldviews, often mixed together in a postmodern mash up. Multiple Hindu and Buddhist temples are likely found in your province or state or city, and the Eastern practice of yoga is commonplace. Shrines and mosques point to the fact that the religious makeup of our society is changing, and with this come fresh challenges and opportunities. Global citizenship themes are embedded in public school curriculum and popular culture, and a new generation expresses itself in global terms. What was once understood as New Age techniques are now routinely employed in the fields of education and healthcare, and integrated into Christian institutions and churches. Mysticism has become a salable commodity. Annual Pagan Pride Day events take place in approximately 100 US cities, and paying homage to the Earth is an act of international diplomacy and personal priority – a spiritual politik.

   But we did not arrive at this social, cultural, and religious environment overnight. The enchanted worldview has been simmering for generations.

Game of Gods is available on Amazon.

[1] Hermes Mercurius Trismegistus, Divine Pymander (Yogi Publication Society, no date), p.56 – Fourth Book (The Key), verse 93.

[2] Carl G. Jung, The Red Book: Liber Novus (W.W. Norton & Company, 2009), p.166.

[3] Later I discovered the buffet is blessed twice a day by the Hindu deity, Lord Krishna. The situation reminded me of 1 Corinthians 8 with its discussion of food offered to idols.

[4] A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, The Science of Self-Realization (The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 2006), p.107, italics in original. Krishna can also be spelled Krisna.

[5] Ibid., p.107, italics in original.

[6] Its more consumer-oriented expressions are the popular 5k color runs and associated color festivals.

[7] Each Sunday, the temple puts on a Hare Krishna Love Feast. It is a time for lectures, worship and yoga, and a fellowship meal.

[8] Margaret and James Stutley, Harper’s Dictionary of Hinduism: Its Mythology, Folklore, Philosophy, Literature, and History (Harper & Row Publishers, 1977), p.91.

[9] This does not negate other historical influences. See chapters 3 to 5.

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