I’m glad I went back to the Vishnu Mandir. When I told Priest Bhoj Sharma about my previous visit there during the Divali Festival (see Blog No. 13), he interrupted me and said sympathetically, “You didn’t feel welcome.”
He was right. I liked his sensitivity. He saved me the embarrassment of having to tell him something unpleasant. He was aware of the problem for non-Hindu visitors. I suggested he might provide a brochure for first-timers, explaining what happens in a Hindu temple. “Our people are not prepared to reach out to others. We’re working on this,” he assured us. I felt confident that he would.
This time I went to this temple with five other friends. He took us into the temple hall with its stunning array of beautiful statues. From my days in India, I recognized the elephant-headed god Ganesha, and Lord Krishna with his flute. The priest offered chairs to those of us who didn’t want to sit on the floor. For about 40 minutes he told us about himself, his temple, and Hinduism.
He is from Guyana and the 5000-plus members of the temple are from all over the world: Mauritius, Africa, Fiji, and various parts of India. He came to Canada in 1989 and has helped the temple grow from a small schoolhouse in Scarborough to the elegant building it is today. It houses a Montessori school, a gift shop, and a banquet hall. It is also about to open a museum and a “cosmic theatre”. A separate building houses a seniors’ home.
Could we walk among the statues? Yes, if you haven’t eaten meat today, he said. He gave us permission to take pictures.
The temple welcomes visitors. It receives 80 to 90 school groups each semester. People can drop in any time from 7am to 9pm daily. On Sundays, there’s a congregational service from 10am to 12:15. After that, there’s a lunch. Its web-site lists the times for pujas or rituals.
If you want to arrange for someone to show you around and answer questions, phone 905-886-1724. Ask for Bhoj Sharma. There’s no charge but donations are appreciated. It’s at 8640 Yonge Street in Richmond Hill, just north of Highway 7.The web-site is: http://vishnumandir.com/.