PERHAPS IT'S BECAUSE my maternal English bloodline has become Americanized, but the idea of a church representing a particular nationality sits poorly with me. And yet, while in London researching for this issue of BTG, I saw an emblem of such a union St. Paul's Cathedral and I was impressed.
In St. Paul's one sees the history of a people. It stands on a prominent spot in London, overlooking the Thames, a spot on which four previous cathedrals have stood, dating back some 1,400 years. Vikings ransacked one of the earlier cathedrals; fires devastated the others. Architect Christopher Wren saw the present cathedral, his masterpiece, completed in 1710. It survived repeated bombing attacks by Nazi warplanes in World War II, when it remained a powerful symbol of English freedom.
Entering St. Paul's, I suddenly understand the scale of Mayapur's Temple of the Vedic Planetarium. The two buildings are of similar size, each with huge thirty-plus-story domes. Construction plans for both call for masonry. It occurs to me that this massive cathedral was hand-built, without cranes, engines, or computers.
I pay a few pounds and climb hundreds of hand-hewn wooden steps up to the Whispering Gallery, the inner ring of the huge dome. Here one can clearly hear words spoken against the circular wall hundreds of feet away. Peering over the rail to the marble floor 150 feet below, I imagine legions of devotees dancing back and forth in ecstatic kirtana.
It's reassuring to look up and see scaffolding hanging from the pinnacle of the inner dome and know that Alan Baxter & Associates the same firm engineering the Mayapur temple is renovating St. Paul's. The firm's experienced engineers are quite certain the Mayapur temple can be built as planned.
There will be challenges. Mayapur is something less of a commercial and industrial hub than London. Every brick, nail, and marble block must reach Mayapur by barge or rugged road. Core samples hundreds of feet down reveal no bedrock under Mayapur, only sand calling for a huge concrete raft as a foundation. The requisite masonry arts stand on the edge of extinction. Yet the temple can be built. Now, after years of research, we know how to build it. Naturally, the bigger question comes next:Why build it?
Climbing another 180 feet to St. Paul's outer tower partially answers this question. From here I see bustling London spread in all directions. Most of the charmingly crooked London streets seem to lead to St. Paul's. In a pounds-shillings-pence city, St. Paul's makes a powerful statement about the importance of the divine.
ISKCON has struggled to fulfill Srila Prabhupada's desire to introduce varnasrama-dharma, the Vedic social system. The Temple of the Vedic Planetarium will help by providing a spiritual focal point for a new city, creating natural civic, social, economic, and agricultural development with a Krsna conscious center the essence of varnasrama. With proper Krsna conscious planning for families, schools, and jobs, Mayapur city can become the long-missing model for varnasrama-dharma.Mayapur will be for everyone, not just one race or nation.
As I join the many other visitors on the long spiraling walk back down, I hear voices and see clothing representing the styles and religions of a dozen distant countries. I envision the incongruous sight of a building this size on the rural plains of Mayapur. Would these people not come to Mayapur as well?
When asked by an English TV reporter about the concept of hell in Krsna consciousness, Prabhupada startled the poor man and made the papers by re-plying, "London is hell." Mayapur he described as "the kingdom of God," and he spent his days there "in great delight." Most pilgrims to Mayapur would agree. What an impression Sridham Mayapur, and the Mayapur temple, will make on future visitors!
Many around me are Anglicans on pilgrimage from the U.K. and elsewhere. The Catholics have the Vatican, and the Islamic faithful have Mecca. The Mayapur temple sure to fire the spirit of kings and commoners alike will anchor a world-class pilgrimage site. More than ever, Mayapur will stir faith and pride in the hearts of devotees throughout the far-flung ISKCON realm. Just as the English, over the centuries, have filled the naves and crypts of this marvelous "national church" with their art, sculpture, and history, future devotees of Caitanya Mahaprabhu will express their devotion in the halls of the Mayapur temple.
Only in Mayapur does a cornerstone Srila Prabhupada laid remain uncovered by a temple. I leave St. Paul's thinking that if I do little more with the rest of my life than help build the Mayapur temple, I will have at least begun to address my enormous debt to Srila Prabhupada and the previous acaryas.
Kalakantha Dasa, Associate Editor, BTG
Director, Mayapur Foundation U.S.A.