Yasodhara Ashram ecstatic about rebuilt temple

Swami Lalitananda welcomes new structure three years after fire

It looks like a flower with unfurling petals.

The striking structure nearing completion on the shore near Kootenay Bay is the Yasodhara Ashram’s new temple, which will replace the one destroyed in a fire three years ago. It’s pure white, with multiple curved wings that spiral towards the sky.

“I’m very ecstatic. It’s been a long process,” the ashram’s Swami Lalitananda told the Star.

“We see this new temple coming up and it’s inspiring because it’s so unique and beautiful, and we don’t know at each stage how it will unfold. Everybody here is pretty enthusiastic.”

It’s been almost magical.

“To go from from having nothing there to seeing these amazing curved pieces stacked on top of each other, it’s been a really amazing time for us.”

Yasodhara was hoping to have opened their temple doors by now, but construction delays have them now aiming for a public grand opening on Aug. 5. But before that, Lalitanada would like to welcome the community to their annual strawberry social on June 24 from 1 to 4 p.m., during which people can get a sneak preview temple tour.

Moving into a new phase

Lalitananda is effusive about the construction work being done by Patkau Architects, an elite team out of Vancouver who have earned recognition globally for their innovative designs. They took it upon themselves to make the ambitious goal of assembling an entire building out of curved forms.

“We were attracted to them because they can work with curved forms. Our old temple was a dome, so we wanted a feeling that it was developing, or moving into its next phase, opening more.”

While the old one was “beautiful and traditional,” this one will be “innovative and organic.”

“It’s like this unfolding, beautiful flower and everybody who’s been working on it calls each of the pieces petals. It’s very feminine, which is appropriate because our lineage is feminine — we pass our teachings down through women.”

She’s pleased with the work Spearhead Timberworks has been doing too.

“We were really happy to find this local Nelson company capable of creating the complex prefabricated wood components that create the shell of the temple, and that their advanced digital technology allowed them to successfully collaborate with Patkau.”

She noted almost all of their contractors were from the region.

“Also one of our goals in construction was to make the temple fit with our environmental initiatives. So the building will be energy efficient, with geothermal and photovoltaics for heat, with superior insulation and triple glazing.”

A path of self-inquiry

Lalitananda first started attending the ashram in 1979, working her way over the years up to her current position as president of the organization. She was drawn to it because she wanted to challenge herself to think deeply and not follow old patterns.

“What I liked from the beginning is that it’s a path of self-inquiry, so nobody was telling me what I needed to think. It seemed like a way of expanding my thinking and awareness without a dogma,” she said.

“But there’s also something about the devotional part, and it wasn’t a specific religion — it was a path of calming my mind and using practices to experience different levels of mind or consciousness. I was becoming more myself, and realizing the potential of who I could be.”

And she thinks the physical structure of the temple itself could aid in the spiritual process. There was some thought put into the number of entrances in the temple — eight — all that lead to the same destination. Lalitananda said this demonstrates how people of different faiths and backgrounds can come into “a beautiful, transcendent place of light together.”

“We want it to be a magnet for people who need some hope, and a place where people can go into the space and look both inward and outward, because it’s so nestled in nature and the beauty of the forest around it.”

The temple will be used for services, devotional practice, meditation and retreats. They’re also looking to open it up to more cultural events, such as Slava Doval and her school’s dance performance at the Aug. 5 opening.

It’s been an emotional slog to get here.

“The other temple had been there for 20 years, so for me and the whole community a lot of this has been about going through loss. The decision to build it differently, which some people liked and some people weren’t sure about, was something that helped us to learn together.”

She lives right next to it, and loves the view.

“I’m looking out the window at it right now, and it is so beautiful.”