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Welcome to Brothers and Sisters, the weekly meetup for prayer* and community at Daily Kos. We put an asterisk on pray* to acknowledge that not everyone uses conventional religious language, but may want to share joys and concerns, or simply take solace in a meditative atmosphere. Anyone who comes in the spirit of mutual respect, warmth and healing is welcome.
Here, sisters and brothers, frequent writers and commenters and occasional visitors, are a few of my thoughts for the day as we gather in fellowship and contemplation.


1915

In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. (John 14:2)
Those who have some familiarity with San Francisco might recogize the building above. I can't remember when I first saw it; my best guess is sometime between the mid-1960s and the mid-1980s. For a long time I thought it was just another of those fantastical opium dreams that Victorian-era architects were so fond of building for wealthy clients. Then a friend told me that it had once been the consulate for the Ottoman Empire. We were both wrong.

The real story is more interesting: it was built in 1905 expressly for the Vedanta Society and, now known as the Old Vedanta Temple, is said to be the first Hindu temple in the Western Hemisphere.

Side note: Prior to [the Vedanta Society's] inception, Swami Vivekananda had given his famous "Sisters and Brothers of America!" public lecture at Parliament of Religions, Chicago in September 1893.
In 1907-08, Swami Trigunathiandaji explicitly directed the design of an exuberant third floor: five hollow domes and the graceful, lobated arches of the gallery. Thus, the domes of the Old Temple acknowledge in sheet metal and wood the Vedanta philosophy of universality.

The crenelated dome that looks down on Webster Street honors Christianity, seen as a European, Western religion. The corner dome is a double bulb, patterned on that of a Hindu temple in the Bengal region of India. The easternmost Filbert Street dome is a two-stage octagon. It represents a Shivite temple in India, but is topped with an Islamic crescent that is itself crowned by a trident.

The next dome, moving west, is the "Hershey kisses" dome, a miniaturized replica of a temple in Benares (in Uttar Pradesh, India), also reminiscent of the onion domes of Russian Orthodox architecture. The final dome above Filbert Street is a copy of the Moghul architecture of the Taj Mahal.


The Old Vedanta Temple today (image credit: Demetrios Lyras)

Here's another thing about the Old Vedanta Temple: if one lopped off the top floors, restoring the building to its original two-storey form, it would be indistinguishable from other large Queen Anne-style homes or mansions which surround it (and, indeed, can be found all over town). The towers that sprout from it are each singular and unique, but the base upon which they rest is quite ordinary and is shared by all. Many mansions in one: to my mind that is exactly right.

vignette
Coexist - Nick Baumgartner via Wylio
image credit: Nick Baumgartner via Wylio

Originally posted to SLK in SF on Sun Mar 04, 2012 at 05:00 PM PST.

Also republished by Street Prophets .

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