Kester Brewin writes:
The city, our whole world, is a rich resource for enquiry and inspiration. We need not to build temples, but to see the world as a temple. To see each thing as sacred, as having the potential for beauty, for transformation, for guiding our thoughts.
The last sentence quoted above could well be a summation of my goals in life. To be aware of the sacredness of everything in every moment is something I strive for. In contrast to Kester, however, I think it is precisely this reason that we do need to build temples.
The voices that surround me are those that tell me the world is mine to be bought and sold, that it is a dangerous place in need of taming, that it is crude matter trapping a higher spirit. The world is a material to be formed into a product and escaped. To be transformed by the sacred beauty of the world I must train myself against those voices. I must learn to identify the sacred over the commodity. I must grasp beauty over usefulness.
When advertising is the dominant feature of both the landscape and the discourse, how do we reorient toward the sacred? This reorientation is goal of the temple. The temple is the place in which focus on the sacred is the goal. The temple is the part of the landscape in which the focus is necessarily on the sacred. The Temple is the site of resistance to the desacralization of the world. It does not (or should not) define itself as a sacred space in the midst of the profane, but as a point of focus on the sacredness of the world.
The temple is the training ground.
I pray daily. I set aside time to sit and be in the presence of the divine. I break out of the patterns of the day and put my focus on God through contemplation. I learn to experience the presence of God.
This practice does not imply that at all other times I am outside the presence of the divine. Rather it teaches me to become aware of the presence at all times. I don’t pray and then define all other activity as not-prayer. I pray so that all activity becomes prayer. I sit at my altar and practice specific forms of prayer so that I can orient my entire awareness toward prayer.
This is the goal of the temple. It is a space in which to learn to see the sacred, not so that everything outside the temple is excluded from the sacred, but so that outside the temple we can see the sacred in the face of all that tells us to deny it.
We build temples not to exclude the world from them, but to learn to see the world as the temple that it is.