HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN
Three years ago, on an invitation, my wife and I went to Vancouver, B.C Canada to participate in a 3 day long consecration ceremony of a new Jain temple there. While there, one day one of our friends took us to an officially named “Highway to Heaven”. This is very wide and Long Street in Richmond; one of the main suburbs of Vancouver; Canada.
This street is home to more than a dozen very large, ornate, beautiful and palatial places of worship of all the major religions of the world; all co-existing in harmony and peace. For me and my wife it was a very eye and mind opening tour.
RICHMOND, BRITISH COLUMBIA — In a world of headlines making us cringe from accounts of ideological extremism exalting the name of God through terror, there is another story of quiet religious harmony that exists right here in the backyard of one of Canada’s largest cities. The straight-and-narrow No. 5 Road, which runs through the agricultural lowlands of British Columbia’s Lower Mainland, has become the auspicious conclave of a thriving multi-faith community. Richmond, an “ethno burg” of Vancouver, is a city of approximately 207,500 people. It is also home to more than 60 mosques, temples, churches and religious schools of all denominations.
Number Five Road has adopted the name “Highway to Heaven”, as this stretch of road is home to many religious sites. The city’s large multicultural population is reflected here, through the diversity of exotic temples and places of worship which all encourage a peaceful coexistence. Visitors will be fascinated by the cultures, history and architecture that mark the colorful houses of worship and are welcome to share in the spiritual grace and experience the compassion and beauty found within each of these faiths.
Some of these houses of worship are big, spectacular and architecturally unique monuments and many welcome visitors with open arms whether they are devout or not. It’s a true story of cultural community woven together out of the best values each faith represents. Dubbed the Highway to Heaven, this route’s inadvertent cluster of religious diversity is the result of a city council rezoning initiative in 1990. Since then, the faithful from more than 20 religious flocks have populated this three-kilometer stretch of asphalt with their halls of worship
Each place is colorful, rich and mesmerizing. One will feel like being culturally immersed into a unique chapter of Richmond’s myriad community.
Thrangu Monastery & Buddhism
Thrangu Monastery opened its doors in 2010 when it became the sole traditional monastery in the Pacific Northwest. With over 600 members and 20 monks, Thrangu attracts students and intrigued visitors from all over Europe and North America. Upon entering, you are welcomed by a breathtaking 12-foot-tall, gold-leaded Shakuamuni Buddha. Vegetarian meals are often served after the religious services and visitors are invited to join in. This monastery is literally next door to the Vedic Cultural Centre, a Hindu spiritual awareness center where a visitor may be offered Indian nuts and treats, and shown around the premises
Ling Yen Mountain & Subramaniya Swamy Temple
Also on our Highway to Heaven, one will find the palatial style Ling Yen Mountain temple, home to two worship halls and more than 40 monks. Although smaller, the Subramaniya Swamy temple is one of a few places in Richmond, BC, that follows the Hindu religion. Here, holy rites include cleansing effigies in rose water and it is believed that prayers are answered instantly. Visitors are invited to join in every Friday for Karthikeya Pooja; worship and recognition of spiritual growth.
Ram Krishna Mandir & Hindu Culture
Continuing the spiritual journey down the Highway to Heaven is the Hindu Ram Krishna Mandir, in the Vedic Cultural Centre. As in emblematic Hindu culture, visitors will stride amongst many gods and goddesses adorned in traditional embroidered costumes and garlands. Sunday morning Hindu worships include lighting of oil lamps, chanting mantras and a sit-down vegetarian meal after the ceremony. The Vedic Cultural Centre invites the visitors to join in the offered meditation classes, recitals, ceremonies and festivals, all year round.
At the Nanaksar Gurdwara Gursikh Temple, a visitor can tour the temple and be treated to free lunch. An all-volunteer full-staffed kitchen continues the Sikh tradition started by the first Guru Nanak (550 years) ago of administering to the hungry. It always is a tasty vegetarian comfort food served with a smile and graciousness too.
Ling Yen Mountain Temple allows the visitors to stroll through its tranquil and beautiful traditional Chinese gardens of the International Buddhist Society compound. These are spectacular and a must-see.
Read more: http://vacay.ca/2015/01/on-the-highway-to-heaven-in-richmond/#ixzz5hccpUhIO
A lot of attention has been focused on the Highway to Heaven. Do these diverse cultures really interact with one another or is it just good press? Like neighbors everywhere, it took time to get to know each other.
Language barriers initially made connections challenging but real bonds have been formed. Last year, the Highway to Heaven Association — made up of an interfaith council comprised of 20 different religious organizations — created and debuted a 42-foot float in the Steveston Salmon Festival Parade celebrating Canada Day. Educational initiates have sprouted from this unique medley of theological communities. Students from the Jewish Day School and the Az-Zahraa Islamic School exchange visits to learn about each other’s faiths and have joined together to work on a community program for homelessness.
Need inspiration from negative news overload? Get into the car and become uplifted through a visit to Richmond’s vibrant multi-faith communities. They are waiting to welcome you into their homes of worship and they are very conveniently located near to each other.
Take a day out of your routine and join in services, stop for lunch or a book a guided tour, walk through exquisite gardens and get a personal insight to the major religions of the world in tiny Richmond.
Similar efforts are underway in Houston, Texas. On one major street called Synott Road (I call it Sin-Not Road) is home to more than 15 places of worship ( Hindu, Jains, Buddhist, Christians, Muslims +) and more are coming or being planned. They all live and support each other and in fact share each other’s parking lots too.
Recently on a visit to Houston, I urged some of the main leaders there to petition the City to change the name from Synott Road to Highway to heaven
Let us build such Highway to Heaven in all cities and towns in the Unites States of America.
Dr. Sulekh C. Jain
Sulekh C .Jain, Ph.D is a Founder /Co-Founder of more than a dozen organizations and institutions in North America namely; Jain Center of Greater Boston , Jain Society of Houston , JAIN DIGEST Magazine , JAINA Library , Young Jains of America , Jain Center of Central Ohio at Columbus , Jain Academic Foundation of North America, Mahaveer Vision Inc., JAIN SPIRIT International Magazine , Ahimsa Times, World Council of Jain Academies , JVB Preksha Meditation Center in Houston and International School for Jain Studies in 2004. He can be reached at [email protected]