- Topics & Settings
Move to Minnesota
To her surprise, Maharaj instructed her through Swami-gi that if she must move to Eagan, then she must start a branch of the Milan Mandir at her new home.
Despite the relatively large Indo-Caribbean community in Queens, the Balroops felt that New York City was not a proper place to raise children because of the frantic capitalist lifestyle and lack of good schools. Satya worked as an administrator at a bank while attending a branch of Cornell University for her B.A. in administration. While she did not finish her degree initially because of her third son Krishna, she finished it later on, once she moved to Minnesota. After seeking recommendations from Mr. Balroop’s manager at the Post Office they picked out Eagan because of its residential climate, good schools, and job opportunites (Satya worked for Lockheed Martin for nine years). This decision to move was very spontaneous however, and she "had no conception of Minnesota at all,” especially the brutal winters. While Satya did not know to what kind of place she was entering, she lamented what she was leaving very much, and she wanted to continue her brand of worship in her new home. In her despair about what to do, she recalled asking the guru one day about how she could continue worshipping him without a proper Mandir. To her surprise, Maharaj instructed her through Swami-gi that if she must move to Eagan, then she must start a branch of the Milan Mandir at her new home. To do so, Satya quit her well-paying job and moved to Minnesota with every intention of founding a temple, and proceeded to buy a house in a residential neighborhood of Eagan that could not only house their statue of the Guru but also had a separate building for a temple.
The temple started with only a few families attending service in a small room in the Balroops' home. The infringement on the Balroop family’s privacy was too much after a year, so in 2000 they began renovations on their two-car garage in order to convert it into a temple; it was complete after nine months. Although this provided much-needed separation for the Balroops, the location still presents problems for the temple community as a whole because it is in a residential neighborhood. Parking is scarce, the location is remote, and there are virtually no advertisements or publications other than email lists. According to Satya the temple is still very much in the process of gathering devotees. Eventually Satya plans to move the Mandir to a more public place, where ownership can be spread and a swami will preside over religious services. This would model the New York Mandir she attended, but as of yet she is still in the process of acquiring devotees, and is still considered, by Verma’s standards, to be a “layperson” in charge of a “household ashram.” Satya, however, still wants to stay in a pastoral setting that provides a serene escape for devotees.
Paul Younger states that for Indo-Caribbean communities, national associations are less important than religious beliefs because national identities are dissolved in the American landscape; this model certainly holds true for the Minnesota Milan Mandir.1 Although members are mostly from India and Guyana, they tend not to be part of larger ethnic communities in Minnesota because they moved individually, not in groups. While Satya is accommodating of these differences, the members are sometimes not, and many Hindus are turned off by the Mandir’s practice of guru worship. For Satya this barrier results from disagreements with her assertion that “the guru is God, the God is guru.” Perhaps Younger’s explanation can probe deeper, which states that Indian Hindus, because of the diversity of beliefs within India, are more open to conversion and revision than Guyanese Hindus, whose minority statues have forced them to cling to a “vigorous hybrid” and do not as readily alter their beliefs.2 Belief in the guru is not the worship of a human, but rather the worship of the Supreme Being through the form of the human guru. The guru provides a personal, contemporary example for the enlightened way to live, and thus faith in the guru indicates a certain trust of the guru’s path. Therefore there can exist multiple valid guru’s that each present a different spiritual path, because there are multiple paths to enlightenment.