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Multi-denominational shrine welcomes all

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BETHANY, PA— “I feel like I’ve come home,” said a woman from Australia as she walked the grounds of the Himalayan Institute on Saturday, August 17. The institute was hosting an open house to introduce people to the newly constructed and recently consecrated Sri Vidya Shrine. 

Institute CEO Ishan Tigunait said the shrine is dedicated to promoting the practice of meditation in Wayne County and around the world. 

“It’s really been a core part of the institute’s mission since its founding in 1971 to teach and help people experience meditation,” he said. “We’ve always wanted to have a dedicated space for that.” 

Inspired by ancient Himalyan architecture, the shrine is located at the end of a long stone path, adorned by decorative arches and ringed by a circular walkway (or parikrama) for visitors to use in contemplation before entering. Indoors, the shrine contains a mediation hall and sanctuary, both of which remain silent at all times. 

Modeled after an existing shrine on the institute's sister campus in India, the institute is calling this shrine “the first of its kind in the West.” 

“Yoga as it has come to the West has largely been a physical practice,” Tigunait said. “This space is very unique in that it’s a space dedicated to the meditative dimension of yoga.” 

Tigunait also stressed that the “sacred space” is open to people of all faiths. “The Institute’s spiritual vision is one that includes all and excludes none,” he said. 

While it took about two years to complete construction, retreat center director Brian Fulp said that the shrine had been a vision of Swami Rama since he founded the institute in 1971. 

The completion of the shrine coincides with another one of the institute’s projects: year-long mediation.  

“We’re trying to inspire people from around the world to join us and meditate for a collective 1,000,008 hours,” Fulp said. Participants can log their daily meditation times, which get added to the institute’s overall tracker. Since launching in July, the tracker has surpassed 50,000 collective hours with participants from 94 countries. 

“That’s really for the health and prosperity of the planet and the people on it,” Fulp said. 

Powered completely by solar panels, the new shrine has kept the institute on track with its goal of being a “zero-waste” facility. Employees spend hours separating their trash themselves each week.

Though the project has a global goal, Fulp said he wants local residents to know that the institute is theirs to utilize as well. 

“The Himalayan Institute’s doors are open to everybody in Wayne County,” he said. “Typically we promote everything we do out to the rest of the world, but we’re right in everybody’s backyard.” 

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