He mirrors the minds of those around him. Infinitely sensitive to every phenomenon and for whom every phenomenon is a stimulus capable of provoking an infinite series of thoughts, he is a man whom admirable texts cannot exhaust, do not even define. He says little, yet moves the young and old to action. An Indian by birth, a Swami by choice, a Sadhu by temperament, his ideas are nurtured by the simple, universal truths repeated endlessly in all cultures – serve, love, give – selflessly. Homeless in the literal sense of the word, yet firmly entrenched in the hearts of those who seek answers to the eternal mysteries, he guides by the light of the masters. He creates, outside the realm of reason, real yet symbolic worlds. His words confound and enlighten simultaneously. They are, as all great words are, open to multitude of meanings. Together they form a myriad of tiny mirrors that reflect the minds of his listeners. Perhaps the most striking quality of his thoughts is the way they dismantle beliefs and notions foisted by years of schooled wisdom and, at the end of it all to glimpse in a strange intangible way, the quintessence of things as they always were and always will be. Such insights though rare and precious, are sufficient to inspire, to motivate action, to take that one extra step towards realizing a dream.
The Temple of Fine Arts idea is based on a simple dictum – serve, love and give. It is an idea that has evolved into living palpable reality through an array of apparently disparate forms – a centre for the performing arts that seeks to refine above all else, a vegetarian restaurant that serves more than just delectable food, a travel agency that places a premium on service rather than profit, and free medical and dental clinics that heal by caring. Touching the self in a way that goodness and decency invariably surfaces, it promotes sensitivity to one’s environment; a sense of harmony with fellow men. It teaches the value of faith in oneself and the importance of Shradhdha or right effort. The result is a cooperative endeavour that allows one to give according to his capacity and take according to his needs. It fosters continuity and change in a way that’s as bold as it is exciting. It moves away from the comfort of dogma by combining the traditional with the modern. And it does it with an abandon that can only come from fearlessness, faith and fortitude. It is an idea that works towards an ideal as it builds a future on the very best of the past.
Music and dance form the principal offerings at The Temple. They are taught in the best traditions of the spirit behind the genres - a sublimation of the individual ego to the collective consciousness. Each performance is seen as a celebration, a brief transcendence through festival, when life is sanctified by ceremony. Taught by a core of dedicated teachers, the classes serve to develop and refine the potential which each student brings to the Temple. While exceptional students are offered scholarships to pursue their calling, all students have the opportunity to realize the extent of their dedication to their art by participating in the welter of activities that accompany each performance. The performances themselves have become legendary. Drawing their inspiration from stories as contemporary as Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull to epics as ancient as The Bhagavad Gita, they enthrall audiences through a unique synthesis of past and present; of traditional movements and high-tech production techniques. The result is a visual feast of innovative choreography flavoured by spectacular costumes, magnificent sets, evocative lights and memorable music. And it is all done for free for the love of Arts.
Among the beliefs of The Temple of Fine Arts is one which holds that art and welfare are inseparable. While one is possible only with an acute awareness of life and death, the other requires an empathetic response to the sufferings of those whose pain cannot be eased by a daub of paint or the delicate hum of the tanbura. Indeed, if art and all that it stands for is not to be an exercise in self-indulgence, it should be reflected in the way we treat others. The Temple of Service was thus established in 1983. With both a medical and dental wing it began services in Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur and Johor Baru) before finding parallel forms in Madras and Coimbatore in India. Most recently another branch has been added in Thirukovilur in South India which was the birthplace of our founder H.H Swami Shantanand Saraswathi.The Temple of Service in Chennai and Coimbatore offer consultation services in General Medicine, Pediatrics, Cardiology, Ophthalmology, Dermatology, Psychiatry, Dentistry and Siddha Medicine. Funded by public donations and business efforts of ourprojects which are staffed by volunteer doctors and assistants, it strives to offer holistic care with state-of-the-art facilities. All donations made to “Siva Shantha Trust” are tax exempt under Section 80G.In a most remarkable way, the clinics give continuity to the work the great sage of the Himalayas, Swami Sivananda Saraswathi, who, as Dr Kuppuswami, once trudged the remote plantations of South Malaya dispensing medicine and care to the sick and needy
Located in four countries (India, Malaysia, Singapore and Australia) Annalakshmi, the vegetarian restaurant, leads the income generating quartet that sustains the artistic and charitable activities of the Temple of Fine Arts. Polished, private and yet utterly unpretentious, its success is the result of its underlying philosophy that is based on the ancientadage – atithi devo bhava – the guest is god. It is a philosophy that is manifested through the work of the largely voluntary staff – housewives who know what it takes to prepare a wholesome meal and a miscellaneous team of doctors, teachers, technicians, clerks and accountants who understand the meaning of polite, unobtrusive service. Annalakshmi stands out for yet another reason – the array of delectable dishes it serves in an ambience that reflects the ancient lore of Indian arts and culture. In every way then, it is a restaurant where vegetarian dining is a cultural experience.