On the sixth and seventh floors of the Pacific Department Store in Yungho City, Taiwan, about nine miles from Taipei City, is a decidedly unique shopping experience.
The Museum of World Religions, which opened in 2001, is the brainchild of Master Hsin Tao, a Buddhist monk who renounced the world for over a decade. When he emerged, Tao was intent on relieving suffering by building a sort of spiritual supermarket, where people can shop for a religion they want to follow.
In a room equipped with a large video screen, religious leaders, from the Grand Mufti of Bosnia to a Vipassana Buddhist, describe their spiritual awakenings. “I had ego, short-temperedness, and psychosomatic illness,” the Buddhist says. “I took a 10-day Vipassana course, and I felt love–pure love–and compassion.”
Down the hall is an area devoted to funerals and the afterlife. One can sit quietly and watch intimate footage of pudu–a Chinese ceremony to release souls from purgatory–or be a fly on the wall at funerals in India or Israel. The museum is acoustically alive with rhythmic music that helps the mind and spirit soar.
There are also large models of Chartres Cathedral, the Jewish Altneuschul in Prague, the Shinto temple Ise Jingu, and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. Visitors can walk around them and, by pressing a button, illuminate the interior spaces so they “feel” the sacred architecture and what it’s like to worship there.
As explained on the museum’s website (www.mwr.org.tw), Tao believes that today’s tech-savvy generations aren’t automatically interested in “antiquated cultural artifacts.” But technologically sophisticated displays allow modern people to experience all the religions of the world–and feel the universal love.
Excerpted from Spirituality & Health (July-Aug. 2009), a bimonthly that offers resources for the spiritual journey.