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The Golden Temple Continued…………..

March 9, 2010

I don’t think I am overstating it when I say that Ann, Julia, and I were in awe of the Golden Temple. It is a peaceful place with such a spirit of community about it. None of us really knew too much about the Sikh faith and we walked away absolutely in love with its ideals.

The fact that they have such a commitment to reach out to those in need is amazing. Our guide told us that, beyond each gurudwara having a kitchen to feed those who are hungry,  the Golden Temple also sponsors between 200 and 300 young women each year for their weddings. They select girls who cannot afford dowries and the temple sponsors them. (And, yes, it would be great to get rid of the whole dowry system but it is a reality and every year hundreds of girls can get married who might not have without the temple’s help.)

Another lovely aspect of Sikhism is that they do not believe in the caste system – every one is equal. Someone told me once that every Sikh has Singh in their name and that Singh means lion. I was also told it means brother, signifying that they are all connected to each other. This concept was in practice at the Golden Temple. So many people come to volunteer their time and they all seemed pretty happy about it. (By the by, supposedly the women all have Kaur in their name which means princess. I could totally get used to that. Just call me Princess A Reason To Write.)

The Sikhs have some lovely cornerstone ideas for their faith. According to Wikipedia, there are 10 beliefs in Sikhism. They are:

1. Believe in one God.
2. Treat everyone equally.
3. Live by the 3 main tenets –
Practice constant meditation and prayer.
Make an honest income and do it honorably.
Share earnings and selflessly serve others.
4. Avoid the 5 sins of ego
Pride, Lust, Greed, Anger, and Attachment
5. Get baptized.
6. Keep the code of honor by abiding the gurus teachings.
7. Wear the 5 symbols of faith:
uncut hair, wooden comb, dagger, proper undergarments, silver bracelet.
8. Follow the 4 commandments:
Do not dishonor the creator’s intention by cutting the hair.
Do not harm the body with tobacco or other intoxicants.
Do not eat sacrificial meat.
Do not commit adultery.
9. Recite prayers daily
10. Take part in fellowship
Worship together and sing God’s praise.
Cook and eat together.
Serve each other.

Sometimes things just don’t make sense until you hear and see them first hand. I never really understood the whole growing the hair thing, honestly. But now I totally get it. If God meant for hair to grow – let it grow. It seems very symbolic of really turning things over to God. I am not going to stop shaving my legs but I totally get it!

And this is it – the Golden Temple. It is beautiful.  The founder of Sikhism was Guru Nanak whose father wanted to raise him according to strict Hindu beliefs.  However, Guru Nanak rejected the idea of the caste system and preached that all humans were equal. He believed that life was given as an opportunity to get closer to God and that all humans were afforded that same opportunity.

Sikhism is said the be the youngest of the world’s religions. It is only 500 years old. But the Sikhs have reportedly already grown into the world’s fifth largest religious group. The word Sikh means disciple. Guru comes from two words – Gu meaning darkness and Ru meaning light. So a guru helps fellow believers turn darkness into light. It is estimated that there are about 26 million Sikhs in the world.

Guru Nanak was the first Guru and 9 others followed behind him. The last human Guru was Gobind Singh and he named the holy scriptures as the 11th and final guru – the Adi Granth which then became known as the Guru Granth Sahib. There are over 50 places throughout the temple where passages from the holy book are continuously being read. We were told that priests can wait up to 20 years to have their turn at reading scripture at this Temple. We were also told that women can be priests and are able to take part in the readings. Equality reigns.

The temple is an active place of worship and people of all faiths are welcome there. We saw Muslims, Hindus, and even Christians in reverent prayer throughout the temple. We even bowed our own heads in silent meditation when we sat a top the Golden Temple and listened to the prayers. The atmosphere was remarkably reflective and we felt so much a part of the worship ceremony. We weren’t allowed to take pictures of any part inside the actual Golden Temple but it probably really is better if you just imagine a light breeze blowing thru a picture perfect sky, us on our knees with eyes closed with hands in our laps, our hearts beating slowly, prayers humming in the air, and everyone quiet together except for the very young child playing with the donations box. Normal Rockwell would have painted it for sure.

At first I felt a little uncomfortable taking the spot of someone who practiced Sikhism on the floor in front of the priest reading the scripture. But our guide reassured us over and over that people of all beliefs are welcome at the temple not only as visitors but as active participants. And I must say I felt very comfortable there.

I also noticed that many of the worshipers would touch the base of the doorway as they entered the Golden Temple complex and any of the smaller areas inside. So I did that too. I am not sure what it represents but it seemed very respectful and reverent. And people also fell to their knees when they entered the temple. You could tell some of them just could not believe they were actually finally there.

The day was truly magical. Our hearts opened to a faith we were not familiar with and stereotypes of brutes came crashing down. Beneath the warrior persona lives men who are compassionate about humanity and dedicated to their faith.

And, if you go to the Golden Temple during the day, make sure you go back at night. You will not regret it.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. BitterTruth permalink
    April 21, 2010 3:04 pm

    I’m really enjoying reading your blog – its like I’m seeing India with a new set of eyes. I emigrated to the US from India long time ago and rarely went back. Your blog gives me a point of reference I can use with my kids when we visit there later this year.

    I think I might have rushed through my comment causing some miscommunication. My intent was not to stereotype all Sikhs. I was born in New Delhi and was there when Indira was assassinated. It was over 25 years ago but I still remember the horror of those riots where innocent Sikhs were butchered because they let some amongst them to hijack their religion. I just felt its strange for that particular temple to not openly acknowledge a part of their history that’s not very flattering. I see that as the first step towards recognizing the problem and ensuring its not repeated again.

    Keep up the good work and thanks for the welcome.

    • April 21, 2010 9:42 pm

      Hi again – please always feel free to share another side of the story – there is no way I could possibly know all that you know about living in Delhi and I appreciate your insights! It’s great to have you reading along and sharing your experiences!

  2. BitterTruth permalink
    April 18, 2010 11:22 pm

    A good attempt at covering the most important religious landmark of the Sikhs. I find it surprising that either or the people you talked never even mentioned its shadowy past during the 80s by supporting and harboring groups like the Damdami Taksal led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. The Sikh terr*rist groups were not only treasonous by their demands to secede from India but underlined by heinous acts of terr*rism like the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and bombing of Air India Flight 182 which killed 329 people.

    While majority of the Sikhs were not supportive of these acts of terr*rism justified by the the Anandpur Sahib Resolution, the assassination of Indira Gandhi led to widespread riots killing thousands of innocent Sikhs.

    But not mentioning the role of the temple in all of this is like visiting Auschwitz and glossing over the entire ethnic cleansing part. Except the difference in this case is that many Sikhs consider, to this day, Bhindranwale to be a martyr.

    • April 19, 2010 1:02 am

      I promise I will never claim to be an historical scholar on this blog – I try hard to listen to the tour guides and followup with some research too. I honestly cannot say if that side of the story was shared – I don’t always catch everything or understand everything in context – just like anyone who is hearing a story for the first time – it’s hard to make all the connections and remember all the names and how they fit together, especially when being told in an accent that I sometimes have a hard time understanding. Most of our tour focused on the 10 gurus and the beautiful stories that seem to still live on in the hearts of those who visit the temple. I know Indira Gandhi’s murder was shared and I have that story on my list of topics to write about at some point – I want to read more about it before I write about it. Anyway, thank you for sharing more information. It’s very good to hear different perspectives. I definitely do not know everything (clearly) and am thrilled when readers take the time to supplement my posts. I have not met many Sikhs in my life, but the ones I have met have been kind and fascinating to talk to. I am hesitant to clump together any group of people and characterize them simply by a name they carry. I prefer to decide how I feel about a person based on how I feel about that person. Welcome to my blog and I hope you will come back and read and reply again.

  3. Jennifer permalink
    March 11, 2010 9:25 am

    What a beautiful post. I had the same feelings when I visited there. It is a peaceful, sacred spot where respect for God and man is abundant.

  4. March 10, 2010 10:50 pm

    Moments like these, when we come face to face with something that takes us out of our small worlds and launches us into a much larger one only to find that they’re only different perspectives of the same world…these are the moments why I try to impress upon my friends the need to visit for a prolonged period another country. It’s not the only way to achieve this state of awareness but it is a fine way to do it. You might not shave your legs or let that grey beard of yours get too long but you will never see hairy Sikh, or bald monks, or mohawk’d native Americans the same way ever again…thank you so much for sharing Reason2. I experienced it vicariously through you!

  5. Rajni permalink
    March 10, 2010 8:07 pm

    Thank you for ur important decision to continue to support Gillette…I approve and appreciate these small sacrifices …..

    but yes …when i went to amritsar, that is how i felt too !!!!

    and since when i was a kid , some of tmy closest friends have been sikhs…and ive had the fondest regard for them, mainly becuase of the kind of human being an average Sikh person is ….

  6. March 10, 2010 12:58 pm

    Very pretty.

  7. March 10, 2010 10:57 am

    There are a couple of faiths/religions that I’m enamored with here … for sure … the Golden Temple and the Sikh faith is magnificent!

    Couldn’t resist though … “I am not going to stop shaving my legs but I totally get it!” …. really? I’m willing to bet you WILL stop shaving your legs.


  1. the Silver Temple in Amritsar……… « A Reason To Write – India

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