Visit to the Sikh Temple
Part of a series about My Faith Journey.
On January 9th, 2017 I visited the Sikh temple in Salt Lake City (the "Sikh Gurdwara Sahib"). I have a Sikh coworker who wanted to give a tour to some of the folks he works with, so we got a group of four and went together. I had learned a little about Sikhism over a dozen years before
Many of the cultural / artistic / religious movements throughout history tend to be "reactions" to the movement that came before it. For example, the ornate artwork and architecture of the Victorian era eventually gave way to the minimalist style of the modern era. Similarly, Sikhism can be seen as a "reaction" to Hinduism, the native religion of India where Sikhism was born. Some examples:
When we first entered the temple, we needed to remove our shoes and cover our heads. My coworker always wears the traditional turban, so his head was already covered. The rest of us needed to put on kerchiefs on our heads that were provided by the front door.
The meeting space was very large and had no chairs or benches. Those who attend worship services are expected to sit or kneel. There was a large, raised, dais in the front of the worship space adorned with a pink blanket with various ceremonial swords and daggers. Atop the dais was a book (the Guru Granth Sahib).
I was told that this was the collected writings of the ten Sikh Gurus. When the tenth Guru was at the end of his life, he told his followers that there would be no further Gurus. Instead, whenever they needed an answer, they could open the book and read the writings of the past Gurus to find their answer.
Sikhs regard this book as a living Guru and pay it great respect. One example: off to the side of the worship space is a small room with a bed in it. At the end of each day, the priest of the temple puts the book to bed. He also makes sure that the bedding is washed regularly. In the morning, they get the book out of bed and put it atop the dais again.
After touring the upstairs, we went downstairs. There was a kitchen and we were served a milk tea and some biscuits. (Both were quite good.) My coworker explained to us that anyone who visits a Sikh temple can get some food, per instruction of one of the past Gurus.
There is a similarly large space downstairs where people can eat after the worship service. Once again, there were no chairs or tables, everyone was expected to sit on the floor. My coworker explained to me that in India there is the caste system and members of certain castes typically get to sit on higher places or better chairs based on their caste. Guru Nanak explained "Everyone is equal inside a Sikh temple, so everyone sits on the floor." I really liked that show of egalitarianism.
All in all, it was a very nice experience. I couldn't help but contrast the Sikh temple with Mormon temples:
Who can attend
Worthy members only
In the cafeteria, you have to pay for it.
Everyone eats for free
Strong division between the genders, men placed above women
Upon reflection, the Sikh temple seemed to follow the teachings of the Biblical Jesus far more closely than Mormon temples do.