For the first time, I entered a Sikh temple in Vancouver, British Columbia. While I was approaching the entrance to the temple, I started feeling the anticipation you feel only when doing something for the first time. I am a member of the United Center for Spiritual Living. We accept all spiritual paths as perfect and unique expressions of the divine.
This is my opportunity to put in practice my non-judgmental values. As I am entering the temple's large door, I take a deep breath and open all my senses. I grab one triangular scarf to cover my head. From all the colors, I choose gold. I take my shoes off and I proceed to wash my hands in one of the several sinks. There are several men in turbans around me; their deep brown eyes look at me with curiosity but with warmth and acceptance in their eyes, even though I am the only Caucasian person to be seen.
Inside the temple is an empty, rectangular room with clear windows inviting the bright light inside. The temple is adorned lightly, with sky and deep blue and gold colors. We walk on the center corridor. After we put our money offering in a long, rectangular gold metal box, I bow, kneel and put my head on the rug. I walk to the right corner and an old man with a handsome long, white beard, dressed in white, gives me a paste from a metal container. It has the consistency of
oatmeal and is made with flour, butter and sugar. It is called "karah-parshad." I carry it on my hand until I find a spot in the back of the temple. I sit on a pillow. I notice men sitting on the right and women on the left on the clean, carpeted floor. I decide to sit with my male friend on the male side. We can sit how we feel is comfortable, and it is OK to talk in a low voice.
After I eat the sweet paste, I look around. A slim woman in her 60s enters the temple and has an offering in a plastic bag. She is wearing a stunning lime-green and gold Indian dress. She does
the same as I did before and sits on the left with the other women. There are several groups of women talking. They seem joyful.
In the front of the temple, behind the multi-colored plastic flowers and other structures, there are five or six people reading the Holy Book of the Sikhs. Their words are beyond my comprehension, but the sound is pleasant and light. I take the opportunity to close my eyes and pray.
With my eyes closed, I hear a new voice reading the Holy Book; the readings continue all day. The Holy Book is the Guru Grant Sahib Jr., the eleventh guru of the Sikhs. It is respected, loved and cared for, like previous living gurus. The Holy Book has 1,430 pages, and is the size of an encyclopedia. It is a sacred source for wisdom and guidance. The Holy Book is opened at random by the Sikhs. The opened page is the guru's message for the day. I learn that God creates the environments, faculties, circumstances and facilities to make all my thousand desires a reality.
The Sikhs recognize people on the basis of their actions and make no distinctions on creed, color, race or gender. After I leave the temple, I wash my hands again, put the gold scarf back in the pile and put on my shoes. I enter a large dining room with cement floors. The kitchen is busy with mostly men in turbans preparing the food. There are four large casseroles with different Indian dishes, "roti" (a kind of thick tortilla) and a basket of sweets. With absolute generosity and without question, they serve me on a divided plate. I eat the delicious meal with hot tea and milk. The gold candy in the form of a lace is called "jalepi." It tastes like heaven. Sikh temples serve thousands of free meals, every day, all over the world to all the people who attend their temple.
I made the decision to expand my comfort zone going to a Sikh temple, and I had an encouraging experience. A new door opens in my spiritual journey and in my quest for being a better human being. And sharing all the spiritual wisdom with me, the Sikhs also nurture my body with Indian food and sweets? What else can I ask for? Life is a perfect expression of the divine.
"In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west; people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true."