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A Sikh perspective on Church

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The alternative to a church is known as a gurdwara for Sikhs. Gur means the one that brings you from darkness to light and dwara is the word for a door.

The Siri Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh Sacred Scriptures) are housed inside the gurdwara and are the spiritual teachings of the Sikhs. The gurdwara is a place that Sikhs go to congregate in and worship as a community, but the Guru's concept of the human body being the actual temple in which God resides is very clear. Every human body that sings God's praises is a dharmsala.

 

You are deep within each and every heart.

(SGGS pg 1144)

 

The gurdwara

The actual architectural design of the building reflects elements of the Sikh belief.

The most famous gurdwara is Harimandir Sahib, known to most as the Golden Temple that sits in a pool of water in Amritsar, North India. It was designed in such a way that it sits at the lowest point of the city. As you enter the divine sanctity, there is a pool of water to cleanse the feet and then there are steps that lead down to the building. The idea that the Gurus wanted to cultivate amongst the Sikhs was that they must arrive at the sanctuary with humility and walk down the steps rather than up. They then bow down to the earth, touching their forehead to the ground, becoming conscious to live as the dust of those around them.

 

The gurdwara then has four doors that are open symbolising North, South, East and West. It signifies acceptance and openness; ostensibly, this concept is reminiscent of the tent of Abraham in the Old Testament - his tent was open on all four sides in order to be able to welcome travellers from all directions. Anyone who wants to enter the Harimandir may do so, irrespective of religion, colour, creed or sex. There is, however, just one main door in which to enter the sanctity: this reinforces the idea that God's house is open to all people, yet each have their own path to attain spiritual bliss and there is just one path to God, that of love.

 

In addition the Sikh faith believes in the equality of all religions, and this was reinforced when in December 1588, the great Sufi of Lahore, Hazrat Mian Mir, who was a friend of Guru Arjan Dev Ji, initiated the construction of the building by laying the foundation stone.

 

The community

Each gurdwara also has a section called the langar, ‘free kitchen'. The food is prepared daily and is open all day long for everyone to eat. The idea was that all should sit on the same platform, rich or poor, low caste or high and share in a meal together. In many gurdwaras in the west, langar is sent to homeless shelters and refugee councils as it was also meant to nurture and feed the weak and vulnerable.

 

The other two important aspects of life in a gurdwara: the sangat (congregation) and the granthi or kirtani (priest and professional singers). The Sikh teachings advocate that individual meditation and prayer are part of the daily routine for a Sikh, but coming to the gurdwara and being part of the sangat is equally important. The community take care of the gurdwara - seva (selfless service) plays an integral part of the faith. Cleaning the toilets, kitchen duties, cleaning and caring for the environment around the gurdwara is all performed by the sangat.

 

Join the Sat Sangat, the True Congregation, and find the Lord. The Gurmukh embraces love for the Lord.

 

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