A Closer Look into the Gurdwara Experience
When we enter Gurdwara, we are in the actual presence of our living Guru, the Siri Guru Granth Sahib. Siri Guru Granth Sahib is the embodiment of the Word, the Shabads, the Songs of worship and prayer of the Gurus. Guru Nanak, the first of the Sikh Gurus, received the Guruship from the Word of God, and transmitted it to all mankind. The Mantle of Guruship passed through ten bodies, until Guru Gobind Singh, the Tenth Master, compiled these sacred teachings into their present form, and gave the Guruship back to the Word of God, where it now resides, and will for all time.
When we enter the presence of the Guru, we do so with ultimate respect and humility. All that we think and say and do in the presence of the Guru should reflect this attitude of gratitude and humility.
The Gate of the Guru
A Sikh Gurdwara is a prepared environment for raising one’s consciousness into higher realms. Gurdwara literally means “Gate to the Guru” or “Gate to Wisdom.” It is a special place and time because all who are here come for a mutual purpose—to open themselves to the peace and wisdom of the Infinite Creator; to co-create through meditative action and thought. Feel as though you are entering your own inner self, from which place you are able to touch the Infinite.
The main focus of a Sikh Gurdwara is on the Siri Guru Granth Sahib, the volume of writings covered in cloths on the altar at the front of the room. The essence of the Siri Guru Granth Sahib is the Guru or ‘Divine Teacher.’ It is the Infinite Word of God to which all humans have access. When we meditate on the words of the Guru, called Gurbani, we can experience God, the Infinite.
Prepare yourself for Gurdwara just as if you were going to meet Guru Ram Das or Guru Gobind Singh in person. Prepare yourself mentally—center your mind in meditation, let go of your mental distractions, and prepare to receive Guru’s Blessing.
We sit together on the floor, also as an act of humility, which is conducive to meditation. We avoid pointing our feet in the direction of the Guru, as the soles of the feet project out energy and we are here to humbly receive. Women sit on the right facing the Guru and men sit on the left, as polarities of energy, balanced by the central position of the Guru.
Guruprashad is made of flour, ghee, honey and water. It is distributed at the end of the Gurdwara service and symbolizes the abundance and sustenance that we receive from the Guru. It is received with cupped hands, as one is receiving the Guru’s blessing. Everything coming to us in life is the Guru’s gift and therefore sweet.
The greater part of most Gurdwara programs is devoted to Kirtan. The entire Sangat is strongly encouraged to join in singing Kirtan. Gurbani is the Words of Siri Guru Granth Sahib. These words are expressed in Naad Yoga, the technology of the Sound Current. When we speak and sing the Words of the Gurus, we may experience the elevation of consciousness. A mantra is made up of words which are pure sound current, giving the mind a rhythm and carrying it from duality to Infinity. The entire Siri Guru Granth Sahib is perfect, pure sound current. Certain excerpts of Gurbani are of such power that they have been selected to be sung repetitively as part of kirtan and in our meditations by the saints and sages through time. Some examples include the Guru Mantra (Wahe Guru), Mul Mantra, the Guru Gaitri Mantra (Gobinday, mukhanday, udharay, uparay, hariung, kariung, nirnamay, akamay), Aad Guray Namaih, Ang Sang Wahe Guru.
The word “Ardas” literally means “prayer.” But the traditional Sikh Ardas has come to represent a specific form of prayer recited in every Gurdwara program. It can be recited before undertaking any activity of significance, before leaving on a journey, to give thanks, or as a way of daily remembering the Creator. The core of Ardas is an invocation Guru Gobind Singh recited at the beginning of his epic poem Chandi di Vaar. In it, he calls upon the power of Adi Shakti in the form of Pritham Bhagauti. He then calls upon the Spirit of the Guru, elaborating upon the nine manifestations from Guru Nanak through Guru Teg Bahadur.
The remainder of Ardas honors the memory of Guru Gobind Singh, his four sons, and those Sikhs who have sacrificed and kept up in the face of adversity, channeling the group energy towards creative manifestation and remembrance.
The description of the sacrifices made is quite graphic, and any translation should preserve this element. Toward the end of Ardas, a blessing is asked for the Guruparshad, and the Langar. Personal remembrances may be added at this time for birthdays, deaths, anniversaries, and sacrifices, and prayers for health and recovery from illness or adversity. It is also a tradition to ask for a blessing for one’s Spiritual Teacher. Many ask for blessing for the Siri Singh Sahib (Yogi Bhajan), whose sacrifice led so many thousands to the Feet of the Guru.
The Guru’s Hukam (message or order to the Sadh Sangat) is taken and read aloud to the congregation. Through the Hukam, our Living Guru speaks to us. The Guru’s Bani is a living vibration, an Infinite sound current which transforms the listener. The Guru’s Bani is a reality, not a ritual.
Akhand Paath is an unbroken recitation (recited out loud) of the entire Siri Guru Granth Sahib from beginning to end. It can be in honor of a particular occasion or simply to increase one’s feeling of connection to the Guru. A weekly Akhand Paath gives the Sadh Sangat a beautiful opportunity to establish a close relationship with the Guru and provides the blessing of the Guru’s Word to the community.
Anand Karaj (The Marriage Ceremony)
Guru Ram Das has given us a formula for a successful marriage in the form of four rounds (Laavan), four concepts. In fact, he describes for us the sacred journey of the soul merging with the infinite. When applied to marriage it results in happiness and fulfillment. Marriage is a spiritual identity, not just a love affair between two people. The focus of marriage is not romantic love or physical liaison, though these aspects of marriage naturally bring their own delight. The Sikh marriage is all about love, but what kind of love? It is the Love of the Soul-bride for God, that longing to merge with the Infinite. A Sikh marriage is two people trying to help one another in this merger. The highest love is assisting another in the merger of the soul with the infinite, helping the Beloved to find the true purpose of their life.
The four nuptial rounds were written by Guru Ram Das for his own wedding. In them he tells us that the first commitment is for one to be true to one’s own soul, to be committed to righteousness, be on the spiritual path and communicate with the soul through personal spiritual practice.
The Guru’s Langar (Free Kitchen)
The tradition of Langar expresses the ideals of equality, sharing, and the oneness of all humankind. An essential part of any Gurdwara is the Langar, or free kitchen. Here the food is cooked by sevadars and is served without discrimination to all. The tradition of Langar expresses the ideals of equality, sharing, and the oneness of all humankind. The Guru’s Langar is always vegetarian, and traditionally is made up of simple, nourishing food.
This information was obtained from VICTORY& VIRTUE Ceremonies & Code of Conduct of Sikh Dharma. For more information – www.sikhnet.com/sikhism