Home > Musings > Eat, Pray, Love (Or is it the other way around?)

Eat, Pray, Love (Or is it the other way around?)

Went to the Gurudwara in Dubai last evening. Never been to a Gurudwara before. Unfortunately I was separated from the rest and went in alone. Deposited my shoes, had a pee, washed hands and then did not know where to go. I tried to locate the prayer hall. Could not find it and wandered accidentally into the Langar hall. Someone gave me a plastic plate and a spoon and waved me in. They asked me to cover my head which I promptly did with my handkerchief. People were sitting on mats laid out on the floor waiting for food to be served. I took my place next to a family at the head of a row. Sikh men in  a traditional blue religious garment, with Turbans and Kirpans passed about serving dal, subzi, roti and rice. There was a strict etiquette to be followed which I was not aware of. The roti was to be accepted with both hands much like Prasadam (consecrated food), which I  did not realize and committed my first faux pas. I went on to do others in the course of the meal. It was embarrassing to be there, sitting in front of a plate with only dal and subzi and nothing to eat them with. Fortunately Jeera rice came soon, saving me from further disgrace. I did not have much choice but to sit and finish the meal before making an unobtrusive exit. The food was simple yet tasty and I soon forgot my predicament and thoroughly enjoyed it.
From the Langar room I could make out through the CCTV telecast that the prayer hall was upstairs . I finished up and went up the stairs where I found the rest of my gang poised for a selfie in the landing. The prayer hall was big with sharp white lamps hanging from a large ring in the ceiling; there was a podium under a golden arch below which a venerable old man sat, gently swaying a white mane over the Guru Granth Sahib (decked under red embroidered cloth), the holy book of the Sikh which is treated as  equivalent to a Living Guru.
A long queue of devout waited patiently to prostrate themselves before the podium; several people sat around on the carpet, lost in contemplation, or gently swaying to the cadence of sonorous music. I sat cross legged for a while observing the tableau of worship, unable to partake spiritually, more a detached observer than a participant.
I liked this aspect of religion, the worship and supplication to an entity or idea beyond the self, although the opulence and ostentatious display of wealth one encountered in most places of worship was often a put off. The Gurudwara was open to all, irrespective of faith, it was not exclusive, it served food too every visitor and treated everyone equally, amply demonstrating the magnanimity of the Sikh. The transcendence of self in worship and the idea of service embodied in Kar Seva – pro bono work undertaken as penance, provided a path for sublimation of the ego. This certainly was a great benefit offered by Sikhism (as any other religion) to the individual as well as the society.
In India, Sikh community had gone through turbulent and bloody times in recent history – the bid for secession, the terrorist attacks, the infamous siege pf the golden temple, the killing of Mrs. Gandhi, the subsequent massacre of Sikhs in Delhi, the perpetrators of which are yet to be brought to justice -the wounds of which are not healed, they are festering yet. This is the aspect of religion, this divisiveness and consequent carnage it has engendered in most prominent world religions, this is what I found most disturbing,  which continually reaffirms my faith in the merits of an atheist, rational outlook.
It is my belief that the metaphysical tenets of every religion is under question in most civilized societies (certain states of US of A could be an exception), by a majority  (!!!) of educated people. As science advances, more and more mysteries that surround us would be unravelled, providing a comprehensive and precise knowledge of the physical world. In such a world, the current notion of God would have lesser and lesser relevance, and God and associated concepts are likely to be driven to abstraction. Whether superstition and religious beliefs will eventually be discarded remains to be seen; this is unlikely. Given that God is man’s own creation and so tightly integrated to various levels of existence and identity – personal, spiritual, cultural, religious and social, spanning several continents; and given the resurgence of militant forms of religion in recent times, it is quite improbable that we will witness the demise of religion in our lifetime unless we manage to annihilate the planet in the meantime.
I’m not aware of the underlying principles and ideas behind Sikhism. In the Gurudwara I have witnessed and briefly participated in its positive side. Just as every religion it ought to have its negative side – dogmatism, superstitions, meaningless rituals, sectarianism – redeemed by the notions of self sacrifice, selfless service and devotion. It is a tenacious religion and has countless followers across the globe. Its conceptions of God, Eternity, Morality are bound to endure, whether right or wrong (I do not think any religion is absolutely right in its conceptualization of these ideas). My hope is that the good side of Sikhism is not overwhelmed by fanaticism as it is subjected to stress from within and without (as every religion will be in the future). That the spirit of service which is fundamental to this religion survives beyond all else. If not, it will also degenerate into yet another religion rendering life unbearable under the weight of it.
Location of the Gurudwara – Near Ibn Batuta Gate hotel, Jebel Ali, Dubai. Exit from Sheikh Sayed road on to the ramp, take right from the roundabout in front of gate hotel and follow the road to find the Gurudwara on the right side.
Categories: Musings
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