As I touched my forehead to the carpet, I could see McTery watching me from the side, his forehead to the ground, to make sure I was doing it right. I had received a complete tutorial from McTery about what to expect when we went to the Sikh Temple in San Fernando. He taught me how to kneel, how to fold my hands properly, how to sit, where to put my donation and more. He was so excited to share the experience of a Sikh temple with me.
Richard and Prescilla, who own and run Nature’s Retreat (see previous post), enjoy attending the service at the Sikh temple. Though they are not Sikh themselves, and neither is McTery, they see many connections between Sikhism and the yoga that they practice and teach. And then there’s the food.
When McTery and I arrived, we removed our shoes and he helped tie the orange scarf over my head. Most Sikh men wear an orange turban all day, but these scarves are available for visitors. Next, I was shown how to wash my feet and hands, and where to store my shoes, before we entered the lower room.
“This is his first time,” McTery said with a broad grin to the woman at the entrance. She gave me a warm smile and pointed toward the room. We picked up a wrapped chickpea sandwich and a delicious cup of chai before sitting cross-legged on one of the long thin carpets on the floor. I could hear rhythmic chanting and music coming from nearby. I noticed about twenty other people sitting and eating around the room while McTery continued to instruct me on what to expect when we went upstairs (Richard and Prescilla would be arriving later).
The music grew louder as we climbed the stairs. We walked down the carpet that divided the room in half with men sitting on the right side and women on the left. We placed our donation in the container before the Guru (Sikh holy book), folded our hands, kneeled, and touched our foreheads to the ground before taking a place on the floor with the other men. People of all ages continued to stream in, all following the same path as we had, before taking their seats on the floor.
The next 75 minutes were filled with beautiful music played on stringed instruments and drums, and sung by three bearded men. A fourth man, much older than the other three, continuously waved a large fan (Chaur) over the Guru as if he were in a trance. At times, the music stopped and one of the men spoke and the crowd responded. There were chants that everyone repeated, and a short procession of men around the altar. Everyone participated, young and old. A toddler crawled around freely crossing the barrier between the women’s and men’s sides.
A small handful of a sticky, sweet, mashed rice was distributed before the service came to a close. Without understanding a word of Punjabi, I felt at peace and welcomed by the community. The music and chanting were beautiful and moving.
Back downstairs we headed to take our place on the long carpets. This time the room was full. Men walked up and down the rows placing trays on the floor and serving an amazing meal: salad, lentils, yogurt, tofu, rice, chapati and more. I followed the lead of the others and tore the chapati to pick up some food. Everything was delicious and the portions were generous. The men kept walking up and down the rows offering more food. Sharing a meal with visitors is a Sikh tradition and happens every day at temples around the world.
I left the temple feeling relaxed, at peace and very, very full.
The next morning, I woke to read online of an American Sikh man from Seattle who was shot by another man who shouted, “Go back to your country” before pulling the trigger. If only the shooter could have experienced the peace, love, oneness and community that I felt at the Sikh temple. If only our leaders could encourage more understanding between cultures and less fear of those who are different from us.
There are no pictures from inside the temple, but McTery took a few outside as we exited. I’m looking forward to our next visit.
March 10, 2017 at 07:55
What an experience! When I read your comment,
“If only our leaders could encourage more understanding between cultures and less fear of those who are different from us.” My eyes filled with tears because it is simple, respectothers, educate ourselves, develop deeper meaning of life through learning not fearing.
Thanks for sharing this experience.
March 11, 2017 at 20:46
March 10, 2017 at 08:19
What a beautiful experience Tim. It’s good to see you in such good hands with McTery quite the teacher and photographer!! I also agree with you if only our leaders would encourage more understanding between cultures what a difference it would make! Perhaps they could learn from you and McTery and thru your posts ! Can’t wait for your next post! Take care love Anne
March 11, 2017 at 20:47
Living here for a while has definitely brought me experiences I would have never had if I were just passing through to see the sites.
March 10, 2017 at 09:17
Beautiful adventure…..and….if only………………..
March 11, 2017 at 20:47
March 10, 2017 at 11:02
Every time I read an entry, I am in awe! I hope when you return to PMS you will be able to share your wonderful adventure with both staff and students!
March 11, 2017 at 20:48
I will! Maybe I can make the front page of the Westerly Sun again!
LInda A Wight
March 10, 2017 at 15:21
WOnderful blog – I could feel the peace coming from you. You would make a great Ambassador for our country, and maybe we’d have a better understanding of each other. Love Linda. Conrad and Iare visiting Stephen. NIce and warm. We will be home next week
March 11, 2017 at 20:50
Glad to hear you got to make the trip to see Stephen. Enjoy the warm weather. Maybe the snow will melt by the time you get home.
Vicky Ann Deledda
March 10, 2017 at 22:14
Wow, Tim, so great how someone so young could become such a influential, spiritual leader. I already like McTerry -without even meeting him in person.
And, ahhh! What we may never know, how our higher power’s actions are able to flow so easily through some and not others…
March 11, 2017 at 20:54
You two would get along great. Nature lovers, shell seekers, and he loves chickens, too.
Vicky Ann Deledda
March 10, 2017 at 22:16
March 11, 2017 at 20:55
He keeps changing his mind about how to spell his name, but I think this is right.
March 11, 2017 at 14:20
You really are having an amazing journey!
March 11, 2017 at 20:55
The world is an amazing place!