Monday, February 1, 2010

Becoming a Sikh and Other Religious Endeavors

So, basically, I'm a Sikh. For anybody that doesn't know what a Sikh (pronounced 'seek') is, I'll enlighten you to the best of my understanding. As a disclaimer, I was in the back of the group all day and couldn't hear/spaced out a lot. So maybe you should look it up. Anyways, the Sikhs were a group of turban-wearing, butt-kicking, tofu-eating soldier-saints out in the Punjab (a region between India and Pakistan). Some time in the...1500s (maybe 16?) this dude named Guru Nanak decided to make a religion. So he led his people and ten Gurus later the tenth Guru (don't ask me what his name was) decided that the people wouldn't need any more Gurus (the inspiration for their words had run its course) so he wrote everything down in a book. So now, very long story short, they have temples built around copies of these books. And I went to two (one way cool, one ok) and a Hindu temple. Story:

Saturday morning we woke up and got pretty and went in to the classroom where Dave taught us a little bit about Sikhi (proper name of the religion). Lucky for us we spent an hour listening to it and it was later repeated by our guide. So we got on a sweet train with see-through overhead luggage compartments (I know...sweet). I sat with Cam, Macy, Audrey, and Caitlyn (for the record, that is not in order of how much I favor them...but I don't want them to fight, so I'll move on). Got off the train, turned left, walked over a bridge, stepped on Caroline's shoes (fifteen year olds are so fun to tease, especially when they're more mature/smarter than you. Oh, and peronal note: I've decided Caroline should/must marry Chase.), and made it over to the Gurdwara (temple). Took our shoes off, covered our heads (I looked like a pirate), washed our hands, and entered the main part of the building. First stop was upstairs at some awesome stained glass. The stained glass depicted a bowl full of water, being stirred by a double edged sword, which causes five orange gases (ribbon-looking things) to come from the bowl. It was pretty awesome. This depiction has to do with how one becomes inducted as a Guru, which involved sugar being put in to the water by the Guru's wife to make "nectar" which is drunk (haha, drunk) by the Guru-to-be.

Let me really quick go on to tell about the Sikh symbol. It's sweet (I bought a bandana, in case I ever go back). Pretty much, it looks like the picture I put up. It has two knives, split by a double-edged sword, along with a circle. From what I caught, the circle represents the idea of the One Almighty God and his (its?) eternal nature. The swords represent kicking butt. The Sikhs were like ninja warriors withouth the throwing stars, and it was difficult for even the British army to defeat. They don't cut their hair or their beards (my favorite part of being a Sikh), so they'd ride horses in to battle with their hair a-flowin' and a sword in each hand. How freakin' sweet is that?

After the stained glass we went in to the actual temple. Women sit on the left and men on the right, but we all just sat down in the back as a giant group. Our guide took a few people at a time to go through the process of bowing to the book (better yet, the word...interesting concept). You take the little carpet path up to the book, remembering to keep your hands close together and near your chest, and walk up to the book. Zealous believers bow their forehead to the ground, but they said we could just walk up, bow a bit, and reach toward the ground. I totally wanted to prostrate myself, but Cam pointed out that it may be better to forego said motion because I was in street clothes wearing an orange bandana and visiting. So I listened to him. You walk up to the book, which is all up on pillows and being sporadically fanned by a guy holding a giant feather (to keep the air pure). It is also under a big golden canopy. So we walked up, bowed, walked around the back of the canopy, and then retook our spots in the back. The temple was beautiful, but also very plain. We came on a Saturday, so instead of music they were in the middle of a 48-hour non-stop reading of the Guru book (i don't know what it's called. Sorry). The reading is ceremonial, very proper, and sounded a lot like singing. On your way back down the stairs you get some of this pudding stuff, to invite you to come back. There's only four things in it: wheat, sugar, water, butter, and fire (aka, it's cooked). There's not much to it, but I was a fan.

Once out of the temple our guide sat us down and then proceeded to tell us all about Sikhi. He had a binder that he used to flip through pictures. This time I was in the front, but I was really tired and he kinda went on and on. So I'll jot down a few things that I remember. The Sikhs are monotheistic (they believe in one god), and almost always keep their heads covered. They respect all people and religions (although our guide took a few prominent cracks at Christianity which made me giggle...that's right, giggle) and there is no reason to convert. Sikh means learner, and therefore I am now a learner of the religion and a Sikh. Calvin the Mormon Sikh...has a nice ring to it. I'm starting immediately to grow my hair and beard (just kidding Mom, but seriously). They believe in battling five evils (one is anger, one is greed, three are something else) and they have five different items that they have with them all the time. They have a little comb (generally worn under the turban), uncut hair, a special undergarment, a metal bracelet worn on the dominant hand, and a knife. Yeah, these dudes still carry around knives. The guide said they're blunt and more for cerimony than for show, but I'll bet that's not true in all cases, just because that would be awesome. They call these things their articles of faith. I vote we make our articles of faith awesome as well.

Anyhew, that's some information about my new sub-religion. After getting some free food (didn't recognize it, but it weren't too bad) we were set free and told to go to one other Gurdwara followed by a Hindu temple before dinner. Cam, Laura, and I stopped at a second Gurdwara which was smaller but I got more pudding (success). By the time we got to the Hindu temple I was kind of churched out, but it was pretty cool. There was red carpet, all sorts of gods depicted up at the front, and poorly timed Christmas lights setting the whole thing off. It seemed much more like a place to just come and chillax, which is basically what I did. After that we went shopping through some stores (that was profound, wasn't it?). I didn't find much besides the bandana and some chips ahoy, but Cam and I talked Laura into buying a Sari-like dress. It's green (matches her eyes), hand-sewn with all sorts of embroidered bead things (I dunno...I'm a dude), and SO HOT! She looked really pretty in it, but Cameron and I learned very quickly that Laura cannot take a compliment without getting kinda/way embarassed. It's funny. So in all honesty it looked great, but we sure ham it up. Today I made up a new game called try-not-to-think-about-Laura's-dress. Basically I tell Cam to not think about Laura's dress. And he loses every time. [Speaking of games, remind me to write about Arrin Manning and my pipe.]

So that was Saturday. Sorry for the novel. Sunday (yesterday) was pretty cool. I went to church, stayed at church because we ate free food (spaghetti made by Claudio...I LOVE Brazilian spaghetti), hung out till 4:30, got in the branch president's car, and drove an hour to stake priesthood meeting. It was a phenomenal meeting. The stake president of the Hyde Park stake is gonna be an apostle for sure. The bloke is proper brilliant. Afterwards I got to be there for Carlos' ordination to the Melchizedek priesthood. Got dropped off at home, read a Shakespeare play, bought plane tickets for my long weekend coming up (details pending), and slept. Today I went to class, skipped homework, went to the science museum with Laura, Cameron, and Katie Bruce, ate dinner, and now I'm typing. In about three minutes we're leaving to go see the musical "Oliver" which should be good.

Sat sri akal (it means hello or something like that, and I've decided that it also means good-bye. Kind of like aloha, but with a much cooler beard).


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