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Discovering Sikhism. Thoughts Shared By Michael Jerryson & Students Of Eckerd College, USA

Discussion in 'New to Sikhism' started by Admin Singh, Jan 10, 2013.

  1. Admin Singh

    Admin Singh
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    Jun 1, 2004
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    Sent to me via email message...

    My name is Michael Jerryson and you were graciously enough to allow my class and I to visit your gurdwara, December 2.

    I would like to thank you for your extraordinary hospitality and kindness. My students really enjoyed the visit-- and it helped solidify for them the readings we had covered in class. I asked them to submit their reflections about their visit Sunday night, and since they were really speaking to you, I thought it best to pass it along.


    "I really loved going to the Gurdwara and learned a lot about Sikhism in the process. Like others, I was struck by the people and how open they were to talking to us and answering our questions. The environment throughout the service was relaxed but still reverent which was really incredible to see. I really liked how people could easily come and go as well as how people would bow to the Guru Granth when they entered. I was also extremely impressed by the children because they did such an impressive job and seemed to actually be interested in what they were doing. Throughout the service, I think my favorite part was the example that one of the speakers gave about water. I had never thought like this before and it made so much sense. I feel like if more people adopted the Sikh viewpoint that in the end we are all worshipping the same thing regardless of which religion we follow there would be a significant reduction in violence and animosity between religious groups. The food after the service was incredible, and it was so touching that the people gave up their time so willingly to prepare and serve everyone else. Overall, being at the Gurdwara was a great experience that really changed my views and inspired me. "


    "I very much enjoyed our visit to the Gudwara. After having visited the other temples, which were quite large, i was surprised to find how small and simple the Gudwara was.
    I really enjoyed reading the translations of the songs and found that they very much exemplified what we had learned about the Shiks in class. I also thought it interesting that they opened and closed every statement with the same phrase. The significance of the word was very visible throughout the service.

    I also enjoyed the speaker at the end who used the example of water to show that everyone had different understandings of God, although it always signifies the same thing."


    "I had no idea what to expect going to the Gurdwara, especially after the experience at the Buddhist temple proved to be far different than I thought it would be. The thing that initially struck me about the temple was the size of it~ it was very intimate, which was very cool. I felt very welcomed and at home in the temple, and I really enjoyed the singing done by the girls. I was astounded at the skill with which the young boy delivered his sermon on the Sikh faith, and it made a lot of sense to me. I think that the way that Sikhs interpret the world is refreshing and positive, which are too words that admittedly don't come easily to mind when I think of organized religion.

    One of my favorite parts of the whole trip was getting to talk with people afterwards. Dr. Mali told me how she sees God everywhere she looks and we wondered why there are not more people in the world for who this is true. I much enjoyed the time we spent and I wish I could go back again!"


    "This was by far my favorite field trip because I felt throughly welcomed and I was completely immersed in their worship service, rather than an outsider looking in. I enjoyed the music and watching the children lead the service. The atmosphere during the service was laid back and welcoming, and I could sense a strong community amongst the people. I was really glad that they had the english translations on the screen! I found it interesting how the word "Lord" was used because I typically associated that term with Christianity. During the lunch, I especially enjoyed listening to the man speak about Sikism and how after 9/11 people treated him differently because of his appearance, while his beliefs are far from what people were perceiving."


    "I thought the Gurdwara visit was very nice. The people were very nice and helpful and it was fun to hear their stories. I like how the kids get to participate in the worship and how much they enjoyed their part.
    I am curious as to what the meaning of the feather being waved at the front is, I couldn't really find a pattern with it.

    I am also wondering what the doughy ball is that they handed out at the end of the service."


    "This was my favorite field trip this semester. While I've felt a little out of place during all three of the field trips, it wasn't uncomfortable to be out of place at the Gurdwara. I really liked that everyone seemed so comfortable with each other during the service. I thought back to when I was younger and I would go to church with my family. There, if a child was making noises during the service, other members of the congregation would give dirty looks to the parents as if they were appalled that their children would dare make noise. In the Gurdwara, however, if a child seemed restless, I often saw other members of the community taking them to sit with them or taking them out in the hall, allowing the parents to remain in the service if they wanted.
    I'm also really glad that we got to go during the children's service. It was so nice to see kids that involved in the program. I was really impressed by their knowledge and ability to get in front of the congregation and speak so well. I love kids, so to see them so embraced and encouraged within their faith was beautiful.
    Finally, the food! The food was delicious, but what I appreciated about the meal time the most was the conversations that we had. During out meal, we had three different people come and talk to us. One man spoke to us about the participation that children had and the importance of them learning and carrying on the tradition. Another woman came and spoke to us about the primary beliefs of Sikhism. At one point she said something along the lines of, "Flowers come in all different colors, but they are still all flowers. This is why we do not discriminate. We do not try to convert people because who are we to say that our religion is better than theirs?" She spoke very poetically about her belief that all people, all religions, and all views of God are equal, which I found really moving. Then a man, that I assume is her husband, sat down with us and just joked with us about his relationship with her. He also asked us what we thought of the food and shared his thoughts with us as well."


    "Today's field trip was wonderful. I really enjoyed experiencing a relgion completely new to me, and unrecognized to many others. I remember in middle school this kid always wore a bun on his head wrapped with a cloth and I had know idea his religious affiliation. After imersing myself in rituals at the Gurdwara today, I really grasped the essence of Sikhism.

    At first I sat down on the men's side, completely clueless, more intrigued by the beautiful singing and appearal of the females. Oh, what incredible fabrics! The whole temple on the left side was booming with vibrance and then it clicked...I should be on the awesome colorful side of women! As soon as I realized this I thought I was offending people and not being true to there temple customs so after a few minutes of thinking about how I was standing out like a sore thumb I crossed over to the bright colorful women's section! Later on, I told one of my new Sikh friends about this transgression, but to my surprise he said that it did not matter actually. He said "you can sit where ever you want". He continued to explain that the separation is not based on an inequality between the genders, but simply for the conveinence to the mothers with children. I really enjoyed the relaxed and personal vibe of the temple. I though its was so empowering how they value females just as highly as males, similar to hinduism. This was exemplified when the female sat at the front, where the guru lead.

    Besides the absolutely incredible all vegetarian lunch and such warm, inviting Sikh community, I was really impressed by the children who were so well immersed in Sikhism at such a young age. That little boy in the red polo read better than I can out loud. I really enjoyed watching the confidence of the kids as they recited different scripts.

    A Sikh woman explained to me that Sikhism is about seeing God in everybody and seeing everyone as equal. These people are filled with so much compassion and kindness, yet when they come to America our society is so quick to judge or stereotype based on appereance. At first, I felt like an intruder but after conversing with this woman, I learned that Sikh's view every human as equal because we are all one. I realized that being there today and learning about their culture expanded my worldview and how we judge outsiders so harshly just for wearing cool head buns. Little does the average American know that these people have such a warm and indiscriminating core belief structure, the root of Sikhism."


    "The one thing that I found most striking once entering the Gurdwara was the coziness of it all, especially in the room we sat in, everyone was in close proximity but it felt less crowded than it was, which was very surprising to me. It was nice that everyone was so friendly and willing to offer explanations and talk about their practices. I mentioned to one man that we were in a non-western religions class and he at first seemed surprised that any school offered such a course, but he was delighted that such a thing exists. It made me feel very grateful for having the chance to take a course such as this one, and it also made me realize that some do not have the privilege to be able to take a course like this. I greatly appreciated the explanation that one of the men gave in his speech about how Sikhs view everyone, which is that they see everyone as being part of their religion, even if they don't practice it, it's an interesting way to view the world and I feel that such things are not so common within other religions."


    "I was struck by the sense of community present in the gurdwara; the involvment of the entire community in the service and the equal level at which everyone sat was reminiscent of Quaker meetings. The service felt lively and energizing. As I sat there, several things stood out to me. Firstly, the shalwar kameez worn by all the women sitting around me were absolutely stunning! Many of the men wore them as well, however, there were many more men dressed in casual American garb than there were women. Why do more men elect not to wear shalwar kameez to the service? Secondly, only women played the small, rectangular wooden instrument (what was that?) while only men played the drums. Is this simply coincidence, or a rule? Thirdly, the lyrics sang by several of the girls were somewhat off-putting. One song implied that women were worthless without men. Another decreed that we are all sinners--that's all we are. This song in particular resonated as different from the impression of the religion I have formed. Sikhism seems to hold people to their highest and encourages followers to be the best that they can be... We are all people struggling to be good. We are much more than simply sinners."


    "I found the rituals surrounding the Guru Granth Sahib interesting. During the whole ceremony someone sat right behind the alter where the book was resting and did what looked like a purification or cleansing ritual. Everyone who came bowed to it before they sat down or before they were given something. The alter that it sat on was roped off and the book was kept covered until it was read. When it was read only two people ever touched it and afterwards it was covered again. These rituals show that the book is really held with reverence and respect that is impressive."


    "When we first saw the Gurdwara I was surprised that it was so small. The other temples and the grounds they owned took up a few acres so I expected a big building. But it was nice to see a small place of worship, it makes the process of religion more meaningful for everyone. I loved how they conducted the services, they sing their scripture and that's utterly amazing to me and each person gets a chance to go up on the podium to read scripture. Singing has always been used to connect to the divine and they have used it beautifully in their faith. Everyone was kind and generous and its easy to see that their beliefs mean a lot to them. I wish there were more people like them in the world."


    "I noticed that the people that were older sat toward the back and the people who seemed like the parents of the children presenting sat toward the front to help their children present. The younger children were presenting in my opinion to enhance the community and to aid in their own education as well as to continue the lineage of the religion. The males of the Gurdwara seemed to specialize in reading from the Guru, while the women seemed to specialize in singing. This lead to an increased sense of community and stability within the Gurdwara.
    Gudrwaras are a place for worshipers to come and connect with the divine. This Gurdwara seemed like a holy place, especially when i saw a worshipper fanning the Guru because it was considered scared space. I found that is relates to cigarettes and coffee being banned within the Gurdwara because it is a scared space and these items pollute the body, making them not sacred.

    I was also touched by the singing of the women when they stated they were sinners. The community joined stating that their Guru was the true Guru, which led to a good life, among other things. To follow another path would lead to sorrow. This reminded me of Patrick's presentation when he spoke of the dao, or the way. People who follow the dao believe followers have to find their own way. However, in this religion the path is already laid out for you by the Guru.

    I liked the food that was served. It consisted of rice, beans, cabbage, yogurt, and vanilla ice cream that seemed to have been home made. It was a vegetarian meal that reminded me how the first Guru did'nt like the cast system and wanted equality. It reminded me of this because i thought of the picture in the book with the men and women eating next to each other, which was considered odd at that time period."

    Michael Jerryson
    Assistant Professor of Religious Studies
    Eckerd College - Letters Collegium
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    #1 Admin Singh, Jan 10, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 11, 2013
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  3. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    Jun 17, 2004
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    Don''t know how to get this into the Spotlight without moving the thread to a different subforum. It is "stuck" but that did not work.
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  4. Tejwant Singh

    Tejwant Singh United States
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    Jun 30, 2004
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    Spnadmin ji,

    Guru Fateh.

    In my opinion, this thread can become a patched quilt by each of us, if everyone of us becomes a patch and invites people/students from other faiths to the Gurdwaras and request them to write about their journey.

    People, let's just do it!! Let's make others travel on this train no matter if their destinations are different than ours. We will learn from their journey.

    Tejwant Singh
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