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Gurudwara Etiquette

Ecumenigal

SPNer
Sep 14, 2010
12
14
Orem, Utah U.S.A.
Hello,

I'm interested in going to the Gurudwara for the first time, and I have some questions about etiquette.

I read the thread called "Going to the Gurudwara for the very first time" and really appreciate all the comments there.

Here are some additional questions:

For the last several years I have been very tired and in bed, not working. It may be difficult for me to sit the whole time. Would it be rude for me to lay on the floor, as long as I keep my feet covered with my scarf? (I did this at a local Hare Krishna temple and it didn't go over too well.)

Would it be rude for me to sit against the wall?

Will there be pillows to sit on, or shall I bring my own?

What are the boundaries between men and women? Should I avoid eye contact with men? How about talking to them?

I would like to find someone who lives in my area that I can carpool with. I have to borrow a car and I'm not sure yet if I am brave enough to drive into the city. I have always lived in the country. What is the best approach to asking if there is anyone who might be willing to pick me up? Again, what are the boundaries between men and women? I find that in Christian or New Age churches, I might ask a woman if she knows anyone and she'll just run off and make a general announcement, or ask a man she knows before I have a chance to say that I prefer to ride with women. The problem in some cultures is that the boundaries aren't clear, and they are highly individual, so I might double check with a man that his wife (who does not attend the same church) is comfortable with him giving me rides, and he might be shocked by the question, but then once he asks his wife, it turns out that she's not comfortable at all.

In Indian Sikh culture, are these types of boundaries pretty clear, or is there a lot of individual interpretation? If I am offered a ride by a man who I feel comfortable with, and I accept it, will others look at me funny? Is this questionable behavior? (This happened to me when I was involved in the Art of Living organization.)

One more question: I called the Gurudwara and talked to a woman. (They don't have a website.) She said that there is someone who could translate for me. Then at the end of the call, she asked if I would come next week for sure. I told her I would "try" to come. I'm not sure I can work up the guts to drive in the big city, and my drivers license is from out of state so driving isn't the best idea.

Now, I'm wondering, should I call her back if I don't want to go next week? Maybe she was just encouraging me to come, but maybe she was trying to find out if she needed to make special arrangements for a translator.

I usually make too big a deal of things and over-communicate. But in this case, I don't want her to go to any trouble if I'm not coming.

Also, I'm not sure how I feel about a translator. Would he or she be talking in my ear while everything else was going on? That seems like it would feel chaotic and noisy, and I might just prefer to see what experience I will have of the vibrations of the Punjabi. I would like to understand it, but I don't want them to go to any inconvenience. I don't really know if she meant that they would get someone special FOR ME or if she meant that they always have a translator.

I think I'm over-thinking this. I think I should just go and graciously accept their hospitality in whatever way they see fit, and then take it from there. Right?

I am curious, for the future, are the readings done in such a way that I could know where to read along in an English version? Would reading the Guru (sorry, forgot the whole term) be an inappropriate activity during the service?

One more question: There are some listings on the internet for some Guru Ram Das Temples in the area, so I asked her if they were still there. She said, "No, but the American Sikhs still live there." I'm kind of gathering that the Guru Ram Das Temples are 3HO organizations, and that the America Sikhs are not attending this particular Gurudwara. Is this pretty normal, or is this a sign that this Gurudwara is from a far-out sect that 3HO people wouldn't like? How do I tell what sect the Gurudwara is?

Please forgive me if in my ignorance I have said anything or made any assumptions that are disrespectful. I appreciate your guidance. I have searched high and low for a religion that I could really believe in, and I have quite strong feelings about Sikhism, like it is a name for what I have always believed, and my heart and my gut respond with physical sensations of longing when I read about it.

Thank you for reading all my questions.
 

findingmyway

Writer
SPNer
Aug 18, 2010
1,665
3,771
World citizen!
Hello,

I'm interested in going to the Gurudwara for the first time, and I have some questions about etiquette.

I read the thread called "Going to the Gurudwara for the very first time" and really appreciate all the comments there.

Here are some additional questions:

For the last several years I have been very tired and in bed, not working. It may be difficult for me to sit the whole time. Would it be rude for me to lay on the floor, as long as I keep my feet covered with my scarf? (I did this at a local Hare Krishna temple and it didn't go over too well.)

Would it be rude for me to sit against the wall?

Will there be pillows to sit on, or shall I bring my own?
I've never seen someone lying down and am not sure that would be well accepted but sitting against a wall is no problem at all. Some Gurdwara's have chairs at the back for people who are physically unable to sit on the floor. These are at a level lower than the Guru Granth Sahib Ji so are ok to use. Take your own cushion if it helps but be discrete with it.

What are the boundaries between men and women? Should I avoid eye contact with men? How about talking to them?
Sit separately during the service and often in the langar but at other times please interact normally!

I would like to find someone who lives in my area that I can carpool with. I have to borrow a car and I'm not sure yet if I am brave enough to drive into the city. I have always lived in the country. What is the best approach to asking if there is anyone who might be willing to pick me up? Again, what are the boundaries between men and women? I find that in Christian or New Age churches, I might ask a woman if she knows anyone and she'll just run off and make a general announcement, or ask a man she knows before I have a chance to say that I prefer to ride with women. The problem in some cultures is that the boundaries aren't clear, and they are highly individual, so I might double check with a man that his wife (who does not attend the same church) is comfortable with him giving me rides, and he might be shocked by the question, but then once he asks his wife, it turns out that she's not comfortable at all.
Phone the Gurdwara and ask if someone can help you with a ride. They'll figure something out usually. Whether man or woman will depend on what works and what people feel comfortable with-there are no hard and fast rules.

One more question: I called the Gurudwara and talked to a woman. (They don't have a website.) She said that there is someone who could translate for me. Then at the end of the call, she asked if I would come next week for sure. I told her I would "try" to come. I'm not sure I can work up the guts to drive in the big city, and my drivers license is from out of state so driving isn't the best idea.

Now, I'm wondering, should I call her back if I don't want to go next week? Maybe she was just encouraging me to come, but maybe she was trying to find out if she needed to make special arrangements for a translator.
A significant number of the community will bilingual so translation is not a problem. Work up the courage and go and I'm sure you will be pleased!! Gurdwaras are open to all regardless of age, backgraound, gender, faith etc so no special provision needed.

I am curious, for the future, are the readings done in such a way that I could know where to read along in an English version? Would reading the Guru (sorry, forgot the whole term) be an inappropriate activity during the service?

A number of the youth struggle with gurmukhi too so increasingly Gurdwara's are displaying English translations on a board as the service is going on.


One more question: There are some listings on the internet for some Guru Ram Das Temples in the area, so I asked her if they were still there. She said, "No, but the American Sikhs still live there." I'm kind of gathering that the Guru Ram Das Temples are 3HO organizations, and that the America Sikhs are not attending this particular Gurudwara. Is this pretty normal, or is this a sign that this Gurudwara is from a far-out sect that 3HO people wouldn't like? How do I tell what sect the Gurudwara is?

Unfortunately there are some difference in ideologies creeping in hence the different Gurdwara's. I mostly don;t worry about the differences adn enjoy the service as along as it's a place where the Guru Granth Sahib Ji is the thing with the most respect. If there are any idols or any pictures of other people placed higher that the Guru Granth Sahib Ji then be wary!


Please forgive me if in my ignorance I have said anything or made any assumptions that are disrespectful. I appreciate your guidance. I have searched high and low for a religion that I could really believe in, and I have quite strong feelings about Sikhism, like it is a name for what I have always believed, and my heart and my gut respond with physical sensations of longing when I read about it.

Thank you for reading all my questions.
Feel free to ask questions anytime welcomekaur
 

RicktheSikh

Writer
SPNer
May 19, 2018
74
33
44
You are over thinking it. I'm still new but this faith is about feeling. Just show up. As far as mobility and comfort issues I would say don't lie down. At the gurdwara I have been attending there are benches along the back walls for people with disabilities or if you want the full experience you can use a wall for some support while you sit on the floor as long as you sit facing the Guru. You don't have to sit "Indian style" if that's a hardship for you, just don't point your feet at the Guru. If you can't sit for very long it isn't rude to excuse yourself to stretch your legs and return when you're ready. Perhaps wait for a pause in the service if you can. Sitting on the floor humbles us, it's not meant to be a hardship. Don't let it be one. You can feel Vaheguru in any position.
 

Sikhilove

Writer
SPNer
May 12, 2016
608
161
The Gurus taught against meaningless rituals and customs, so do whatever you want. As I said in my previous post to you, to avoid the wrath of the pastors (and likely some busybody old ladies there), try and cover your head and take your shoes off.

If you feel like bowing to Guru Granth Sahib Ji at the front, then feel free to do so. I feel that Guru Nanak sits there behind Guru Granth Sahib Ji every time I go so I bow. I also bow to the Divine Knowledge in the Granth Sahib as I feel incredibly fortunate to have such a priceless gift at my disposal!
 

Harkiran Kaur

Leader

Writer
SPNer
Jul 21, 2012
1,393
1,909
You are over thinking it. I'm still new but this faith is about feeling. Just show up. As far as mobility and comfort issues I would say don't lie down. At the gurdwara I have been attending there are benches along the back walls for people with disabilities or if you want the full experience you can use a wall for some support while you sit on the floor as long as you sit facing the Guru. You don't have to sit "Indian style" if that's a hardship for you, just don't point your feet at the Guru. If you can't sit for very long it isn't rude to excuse yourself to stretch your legs and return when you're ready. Perhaps wait for a pause in the service if you can. Sitting on the floor humbles us, it's not meant to be a hardship. Don't let it be one. You can feel Vaheguru in any position.
In fact you can enter and leave pretty much whenever you want to or need to. Only caveat probably is during ardaas (the prayer where everyone stands up). You can still leave and enter if needed, but people don’t mathatek or move too much during that time. Rest is fine. During kirtan people come and go all the time.

Yes most Gurdwaras have a bench or chairs at the back for those with mobility or disability issues.
 

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