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Are gurudwaras like Punjabi social clubs in Canada? What is the reason to attend one?


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Guest Gurmukh

I was deeply touched by the words of Guru Nanak when I researched it online. I love the method that he teaches, although maybe I don't understand it entirely. But it's fine because there are lots of methods, and I have access to the One just by turning to Him, without the guidance of any teacher. I think we can all agree that once we are in the state where this is no distinction between ourselves and the rest of this universe, it doesn't really matter how we got there. I want to know more about his method, but I am content following another way, such as Gautama's way.

I wanted to learn more about Nanak's way, so I visited a gurudwara here in Canada. What I saw at that gurudwara was not focused on teaching his way. As I understood it, the Sikh gurus taught in multiple languages, but the gurudwara where I went (and I think all of them around here) only provide service in Punjabi. So it seems that in a country where everyone speaks English (including almost all of the Punjabi-Canadians), it would make sense to spread the way of achieving mukthi to the most people, at least part of the time. This was my first indication that the gurudwaras are a Punjabi club, after the fact that people heavily identity with how they look and what they wear on their heads.

I came to sit cross legged, meditate and listen to hymns, even though I can't understand the language. Most people were staring at me (none with smiles), maybe because I look different. In the whole temple, there was not a smile or look of elation on a person's face, even though when one bathes in the nectar of God it is clearly shown in their eyes. People didn't even look happy.

The process was useless to a non-Punjabi speaker (which is why there weren't any other non-Punjabi speakers ever in attendance at these places, in a country that is 99% non-Punjabi speakers) so I went to take a look at the langar hall after about an hour of meditation to hymns. There was some food being served that I couldn't eat due to gluten allergies, so I just waited around for a few moments before I went home. From what I understand about the langar hall, they were created in Northern India hundreds of years ago where people actually had problems getting enough food. And the food in the langar hall is often vegetarian in India, because there are so many Hindus there.

I didn't see Sikhs serving food to people desperately in need. I saw Punjabis sitting down together to have a Punjabi food meal, with other Punjabis. Canada is the country with the highest median income in the world, so Canadians aren't starving and there is little purpose for a langar hall like that if one wishes to engage in service to the community. Also, the year is 2017 and not 1700, so we have eliminated starvation issues. I saw was obese and diabetic Punjabis getting fed more food to make themselves more obese and diabetic. So the problem today is the opposite (too much food) and the best thing for these people would have been to fast, shut down the langar hall and donate the money to African aid.  I believe that the Sikhs who started langar halls would not start them in a country like modern Canada where the main problem is actually our obesity, not hunger. It would have been cool if there was at least a pretense of wanting to serve other people, such as having an English menu listed on paper on the wall, or a sign IN ENGLISH that directs hungry people toward their gurudwara, but I have never seen anything like this at this gurudwara nor another one I went to years ago.

The gurudwaras appear as unwelcome places for outsiders, and seem to be useless for those who seek spiritual enlightenment. It's not a problem for me--it is just a practical issue that Sikhs should probably be alert to. I asked my friend who immigrated from India about going to the gurudwara after the experience, and he said that people just go to these places to gossip, which might be true in his experience.  I love what Nanak has written but instead of studying Nanak's way alone, I can study Gautama's way. There are no English speaking Sikh sangats around me where the members focus on mukthi, but there is a Buddhist sangha near me where we focus on achieving enlightenment. I can get social help that way if I need but, but really the process is personal and inward and nobody else is needed.

Are there any others out there like me--those who loved the words of Guru Nanak but find becoming a Sikh or engaging with a "Sikh" community as rather useless? Is there a reason that someone already on the path to enlightenment should travel to these gurudwaras?

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They're not Social clubs, most of them have Libraries, and TV's that shows Sikhi History, people do Seva and can eat in the langar regardless of who you are, there should be a English translation in most Gurdwaras nowadays, you should watch Basic of Sikhi if you're a English Native, The Langar is for everyone regardless of their wealth, and they all have Donations and Donation Boxes for African Aids and India and other things, there is many times where a Local Gurdwaras raises money for a cause, and you will notice a lot of events for charities during festivals. 

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