(I have copied these quotes out of Wikipedia, but Ernest learned much of this on his visit.)
Sikhs are expected to embody the qualities of a "Sant-Sipāhī"—a saint-soldier. One must have control over one's internal vices and be able to be constantly immersed in virtues clarified in the Guru Granth Sahib. A Sikh must also have the courage to defend the rights of all who are wrongfully oppressed or persecuted irrespective of religion, colour, caste or creed.
Guru Nanak stressed now kirat karō: that a Sikh should balance work, worship, and charity, and should defend the rights of all creatures, and in particular, fellow human beings. They are encouraged to have a chaṛdī kalā, or optimistic, view of life. Sikh teachings also stress the concept of sharing—vaṇḍ chakkō—through the distribution of free food at Sikh gurdwaras (laṅgar), giving charitable donations, and working for the good of the community and others (sēvā).
Ernest had the privilege of volunteering at the Langar of the Harmandir Sahib or “Golden Temple,” the spiritual and cultural center of the Sikh religion on July 21st.
Langar (Punjabi: ਲੰਗਰ, Hindi: लंगर) is the term used in the Sikh religion or in Punjab in general for common kitchen/canteen where food is served in a Gurdwara to all the visitors (without distinction of background) for free. At the langar, only vegetarian food is served, to ensure that all people, regardless of their dietary restrictions, can eat as equals. Langar is open to Sikhs and non-Sikhs alike.
At the gurdwara (temple) in Amritsar (Punjab, India), Ernest learned that the Sikhs believe one should not pray on an empty stomach. The Langar, the kitchen where communal meals are served before prayers, prepares many thousands of meals a day. All are welcome to eat, regardless of their personal faith.
Volunteers of all faiths are welcome, with a few simple rules...
- Maintaining the purity of the sacred space and of one's body while in it:
- Upon entering the premises, removing one's shoes (leaving them off for the duration of one's visit) and washing one's feet in the small pool of water provided;
- Not drinking alcohol, eating meat, or smoking cigarettes or other drugs while in the shrine
- Dressing appropriately:
- Wearing a head covering (a sign of respect) (the gurdwara provides head scarves for visitors who have not brought a suitable covering);
- Not wearing shoes (see above).
- How to act:
- One must also sit on the ground while in the Darbar Sahib as a sign of deference to both the Guru Granth Sahib and God.
Ready to serve, feet bare and heads covered.
In the picture below, Ernest is hunched over in a grey t-shirt, just above the chartreuse turban towards the left.
Most of these photos thanks to leader Lori Bostick.
Our hearts go out to the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin.