The religious theater:
All temples, churches, gurudwaras are nothing but religious theaters pretending to be greater than rest of mankind. Just like politicians.
I have tried my best to stay away from these commercial theatres playing the show of ‘God Bless You’. After all if God is The God why would thou shall have human prejudice of favouring only those who flatter the thou by visiting temple, church and gurudwaras. More so, how the places so commercial, as these temples etc. are, can be sponsored by The God unless such God is a proverbial dumb blonde or a moron.
Recent visit to a Sikh Temple (Gurudwara):
A Sikh temple is called Gurudwara. It has no deity but the holy book (Sri Guru Granth Sahib) which is revered as ‘Guru’ or ‘Babaji’ is treated like a deity. People come and in semi prostrating position bow so deeply so as to touch the carpeted ground with their forehead. The act is supposed to humble the ‘self’ but human mind is so clever that more often the people bow, more they feel near to ‘Babaji’ and that creates a special status or an exalted self-image.
Among the various Sikh scriptures, Sri Sukhmani Sahib is a reading of choice as ‘Sukhmani’ means ‘Peace of Mind’ while Sri is a prefix and Sahib is a suffix added as a mark of respect. Any person can request for reading of the Sri Sukhmani Sahib in the Gurudwara and generally the reading is concluded in 90 minutes at the most. This is often a reading of choice to say the last prayers for the departed soul or the deceased. Here is the account of extent of commercialisation.
Shrewd commercialization of Gurudwara:
We visited a Gurudwara and requested for reading of ‘Sri Sukhmani Sahib’. We asked if there were any charges. The Gyaniji, as the Sikh priests are called, told us that there is no charge but we can drop in the donation box whatever we like. He however added that if we want tea to be served at the end, we shall have to bear the expenses. We agreed and paid twice the amount he asked for tea and provided our own cookies, disposable cups, plates, water bottles.
First about Sri Sukhmani Sahib:
Sri Sukhmani Sahib is the name given to the set of hymns divided into 24 sections which appear in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh Holy Scriptures on page 262. Each section, which is called an Ashtpadi (asht means 8), consists of 8 hymns per Ashtpadi. The word Sukhmani literally means Peace in your mind. This set of Hymns or Bani is very popular among the Sikhs, who frequently recite it in their places of worship called Gurdwaras and at home. The full recital takes about 90 minutes and is normally undertaken by everyone in the congregation.
According to Sikh doctorine, this Bani is believed to bring peace to one’s mind and compoundly peace to the world. This set of 192 hymns were compiled by the fifth Sikh Guru, Guru Arjan Dev Ji. (Source: Wikipedia)
I read it for the first time during the reading and was surprised with the details provided in it. After all it is about 400 years old and we assume that people were less unscrupulous or cunning at that time (whatever that means). Following is an enlightening excerpt from the holy book, each line translated in English:
kartoot pasoo kee maanas jaat.
They belong to the human species, but they act like animals.
lok pachaaraa karai din raat.
They indulge in propaganda day and night.
baahar bhaykh antar mal maa-i-aa.
Outwardly, they wear religious robes, but within is the filth of Maya.
chhapas naahi kachh karai chhapaa-i-aa.
They cannot conceal this, no matter how hard they try.
baahar gi-aan Dhi-aan isnaan.
Outwardly, they display knowledge, meditation and purification,
antar bi-aapai lobh su-aan.
but within clings the dog of greed.
The theater of temple:
Any place of learning has to be free and open to debate. The temples, Churches, Gurudwara etc. on the other hand are ritualistic and mechanical. These are merely claimed to be places of religious teaching. There is an enforced discipline for everything.
I asked a question to myself: What will happen if the discipline of keeping head covered, not to keep holy book on ground and wavering of non-existent flies (fly whisk) over the holy book (an act called chouri) by members of audience is not enforced?
It appears that entire grandeur and glamour of the religious theatre is build upon discipline for those in-charge, even though read the scriptures everyday have no intention to understand the meaning and content of the scriptures. They do what they like and perhaps find some justification from one stray line or the other. But how people can have religious satisfaction from visiting such commercial places? It appears we have accepted the commerce far more than we have accepted the presence of God. Because the former is an experience and in the absence of self realization, presence or existence of God is a belief. Just like ‘time travel’.
Reading of Sukhmani Sahib:
There are many ways to read. If audience knows the text, the Pathi or Reader reads one line and audience reads next line. Unfortunately reading is quick and ritualistic. Even a person who knows Punjabi can not grasp fully except where reader is exceptionally clear. In this case the reading was far below average standards. I followed it from the copy of holy scripture made available but could actually read and follow only half of it.
After the reading:
The reading was followed by a small Kirtan i.e. a melodious prayer with musical instruments. Gyaniji told us to contribute money for support of singers. We did as also the many other members of audience.
Final prayer ‘Ardaas’:
The singing of Bhajan was followed by Ardaas or final prayer for the departed. We were again told to pay the Priest for ‘Ardaas’. We did. After the ardaas, the sweet prasad of halwa called ‘Kadah Prasad’ was offered. Everyone departed.
Out side tea was served with cookies, for everyone. At this time the second priest called me aside and demanded a hefty sum for serving the tea. I was shocked. I told him how much we had already paid so far in addition to what was paid into the donation box. He said that we had paid too much for the ‘Ardaas’ which should have been a smaller amount. Obviously my inexperience to rent the religious shop was far more profound that I had anticipated. I called the other priest also and after telling them the total so far paid to them and paid them the same amount once more that was paid to first priest and with hand folded told them that they have to adjust with this much and beg leave of them to run away as fast as I could.
My tryst with another religious shop after three decades only reaffirmed my experience that organised religion is more evil than commercial corporations for these shops are expert in enticing and extorting the people with such dexterity that the dancers of Mughal Durbar would be envious.
I only wonder if the priests ever understood what was the meaning of contents of ‘Sukhmani Sahib’, especially the portion extracted above.
© Sandeep Bhalla