Gurdwara Revisited

On a recent trip to Bangkok I visited the Gurdwara Siri Guru Singh Sabha, the Sikh Temple located in what is called Pahurat Little India, just west of Yaowarat, Chinatown.

In the main hall of the Gurdwara, I kneel and bow before the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikhs, for what seems an eternity. I get up and walk to the right side of the hall where other Sikh men are sitting, my bare footsteps accompanied by the tabla and devotional singing.

I leave the main hall and climb the stairs to a floor with six small rooms that house the Guru Granth Sahib and a larger room which contains “beds” of the holy book. I had read that the fifth Guru, Guru Arjan Dev, had placed the holy book upon his own bed and slept on the floor.

The rooms are so beautifully decorated they infuse the space with reverence and humility. No clusters of flowers, yet seemingly garlanded as if for a festival with unfading colors of crimson, orange, white and gold. As I enter each of the six rooms, I kneel and bow before the Guru Granth Sahib and whisper the Sikh salutation:

Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh

There is a feeling that I was in the presence of something so beautiful, so vast, more true than real life. I silently ask: "Guru Granth Sahib, what gives you your precious contents?" Not waiting for a reply, I begin to recite the morning prayer, the Japji Sahib (I had bought a small book of daily Sikh prayers in Roman script in a bookstore on the ground floor of the Gurdwara).

After finishing the morning prayer, I practice Sahej Sukh Dhyan, silently reciting the Mool Mantra, once on the inhale, three times suspending the breath, then once more on the exhale. I continue for about ten minutes than just sit allowing the mind and the body to experience the experience. The answer to my earlier question surfaces: 'Silence.'

For the next five days, I visit the Gurdwara twice a day, morning and late afternoon. I walk from my hotel in the sweltering heat, crossing a bridge, and finally arriving in front of the Indian Emporium. I take the back entrance, walking into the deep forest of Indian stores and shops. One could easily feel lost. I had not left a trail of white pebbles or crumbs the previous day to lead me back to the Temple (to recall Hansel and Gretel).

There is something quite beautiful about revisiting a place, repeating the same thing each day. I vaguely recall something Clifton Fadiman said: ‘When you reread a classic, you do not see more in the book than you did before; you see more in you than was there before.’ The same is true of any practice. It’s a beautiful thing to watch the mind become more disciplined and focused.

As I persisted in reciting Japji Sahib before the Gurus, revisiting that sacred space every morning, as so many have done over the centuries, I feel intimately connected to a community across time and space.

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