Golden Temple, Amritsar: spiritual communion with Guru Nanak: learning Sikh devotion
excerpted from OM, baby! a pilgrimage to the eternal self, by Jack Haas
After our time in Dharamsala was finished and we had received all that we could at that time from the profound privilege of the Tibetan Buddhist holy sanctuary, we left the emptiness and arrived at the fullness of the Golden Temple, Amritsar, home of the Sikh religion, and epicenter of one of the greatest devotional assemblages in the world.
Arriving at the Golden Temple one arrives at an earthly core and zenith of passionate human devotion. For it is here where millions of Sikhs, over the past five centuries, have come, so as to link their souls and spirits into the fulcrum of this religion’s quintessential intent. And that intent is devotion.
The Golden Temple is the supreme manifestation of devotion. Here a person can eat, sleep, bathe, pray, and listen to music any time, on any day, all for free; which is to say, one can devote themselves without obstruction.
When my soror and I first arrived at the Temple and its gigantic marble compound, I suddenly remembered that a few months earlier I had received a dream of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikh spirituality. However, I had not recognized who the white-bearded man in my dream had been until I came into the midst of the Golden Temple where countless posters and paintings flaunt his image. Nor had I expected anything of what that dream portended. But, to be sure, the intent of the universe would rise up to meet me, and I would soon realize that I had been called here for a teaching.
We entered the sacred compound of the Temple environs upon our arrival and began circumambulating around the site via the marble walkway which is continually scrubbed and maintained by pilgrims and volunteers who come to this splendiferous site not only to take what they can take, but also to give what they can give.
After a while my soror and I sat down beside the holy bathing vat and fell into awe and appreciation for this monumental accomplishment which the Sikhs have created in honor not only of their founding fathers, but also in devotion to the God-guru within each of us. It is this, it seems to me, that is the intent behind Sikhism- the elevation through devotion of each individual into the immortal stature of their divine selves, all of whom are related in that divinity to a brotherhood and sisterhood of all who seek the same.
During that first evening we eased ourselves into the vibration of the holy compound, and then retired to a hotel near the Temple complex. After falling into a slumber I spent the whole night receiving an onslaught of visitations from numerous past Sikh gurus, most frequently by Guru Nanak himself. He had passed from this world four hundred years earlier, and yet his spirit remains around to give guidance and assistance to those who seek it. The only thing is- I didn’t seek it, it sought me. And ever full of gratitude I am for this.
Upon awaking in the early hours of the new day I knew only one thing- I needed to return to the Golden Temple without delay. And so at four o’clock in the morning my soror and I left our hotel and once again joined the legions of Sikh devotees who come any hour of night or day to partake of their spiritually intoxicating Valhalla.
We again circumambulated the compound, immersed within the river of a great, unpretentious crowd, and then made our way amidst the throng into the inner sanctum of the Golden Temple itself.
The first floor of the shiny building was stuffed full with devotees arrayed around the musicians who take turns filling the compound with their live devotional music. We gently made our way through the crowd and ascended the stairs to the second floor where we sat down in the lotus posture amongst the multitudes silently praying or meditating.
I immediately fell into a deep, spacious peace, and in this still state I came into communion with the living, ever-present spirit of Guru Nanak. It was in this subtle state that I then recognized why I had been called back to the Golden Temple in the early hours of the blessed morning- I was about to receive his guidance.
And so I emptied myself as much as I was capable, and a silent discourse between the spirit of Guru Nanak and myself began. During times such as this, information and knowledge are exchanged almost instantaneously, and therefore insight or wisdom can be gleaned without study, effort, or hindrance, for in that ethereal commingling between spirits the interwoven consciousnesses can transfer understandings without the misunderstandings which words so often convey.
It was in and from this holy communion that I realized, through the consciousness of Guru Nanak, what true devotion is, and why it is so important as the modus operandi for the way we express our eternal selves onto this temporal plane without getting caught in the mundane maelstrom.
I came to understand that true devotion is the state in which one acts from and for his or her eternal, higher self, and that only acts generated from this heightened awareness can be delivered onto the earth without causing the individual to ‘fall’ into the profane paradigm; all acts must be devotional so as to not lose the great free space of the Godself. Without devotion an act is futile, or even worse- a transgression which causes the eternally free Godself to become ensnared in the worldly paradigm. But through devotion we not only save ourselves from such confinement, we also bring God into the world, and so bring the spirit into the flesh.
A devotional act is one which arises while one is conscious of one’s Godself, and then the act is orchestrated onto the world as a blessing to quicken all other Godselves. As such, an act of devotion elevates this human realm into the divine, and unites the devotee to the purity of God, which is the purity of their own divine self, and through devotion the lower and higher selves become one and heaven descends upon earth.
The ultimate Golden Temple is the body and soul of any person continuously acting spontaneously and unconditionally from such devotion.
To find out what it is to act with devotion, and to choose devotion in every act, is to bring the great stillness into the shifting manifest.
And so devotion must be brought into the world, not as a tired ritual, but as spontaneous awe and praise for the privilege and miracle of being.
It is in this sense that devotion goes beyond surrender and sacrifice, because devotion is an affirming rather than a negating act, and so devotion manifests God on earth; devotion expresses the perfection of the holy inner silence into form and action.
Sacrifice is necessary only when we have forgotten that all is God. With the sacrifice of this erroneous consciousness, we return into contact with God, and with that contact we become one with God, and then we realize that everything is God, and through this we begin to act with naught but devotion, and soon the ego is annihilated into oneness.
It is through such acts, generated by our Godself so as to quicken this human realm into union with the divine, that we become incarnate instruments of our own eternal selves.
It is for this reason that we must walk with devotion, eat with devotion, work with devotion, drink with devotion, play music with devotion, and make love with devotion. We must do nothing which is not an act of devotion. We must become the living stream of devotion cascading down onto this slumbering plane. We must devote ourselves to our highest bidding, devote ourselves to our truest selves, and devote ourselves only to acts worthy of our divine heritage. Everything else must be cast aside.
Our true relationship to the above lies within; it is only when our relationship to the world overwhelms our relationship to God, that we become Godless and fallen. And therefore, the reason we are Godless is because we desire everything else before God. Godlessness is our choice, not God’s.
A similar teaching occurs in a verse from the apocryphal Book of Enoch, in which some of God’s children have retreated to a high mountain so as to maintain communion with the divine. It is in this communion that God, the Father, is continually beseeching his children not to return down into the realm of humanity, not to descend to the profane paradigm of false pleasure, false action, false desire, and false intent. For He knows that if they descend into it they will get caught in the matrix of the world’s ways, and so never again become conscious enough to awaken to their glorious, immortal selves.
This story is a wonderful metaphor for my experience with the spirit of Guru Nanak. For I have often walked down into the lower planes of consciousness, into the troubling and trapping realm of separation and division. And now I see that once one is there- once one has taken on the flesh, and become human- then the only recourse which returns one to the pristine awareness and communion with one’s divine, eternal self, is to never ‘fall’ into the parameters and purposes of this paradigm, but instead to act ever in devotion to, and with, one’s unlimited, holy nature. In doing so one remains in this world and yet maintains connection to the divine consciousness, and so expresses realities into the profane plane which are beyond it. This is how we bless this world which we are. Amen.
by Jack Haas