28 April, 2014

How a stay at the Sikh Temple in 1970 changed my outlook on life forever

In 1970 I stayed at a Sikh temple in Dar es Salaam Tanzania for a few days, as a guest.  It changed my outlook on life forever.  Here is what I remember about the Experience:

The smell of ghee (clarified butter) along with the strong odor of sweet incense.

As I entered the temple (Guardawara) Gaudy, it was full of bright blue and red colors with pictures of Sikhs saints painted on all the walls. All I could hear was Indian devotional music blaring over the loud speaker. A man with a turban and a beard greeted us. He welcomed us with a big smile, he said we could stay three nights if we wanted and only a nominal offering was expected. Our room was a cubical with two beds and a night stand in between, the bathrooms were down the hall. The rooms were all connected surrounding a central courtyard and were very clean. Light bulbs were strung along the walkway. It smelled of ghee (clarified butter), along with the strong odor of sweet incense. I had always been interested in the Indian religions and this was a chance for me to experience one first hand. I went to sleep that night listening to Indian devotional music as a backdrop.

The best way to experience God was singing hymns of praise (gurbani) 
The next morning it was pouring rain. The walk way in front of our room was protected from the elements and on a table nearby there was hot tea and some type of cookies. I took a walk into the main temple and ran across the gentleman who had welcomed us. His name was Singh, I told him that we had slept well and I thanked him. I asked him what type of religion Sikhism was, he said the work Sikkha means disciple. Sikhism began in the Punjab state of India in the fifteenth century. The founder or first Guru was Gurananak. They believed that God, known by many names and beyond all comprehension is the only one and only reality. All else is illusion or “maya”. The best way to experience God was singing hymns of praise (gurbani) and thru repetition of his name (Jap) in Sanskrit. The object of their worship was Adi Granth and early morning meditation was the best time. I asked if I could join them for the next morning meditation and he said "yes, it usually starts at 4:00 am". 

 I asked Mr.Singh to explain to me the service and goals of the religion

The next morning I awoke at 3:30 am and walked to the main temple. Devotional music was playing, people were meditating and repeating some mantras I couldn’t understand. I sat cross legged for a half an hour trying to grasp what was going on. After the service was over I asked Mr.Singh to explain to me the service and goals of the religion. He directed me to the court yard where we proceeded to walk and talk. He said that Sikhism emphasizes consistently repeating the name of God and singing devotional hymns of the gurus. The source of all evil was the ego and once tamed one could overcome greed, lust, attachment, etc. Repeating Nama stills the wandering mind and a state of absolute bliss is attained. Once this stillness is maintained the tenth gate opens and divine light enters and one attains moksa or release.  Mr.Singh then invited me for meditation tomorrow and excused himself.

If I concentrated on the mantras they would act as a pathway to Moksha

There was not much for tourists to do in Dares Salaam so I just relaxed in the court yard or in our room, reading all day. The next morning I awoke at 3:30 again and meditated. I didn’t know the mantras so I just closed my eyes and listened to the music. I kept asking myself, “Why am I here? Why was I born? What does my future hold?” Afterwards I asked Mr. Singh about all the questions that were interrupting my meditation. He said "it is very difficult to let go of your thoughts, but if you concentrated on the mantras they would act as a pathway to Moksha." He then went on to say that "mantras act as a stream of light that carries us to God. Once our thinking mind was stilled, the stream of light would fill our consciousness and carry us to God. He said to pray and the divine rays of the cosmic sun will bless me and grant me freedom."

I left the next day with a sense of peace and gratitude and thanked Singh for his time and help. His only answer was a knowing smile, one the I will never forget. The best part of traveling to different countries are experiences such as the one I had at this temple back in 1970.

What transcendent experience may you have had while on a journey to a foreign land?


Jim Cramer

If you liked this blog you may also be interested in:

Why is Angkor Wat a wonder of the world?
A message from the Great Pyramid of Giza
My Trip to Japan


  1. Jim, your 1970's adventures in
    Tanzania and the rest of Africa are amazing. You should post that diary you wrote about it.

  2. Edward that is a great idea... working on editing it.


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