Sikhism is the lineage through which we have received Kundalini Yoga, and many long-time Kundalini Yoga teachers and students happen to be Sikhs (or choose to become Sikhs). Most of the Kundalini Yoga mantras also happen to come from sacred Sikh scripture, as given through Guru Nanak. Some who are introduced to Kundalini Yoga have a hard time with all the ways Sikhism bleeds into the yoga practice, but it has never really bothered me. Sikhism is a beautiful faith, and there are very few Sikh beliefs or practices that I do not find totally compatible with my own personal spiritual beliefs.
Every evening for the past week+, the Phoenix Kundalini Yoga community has hosted 31-minute chanting followed by dinner at various homes and locations as we lead up to Yogi Bhajan’s birthday (tomorrow). Last night’s chanting took place at the Guru Nanak Dwara, the Sikh house of worship around the corner from Yoga Phoenix, and I was able to attend.
Last night’s chanting event was actually a full-fledged Sikh religious service. I had never attended a Gurdwara service before, so it was really fascinating to witness. Within the sacred room where Sikhs worship, all must cover their heads and remove their shoes. Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the service for me was that the women were sitting on one side of the room and the men on the other side with an aisle going up the middle of the room toward the “Guru” (the Sikh scriptures) resting on an altar at the front of the room. I arrived a few minutes late, so it actually took me awhile before I realized that the men and women were separated.
Afterward, I couldn’t wait to ask someone why. Why were the men and women separated? A few sort of shrugged their shoulders and directed me to ask someone else. Finally, I was directed to Amar Atma Singh who is an Indian Sikh as well as a Kundalini Yoga instructor. The first thing that came out of his mouth was, “It’s a polarity!” He spoke to me for several minutes about how the masculine and feminine separation creates a polarity. The purpose of yoga is union, and it is through the Word (scripture, mantra) that we achieve that union. It is the Word (the Guru) that brings the masculine and feminine polarities together at the front of the room where they can unite with God. This life is all about polarity (opposition, my friends), but the goal is to rise above the polarities to that place of neutrality, where we are no longer at the mercy of the polarities and can rest in stillness and peace.
I have been attending Mormon temple services for over fifteen years now, but it never occurred to me to ask why men and women sit on separate sides of the room in the Endowment ceremony. Or why the scriptures are kept at the altar in the front of the room.
In fact, men and women are separated in all temple ordinances except for the Sealing ordinance (marriage). Seeing the echoes of my own spiritual practice in the Sikh service last night made me suddenly ravenous to understand it better. I thought if I could understand the reasons behind the Sikh practice I might gain added insight into my own faith’s practice. So many things about the temple ordinances are left unexplained, and it is a life-long journey of Divine tutoring and personal searching that uncovers all the treasures of truth.
All of this has reminded me of an image I first viewed as a college student sixteen or so years ago. One of my favorite ways to procrastinate back then was to peruse the religious section of the BYU Bookstore. I spent hours and hours there, often coming home with a pile of treasures. One of the items I purchased and have kept all this time is “Sacred Vestments,” a F.A.R.M.S. pamphlet excerpt from Hugh Nibley’s Temple and Cosmos.
Included in this piece were many images of ancient religious artifacts depicting temple symbols. One of these came from ancient Chinese mythology. In this image, Nüwa and Fuxi, a Sister-Goddess-Queen and Brother-God-King pair, create a vortex with their bodies and raise above their heads special tools. “The phrase kuci chü is used by modern Chinese to signify ‘the way things should be, the moral standard'; it literally means the compass and the square” (Source). This is just one representation of the pair:
Hugh Nibley explains, “Fu Hsi holds the set-square and plumb bob . . . as he rules the four-cornered earth, while his sister-wife Nü-wa holds the compass pointing up, as she rules the circling heavens” (Source). I find it all the more fascinating that the female and compass are on the left and the male and square are on the right. In yogic philosophy, the left side of the body is associated with the feminine energy, and the right side of the body is associated with the masculine energy. This principle is represented by the intertwining of the ida (feminine, cooling) and pingala (masculine, firey) nadis, much like the intertwining of Nüwa and Fuxi.
It is the clash of opposing forces that makes the vortex spin. The vortex is one of the most powerful forces in nature (tornadoes, hurricanes, chakras, etc.) The swirling vortex motif repeats itself so often in creation: from the shape of galaxies, the chakras, the rising serpentine energy of the kundalini, and even down to the microscopic DNA double helix. And that powerful swirling force, created by opposites, is what can give us the energy to reach new heights (or can plunge us to new lows). Both happiness and sorrow are sacred and essential to our progression. But not forever. . . .
God’s progression is no longer based on opposition. His increase in glory comes from increase in worlds and posterity. . . . Don’t get me wrong, there may still be polarity creating this power, and if there is, I believe it may be the perfectly balanced polar energies of the masculine and feminine: Heavenly Mother and Heavenly Father (Source).
Let’s just say that the more I learn, the more I see that there is so much going on energetically inside the temple. If you want to have your temple-going mind blown, just start researching what different parts of your hands, fingers, and body symbolize spiritually/energetically and where all the minor chakras are located throughout the body. Going to the temple is literally like having a spiritual/energetic adjustment, friends.
I think I’ll just leave it at that for now.