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R is for ‘The meaning of life’


Shri Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara, Gravesend

or Religion, but would you have clicked through with that title? Probably not – so I fooled you 🙂 I apologise

I was born into the Catholic religion thanks to Dad who never practiced, ever but his mum, nana was so staunch a Catholic lass that she practically lived in St Patrick’s at the bottom of her south London street. She would grill us on the weekends we sent to see her ‘Have you been to mass?’ ‘Have you done the rosary recently?’ of course we replied yes because this made her happy and we would go on to make fairy cakes but the truth was mum was Church of England and she didn’t practice either so we didn’t really have to go at all whilst at home. I remember after nana died in 1989 I asked my dad ‘Do you think nana’s in Heaven Dad?’ his reply, that made me smile was ‘Blimey, if she didn’t make it love, we don’t stand a chance!’

All three of us went to the local RC comprehensive church, the education is second to none but R.E classes always started with ‘…and stand up if you weren’t in church this weekend’. Invariably I had to stand up and I would be questioned,

‘I didn’t see you there,’ big accusing eyes boring into my skull. (I don’t have pleasant memories of my RE teacher!)

‘No miss, I was in London at my nana’s, we went to St Patrick’s.’

All the work was completed in India and then shipped over

‘I shall be telephoning later to make sure.’ always mistrusting even if it was the truth. The older I got the less it bothered me and by the time I was in the 6th form I had lost any respect I may have had for the Catholic church and set out to search for something more meaningful. And I am constantly on the lookout for information and interested in how others practice their faith. Because even if I am not a church goer, I do believe. I believe there is a bigger plan, I believe in karma. I believe in Love thy Neighbour and Treat as you wish to be Treated and I have come to my own constantly evolving conclusion that maybe there’s a little truth in all religions, well most of them, those fuddy duddy ones that shoot up over night don’t convince me.

Flagpole - I'd like to know more. 3rd April 2010 there was a flag raising ceremony

I live in a suburb of London and I grew up here. It’s a busy town, home to many London commuters and people from all walks of life. Nowhere was this more obvious than at our RC comprehensive where the mixed classes brought together many children from the popular surrounding communities, including the asian group. These poor kids were the brunt of far too many jokes; the boys for their long hair held in black turbans, the girls for their inexistant fashion sense and all of them for their skin colour, their ‘smelly’ food (delicious curries) in fact anything different. They were ridiculed out loud for the entertainment of others. It’s no wonder they stuck to themselves, were very quiet and never came to the school discos. It was the 80’s and it was a very white world.

I often hear comments that make my hair stand on end regarding people of another colour or religion and I ask myself WHY? After all these years and living in peace so close why is this still continuing?

Our local Sikh community has grown extensively and if you ever come to Gravesend you can bet your last penny that the curry will be one of the best in the land, we have award-winning chefs, contemporary Indian restaurants and more take aways than you can shake a stick at but it was when they all clubbed together to build their own Gurdwara that people started to have an opinion and many hated the idea.

Every single penny spent for the materials and construction has been donated by the congregation, not one pound of the local communities budget has been invested and yet people still aren’t happy. It is big. It is a completely different architecture to the surrounding area. The words written on the temple are in a uncomprehensible language. But are these good enough reasons for such negativism?

I went to have a closer look for myself and fortunately the sun came out for me. I did feel a little like an intruder but I persevered and I found great beauty, I found a place of worship that brings families together. Whilst I walked around the outside (I didn’t trust an internal visit with the girls in tow but maybe one day..) I saw old men stroll in, groups of old women, I saw parents with their children and I saw a young man dressed in a D&G t shirt under his jacket.

I read the inscriptions that had been translated and on returning home I visited the website dedicated to the Gurwara and found this

Name – From Punjabi sikh, “learner” or “disciple”
founded – c. 1500 in India by Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji (1469-1539)
adherents – 23 million
main location – Punjab region of India
original language – Punjabi
sacred text – Adi Granth (Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji)
spiritual leaders – Granthi Sahib Ji, Giani Ji, Gyani Ji
house of worship – Gurdwara Sahib (sikh temple)
ultimate reality – God (Ik Onkar, Nam)
purpose of lifeOvercome the self, align life with will of God, and become a “saint soldier,” fighting for good
afterlifeReincarnation until resolve karma and merge with God.
major holidays – Vaisakhi Day, Birthday of Guru Nanak, Birthday of Guru Gobind Singh
five cardinal vices1. lust 2. anger 3. greed 4. worldly attachment 5. pride
Anything sound familiar to you? It does me and I’d like to think that we’re all working for the same goal at the end of the day, that of making this world a better place for our children to live in. Peace be with you.
This is my entry for Jenny Matlock’s Alphabe Thursday where there are many more interpretation of R for you to read
24 Comments leave one →
  1. mutteringsofafool permalink
    10/02/2011 8:40 am

    If you didn’t read the text you’d never know those photo’s were from England! People tend to fear what they don’t understand. We have a very mixed society in Britain which should be embraced as a chance to learn more. It’s certainly interesting to think about what being ‘British’ means now.

    • 10/02/2011 1:20 pm

      The sun did play a helping hand in those photos, taken last week on a dull day did not give the same effect…maybe God gave me a helping hand 🙂

  2. 10/02/2011 11:38 am

    I grew up with my aunt who was a nun, and church is part of our daily life. My parents are also practiced Catholics, so we all have to be in church every day.

    As human beings, you’re right, we all want the same thing at the end of the day: happiness, harmony, and better our lives.

  3. 10/02/2011 12:01 pm

    Maris what a fabulous post – oh my I could write an essay in reply (pretty much agreeing with all you say), but what would indeed be duplicating all of the above and probably doing a worse job at expressing it all.

    Thank you


    • 10/02/2011 1:21 pm

      Thanks Maggy, it was a post brewing for quite a while, I just needed the right time to put it forward. I’m glad you liked it and thank you for such a lovely comment

  4. 10/02/2011 12:29 pm

    I believe ! If you believe and there ‘s no god in heaven – nothing lost just dissappointment, If you don’t believe and there is – think hard about it !!

    • 10/02/2011 1:22 pm

      Oh there you are! You’ve been slacking of late – up to mischief no doubt. I couldn’t agree more with your comment xx

  5. 10/02/2011 2:22 pm

    faith is vital for all.
    beautiful take on R.

    Happy Living.

  6. 10/02/2011 2:49 pm

    Excellent post. I was baptized Catholic but I am not a practicing one. I am accepting of all the world’s religions and my basic belief is in the good of humanity and I feel we should respect each other and allow people the freedom to worship as they see fit as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else. I abhor teaching hatred. Children are born without predjudices – they lie next to each other in a newborn nursery, beautiful in their different skin colors, only wanting to be held fed, and kept dry. It’s a shame that changes somewhere along the way.

  7. 10/02/2011 6:03 pm

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post today.

    My faith is important to me and plays a central role in my personal and family life. I’m grateful not only for the beliefs that uplift and inspire me but for the church community that surrounds and nurtures me.

    I respect other religions or belief systems and hope others respect mine.


  8. 10/02/2011 7:59 pm


  9. 10/02/2011 8:13 pm

    R for Religion can be replaced also with F for Faith. To me religion is the building and faith is my beliefs. Have a wonderful day.

  10. 10/02/2011 9:45 pm

    We have a gudwara in Derby too, plus a Hindu temple and a couple of mosques. There are some bigots around, but generally, people get along well enough.

    • 11/02/2011 8:43 am

      Thanks for coming by, we too ahve plenty of varieties of hoses of worship, I focused on the Gurdwara because of the debate it has caused in the area recently and my thoughts on that

  11. 11/02/2011 2:47 am

    Mari, an excellent post! I no longer believe in organized religion. People seem to be hating, and killing others in the name of religion, and I want no part of that. I believe that one can be spiritual and not belong to a church.

    Thanks for the comment on my post!

    • 11/02/2011 8:42 am

      I agree with you entirely and respect those that continue to practice their faith when it doesn’t involve killing. Let’s face it, the majority of religious people just practice thier beliefs it’s those odd few nutters that ruin Religions name for everyone else

  12. 11/02/2011 3:08 am

    Very interesting and thought provoking! Thanks for sharing, Nan

  13. 11/02/2011 9:02 am

    A beautiful Sikh Temple, and a thoughtful post – R is for religion. The more I travel, the more I know we humans are all fundamentally the same. Our sameness far overshadows our differences. I can admire any faith up to the point of heavy proselytizing or violence. I am blessed with friends of all religions, colours and persuasions… even a few who love me yet believe I will burn in hell for not believing in their version of God… and that’s just fine. To each their own.

  14. 11/02/2011 10:02 am

    I really can’t say I grew up Catholic even though that was the church my family went to on the occasions that we did and that was where I was baptized and confirmed. Nobody ever explained to me what it was all about. I’m glad. Not knowing caused me to explore and read about the different religions and denominations. Superficially but enough to understand that the major message is the same. So, I find it sad how people will destroy and maim to ensure their interpretation of the message is the one used by all. Great essay, Mari!

  15. 11/02/2011 3:49 pm

    You know, Mari, every time I come here I’m more convinced that somehow, somewhere we were sisters…

    I also grew up in a time/place where religion was all encompassing. It was my spiritual/social/emotional life and, when I decided that my family’s religion was too exclusive (anyone who didn’t practice it was automatically a bad person), it left a big hole in my life.

    I, too, have examined a lot of different religions and came to the same conclusion – they all have some good and the major messages of family, love, compassion, kindness, etc. are all wonderful. I left the religion of my youth not because it didn’t teach good things, but because it excluded anyone who didn’t adhere to that particular religion.

    I loved this’s wonderful to find friends who “believe” the same way you do.



  16. 13/02/2011 9:24 pm

    What an interesting post, and the photos are beautiful. I was raised a Catholic but I’m not religious at all now. I think it’s interesting that religions often have such similar themes at their heart. Personally I think that there’s a set of rules that people have to follow for society to function (don’t all kill each other, etc) and religions appropriate these rules and call them their own, call them ‘morals’ – which is good in a way as it gives people a faith and a fortifying sense of purpose and community. I see the benefits and wish I could believe it myself, but it’s not for me.

  17. 15/02/2011 5:00 pm

    What a perfect stop today on my journey through Alphabe-Thursday’s letter “R”.

    I need to think outside the religion box! My early religious teachings were similar to yours in the Catholic faith and I’ve tried for years to find a spiritual home. I like to say I am a spiritual person but I do not embrace organized religion. I am going to start looking farther afield for a place that might be a better fit.

    This was such an excellent post. Well written. Thoughtful. Thought provoking.

    Thank you for sharing this.


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