The Sikhs across the world would be joined by Hindus, Muslims and others in celebrating the 545th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak, the fountainhead of Sikhism, Sunday, November 17. The tradition of celebrating the anniversary of the Gurus or the spiritual teachers is called Gurpurb (celebration of the teacher). There are ten Gurus in Sikh faith and their holy book is called the Guru Granth Sahib. Granth Sahib is a compilation of entire teachings of the Gurus and a few saints and remains a perpetual guidance for the Sikhs. As a pluralist who has done over 25 hours of Radio Talk shows and two workshops on Sikhism as a part of “Understanding the wisdom of Religion, all the beautiful religions” my goal was to share the essence of each faith and their relevance to the common man on the street who is not related to that particular religion. Let me begin with the recognition of how Guru Nanak’s teaching has produced an exemplary model of dealing with conflicts today. On August 5, 2012, a gunman Wade Michael Page walked into the SikhTemple in Oak CreekWisconsin, and opened the fire killing 6 people causing tremendous panic and apprehension. This is an accumulation of many smaller incidents beginning with the murder of Balbir Singh Sodhi, a gas station owner in Phoenix, Arizona, and many incidents later, the humiliation of Dr. Prabhjot Singh, a Sikh Professor in New York and harassment of Mr. Jagjeet Singh, a truck driver by a Judge in Mississippi. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mikeghouse/ harassment-of-sikhs-inne_ b_3997899.html How did the Sikhs respond to the harassment and the violence?
They followed the teachings of Guru Nanak by responding to the Wisconsin massacre with forgiveness, patience, forbearance, and kindness, it was the right thing to do when tragedy befalls a community. They set a new benchmark in America. Instead of expressing anger, threatening to sue the authorities, or demonstrating their apprehensions, the Sikhs across America chose the most powerful tools of all: Prayer and forgiveness. Indeed it resonates with the teachings of Jesus, Prophet Muhammad and other great masters, and recently Mahatma Gandhi’s Dandi March and Martin Luther King’s march in Selma. It disarms the oppressor and the message of goodness gets conveyed. Every Gurdwara in America held candle light vigils and speeches focused on forgiveness and goodwill – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vNxrf8fFU0 I The selfless service to mankind known as Seva is central to the teaching of Sikhism. There is no thought of reward or gains, it pure service to fellow beings. The Sikh community must be appreciated by one and all, and were indeed appreciated at the Unity Day USA for setting the standards of dealing with conflicts. Indeed, it is our duty to “honor and cherish individuals “who have dedicated their lives to building bridges among Americans. Their pioneering spirit in facilitating communities to know each other and to respect each other is appreciated by the people of Dallas/ Fort Worth. On this day, we appreciate and celebrate their contributions towards building a cohesive America, where no one has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of the other. Guru Nanakji’s birthday has a special significance to me, indeed, the religion we called Sikhism today, started out as an interfaith movement, where Guru Nanak primarily brought people from different religions together and taught common sense goodness, and serving humanity and caring for the neighbors.
Today, I wrote my weekly piece at Dallas Morning News on Pluralism, I was asked what verse from Quran I would recommend to those who serve in public office. The verse I recommend reminded me of the Sikh Brother, Bhai Kanhaiya’s story from the battle of Anandpur Sahib in 1704. Quran, 5:8 (Asad translation): “O YOU who have attained to faith! Be ever steadfast in your devotion to God, bearing witness to the truth in all equity; and never let hatred of any-one lead you into the sin of deviating from justice. Be just: this is closest to being God-conscious. And remain conscious of God: verily, God is aware of all that you do.” Indeed, the word hatred has multiple meanings in this case – bias to color, race, appearance, deport and other temperamental proclivities that are destructive to everyone. Indeed Bhai Kanhaiya took it further to include enemy soldiers. Martin Luther King Jr., said, “Injustice to one is injustice to all” – thank you Bhai Kanhaiya for setting the new standard of inclusion and caring. Here is a dialogue between Bhai Kanhaiya and Guru Gobind Singh; the 10th Guru of Sikhism who put the final touches to the religion, this story is narrated by many sources including Wikipedia. Guru Gobind Singh summoned Bhai Kanhaiya and explained that he had received a complaint about his actions on the battlefield.
Guruji, “These brave Sikhs are saying that you go and feed water to the enemy and they recover to fight them again – Is this true?” Bhai Kanhaiya, “Yes,my Guru, what they say is true. But Maharaj, I saw no Mughal or Sikh on the battlefield. I only saw human beings. And, Guru Ji, they all have the same God’s Spirit? – Guru Ji, have you not taught us to treat all God’s people as the same?” Guru Ji said, “Bhai Kanhaiya Ji, You are right. You have understood the true message of Gurbani (compositions of Sikh Gurus) “. He then continued and told the Sikhs that Bhai Kanhaiya had understood the deeper message of the Gurus’ teachings correctly and that they all have to strive to learn lessons from the priceless words of Gurbani. Guru also gave Bhai Kanhaiya Ji medical Balm and said “From now on, you should also put this balm on the wounds of all who need it”‘ Then turning to the sangat Guru Ji said, Saadh sangat Ji, Bhai Kanhaiya is a Godfearing saintly soul. His impartial and nonbiased behavior towards others has led him to achieve Sehaj-avastha. Let him carry on with his mission. Many more will follow in his footsteps in the years to come and keep the tradition of Nishkam Sewa alive.”
Guruji was committed to peace and harmony
I hope on this auspicious occasion of Gurpurb, the Sikhs can make a genuine effort to pay tribute to the spirit of Guru Nanak Devji and remove the misunderstandings that erupted from a wrong translation of Quran that happened 350 years ago during the reign of Aurangzeb, and has rightfully etched in the psyche of Sikhs. In an article in Huffington Post about Kentucky Senator David William’s bigotry I wrote, “No one has a right to belittle other’s faiths. If Senator Williams has a problem let it be his problem and no one should malign Christianity for his bigotry.” Likewise, King Aurangzeb’s bigotry should not be slapped on to Muslims. I have nothing to do with it, nor does any Muslim today has anything to do with him. One single mistranslation of a verse from Quran has created a great misunderstanding between Muslims and Sikhs since the times of Aurangzeb, and has lasted till this day. Sadly there was a lot of bloodshed during the partition of India that has deepened the ill-will among a few Muslims and a few Sikhs. It is time to forgive for our own sake, as it will release the tension and apprehension within us and deal with each other as free individuals. I was a speaker on “reading the scriptures” at the Parliament of world’s religions in Melbourne, Australia and discovered this longest running ill-will between Sikhs and Muslims with Dr. Avatar Dhaliwal of Tennessee.
I hope, to honor Guru Nanak, we can put this behind through a serious dialogue. I am willing to invest my time for the sake of common good and peace between people of different faiths.We cannot have walls between us by the men who are no more. Sikhism was one of the first formal religions that began as a reconciliatory goodwill nurturing faith and let’s give the full value to it and work together. May the Noor (divine light) of Guru Nanankji brighten the world today and for eternity. Amen! The DFW Sikh Community invites you, our friends, neighbors and all members of the community, to join us in the celebration of the 544th coming of the founder of the Sikh Faith, Guru Nanak Dev Ji. His ideals of peace, harmony, egalitarianism, social justice, living in the presence of the One Creator and with dignity and honesty are the fundamentals we strive for everyday. This celebration will include the 1st parade in the City of Richardson. When: Saturday, November 16, 2013 from 10:00 AM – 2 PM. Where: Gurdwara Singh Sabha of North Texas in Richardson. Langar will be served. This is the Sikh institution of the community kitchen and as with any and all Sikh events it will include a complimentary vegetarian meal, sweets, refreshments and drinks.