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There Is No Stranger In A Gurdwara, Part I
Janam Da Firangee,
Sikhi Mai Mangee

FATEHPAL SINGH TARNEY

 

 

 





Recently, I was honored to speak to the sadh sangat of the Gurdwara Sahib in Grand Blanc, Michigan, USA.

As a retired history teacher my challenge was to avoid being longwinded. I always keep in mind the good advice, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Sr. ('FDR'), the 32nd American president, gave to a young relative regarding public speaking, “Be sincere; be brief; be seated!”

The central theme of my talk was the role of converts in our faith and that the essence of Sikhi is transformation: to become a better person, a person closer to God, more caring and capable of doing more and better seva.

I made the point that if Guru Nanak’s message was exclusively for the Punjab, why did he travel to other places? He went to Kashmir, Nepal, Tibet, and the Middle East all the way to Mecca. With new evidence surfacing recently, even Europe.

I enumerated the four main categories of non-Sikh people who visit Gurdwaras:

1  People with Sikh friends who are invited or are curious.

2  People in comparative religion classes in school.

3  People actively involved in interfaith programs.

4  People with deep spiritual needs who thirst for new insights into their relationship with God.

I made the case that we should welcome and be hospitable to all these groups, but stay aware that for the 4th group, Gurbani is the answer.

In our explanations as hosts regarding Gurdwara architecture, the four doors, the chaur sahib, etc. we should focus more of our attention on the Guru Granth Sahib.

Many years ago, a mullah in Egypt made the point that a convert to Islam in the West, reading the Quran in English translation, but reading with deep devotion, is more pleasing to God than someone reading it in Arabic by rote with no real thought or passion.

Encourage the newcomer to begin with a translation of our Guru Granth. Moreover, inform people that one can become a Sikh without immediately adopting the saroop of the Khalsa, although this can be a future goal.


July 20, 2018

 

Conversation about this article

1: Ajit Singh Batra (Pennsville, New Jersey, USA), July 21, 2018, 12:37 PM.

Guru Arjan: "All that I see is Thy Form [GGS:724]. And Bhagat Kabir: "The whole world came into being through His power, who then is to be called good, and who bad?" Fatehpal Singh ji: God is One. This is the most important basic doctrine of Sikhi. We have to release ourselves from the feeling of separateness by delving in naam simran. The gurdwaras and their managements need to create an atmosphere of equality, fraternity and fellowship on their premises.

2: D J Singh (USA), July 21, 2018, 2:32 PM.

See God in everyone to be with the One. There are no converts. We are all in different phases of spiritual evolution. God's Will hath no why! Tera kiya Meettha Laagey.

3: Arvinder Singh (Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada), July 25, 2018, 3:44 AM.

Those Sikhs who do not have kesh should also be allowed to vote in SGPC elections. The right to vote is a fundamental right. We should accept everyone as they are. Who are we to judge?

4: M Kaur (Canada), July 25, 2018, 10:45 AM.

#3 Arvinder ji: I am assuming you are being sarcastic?

5: Arjan Singh (USA), July 26, 2018, 7:37 AM.

#3 Arvinder ji: Your comment might be made in good faith. However, I hope you realize that this will open the back door for nefarious elements to enter the gurdwaras just to gain power and control. The right-wing Hindu-gang will try this route to implement their mischievous designs. In my humble opinion having a turban or not does not define one’s faith – however in the case of Sikhism a ‘turban’ is the most visible marker of the faith. Men and women that practice Sikhism and wear turbans are already struggling to differentiate themselves from the Muslim world and spread awareness in the West about our faith. Those without turbans or those who do not sport unshorn hair (‘kesh’) by all means must be welcomed and allowed to share in the decision-making but we must have safe-guards in place to protect the rights of all Sikhs. It is very easy for elements that are hell-bent on creating criminal mischief to gain control of the gurdwara management if we give away the voting rights to everyone coming to the gurdwara. I hope you realize that it took many years of struggle and sacrifices of thousands of lives to gain back the control of gurdwaras during the British Raj and kick the corrupt/unethical Hindu mahants out from our Ggrdwaras. Let us not repeat the follies of the past.

6: M Kaur (Canada), July 26, 2018, 1:46 PM.

#5 Arjan ji: you have articulated clearly and eloquently something that I was thinking and feeling but did not have the courage to say because I didn't want to be seen as 'rocking the boat'. All I can say is 'Thank you'.

7: Arjan Singh (USA), July 27, 2018, 5:24 AM.

#6 M Kaur ji: It is really easy. Weu have to understand what legacy we want to leave behind for our children. Then it becomes easy. I have personally encountered violence even after I stopped wearing a turban in USA. I cannot even fathom the level of insults and indignations those with turbans must have to go through on a daily basis. If you and I go silent then I can assure you our children will suffer in the future. You had the courage to move or your parents were courageous enough to raise you in Canada. You can start a humanitarian/non-profit organization to support those that need help, i.e. victims of human rights abuses, children that need coaching or men/women who escaped India due to prosecution and human rights violations. Canada is a beacon of hope and a lighthouse for human rights. Please do take the time to light a candle in your house. If you need guidance feel free to connect with me, I have been working, coaching and mentoring children for a few years on a freelance basis. The work is rewarding and I sleep with a clean conscience.

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Janam Da Firangee,
Sikhi Mai Mangee"









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