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The Sikh Review Honours Bhai Harbans Lal with Special Issue





The July 2013 issue of The Sikh Review is a celebration of Harbans Lal’s vision and life-long community service.

Bhai Harbans Lal is known, and admired by scientists, interfaith organizations, and his Sikh community around the world.

As an academician, Dr. Lal retired in the year 2000 as Professor and Chairman, Department of Pharmacology and Neuroscience, University of North Texas Health Science Center, Dallas, USA. In academic circles, he is known for his research in the areas of Behavioral Medicine, Substance Abuse, and on Prolongation of Healthy Life Span through Nutritional Interventions.

He has served on many US and international science advisory boards, including study sections of National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and the US Food & Drug Administration. For 14 years he served as the Editor-in-Chief of a monthly journal, Drug Development Research.

In 2005, a two hour television interview with Dr. Lal on his discoveries in the medical field was featured in the Archives of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology.

During his academic career, Dr. Lal trained 55 doctoral and pre-doctoral trainees, published over 319 research papers and 289 research presentations, 19 books, several research reviews and 56 chapters in technical books.

University of North Texas Health Science Center established a pre-doctoral fellowship award in his name. The Society of Neuroscience recognized him at the International Symposium held in his honor in 1999. The Scientists of Indian Origin acknowledged his leadership by electing him their President and recognized his academic accomplishments with the Award of Outstanding Senior Neuroscientist. He was among the top 10 Behavioral Neuroscientists in a survey conducted for a doctoral thesis research.

Affectionately known as “Bhai Sahib”, Dr. Harbans Lal holds many distinguished positions in Sikh institutions and organizations. He has been bestowed the honorific of “Bhai Sahib” in recognition of his seva and scholarly accomplishments to Sikhdom.

The title was formerly awarded by the All India Sikh Students Federation in 1947 and, later on, by Shiromani Gurdwara Prabhandhak Committee, in 1963, and reiterated in 1974.

Since his school days, Bhai Harbans Lal has been active in promotion of Sikh interests. In 1946, he was appointed as a Circle Organizer, and then inducted in the Executive Committee of the All India Sikh Students Federation, the organization that elected him as its national President in 1954.

He was the Founder President of the All India Sehajdhari Sikh Organization inaugurated in 1952 by Speaker of the Indian Parliament, Sardar Hukam Singh. The same year, Master Tara Singh honoured him with the presentation of a ceremonial kirpan and asked him to serve as an advisor to Shiromani Akali Dal.

Bhai Harbans Lal was recognized with robes of honor (siropa) by the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabhandhak Committee, the Akal Takht, Takht Hazur Sahib, the Delhi Gurdwara Management Committee, the Chief Khalsa Diwan, the Sikh Educational Conference, Sikh Dharma International, Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbadhaik Committee and the Sikh Social and Educational Society of anada.

In 1995, Guru Nanak University, Amritsar, awarded him the Degree of Doctor of Literature (honoris causa) in recognition of his scholarly contributions to Sikh Studies. On April 14, 1999, the Anandpur Sahib Foundation awarded him the Order of Nishan-e-Khalsa for his “superb accomplishments in promoting the glory and pride of the Khalsa Panth.”

Presently, Dr. Lal’s interests lie in promoting Sikh Studies and other community interests in North America. His writings on Sikh subjects have appeared in a multitude of books and in journals. He contributes columns in the religious section of the Dallas Morning News and serves on the editorial boards of a variety of Sikh journals and publications.

He represented the Sikh perspective at the Parliament of the World's Religions, the United Nations’ Summit of the World Religious Leaders, and National Network of Interfaith Organizations. The Islamic Association of North Texas recognized him as Distinguished Friend of Faiths, and the Inter-religious & International Federation for World Peace recognized him as Ambassador of Peace.

Masjid Imam W. Deen Muhammad awarded him “The Ummah Award” in recognition of lifelong contributions to foster interfaith understanding. Unity Day, USA, representing 14 faith groups, honored him with a Life Acheivement Award for promoting unity among faiths in America.

Dr. Lal continues to serve on a number of religious and humanitarian organizations in “retirement“. He has been serving as the Ambassador of the Parliament of the World's Religions since 2009 and as a member of the Interfaith Council of the Center for World Thanksgiving since 1983. In addition, he was advisor to the American Project on Religion and the News Media. He is a founding trustee of Bhai Nand Lal Foundation and Founder Executive Vice-President of the Nanakana Sahib Foundation.

He also serves as the Founder President of the Academy of Guru Granth Studies established for the promotion of scholarly works on Guru Granth Sahib.

Through the Academy, Bhai Sahib has brought worldwide attention to the Quad-Centennial Celebration of the First Compilation of the Adi Granth and the Tercentennial Celebration of its Ordination as the Eternal Guru of the Sikhs.

Harbans Lal was born in Haripur, NWFP (the North-West Frontier Province, now in Pakistan), on January 8, 1931 to Ramkali Devi and Dr. Beli Ram.

His parents ascribed his birth to their prayers at the historic gurdwara of Punja Sahib. He was given religious education by two women granthis in his home town grdwara.

He did his matriculation from Lakshami Dass Khalsa High School in Haripur, getting second position in his class. He was the first student admitted in the intermediate class at the newly established Gandhi Memorial National College in Ambala, and subsequently graduated in Pharmaceutical Sciences from Punjab University. He received a Master’s degree from the University of Kansas in 1958 and a Doctoral degree in Pharmacology from the University of Chicago in 1962.

Having migrated from his birth place in Punjab to a newly-created India in 1946, Dr Harbans Lal then immigrated to USA in 1956. He presently lives in Arlington, Texas.

[The author is Adjunct Professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.]

Courtesy: The Sikh Review. Edited for

July 16, 2013


Conversation about this article

1: Pashaura Singh (Riverside, California,, USA), July 16, 2013, 9:00 AM.

My heartiest congratulations to Dr. Bhai Harbans Lal for this honor through a special issue of 'The Sikh Review'. He richly deserves it. He is the walking advertisement of Sehajdhari identity within the Panth. May Waheguru bless him with the spirit of Chardi Kala!

2: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), July 16, 2013, 10:36 AM.

It was a great surprise and honour to receive an email from Dr. Harbans Lal ji and a recent phone call ... because he reads this lowly person's humble comments on! Any person who exalts the Guru and Sikhi -- as Bhai Sahib does -- is a true Sikh!

3: Yuktanand Singh (Michigan, USA), July 16, 2013, 10:45 AM.

It was sheer pleasure to see Dr. Harbans Lal ji honored in The Sikh Review ... even though it is just another addition to the long list of his achievements and his recognition within diverse circles.

4: T. Sher Singh (Mount Forest, Ontario, Canada), July 16, 2013, 11:21 AM.

Bhai Sahib's service to the community stands head and shoulders above anybody else I know alive today. His seva through scholarship and political involvement has been consistent and relentless, driven by the engine of chardi kala, never wavering with changing times or trends, or bending to the vagaries of the world. When I was a teenager, I heard his name from my father (S. Ishar Singh) and uncle (S. Phulel Singh), both of whom held him in high regard. Imagine my pleasure, then, to know him now, in addition to all of his other roles, as a dear friend.

5: Sangat Singh  (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), July 16, 2013, 7:31 PM.

"Kaho Nanak sabh tayree vaddiaa-ee ki-e naa-o na jaanai mayraa" [GGS:383.12] - "Says Nanak, this is all Your greatness, no one even knows my name." A well-deserved accolade. From Haripur days, the seeding operation was done and usually comes with the hands that rocked the cradle. The fruit is there to see. Years ago I had the honour to meet Bhai Harbans Lal ji in Chandigarh where both of us had gone to attend the weddings of Juhi and Jaideep. I remember introducing him to the sangat and even asked him to say a few words about Laavaa(n), which he graciously did. We have since exchanged e-mails sporadically. The Sikh 'talibans' have stopped the erstwhile common practice among sehajdaris for the eldest son to become a Sikh. Thanks to Waheguru it didn't happen earlier, otherwise we would have lost this pearl in the dust of time. Bhai Harbans Lal ji, may you keep spreading Guru's words.

6: Dya Singh (Melbourne, Australia), July 16, 2013, 10:30 PM.

Much deserved accolades to a Sikh who has contributed so much towards a better understanding of Sikhi. I am privileged to know Bhai Sahib. From my various meetings with him, I remember a very absorbing visit to a fine music venue built especially for sound in Dallas, Texas, I think - amazing acoustics, etc., etc. Stuff that a musician dreams about, especially as that is the last thing we think about even when building new gurdwaras. The quality of sound generally does not really matter to us where kirtan is concerned! I remember all that but for the life of me I do not remember any other details! I guess I should have kept a diary of my 'tours' ... Harbans Lal ji, you deserve acknowledgement from the Sikh community. Kudos to for showcasing that The Sikh Review has published some of Bhai Sahib's articles in one of its special issues. And to The Sikh Review, of course.

7: Harman (Mandi, Himachal Pradesh, India), July 17, 2013, 12:55 AM.

Wishing chardi kala for Bhai Harbans Lal ji.

8: Devinder Pal Singh (Delhi, India), July 17, 2013, 7:16 AM.

He is a noble soul, full of humility. May the panth continue to cherish his contributions. We are sure he will be contribute more of his thoughts to the well-being of Sikhs and also the world.

9: R Singh (Canada), July 17, 2013, 7:34 AM.

S. Sangat Singh ji, no one needs anyone's permission to be a Sikh, nor can any one make one a Sikh. It is between the Guru and the Sikh. Sikhi is a philosophy that has to be read, followed and imbibed, there are no instant Sikhs either. Bhai Sahib has had a life of a Sikh, and has earned his accolades, inspite of those who claim monopoly, and that is what makes him stand out as an exemplary Sikh, who contributes to the best of his abilities. This is also a wake-up call to all those who complain about not being accepted, etc., etc.

10: Kanwal Prakash Singh (Indianapolis, Indiana, USA), July 17, 2013, 8:44 AM.

Bhai Hurbans Lal is a "nirmolak heera" - a precious gem. His scholarship on the Sikh faith, scriptures, and history, and his decades of service to introduce his faith to the world audiences is laudable. He has enriched our understanding of the Sikh faith by his writings and carrying the messages to audiences across the global spiritual village. His life and work is a testimony of honoring the lessons and commandments of the Sikh faith. He exemplifies extraordinary humility and kindness each time we visit on the phone. I see him as a teacher reaching deep into his knowledge of the Sikh faith and philosophy and leading young students to see the deep spiritual wisdom and philosophic concepts enshrined in Guru Granth Sahib in an understandable language. I marvel at his decades of service and find him a venerable teacher and treasure, a tireless and dedicated Guru's sevak and a great sevadar of the global Sikh community. I am honored to join Bhai Harbans Lal's legions of admirers around the world, among the Sikh circles and interfaith communities, in extending blessings and prayers for SatGuru's light to shine upon him and bless him many more years and undreamed-of opportunities to share his scholarship and spiritual journey with audiences and generations across the continents. Thank you, "Sikh Review," for acknowledging and celebrating his lifetime of service and being a pioneer teacher and champion of Sikh spirituality and doctrine. Thanks to featuring his writings. Countless others now know of his contributions in advancing Sikh faith perspectives to audiences at home and abroad. Dr. Harbans Lal ji and Amrita ji: Congratulations and my personal good wishes on this great honor. You have rightly earned the accolades and tributes that are being offered by leaders and scholars of the Sikh faith. You already know that there is much more work to be done. I cannot imagine you stopping!

11: Ravinder Singh (Westerville, Ohio, USA), July 17, 2013, 10:25 PM.

Congratulations, Bhai Sahib! It has been a pleasure and a delight to know you.

12: Irvinderpal Singh Babra (Brampton, Ontario, Canada), July 17, 2013, 10:56 PM.

As a brilliant scholar, Dr. Harbans Lal has created a great niche for himself for over 50 years with Calcutta's Sikh Review. He has been given the honour hitherto reserved for the likes of New Delhi's Khushwant Singh, et al. Other luminaries that come to mind include Dr. Hira lal Chopra. Prof. Purushottam Lal and Dr. Manmohan Sehgal, who have graced its pages. My heartiest congratulations to Dr. Lal.

13: Kirpal Singh (Daytona Beach, Florida, USA), July 18, 2013, 9:45 PM.

Very well deserved recognition for an extremely dedicated soul in the service of Sikhism. Congratulations, Bhai Harbans Lal ji and Amrita ji.

14: Hardaman Singh (Silver Spring, Maryland, USA), July 15, 2015, 8:12 AM.

I appreciate you as a human being. I do not have enough words to praise you. But I would like to say that your journey to teach and share religion, your faith in Sikhi, and your efforts to explain Guru Granth Sahib in simple language ... all these are great achievements.

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