Indiana Sikhs Engaged in Community Events
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
Sep. 25, 2011
Kanwal Prakash Singh
The central Indiana Sikh community joined other faith and ethnic communities in several high profile and diverse events and celebrations in recent weeks. These included: a fundraising reception for Senator Lugar, Asian American Alliance’s Race For All Races, Interfaith Hunger Initiative’s Commemorative Service for 9/11, an International Parade, and the International Citizen of the Year Dinner. These efforts are in recognition of the importance of mainstreaming our presence and talents and the need to support events that benefit the entire community that we are an integral part of and increasingly becoming significant partners.
International Citizen of the Year Dinner
As in previous years, Hoosier Sikhs attended the International Center’s annual International Citizen of the Year Dinner at the JW Marriott in downtown Indianapolis. Over 400 people representing many businesses and segments of the community attended the gala evening. Mr. Tom Solso, President & CEO of Cummins, based in Columbus, Indiana, was this year’s recipient of the International Citizen of the Year honor. KP Singh, a long time resident of Indiana, received the honor in 1995.
Sikhs Participate in 9/11 Service
Members of the Sikh Satsang of Indianapolis joined in a solemn Interfaith Prayer Service and Community Project in commemoration of the Tenth Anniversary of 9/11 at Gleaners Food Bank in Indianapolis. Several hundred participants brought in canned food and donated money in support of the Inerfaith Hunger Initiative. Several faiths including Christian, Jewish, Moslem, Buddhist, Sikh, and Native American traditions were represented in the Prayer Service.
Race for All Races
For the fifth consecutive year, Sikh Americans formed the largest contingent in the annual Race For All Races (a five kilometer walk, - run, and one mile family walk). People from many ethnic and cultural groups and the larger central Indiana community participated in the Race. Several prominent businesses supported the Race. The Asian American Alliance of Indianapolis sponsored the event. Part of the proceeds from the Race support several scholarships for inner city high school students.
Visit with Senator Richard Lugar
Several members of the Indiana Sikh community attended a private reception in honor of U.S. Senator Richard Lugar, who is seeking his sixth term in the U.S. Senate in November 2012. Senator Lugar has been a great supporter of all nationalities, ethnic, and faith groups and has attended several Sikh gatherings sponsored by Kaur Foundation and SCORE in Washington, D.C. The Reception was at the Indianapolis home of Mr. Jim Morris, President of Indiana Pacers and former Head of United Nations World Food Program and current Co-Chair of the Interfaith Hunger Initiative.
A World of Difference
Many nationalities and ethnic groups, including Sikh Americans, in their native dresses joined in the annual “A World of Difference ~ International Parade” in Indianapolis. The Parade brings focus to an area in Indianapolis that has over forty ethnic restaurants, international grocery stores, diverse and cultural offerings, and spotlights the growing and colorful international population in the City. The Parade included high school bands, floats, several ethnic parade units, and community leaders as Grand Marshals.
Arjia Rinpoche’s Birthday Celebration
It was a very spiritually uplifting and culturally rich experience to attend and participate in the birthday celebration of Venerable Arjia Rinpoche, President of the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Culltural Center (TMBCC) in Bloomington, Indiana. Arjia is also one of the most respected interfaith leaders in the State of Indiana and a revered teacher of Tibetan-Mongolian Buddhism. The TMBCC is located on a wooded site of 108 acres amidst the rolling hills of Southern Indiana and has several buildings on the grounds: Kumbum Chamtse Ling Monastery, Cultural Center, serveral stupas, and sacred markers commemorating various visits of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet to Indiana.
The birthday celebration followed the traditional rituals: outdoor Fire Puja at Kumbum Chamtse Ling; Mandala Offering (at another site), and with Venerable Arjia Rinpoche seated in the elaborately decorated and embellished Chamtse Ling Temple- Sacred Chantings and Long Life Prayers, a spirited Debate among the monks, and greetings and Khatak offerings to the venerable teacher and monk by the faithful followers and friends. The ceremony ended with a dedication prayer recited by all present in English.
Following the ceremony at the Temple, all the guests moved to the beautifully decorated Cultural Center building for a potluck dinner, musical performances, Himalayan fashion show, birthday cake, greetings, presentation of gifts, and a campfire lighting up the dark night.
As I witnessed the solemnness of the ceremonies inside the Chamtse Ling Temple, the sounds and intonations in the prayers and chantings in Tibetan reminded me of listening to Native Amereican chants and recitation of Sukhmani Sahib and Rehras Sahib (Sikh prayers). In the program at the Cultural Center, I saw a seamless adaptation of Western elements, a sense of unbound joy and liveliness, and a spirit that reflected the ancient tradition and familiar experiences of the gathered guests and Western followers of Tibetan Buddhism. Throughout the evening, an uncommon grace radiated in the space, taking our thoughts and spirit along, reminding us of the power of honoring the past and welcoming with joy and thanksgiving the future in the once unfamiliar places. This was a window to an ancient faith that accords a deep reverance to distinguished teachers and spiritual mentors as guides, who help us see universal light and hope in faith and eachother; find strength and friendships in serving, celebrating, and connecting with diverse wisdom at new crossroads, and keep alive the need to preserve rich cultural heritage that is in grave danger in their ancient homelands. Each image of the evening was a reminder that for human yearnings for peace to become a reality, we need to repect eachother, work in solidarity to make a difference, create islands of peace, and connect them with unbound goodwill as a gift to future generations and as an offering to God who placed us all here.