MAKING UNITED WAY INCLUSION FORUM
Guest Presentation: Indianapolis, Indiana
SIKH FAITH, CULTURE, AND COMMUNITY
By Kanwal Prakash Singh
April 16, 2013
IN CHRONOLOGICAL TERMS:
- Sikh faith is one of the youngest among major world religions.
- Founded in North India by Guru Nanak (born in1469), Sikh Diaspora is scattered across the globe and there are around 35 million followers of Sikh faith worldwide.
- There are nearly a million Sikhs in the USA; the earliest Sikhs arrived on the West Coast over on hundred years ago; today the largest concentrations of Sikhs are on the West Coast and in the Eastern States, with strong presence in California, New York, Illinois, and Texas.
- There are about 2,500 Sikh American families in central Indiana
FAITH DOCTRINE, SPIRITUAL PHILOSOPHY, AND TRADITION:
- Sikh faith is monotheistic (no pantheon of gods and goddesses, supernatural rites and rituals)
- Sikhism is not a branch or offshoot of Hinduism or Islam
- Sikh faith has its own distinct philosophy, scriptures, commandments, and traditions
- Sikh faith proclaims and embraces the concept of One Supreme Creator, Father and Mother of all living beings and that we are all His Children.
- God as a Timeless Immaculate Reality is Self-Existent, Self-Illuminated, Eternal Truth, All-Knowing, Benevolent, and Embodiment of all excellences that we cannot imagine nor fathom.
- Every living being is a repository of the same Divine Light, and therefore, no one is holier nor any one not worthy of love, understanding, compassion, and thoughtful consideration.
SIKH FAITH COMMANDMENTS:
- Equality and dignity of all life (rejection of caste system)
- Ensuring justice and sacred rights for all God’s Children
- Truthful living and sharing the blessings from one’s righteous labor with others
- Service and sacrifice as an act of faith and thanksgiving
- Nam-Simran: remembrance of God with each breath and at every step
- Living in the Light and a spirit of Charhdikala (eternal positive spirit)
- Recognizing and honoring the sanctity of all faith and spiritual traditions
SIKH SACRED SCRIPTURES:
- To guide the Sikh followers, the Sikh Scripture, Guru Granth Sahib, was compiled by the
Fifth Sikh Guru, Arjan Dev, in 1604 and finalized in 1705 by the Tenth Sikh, Guru Gobind
- The entire scripture is Punjabi language and in exalted poetry; all 5,894 compositions are
keyed to designated Ragas (pattern of music) in which it is to be sung.
- The hymns of Praise of God and directions for righteous human life and conduct were
contributed by six Sikh Gurus and 30 Hindu and Muslim saints from various castes and
SIKH PLACE OF WORSHIP AND TRADITION:
- The Sikh place of worship is called a Gurudwara (Door of the Divine Teacher)
- The central focus of Sikh worship is Guru Granth Sahib, regarded as a living Guru
- The Golden Temple at Amritsar is the holiest shrine (St. Peter and Vatican) of the Sikhs
- All visitors remove their shoes and cover their heads inside the Gurdwara premises
SIKH TIME-HONORED INSTITUTION OF LANGAR:
- Every major Sikh Gurdwara serves a vegetarian meal at the end of worship service
- 50,000 Sikh Gurdwaras worldwide serve free meal to over fifty million people every single day, reinforcing the 500-year old tradition and the concept of equality, brotherhood, human dignity, and sharing of food, the ultimate blessing essential for life.
<> SIKH CULTURE AND COMMUNITY:
- All Sikhs men, by the commandment of their Guru have the last name of Singh (a Sanskrit
word which means a lion) and all Sikh women, the last name of Kaur (a Sanskrit word
which means a princess); Women are to be treated equal with respect and not as second
- Sikh followers must wear five faith-mandated articles with deep spiritual and moral
significance: uncut hair and turban, steel bracelet, wooden comb, a kirpan (a ceremonial
sword) and a special drawer. In America, over 99% of people wearing turbans are Sikhs.
In ancient times, wearing a turban was a common practice in other faiths.
- Once predominantly in farming and military, the Sikhs today are pursuing and excelling in
many fields: science, technology, medicine, business, banking, building, law, music,
education, and politics. Prime Minister of India, Dr.Manmohan Singh, several members of
Canadian Parliament, Father of Fiber-optics, Narinder Singh Kapany, are all Sikhs.
. Known for their robust and hardy attitude towards life and adventure, a deep sense of
humanitarian and community-building spirit, Sikhs are engaged in contributing to “life,
liberty, and pursuit of happiness” in new countries and at new crossroads.
Since 9/11, Sikhs in America have been the victims of harassment, discrimination, identity
problems (mistakenly confused as Taliban and Al-Qaeda terrorists), unprovoked violence,
bullying in schools, senseless hate crimes, and even murder.
UNITED WAY FOCUS ON DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION INITIATIVES:
Ethnic communities are a segment of American society that has not yet fully integrated into the mainstream American culture and societal fabric. As a growing and successful group, they have a lot to contribute and further strengthen the work of United Way as a rich source for volunteers, community-building spirit, skills, and investments needed to serve critical areas.
SEARCHING FOR NEW WAYS TO CONNECT
The English poet, Sir William Blake, challenged us almost 150 years ago: “Clasp hands and know the thoughts of men in other lands.” Providentially, the people Sir Blake spoke of have crossed the once formidable frontiers and today they are all around us. We need to work with our hearts to invite them to work with us; support organizations like United Way in robust ways, in greater numbers, and share their pride, experiences, and enormous gifts with the communities where they live and work, in lands and neighborhoods that they call home.
I see the invitation to speak to you and tell you something about Sikh Faith, Culture, and Community as symbolizing that we are turning a new corner, searching for new ways to connect, learn the faiths and cultures, values and hopes of our neighbors. I thank you for this opportunity to visit with you and now I invite you to go farther: enlarge the circle of your outreach and expand your opportunities. Thanks to you, some of the truly meaningful things happen in our cities and states. The United Way Inclusion initiatives need to explore the untapped assets represented in cultural and ethnic groups and bring in new partners like the Sikh Americans in the fold to do more good things in America and around the world. This has the potential of an all-around landmark triumph, since the new immigrants are in search of a rightful place and anchor for their pioneering spirit and sense of belonging in new lands and yet unfamiliar crossroads.
IT ALL BEGINS WITH LEARNING
The Sikh faith reminds us that the world is a classroom of learning and an opportunity to grow and serve; see events as lessons and inspirations. The word Sikh means a disciple, a life-long student.
It is through learning that we can dispel misunderstandings about something unfamiliar; end unfounded stereotyping of entire communities. May be in time, we develop respect and trust, walk toward each other in friendship, recognize common hopes and prayers and unite to serve causes greater than our own. The interfaith, multi-cultural, diversity initiatives have taken on a new meaning. In today’s interconnected and interdependent world, changing times and perceptions, community dynamics and demographics, this expanded inclusiveness, I believe should be an important and integral part of the vision and mandate of organizations like United Way Worldwide. To serve the ever-expanding needs of people, we need new advocates and dedicated new citizen-ambassadors.