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The global Sikh community, religious scholars and spiritual leaders, the state, national, and international dignitaries, and interfaith organizations are making special preparations for a grand celebration to commemorate the landmark 400th anniversary of the Prakash Ustav (installation of the original Guru Grunth Sahib, the sacred scriptures of the Sikh faith) at Harmandir Sahib, the holiest shrine and the Saint Peter's and the Vatican of the Sikhs, at Amritsar, India in 1604. Special declarations, proclamations and festive events will launch the historic celebrations which officially begin on September1, 2004.

The journey of the Sikh faith since its founding over 500 years ago, and since bestowing upon the Sikh community and the world this spiritual treasure four hundred years ago, has been extraordinary, momentous, and at times very difficult. Along this journey, there have been events of incredible darkness wrought upon the Sikhs by forces of evil and tyrants and many defining moments of legendary courage, devotion, and unmatched sacrifices for the preservation of the sanctity of their faith and sacred Temple complex.

Today this journey of the fifth largest religion, embraced by over 25 million followers, offers a window to their faith, spirituality, beliefs, and traditions; and to the history, culture, legacy, and the fiercely defiant Sikh spirit. We witness with much gratitude, and thanks to the communication revolution and international travel, that today the Sikh faith and its traditions have spread to the farthest corners of the Earth.

I am not a historian, scholar, or interpreter of the sacred scriptures. From what I have heard, read, and understood about the letter and spirit from the music, melody, and the message, the life and times of the Messengers of the faith, and meditation on the Shabad, the sacred, illuminating Word and Light of Waheguru (the Wonderful Lord), I humbly offer the following reflections and tribute on this historic occasion and global celebration.

I have tried to imagine:

The challenging task: collecting the often jealously guarded and scattered manuscripts of the sacred Bani (hymns) of the first four Sikh Gurus and the several Moslem and Hindu Saints of many castes and origins whose compositions were carefully chosen to be enshrined in the Guru Grunth Sahib before any compilation could begin.

The great attention to detail: meticulous arrangement of over 5,867 compositions in poetry, musical (Raga) assignments to each, language and spirit considerations before the monumental task of preparing a central and exulted spiritual anchor for their lives and faith. Many regional languages are represented, but the final script chosen is Gurumukhi.

The awesome patience: devotion, humility, and seva (tireless labor) of the enlightened and saintly scribe, the great Sikh Saint Bhai Gurdas, whose own compositions though not included in the completed scripture, had been hailed by the Fifth Sikh Guru, Arjan Dev, as the Key to understanding the Guru Grunth Sahib.

The Light and Spirit of the saintly Guru Arjan Dev, the Fifth Nanak and celebrated Sikh Martyr, as he dictated the Adi Grunth to his noble and beloved scribe and Sikh, Bhai Gurdas, and the sense of unbound excitement at each step leading to the completion.

The thoughts of the Guru, his devoted assistants, and disciples at the completion of the holy task and the plans for the auspicious installation of the sacred Adi Grunth at the newly-built Harmandir Sahib (Temple of the Lord) located in the middle of the sacred tank of Guru Ram Das, the Fourth Nanak of the Sikhs, at Amritsar.

The boundless joy of the followers of the young faith gathered for another first as they carried the Word and Light of God enshrined in the sacred scripture with utmost reverence and with festive trumpets; the ceremonial installation of the Adi Grunth at the sanctum sanctorum of the Sikh soul: the famous Durbar Sahib (The Court of The Lord).

The first Hukamnama (reading of hymn from the Grunth Sahib) in the presence of a radiant Guru Arjan Dev and blessed few Sikhs who were inside the Temple at that historic moment. What grateful emotions must have greeted the faces and spirit of the young Sikh nation? What spiritual imprints must have departed from there in the hearts and souls of those present to witness to this landmark spiritual event 400 years ago?

We know since then, under the Golden Domes of this Indo-Saracenic architectural jewel have reverberated an unmistakable message of Oneness, Universality, Equality, Human Dignity, Justice, Righteous Living, Sanctity of All Faiths, and Service and Goodwill towards all Mankind. The faith tradition and hymns proclaim the "presence of Divine Light in every living being." Generations of religious singers have had the distinct honor to sing at this place of temporal and celestial beauty and offer renditions in various Ragas in praise of the One Creator and His indescribable glories, attributes, and benevolence.

I have tried to imagine:

Millions of Sikhs and followers of other faith traditions who have come to this shrine to offer their prayers and petitions for their hopes and concerns or simply to have a glimpse of a faith tradition and its magnificent edifice which is "none like any other among other spiritual places." What thoughts and feelings they have carried to their diverse beliefs and distant places from their "pilgrimage of spirit." My own spirit finds ecstasy, a sense of awe, and thanksgiving with each step around this sacred space that I have had the fortune to visit countless times during my trips to India from the USA over the past 40 years.

My joy has always been tempered when I have remembered the repeated desecration and destruction of the sacred Harmandir, now popularly known as The Golden Temple since its restoration and beautification by the Sikh Maharaja, Ranjit Singh, in the nineteenth century. My spirit travels to thousands of martyrs; brave souls who laid down their lives to defend the honor of their Guru, Sikh nation, sanctity of human rights and freedoms at this world famous monument and heritage site. I remember with grateful reverence that I am walking on hallowed ground; incredible acts of righteous defiance and sacrifice have taken place here. This place is sanctified by the martyrs, history, and the Sikh Gurus.

As I walk the Parkarma (ceremonial walkway surrounding the Sarovar, the sacred tank) towards the main entrance, I am listening to the sacred music from inside the Temple filling the air around the vast spiritual complex. My spirit is reminding me that this is not just another temple, it is the House of my Living Guru: my Divine Teacher, Father and Mother, and the Guardian and Mentor of my soul. The Divine wisdom and illumination in the Guru Grunth Sahib is not just a borrowed bridge between Eastern and Western faiths and philosophies and not just a sacred book inspired by other faiths and doctrines as some suggest, but is a unique, revealed repository of Divine Light for all who wish to learn, explore, and seek additional thoughts on the One Universal Truth. I see before me a Temple in regal golden splendor and a little of heaven captured in shimmering reflection.

The sacred Guru Grunth Sahib enshrines the Eternal Wisdom of ages in its 1430 pages and its spiritual richness and relevance stands on its own independent testimony, revealed and blessed to us by our Gurus, and personally installed by a Divine Messenger, the Fifth Nanak of the Sikhs, Guru Arjan Dev. The divinely-inspired compositions, all in poetry are rich in imagery, inspirations, languages, and music; offering an eternal song for the human soul. Covered in brocade silks, the Shabad in Grunth Sahib is accorded the status of royalty and exulted as a Living Guru. It is Divine Light personified and sanctified. The Message and Messenger as One proclaiming, advocating, and commanding us to embrace humanity in a Circle of Light, Love, Service, Equality, Dignity, Justice, and Brotherhood.

I am trying to imagine all the events in the history of the sacred complex and the millions who have contributed to its magnificence, spirit, and sanctity over the past 400 years. I cannot imagine any moment since the very first that would have more global significance than the momentous Quad-Centennial Celebration of the Prakash Ustav of Guru Grunth Sahib on September 1, 2004. Not only this would be one of the biggest gatherings in Amritsar and perhaps in world history (over 3 million are expected, including many leaders and dignitaries from several faiths), but this event will be beamed and shared with billions across the world. There has been no time in human history when wisdom and Light of Guru Grunth Sahib have been more universally important as right now.

This spiritual moment belongs to all mankind, as do the Sikh Scriptures as a precious jewel among the collective spiritual heritage of mankind. It is the Living Guru of the Sikhs as commanded by the Tenth Sikh Guru, Gobind Singh, in 1708, but I believe it is a spiritual gift for all mankind since the Guru reminds us: "O mortal, recognize all humanity as One Race, One Brotherhood." I join millions across the human continents in offering my humble salutations to my Gurus and to the people of all faith traditions on this landmark moment for the Sikhs and their faith. "May, in the Name of One Universal Creator, there be peace and goodwill among all people and all nations." As we celebrate our shared spiritual heritage, may we find common sacred ground amidst the tapestry of our faiths. May such celebrations guide our spiritual destiny to witness Faith with Love.

Kanwal Prakash Singh
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA September 1, 2004

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