On 5 November, 2019, Baba Virsa Singh Ji Maharaj Memorial Trust, Gobind Sadan Institute for Advanced Studies in Comparative Religion, and Baba Virsa Singh Foundation hosted a programme at Gobind Sadan for delegates to an Indian Council for Cultural Relations programme regarding Guru Nanak, on the 550th anniversary of his birth. Delegates had come to India from 12 countries at the invitation of the Indian government for a seminar on Sikhism which began the next day. At the behest of Sardar Manjit Singh Rai, Sikh Member of the National Minorities Commission, they first came to Gobind Sadan to see its practical example of Guru Nanak’s programme. After touring Gobind Sadan’s holy places of all religions, they assembled for a programme in Gobind Sadan’s lovely auditorium.
Dr. Surjit Kaur Jolly, Secretary and Treasurer of the Gobind Sadan Institute for Advanced Studies in Comparative Religion, introduced Gobind Sadan and spoke of the universal appeal of Guru Nanak’s mission.
Sardar Manjit Singh Rai explained and praised the work of Baba Virsa Singh in manifesting and spreading the mission of Guru Nanak. It is based on kirat karo (word hard to support yourself by honest means), vand chhako (share with others in need), and Nam japo (always remember God by reciting God’s Holy Name), and on the principle of equality of all humanity.
Senior officials of the Delhi branch of ICCR also attended the function at Gobind Sadan. Sri Akhilesh Mishra, DG of ICCR, said, “Coming here opens my heart. May we all contemplate Guru Nanak’s teachings and incorporate them into our lives.”
Ms. Namrata Kumar, DDG of ICCR, said that the Council had decided to take the initiative in celebrating Guru Nanak’s 550th birthday by inviting youth from many countries, because it is they who will shape the future of the world.
Dr. Kamaljeet Soi, Special Adviser to the ICCR for celebrations of Guru Nanak’s 550th Birthday, said that he had never seen Gobind Sadan before, so he was reluctant to bring the delegates to this place. But Manjit Singh Rai assured him that Gobind Sadan is a very spiritual place, “and all of you are feeling that it is so,” said Dr. Soi. “Let us take this beautiful message from this place: that all beings are equal. This pilgrimage is meant to create universal brotherhood, to make the world peaceful.”
Hardip Singh, President of the Gobind Sadan Institute and member of Baba Virsa Singh Ji Maharaj Memorial Trust, told the delegates and ICCR officers, “From a young age, Mahaaj met Baba Siri Chand and Guru Gobind Singh in vision. Healing flowed from his hands. He started his own farms in order to carry on Guru Nanak’s mission, being self-supporting. He began distributing food many times a week to needy people, and this programme is still going on. People who come here say they experience great peace. All religions are being practiced here, 24 hours a day.”
Mary Pat Fisher, long-time Gobind Sadan sevadar from the United States and author of the leading American college textbook on the world’s religions, spoke of her personal experience of Gobind Sadan and her delight to find this unique place where she is free to honour all the prophets, thanks to the non-sectarian message of Guru Nanak. She also spoke of her love for Guru Granth Sahib, quoting Guru Nanak’s bani, “Oh my soul, love God as a fish loves water.” She said, “Foreigners who come here like Guru Granth Sahib so much that almost daily we have classes in which we dive deeply into a few lines at a time of the scripture to consider its meaning in our own lives.”
Dr. Rai Singh, President of Baba Virsa Singh Ji Maharaj Memorial Trust, told about Guru Nanak’s elevation of manual work to a virtue, with his ideal of kirat. He described seeing Baba Virsa Singh himself working hard in the fields, plowing with bullocks when Gobind Sadan was just a rocky wasteland. “We must leave caste distinctions,” he urged.
Sardar Churchill Singh Chadha, Vice President of the Gobind Sadan Institute for Advanced Studies in Comparative Religion and Treasurer of the Baba Virsa Singh Ji Maharaj Memorial Trust, thanked all the participants and reminded them of the towering personality of Baba Virsa Singh. “We say he was not educated because he never went to school, but spiritually he was a highly enlightened soul who was able to develop this place you saw today—a place that we call ‘God’s House without Walls.’ We appreciate all that you are doing to spread the mission of Guru Nanak. We welcome you to come here and experience it in practical form.”