GRAND FINALE OF GOLDEN JUBILEE YEAR, GURU NANAK’S 550TH YEAR, AND MAHARAJ JI’S BIRTHDAY
Sangat from near and far enthusiastically celebrated the 550th year of Guru Nanak, Gobind Sadan’s Golden Jubilee year finale, and Baba Virsa Singh ji’s birthday from 20 to 24 February. The first day, 20th February, was honoured by an international seminar organized by Gobind Sadan Institute for Advanced Studies in Comparative Religion, under the auspices of Baba Virsa singh Ji Maharaj Memorial Trust, on “The Personality and Mission of Baba Virsa Singh JI.”
The first speaker was Ralph Singh, Maharaj ji’s first foreign devotee and Founding President of Gobind Sadan USA. He began, “We speak of Light, but we don’t know it until we can see it. When you meet Maharaj ji, there is no doubt that It exists and spreads in all of you and spreads through this wonderful sacred place. How in the world at a time when everybody is building walls, when everybody loves their boundaries, how can anyone envision God’s House without Walls? It is a journey of transcendence that transforms individuals and transforms and heals society. In Babaji’s presence, all those things that seem to be polar opposites, irreconcilable differences, come into Gobind Sadan, and suddenly there is no difference.”
Dr. Naresh Singh, international development planner who had been Principal Adviser at the United Nations Development Programme headquarters on Poverty and Sustainable Livelihoods, has been working under Maharaj ji’s guidance and blessings ever since he met him on a plane in 1993. He recalled, “Maharaj ji said to me, ‘The scientist and the saint are searching for the same thing, they are searching for truth, but they are only using different pathways.’ Now I am able to talk to scientists about spirituality because the latest research in science supports exactly what the spiritual gems of all the religions teach us. The other big thing he said to me was, ‘Believe it or not, the biggest block to your progress is your education.’ That took me a while to begin to understand. My entire focus was on surviving entirely through my mind. Now when I enter the periods of thoughtlessness when there is no mind, that is when I am most mindful. All these contradictions and divisions have disappeared. This is the kind of learning I take to work in the difficult places where I am led to work.”
- Bezad Fatmi, Secretary-General of Indialogue Foundation, which is affiliated with the international civil society organization, Hizmet Movement, voiced his appreciation of what he has seen when bringing groups of interns to Gobind Sadan for the past 3 years. He praised the interfaith nature of Gobind Sadan’s life and said, “I’m really moved by the spirituality and dedication of the sevadars here in this beautiful community at Gobind Sadan.”
Dr. Rai Singh I.A.S. (Retd.), President of Baba Virsa Singh Ji Maharaj Memorial Trust, said, “Maharaj’s personality was such that everyone who met him was wonderstruck. In Lucknow, the woman who was Director of Revenue sat in front of him for four hours even though she didn’t know any Punjabi. She said he was speaking to her heart, and she actually knew what he had said. . . . He was God incarnate. His mission is that we should never be discouraged. We should work very hard, rise above all distinctions, and make this country a level playing field.”
Mary Pat Fisher, author of the bestselling American textbook on the world’s religions, who has been doing seva at Gobind Sadan for 28 years, encouraged the sangat to regard Baba Virsa Singh as a role model for their lives. She told stories about some of his great qualities, such as hiding his power, unshakeability, obedience to God’s will, patience, joy, love for God and Guru, thriftiness, generosity, equality, and wisdom.
Gurdev Singh, Maharaj’s close associate and member of Baba Virsa Singh Ji Maharaj Memorial Trust, said, “Baba Virsa Singh was always in complete oneness with God, and that’s why all the virtues of God had fully developed in him.” He quoted from Maharaj ji’s book Loving God about dedication to God’s mission: “The dedicated person prays, ‘May all my lives be dedicated to the mission.’”
Sri Brahm Singh, ex-MLA of the area, recounted that he had been with Maharaj ji since 1970. He said, “I got so much energy from coming to Him.” Judge U.S. Jolly, Former Principal Commissioner of Delhi Development Authority, said, “Maharaj ji was such that anyone who sat before him couldn’t hide anything.” Dr. Surjit Kaur Jolly, Secretary of Gobind Sadan Institute for Advanced Studies in Comparative Religion, recounted how people changed their behavior toward her when she was Principal of SPM College because of Maharaj’s blessings. She quoted a description of him as “a heavenly angel who had landed on this earth to relieve the sufferings of humanity of its ignorance, misery, and disease and bring us one and all a ray of hope.”
In honour of their services rendered to poor devotees, doctors who attended the seminar were presented with plaques from Gobind Sadan. One of these was physiotherapist Dr. Jayant Manchanda. With Maharaj ji’s blessings, many of his impossible cases are being healed. He told the story of one such—a man who jumped down onto a train track to save a child, and was then run over by a train. He was not expected to live, much less ever move again. To the contrary, Dr. Jayant said, “He is now a film director, by Maharaj ji’s blessings.”
Churchill Chadha, Secretary of Baba Virsa Singh JI Maharaj Memorial Trust, remarked that even though Maharaj ji was illiterate, his mission is spreading around the world. Many foreign devotees came to the seminar to share their appreciation of Maharaj ji’s blessings. One of these was Elena Matchenkova from Kurgan, Russia. She said, “I have come here seven times, and every time I left it with tears in my eyes. Babaji filled this place with love, light, and happiness. Nam is recited 24 hours. You start to feel light and holy energy, so all the problems disappear, the mind calms down, and all diseases and negative thoughts and emotions go away. I am so grateful to Babaji and all the people who are living in Gobind Sadan, who have made this place of love and keep it for the whole humankind.”
On 23 February, kirtan by Gurdaspur sangat was followed by a special havan, kavi darbar, traditional folksong by Russian devotees, and a song by students of Baba Virsa Singh JI Maharaj Primary School, with Head Teacher Jaspinder Kaur and her children Ekta Kaur and Prabhnoor Singh. Maharaj ji’s touring bus, the antique buggy made for him by Sardar Sukhbir Singh Kalra, and the elaborate wooden stage made for him by Nirmal Singh were on display at Angeetha Sahib, along with photos of the evolution of Gobind Sadan’s communities.
24th February was the Grand Finale of the Golden Jubilee—Gobind Sadan’s first 50 years, with Bhog of Sri Akhand Paath and many offerings of kirtan and speeches. Stage Secretary Dr. Surjit Kaur Jolly observed that Sri Jaap Sahib has been translated into more than 13 languages, under Babaji’s inspiration, “and when devotees who are here from other countries recite Jaap Sahib, it is difficult to make out whether they are local or foreign.”
Gurbani kirtan was offered by Gobind Sadan’s hazoori kirtan jatha, Ragi Bhai Sat Nam Singh of Amritsar, Ragi Bhai Jagtar Singh of Mukherjee Nagar, Ragi Bhai Sat Nam Singh Ji Alwaria, Ragi Bhai Gurdev Singh Kapurtala-wale, Ragi Bhai Surjit Singh from Amritsar, and Bhai Gurbachan Singh Lalli of Delhi.
Giani Mehtaab Ji, Head Granthi of Khadoor Sahib, spoke about the dharmic importance of humility and said, “When you come to Gobind Sadan, the place of the Great Master, when you sit with all the sangat you experience Him. Only the one who is liberated can liberate others. Only the one who knows how to swim can teach others to swim.”
Jabbar Ali, Imam of Gobind Sadan’s Nur-e-ilahi Mosque, told the sangat, “When Baba Virsa Singh Ji showed me the right path, I left all other paths. Your parents are your first teacher, and the second is your guru. If we have accepted the slavery of the guru, we don’t need any wealth in this world. I have got Gobind Sadan—I don’t even need paradise now. In every drop of my blood, in all my existence, resides Guru Gobind Singh Ji, Baba Virsa Singh Ji, and their love. Nobody can take away this love. Let everybody listen to this: I am from the religion of Islam. Baba Virsa Singh always said that you should follow your own religion. If you don’t love and follow your own religion, you cannot achieve your goal.”
Ralph Singh told the story of how he first saw Maharaj in 1970 in a vision in New Yok: He saw someone who “radiated like a diamond. The pull was so strong that I went on a pilgrimage to search for God. When I reached the feet of Maharaj ji, I recognized him as the person whom I had seen in my vision. He said, ‘You are a student. It is your homework to recite Nam, as if your exam will be tomorrow, so cram Nam as much as you can. The first boundaries which are to be broken are of the mind. When the walls are broken, your consciousness transcends and becomes one with Him.’ If you consider yourself to be a Sikh according to Guru Nanak’s recipe, recite Nam, work, and share. This langar is from Baba Virsa Singh’s hard work. Day and night he worked hard, earned money, and shared it with others.”
Professor Harpal Singh Pannu of Punjabi University, Patiala, spoke of Maharaj’s instructions to him about the right way to tell the Janam Sakhis of Guru Nanak. Maharaj told him, “When we consume wheat, we don’t consume the husk with it. The Janam Sakhis have the diet for devatas, for humans, and for animals. You have to decide who you are and what you want to consume.”
Dr. Syed M. Hussain recalled the great impact that meeting Maharaj ji had on him. “I went to many countries in Europe and Africa, and I remembered his teaching that is important to be a good human being; religion is just a way. I make sure that I treat all my patients, whether rich or poor, with respect, reverence, and sincerity. This attitude, this ability, was bestowed upon me by Maharaj ji.”
Jathedar of Takht Harimandir Sri Patna Sahib, Singh Sahib Giani Iqbal Singh JI, presided over the programme. He spoke from Dasam Granth about the different kinds of avatars through whom God has manifested. He observed, “It is the effect of Kali Yuga that the one who recites Nam and makes other recite Nam is criticized. Opposite parties leave no stone unturned to defame the righteous. But it is the great blessing of Kalgidhar [Guru Gobind Singh] that Truth ultimately wins. Gobind Sadan is the centre of Love. May the True Guru bestow mercy on all. May we always receive inspiration from the life of Mahapuraksh Baba Virsa Singh.”
Gurdev Singh noted, “Maharaj used to say that our mission is not different from the mission of Guru Nanak Dev JI: Recite Nam, work hard, and share with others.” Gurdev Singh had done the Punjabi translation of the book Loving God, which contains the essence of Maharaj ji’s teaching. He recited his poem about Maharaj that appears in the beginning of his Punjabi translation of that book.
Professor Bhupinder Singh Khaira, retired from Punjabi University, Patiala, said, “When I sat at Maharaj ji’s feet I asked, ‘How do I achieve God?’ Maharaj said, ‘Is He an animal who is tied with a rope in a corner? He is a Being with us. We just have to recognize Him.’ Gobind Sadan is my real university because I have learned a lot from here, and I have built my character from here. Everything is within us but we don’t recognize it. Maharaj ji always used to speak as if he was presenting the great Personalities in present tense.”
Professor Jai Bhagwan Ji said, “When I had Mahraj ji’s darshan, his face was illuminated so brilliantly. Babaji made the teaching in Gurbani of the synthesis of all religions a reality. Every person who has taken birth will have to go back, but Gobind Sadan will be eternal.”
Mary Pat Fisher said, “Gobind Sadan is not an ordinary place. Many people come here from all over the world. It is a simple place where you can get very close to God. What is the mission of Gobind Sadan? To bring people closer to God. Worship is going on 24 hours a day here. Maharaj ji used to say that wherever God is praised 24 hours a day, miracles will happen automatically. He said, ‘God is not a theory. God is Reality.’”
Manjit Singh Rai, Sikh Member of National Minorities Commission, said, “The name of Guru Nanak is being taken with reverence and gratitude throughout the world. He went from place to place to guide people. In this place, Gobind Sadan, ‘Sadan’ means ‘home.’ Whose home? God’s. Guru Nanak demonstrated his practical mission by doing manual labour, and then he preached: Nam japo, kirat karo, vand chako.’ Great great Brahmgiani (God-realized) ji Baba Virsa Singh ji has done the same here in Gobind Sadan. This is the house of my Lord.”
Ulrika Wedin of Sweden, who had brought a group of her yoga students to Gobind Sadan, said, “When asked to say a few words about what Gobind Sadan means to me and my Swedish friends, the first word that came to my mind was trust. Since I first came here, I have a new feeling of trust that I am taken care of, trust that it is safe to let go of control and that everything will be the way it is supposed to be. On a personal level, for example, I had developed a fear of flying. Due to several rough flying experiences, every time I went on a plane, I could feel my heart beating faster and feeling how afraid I was. But after my first visit to Gobind Sadan, suddenly my fear of flying was gone, and it has not come back. I have continued to repeat Nam and been able to feel trust and acceptance. Connecting with my inner strength, light, and love, Nam has been like a boat carrying me over a stormy ocean.”
Joginder Singh, Jathedar of Gurdaspur sangat, told the story of one of his sangat members who had been declared brain dead in a hospital. “The family asked me to approach Maharaj ji. Upon reaching him, Maharaj ji enquired, ‘Is one of your fellow members sick?’ They said, ‘Yes.’ Maharaj ji said, ‘His time is up.’ We requested him to help. Maharaj ji closed his eyes and went into Samadhi. He received hukam to recite a few lines. We sat there and did kirtan. Later we came to know that our fellow member had survived. From that day, my faith developed that Baba Virsa Singh Ji is Gobind.”
Hardip Singh, member of Baba Virsa Singh Ji Maharaj Memorial Trust who prays every hour at the havan, congratulated all the sangat on the 550th birth year of Guru Nanak and the birth of Baba Virsa Singh. He said, “Where the havan is, that is where Maharaj ji saw in vision that the horse of Guru Gobind Singh was dancing, so he decided to build Gobind Sadan there. Whatever Maharaj ji did, he did only after having a vision. So many sick people come here and are healed. People say that the moment they enter Gobind Sadan, the vibrations completely change.”
Dr. Rai Singh, President of Baba Virsa Singh Ji Maharaj Memorial Trust, concluded, “This mission is the same as the mission of Guru Nanak. When you have strong faith in Maharaj ji, your work will be done. My intention is that our mission should spread all over the world.”