GOBIND SADAN INSTITUTE HOSTS INTERNATIONAL FORUM FOR SPIRITUAL HARMONY
On March 25, 2023, the Gobind Sadan Institute for Advanced Studies in Comparative Religion hosted an excellent forum on “Common historical and cultural roots of the spiritual traditions of the peoples of Eurasia,” in conjunction with Eurasian Peoples’ Assembly, whose leaders are all devotees of Baba Virsa Singh Ji Maharaj. The programme was held in Gobind Sadan’s beautiful auditorium, followed by a tour of Gobind Sadan’s interfaith campus and dinner at Gurdwara Sarbat Sangat.
The programme began with an exhibit of drawings by children of Russia, Egypt, and India as part of the Eurasian Peoples’ Assembly project, “The World Draws Happiness.” Some of the children who are studying in Baba Virsa Singh JI Maharaj Primary School and also 16-year-old Gurkirpa of Gobind Sadan received prizes for their drawings. Gurkirpa, whose mother is from Kazakhstan and late father from India, painted a picture of her Croatian friend’s favorite dog wagging its tail, and that multi-national image of happiness is now spreading around the world on social media.
After lighting of the ceremonial lamp, Hardip Singh, President of Gobind Sadan Institute and Treasurer of Gobind Sadan Management Committee, welcomed the international guests. He said, “Gobind Sadan is the only place where all prophets are truly respected. Here ‘God is One’ is not just a matter of saying so.”
Andrey Belyaninov, Secretary General of the Eurasian Peoples’ Assembly, and member of the Commission of the Russian Federation for UNESCO, said he had started coming to Gobind Sadan to meet Maharaj ji decades ago, and “It was a truly great and important occasion for us when he visited Moscow (in 2004).” Trying to carry on Maharaj ji’s unifying mission, “We need to pass on this idea that God is One to our future generations. People-to-people diplomacy is the way of the future; politicians tell us they can’t do it. Our organization is growing in Eurasia, but people can’t imagine how it can even exist. We can only understand that it means that Maharaj ji is still with us. When people are holding hands, they can’t fall down.”
Ms. Banu Nurgazieva, President of the Civil Alliance of Kazakhstan, spoke of the programmes in Kazakhstan that bring together the leaders of all the world’s religions to talk about peace. They meet in the beautiful pyramid-shaped Palace of Peace in Astana, whose glass roof features white doves of peace representing the many ethnic groups that harmoniously coexist in Kazakhstan.
Dr. Surjit Kaur Jolly, Secretary of the Gobind Sadan Institute for Advanced Studies in Comparative Religion, and Member of the Indian Council of Historical Research, remembered previous fora that were held in Gobind Sadan in Baba Virsa Singh’s benevolent presence. “He reminded people of Guru Nanak’s teaching that an educated person should work for the good of society without any ulterior motive. Education means creating strong moral values in children. Sikh history is full of examples of people who worked for humanity and became immortal.”
Mrs. Babli Kalha, Indian Chairperson of Indonesia-based Wadah Foundation, shared that “In this journey called life, my true anchor has been my Maharaj ji, Baba Virsa Singh Ji, who has always shown me the light and guided me to the right path. Wadah basically believes in three simple goals: caring, sharing, and giving, just as we believe in Kirat Karna, Naam Jappna, and Vannd Chhakna.” She introduced Chetna and Ankur from Golden Shine, an NGO aided by Wadah that is “run by very special young people who empower blind people through music.” Chetna very confidently spoke into the mike that she could not see, “Music is the language of the soul. It unites us all despite our differences in colour, creed, religion or disabilities. In life your own experiences show you the way and so this extremely talented man Ankur, who faced many hurdles along the way as he himself is a person with disability, fought his way through with his indomitable spirit and perseverance.” The couple then sang beautifully for the audience, who were extremely touched.
Bishop Youhanon Mar Demetrios, Bishop of Delhi Diocese of the Orthodox Church, remembered his predecessor, Father Paulos Mar Gregorios, who greatly admired Maharaj ji and Gobind Sadan. He cited recent scholarship that shows a long history of dialogue among the cultures of Europe and Asia. In his powerful interfaith talk, he said, “Religion has always taken a cultural form to make itself understandable to the people. Religions are not found in isolation in water-tight compartments. No religion has a complete understanding of God. In our quest to understand God as the Infinite and Absolute, it is necessary for us to reach out and dialogue with other religions. Only then can we understand how God cares for all His Creation. We must shed our distrusts and see God’s image in each and every human being. We are to see how He reveals Himself in all religions, and to see how we can live together and not allow the darker side of religion to destroy the common bond we have with humanity.”
Sergey Laryushkin, Chairman of the Council of the Padmasambhava Buddhist Center in Russia, said that all major Buddhist universities in Russia are still using the textbooks prepared under the leadership of the Dalai Lama after he came from Tibet to live in India.
Anil Verma, Senior Project Associate at Indira Gandhi National Center for the Arts in Delhi, spoke of the inclusive nature of Hinduism. He said that Hindus “accept—and indeed celebrate, the organic, multileveled, and sometimes pluralistic nature of their traditions, a perspective expressed in the Hindu prayer, ‘May good thoughts come to us from all sides.’ The Bhagavad Gita presents three paths to salvation: karma-marga (disinterested discharge of ritual and social obligations), jnana-marga (use of meditative concentration proceeded by ethical and contemplative training to gain a supra-intellectual insight into one’s identity with brahman), and bhakti-marga (love for a personal God). Dharma’s basic nature is pluralistic. The pluralistic liberal vision of Indic civilization assumes considerable significance in the contemporary multi-religious, multi-cultural, and multi-lingual world.”
Susanna Mattsson is a leader of Gobind Sadan’s Swedish and Polish sangat, which gathers on zoom every morning to read Jaap Sahib together, twice a month on zoom to explore Guru Granth Sahib together, and once a month physically to do havan and yoga together. She said, “You may find it strange that we come from secular Sweden and yet find our spiritual roots in India. I was brought up by atheist parents but nonetheless had a deep longing in my heart. From the first time I came here and felt the embrace of Maharaj ji’s love, I felt I was at home. We people have the same hopes, the same dreams, the same hearts’ desires. In this way we are one, as God is One. Different religions are like different clothes for God. Beyond those differences, there is one loving Form permeating all Creation. You can hear it if you listen to your heart.”
After these inspiring talks, the audience was taken to experience the spirituality in many of Gobind Sadan’s holy places, and then treated to a delicious dinner In the courtyard of Gurdwara Sarbat Sangat. As they embraced each other and sang in a circle, they said, “No matter how far we live from each other, our hearts are always together.”