For newcomers to Gobind Sadan, it’s often astounding to find a life-size image of Jesus standing in a pristine garden in what one thinks of as a “Sikh” community. Even more unusual is the nightly observance at Jesus’s Place. As the sun sets, 125 candles are lit and the Lord’s Prayer is recited in as many languages as those represented there – but most amazing of all is that there often is not a Christian in the group.
Meanwhile around the sacred fire, known as havan in the ancient Vedic tradition of India, which has burned continuously since 1968 when Gobind Sadan was carved out of arid land, people sit in silent meditation or recite Jaap Sahib, Guru Gobind Singh’s Divine Hymns of Praise. Butter oil and incense are offered but there may not be a Hindu present – and certainly the prayers require no “priests”. This is the place that reflects the inner Light of God and those who spend time in prayer and meditation here say its healing light brings great peace.
In the Darbar Sahib (Court of God) – Guru Granth Sahib, often referred to as the Sikh scripture, is read continuously – one reading finishes only to have another start. And on major holidays up to 13 readings are conducted simultaneously. All the while people from all backgrounds stand and waive the “chauri-sahib” reverently over the “sacred words” from the “Living Guru” of the Sikhs.
Mandirs to Hanuman ji, Lord Krishna, Shiv ji Maharaj, and Lord Ram line the rear boundary of the compound. The presence of each is palpable to whoever enters their Sacred Space.
Near Jesus’s place a Mosque has just been constructed and the hauntingly beautiful verses of the Holy Qu’ran waft through the air. One of Gobind Sadan’s gardeners serves as Imam lovingly sharing stories and teachings from the life of the Prophet to the enthrallment of all present.
These places of worship are not simply to make guests of varied backgrounds feel welcome – but rather for all of us to stretch our understanding of God. This is not some synchretic approach to religion or attempt to dilute the richness of particular practices – but rather a celebration and lesson in appreciation of the fullness of God within each of His Magnificent Paths.
This is a visible model of the Sikh tradition – a spiritual path that not only honors all sacred paths – but through which one learns to find God in each.
Respect for another’s right to worship according to their belief is only part – a very basic part of Sikh core values, defended by Guru Tegh Bahadur, the 9th Guru, with his life. It is one thing to say that havan is all right for Hindus, that it is all right for a Christian to love Jesus, or a Muslim to pray in the Mosque, a Jew to don tallis and yarmulke and pray on Shabat, or a Buddhist to sit in silent meditation or in adoration of Lord Buddha, but it is quite another level of consciousness to realize that all prayer and worship produces the same experience of God if done with love and devotion.
What distinguishes a Sikh is the understanding that prayer in all traditions when done with love is inspired by the same Source regardless of form. And prayer, in its many forms, inspires within us the same awe of a Higher Power that lifts us out of our human weaknesses and burns away the darkness that obscured God’s light within us. So it is part of the great heritage of the Sikh Gurus to encourage all people, and notably their disciples (Sikhs), to experience God beyond the narrow confines our parochial religions.
This is the state of mind, and challenge before a Sikh – to experience God as the same Light,
and the same Love in all places of worship. This is what Guru Gobind Singh called on his Khalsa – “the Order of the Pure” – to experience when he extolled:
“Manas ki jat – sabhai ekai pachan bo” “Dera Masit soie – Puja te Nimaz oie”
“Recognize all people as one human race – See the Mosque and the Temple as the same- the Puja of the Hindus and the Nimaz of the Muslims are the same”
What distinguishes, and ultimately defines, a Sikh then is the ability to see God everywhere and have reverence for all places of worship – all scripture – all those who bring God’s Message – and ultimately for all creation. And to stand as a beacon of that Light so amidst the darkness there is in fact a fearless unwavering witness to Truth.
Gobind Sadan, in this context, is the gift of His Holiness Baba Virsa Singh – a place that represents the vision of God talked about in all scripture, a place that makes God real – and allows us to perceive the Imperceptible.
So to enter Gobind Sadan is to experience the Sikh tradition at its best – experience the presence of God – to learn reverence – and to grow in your personal faith drawing ever closer to that which is God in your life.
This is the revelation of the Ever-Greater God – the One who is always beyond whatever limits we chose to put to define our understanding – The One who is even “beyond religion” as Guru Gobind Singh himself states. The Sikh term for God is “Wahe-Guru” – the Awesome – Ever Greater – Ever Expanding God. Contemplating the Eternal One raises our consciousness beyond the confines of our worldly limits and our parochial religions, and allows us to live in peace – with our selves and those around us.
The problem facing the world today is that we have so defined our selves by our religious identities, or at the other end of the spectrum, so rebelled against the confinement and rigidity created in the name of religion, that we have left no room for God.
If we use the word Sikh or Christian, Hindu or Jew, Buddhist or Muslim, we feel that this place, these teachings are only for people of that particular community. If we look at the actions of those who preach hatred and breed conflict in the name of religion we are repulsed.
Through Gobind Sadan, Baba ji has restored faith in the presence of the God for all people, for all creation and the sanctity of His teachings within all traditions. Amidst wars and killing perpetrated in the name of religion, he continues to demonstrate that the teachings of each tradition are paths to peace if only we would follow them. He steadfastly challenges those who would use religion to promote conflict and allow their fellow human beings to live in poverty to stop blocking the Light of God – and remove the impediments through which they are impeding Peace. Babaji has assured the world that Peace will come – and based on what we can witness in Gobind Sadan – the Dawn of Peace is not far away.
June 15, 200