Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Third US Catholic-Sikh dialogue

An official Catholic-Sikh dialogue meeting was held at the seminary last week (St. Paul's College is used by several groups for meetings throughout the year), and the community hosted the participants during meals. When I got back from our novice tour, I was quizzed about Sikhism. I know a little bit (you know, what most Indians know: the turban, The 5Ks: kada, kesh, kirpan, kanga, kaccha, monotheism, Singh and Kaur, the Gurus, and so on), but please, I'm not Sikh, nor am I an expert! :)

Two of the Sikh participants in the dialogue have posted their photos of the event on the web: here and here.

The Sikhs attended Mass in the chapel, and they also held a Sikh prayer service. I've never actually attended services at a gurudwara, so I'm really sorry I missed that. I don't know that they included proper gurbani or hymns -- I got a copy of the service (in Gurmukhi, transliterated into the Roman script, and translated into English), and it's quite beautiful, focusing mainly on praise of God. Here's a sample (obviously, I'm not going to try and do Gurmukhi on here! Hindi-speakers should be able to follow most of the Punjabi.)
So dar tayraa kayhaa so ghar kayhaa jit bahi sarab samaalay.
Vaajay tayray naad anayk asankhaa kayta tayra vaavanhaaray.
Kayta tayray raag paree si-o kahee-ahi kayta tayra gaavanhaaray.
Gaavan tuDhno pava paanee baisantar gaavai raajaa Dharam du-aaray.
Gaavan tuDhno chit gupata likh jaanan likh likh dharam beechaaray.

Where is That Door of Yours,a nd where is That Home, in which You sit and take care of all?
The Sound-Current (Naad) vibrates there for You, and countless musicians play all sorts of instruments there for You.
There are so many Ragas and musical harmonies to You; so many minstrels sin hymns of You.
Wind, water and fire sing to You. The Righteous Judge of Dharama sings at Your Door.
Chitr and Gupt, the angels of conscious and the subconscious who keep the record of actions, and the Righteous Judge of Dharma who reads this record, sing of You.
Here is my Flickr set from the visit to the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the holiest shrine of Sikhism, and one of the most beautiful places I've been to. This blog post explores the practice of langar, communal meals that many Sikh gurdwaras give out, daily, to all comers, free of charge.

Here's the full-text of the CNS story (the link only has a summary):
U.S. Sikhs come to Washington for third dialogue with Catholics
By Mark Pattison
Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The conversation between U.S. Catholics and Sikhs continued in Washington Sept. 28-Oct. 1 as about a dozen members of each faith engaged in the third dialogue between the two denominations.
It's a learning experience, said Kavneet Singh, 44, who was participating in his second dialogue. "It's a very high-level dialogue," he said, "to really get to know the core of the faith."
From the dialogues the Sikh participants learn about what the two faiths have in common.
"Both faiths are looking out for the welfare of mankind," Singh said in an interview with Catholic News Service. "We all look out for our brother." Both Sikhs and Catholics, he added, share the view that there is just one God.
The concept of a single God would be seen by Sikhs as more expansive than the Abrahamic concept of God, according to Manohar Singh, 71, who was born in the Punjab region of India, considered the cradle of Sikhism.
Manohar Singh -- no relation to Kavneet ("All Sikhs are Singhs, but not all Singhs are Sikhs," according to Manohar) -- said Sikhs consider God to be "a mother, a father, brother, sister, even as a friend -- any kind of relationship that you have here" on earth. Manohar Singh has participated in all three U.S. Catholic-Sikh dialogue sessions.
The Sikh participants spoke to CNS in a Sept. 28 group interview prior to the start of the dialogue, held at St. Paul's College. The Catholic convener of the gathering was Father James Massa, executive director of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.
There are no clergy in Sikhism. According to Manohar Singh, "any person is considered able to lead the worship" -- including 17-year-old Anhol Singh of Chicago, who participated in his first dialogue.
"Since I've been here, I've been trying to carry the youth message" of Sikhism, said Anhol Singh, also no relation to the other Singhs present.
The teen was wearing a T-shirt showing an illustrated U.S. map with images of pushpins indicating the airports at which he has been detained by security. Turban-wearing Sikhs often face prejudice and suspicion at airports and other public places in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks carried out by terrorists from Middle Eastern countries.
Kavneet Singh said Anhol's Chicago-based gurdwara, or Sikh temple, recommended him for the dialogue.
Sikhism traces its roots to 1521, when the first Sikh assembly was held by Guru Nanak, the faith's first guru. Today's temples function as both houses of worship and community centers, which always include a free kitchen -- a concept first realized by Sikhism's third guru, Amardas.
There are an estimated 23 million Sikhs worldwide. The United States has an estimated 500,000, making it second only to India's 19 million in the number of Sikhs. Sizable communities are located in California and the New Jersey-New York region. "Sikhs have been here for over 100 years," Manohar Singh said.
Great Britain is third with more than 336,000; Canada has about 278,000 Sikh adherents.
Sikh scripture, called the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, is greatly revered in Sikhism. English is by far the first language used by U.S. Sikhs. To express their religious beliefs using the vernacular, "we have to go back to the original" Punjabi language, Manohar Singh said. Instruction in Punjabi is also a regular feature of Sikh temples.

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