by SS Gurujodha Singh Khalsa, Bakersfield CA
What does it mean to be a Sikh Dharma Minister in the age of Covid-19 and Black Lives Matter?
In examining the physical pandemic of COVID-19 and the consciousness affliction known as racism and prejudice in the world, what is the role of the Sikh Dharma Minister? Are we here only to perform weddings and officiate at funerals? Are we strictly consigned to taking hukams and passing out prasad? Yes and no. We must perform each of the aforementioned ministerial functions with grace and dignity. Additionally, it is my view that we also must expand ways in which we as Sikh Dharma Ministers uplift and serve our community and the world community. It is time to serve with strength and commitment.
In June of this year, I had the privilege, along with several other members of our community, to attend the George Floyd memorial service in Houston, Texas. This was a powerful and beautiful experience. As we waited in line for the buses to take us to the church to view the body, we had the opportunity to be with and talk with others who were there to express their sorrow, their outrage, and their commitment to ending systemic racism in America.
Several of us were interviewed by the press and were captured on the evening news. People who gathered knew we were Sikhs and several were heard pointing out to others in the crowd, “Those guys are Sikhs.” So part of our role as Ministers is just showing up and being in a shared space with others for righteousness and humanity. (See videotaped interviews below.)
As the day progressed and we arrived at the church for the viewing of the body, we held that space of sacred respect for Mr. Floyd who had died so senselessly and violently. We were able to spontaneously step out of line and offer an Ardas for Mr. Floyd, his family, and all of those who have died senselessly as a result of racism in this country, thereby bringing the special energy of the Guru and of our path to this sacred moment. It was uplifting to feel the love of all of those present. It was a powerful reminder that much has to be done, as I looked into the eyes of young black boys and girls who are sadly just as much at risk as I was as a young black boy in America some 60 years ago.
A Model for Service
So the Floyd memorial provides a model for service. Be present for people in the regal form of the Guru to humbly support others as they deal with loss and strive for justice and equality. Just show up and let the Guru guide your service. Whether it is passing out water to others standing in the hot sun waiting for a bus, or taking a photo with a young brother for mutual inspiration, there is much we can do in these difficult times.
On a more formal level, I believe we can be agents of peace and change. There is a great deal of anger and fear in the world today. The ability of people to work together, especially with those with whom they disagree, is almost non-existent.
Sikh Dharma teaches us to see the faults in others and then “unsee” them. One of our core values is to see the other person as yourself. To what end do we hold these values? My answer is that we hold these values to be able to transcend the petty perceived differences we use to judge and criticize others and to be able to get to the core reality of Ek Ong Kar.
We hold these values in order to experience that there is just One Creator; there is just one creation, and we are all one as creatures of that creation. Once we have established that belief we must create opportunities to have that experience of oneness and to share it with others. Granted, we could hold a gurdwara service or teach a yoga class. But there may be some situations in which an alternative vehicle could be used to create an experience of oneness and that experience could be used to generate concrete ideas leading to peace and reconciliation.
Taking a Leadership Role
I have developed a model I believe that we as Sikh Dharma Ministers can implement and utilize to serve the intention of being agents of peace and prosperity on the planet. It involves our alignment and leadership with the interfaith community. Sikh Dharma Ministers could take the lead in their communities by galvanizing the interfaith community and forming a local interfaith Task Force to host and conduct the mediation process as outlined in my Community-Based Proposal (PDF). In my view, this proposal presents an opportunity for us to bring our unique spiritual identity and spiritual technology into environments where conflict is present, in an effort to elevate the situation to the highest and best outcome for all concerned.
If Ministers are interested in learning more and/or discussing how we as a community of Ministers can bring something like this into the communities we serve, please contact me at [email protected].
A Dialogue on Facing Racism
Editor’s Note: While attending the funeral for George Floyd in Houston Gurujodha Singh met a number of active members and advocates for The Black Lives Matter movement. Two were women from Camden, NJ, who have a blog called UrbaNation. On July 1st he was interviewed by Dr. Stephné Coney and Sescily Reneé in a FaceBook video. Thank you to SS Krishna Singh who captured this online interview live (1 hour 45 minutes) and edited it into six shorter segments (featured below). (Videos courtesy SS Krishna Singh via Vimeo.)
About the Author
SS Gurujodha Singh Khalsa is an ordained Sikh Dharma Minister and President of the Siri Singh Sahib Corporation, which is a non-profit elected board of Sikh Ministers responsible for the Sikh Dharma and 3HO family of businesses and non-profit organizations. Gurujodha Singh currently serves as the Chief Deputy for the Advisory Section of the Office of County Counsel, Kern County, California. Mr. Khalsa is certified in Health Care Compliance (CHC). He is a graduate of Amherst College (1974, cum laude) and the University of Pennsylvania Law School (1977) in Philadelphia. He has been a licensed attorney since 1977 (Pennsylvania) and licensed in California since 1979. He holds the rank of seventh-degree black belt in Ed Parker’s system of Kenpo karate. He is married to SS Siri Ved Kaur Khalsa and he has three daughters and one granddaughter.