Category Archives: My Unitarian Universalist Roots

Bole so nihal! Sat Siri Akal! Thank You Bill Sinkford!

bill-sinkford.jpg

About Bill Sinkford

Bole so nihal! Sat Siri Akal! – A shout of joy, popularized by Guru Gobind Singh which means, “Anyone who hears this news will be blessed! Truth (The Truthful One) is undying!”

Within three days of 9-11 Bill Sinkford, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association mobilized USA UUs into activism on behalf of USA Sikhs and USA Muslims fighting against the flood of hate crimes and anti-Muslim backlash. UU communities sponsored educational forums and participated in Gurdwara Open-Houses all over the country.

September 14, 2001:

An Open Letter from the Rev. William G. Sinkford, President of the Unitarian Universalist Association

Dear Friends,

As this week has unfolded, my fear that Arab and Muslim individuals and communities would be attacked has sadly come to pass. Let me re-state my call to Unitarian Universalist communities to reach out and stand with our Arab and Muslim sisters and brothers who lament the terrorists acts of this Tuesday and grieve with us the losses.

Let me also encourage our congregations to reach out to Sikh communities in this country. Though the Sikh community is not Muslim, they too are at risk of being blamed for this tragedy.

Our task as people of faith is to be present to our grief and fear, but not to respond with anger. We must seek justice and, as our President says, to punish those responsible. But retribution will not create safety, nor move us toward justice.

Yours in faith and hope,

William G. Sinkford

1 Comment

Filed under Inspiring, Multicultural, My Unitarian Universalist Roots, Sikhi, The Khalsa Knighthood

What A Weird Life! by Kamalla Rose Kaur

kamalla-pirate.jpg

Kamalla Rose Kaur

Fall 2000

My son, Harpal, age 11, tells me that I am weird several times a day. I get a little sensitive, “Am I weird or did I simply end up with an unusually weird life? It could happen to you too, you know!”

I was raised on a university campus, the only daughter of scholarly parents, both in love with the art of being teachers. I attended an experimental elementary school on the campus of the university where my Dad taught in the Education and Psychology Departments. My parent’s many professor friends were my pseudo-Uncles all around me, and I had many emancipated and powerful Aunts too!

At Campus School the teachers were working on several levels. They were teaching 25 kids per class, as well as training 4 or 5 student-teachers in the classroom. And they were often lecturing in the Education Department as well. When this got tiring for them, there was an ocean of professors who clearly enjoyed having a troop of young kids skip over to their classrooms, or labs, to learn something about electricity, or potter’s wheels, or basketball, or how concert organs are built, and much more.

This magical, enriched, paradise childhood was rudely dispelled when I entered the USA public school system at puberty. It was 1966 and instantly, age 11, kids coming from the Campus School were, despite our youth, perceived to be Leftist Radicals, and soon, Hippies. I was actually more like a European socialist, and given my extreme youth, I would tend to say that I was a “flower child” but Hippie works too. My only problem was that most of the adults in my Middle School and later, many of adults in my High School clearly didn’t like Hippies one bit! The war was on.

Thankfully it was also in 1966 that I found the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship which became my guiding light, security, and inspiration through the social upheaval and strife taking place in these un-United States, 1966-1973.

Despite this UU support, by age 18 (1973) I was pretty burnt-out; defeated and scared, and fried, as were Hippies everywhere. Contemplating the mega-resources the Military-Industrial-Complex was pouring into killing the Peace Movement, and the environmental movement too – and also gazing into a future of being a destitute activist artist in the USA – I suddenly took the path of the spiritual renunciate. Shocking my family and UU community, I joined an Eastern religion, Sikhi, and moved into an Ashram.

Or at least I thought I was a Sikh. I had no way to perceive, back then, that most Sikhs would say that I was a member of a Hindu-ish group, following yet another self-proclaimed Saint, merely calling ourselves Sikhs.

Thus during my 20s and 30s my most pressing concern was whether I could manage to awaken and rise at 3:30am, take a cold shower, and then do fanatic yoga and meditation practice for 3 or 4 hours- each and every day. I fasted a lot. I wore all white clothes, at all times, and I taught very popular, large, yoga classes and did lots of public speaking in the Bay Area CA. I was married to a fellow Yogi Sikh, a Semiconductor Engineer working in a start-up company, 50-60 hours a week, in Silicon Valley. And after his company went public, I got to experience having money! I raised two very talented and successful daughters, home-schooling them quite a lot, and towards the end of those two decades I went back to university in Religious Studies.

Then I had Harpal, an eleven pound baby, birthed at home. Soon after this powerful event I wrote the series of articles that got me kicked out of the pseudo-Sikh spiritual organization that I had been part of for almost 20 years.

I got kicked out because I had finally let myself see the truth that my former spiritual teacher was a conman and crook and that my spiritual organization was a cover for organized crime.

I am proud to say that I remained Unitarian Universalist and Sikh enough to NOT take this news quietly and serenely!

Of course, I received “The Phone Call” where I felt distinctly threatened with harm by my former teacher’s highly trained bodyguards. Thus I came to understand that I had joined a cult and that I was in danger.

After that, I went through an ugly divorce and I had a nervous breakdown. I lost everything for a spell: my children, the money, status, my community and support system, my self-esteem and my faith.

I retreated again, this time to a small non-profit healing center outside of Washington DC where I taught classes and designed multicultural events, and did a whole lot of healing. I was laying low and being quiet- not giving my X-teacher any reason to worry about me and my big mouth. I studied Tibetan Buddhism and let Sikhi go.

In Spring of 1998 I returned to my hometown to makes amends to my Mother and be with her during her last months. After my Dad’s death in 1987, my Mother discovered the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship too, and she threw herself into church service. Mom was the Fellowship’s Board President during a difficult time and she did an excellent job. She ran the Great Books discussions groups and rarely ever missed a Circle Dinner.

Since my return to the “Real World” and my hometown, I have been embraced in love and acceptance by my UU Fellowship- as an artist, and as someone going through tremendous culture shock, and as a daughter standing beside her brilliant and independent mother through an intense time of sickness- 10 hospitalizations in 20 months. And recently the UU Fellowship has deeply mourned Mom’s death with me.

Am I still in danger? My former spiritual teacher, his henchmen and lawyers are still at large and prospering. But I feel very safe because UUs and Sikhs have adopted me. These two liberal traditions, Sikhi and Unitarian Universalism, have taught me about social justice as spiritual practice since leaving the cult. They have filled me with courage and they have empowered me.

You may not think of the Sikh religion as being a liberal tradition but it is! Sadly, however, it is a liberal tradition that is having huge troubles right now, and getting lots of negative PR in the West.

Yet 500 years ago, a poet-musician named Nanak put on half Muslim clothes and half Hindu clothes and set off walking all over Indian, and into the Middle East, teaching and singing about Universalism. Nanak was a troubadour and he believed deeply that humans can live in peace, even when our beliefs are as different as Islam and Hinduism! And Guru Nanak (as he came to be known) was fundamentally and actively against the caste system and he fought for women’s rights. He passed his Guru-ship down to his lower-caste servant.

Ironically for me, Nanak was also very adamently against doing extreme yogic practices like I used to do and teach. Nanak taught that we should sing praises to the Creation/Creator, and it doesn’t matter one whit what religion we follow. Just open our hearts and minds in Love, and do service for all beings.

The Sikh lineage of Gurus was passed down for 10 generations.Then Guru Gobind Singh, the last of the embodied Sikh Gurus, concluded that the human Guru-disciple relationship was not, ultimately, a good thing. (Again, ironically, I had to learn this for myself, the hard way!) So Guru Gobind Singh transferred the Sikh Guru-ship to the Sikh scripture and to the Sikh congregation. The Sikh scripture is called “The Siri Guru Granth Sahib” and it is a collection of Nanak’s songs, and the ecstatic poetry of other Gurus in the Sikh lineage. It also includes beautiful writings of Hindu and Muslim Saints, making it a truly Universalist scripture.

Historically Sikhs took up the sword against the Muslim Inquisition in India, quite dramatically and successfully, and thus Sikhs became known and acclaimed for being some of the greatest warriors in the world. In more modern times, when Gandhi was still in South Africa, Sikhs were already practicing non-violent resistance to British rule in India. And to establish peace between Hindus and Muslims, Sikhs allowed the boundary of Pakistan and India to go through Sikh territory at the time of Partition.

Since 1984, when the Indian Government troops attacked and demolished much of the Sikh’s most Holy and Sacred Ground, Darbar Sahib (aka the Golden Temple), Sikhs everywhere have been in a bit of an uproar and panic. Sikhs say that the present government in India is fundamentalist Hindu in nature, caste-driven, and that it is persecuting all minority religions in India right now, even Christians. Sikhs also say that Western business interests are supporting this corrupt government.

“OK, so I am weird!” I admit to Harpal, as I attempt to see my life through his eyes….and the eyes of others.

“But I really believe, as a Sikh and as a Unitarian Universalist that it is OK to be weird! We are all children of the Divine, and as diverse as can be!”

Harpal throws his arms up between us in mock defense.

“Hey, I didn’t say that you aren’t lovable!” Harpal chides, dancing around me like a Martial Artist, “I just said that you are WEIRD!”

22 Comments

Filed under Fighting Authoritarian Groups, Kamalla Rose Kaur's Writings, Multicultural, My Unitarian Universalist Roots, Sikhi

Gyani Jarnail Singh (Malaysia) on Unitarian Universalist Principles

uu.jpg

I was raised Unitarian Universalist which is a religious movement, as much as a religion, I feel. UUs do not care what you believe. If you agree to adopt and promote the 7 UU principles, then feel free to call yourself a UU. There are ChristianUUs, and HumanistUUs, and BuddhistUUs, and PaganUUs, and AtheistUUs and so forth.

The Seven UU Principles are:

1.The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
2. Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
3. Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
4. A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
5. The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
6. The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
7. Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

I asked Gyani Jarnail Singh from Malaysia to comment on the 7 UU Principles from a Sikh perspective. “Gyani” is a title of respect given to those who are scholars of the Sikh scripture, the SGGS.

symsikh.jpg

Gyani Jarnail Singh writes:

Kamalla Rose Kaur Ji has asked my opinion on the following UU Principles…Here is an off the cuff response from me attempting a comparative look at the UU principles from a Sikhi point of view.

1.The inherent worth and dignity of every person;

1. Gurbani declares..Search not ever the Lord without..The Creator is within each heart. The One Lord is pervading ALL Ramkali Mh 3 Page 953,

Hundreds of times the Gurus and Bhagts (authors of the Sikh scripture/Guru) have asserted again and again that its not just the outward riches, or flashy clothes, or appearance that should “attract us”..but the inherent worth and dignity of each and every part of the Lord’s Creation. The poor and the meek have just as much rights and dignity and worth as the rich and the powerful..the children of the streets have just as much dignity as the children enrolled in premier schools.

2. Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;

2. Its not by sheer accident that the First Pyara (first Khalsa Knight) who got up in Vasakhi 1699, called by Guru Gobind Singh ji for a “Head”..was named DYA Ram. Dya is Compassion and Guru declares that for RELIGION to successfully plant its roots..DYA..Compassion has to come FIRST. Then the second person to answer the call was DHARAM Chand…”Religion” !! So DYA came first as the SOIL in which the seeds of Dharam (Religion) were to be planted…”accident”….? “plan” ??..”design..fluke..coincidence ?? (The remaining three payaras Names continue this “compleat man” design but explaining all that would make this mail too long)
Dya or compassion in Sikhi is not just the…” don’t kill the chicken..its cruel !!” ( killing for food cannot be cruel ) or the jain ideology that even when walking be careful not to step on the ant ( thus Jains wear masks to prevent breathing in germs and thus killing them..and they sweep the road before them to sweep away insects etc they would kill by stepping on them). IF that were the case than a Sikh would be sinning if he swatted the mosquito….or swatted the pesky fly…or used bleach etc on his laundry. Unfortunately “Dya” is wrongly construed by many Sikhs as just this sort of “compassion”. Its NOT this way at all. True “compassion” or Dya is Giving of ones-self. Those who make TRUTH their fasting, contentment their pilgrimage, cognition and Meditation their ablution, compassion their deity and forgiveness their rosary..they are most sublime of persons..declares Guru Nanak ji on Page 1245.(Sggs)
Sikhi lays great emphasis on Justice, equity and compassion not only among humans , but also on all of Gods creation. Guru Arjun Ji declares in Asa M 5 Page 376 Sggs – Lord’s nature is pervading ALL the Forms and Colours..and Guru Amardass Ji says..O true KING..TRUE is thy NATURE. PG 463 Sggs

Again it is written..Through Nature we see thy POWER and through thy nature we fear and have the essence of Happiness..through thy nature exist the skies and the entire creation..through thy nature exist the Vedas, the Puarans, the Semitic Books, and ALL LOVE, The NATURE..the Living Beings of the world..Through the nature are Virtues, honours and dishonours..Guru nanak Page 464 Sggs.
Thus a Sikh is an environmentalist..automatic greenpeace activist..automatically a human rights activist… a preserver of forests…clean rivers..anti-pollution… and animal rights supporter
As far as Human relations between man and woman are concerned…Guru nanak ji was among the first and most vocal on Gender equality – all along in almost all civilisations and societies…the woman (Eve) had been placed on rib level..and in Indian Society at feet level (jutee – footwear of Man!!) Guru nanak Ji declared…So kio manda akheayeh jit jammeh rajaan… Why call her LOW who gives birth to KINGS ? Todays some Sikhs under the influence of the “fundalmentalist brahminsed fringe” have sadly begun to put aside this teaching of Guru Ji and discriminate against “woman” – thus no woman can do Kirtan/path/sewa at harmandir sahib or be member of the Panj Payras. Forward looking Sikhs are fighting hard against this.
4. A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;

4. In Sikhi its mandatory for…seeking..learning..querying and actively looking out for TRUTH. Sikhi doesn’t encourage “closed eyes blind faith”..ask no questions and you will be given no lies/wrong answers… etc is taboo. Every Sikh is encouraged to.. LISTEN..SAY..QUESTION..and BELIEVE. Kichh sunneah kich kaheayeh…. As long as we are here in this world Nanak..we should hear somewhat and speak somewhat ( Gods praises ) Guru nanak Page 661 Sggs.

Meeting with a PIOUS person..have a conversation with him..BUT meeting an IMPIOUS person..Keep MUM – Kabir page 870 Sggs. Discourse and discussion are encouraged and deemed important.

5. The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;

5. In the Sikhi concept of the PANJ – no individual has any veto power. Just like the ancient Greeks ‘democracy”..Sikhs have the Gurmatta. This institution held sway until the 1850’s rule of mahara Ranjit Singh. Each Sikh soldier or civilian was invited to a Gurmatta..each one had the right to stand up and speak his mind…and a final decision of CONCENSES was then taken by the assembly after hearing all. The MISL Leader..the CHIEFTAN..had the same right as the lowly soldier..the footman..the cleaner. Thus once a stable cleaner was chosen to be NAWAB at the Mughal court After the fall of the Sikh Empire in 1850..the British institution of “secret ballot elections” have taken root in Sikh Society. The Panj system has also been put on the back burner. Now the Panj is highly politicised and serve their political masters.

6. The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;

6. Sarbatt Da Bhalla… Goodwill towards ALL is the Final Call at the end of each Ardass or Prayer session of Sikhs all over the world. Even before a battle with the enemy – this same supplication was delivered before the Almighty. Due to this, it is no coincidence that Bhai Khnaiyah during Guru Gobind Singh Jis battles with the Hill rajahs and mughals was found giving water to BOTH – Sikhs as well as the fallen enemy soldiers. When a complaint was made to Guru Ji – about this….and on being called up to explain his behaviour..Bhai Khaneyah replied..OH My Lord..I DONT see the fallen as SIKHS or Muslims or Hindus..ALL i see is YOUR IMAGE on each person..Hindu sikh muslim. Guru Ji was so happy with this answer that he gave Bhai Khaneayh a tin of SALCE and told him..from now on besides giving water to the fallen soldiers…you may also put salve on their wounds. Thus Bhai Khaneayh is the Forerunner of the International RED CROSS . Thus the Goal of the Sikhs is also Worldwide Peace, stability, prosperity and goodwill of all men towards all. Prosper thy neighbour is Sikhi. Every person has the Universal right to Peace, Liberty and Justice. Guru teg bahdur Ji – went to delhi to give His head for Freedom of ALL religions…Human Rights and Justice for all. Emperor Aurengzeb was forcibly converting ALL to Islam in an attempt to have just ONE religion in his empire – Guru teg bahadur Ji resisted that with his life.

7. Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
7. Respect for Gods NATURE is inherent in Sikhi as explained earlier. All Sikhs are environmentalists, conservationists, anti-pollution, anti-war and oppression, preservers of nature, forests, clean water resources, nuclear free world, against undue cruelty t animals..etc etc – we firmly believe all of this INTRICATE WEB of nature is INTER DEPENDANT. Any serious failure of any component is sure to impact the others…as we are already witnessing..green house effects, global warming, melting ice caps glaciers, extinctions of various species, disappearing rain forests, pollution of air and water resources etc etc – this is happening because MAN in his arrogance ( I have made thee in my IMAGE and appointed thee as Master !!) has abused his position in this web of God.

I will be happy to discuss further..

2 Comments

Filed under Multicultural, My Unitarian Universalist Roots, Sikhi