I sat in a very quiet room, which is a strange feeling when the building is in the heart of Queens, NY. Yet, when I looked around, only the ceiling fan made any noise. A very tall, dignified Sikh man entered the room. “I am Mohinder Singh, President of this Gurudwara. I understand you have questions, my friend.”
“Yes, thank you for your time, Mohinder,” I replied. “I am studying in a Jewish college, where many young men learn to be a Rabbi. I feel very aware of the Presence of Our Creator, but I have many questions about religion. It seems we all stay within our tribe even though we talk about the One, Universal G-d. I am proud to be a Jew, but I struggle to see religious people can working together, and not trying to convert me, or tell me I read our scriptures wrong.”
Mohinder sat quietly after I spoke. Thinking, thinking. He looked at me, “Yes, my friend, G-d is our Creator, and you are my brother. Religion is supposed to make this the core of our lives, and sometimes, many times, we go off track. Your religion is beautiful, our Sikhism is beautiful. But, yes, we must improve how we live by the truth, not claiming that we own it. I don’t know how, but we must improve.”
What? We need to improve how we live by truth, not claiming that we own it? A lightning bolt struck my soul. I must have stared at him for several moments in disbelief. So, this is the future, I thought. I pictured people easily talking about the One G-d, our common family, and how religion once divided us and got off track for thousands of years.
Intellectually, it felt very real. I could see a religious course correction in my mind. But, what was the tangible experience, between everyday people, that would bind us all?
“Come my friend, let us listen to Shabad, our Sikh holy songs.” We went downstairs to the main room where the Sikh spiritual leaders sang the verses of the Gurus of Sikhism, played air piano and tabla. I sat with my eyes closed and let the music take me away, to be aware of the Creator, to let His Name rest in my mind. The singing and chanting from the congregation linked up with the leaders.
What a beautiful meditation, I thought. To think, this was the first time in my life, as a Jew, where I sat with another devout people, and there was no hint of the goal to convert me. This was the first time ever. Every time I was the ‘other’ in a different house of worship, the goal was for me to give up my identity. Here in the Sikh Gurudwara, the President encouraged me to be a better Jew and embrace him as a brother.
I walked out into the streets of Queens, a better and happier Jew for visiting and meditating with the Sikhs. In fact, I wanted to learn more about Sikhism. I began studying more Sikh websites, reading books, and listening to the meditation.
At that time, I had no idea this deeper interest would lead me to Dr. Harsimran Singh and Gurnam Singh. My new friends would give me an invitation and experience that is etched into my soul. “Will you be our guest, and lead the services in the Gurudwara?”
At first, I politely declined, as I am an observant Jew and I admire other religions as a guest. Yet, I asked if I could see a copy of the Scripture in English. I read the words and there was nothing I could disagree with. The Scripture said that G-d is One, this world is filled with distractions to knowing the Creator, and we can improve ourselves by studying the Holy Scripture and loving our neighbor.
“Well, I certainly believe all of that is true,” I responded. “Yes, I feel comfortable to sing these themes and ideas.”
In my mind, I can visualize sitting next to the Sikh service leaders in Glen Cove, Long Island. They signal to me, to begin singing in Punjabi for the congregation. I sit cross legged, guitar in my lap, head covered, and began singing in Punjabi about the One G-d.
Suddenly, a part of my Jewish soul comes alive, a dormant universal spark, and new life is breathed into me. In those moments, I accepted my life calling. The details were a little fuzzy……