Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sikhism and Interreligious Dialogue

The corresponding video can be found at the following link:

10/13/2011 12:43 pm (et) Moderator: logs in on 10/13/2011 12:43 pm (et).
10/13/2011 12:50 pm (et) Megan: private message to Moderator: logs in on 10/13/2011 12:50 pm (et).
10/13/2011 12:56 pm (et) Rajwant Singh: logs in on 10/13/2011 12:56 pm (et).
10/13/2011 12:59 pm (et) John: private message to Moderator: logs in on 10/13/2011 12:59 pm (et).
10/13/2011 1:00 pm (et) Moderator: Welcome! This is Rebecca from the InterFaith Conference (IFC) and I will be your moderator. As this is still new, let me explain how this will work. On the right, you will see a video playing of our current topic to get the conversation going. If you have a comment and/or question send it along to me, the moderator. As long as I deem it appropriate, the comment will be posted to everyone and the speaker will have the opportunity to answer your question.
10/13/2011 1:00 pm (et) Moderator: Today, our topic is ‘Sikhism and Interreligious Dialogue’ with Dr. Rajwant Singh, Sikh member of IFC’s Board.
10/13/2011 1:00 pm (et) Moderator: As always, I would like to remind you of the rules of our engagement. This is a respectful place where we come together to learn more about the religions of the world. Whether you agree or disagree, we welcome your comments and questions that are posed in a respectful manner. Please no profane or offensive remarks, they will not be posted. Also, this is a place of learning, so please refrain from ‘soapboxing.’ If there are any issues or questions about this, they can be submitted along with the comments pertaining to our topic. I am here to make this a pleasant and educational experience for all, so enjoy and remember there are no stupid questions, just hostile ones!
10/13/2011 1:01 pm (et) Moderator: You can now view the beginning comments on the right. As you listen, please feel free to start sending questions or comments (YES, we want your comments). This week, the video is a bit long, so when a question comes up, go ahead and send it.
10/13/2011 1:01 pm (et) Moderator: Also, the video will remain within the sidebar, so feel free to return to it as you wish. Our chat window automatically refreshes to keep the flow going, but if you wish to view the whole of the conversation, just hit the archive button. And lastly, PLEASE do not use double quotes as it leads to some issues.
10/13/2011 1:01 pm (et) LaGomez: private message to Moderator: logs in on 10/13/2011 1:01 pm (et).
10/13/2011 1:05 pm (et) Susan: private message to Moderator: logs in on 10/13/2011 1:05 pm (et).
10/13/2011 1:07 pm (et) Jerry Monder: private message to Moderator: logs in on 10/13/2011 1:07 pm (et).
10/13/2011 1:14 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: I heard that the Sikhs are not able to attend the Interreligious Peace Summit in Assisi because of issues related to the sword. Is that true? What is your opinion on that?
10/13/2011 1:16 pm (et) Rajwant Singh: I have not heard this yet. Last time, there was no problem with Kirpan - the ceremonial symbolic sword.
10/13/2011 1:16 pm (et) Rajwant Singh: I was an attendee at the Peace Summit at Assisi in 2002 and there was no restriction.
10/13/2011 1:17 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Right, which is why it seems like a surprise that they would have an issue this time, but I had just heard it in passing, does it ever become an issue?
10/13/2011 1:18 pm (et) Rajwant Singh: It has come up from time to time. Because of the security concerns and hype about terrorism which is also a genuince concern. But we are continuously trying to educate others about this belief of Sikhs.
10/13/2011 1:20 pm (et) Rajwant Singh: Kirpan is a symbolic reminder for Sikhs to stand up for justice in society but people who are not familier with the tradition view it as a weapon. That is the root cause of the problem.
10/13/2011 1:20 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Do most people accept the nuance once it has been explained? And do you have problems with the negative stereotypes in society?
10/13/2011 1:23 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Do they get in the way of dialogue?
10/13/2011 1:26 pm (et) Moderator: Jerry Monder said: How do gender relations play out in the Sikh tradition? Historically and in modern times?
10/13/2011 1:28 pm (et) Rajwant Singh: Negative streotypes are always there. Many at times, these issue dominate and overshadow the central message of Sikhism.
10/13/2011 1:30 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: So why interreligious dialogue? What in Sikhism compels the community to participate with something like the IFC?
10/13/2011 1:31 pm (et) Rajwant Singh: Sikhism from the very begining has advocated equality among men and women. Sikh Gurus emphasized full participation of women in the society and in the decision making process. They strongly advocated that women must keep her face uncovered at all times and especially in public and as they would take a leading role in the affairs of the society or the religion.
10/13/2011 1:32 pm (et) sheaya: private message to Moderator: logs in on 10/13/2011 1:32 pm (et).
10/13/2011 1:34 pm (et) Moderator: LaGomez said: Has there been any important female leader in Sikhism?
10/13/2011 1:35 pm (et) Rajwant Singh: Sikhism is built on the premise that each religion has something valuable to teach and each religion deserves respect. Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, himself traveled far distances to have dialogue with Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists and many spiritually oriented individuals. He took a giant leap by collecting hymns of many Hindu and Sufi saints and included in the hymn book which he was compiling. The message was clear that spirituality is not a domain of one tradition and no body has a monopoly on Truth or God.
10/13/2011 1:36 pm (et) Rajwant Singh: There have been many Sikh women who took a leading role in organizing the community historically and in the modern times.
10/13/2011 1:38 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: This may seem a bit off base, but I am sure that Sikhism doesn't want to affirm all religions, I mean some must be wrong since there are many contradictory statements out there, is there a measure of Truth for all religions?
10/13/2011 1:38 pm (et) Rajwant Singh: one of the largest Sikh organization making decisions for the worldwide community
10/13/2011 1:38 pm (et) Rajwant Singh: was headed by a women.
10/13/2011 1:40 pm (et) Rajwant Singh: Guru Nanak questioned the practices of faithful and reminded them of the intrinsic values imbedded in the faith tradition. He at times gave his viewpoint and proposed simplar path for enlightenment.
10/13/2011 1:41 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Intrinsic values? Can you expand on what that means?
10/13/2011 1:43 pm (et) Rajwant Singh: Love of God, affirmation of God's presence, Respecting your own neighbor or fellow human being, forgiveness, humility, service, Love are some of the values given by almost all faiths.
10/13/2011 1:45 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: In dialogue, when confronted with differences as well as similarities, how are the differences faced?
10/13/2011 1:45 pm (et) Rajwant Singh: Guru Nanak said the problem arises when we are disconnected with our own divinity or our own creator. This creates a sense of duality and conflict which gives birth to much bigger conflict in society.
10/13/2011 1:48 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: So how does he propose to resolve that?
10/13/2011 1:48 pm (et) Rajwant Singh: Differences will always remain as long as we are not putting people down due to their belief system. Guru Tegh Bahadur gave his life to protect the religious freedom of the Hindus even though he did not follow the tradition. One must recognize that each human being is a human first and he or she is created by the same Creator and God has plan for that individual rather than me deciding his or her fate.
10/13/2011 1:50 pm (et) Rajwant Singh: I can follow my own path honestly and my deeper connection with God within is directly propotional to my spreading peace and love. Otherwise everything else is just mere talk.
10/13/2011 1:52 pm (et) Rajwant Singh: Guru Nanak was asked in Baghdad whether Hindus are superior or Muslims. His answer was it does not matter what label you have, it matter what your deeds are. Without loving acts, no one can claim superiority based on the theology only.
10/13/2011 1:52 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: That seems very similar to my own tradition, but I find myself struggling with other people's reactions. I mean we may intend to live this life of peace and love but are confronted at times with the opposite. How do the gurus say to respond?
10/13/2011 1:57 pm (et) Rajwant Singh: Negativity comes in many forms. Sometimes in the garb of religion, politics, nationalism, or even the very selfish motives in our day to day encounters. One has to become God like or Jesus like or Guru Nanak like or Buddha like - where these ups and downs do not take away our focus on reaching enlightenment. One cannot stop loving a child when he or she makes mistakes. Guru Nanak says you keep on doing what is in alignment with the divine non judgemental Presence. But at the same times, have the courage to speak the truth where one must stand up for respect, tolerance, human rights and equal treatment.
10/13/2011 1:58 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Does Sikhism recognize those leaders in other traditions?
10/13/2011 1:59 pm (et) Moderator: Alright, we are about to end for the day, we'll answer this last question and Dr. Singh, if you have any concluding remarks
10/13/2011 2:00 pm (et) Rajwant Singh: Sikh scriptures did not mention any particular leader. It lays out focus on the message and not too much on the personality. Gurus themselves barred Sikhs to hold them as Gods or too special. They said the message is important and not the medioum. They said worry about your only chance of connecting with God being in the human form and do not waster this opportunity.
10/13/2011 2:01 pm (et) Moderator: Thank you for your participation today. Next week our chat is a ‘Reflections on Diwali’ with Bhavna Shinde. We hope to see you there! If you would like to contact or guest, please contact me at
10/13/2011 2:01 pm (et) Moderator: Also, this is a new effort on our part so we welcome your feedback! Any comments will be helpful. If you have any suggestion please feel free to email me at
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10/13/2011 2:02 pm (et) Rajwant Singh: Sikhism proposes that we are here to meet with our Beloved - our Creator and one must keep focus on the reaching to that goal and discover that Divine presence within and without.
10/13/2011 2:03 pm (et) Rajwant Singh: May all of us are blessed by God and May we all become co-travelers in this journey.
10/13/2011 2:03 pm (et) Rajwant Singh: Thanks.

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