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Lodi Sikh explains his faith's customs, beliefs

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Posted: Friday, June 1, 2007 10:00 pm

The only other major monotheistic religion that is of non-Semitic origin is the Sikh religion. Its genesis is within the Indo-Aryan concept of metaphysics.

Based on population worldwide, there are about 20 to 25 million Sikhs, and a majority of them live in the northwestern corner of the Indian subcontinent. Judaism, Christianity and Islam are Semitic faiths. They are related to each other because of their genesis in the Semitic world, but not the Sikh faith.

The name of a Sikh place of worship is called a Gurdwara. A Gurdwara is a temple of the Sikhs as a synagogue is a temple for members of the Jewish religion; a church is a temple for the Christians and a mosque a place of worship for the Muslims. Gurdwara literally means Guru's door. This is where our holy book, the Ad Granth, resides.

We do not worship any idol or man. It is against the principles of the Sikh religion to worship anything except God. Sikhs do not believe in the idea that God takes birth and reject such ideas. God is self-existent, beyond time, beyond space, omnipotent and omnipresent. Sikhs believe that God has sent prophets through time and to many regions of the world to propagate religion.

Folks may have noticed the religious flag with the Sikh symbol, the Khanda, on it which can be seen either near the entrance or on the top of every Gurdwara. See

The Khanda symbolizes the Sikh faith. The symbol is deeply rooted in history and reflects certain fundamental concepts of the faith, just as the cross is a Christian symbol and the Star of David the Jewish symbol. The flag is called Nishan Sahib out of respect.

Nishan Sahib, as a matter of religious injunction, must be hoisted at each Gurdwara complex. Great respect is shown to the Nishan Sahib as it is a symbol of all that the Sikhs believe in. It is also a welcome banner for visitors. The Nishan Sahib is changed at special occasions and every year in mid-April at the commemoration of Vaisakhi, a religious day that coincides during spring time.

The Lodi Gurdwara is private property, hence no obligation to fly the American flag, but we do to support solidarity on occasions such as the Fourth of July or remembering the 9/11 tragedy.

Sikhs strongly believe in the idea of the separation of church and state. Two members of the Sikh religious community have had the privilege of the ultimate sacrifice for the United States of America as soldiers in combat in Iraq (Pabla and Singh).

The Sikh community is less than 1/20 of the Jewish community in the USA; this gives us a perspective of the numbers. The San Joaquin and Silicon valleys have one of the largest concentrations of Sikhs in America. Hence Sikhs are seen here.

Based on percentage, members of the Sikh religion have already made a larger contribution in terms of the ultimate sacrifice than their total representation in the general American population. In the past century, more than 80,000 Sikhs had died for Allied war causes in both World Wars.

The fifth Sikh prophet, Arjan Dev Ji, was martyred at the hands of Muslim fanaticism in the 16th century in Lahore, which is present-day Pakistan. The ninth Sikh prophet, Teg Bahadur Ji, was also martyred in Delhi, present-day India, for the freedom of another religion. He protested against the massacre of Hindus in Kashmir and against Islamic fanaticism in the 17th century.

The foundation stone of the Harmandir Sahib (center of Sikh religion in Amritsar, Punjab, India) was laid by a non-Sikh, who was a Muslim saint, Syed Mian Mir. This shows Sikhs believe spirituality as the most important concept and the belief in God. It does not matter what religion you are from.

The Sikh religion is a universal faith. Sikhs believe if you are a true Jew, Christian or Muslim, you will find God. Sikhs believe that most believe in the same God, only that the schools of thoughts are different but the ultimate objective is to be good and to reach God.

More than 500 ago, the first Sikh prophet, Guru Nanak Dev Ji, mentioned that the earth revolves around on its own power by God's laws, which we call gravity today, and that there are countless planets (lakh patala patal) and many millions of galaxies (lakh akasha akash).

At that period in time, the mythology of the Hindus mentioned that the earth rested on the back of a bull but Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the first prophet of the Sikhs destroyed this myth by educating that these are all mythologies and that the phenomena of the earth and havens are based on God's laws, which we call today by another name that is gravity.

Almost all those who wear turbans in the United States are Sikhs; almost none are Muslims. After the tragedy of 9/11 a Sikh, Mr. Sodhi, was murdered for being mistaken for a Muslim or a Middle Easterner. Ironically, the Sikhs themselves had been the target of Muslim pogroms in the past centuries in the region of Pakistan and Northern India.

It is important to understand that when you see a man with a turban, he would most likely be a Sikh if it is in the US. It is mandatory for Sikhs to wear turbans. It is a sign of their faith.

Regarding recent history in the San Joaquin Valley, Sikhs first established a Gurdwara in Stockton in 1912. Sikhs have been in California a long time in comparison, as most Californians do not have families going back more than five or six generations.

Sikhs are patriots, as are Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and pagans. For many Sikhs, the ideals of America are close to the egalitarian concept of their religion - freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of private property, freedom of religion and freedom of thought.

Sikhs love America, and if I maybe so bold as to say, the most patriotic community because we feel it.

Jespal Brar has lived in Lodi for a little more than two years and attends the new Lodi Sikh Temple at Armstrong Road and West Lane in south Lodi. He is a business intelligence systems consultant in the Silicon Valley.

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