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Swami Ishatmananda Addresses the Opening Plenary

Swami Ishatmananda addressed the Opening Plenary at the 2023 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago, USA.


The salutation means Khalsa, the pure, the saint, soldier, belongs to the Almighty and any victory that Khalsa gets spiritually or worldly belongs to the Almighty.

Good afternoon. Actually, I had good morning but it looks like we are already past noon here. So I am blessed and honored to have an opportunity to be in the company of spiritually wise people who have gathered here today to participate in the parliament of world religion.

The living eternal spiritual master of Sikhs, Tan Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, holy scripture has a verse from the ninth master, Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji that characterizes spiritually wise person, one who does not frighten anyone and who is not afraid of anyone else says “Nanak, listen mine, call him spiritually wise. A spiritually wise person does not threaten anyone else but at the same time, fearlessly expresses thoughts, defends freedom and rights of others.”

These are not just words, the ninth master led this by example, when one of the prominent faiths in India that was being persecuted and forced to convert to another religion approached him for protection and guidance, he stood up for them, for their rights and freedom to practice the religion. Hearing their plea, he told him to tell the rulers of India at the time that if he could convert Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji into his religion, they will convert as well. He was arrested in Delhi in attempts to convert him, his disciples who accompanied him were executed in front of him. Bhai Sati Das was executed by means of being wrapped in a cotton wool, soaked in oil, and set on fire. Bhai Mati Das was executed by being bound between two pullers and cut in two. Bhai Dayala was boiled in a big cauldron full of water. Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji remained firm, unmoved. He was publicly beheaded in Chandni Chowk, a market square close to the Red Fort in Delhi.

While the human history has many examples of martyrs who have laid their lives defending freedom and human rights, Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji’s martyrdom remains a unique example of spiritual master sacrificing his life to protect the religious freedom rights of another faith. The martyrdom of the 9th master led to creation of Khalsa, the Saint Soldier, by the 10th master, Guru Gobind Singh Ji. The saint precedes the soldier because the saintly qualities keeps the Khalsa grounded on the spiritual path, always seeing one in all, in every situation, whether serving humanity during natural disaster crisis or be a battlefield, rising on the call to the duty of protecting human rights and freedom, keeping high morale and spirits even in those tough situations.

That fearless martial spirit to speak up for human rights and freedom while serving humanity continues in six even today. The eternal master, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji characterizes a spiritual hero. He alone is known as a spiritual hero who fights in defense of those in need. He never leaves the battlefield. Each religion and faith have their unique paths that realizes the value of a precious human life to reach the same destination.

The message of Gurnanak, the first master of six, is of universal brotherhood, oneness calling on every faith to practice the core tenets of their own faith with every moment of their life. Remembering and seeing the one that is amongst all of us. Amongst all is the light. You are that light. By this elimination, that light is radiant within all. You have heard your conscience and are here to attend, share, learn, discuss, and fearlessly talk about defending freedom and human rights. The world we are in today requires an open dialogue on an interpret platform like the ones you are participating in today that promotes cooperation, brotherhood, hearing, and respecting each other’s perspectives, learning about each other’s belief. Your presence here demonstrates your support and importance of promoting an interpret dialogue.

I have a strong belief that whatever we have learned during this event, we will be reflecting on those and taking these experience back to our own communities. Let’s hear our conscience, raise our spirits, uphold righteousness and morality, defend defend freedom and rights of each other, even when our faith may have different perspective on certain topics. Let us form a strong united force of spiritual heroes while embracing diversity of cultures, beliefs, and thoughts.

In closing on behalf of the Sikhs around the globe, the Midwest and greater Chicago, I wish to invite you all to share with us a free, freshly prepared vegetarian meal in the community kitchen called Langar. Monday through Friday during this event, between 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Special seating arrangements have been made to accommodate the elderly and the physically challenged while others will be seated on the carpeted floor. 

Please be prepared to take off your shoes, cover your head and abstain from carrying tobacco and any other intoxicants. I’m looking forward to meeting many of you, learning from you and exchanging our thoughts. 

Please join me in seeking the prayer that every Sikh seeks when they continue when they conclude their prayers. Oh Nanak, with his name, grace, a positive energy of always being in high spirits and with your blessings and in your will will be the peace and well-being for all.

You guys have a great day ahead.


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