Path of God and Story of the Mind – Rockville, Maryland
On February 3, 2018, Sikh Sangat of North America hosted an evening of interfaith and community engagement to raise awareness about the Sikh faith amongst local community members and to collectively express gratitude and appreciation for all of life’s blessings in the New Year. Over 300 guests attended the Rockville, MD Gurdwara for a one-of-a-kind interfaith event.
With attendance from neighboring communities, various faith and youth groups, the Rockville City Police Department and Montgomery County Executive Office, the day began with guests being welcomed to the Gurdwara and receiving a free information package about Sikhs. This was followed by a personalized tour of the Gurdwara and the opportunity to participate in turban tying which many guests enjoyed and learned much from.
“The turban has always fascinated me, and I never quite understood how it was tied,” shared a Rockville City Police Officer. “Today I learned not only how a turban is tied, by having one tied on me, but also the purpose of wearing a turban. And that is to cover your head, which is where the mind is. With the power that the mind has, it’s a very sacred thing. The fact that there were also females wearing turbans and tying them on other females was a very powerful sight. Gender and faith equality, this is what this country needs to promote more.”
After turban tying and snacks, the main program then began with Simer Singh addressing the congregation and talking about who Sikhs are, the message of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji (the Sikh Holy Scripture) and how every single person has the ability to merge into the Divine while still alive. A question/answer period then followed with guests asking Simer Singh a wide range of questions such as: why do Sikhs bow in front of the holy scripture, what does Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji say about gender and racial equality, why is money placed in front of the Sikh holy scripture and much more. This portion of the program was one of the highlights of the evening for much of the congregation. It allowed for an open dialogue in an inclusive environment for guests to ask intimate questions and to receive well-thought-of, and accurate answers in a way that highlighted connectivity with the Divine, the world and each other.
“I don’t think I’ve ever felt this welcomed in another faith group’s place of worship. This afternoon was absolutely incredible and today, barriers to perceived differences were broken through patience and love. This is what America should
always be about,” said a guest of the Hindu faith. “Sometimes I’m not sure how to ask questions about another person’s faith, because it can be a very personal thing to talk about. Today, your guest speaker and the congregation created an
atmosphere that was extremely welcoming in which the rest of us visitors were able to not only feel comfortable but to ask any question we had.”
Langar was then offered, which is a specially-prepared meal for the congregation by local volunteers. Guests enjoyed dinner together with their brothers and sisters from various faiths further adding to dialogue and connection.
“I was truly honored to have participated in the recent interfaith event hosted by the Sikh Community in Rockville,” shared a psychology professor of the Muslim faith. “Contrary to the current dangerous political narratives of division,
otherness, and lack of co-existence, I thought the event embodied just the opposite. It was a warm, welcoming, and peaceful space where people came together regardless of their obvious and perceived differences and listened deeply to learn about the spiritual nature of Sikhism. Simer Singh was an impressive, compassionate, and extremely passionate speaker who skillfully discussed the philosophy of Sikhism. As a Muslim, many different teachings of Sikhism resonated with me, including finding the divinity in oneself, being committed to service, and the pursuit for justice. I was deeply touched by the hospitality and acceptance and inclusiveness of the Sikh community. It was a privilege to share space with my fellow Sikh brothers and sisters and break bread with them.”
“It was an honor to be able to attend such a beautiful event. I walked away with a message of peace and love which resonated with me deeply. Thank you for inviting me. I truly learned a lot. Putting those learnings down in words just doesn’t do justice to the insight that I gained," said a Doctoral Student in Clinical Psychology from Argosy University.
“I am writing to you to express my sincere gratitude for inviting me to the Sikh community engagement and outreach evening at your Gurdwara,” shared a psychology student of the Muslim faith. “I thoroughly enjoyed the kirtan and the informative presentation about Sikhism, its core values, and its longstanding commitment to human rights. I was very impressed and touched by the warmth, hospitality and humility of the Sikh community. I look forward to attending more of your community's interfaith events in the future but in the meantime, please convey my sincere appreciation to your community and its leadership."