PA SENATE JUNE 10, 2008 : SIKH INTERFAITH PRAYER

Ek onkar satnam

There is but One God, true is His name

We pray to the One God who created this universe with all its colorful diversity, ranng as we call it. We pray to the One God under whose divine ordinance, hukam, this universe abides. We pray to sabhnaa jiaan kaa ik daataa, the One God who provides for and sustains all this creation.

Pray give us the understanding that this world is a dharamsaal, an arena for righteous living. Much of what people can accomplish in life happens through their own ghaal, their endeavor. We pray for kirpa, Thy divine mercy to enable us all to be prayerful, enable us all to provide for our families, enable us all to share with those in need and enable us all not to shy away from doing what is right. That truly is the righteous way. Help us nurture a society where we all live as a fraternity with none feeling excluded or treated as a stranger; where we say some and listen some; where we bring harmony, peace, caring and sharing to our corporate communal lives and help each and every one of us to grow, develop and contribute towards the common good. We pray for this sangat, this Assembly. Heavy is your responsibility and difficult are the choices you have to make as leaders of the people. We pray for you individually and collectively to be blessed with the wisdom to conduct your business today and every day in service of and for the well being of the citizens of this Commonwealth. We close this prayer as always seeking, terai bhaanai sarbat ka bhalla, Thy will to be the well being of one and all in the world.

Wahiguru ji ka khalsa wahiguru ji ki fateh


Nirmal Singh,
New Cumberland, PA
[Offering this prayer would not have been a major event except for the fact that this was the first time in the history of PA that the State Senate invited a Sikh to perform guest Chaplaincy. They had in fact never invited non Christians to offer an opening prayer and it was only in the recent past they extended the invitation to a Jewish Rabbi, a Unitarian Pastor and then a white American Buddhist Monk to offer the prayer. We owe it to the activism of a fellow interfaith group of non-believers led by Carl H Silverman who had been campaigning for inclusiveness and had asked me some time back if I would be willing to offer a Sikh prayer, if Senate seemed inclined, and I gladly agreed, thus co opting with their project. At my request, the Senate administration blocked 15 seats in the visitor’s gallery for seating members of the local Sikh community who may like to attend. Sikhs have done this in some other States. Even though the expectation is that the prayer offered should be non sectarian, interfaith invocation, what we say evokes interest because not much is known about our beliefs and because of our visible identity. Mary Warner, Religion/Values Reporter, The Patriot-News, Harrisburg, asked me a couple of questions regarding the prayer in the Senate:
  • What were you aiming for in this prayer?
  • What principles guided your composition of it?
  • How does it compare to a prayer you'd give in a Sikh service?
My answer was that ‘this prayer is very different from the way a traditional invocation would be offered in a Sikh service. When offering in the Sikh setting, there are certain phrases and cites that are invariably included. For example we start with remembering God and then remember the names of the ten Gurus and finally acknowledge the living Guru, the Granth and after remembering some inspiring events and episodes from Sikh experience, we seek God's blessings for the purpose/project, for guidance in day to day living, for the gift of prayerfulness and the well being of one and all in the world.’ I went on to say that ‘Sikh teachings are very universal and I have tried to structure this prayer around its universality like:
  • One God, who is God of all, not sectarian or Sikh Deity
  • The aspect about righteous living is again universal though the paradigm may vary - I picked a few points that I felt were germane
  • Societal concerns likewise are shared concerns; again limited to my understanding and prioritization
  • Praying for guidance for the assembly is important for their work day is getting started and their work affects us all
  • the last line is seeking good of all, a shared universal supplication by Sikhs at the closing of all their prayers
I also mentioned that ‘Almost all the sentences that I used can be supported by cites from the Sikh scriptural literature but I limited myself to just sprinkle a few words here and there to give a flavor to the listeners. My concern obviously was to try and offer an invocation that is universal in spirit and intent but can be traced back to its Sikh linkage. I hope I have been able to do it.’ To reinforce I added ‘The Sikh message is very universal though in a foreign tongue. The scripture also is a unique interfaith anthology containing not only the compositions of the Sikh Gurus but also of several Hindu, Muslim and Shudhra saints of the time and Sikhs revere their teachings equally.’ I closed with the hope that ‘I am treading the fine line of offering an interfaith Sikh prayer in a reasonably acceptable manner.’ Dr Harbans Lal, a veteran Sikh interfaith activist, wrote to me ‘I must congratulate you for coming up a truly Sikh interfaith prayer. You understood that Sikh prayer is universal for multifaith platforms. Often I hear our people repeating our community and gurdwara ardas as interfaith prayer on multifaith platforms. Thank you for taking a lead. I think that you should post the text on internets so others may take a hint.’ Carl Silverman wrote to Senator Pat Vance ‘After the well-received invocation by Nirmal Singh of the Sikh community, I would now like to request that you extend an invitation to another active participant in the Interfaith Alliance of Pennsylvania to perform an opening invocation for the Senate ----.’ No response, since! The video of the prayer has been placed by the Sikh Society of Harrisburg on the U Tube and can be accessed at the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IY_1Sv3rGZ8 ]

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