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Giving Voice to Wisdom and No Place for Hate

by Ralph Singh
Wisdom Thinkers Network

Ten years ago, Gobind Sadan USA, a Sikh spiritual center north of Syracuse, was a victim of arson. It was the first attack on a place of worship following September 11th, and the first to come under Governor Pataki’s newly signed legislation against hate crimes.

As we gathered amidst the charred remains, a light shone through a window frame, and we learned that our holy scripture, Guru Granth Sahib, had not burned. Not only had it not been damaged by fire – but the tons of water that had been poured through the roof had not touched a single word. The Light of God’s love had triumphed over hatred.

We saw this as a ‘teachable moment’ and went public with a message of forgiveness, channeled from Baba Virsa Singh ji through me, which galvanized the entire community. As our major English-language Sikh newspaper noted

Thankfully, some have taken this crime as an opportunity to promote a community-wide healing. Temple spokesman Ralph Singh said its members have gathered to offer prayers of forgiveness to those who set the fire. He also said the community has offered help, money and other sanctuaries for the Sikhs.

“This provides us the opportunity to help rebuild and repair the overall community, to rebuild the sense of love and compassion which will triumph over the hatred in our society,” Singh said. “Out of that love, the building in its time will also be rebuilt.”

The generosity of spirit shown by members of the temple should inspire all people who believe in the real America. True national unity must embrace all Americans. In such unity, there is no place for hate.

This was a positive outcome from a terrible situation. But in spite of our collective attempts , there are still plenty of places for hatred to fester in the world.

In order to have civil discourse, let alone civil society, we needed to develop a shared narrative towards peace.
While peace exists within each of us,the path to peace is laid out by all of our teachings. Unless there is a bridge to the world when we open our eyes it is a difficult transition. But it has always been the stories which laid the path for the ordinary person to follow — without the story there is no reinforcement of the values in the reality of the material world. We need to move beyond reason and expand our consciousness and our circles.

So, with the help of a diverse, committed group of friends, we are convening a Wisdom Thinkers Roundtable which we are convening in New York, on September 8th, linked to the tenth anniversary of 9/11, to highlight how, through our shared wisdom, both sacred and secular, we can create a shared narrative to reweave the fabric of our society.

Most feel that the moral fabric of our world has begun to unravel or has at least frayed. We hope to offer a simple solution, a simple beginning to the path out of our human dilemma.

By bringing the shared wisdom of our traditional stories and new experiences and making it accessible to all, not just through roundtables but around the tables at breakfast clubs, in the local diners and bagel shops of America (and around the world), we can begin to change the way people talk with each other and the quality of substantive conversation that will emerge. Then we have not only a chance at social cohesion, but also a real chance to achieve a just peace.

Everyone has wisdom to offer. It doesn’t depend on our status or education. In fact, I ask most everyone I meet, workers on our home, a stewardess on a long flight, what thread of wisdom would you like to add to reweave the fabric of our society for our children. And their faces light up – You mean me? – and then they open up and share amazing thoughts.

A young Vietnamese woman who ran the kitchen where I was on the faculty of a summer institute recently, greeted me: “I’m Buddha who are you?” she asked, smiling. And then handed me a carafe of milk for my coffee. “This is a ‘h^t’, you call it a jug – but it’s the same thing, right. It’s all the same isn’t it?” That is right!

Just take the time to listen and engage on this wonderful journey we call life – and we will find our fellow travelers, and each hand in hand, round the table, or out of the fires of conflict, we will help each other find our path to peace.

August 2nd, 2011 at 2:57 pm