We mentally do accept the message of Gurbani whenever we read or hear it. However, in practical life we often fail to benefit from it. Many times, vices like ego, anger, lust etc. take us over and create problems for us. Here is a lesson, I learned from my weakness of racial bias which is prohibited for a Sikh.
During 1987, while teaching Sikh heritage at the Khalsa School Vancouver, I used to walk to the school through a park. Every day in the morning, I used to see there a group of Chinese doing exercise, a kind of collective drill for physical fitness. Returning from the school in the evening, at the same place I met some elderly Sikhs with bottles. Most of them looked as if they were on welfare. I felt very much upset. Why should these senior Sikhs create a wrong image of the community? They all know drinking is prohibited for a Sikh. These two daily observations developed a feeling of sorrow for my people and jealousy towards the Chinese. One day, this feeling of jealousy exploded in the form of hatred when I found that a house belonged to a Chinese and not a Sikh.
After the break, when I returned to the school, I found the two old houses on the corner of the street had been demolished. A palatial house was under construction there. I assumed that it belonged to a Sikh and this thought made me feel good. When the construction was completed, I saw a Chinese locking the house. My mind boiled with hatred and it uttered, “You Chinese?”
God’s grace made me realize my blunder. My feet got stuck to the ground and I could not move. My conscience pricked me, “Are you a Sikh? How can you think like that? Chinese people are also the children of your Father, God. We humans are all brothers and sisters. You do not deserve to be the heritage teacher at the school…”
Such thoughts kept coming into my mind as I was standing there. To get rid of this hatred, I decided to practice the above lesson of Gurbani. I again started walking slowly to the school, repeating the words, “Chinese, my brothers.” I said ‘Chinese’ when I moved one foot and ‘my brothers’ when I moved the other foot. In this way, while going and returning from the school, I rhymed my walk with these words.
In a few days, brotherly feeling for the Chinese people became natural in my mind. To my great surprise, within a week, a miracle happened. Those very Chinese, whom I met in the park daily, waved at me with love, saying, “How are you?” I had been walking by them for months without any response from them. To add to my pleasant surprise, another incident happened in the schoo. When I was eating lunch in the staff room that day, the Chinese lady teacher told me, “I do not know why, but I have a feeling of fatherly respect for you. Maybe, it is what you preach for two to three minutes in the school assembly or something else. Whatever you preach in the morning, I like it very much.”
I have shared this experience that every human being respects the mutual feelings of love. Let the message of Gurbani, qU s~J` s`ihbu b`pu hm`r` be soaked in our soul to guide our daily lives. Whenever I think of this episode, I am immediately reminded of the founding of the Sikh faith by Guru Nanak Dev ji when he preached, “n` koeI ihMdU n` muslm`n, do not divide humanity into different faiths, Hindus and Muslims.”
In the morning assembly every day, I explained in English the message of the hymn recited after the prayer.