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We Are the Khalsa - A Legacy of Service
SikhNet.com News Exclusive
The Sadh Sangat of Sikh Dharma held its first celebration of Baisakhi in Los Angeles in April, 1970. In December of 1970, 84 Western Sikhs traveled on a yatra to India with Yogi Harbhajan Singh (later to have the titles of Siri Singh Sahib and Bhai Sahib bestowed on him at Akal Takhat Sahib), and in Amritsar, those 'new' Sikhs received Amrit from the Panj Piare at Akal Takhat Sahib. These were American youth in their early twenties, inspired to live as Khalsa as a result of their deep respect for and aspiration to live to the example of Siri Singh Sahib Bhai Sahib Harbhajan Singh Khalsa Yogiji, who had embarked upon his service of inspiring the youth of the West to the Khalsa life-style, as a step in the fulfillment of Guru Gobind Singh's prophesy that 960,000,000 we shall be. He was most humble in his approach to his service of Guru, as exemplified by his action at that moment when these 84 students came to cross the threshold of Akal Takhat Sahib to receive Amrit. He would not cross the threshold with them; "I have brought you this far. Now you go the remainder of the distance without me, as this is a relationship between you and Guru."
In June of 1973, the Siri Singh Sahib appointed Singh Sahib Dayal Singh as Head Granthee for Sikh Dharma and bestowed upon him the title of Bhai Sahib. Bhai Sahib Dayal Singh was only 17 years old at the time but he had a fervent love for the Guru and Gurbani. He was a constant sevadar, mowing lawns, cooking langar, sweeping the Gurdwara steps, placing fresh cut flowers in front of the Guru. Always full of love, smiles, and constant encouragement for everyone. With his incredible devotion he was one of the first persons to teach many Western Sikhs how to read Gurmukhi, how to recite their Banis, and how to do Prakash and Sukhasn seva and conduct a kirtan program. On Baisakhi Day, April 13, 1974 Sant Mihen Singh and his followers, while visiting Los Angeles, distributed Amrit to Western born Sikhs at Guru Ram Das Ashram and Bhai Sahib Dayal Singh served as one of the Panj Piare on that day, thus becoming the first Western born Sikh ever to administer Amrit. An Amrit Sanchar was held every year thereafter on Baisakhi in Los Angeles.
It was a great loss to the Panth Khalsa when Bhai Sahib Dayal Singh left for the heavenly abode resulting from a fatal car accident on September 22nd, 1975, just short of his 21st birthday, en route to New York, where he was to depart for India and a visit to the Golden Temple.
In the early 1970s, the Khalsa Sikhs of Sikh Dharma were avidly learning about the Khalsa lifestyle and growing into their Khalsa identities. Beginning in the mid '70s, the newly formed Sikh Dharma Khalsa Council of the Western Hemisphere began to hold its annual spring meetings the week of Baisakhi in Los Angeles. The Sadh Sangat would come to Los Angeles from all parts of the world where Sikh Centers were being established: Central and South America, Canada, Europe, Africa, and Asia. Under the direction and inspiration of Siri Singh Sahib Bhai Sahib Harbhajan Singh Khalsa Yogiji, and with Guru as their constant guide, the Khalsa spirit among these new Sikhs grew and flourished.
The Sadh Sangat continued to grow and by the early 1980s attendance at the Baisakhi kirtan program was large enough to require a bigger venue to accommodate the hundreds of people attending the Baisakhi Kirtan program. The Siri Singh Sahib Ji inspired the sangat members of Sikh Dharma to invite all of the Gurdwaras of California to participate and join the celebration. He had a deep desire to see the Sikh community unified and working closely together. He inspired the sadh sangat of Guru Ram Das Ashram to extend invitations to all the Gurdwaras of California to participate in the Baisakhi celebration. Similarly, he encouraged everyone to participate in programs held by other Gurdwaras, not only here in Los Angeles, but throughout California and the world. In his wisdom, he deeply understood the cultural challenges, including acceptance of Westerners into the Punjabi culture and vice versa. One of his messages to Western Sikhs everywhere was that we should be grateful for the great devotion of all those Sikhs who have carried the Guru for 400 years and made huge sacrifices through the centuries, so that we can all enjoy the darshan of Siri Guru Granth Sahib today. He also had a vision of Sikh Dharma being a Dharma beyond borders and nationality, which he referred to as "sarab dharma," a dharma that includes people of all races and cultures.
In 1983 the Vermont Gurdwara began to hold its annual celebration of Guru Nanak Dev Ji's Birthday, which included participation by many of the Gurdwaras of Los Angeles, including Guru Ram Das Ashram, which was part of the original organizing committee for that event. Similarly, in the mid 1980s IIGS's Guru Gobind Singh's birthday celebration began to attract the Sadh Sangat's participation from various Southern California Gurdwaras.
Since the late 1980s, the Sikh Dharma Baisakhi Celebration has been held at the vast Los Angeles Convention Center, in collaboration with a network of Southern California Gurdwaras. The Baisakhi Gurupurb has been attended throughout the years by many dignitaries from India, including Gurcharan Singh Tohra, S. Tarlochan Singh, Jethadars of Akal Takhat, S.S. Professor Darshan Singh, S.S. Professor Manjit Singh, and many members of SGPC. The programs have also been graced by some of the most well known Ragi Jethas, Bhai Harjinder Singh, Sant Anoop Singh, Master Darshan Singh, Bhai Hari Singh, Bhai Nirmal Singh, and many, many others. Each year the program has been attended by prominent Los Angeles, state of California and U.S. political dignitaries, including Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante, Congressman Howard Berman, Congresswoman Diane Watson, many L.A. county supervisors and council members and, most recently, then Los Angeles Mayor elect Antonio Villaraigosa (who donned a full turban for the occasion).
As the Sadh Sangat grew in attendance of this program, many devoted Sikhs offered their seva to fund, create and bring to spiritual fruition this beautiful annual Gurupurb.
The idea of adding a Nagar Kirtan (Parade) to the Baisakhi Celebration had been percolating among the Guru Ram Das Ashram organizing committee for several years prior to 1997. This year celebrates the ninth year the Nagar Kirtan has been a joyful part of the Baisakhi Celebration and, thanks to the seva of many devoted Sikhs, it is one of the most inspiring traditions that we continue to cherish during Baisakhi. A lot of acknowledgement goes to all sangat members who make financial contributions to both the Kirtan Darbar and Nagar Kirtan.
This year's Baisakhi theme is "We are the Khalsa – A Legacy of Service." The idea for this theme came from the fundamental importance to Sikhs to be known for their service. Since the time of Guru Gobind Singh and the example of Bhai Kanaiya Ji, service has been a standard of the Khalsa identity. To highlight that standard, this year Golden Temple Cereals, a socially and environmentally responsible company founded by Yogi Bhajan, will be making a presentation to the Los Angeles Mayor's office on behalf of the entire Sikh Community of Southern California, and donating a truckload of Peace Cereals to the Los Angeles Food Bank. Other Sikh individuals and organizations will also participate in this fledgling event of service contributions, setting a new tradition to carry forward on Baisakhi Day in the Khalsa spirit.
We, the Sadh Sangat of Guru Ram Das Ashram, are eternally grateful to Siri Singh Sahib Bhai Sahib Harbhajan Singh Khalsa Yogiji, for his inspiration and example to all of us to live as Khalsa and to celebrate Baisakhi with our full spirit. We are grateful for his compassionate wisdom and his expansive vision; and most of all, for bringing us to the feet of the Guru, where we daily thank God for our Khalsa identity. We celebrate this 307th Anniversary of the Birth of the Khalsa in gratitude to our father, Guru Gobind Singh; and we are grateful to be walking on Guru's path as his sons and daughters, with our brightness, our love, and our smiles.
Baisakhi Organizing Committee
Guru Ram Das Ashram
Sikh Dharma of Southern California
More information about the up coming Baisakhi Celebration in Los Angeles can be obtained at: www.gururamdasashram.org
Related Article and Pictures of Guru Ram Das Ashram
in Los Angeles, California.
Amrit of the Double Edged Sword (Article on Amrit)
More Vasakhi Pictures:
Bhai Sahib Bhai Dayal Singh and Sat Kirin Kaur
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