Gurmit Kaleka addressed a packed sanctuary at the Sikh Temple in Menasha last night and gracefully demonstrated with a single metaphor the ecumenical heart of the Sikh religion.
“We’re all part of the same garden, just different flowers” he said. “But that’s what makes a garden beautiful.”
Still reeling from the death of his uncle, Oak Creek Temple president Satwant Singh Kaleka, and five other members of that Southern Wisconsin Sikh Community, Kaleka and his brother Gurjeet spoke at a prayer vigil hosted by the Sikh Temple of Fox Valley.
“We all come from the same God and we’re all going back to him,” he said.
Like many members of our community, I attended the service to offer my support to the Sikh community, a religion about which I knew very little until Sunday’s brutal tragedy.
Thanks to the memorial service, I now understand that there are three basic tenets to the religion – honor God (nam japna), be honest in your work (kirat karna) and help people (wand chaako). Unintimidated by Sunday’s violence, the Fox Valley Sikhs honored all three tenets when they generously threw open their temple doors, asking only that those who enter the temple remove their shoes and cover their heads. Greeters gave those who arrived without head coverings extra cloths. I saw an elderly guest fumbling with his until a young Sikh gentleman said, “Here, let me help you,” and he shook the cloth out, folded it and gently tucked it on the stranger’s head.
I thought about Kaleka’s garden metaphor as I took in the warm faces and brightly colored turbans and head scarves.
I went to the temple to help and came away blessed by a profoundly kind and peaceful group of people, whose strength in the face of heartbreak I will always admire.
A children’s song I had not heard in years popped into my head as I drove away.
“Inch by inch and row by row, I’m gonna make this garden grow,
All it takes is a rake and hoe and a piece of fertile ground.”