On the sixth day of the Week of Prayer for World Peace, we pray for those who hold to their beliefs in peace and justice. Dr. Nirinjan Kaur Khalsa Baker offers a prayer from the Sikh tradition which originated in medieval India during a time of invasion, forced conversion, oppression, and injustice. Nirinjan introduces the work of the Sikh gurus who were mystics, poets, musicians, and warriors and who taught of the same interconnectedness of all life that Rev. Qalvy Grainzvolt discussed on Day 5 of the Week of Prayer for World Peace offerings. Dr. Khalsa highlights the Sikh teachings that the dualities of grief and joy, love and hate, enemy and friend, self and other are all deceptions of our ego, our self-centered nature – haumai – that sees me as separate from you. And us as better than them.
For today’s Week of Prayer for World Peace, Dr. Khalsa introduces Guru Arjan’s prayer sung in raag kanara to a twelve-beat rhythmic cycle, played on the Jori-Pakhawaj and sung by Nirinjan’s mother Nirvair Kaur.
The fifth Sikh Guru, Guru Arjun Dev sings a song, Sukhmani, a prayer of peace, that teaches how we may cultivate a peaceful mind:
Replace self-centered thought, speech and action
With love for All
By meditating on the Divine Unity of Creation
Our Pain and Sorrow Depart
And Peace dwells in our hearts and mind
We perform good deeds and selfless service for Others
Because we See no separation between our self and others
And recognize the Divine Light that shines within all
enemies and friends alike.
Dr. Khalsa explains the Sikh path of the sage warriors, the sant sipahi, who surrender their ego-centered nature and awaken to the responsibility to serve One and Other. To stand against injustice and defend those in need. To stand for love, justice, freedom, and equality of all, regardless of caste, class, creed, religion, social standing, sexuality, and gender identity.
The very practice of engaging in these prayers for peace throughout this week has been a step towards the releasing of ego. A step towards finding the connection that binds us all in the pursuit of peace. Embracing the prayers of a tradition that is other than our own, incorporating those prayers into our own practice, and holding our hearts open is foundational for the work of diversity, inclusion, equity, and justice. Part of this practice involves praying in words that we do not understand. Moving beyond the meaning of words to the sound and posture of prayer can be a deeply moving experience that carries us to a deeper encounter with our spiritual practice.
In Jewish practice, the words of prayer are often released into a nigun, a wordless sung prayer. The chanting of repeated words in Hindu mantra resolve in the universal vibration of ohm. The silence of a walking meditation. The rhythm of our bodies finding their life energy in the practice of QiGong. Liberation from words in prayer has long been a spiritual practice. One which my own Reformed Protestant tradition rejected during the Reformation as they turned from the Roman practice of praying in Latin, in words not understood by the common person. It was important to pray in the language of the people so that prayer might be more accessible to all. But as our interfaith engagement becomes more poignant in our practice, we find ourselves again praying in words and languages that we do not understand. May we now find the beauty and liberation in this practice which Hazzan Harold Messinger calls the “bypass route to the soul of the prayer”. In this may we find the release of ego and the path to the one supreme reality in which all live and move and have their being.
n.b. The doors open at midnight US Eastern Time each day of this week with a new prayer. Once a prayer opens, it will remain open to be revisited through the year. Please contact us if you would like the embed code to host the WPWP on your own website.