Earlier this month I had the distinct honor and pleasure of participating in the National Catholic-Sikh Dialogue organized by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and the World Sikh Council. It’s a multi-year effort designed to deepen understanding between the two communities. As one of the ten Sikh participants I gained a great deal of knowledge and reaffirmed a bunch of truths I hold dear. I also made some new, awesome Catholic friends!
I once again saw that people of faith have a great deal in common, and that interfaith dialogue is itself part of the spiritual practice of being a Sikh. Through dialogue, you learn a great deal about yourself and gain some perspective on your faith. One of the things I appreciated about Catholicism was the discipline that Catholics keep around “orders.” There are many different orders of Catholics — like Franciscans, Dominicans, Paulists, and others. Some orders may be monks and nuns, while others live in the world. But they all seem to get along in a very organized and disciplined way. They all agree to a core set of beliefs and practices, and then they have slight differences in focus. I was impressed by that. I imagine Sikhs would have the same thing–our unifying feature would be the minimum discipline imposed by the Rehat Maryada (5K’s, etc) and then the ‘orders’ could form around different things like kirtan, sewa, and exercise (:)). Sometimes it seems that we need to get along better as Sikhs, and the Catholics who’ve been around for about 2000 years have figured out how to do it.