Shortly after midnight on Sunday the 18th of November, a fire was set at Gobind Sadan--the farmhouse near Syracuse, NY, that served as a temple and meeting place for Sikhs and others.
The following morning, as we surveyed the charred shell of the building that for the past 10 years had sheltered us while we celebrated God's love, we saw the blood, sweat, and tears that everyone had poured into making a hundred-year-old farmhouse a beautiful place of worship. All we could do was hope and pray that God would forgive those who committed this terrible act and that the ignorance and hatred that may have prompted the crime might be swept away.
Everyone's eyes were on the windows of the upstairs room where Guru Granth Sahib--the Holy Scripture Sikhs revere as the living word of God--was enshrined along with the Dasam Granth, the writings of our tenth guru, Guru Gobind Singh. Through the burned-out frames we could see the top of the brass palki sahib, or canopy.
Astonishingly, the Guru Granth Sahib survived, as did the Dasam Granth. As we eventually discovered, even the ruhmalas (holy cloths in which the scripture was wrapped) went unscathed. The fire marshal came out saying he had never seen anything like it in his life. With all that heat, there was no way that they should have survived.
This miracle - for there is no other way to logically explain it - brings a message of hope to all people. In this compassionate and all-embracing scripture, it is written that the Holy word of God can't be touched by fire. It teaches that the Bible is true, the Torah is true, the Vedas are true, the Qur'an is true. Reading it is like drinking from the spiritual ocean that has flowed from time immemorial. Its 1430 pages contains revelations, noted in the divine melodies that were inspired by those from different religious backgrounds and different ages, who sang praises to the Eternal One who is beyond all forms, all religions, beyond all countries, who has no one language, and can be no one's property, yet is the Source of All.
This sign of hope has touched the hearts of whoever hears this message--God's holy word does indeed triumph over hatred and ignorance. Many people from the surrounding communities began calling, asking how they could help, wanting to help us rebuild.
People have rallied around us here at Gobind Sadan. Based on the outpouring of love, the Interreligious Council decided to hold a prayer circle for healing and reconciliation on the lawn in front of the burned temple. In the freezing cold and early snow, close to 100 people of different traditions gathered--some well-known to us and some who just read about it and came for the first time--to express their love and support.
Just a month before the fire, a local minister had participated in an interfaith service, entitled "Preparing for Peace". She was intrigued by the practice of taking random readings from scripture as God's lesson or order for the day, and wanted to see Guru Granth Sahib. She came into its presence with great reverence and bowed respectfully then listened intently to the beautiful chanting of God's holy words. "What does it mean?" she asked.
Avar allah nur upaya kudrit kai sub bande - When God created the world he placed the same Light in everyone - so who are we to judge who's bad and good.
Touched by the message, she left that evening saying she would like to bring her Sunday school class back soon to learn about the deep spirituality she experienced at Gobind Sadan.
The next time I called her was to tell her the place she had so admired had just been set afire and we were concerned that the Scripture she so enjoyed had been burned. She was speechless. She immediately decided she had to make the 20-minute drive to share her concern and grief with us.
This time she brought her 11 year old daughter with her. As they stood looking up at the charred windows she told her daughter the story of how Guru Granth Sahib, the Holy Scripture, had survived the fire.
The young girl turned to her mother and voiced what we have all come to believe. "Mom, God must really be here," she said. "God is in this sacred place."