MWR hosts the third Langar, sharing guests with the Sikh commune meals

MWR hosts the third Langar, sharing guests with the Sikh commune mealsAn interfaith banquet of culture was held at the Museum of World Religions (MWR) on November 6 in the form of a Sikh Langar. Organized by the MWR Development Foundation and Indian cultural agencies, the third Sikh Langar provided commune meals to hundreds of guests regardless of their ethnicity, religion, gender, social status, or nationality, manifesting the notion of equality enshrined by Sikhism. The event also endorsed the MWR’s founding principles honoring “Respect, Tolerance and Love”.

The MWR sees itself as an interfaith platform and recently organized several international and interfaith events to mark the 2022 World Day of Religious Harmony on November 9, which coincides with the 21st anniversary of the MWR. The activities include the 2022 Buddhism-Muslim Dialogue on November 2, the third Sikh Langar on November 6, and the seventh Poetry Slam on November 7. Furthermore, Master Hsin Tao, Founding Abbot of the Ling Jiou Mountain Buddhist Society (LJM) and Founder of the MWR, has been invited by the Elijah Interfaith Institute headquartered in Israel to join the Elijah Board of World Religious Leaders later this month with other religious leaders to collectively address today's problems from within the resources of their own traditions.

As the world’s sixth leading faith, Sikhism has a strong following of 25 million of believers. Gurpurab, one of the most sacred festivals in Sikhism, celebrates the birth of the first Sikh guru Guru Nanak, marking the significance of service and devotion highlighted in his teachings.

The Sikh emphasis on service and devotion recurred at the Langar held at the MWR. The celebrations on November 6 commenced early in the morning, when participants sang Kirtan (hymns from the Sikh scriptures), receiving teachings of Katha, or exposition of the scripture, from Guru Daler Singh, who flew to Taiwan for the occasion. He led the Waheguru Jaap, a meditation by repeatedly reciting the name of Guru Nanak, performing in front of the Sikh holy script Guru Granth Sahib to offer the Prayers (Ardas) and get a Personalized Message (Hukamnama) from God. Livestreaming connected the Taipei site with a Sikh shrine in India, Gurudwara Sri Gupatsar Sahib Manmad, climaxing the religious carnival that went off the charts.

Chen Rui-Lin, deputy director of the Foundation’s International Affairs Department, explained that the Langar is a way for followers of Sikhism to practice equality and love. “Irrespective of the guests’ religion, social status, gender, and nationality, the Sikh followers have practiced this service for over 550 years, providing free vegetarian meals to the former who are invited to sit on the ground to enjoy the food,” Chen said. It is an honor for the Sikh followers to practice Sewa, or service, no matter that they are assigned to work in the kitchen or in the dining area. They honor the teachings of service and devotion, Chen observed, by working together until the end of the event including doing the dishes and cleaning up.

VIPs invited to the event all took their seat on the floor to observe the tradition. Kamal Khurana, Deputy chair of the India-Taipei Association, took the initiative of filling up a plate of goodies for Father Raphael Ling, Executive Secretary for Interreligious Dialogue of the Chinese Regional Bishops' Conference, as a case in point.

To have the hair covered up with a turban or headdress is required at a Langar, and 400 pieces of such clothes were on hand for visitors without one to experience the Sikh tradition. Chen explained that Sikh followers believe that any and all things by the Creator are of perfection and their natural state ought to remain without alteration. Men’s hair and facial hair, thus accordingly, are naturally included. Male Sikhs always wear a turban, and females are encouraged to wear a headdress or a cover. All fabrics apply regardless of style, color, or size. Symbolically, turbans suggest the ideas of loyalty, justice, dignity, courage, and purity.