I’ve been watching a fascinating YouTube interview with Kapil Dev, a former Indian Test captain, feared pace bowler and record wicket taker. Kapil Dev, a Punjabi Hindu, said he had many Sikh friends and had visited gurdwaras in India and around the world. He was saddened by the complacency with which Sikhs took the Gurus’ teaching on equality, service to others and respect for the teachings of other faiths; treating them simply as background, rather than placing them to the fore in all they did.
He saw Sikh teachings as unifying principles of responsible living that could benefit all humanity. He felt so strongly about this that, instead of writing his own cricketing memoirs, he got his friends to help him write a beautiful illustrated book about Sikhs and Sikhism to promote a better understanding of Guru Nanak’s teachings, not only in the outside world, but importantly among Sikhs themselves who did not seem to understand their true worth. Though himself a Hindu, he called the book: ‘We the Sikhs’.
Kapil Dev’s outsider’s view of the true worth of Sikh teachings, often simply taken as a background by many Sikhs themselves, reminds me about the story of an art dealer, who when visiting the house of a friend, was struck by the beauty of a painting hanging on the wall. He pointed out to his astonished friend that the painting was a masterpiece, worth thousands.
Our view of our own religion is often distorted by a parallel immersion in culture and customs that are easily mistaken for religion. The outsider looking in, can often see things in a clearer perspective. As an outsider to Christianity, I sometimes feel, that some of my Christian friends do not fully appreciate the power of the uplifting teachings of Jesus Christ in his sermon on the Mount to move us to more responsible living, or the importance of the parable of the Good Samaritan in reminding us of the good in other people.
Over the centuries, we have erected barriers of exclusivity between our different faiths. I believe that the outsider looking in, can help us understand that what seem like barriers, are simply gateways to a greater understanding and enrichment of life. We will also find that seeming areas of difference, are much smaller than that which we all hold in common.