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The soul lives on in Sikh culture — mass funeral may help others understand the faith

The soul lives on in Sikh culture — mass funeral may help others understand the faith

Amardeep Kaleka explained to CNN's Anderson Cooper how the Sikhs view death and conveyed his wishes that Americans would learn to be more tolerant of other cultures. His father, Satwant Singh Kaleka, was killed by a white supremacist who gunned down congregants attending a Sikh temple on Sunday.

Numerous people have been gathering at the family home to share in the grief. "There's a thing in our culture where we spread suffering out," Kaleka explained to Cooper. "Instead of having one person suffering, we have everybody come to the house."

"In our culture, it's not the end when somebody dies," Kaleka said, explaining the Sikh faith. "Their soul and energy kind of transcends, traverses into the universe and helps influence other events." Kaleka believes that his father's soul will live on, helping him out. "In our culture, we don't use the word 'death.'" The Sikhs use a word that means "his work is complete."

His father had worked 18 hours a day in order to purchase a home, where he flew the United States flag. The flag was viewed as a symbol of accepting the American culture.

But Kaleka's family and other Sikhs have been victims of violence and bigotry, despite their patriotism.

Kaleka experienced "soft attacks" in his own life that he never reported to the police. When he lived in Georgia, people would give him the finger and tell him to "get out of my country." The murder of his father and others at the temple he calls "hard attacks." Eighteen months ago, his pregnant aunt was working at a shop and was shot point blank. It was not designated a hate crime because it could have been a robbery, even though the assailants did not steal anything.

Kaleka hopes that others will start talking about their "soft attacks" so that there will be a better picture of what is going on nationwide. "Agencies can't do their job," he said. "Policing can't do its job, education can't do its job if we're not speaking up."

The funeral is scheduled for Friday and it is anticipated that there will be a large gathering. There will be six open caskets, provided the families chose to do so. A media area will be available so that the whole world can experience the funeral meditation and understand the Sikh religion.

"I hope Americans can generally understand other cultures and get the hate bug out of them," he concluded.


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About D. Beeksma

One of the growing crowd of American "nones" herself, Deborah is a prolific writer who finds religion, spirituality and the impact of belief (and non-belief) on culture inspiring, fascinating and at times, disturbing. She hosts the God Discussion show and handles the site's technical work. Her education and background is in business, ecommerce and law.
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