Sant Nirankari Mission



In his 1968 pop song titled, “One,” singer/songwriter, Harry Nilsson sang, “One is the loneliest number….

But devotees of the Sant Nirankari Mission of Universal Brotherhood believe that oneness is a desired goal.

Vrinda Tarneja, 22, an active volunteer and member of the Sant Nirankari Mission, describes herself as being “born” into the mission. However, what keeps her intimately involved is her identification with its message.

“What attracted me to the mission was that it isn’t a religion. It is a spiritual organization whose goal is to bring people together. Our guru (spiritual teacher) teaches us to believe in one God, and that we are all his children, we are all brothers,” said Tarneja.

Originating in India, in 1929, the Sant Nirankari Mission currently has some 20 million adherents worldwide.

Its goal is to “bring down the walls of hatred and racism through love and harmony for mankind.” The movement is “neither a new religion nor a sect of an existing religion, but an all-embracing spiritual movement dedicated to human welfare.”

Community service is highly emphasized. Recently, the organization received the UK’s Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in recognition of its volunteer work.

Locally, members have brought food to Dimitri House as well as to various homeless shelters. In India, the mission is known to be the largest blood donor.

The current mission leader and spiritual head (whose full title is His Holiness Satguru Baba Hardev Singh Ji Maharaj) was born in 1954 in Delhi, India. He travels worldwide to reach out to devotees as well as to spread the message of one God/one mankind.

He recently visited Rochester and presided over an event that mission members refer to as a congregation. The congregation, billed as a “Celebration of Oneness,” included music, dance, youth performers, prayers and oratory from Baba Hardev Singh Ji. Some 900 people from the U.S. and Canada attended.

VK Tarneja, 68, Vrinda’s uncle and head of the roughly 40-member Rochester branch, turned to the mission while in his 30s, when he first came upon it in India.

“I always wanted to know God. I wanted to know if I will get salvation in this life. The priest, in my former spiritual practice, always told me ‘no,’ salvation is for the next life,” Tarneja said.

He finds great satisfaction that one of the mission’s foundational beliefs (known as the Five Principles) is that one need not be an ascetic, rather one should live a normal life; raise and sustain a family.

“I realized,” Tarneja said, “that it’s not only about the next life. You can take action in this life to become a better human being.”

Ashok Kumar, 43, an active member for the past 12 years, said, “It means everything to me; it teaches how to live life.”

He also admires its message of universal brotherhood.

“The first thing they teach you is to understand that even before you think of yourself as a religious person, you are a human being.”

Arlene Hisiger is a freelance columnist sharing about faith and compassion. 

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