By Harbans Lal -
Nirmal Singh Kalsi was an outstanding scholar of Gurmat symbol philosophy. His real love was to serve and disseminate the message of his guru, Guru Granth Sahib. While fighting progressive cancer, he spent the last few years of his life searching and articulating the tradition and meaning of the Sikh symbol ੴ – Ik Onkaar – which means one God. He was 75.
His recent book, ‘Only One God Philosophy: Discovery of the Mystical Primal Reality,’ is the most comprehensive treatise on Ik Onkaar. It is the closest rendering of the author's Punjabi book, ‘Beej Mantar Darshan,’ which translates as ‘seed-mantra philosophy.’
I first met Nirmal Singh in the early 1980s. We became friends and colleagues, and I shared his wisdom and love for Gurbani vichaar for several decades. Unlike many other Sikh academicians, Nirmal Singh made his research work freely and promptly available in print and on a public Web site.
Upon my insistence, he made his book on the commencing symbol in Guru Granth Sahib available on the Internet for unrestricted access, at Discover why the Sikh faith's most sacred symbol, “Ik Oankar” is NOT “Ik Oankar”.
I highly recommend his book to Sikh congregations in general, and to Gurmat Sikh scholars in particular so that they are further inspired to research and disseminate the universal message of Guru Granth Sahib.
Nirmal Singh was well known among Sikh organizations in Canada. He served as chairperson of the Khalsa Diwan Society and the Punjabi School Committee in Vancouver. He also served other Sikh groups including the Canadian Sikh Study and Teaching Society, and the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara.
As a Sikh representative, Nirmal Singh was often invited to speak at interfaith meetings at churches, community centers, schools, colleges, and universities. The Society of Storytellers and the Committee for Racial Justice regularly welcomed him. Social workers that organized programs for senior citizens, students, religious groups and multicultural bodies in Surrey and the other Canadian towns often invited him as the keynote speaker. And the University of British Columbia and Langara College invited him to lecture on Sikhism at as part of their continuing studies courses.
Nirmal Singh also became a television and radio personality in Canada. He delivered bi-weekly religious lectures for four years, from 1975 to 1979, on the radio. He also participated in group discussions on CTV, CKVU, CBC, CJOR 600 and Cooperative Radio 102.7 FM, in Vancouver.
All this was his seva. Nirmal Singh was honored with a Siropa, a Sikh robe of honor, on many occasions and by many societies and institutions.
The Governor General of Canada, Ramon Hall Hnatyshyn, conferred upon him the Commemorative Medal for the 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada (1867–1992) in recognition of significant contribution to compatriots, to the community and to Canada.
Nirmal Singh also was a very accomplished engineer and inventor. He created an innovative design and produced an unusual sugarcane separator machine for which his employer acquired international patent rights. More recently, he invented a device for relieving headaches, neck pain and eyestrain resulting from excessive computer use. The device is patented and manufactured in Canada and the United States.
Nirmal Singh - a Sikh scholar, a friend, an engineer and a community activist, was born on November 5, 1934 in Jaindowa, India. In the early 1960’s he moved to England to pursue his engineering studies and work. He briefly returned to India 1967 to marry Amar Kaur. The couple migrated to Vancouver, Canada, in 1974. Nirmal Singh spent rest of his life in Canada, until his death on June 14, 2010.
Nirmal Singh is survived by his wife; two sons, Harjit Singh and Kanwaljit Singh; a daughter-in-law, Parminder Kaur; and a 17-month-old granddaughter, Maihr Kaur. He also left behind many friends whom I join today to bid him my final farewell.
Note: Harbans Lal, of Arlington, Texas, is a professor and chairman of the Department of Pharmacology and Neurosciences at the medical college of the University of North Texas Health Science Center.