“I was a hippie” Hari Nam Singh Khalsa says. “A peace-love-groovy kind of guy.”
The host of the television program “Insight into Sikhism” is explaining how he came to be baptized in the faith.
Khalsa, who lives in Oakville Ontario, is being interviewed at the Gurdwara Dukh Niwaran Sahib at 15255 68 Ave.
He was invited to attend the Surrey temple’s celebration of the 300th anniversary of the day when Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the 10th guru of the Sikh faith, told his followers that there was no need for an 11th person to guide them.
Instead of putting their trust in a single person, Sikhs were told to look to the written scriptures for guidance.
Khalsa has been doing exactly that for decades.
As a devout Sikh and producer-host of the only English-language program in North America about the teachings and traditions of Sikhism, he does four shows a month, seen on television stations across Canada.
They are low-key affairs, with Khalsa speaking directly to the camera in a warm, resonant voice honed by decades of yoga.
Before he joined the faith, he was a nice Jewish kid from Toronto who loved music and hated to have his hair cut.
When the sixties happened, he was happy to go long-haired.
He says his interest in Sikhism began with learning about the teachings and strengthened when he heard the music played in the temples.
“It just blew my mind.”
And he was intrigued by the notion of a faith that believes in letting hair grow long.
But it was far more than the beautiful tunes and wonderful lion-like manes of hair he saw when older Sikh men took off their turbans.
For a restless young man who’d been on a spiritual quest since he was a small child, there was something about the faith that spoke to him on a deeply personal level.
“This is the religion I want” he thought.
It took years of study.
He learned to read and speak Punjabi to study the scriptures in the original language.
His name was given him by a mentor shortly before he was baptized.
As a result of his studies, Khalsa became known for discussing principles of the faith in clear, simple terms.
That led to a career as an educator about Sikhism, which led to an unexpected career as a television host.
Some people in the community suggested he should do a show, and he’s been on the air for the last nine years.
He admits to a certain discomfort at the attention, noting several times during the interview that his show is about the teachings.
“It’s not about me. It’s about us.”
When a visitor remarks on his modesty, his eyes twinkle.
“It’s Jewish guilt,” he says, grinning.