Dr. Devinder Pal Singh
Dr. Harbans Lal, an internationally renowned neuroscientist and an eminent scholar on Sikhism, was honored with Lifetime Achievement Award by the Al-Noor International Texas organization for his outstanding contributions to science and for promoting interfaith and multicultural understanding. The award ceremony took place in Roma Palace in the Dallas metroplex, USA on the evening of May 12, 2023. The well-decorated hall had big round tables, each decorated with a beautiful picture of the awardee, and specially designed mugs with “We Love You” messages. He was ushered into the hall to the beat of Dhol and excitement, while the organizers of the Al-Noor International Texas offered flower bouquets to him. A slide show that showcased his achievements. On the occasion, he also shared his life experiences with the audience.
Dr. Harbans Lal is an internationally acclaimed neuroscientist, a celebrated pharmacologist, and a profound scholar of Sikhism. He was born in 1931, at Haripur, the North-West Frontier Province (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) in Pakistan. In 1956, after receiving his B.Sc. degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences from Punjab University, Chandigarh, India, he migrated to the USA. Therein, he received his master’s degree from the University of Kansas in 1958. He was awarded a Ph.D. degree in Medical Sciences (Pharmacology), by the University of Chicago, in 1962.
Over the years, Dr. Harbans Lal has served as a teacher cum researcher at various reputed institutes e.g., the University of Kansas, the University of Chicago, IIT Research Institute, and the University of Rhode Island. During 1980-2000, he served at the University of North Texas Health Science Center, as Professor and Chairman, Dept. of Pharmacology and Neurosciences. In his long professional career spanning over five decades, he is credited with over 400 research papers, 28 books, numerous research reviews, and 56 chapters in edited books on medical sciences. In addition, he has served on many national and international advisory boards, including the National Institute of Health, the National Institute of Ageing, the National Science Foundation, and the US Food and Drug Administration. He has also served as an Editor for a monthly research journal “Drug Development Research” for 14 years. He has been honored by several research organizations for his outstanding contributions to the field of medical sciences. The Society of Neuroscience bestowed on him the Distinguished Neuroscientist Award. The American College of Neuropsychopharmacology elected him as its member, and The Scientists of Indian Origin in America elected him as its President. In addition, the American Psychological Association honored him with its honorary membership.
In his public life, Dr. Harbans Lal has been instrumental in promoting interfaith and multicultural understanding. He played a vital role in various leadership capacities in several interfaith organizations such as the World Center for Thanksgiving, Interfaith Council of Thanksgiving Square, The Faith Conversation, and Alliance for Religious Freedom. He has also served as an Adviser to the American Project on Religion in the News Media. He is the Ambassador of the Parliament of World’s Religions. His musings and writings on various theological issues have been published in the Sikh press as well as several prestigious periodicals e.g., Dallas Morning News, Tribune, Times of India, Hindustan Times, etc. For his exceptional contributions in the field of interfaith and multicultural understanding, he was conferred with the Ambassador of Peace Award by the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace. Besides, he was also honored with an International Medal of Honor by the Grace Seminary, and the International Ummah Award by the Islamic Association.
Dr. Harbans Lal, a noted exponent of Sikhism, has also been instrumental in providing imperative leadership to several Sikh institutions. He was a founder member of the All-India Sikh Students Federation (AISSF) and served as the Editor-in-Chief of its monthly magazine “Sikh Students’ Bulletin”. Later, he served as its President during 1954-56. AISSF bestowed on him the honorific “Bhai”. In 1963, SGPC, Amritsar, conferred the title “Bhai Sahib” on him. Bhai Harbans Lal has been the Founding Vice President of the Sarab Hind Sehajdhari Sikh Organization (1949-56). He served as the Founding Vice-President of the Sri Nanakana Sahib Foundation (SNSF) during 1975-2018. SNSF is credited with opening free access to the Sikh historical places in Pakistan and the establishment of the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee.
Since 2016, Dr. Lal is a regular contributor to Sikh thoughts via his blog “Seeking Wisdom”. Through his literary essays, as published in many research journals, magazines, books, and newspapers, he has been able to create an indelible mark of scholarship on the minds of his readers. He has published a book on Guru Nanak’s teachings and several reviews on Sikh themes. Dr. Bhai Harbans Lal has been honored for his services to the Sikh cause by several Sikh organizations e.g., SGPC, Amritsar; DSGMC, New Delhi, The Akal Takht, Takht Hazur Sahib, Takhat Sri Patna Sahib, Chief Khalsa Diwan, Sikh Dharma International, and the Sikh Social and Educational Society, Canada. In recognition of his contributions to Sikh Studies, he has been awarded, D. Litt. (Honoris causa) degree by Guru Nanak Dev University in 1995. He has also been honored with the Order of Nishan-e-Khalsa, by Anandpur Sahib Foundation, in 1999, for his impressive accomplishments in Sikh scholarship and promoting Sikhism. Most recently (2019), he was honored with the Prof. Sahib Singh Memorial Award established by Mian Mir Memorial Trust.
A widely acclaimed neuroscientist and a noted Sikh theologian, Dr. Harbans Lal, is a founder member of the School of Scientific and Logical Interpretation of Gurbani. He is committed to bringing out the truth of Gurbani, logically, rationally, and scientifically. With his scientific training and devotion to Gurbani, he is eminently qualified to do so. In his works, Dr. Lal portrays intellectually courageous and authentic attempts to interpret Sikh Gurus’ verses logically and scientifically, to create an accurate understanding of the Gurbani. His scientific background and professional life as a scientist have undoubtedly influenced his choice of paradigm and perspective. A votary of Sikh way of life, Dr. Harbans Lal has led a life, dedicated to the love of God and selfless service to the society. He is a true Karam yogi, who had devoted his whole life to spreading the message of education, Gurmat, and service to all. He asserts that Sikh Gurus’ philosophy, their Sikhi ethics, their compositions, and Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) are the substance that makes for spirituality befitting the 21st century.
Dr. Harbans Lal is widely known for his leading roles in Interfaith organizations. In Dallas, he is a household name in the Asian community. This is because he has been a true believer in the Guru’s saying “Regard all humans as one race”. Dr. Lal has been treading on Guru Nanak’s path of love for all, throughout his entire life. He has lived an honest life full of love for others and God – the life of a Sachiaar! He represents a true ambassador of Guru Nanak’s philosophy!
*Dr. Devinfder Pal Singh is the Director, of the Center for Understanding Sikhism, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada