The Source Book On Sikhism

Related Issues of Dasam Granth and Other Secondary Sources

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Related Issues of Dasam Granth and Other Secondary Sources

The primary source for study of Sikh religion and its identity is Aad Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Any study based on secondary sources, will not be appropriate and can create confusion. Sikhs must work very hard to find the history, authorship, and internal consistency of such secondary sources into an appropriate perspective before they can be used for Sikh Studies. This issue is highly sensitive and needs meticulous handling. This is the most challenging academic issue which the Sikh scholars of the 21st century must face.

Sikh Bhakti vs. Hindu Bhakti

Miri Piri concept of Sikhism is unique as started by Guru Nanak and final shape was given by Guru Hargobind. Many academics are creating confusion by mixing the Sikh Bhakti and the Hindu Bhakti. Sikh Bhakti is an active Bhakti, while Hindu Bhakti is quiet and inactive. The concept of Shakti and Bhakti cannot be compared with the Miri Piri concept. Recently, academic differentiations have been made about the Bhakti religion in North India. Hindu religion as suguni current, is practised by Bhramans. The Sikh community founded by Guru Nanak and other sants such as Kabir, Raidas, Dadu and Shiv Deyal, have been qualified and lumped under the nirguni current. This exercise seems to be diffusing the independent identity of the Sikh religion. It is a great challenge for the Sikh scholars in the 21st century to put Sikh Bhakti and Hindu Bhakti in their appropriate perspective.

Sikh World View

Most of the higher religions have either become dichotomous, or are withdrawing from the main fields of social responsibility, and human reason feels frustrated. Sikh Gurus express a comprehensive world view of hope and eternal relevance. Sikhism is universal in it approach, always and anxious and willing to cooperate with those who aim at harmony and well being of man. Guru Nanak proclaimed that his mission was to steer man across the turbulent sea of life with the help of other Godmen. This is included in everyday prayer of the Sikhs, "May God Bless All Mankind". Sikh scholars in the 21st century must continue to propagate a voice basic Sikh world view towards humanity.

Importance and Significance of Akal Takhat

Ideological challenge is normal phenomena not uncommon in the history of religious thought. In fact, it may be desirable for better understanding of religious doctrines and gives the opportunity to the adherence to affirm their faith. But no religion can run its affairs until there is strong central authority who can make a final decision firmly. Akal Takhat (world-wide) and SGPC (India) are the only custodians of Sikhism. There needs to be education among the Sikh masses about the importance and significance of Akal Takhat. There is a lot of confusions being created about the institution of Akal Takhat these days. It is the consensus of the Sikh community, especially those who have moved away from India, that in order to save Sikhism from going into any Protestant way, like Christianity, there is an immediate need to set up an office of Akal Takhat in the West; so that the Sikh institutions in the West can come under control of Akal Takhat Sahib Amritsar. There is a need to evolve a system/secretariat/senate under Sri Akal Takhat and form a think tank who can guide the custodians regarding religious, academic, social, and political day to day problems of the Sikhs in India and abroad. It is the need of the day that the Sikh perspective on different issues cannot be put under the rug anymore. It is a great challenge that must be accepted by the Sikh intellectuals and clergy to respond to it appropriately if Sikhism has to survive in the next century of this dynamic global community.

Guru Granth Sahib as the Living Guru

Personal Guruship was ended by the Tenth Guru after finalizing the Sikh mission and sanctifying and passing succession to the Guru Granth Sahib as the future Living Guru of the Sikhs. He was very clear that no human Guru was to be acknowledged by the Sikhs after 1708. There is plenty of historical evidence which endorses the above significant Sikh doctrine. In spite of this, many Dehdhari Gurus and Sanths are proliferating in India and abroad supported by political enemies of the Sikhs. The present day holders of the Sikh chairs in Western universities are trying to diffuse such significant Sikh doctrine of Guru Manyo Granth, by the Tenth Guru in 1708. Such attempts will be continued in the next centuries. It is a great challenge for the Sikh scholars in the next century to preserve such historically proven doctrines and stop the flourishings of Sant Samaj and Dehdhari Gurus.

Restriction of Sikh Ph.D. Dissertations in North America (needs evaluation)

A lot of research has been going on in Western universities, e.g., Dr. Oberoi’s Ph.D.. from Australian National University in 1987; Dr. Gurinder Mann from Columbia in 1993, “Making of Sikh Scripture”; and Lou Fenech from Toronto in 1995, "Tradition of Sikh Martyrdom". All the above Ph.D. dissertations have been restricted from the public. Nobody is objecting to any research, but only motivated and unethical work needs attention. The experience of these so-called critical scholars has shown that prejudices have to be shed and caustic observations avoided; instead the only useful path would be that of dialogue and discussion proceeded by a detailed study of Sikh scripture. This is missing from their studies. For, no understanding of Sikh history can be rational or authentic, until the study of, both of Guru Granth Sahib and the history of the Guru Period. Otherwise, unidimensional studies cannot be obviously objective or valid, much less profound. If the future generation of the Sikhs read the wrong books, they will get the wrong answers. It is a great challenge for mainstream Sikh scholars in the 21st century to continue closely evaluating such research and respond to them in a proper perspective.

Sikhization of Knowledge

There is an urgent need for establishment of an academic council of Sikh scholars who should compile a detailed framework of Sikh ideology as enshrined in Aad Sri Guru Granth Sahib for the contemporary world. A serious and gigantic effort needs to be made to educate scholars to rethink fundamental concepts of modern sciences within the framework of Sikhism. For Sikhs, it will enlighten the richness of their heritage, for outsiders, it will provide a better understanding and bridge all gaps.

In my opinion, the above topics are the major academic challenges which mainstream Sikh scholars must face. If these are not responded to in accordance to the doctrines as established in Aad Sri Guru Granth Sahib, they will effect the psyche of the 20 million Sikhs at large, who follow and pray before Aad Sri Guru Granth Sahib in their homes and gurudwaras daily. Sikhs living in India and Punjab may get away with some of the problems as they are living in the place where Sikhism was born. Sikhs who have migrated out of India will have very deleterious effects of such wrong literature because the coming generation may not be able to visit Punjab. If they try to find their greatest heritage, they have to only consult the available literature. If they read the wrong books, they will get the wrong answers and will start doubting the authenticity and integrity of our living Guru (Guru Granth Sahib) and the great heritage given to us by the Gurus. The above academic issues are great challenges for the Sikh scholars in the 21st century. I hope Sikh scholars will face such challenges and give the Sikh religion its proper recognition it deserves among other major world religions.

Bibliography on Academic Challenges

1. Daljeet Singh; Sikhism and its Identity; Abstracts of Sikh Studies, July 1992.

2,4. Bachitter S. Giani; Introduction; Planned Attack on AAD Sri Guru Granth Sahib, 1994.

3. Kharak Singh; Fundamental Issues in Sikh Studies, 1992 and Abstracts of Sikh Studies, July, 1992.

5. Rudolph Otto; “An Idea of the Holy”. Sirdar Kapur Singh in Sikhism and Ecumenical Religion, edited by Gurtej Singh, published by the Institute of Sikh Studies, 1993.

6. Jajgit Singh and Daljeet Singh; Abstracts of Sikh Studies, July, 1994.

7. Daljeet Singh; Essential of Sikhism, published by Singh Brothers, 1994.

8. Bhakti, Religion in North India; Edited by David N. Lorenzen. SUNY Press, Albany, NY, 1995.

9. Daljeet Singh; Sikh World View; Abstracts of Sikh Studies, July, 1992.

10. Balkar Singh; Sri Akal Takht; published by SPGC, 1995.

11. Harbans Singh; The Heritage of the Sikhs and Perspective on Sikh Studies, Deals with Sanctification of Guru Granth by 10th Master in 1708.

12. Madanjit Kaur; Guru Granth Sahib Sanctified as Guru in Advanced Studies in Sikhism, published by Sikh Community of North America, 1989.

13. J.S. Mann, S.S. Sodhi, G.S. Gill (editors). Invasion of Religious Boundaries, published by Canadian Sikh Study and Teaching Society (Vancouver) through Institute of Sikh Studies, Chandigarh, 1995.

Chapter Fifty-Two

Sikh Faith Studies in the West: An Analysis

By Gurbakhsh Singh, Washington

Taranjeet Singh, Vancouver

The reason for writing this article is the statement made by G.S. Mann in his Ph.D. thesis, The Making of Sikh Scripture. He writes at page 78: “The same is the case with the Sodar, the evening prayer, that contains five hymns in the GNDU pothi. This text expanded to contain 9 hymns in the Kartarpur pothi and further developed to include 13 in later manuscripts and the Adi Granth.”

A few statements of some western scholars are discussed in this article to explain their casual approach to the study of the Sikh faith.

(a) Sodar Hymns

The above statement has been made by a Sikh and is based on a “scientific research” conducted according to the “Western methodology”. Such research is repeatedly claimed to be “infallible”: and to sieve “truth” from “unscientific” old writings. Is it a scholarly jugglery or a tragedy of scholarship? Or is it the outcome of his obsession that Gurbani has “evolved” and was “edited” over time.

Every Sikh knows that Sodar Paath in the Guru Granth Sahib has only 9 hymns; there is no manuscript containing 13 hymns anywhere. Further, Kartarpur Pothi has only 5 and not 9 hymns. Obviously, it is not a printing mistake. This thesis must have been checked by at least four “competent” professors involved in guiding his research work. How did Mann count Sodar hymns to be 13?

When contacted on the phone, his explanation was, “I might have included Sohila”. When told that it would make the total to be 14, he replied, “I was under great pressure of time. I do not know now. I will send you my book.” To “prove” he was not wrong, he makes another blunder when he counts Sohila hymns in Sodar.

This is not the only research which reveals the disregard shown by the western scholars to the sacred Gurbani. These scholars suffer from preconceived notions, hence we find such wrong and disrespectful outcome of their research. However, the position and status of these scholars (as heads of the Sikh Studies) give their writings credibility and respectability. If one puts together the "research" writings of these scholars, one cannot miss their objective to “prove” that Gurbani is not a revelation. They aim to present it as an “edited” collection of hymns. They imply that the first Guru did not write "fully correct" hymns so that the fifth Guru had to edit and improve them.

(b) Why Bhagat Bani in Guru Granth Sahib?

I cannot help quoting one more piece of “research” from his thesis, to share the “scholarship” being used to “serve” the Sikh faith.

The hymns of the saints were, however, scrutinized and only those were taken that conformed to the Sikh religious and social outlook. 1

A clear sense of their lower position vis-à-vis the writings of the Gurus permeates the structure of the Goindval pothis and the Adi Granth. The later tradition lost the sense of hierarchy of the writings within the body of the Sikh scripture as conceived by Guru Amar Das and followed by Guru Arjun, but the strong need to justify the presence of these writings within the body of the Sikh scripture remains. Page 191. (Emphasis mine)

The author finds no justification for the inclusion of Bhagat Bani in the Guru Granth Sahib. Mann thinks he is more competent than the Guru to judge the need of the Bhagat Bani in the Guru Granth Sahib and he cannot find any justification for it being there in the scripture. (Probably because he thinks he is a Ph.D. research scholar while the Gurus did not hold any such research degrees - my assumption only.) He wants to know the reasons for their inclusion even when he accepts that the hymns chosen ‘conform to the social and religious outlook’ of the Gurus.

The answer is simple. Gurus repeatedly say that it is the message, not the person who gives it, which is important for a Sikh. Gurmat philosophy is unique in that it teaches: no prophet or faith can claim a franchise on God. Anyone who loves God, realizes God. (Salok, Jap p8)

1 (But a “research” statement contradicting the above was given by Pashaura Singh, another associate of McLeod. He wrote his M.A. thesis to “prove” that the philosophy of Gurbani is opposed to that of the hymns of the Bhagats.

This is just one more example which demonstrates that for these “researchers”, distortion of facts and contradiction of their own statements is acceptable “scholarship” as long as they meet their objectives. For them, it is freedom of thought.)

Observations of McLeod

(a) Forged Guru Granth

(i) Long time back in his book, The Evolution of the Sikh Community, McLeod alleged that a portion of a hymn in the original Sikh scripture was later on deleted by the Sikhs, because it mentioned the hair-cutting ceremony of (Guru) Hargobind. To justify his baseless assumption, he has also given "reasons" for that:

“This feature is in obvious contradiction to the later prohibition of hair-cutting...the reference in the hymn could only be regarded as intolerable.” Page 77.

It was a very serious allegation to decree the credibility of whole Sikh leadership. It was made with great irresponsibility, without looking at the Pothi itself. It was an allegation, presented as history, and that too disregarding the facts known to him. It challenged the genuineness of the Guru Granth Sahib.

That is what surprises the reader most. Having been assured of the fact (no obliteration) the “research scholar” insists not only on telling the reader of the “well established” obliteration but also cites reasons for doing that by the Sikhs. Further, he wants the readers to accept all these assertions, as “academic questions for discussions.”

(ii) The language and tone McLeod uses in his writings hurts every Sikh, the Sikhs feel he is doing that intentionally. He knows well that the Guru Granth is the “living spirit” of the Gurus, it is to be respected and consulted (studied) for spiritual guidance. But still he writes:

As the world changes, they (Sikhs) will find their inherited faith further and yet further out of harmony with it, and that is assuredly a guarantee that many at least will be compelled to relinquish the substance of their faith. Some will remain and lend credence to the voices of those who insist upon no change. They will, however, be a dwindling band. Studying the Sikhs, page 53. (Emphasis mine)

Unless I interpret it wrongly, it looks like a threat to the Sikhs that only their “research” can “save” the Sikhs from being a “dwindling band”. This kind of disrespectful terminology has been lavishly used by McLeod. He also writes that if Sikhs object to his “scholarly” approach to the study of their scripture, they will publish it in North America. By this, he indirectly makes a false allegation that Sikhs will stop them from studying and publishing their research in Punjab. No one has ever told him that. However, many Sikhs have reported the research done by these scholars to be irresponsible. If exposing their blunders and baseless allegations is considered an objection to their “research”, then Sikhs confess being guilty of that. Further, they will do the same in North America as well.

McLeod is forcing himself to give Sikhs a certificate about the genuineness of their scripture. Do the Sikhs need authentication from McLeod and his associates to accept their Guru Granth as a genuine scripture authored by the Guru? Even if they voluntarily offer it, the Sikhs will reject it because their integrity is doubtful with Sikhs. For these scholars, the issue of the genuineness of the Guru Granth Sahib is like a football with which they play for their pleasure and also for proving their scholarship. Sometimes it seems they enjoy teasing the Sikhs by spreading misinformation under the cloak of "research" results. The words and phrases used by them more than prove it.

(b) Jat Phobia

Further evidence of the premeditated negative approach by McLeod towards the Sikh faith may be seen in another unfounded statement in the same book:

“This is widely regarded as a great pity, even within Sikh society where the numerically preponderant Jats commonly bewail the fact that there was never a single Jat Guru.” The Evolution of the Sikh Community, page 87-88. (Emphasis mine)

This is a cheap and mean comment. It seems McLeod intends to plant this malicious idea in the minds of a section of the Sikh Community. Permit me here to say something about myself. I am a Jat. My relations and in-laws are Jats; my children’s in-laws are also Jats. I have a large number of friends in Punjab and outside, both Jats and non-Jats. This idea was never heard anytime from any person, Jat or non-Jat, for 70 years of my age. Less than a decade ago, I read it for the first time in his book that “Jats commonly bewail...widely regarded as a great pity.” Perhaps his writings have an ulterior objective.

These Western scholars suffer from the Jat-phobia. They allege that because of the entry of large numbers of Jats and their character, later Gurus took the militant path. All Sikhs, not just Jats, do bewail when they read such allegations cooked by McLeod and his associates.

While making all these wild imaginations, these “scholars” seem to conveniently forget the basic nature of society in Punjab. Their writings reveal they fully understand that it was an agrarian culture. Most people in a village were Jats, with some non-Jats, traders, carpenters, blacksmiths, weavers, calico printers, even Brahmins, etc. to make it a self-sufficient unit. Trading class, Kshatris, lived mostly in the cities. More than 80 percent of the population depended on agriculture. In such a society, what is unusual about the fact that a large number of Sikhs were Jats?

Actually, it would have been unusual only if the Jats, being a major section of society, did not enter the Sikh faith proportionately in large numbers.

With everything said above, this is not to deny or underrate the contributions of McLeod. He is a great scholar and a great author. No one has or can dare to put a question mark on his scholarship. He has done an excellent job in presenting the Sikh faith and the Sikh community to the world. However, he has made, as Sikhs see them, many blunders which hurt the feelings of their community and can misguide Western readers. We are not sure whether this misinformation is due to his ignorance or motives. Readers differ on this. Some do not think them to be “blunders” but consider it his “fearless interpretation” as he himself says it. Others give him the benefit of doubt. They think that, being an outsider, his ignorance is the reason for that. While some others argue that a person of his experience and knowledge cannot be believed to be ignorant of the facts. His preconceived notions are considered to be reasons for his misrepresentation of the Sikh faith. The extreme view is that McLeod is using academic freedom and Western methodology for research as a license to spread misinformation about the Sikh faith.

Observations by Pashaura Singh

(a) Editing Gurbani

McLeod took advantage of the desire of Pashaura Singh for higher studies and made the Christian Mission’s approach to look to be the thought of an “insider”, a practising Sikh (Singh has a training in Sikh faith and was a preacher at a Calgary Gurdwara when he started his post-graduate research in Canada). In his Ph.D. thesis, the Textual Analysis of Guru Granth Sahib, Pashaura Singh made serious allegations against Guru Arjun Dev of editing Gurbani to change it theologically and linguistically, something unthinkable, a thought that never arose in the mind of any Sikh or scholar in the history of the Sikh faith.

Singh not only distorted the meanings of Gurbani hymns but misquoted facts to suit his thesis. He translated the note “Dohragat likhia hai...” in the Kartarpur pothi as “a better version” to “prove” his thesis regarding the editing of Gurbani by Guru Arjun Dev. While the note actually means “written twice” (hence not needed and deleted). This cannot be anything but an intentional attempt to distort the meaning to support his allegations. Otherwise, no one can believe that a person born and raised in Punjab can be confused by the word “dohragat” and translate it as “better”.

Actually, his whole approach - editing to change theologically and linguistically - falls flat just in the first pages of the Guru Granth Sahib. There are two Sodar hymns one, on in Jap and the other in Sodar (Rehras) with slight differences. According to him, one should be an “old” version and the other “an edited, and hence a better version”. They are very close to each other at pages 6 and 8 respectively. Guru Arjun Dev should have retained only the “better” version. Alternatively, he might say that the Guru forgot to edit them. Such allegations presented as “research” are unthinkable and unbearable by Sikhs.

The readers, who know Gurbani and Sikh history cannot help doubting that the real aim of McLeod with the help of his associates is to distort the good image of the Sikh Gurus and shake the faith of the Sikhs in the Guru Granth Sahib as a revealed scripture. They write to prove it to be an “edited” poetry.

Singh was called to Amritsar to explain his misleading and wrong observations. Before the scholars, he confessed his mistakes and promised not to repeat them. However, he still seems to be under “pressure” to continue to claim that his “findings” are a scholarly work.

(b) Theological Changes

(i) to “prove” editing of Gurbani, Pashaura Singh assumes that the word Nirvair was added to the Mool Mantra by Guru Ram Das. To support his assumption, he refers to the jealousy of Baba Mohan, the son of Guru Amar Das towards Guru Ram Das.

He conveniently forgets that jealousy did not start with Guru Ram Das. The sons of the Gurus were jealous towards the disciples designated as Guru. It started with Guru Nanak’s sons and continued throughout the Guru period.

Further, Guru Nanak Dev not only used the word Nirvair, but the joint words Nirbhao and Nirvair of the Mool Mantra have also been used elsewhere by him in Gurbani.

Nirbhao nirankar nirvair pooran jote sma-ee Page 596

(ii) Singh makes another obviously baseless assumption. He says “Purkh” concept became prominent by the time of Guru Arjun Dev, hence he added this word to the Mool Mantra. He has been a long-time preacher. Sikhs wonder at his ignorance of Gurbani. The word Purkh was adopted by Guru Nanak himself. The very first Rag, Sri Rag, has this word used by Guru Nanak Dev.

Jis stagur purkh na bhetio......Page 22

Bin pir purkh na jan-ee......Page 54

Also, he has used it about half-a-dozen times, just on two pages facing each other.

Ootam satgur purkh niralay......

Tu akal purkh nahi sir kala......Page 1038

Dasvai purkh atit nirala......

Purkh alekh schay diwana......Page 1039

The “scholar” is so obsessed with the thought, “Gurbani was corrected and revised” that he ignores the implications of his assumptions. He, thus, accuses Guru Nanak for not writing hymns correctly and that his hymns needed improvement, both theologically and linguistically. This means till the preparation of the Adi Granth, Sikhs and the Gurus, continued to memorize and recite those “incorrect” hymns (unedited)! Only McLeod and his associates can make such assumptions to spread disinformation about the Sikh faith.

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