The Source Book On Sikhism

Overview of Theoretical Positions on Language Development

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Overview of Theoretical Positions on Language Development

Broadly speaking there are four theoretical positions on language development:

1. Behaviourist

2. Cultural Relativist - Determinist

3. Interactionist

4. Performationist - Predeterminist


According to the behaviourist point of view, a child learns what he is taught. Language is acquired through selective reinforcement of natural babbling and shaping of vocal behaviour through operant conditioning. Some sounds die because they are not reinforced, thereby creating blind spots.

Cultural Relativist - Determinist

According to CRD point of view, language is acquired as a social necessity and its acquisition parallels the development of thinking and logic in children. Language is a conceptual system which produces a specific world view (reality) peculiar to that language. Language does not have to be taught but as a species-specific behaviour, it emerges in response to social needs.


Interactionists think that language is acquired because the child is pre-disposed to learn it through the on-going development of intellectual systems. Its acquisition is not dependent on training. Information received by others is adapted by built-in genetic language-learning mechanism and integrated into the cognition of the child.

Performationist - Predeterminist

According to Performationist - Predeterminist point of view the child scans linguistic environment and integrates formal universals (grammatical categories). It is done by associating sounds and meanings in a particular way.

Dr. Frank Smith tries to summarize the above mentioned points of view while discussing linguistic relativity hypotheses. He feels that the children do not live in the same world, but in individual worlds structured by their language habits. Since the language reflects cognitive structures it becomes a distillation of cultural experiences and the means by which this experience is transmitted from one generation to another.

A consequence of this cultural transmission through language is that the extent that children and adults differ in their language - they are likely to organize their experiences differently and perceive the world in different ways.

Aldous Huxley in his forward for Dr. Ghose's famous book, Mystics and Society (1968, p. 1), takes a different but very original point of view. He states:

“Every culture is rooted in a language. No speech, no culture without an instrument of symbolic expression and communication, we should be Yahoos, lacking the rudiments of civilization...The universe inhabited by acculturated human beings is largely home-made. It is a product of what Indian philosophy calls Nama-Rupa - name and form language is a device for denaturing Nature and so making it comprehensible for human mind. The enormous mystery of existence, the primordial datum of an unbroken psycho-physical continuity, is chopped up by the symbol - making mind into convenient fragments. The labels and their logical (or illogical) patterning are projected into the outside world, which is then seen as a storehouse of separate, clearly defined and nicely catalogued things. Our names have created forms ‘out there’, each of which is an embodied illustration of some culture-hallowed abstraction.”

In other words, language chops off the psycho-physical continuity of the child’s environment and conditions him to a culture and speaker of its language. Once conditioned he develops a cognitive style which generates in him a linear level of consciousness pertaining to his environment.

If that is so, children who do not learn Panjabi will not develop linear consciousness about Sikh culture. Their Nama-Rupa will be Canadian. Their "realities" will be different from the realities of their parents who speak Panjabi - a language shaped by Panjabi culture. These children will have Panjabi genes with Canadian “realities” - to live ambivalent lives in a materialistic, maya oriented, narcissistic world.

What Parents or Significant Individuals Can Do

We may find it difficult to teach children Panjabi to the extent that their conditioning be the same as ours. Living and operating at the same level of linear culturally conditioned consciousness might help us to feel that we have successfully transmitted our cultural heritage (or conditioning) to our children. But Aldous Huxley suggests that both the parents (with their Panjabi realities) and children (with their Canadian realities) might like to transcendent to a higher common reality which is beyond Nama-Rupa. He comments:

“From the Christian ‘prayer of simple regard’ to the Zen koan, from Wordsworth’s ‘wise passiveness’ to Krishnamurtis ‘alert passivity’ and ‘awareness without judgement or comparison’, all yogas have a single purpose - to help the individual in his conditioning as a heir to a culture and the speaker of a language. Mental silence blessedly uncreates the universe super-imposed upon immediate experience by our memories of words and traditional notions. Mystics are persons who have become acutely aware of the necessity for this kind of deconditioning. Intuitively they know the essential ambivalence of language and culture, know that complete humanity and spiritual progress are possible only for those who have seen through their culture to be able to select from it those elements which make for charity and intelligence, and to reject all the rest.” (Mystic and Society, 1968, p. 10)

Exceptional parents with exceptional motivations will find their way. Some suggestions dealing with teaching of language through modelling and identification have stood the test of empirical investigation. In Canadian settings we may also try the following:

1. All young children should be taught the history of their culture in whatever language they can comprehend. They should be taught the relationship between reality and language. Also they should be made aware of indispensable use and fatal abuses of any language.

2. A child who knows that there have been hundreds of different cultures, and that each culture regards itself as the best, will not be inclined to take boastings of his own culture too seriously. Similarly a child who has come to understand that labels are not identical with things they are attached to, that words can be dangerous, will probably be cautious in speech and on his guard against the wiles of closed-minded, single-tracked preachers.

Every child who is educated in the verbal level for language competencies should be provided with appropriate non-verbal training. Sikh temples and other places of worship provide tremendous opportunities where such training can be imparted in mental silence, wise passiveness and choiceless attention.

Training in sensitivity, awareness, and "other kinds of seeing" should be our goal. We should help the children to see the world as beauty, as mysterious, and as unity. It is a known fact that other kinds of seeing are always there, parted from normal waking consciousness. Let the children learn Panjabi as a part of our input to waking consciousness but attempts should be made to supplement this learning with appropriate non-verbal training curriculum and methodology of which was so subtly built into Sikh ceremonies, by the Great Mystics (Gurus) of Sikh religion.

*Paper presented to Sikh Conference, 1980, Ottawa, May 15-16, 1980.
Chapter Fifty- Eight

Shaping The Future of Punjabi

Principal Amar Singh

Khalsa School, Vancouver, Canada

Shaping the future of the Punjabi language is in the hands of the parents. If they realize this most important duty and sow the seeds of the mother tongue in the childhood years, the future of the Punjabi language takes a promising shape. We parents must realize that the future of our children has very strong bondage with their mother tongue. This language plays a very important role in shaping their life. Parents must be convinced of this reality by making them aware of the novel research that tells us the impact of the mother tongue on the personality of a child. The mother tongue plays a very important role in shaping the personality of a child. Thus we must do the needy to make the parents aware of this fact and then only the parents will take steps to sow the seeds of the mother tongue in the childhood age of their children. This is the duty of our gurdwara authorities also who have failed miserably in executing this responsibility.

As far as the Khalsa Schools are concerned we have produced a book of Simple Punjabi grammar and a book on Punjabi Compositions For Secondary Schools. Both the books are based on local environment. We are now in the process of producing workbooks for all grades. This project will take time but we have already set the ball rolling. These workbooks will have lessons with various approaches that will create interest in learning at the same time. It is very important to create interest in learning the language. The mother tongue is a treasure that a child starts accumulating from his very early childhood and with the help of this wealth he makes his place in this world.

Every word of the mother tongue makes an indelible mark of the personality of a child. It is a wealth that deserves the most attention and earns merit for a child in this world. Even in childhood a child makes his place in the society with the help of this treasure of the mother tongue. The facial appearance is the reflection of the body and his language is the image of his soul. Our mother tongue is the language which we learn from our mothers in childhood. This language becomes a support of a child to stand on his feet and face the sympathetic and indifferent winds in life.

The language of a child and an adult shapes the picture of his culture and exposed the depth of his wisdom in the society. It is the language of a person that relates what he has accepted and what has rejected in life. A person peeps into this world, plays with his friends, mixes in the society and makes love with the power of this treasure which he has accumulated knowingly or unknowingly in his life from childhood.

The mother tongue is not only a key to success but also a treasure of elegance and comeliness that beautifies the garden of life. It is the most valuable possession in life. A child is more the baby of his mother tongue than even his own mother. At times he is separated from his mother but never from his mother tongue with the support of which he moves in this world. His life becomes more synonymous with the language than anyone else in his life. Language psychologists reveal to us the greatest secret of the power of the mother tongue that is the only force to bring out the virtuous qualifies of life with which a person is endowed by God.

Millions of people spend their lives without making use of the virtues in them because their tool of the mother tongue is not strong enough to bring them out.

A strong treasure of the mother tongue sends waves of love that have the power to mesmerize others towards the magnetic personality of the person. A personality built with the strength of the lovely words of the mother tongue stands gleaming in this complex society of ours. The words of the mother tongue learned in childhood can never be forgotten and they beautify the personality of a person that cannot be ignored by his world. A Sikh child talks to his Guru Ji with the help of his mother tongue. There is nothing more sinful than to deprive a child from talking to his Guru Ji. A child cannot sing the praises of the Lord if he cannot read Gurbani. This signing also helps a child to strengthen his self-confidence with the help of which he achieves success in life.

Chapter Fifty-Nine

Mystic is the Image of the Person To Be

Dr. S.S. Sodhi

Without mysticism man (person) is a monster,

Automatized, caged, chained to his cultural conditioning,

In waking consciousness, he performs his utilitarian tasks,

And misses the fathomlessly strange, enigmatic, “the other kind of seeing”.
Through transcendental operationalism she can develop a mind which has no boundaries,

Through mind fasting, she can lose her attachments,

Through mediation she can dwell upon something to produce a metaphoric universe,

Through de-automatization she can come to her senses by losing her mind.

He can say his prayer of simple regard to become the seer and the seen,

His wise passiveness can develop in him awareness without comparison,

He can stop de-naturing nature by using language and labels,

He can train himself in mental silence and choiceless attention.

She can seek satori, at-one-ment and beatitude,

She can become fearless because of compulsions to empathize with the powerlessness,

She can reach an oceanic stage of relating, responding and becoming,

She can intentionally dissolve her ego through I - naughting and Karuna.

At times he can get frustrated and cultivate his own garden,

At times he can get fixated due to “ego” and “separation anxiety”,

At times his plateau experiences of mindfulness do not break his chains of bondage,

But he still lights a candle rather than cursing darkness and urges people to


And Awaken Their Intelligence.

Chapter Sixty

Biography of Koh-i-Noor

Courtesy of Rajender Singh

The biography of the Koh-i-Noor is the history of India and this unique diamond is perhaps as dear to India as Shakespeare is to England. The name Koh-i-Noor dates back to the Persian invader, Nadir Shah who was so dazzled of the beauty, lustre and brilliance of the diamond that he exclaimed in wonder Koh-i-Noor which means ‘Mountain of Light’. The original name of this diamond is 'Samantik Mani'.

Koh-i-Noor is the most brilliant and the most precious diamond in the world. It has been rightly called the King of diamonds and the diamond of kings. Its entire history is linked with the royal families of various countries and of various ages. It was many a time the cause of the murder of Kings, dishonour of queens and fearful intrigues at royal courts.

India is famous for its diamonds, gems and jewels. Often her precious stones made history. Even the court descriptions in the Ramayana and in the Mahabharata are replete with accounts of the various jewels that were in use. Presents of jewels were made from one potentate to another. In fact, they thus passed from one ruler to another either as presents or as booty.

Muslim invaders who settled in India came under the influence of the Hindu civilization and adopted some of the customs and ways of the people of India; therefore, they too evinced great interest in diamonds.

According to the Hindu lore of precious stones, every stone does not suit all possessors. This perhaps explains why Koh-i-Noor, the biggest and the brightest diamond known to history, brought victory and prosperity to some and ruin and destruction to others.

The History of Koh-i-Noor

This wonder diamond of India had a chequered history running into thousands of years. Legend has it that the first important possessor of this great diamond was Lord Krishna. He not only got the diamond as a dowry but also got the hand of Jamavant’s daughter who was renowned for her beauty and charm of manners, in marriage. Lord Krishna did not deem it fit to keep it with him and gave it back to sun-god who in turn bestowed it on Raja Karna, whose crown the diamond adorned. In the great war between Kauravas and Pandwas fought on the plains of Kurukshetra, Karna, who was the commander-in-chief of Kauravas was killed by Arjuna and the diamond passed into the Arjuna’s possession. After the war, when Raja Yudhestra was crowned, Arjuna presented the diamond to him as a token of his affection. We have no record of the career of this precious stone since the age of Mahabharata down to the time of Asoka the Great, in the third century B.C. We find the stone with Raja Samprati, a grandson of Asoka.

Koh-i-Noor in Known History

On the death of Asoka his empire was split up into small principalities and one of his grandsons Raja Samprati made Ujjain his capital and the diamond passed to him as a valuable possession. In the course of time, Ujjain passed hands many times and the break-up of one empire after another deprived the people of any kind of stable and continued government. The rulers frittered away their energies in fratricidal warfare and when Sultan Mahmood found that Hindustan was a house divided against itself, he invaded the country seventeen times and returned laden with gold and jewels of all sorts. He was immediately followed by Mohammed Ghauri who vanquished both Prithvi Raj and Jai Chand, but nothing was heard of this priceless jewel and it is stated that it was smuggled out to Malwa where the Parmar dynasty was ruling. The last Hindu prince to possess it was Raja Ram Dev.

Towards the close of the thirteenth century Ala-ud-din Khilji ascended the throne of India. In the year 1386 he attacked Malwa and all the accumulated wealth fell into his hands. It is said that Raja Rai Ladha Deo, the ruler, sent through his ambassador, all that he had. Among them was ‘the jewel unparalleled in worth in the whole world’.

From this stage up to the time of Babar, the history of this great diamond is once more lost in obscurity. This much alone can be said, that it remained in the possession of the Sultans of Delhi.

Koh-i-Noor Passes into the Mughal Possession

Ibrahim Lodhi who succeeded his father Sikandar Lodi was very unpopular, being vain, stubborn, suspicious and of cruel disposition. His courtiers being tired of him sent an invitation to Babar, King of Kabul to invade India. The armies of Babar and Ibrahim Lodhi met at Panipat in 1526. A fierce battle ensued in which Ibrahim Lodhi was slain and Hamayun, Baber’s eldest son, was deputed to take possession of the King’s treasure. He ransacked the whole of the royal treasury but did not come across the diamond. He threatened the household servants with dire consequences but they kept mum. At last one of them pointed his finger towards the royal palace. He then entered the palace and found women folk weeping. He assured them that their honour would be safe in his hands and asked the mother of the late King about the diamond. Without speaking a word she went inside and came out with a box which she gave to the young prince with trembling hands. Hamayun opened the box and from inside got out the diamond wrapped in many layers of velvet.

In 1530, Hamayun fell dangerously ill. No amount of medical aid was of any avail. It was suggested to Babar that his dearest possession should be sacrificed to save the life of the Prince. He sacrificed his own life to save that of his son and so the diamond came into the hands of Hamayun.

Hamayun’s Cherished Possession

From the time this unique diamond came into the possession of Hamayun, it emerged from obscurity and came into the limelight forever. Hamayun never parted with it even in his darkest days. Abul Fazal in his Akbarnama relates an interesting story about it. Sher Shah Suri who had established a strong kingdom of his own, wanted to extend his empire and routed Hamayun who fled to Multan first, and then from place to place to seek refuge. In the course of his wanderings, he entered the domain of Raja Maldev in the hope of getting some help which was refused, but the Raja sent one of his courtiers under the garb of a diamond merchant to purchase the diamond. Hamayun was enraged and retorted: 'Such precious gems either fall to arbitrament of the flashing sword or come through the grace of mighty monarchs'. Having lost all hope he left the country along with the diamond which for the first time in its history left the soil of India.

Hamayun reached Persia and was received very cordially by the Shah of Persia and his royal hospitality was enjoyed by him for fourteen years and as a token of gratitude he presented him a number of jewels including this diamond.

The King of Persia was a Shia and was regarded as their head by the rulers of Ahmednagar, Bijapur and Golcunda so much so that ambassadors and presents were exchanged between them. In 1547, the Shah sent his ambassador to Ahmednagar and through him it is believed that this diamond again came back to India, the land of its origin.

Back into the Mughal Hands

Mir Jumia, a diamond dealer of Persia, came to India in connection with his business. He was a man of parts and soon rose to be Prime Minister of Golcunda. In addition, he was in sole charge of the working of Gokcunda mines so much so that people looked up to him rather than the King for favours. The king conspired to blind him but the wily minister escaped. Aurangzeb, the governor of Deccan, tried to win him over and held high hopes of great rise in the Mughal Court. He was appointed Prime Minister by Emperor Shah Jahan and he offered this diamond as well as other jewels as a Peshkash to Shah Jahan which was consigned to the Royal treasury. Aurangzeb who succeeded his father was not fond of pomp and so this diamond of unrivalled beauty and splendour remained locked in the coffers of the Mughal treasury except when Travarnier had an opportunity to see it. He says, ‘Ali Khan, chief of the treasury, placed this diamond in my hands, it weighed 907 rathis and is of the same form as of one half an egg cut through the middle’.

Aurangzeb’s throne descended, in due course, to Mohammad Shah 'Rangila' so called on account of his gay manners.

Nadir Shah takes Possession of the Gem

At that time Nadir Shah, a shepherd of Persia, gathered strength and after snatching the throne of Persia, crossed the border of Afghanistan. Losing no time he entered Hindustan and Peshawar fell to him like a ripe fruit. When the news of the capture of Lahore reached Mohammed Shah he said, ‘So Nadir Shah has reached Lahore! Nothing to worry about. Delhi is yet far off!’ Nadir Shah reached near Delhi in January, 1739. He entered Delhi without much resistance and was conveyed to the Imperial Palace. Mohammed Shah Rangila feasted the conqueror on a lavish scale. A few days later some Persian soldiers were killed in a skirmish with the Mughal army. When Nadir Shah came out to enquire into the incident a few stones were thrown at him. This aroused the ire of Nadir and he gave orders for a general slaughter. Innocent men, women and children were slaughtered in the thousand and the gutters of Delhi flowed with blood. Mohammed Shah with tears trickling down his checks and on bended knees pacified the wrath of the mighty monarch and soon Nadir Shah put back his sword in the sheath. Mohammed Shah presented Nadir Shah jewels, gold and countless objects of great value. All the treasuries were emptied but the great diamond was not surrendered. Mohammed Shah used to carry it with him in his turban. The secret of this was known to one disloyal eunuch in the Harem. He whispered this secret to Nadir Shah. Nadir Shah, who was a very clever man, hit upon a plan. He declared that being pleased with the generosity of the emperor he had decided to give back his empire to him and ordered public rejoicings. A Durbar was held. When the two kings retired and were alone, Nadir affectionately embraced Mohammed Shah and said that they had become brothers, as a token of which he desired to exchange turbans. Without a moment’s delay, Nadir took Mohammed Shah’s turban off and placed it on his own head and gave his own to the Emperor. Nadir hastened to his room, searched the turban when, lo! the diamond was before him in all its brilliance. He named it Koh-i-Noor which means the ‘Mountain of Light’.

Nadir Shah did not live long to enjoy the fruits of his fabulous loot from India. He was assassinated by his nephew Ali Kuli Khan, who proclaimed himself king and became the proud possessor of the diamond.

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