«AUTHOR’S INTRODUCTION O thou that buttest the high mountain, seeking to dislodge it with thy horns, take pity, not on the mountain but on thy head ...»
O thou that buttest the high mountain, seeking to dislodge
it with thy horns, take pity, not on the mountain but on thy
Sheikh Ahmed Al-Aawi:
There is a Buddhist legend narrated by Rumi in one of his
famous stories which aptly describes the attitude of some
arrogant intellectuals towards Sikhism. Sikhism is for them is
an elephant, which a group of blind men touch, and each describes it according to the part of the body his hands had touched; to one the elephant “appeared like a throne, to another like a fan or like a pillar. But none was able to imagine what the whole animal was like.
From Dr Ernest Trumpp, a fanatic Christian missionary of nineteenth-century to Dr William Hewat McLeod, a leading light of Batala-Berkley Christian Missionary group of the twentieth-century critics of Sikhism, and from Swami Dayanand leader of Anti-Sikh Arya-Samaj Hindu-cult to a host of turbanned and bearded communists, atheists, agnostics, opportunists, bearing the name “Singh”, there have been a number of spiritually blind, intellectually corrupt, highly conceited writers and scholars who have described Sikhs and Sikh ism in a manner, no ordinary person with even a rudimentary intellectual honesty and historical insight can ever comprehend or describe.
Sikhism offers many points of attraction, many subline doctrines of universal interest, many moral and spiritual values for which Sikhs and their faith are admired all over the world. The aesthetic beauty, the poetry and music 2 which forms the backbone of Sikh Scriptures, and the mystical dimensions of the profound spiritual experiences of Sikh Prophets, recorded in their own authentic and canonized sacred works, is a vast field of study for all seekers of Truth and honest exponents of Sikh religion. Many eminent scholars, Christians.
Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus have given us profound insights into this faith. Others who know the religion through those who love it and practice it have not failed to appreciate their love for religious and cultural bonds with sister faiths, their passion for freedom and liberty, their single-minded devotion to dignity of labour, and their boundless courage to suffer and die for their faith and freedom, which has inspired them to produce great saints. Scholars freedom fighters, and determined reformers.
For some Christian theologians like Professor Mark Juergenmeyer ‘Sikhism is a Forgotten Tradition” virtually ignored in the various fields of religious studies; for some the Sikhs are an uncultured backward tribe, and for still others highly biased minds it is an undefined faith with uncertain spiritual or philosophical roots. They are afraid to call it a religion or a philosophy because their intellec-tual perceptions blunted by ingrained prejudices fail to see the profound metaphysical and mystical thoughts, the ethical, social and philosophic doctrines of a highly developed spiritual religion. revealed on every page of their scriptures to those who care to understand it correctly.
For some it is a fading Hindu sect with no identity of its own, yet some others like Dr Hew McLeod, who consider themselves the cleverest pundits in this dark sphere of academic gimmick, have in vain tried to fit a square peg in a round hole by trying to prove that Guru Nanak was a petty “Sant” in the long chain of ‘Hindu Nirgun San Sampardaya of North India” an impressive name without form or content. They make bland irresponsible statements about Sikh prophets and their religion, without even being able to prove anything. Sikhism is neither a “tradition” nor has it been forgotten. It is a living faith, a 3 universal religion, with well known and clearly defined identity and institutions, and philosophical, social and political doctrines.
Let anyone open any page from the history of Punjab from the date of the birth of its Founder, Guru Nanak, to the present day written by any non-Sikh, you will find the Sikhs as Masters of the destiny of Punjab. But still a handful of Christian Missionary Scholars, most of whom were working together as teachers in Barring Christian College, Batala, and writing under the common banner, “Christian Approach to Sikhism” during the late six-ties and early seventies, still have spared no pains to mount indecent attacks on Sikhism in recent years.
Their natural Christian bias first changed to unhealthy and disturbing comments about Sikh Gurus and Sikhism. Then in a se-ries of articles, read in their Group Seminars and books, their prejudiced comments have changed into hostile criti-cism and malicious vulgar assaults in the name of rational thinking and Christian academics of particular group and a particular brand.
It is about such rational critics of Buddhism, Dr D.T.
Suzuki wrote in bitter words, although these learned critics had made signal con tributions in Sanskrit studies. This world renowned scholar of Buddhism, Dr D.T. Suzuki writing on “Why injustice is done to Buddhism”, in his well known work “Outline of Mahayana Buddhism” says, about such writers and critics of religions other than their own, “The people who have had their thoughts and sentiments habitually trained by one particular set of religious dogma, frequently misjudge the value of those thoughts that are strange and unfamiliar to them. We may call this class of people bigots or enthusiasts.
They may have fine religious and moral sentiments as far as their own religious train-ing goes; but, when examined from a broader point of view, they are to a great extent vitiated with prejudices, superstitions, and fanatical beliefs, which since childhood, have been pumped into their receptive minds, before they were sufficiently developed and could form independent judgments. This fact so miserably spoils their purity of 4 sentiments and obscures their transparency of intellect, that they are disqualified to perceive and appreciate whatever is good, true and beautiful in the so-called heathen religions. This is the main reason why those Christian missionaries are incapable of rightly understanding the spirit of religion generally
- I mean, those missionaries who come to the East to substitute one set of superstition for another.”1 “This strong indictment”, adds Dr D.T. Suzuki, “against the Christian missionaries, however, is by no means prompted by any partisan spirit. My desire, on the contrary, is to do justice to those thoughts and sentiments, that have been working consciously or unconsciously in the human mind from time immemorial and shall work on till the day of the last judgement, if there ever be such a day. To see what those thoughts and sentiments are, which, by the way, constitute the kernel of every religion, we must without any reluctance throw off all the preju-dices we are liable to cherish, though quite unknowingly, and keeping always in view what is most essential in the religious consciousness, we must not, confound it with its accessories, which are doomed to die in the course of time.”2 Sri Aurobindo, the world renowned scholar and sage pinpoints two types of western critics of oriental religions and cultures. Then there is the “eye of discerning and dispassionate critic who tries to see the thing as it is in its intention and actuality, apportion the light and shade, get the balance of merit and defect, success and failure, mark off that which evokes appreciative sympathy from that which calls for critical censure.
We may not always agree; the standpoint is different and by its externality, by failure of intuition and self-identification it may miss things that are essential or may not get the whole meaning of that which it praises or condemns; still we profit we can add to our sense of shade and tone or correct our previous judgement.”3 There are many eminent scholars belonging to this category of “sympathetic and discerning” 5 writers on Sikh ism who are greatly respected and frequently quoted in authentic works on Sikhism. The names of these scholars are well known to all serious students of Sikhism.
The second category is of hostile critics who are con-vinced of the inferiority of the culture in question, who gives plainly and honestly without deliberate overcharg-ing what they conceives to be sound reason for their judge-ment. That too has its use for us; hostile criticism of this kind is good for the soul and the intellect, provided we do not allow ourselves to be afflicted, beaten down or shaken from the upholding centre of our living faith and action. “But hostile criticism to be of any sound value must be criticism, not slander and false witness, not vitriol-throwing; it must state the facts without distortion, preserve consistent standards of judgement, observe a certain effort at justice, sanity, measure."4 “Sanity, justice, measure are things altogether at a discount: a show-off of the appearance of staggering and irresistible blows is the object held in view, and for that anything comes in handy, - the facts are altogether misstated or clumsily caricatured, the most extraordinary and unfounded sug-gestions advanced with an air of obviousness, the most illogical inconsistencies permitted if an apparent point can be scored. All this is not the occasional freak of a well-informed critic suffering from a fit of mental biliosness and impelled to work it off by an extravagant intellectual exercise, an irresponsible fanatasia, or a hostile wardance around a subject, with which he is not in sympathy. “5 The works these learned orientalists have produced ultimately turn out to be intellectual and academic fakes and not critical expositions or scholarly works in any sense of the Word. It is to this category, the works of Dr Ernest Trumpp and Dr W.H. McLeod belong, and it is because of this common trait of these very learned Christian missionary Scholars, their works are studied together.
The author of this book has actually been working on a comprehensive volume on “European Exponents and Critics of Sikh Religion, history and Culture” to be published in one 6 big volume, but in the circumstances of the hot debate that is going on between Christian Groups led by Dr Hew McLeod’s Group and Sikh scholars and intellectuals of all shades it has been considered necessary to publish my assessment of Dr Ernest Trumpp and Dr Hew McLeod’s works separately. They are indeed a class by themselves and every Indian religion has had to face assaults and onslaughts sometime or the other, as will be clear from Dr D.T. Suzuki’s views expressed in eight pages in his Introduction in “Outlines of Mahayana Buddhism” and Sri Aurobindo’s views expressed in 117 pages in his Introductory Essay to “The Foundations of Indian Culture”. During the past two decades the maliciously vulgar assaults in a series of hostile books and anthologies organized by what I call “Batala - Berkley Christain Missionary Group” has necessitated the publication of this book separately, although it forms a part of a larger volume on all European writers and scholars on Sikhism since the seventeenth century, In the nineteenth century Dr Ernest Trumpp, a German scholar and narrow-minded Christian Missionary be-longed to what was otherwise known as ‘Lawrence School of Christian liberals’ who could not tolerate any such honest work on the Sikhs like that of J. D. Cunningham and was hell bent on denigrating, black-mailing and slandering this religion of the heathens, the Sikhs. A coterie of British officials and intellectuals were all praise for his work and praised him for all the derogatory remarks he had passed about Sikhs, their prophets and their scriptures. But two decades after this publication the saner element among British scholars understood the game which the Lawrence School of Secular Christians and their official tool Dr Ernest Trumpp had played in Punjab.
This school of rational legislative minded Christians believed that state-patronage should be withdrawn from even the most sacred shrines like the Golden Temple, all economic support cut off so that the gilded domes of the temple would lose their lustre.” This innovation was, however, 7 not accepted. But suppressing authentic historical works like Cunningham’s “History of the Sikhs”, 1849, and slandering campaign through Imperialistic interpretation of Sikhs and Sikhism succeeded fairly well. There were missionary groups encouraged by such persons as Herbert Edwardes who believed that the Sword and Gospel must go together, and that a “proselytizing and persecuting” government alone could save the famished bodies and the oppressed souls of the people of Punjab.” The best harvesting ground for winning Christians, was found at Batala in Gurdaspur district and Moga in Ludhiana dis-trict. It is in Batala and Amritsar that they built powerful proselytizing institutions. Their first major confrontation was with Arya Samyists and then with Ahmadiya Muslim movement.
The relations between Christians and Sikhs were generally cordial and even friendly. It is out of this Batala-ChristianMissionary Centre has emerged this new campaign led by Dr W. H. McLeod and his colleagues. The Centre has actively shifted to Berkley and Toronto. The campaign is against Sikhs and Sikhism and is supported by some intellectuals in a few Universities committed to new god-men Sant-cults, which have sprung like mushrooms in the morally and spiritually confused countries like U.S.A. and Canada.