«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 ...»
The Christian scholars who wrote long chapters on pacifism of Guru Nanak and the use of Sword by Guru Hargobind and Guru Gobind Singh only to show their ignorance of both, conveniently forget that Christian scholars and rulers were extremely intolerant towards liberal thinkers in their own faiths. Even healthy and constructive criticism was considered heretical and was punished by murder or burning on the stake.
I give two examples, one from Catholic and the other from Protestant Church history.
I have always considered the eminent Catholic scholar Ernest Renan’s “Life of Jesus Christ” the best and far more authentic than any produced by a learned Christian scholar.
“Ernest Renan offered to the readers a Jesus who is alive, whom he, with his artistic imagination, had met 15 under the blue heaven of Galilie.” He ends the story in such glowing words, scarcely heard: ‘Jesus will never have a rival.
His religion will again and again renew itself. His story will call forth endless tears and his suffering will soften hearts of the best and every successive century will proclaim that among the sons of men there hath never arisen a greater than Jesus.” The book passed through eight editions in three months.
Renan was opposed by the Bishops and Christian fundamentalists for not upholding the Deity of Christ. Renan was defended by many eminent Catholic scholars and newspapers. But Catholic bigotry and fanaticism triumphed through well organized propaganda and witch-hunting. He was removed from his Professorship of Semetic Languages at the College de France. He refused to accept the post of a Librarian of the Imperial Library. He was accused of the crime of “Insulting and making ridiculous a religion recognised by the State” a crime which could be punished by five years imprisonment.8 Calvin an outstanding Protestant reformer is another example of a very intolerant scholar whose hate campaign put to shame even the worst hate campaigns of the Mughal emperors and mullas. Calvin treated Migual Servetus, a Spaniard liberal thinker, nevertheless a devout Protestant, as an arch heretic, whose only fault was that he was animated by the old spirit of “inquiry and unrest. Calvin has been described by historians as “authoritarian, opinionated and prone to become splenetic at the slightest con-tradictions. In one of his letters Calvin writes, “Servetus seizes my books and defiles them with abusive remarks as much as a dog bites a stone and gnaws it.” Stefen Zweig has given a vivid portrayal of Servetus’ illegal imprisonment and cruel death in his book “Erasmus : The Right to Heresy”. He writes: “Calvin, let me repeat, was unscrupulous when his doctrine was at stake, Servetus must be liquidated and since Calvin was good hater he cared not a jot what means were employed. Nothing could have been more shameful than these 16 means.” Servetus was arrested and thrown into prison without any charge having been brought against him. Clavin loathed all those who tried to teach others in a different way from that which was advocated by him; such detesta-tion being instinctive in a man of his tyrannical disposi-tion, after he had suffered endlessly in a dungeon he was condemned to be burnt alive by Calvin and his cohorts. Servetus was asked to repudiate his teachings even when he was burning in the flames. He contemptuously rejected the offer showing his moral greatness, his willingness to fulfil his pledge, his determination to suffer the worst on behalf of his convictions.”9 “It was hard for Servetus to die. It was still harder for Calvin to go on living, Castello, another liberal scholar took up battle against the religious tyrant who considered himself to be Attorney of God.” He said firmly and vigorously “A State has no jurisdicition in matters of conscience will you in the last resort say that Jesus Himself taught you to burn your fellowmen.
To burn a man alive does not defend a doctrine but slays men.
We do not testify one faith by burning another, but only by readiness to be burned on behalf of our faith.”10 Islam and Christianity have generally made murders and burning at stake an instrument of spreading their faith and suppressing the numerically weaker religions. When Christianity learnt tolerance it was taken over by Communists and Fascists all over the West, and in Asia. Hindu rulers and monks destroyed Buddhism by burning alive Buddhist monks who lost treacherously organized debates with sharp witted Pundits and Brahmins. The Jains persuaded Jain Kings during Jain political ascendency to mercilessly kill all the Rishis and their ashramas near Mt. Abu and other places. Hindu and Jain tolerance has been only a widely propagated myth. The religious and political persecution of the Sikhs by the ruthless present day Delhi Rulers and the barbarous methods adopted to destroy their most sacred historical temples, libraries, and State organized killing of innocent boys, children, women 17 and unarmed men everywhere, giving rise to an endless battle between State-terrorism an group terrorism is a recent example of Hindu tolerance and despotic persecution, which can be seen in Punjab and some other states in India.
Just as British Imperialism created a suitable atmosphere for hired scholars like Dr Ernest Trumpp to high-light their academic feat by denigrating Sikh religion and the people, the present atmosphere created by centrally controlled Universities and Institutions has created a congenial atmosphere for Dr Hew McLeod, even though it has been difficult for the ruling powers to suppress criticism altogether. Many learned scholars of the nineteenth century like Dr Monier Williams were misled by the supposed linguistic knowledge and scholarship of Dr Ernest Trumpp and accepted him un critically for nearly two de-cades. Similarly many good intentioned scholars, igno-rant of the original sources, misrepresented and distorted by Dr Hew McLeod or completely ignored by him, have been misled to accept Sikh hostile comments and lop-sided presentation of original sources as correct and worth serious Scholar’s attention. They will realize their mistake, when during the next few decades or so, most of the authentic documents are available in English translations, and Western scholars are able to find the difference between reliable and unreliable historical documents.
An erroneous impression has been created by a group of hostile scholars, notably Dr Hew McLeod and his Group who have been spreading canards about some historical Codices of Guru Granth preserved by some families and Sikh and non-Sikh Institutions, and jealously guarded against mishandling and misuse. Dr Hew McLeod’s com-ments given in his books are based on hearsay stories and scandal-mogering gossip.
His very comments indicate that he has not cared to read even ten pages of these Codices.
Supposing one fine day the Archbishop of Canterbury enters the historic Canterbury Church where learned Christian scholars of the Bible, holymen and other devotees 18 are waiting to listen to him. Supposing the Arch-bishop keeps a cigar in his left hand. He then opens the Bible and reads some passages perfuming it with Cigar smoke and delivers a sermon. 1 would like to know from the most liberal Christians as to what would be the natural reaction of the learned listeners.
Will they remain silent because of the Archbishop’s vast learning and holy Robes or will they protest against this sacriligious style and behaviour in the Church? And yet this is exactly the manner in which Dr Ernest Trumpp proceeded with his study of Guru Granth in the presence of the leading scho-lars and saints of Amritsar, who knew mucht better and much more Sanskrit than him; and no Christian ever protested nor listened to Sikh protests. The reaction of the Sikhs is vividly protrayed by Max Arthur Macauliffe in the first Chapter of this book.
It was St. Jerome who said: “To ignore the Scripture is to ignore Christ. If there is anything in life which sustains a wise man and induces him to maintain his serenity amids the tribulations and adversities of the world, it is in the first place, 1 consider, meditation and knowledge of the scriptures”. For the Sikhs, their Scriptures are the Gurus, and the Gurus now live in Spirit in the Scriptures. When the Sikhs recite their Scriptures they pray, worship and glorify the Attributes of God, and know the Path to His Presence. When they sing the songs of Scriptures, the music, the poetry, and the divine fervour of the Word of God illumines, the dark corners of their hearts and soul. To a suprificial Western observer who does not understand the language and music, it is a ritual ceremony, conducted in a heathenish manner. For the Sikhs it is individual and congregational prayer, worship, contemplation and meditation of the Divine Word in the highest and universal religious traditions.
American academics and missionaries are busy these days in propagating Christianity by many modern methods which are proving ineffective, and they are examining the Bible as a relic and not as a Sacred Book of meditations 19 and divine inspiration. They no doubt love the Bible but they ignore the Christ and the moral and spiritual values for which he died on the Cross. They analyse and dissect the texts just as a Botanist analyses a fragrant and beautiful flower, ignoring its colour, beauty and fragrance which really matters. They want to be scientific and mod-ern in their approach…… more modem than the modern critics of the fifties and sixties, but they cease to be Christians inspired by Truth, Wisdom and experience of Jesus Christ.
In Sikh scriptures there is no history, no biography, no narrative tales as such. There are some stray references to a few historical biographical and autobiographical events of lives of saints of the past and the Guru period. These events are mentioned just to reveal that God alone controls the destiny of nations, individuals, and He protects His saints and destroys tyrants and despots. A historical approach to the Guru Granth, except the study of history of compilation is virtually impossible. The events mentioned are so well known that to apply sceptical historical tools of discursive analysis are futile.
All the events carry the same certainty as the historical event of Christ being put to death on the Cross.
Another canard that has been spread against the Sikhs is that the Sikhs do not permit and do not believe in textual and hermeneutical studies of the Sacred Book, Guru Granth. Sikh saints and scholars have been carrying on textual comparisons and studies of historical Codices for the last two centuries.
The eminent Saint Baba Sham Singh, who was student of Bhai Ram Singh, son of Bhai Gurdial Singh, a Body-Guard of Guru Gobind Singh sent his scholarly devotee Bhai Manna Singh to Kartarpur and find out the differences between the Kartarpur Codex and Amritsar Codex. He found difference of about 200 words and he published his findings, a copy of which was given to by the immediate successor of Baba Sham Singh aged
90. Bhai Gian Singh, a Nihang scholar spent over fort years on similar textual study. He has recorded 20 his findings of some very rare Manuscripts. He left one copy of his findings with me and another with Nihang Chief in the historic Damdama Sahib Dera. He published some basic findings. I studied all the Manuscript copies lying in Takht Patna Sahib and Takht Nanded Sahib and between 1947 and 1960 I studied the oldest Codices of Dasm Granth prepared by Bhai Mani Singh, Baba Binod Singh, Baba Dip Singh and some unknown Copyists of the early eighteenth century. Former S.G.P.C. research scholar Randhir Singh studied a number of old Manuscripts and gave his Manuscript to punjabi Bhavan, Ludhiana. They did not print it. His son gave the Manuscript to Guru Nanak Dev University Professors, the material of which (hard labour of Randhir Singh) is being misused. When the Sikhs themselves are working so hard on the texts, how is it possible that they would not allow a serious non-Sikh scholar with compe-tence and sincere interest to study them. There is an exact copy of Kartarpur Codex and many rare Manuscripts in British Museum l.O.L. National Museum, India, which are open for inspection and study to all competent scholars. How is that scholars like Dr Hew McLeod have not even peeped into them?
We have commentaries of Guru Granth by Udasi and Nirmala Saints, and also by Sindhi Scholars. Scholars may differ with each other but they are all accepted respectfully because they have been prepared with due respect, reverence and considerable knowledge. No Imprimatur or any formal sanction is required from any religious authority. But it is essential to observe certain principles of sanctity abided by all serious students of oriental scriptures.
The differences in the Texts of these Codices are three:
(1) There is some difference in the style of recording Raga and author headings and (Proems) Mangalacharans. But there is no difference in their text. (2) There are some differences in orthographical signs meant for grammatical indications. These are either oversight errors of copyists or errors caused by inefficient 21 calligraphists. (3) there are some differences in some apocryphal material in the end, which includes dates of death of the Gurus, the art of preparing calligraphic ink and other material. These are not considered a part of the Sacred Book but are preserved as memoranda. There is no truth in the mischievious impression created by some scholars that the Sikhs do not permit the textual or hermeneutical studies of Guru Granth or any other Canonised scripture.
This book is a very modest attempt to tell the truth about Sikh history and culture which Dr Ernest Trumpp tried to distort in the nineteenth century and Dr Hew McLeod and his Group are trying to falsify and pervert in the tWentieth century.