«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 ...»
“It is with pain that the historian of the Hindus finds in this passage all mechanical arts, trades, industries classed with prostitution and crime. For the list indicates, misers, men of letters, thieves, actors, eunuchs, workers in the leather, men who are cursed, Vardushis, prostitutes, men who initiate indiscriminately, physicians, diseased men, outcastes, Vratyas, impure eaters, drinkers of wine, goldsmiths. How many honest trades do we find in this list of dispossessed professions. The results were disasterous, so far as the sects were concerned.
Genius was impossible except in kings and priests. Men held in perpetual moral bondage and servitude never learnt to aspire after greatness and glory. Men to whom honour was impossible never learnt to deserve honour and dis-tinction.”8 Many eminent scholars of Hinduism have tried to rationalize caste-system. Professor A.R. Wadia whom I had 308 the privilege to meet at a conference in Shantiniketan, comments on Dr Radhakrishanan’s thesis of rationalizing caste system in his books saying “This implies a plain recognition of the unfortunate fact that in the hierarchy of caste in India, the shudras do occupy an inferior position. Nor can this inferiority be glossed over by glibly speaking of “the dignity of labour.” The truth is that in the orthodox Hindu economy this dignity of labour is not recognized. In fact, all honest labour, although used to the fullest extent, is looked down upon with more or less open contempt. In the Gita, which is an attempt to break down the inequalities of caste, Krishna himself classes women and shudras together, but promises that even they can take refuge in Him. This attitude of the higher castes is all the more perplexing when we remember that this caste (Shudra) includes all the basic vocation which alone can guarntee the maintenance of a healthy society, for it includes farmers, peasants, weavers, potters, masons, car-pentersand a whole army of the most useful hardworking and honest workers.”9 Warish Shah’s classic Hir Ranjha tells us that Jits who are presented as an upper class these days were considered a menial class (kamin) among Muslims and Shudras among Hindus. In Sikh history all the leading Misal Leaders came from these Shudra castes: They were Kalals, carpenters, peasant (Jats), Sansi tribals and Dalits. Sikhism thus completely reversed the Hindu Social order domi-nated by Brahmanism.
to mankind by 1789, and by 1917 as well. 10 In the same vein and in the same contemptuous and arrogant idiom, Hew McLeod writes, “There are compulsive reasons for scepticism: the tradition relating to the period of Guru Gobind Singh-must be, in considerable measure set aside. The slate must be wiped clean and must not be re-inscribed.” Guru Gobind Singh is the first prophet who has left to posterity his Autobiography (even though brief from 1666-1694). His contemporary poets and disciples, his own and his father’s letters, have much more authentic biographi-cal material than we have about Christ, Buddha, Muhammed and other prophets in history.
Yet this Christian missionary scholar calling himself a scientific historian thinks that he can easily wipe the slate of authentic events of Guru Gobind Singh’s life, and destory his biographical facts with a stroke of his pen. The compulsive reasons which tempt him to do so with impunity are obviously two or perhaps three: The first reason is his ingrained scepticism and determined stand not to accept even the irrefutable historical facts of a religion other than his own. The second reason obviously is that he firmly believes that there is so widespread ignorance about Sikhs and Sikhism abroad that in a world where the blind are leading the blind in politics, history, religion, economic and cultural problems, he, with the backing of such an organized Christian missionary Group was bound to succeed. He has found a few supporters amongst turbanned and bearded agnostics, atheists, positivists, materialists and hedonists, and of course a handful of janus-headed sychophants in our Universities (Punjabi and Guru Nanak Dev Universities). He has paid them left-handed compliment for their dubious scholarship, and they have extended him departmental patronage over which some of them now repent.
But this class of his supporters is a vanishing and dying tribe, because the truth of Sikh history and doctrines can neither by compromised, nor distorted, nor wiped out which is the professed aim of Hew McLeod and his clearly identified group.
310 Even non-Sikh historians and scholars like Dr Hari Ram Gupta, Dr Indu Bhushan Banerjee, Dr A.C. Banerjee and the Roman Catholic scholar Duncan Greenlees have built such monumental and unshakable edifices of Sikh history and Religion, that Hew McLeod and his Group’s nefarious designs cannot go beyond the damage they have already done. Those Western scholars who have consciously and un critically accepted some statements of Hew McLeod as genuine and honest critical evaluation which the Sikhs always welcome, will feel ashamed of having done so in the years to come just as Indian Communist are now feel-ing ashamed of accepting the works of Stalinist Russia as gospel truth. No one in Delhi these days buys this literature of Marxist geniuses of Russia even for two rupees a kilogram as waste paper.
During my travels abroad and prolonged stay in U.K.
and U.S.A. I did not find a single Christian, Muslim or Jew Scholar whose attitude was even remotely so disgracefully malicious and dishonourable as that of Hew McLeod Group of Berkley and Toronto which still persists. In the Seminars, Interfaith-Conferences, World-Faith organizations gatherings which I had the opportunity to attend, and in a number of leading Universities where I had the opportunity to deliver lectures and participate in discussions, all the scholars, participants and students I met had profound respect for Sikhism coupled with a sincere thirst to know more about it.
If there is so much ignorance about Sikhism in U.K., U.S.A. and Canada, it is because the Sikh religious and intellectual leadership in these countries has built over three hundred costly temples and collect millions of pounds and dollars as offerings every month, but they have not built one good library, and they have not produced two well-researched book on Sikh history and doctrines. Of course, they produce considerable propaganda pamphlets, which are either hack work or trash. Their income exceeds the budget of Bible Societies, but the management groups of these temples spend all the money 311 in promoting themselves and enriching their own assets in novel concept and shameful manner.
In India also, particularly in Bengal and South India, there is tremendous zeal to know and work on Sikh history and religion, among scholars of religion and philosophy and they are eager to devote the best of their talent and wisdom in understanding Sikhism and giving expression to it in their own languages.
A MEETING WITH PROF. ARNOLD J. TOYNBEE
AND HIS VIEWS ON SIKHS AND SIKHISMIn the late fifties I came to know that Professor Arnold J.
Toynbee was coming to Delhi. I requested my friend Swami Ranganathananda, the present Vice-President of Ramakrishna Mission to fix up my appointment with Prof. Toynbee. He was then Head of the Delhi Ashram of Ramakrishna Mission where I had delivered a series of lectures on Sikhism. He was kind enough to be my guest at Ludhiana twice earlier. Swami Ranganathananda fixed my appointment with Prof. Toynbee in the Mission Ashram an hour and half before he was to lecture in the Mission Auditorium.
It was indeed a moment of great joy and privilege to meet the greatest living historian, the last four volumes of whose Study of History had particularly impressed me. His tremendous intellectual energy, his unflagging labour of twentyseven years, his treatment of wars, revolutions, political upheavels, stateformations, with remarkable flashes of insight were simply amazing, though they differed in patterns of analysis from Spengler’s “Decline of the West”. Toynbee’s profusion of vastly learned examples, his hatred of regimentations and totalitarian systems, his lam-entation of man’s increasing defeatism and submission to authority, and his dream of the unity of mankind in the love of God are fascinating.
Professor Arnold Toynbee was tall, well-built, an in-tellectual Aristrocrat with Aristotlian face, graceful, soft-spoken, gentle and extremely polite. From tip to toe he 312 was a philosopher historian, with incredible versatility. He was accompanied by his wife, who was short in stature, with a quiet contemplative face like that of nun who had spent years concentrating on her work within a monastery. She had, as Professor Toynbee told me, while introducing her, worked in the Institute of International M-fairs, London, along with him for thirtyfour years, where he worked for thirty-three years.
I wanted to ask Professor Toynbee three questions which have always been uppermost in my mind. But before I could ask the learned historian any question he opened the dialogue asking me a loaded question. “Have not the Indian leaders learnt anything from their past history”? he asked and added, “While Indian leaders are talking of the Age of Ashoka and Panch Shil, Communist China under Mao-Tse Tung is arming itself to the teeth. Have the Indian leaders, particularly Prime Minister Nehru never thought that China may at any time invade from the North, occupy Tibet, Ladakh and Sikkim? What will India do then? This prophetic vision of Professor Toynbee sent
a shock wave through my whole system. My only answer was:
“If anyone passes this hypothetical question as a possibility to Prime Minister Nehru, he will dismiss it as “Rubbish and impossible.” He is not even prepared to think of this probability.
But if Communist China does occupy Tibet, the Himalayan range which shelters the most peace-loving people in the world, the Tibetans will be shaken from the roots. China may then invade Burma, join hands with Pakistan and all these forces may cut India to pieces, a process of Balkanization of this sub-continent be the end result.” Unfortunately I added, “Mr Nehru is multiplying his troubles in domestic policies, encouraging corruption and nepotism and turning a deaf ear to the sane advice and political suggestions of Sage-politicians like C. Rajagopalacharia. Mr Nehru is in the bad Company of sychophants, fawning flatterers and surrogate intellectuals.” “Very sad, indeed”, said Professor Toynbee.
313 Fearing that Professor Toynuee might raise some more such serious questions I put my three questions and got considerably detailed answer. But here I will state the questions
and answers briefly:
Q. What according to your historical perceptions is the future of Europen civilization in the face of confrontation between Christian Europe and Soviet Union? What will be the outcome if this class struggle changes into Third World War?
A. Communist Regimes will meet the fate of Fascist regime but if there is a third world war the destruction of Europe, America and England will be on unprecedented scale.
Q. What in your opinion will be the fate of the Islamic Middle East and Isreal in case of such an eventual-ity?
A. If the European countries throw their weight on the side of Arabs, Israel may be wiped out. But if the European and American countries back Israel, Arab States will be the worst sufferers and Israel may emerge stronger (Prof.
Toynbee was not favourably-inclined towards Judaism or Israel).
Q. What do you think is the fate of these Asian countries particularly Indian sub-continent who talk loudly about democracy but are all moving towards oppressive dictatorships?
A. Only those Asian countries will enjoy peace and prosperity which maintain democracy and Rule of Law. All those Asian countries which move towards dictatorship and militarism will end up in total collapse and unimaginable poverty. (Professor Toynbee gave detailed and strongly worded replies in his usual inimitable style). It was at this juncture Prof. Toynbee told me that his present tour was exclusively Asian tour and he was studying the historic background of various Asian regions. I asked him whether he had seen any historic Sikh shrine in Delhi and whether he would be going to Punjab to see the Golden Temple?
314 For a moment Professor Toynbee was taken aback. He said he had not been shown any historical Sikh shrine, although he had visited some Hindu and Jain temples and in another two days he was flying to Lahore. Even Punjab had been excluded from his itinerary.
Soon the British High Commissioner and Mr. William Jones, the Deputy Director of British Council arrived. Professor Toynbee expressed his anxiety to go to Amritsar and see the Golden Temple and asked them to get necessary permission of the Government, if necessary. The British High Commissioner promptly answered, “No permission was necessary. We will cancel your flight to Lahore and arrange your visit to Amritsar by road where you can stay for the day and night and from there you can board the International train to Lahore.” I felt greatly relieved and Professor Toynbee was very happy.” We went to the Ramakrishnan Mission Auditorium where a learned audience was waiting in awe-inspiring si-lence.
Professor Toynbee seated me by his side, Swami Ranganathananda presided over the lecture. Half the lecture loaded with countless references from past civilizations, flew over the heads of the audience. But Swami Ranganathananda’s summary was so precise, illuminating and correct that Professor Toynbee’s nodded assent as every time Swamiji explained a point and he thus expressed great delight. I told Pro£. Toynbee that Swami Ranganathananda was the most brilliant orator and scholar in the country. The parting words of Prof. Toynbee were, “If I come to India again I will go to your village in Jullundur district in a bullock cart. I am fascinated by rural India. Rural Punjab must be very beautiful. I will see a bit of it.” Professor Toynbee was fascinated by Andhra Pradesh’s bullock carts: In his book East to West which Toynbee wrote
subsequently, he says: