«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 ...»
“Amritsar is a creation of the Sikh religion. The Golden Temple was planted in the wilds, and a secular city grew up around it. But till the deadly partition in 1947 a Sikh who lived in Amritsar never dreamed that he 315 might be debarred from carrying on his profession in Lahore, while a Muslim, who lived in Lahore never dreamed that he might be debarred from owning and cultivating a field in the district of Amritsar. Lahore was Sikhs’ and Muslims’ common capital. The broad Panjab countryside was the common source of livelihood.” “Why has the rankling memory of an ancient feud compelled these once intermingled communities to sort themselves out at such a dreadful cost to both of them? The fate that they have brought on themselves seems ironic to the foreign inquirer who feels sympathy for both alike; for, as it appears to the outsider, the Sikh faith and Islam have close affinity with one another. The atmosphere of Amritsar strikes a Western observer as being decidedly Islamic, and indeed, almost Protestant. Hindu worship is a casual disorderly affair.
Sikh worship is precise and as highly disciplined as the proceedings in a mosque or a Calvinist Church. The Granth Sahib which is the Sikh Khalsa holy scripture is an anthology in which selections from the works of Kabir and other Muslim mystics find a place besides the works of Guru Nanak, the father of the Sikh faith. And the veneration paid to the Granth Sahib goes beyond the furthest extremes of Protestant Christian bibliolatory. Why could not Sikhs and Muslims - and for that matter, Hindus as well - go on living side by side in an un partitioned Punjab? The perversity of human nature is the greatest of the mysteries of human life.11 “Amritsar has a surer future, for it will remain the religious centre of the Sikh faith so long as the Khalsa endures, and the Sikhs, in losing the Punjab, have gained the world. Today they are established all over the world. And they have not kept within India’s frontiers. They have made their way eastwards through Burma and Singapore and Hong Kong to the Pacific slope of Canada. They are the loveliest men on the face of the planet-tough, capable and slightly grim. If human life survives the present Chapter of Man’s history, the Sikhs, for sure, will still be on the map”. 12 316 British scholars have taken very sympathetic and keen interest in Sikhism. A number of books have appeared in the British Press. In America there is such a widespread ignorance about Sikhs and Sikhism that under the nefarious influence of Hew McLeod Group it has not been recognized by the American Academy of Religion (AAR) with. its Asian Cell in Berkley University. I will briefly discuss two British scholars whose works have been read with keen interest in the Sikh intellectual world. They are Dr. W. Owen Cole and Dr Christopher Shackle. Learned essay and comments on Sikhism by eminent scholars like Professor Geoffrey Parrinder, Dr Ursula King, Dr Terry Thomas indicate the sincerity and depth of interest in Sikhism in Britain. This interest will certainly take an upward turn for learned expositions when the Sikh Institutions in England give organized financial and moral support to British scholars studying the Philosophy of Religion and History. Only then will the Sikhs be properly understood in Britain; and no amount of disinformation of the type let loose all over the world by Delhi Rulers will mislead the people and scholars of European countries.
Co-operation and dialogue amongst Sikh and British scholars is already at its best. Only the anti-Sikh atmosphere created in India and abroad since 1980 is the biggest artificially created barrier. This barrier will sooner or later fall.
W. OWEN COLE Dr. W. Owen Cole’s first book The Sikhs: Their Reli-gious Brief and Practices written in collaboration with his friend Piara Singh Saimbhi appeared in 1978. It is a read-able condensed and appropriate study of the Sikh Beliefs and Practices based on an objective study of all the seconday sources available to them. The contradictions in these secondary sources, mostly recent publications have been resolved in a very scholarly manner. His second book The Guru in Sikhism is an M. Phil thesis of about 100 pages prepared under the guidance of the eminent scholar 317 of Dr. Ursula King. Owen Cole explains all aspects of the Guru briefly except the mystical aspect, which no doubt is presented in a number of hymns of Guru Granth which he has quoted. However, it conveys to the Western reader the generally correct status of the Guru in Sikhism. Western scholars sometime coin terms which only turn the readers’ mind against the essence of a religion.
Instead of the words sacred and worldly they have coined the word Sacred and Profane. The very word pr-fane takes them to the blind-alley of dark and lower passions. They have similarly described the Christ or Nanak of history and Christ and Nanak of Faith. The Inner Mystical and Moral personality of Guru Nanak is reflected in all historical even ts of his life and his works which reveal his mind, heart and soul. Whether a person has faith in him or not, his personality does not change. Christ and Nanak of Faith is generally dismissed as a myth or based on the whims of the believers. There is no such thing as Beethoven of history and Beethoven of faith. There is only one Beethovern and his history without his musical genius is worth nothing.
Owen Cole’s third book: Sikhism in Its Indian Context is also an excellent analytical study. Its basic short coming is that he has leaned heavily on Hew McLeod’s fallacious theories and statements about janamsakhis and Sikhism. He notices here and there Hew McLeod’s hostile attitude, and also uses his pet terminology, but we Sikhs are to be blamed for this for not giving to Western readers authentic translation of authentic janamsakhis and inform the Western scholar that there are hundreds of other original sources of the history of Guru-period besides the janamsakhis, respeatedly distorted and misinter-preted by Hew McLeod. Owen Cole’s latest book is “A Popular Dictionary of Sikhism. If a foreigner goes to a Sikh congregation or societies he hears commonly used words which need explanation to the uninitiated. This small book of 160 pages serves as a popular reference book to these terms which are at times historical names 318 and places but at times popular religious and doctrinal terms.
The authors give popular meanings of these terms and the interpretation is basically correct.
I know Dr Owen Cole personally as a friend and scholar.
He is a very sincere and studious scholar of Sikhism. He may be misguided by the sources of his infor-mation which he meticulously quotes, as he obviously does in his acceptance of Hew McLeod’s view on Janamsakhis and some misreported facts on Sikh history and doctrines, but he is an absolutely unbiased and unprejudiced scholar who is a keen and discerning student of Sikhism. Behind all his books, essays and lectures on Sikhism, we find a scholar of superb integrity and wisdom in search of truth about Sikh history and doctrines. We expect much more from this studious, judicious and sincere exponent of Sikh history and doctrines.
DR CHRISTOPHER SHACKLEDr. Christopher Shackle is an outstanding scholar of Punjabi literature, and the method he has evolved of teaching even to the beginners from the texts of Gurbani and classical prose resembles the traditional methods and it at once introduces a student of Punjabi to Sikh Scriptures. This method should have been introduced in our schools and colleges and
the Textbook he has prepared is the most commendable work:
An Introduction to the Sacred Language of the Sikhs.13 This method prepares a foreigner or a non-Sikh Indian to the language of Guru Granth.
The most important contribution of Dr Shackle is “A Guru Nanak Glossary (276 pages) 14. He is correct when he says in the Preface: “Quite apart Jrom their great literary and linguistic interest, the hymns of Guru Nanak have a very special importance as the sole authentic record of the teachings of the Founder of the Sikh religion. So his compositions continue to have a living spiritual significance is in itself the principal justification for the production of the glossary. 15 It is much more than a Glossary, and falls a little short of a full-fledged dictionary because it does not give 319 the philosophic mystical interpretations of these words. Dr Shackle is quite competent to produce one. It can, however, be called the Linguistic Dictionary of Guru Nanak’s hymns. It gives remarkable insight into the linguistic origins, derivations of many words, so correctly that we do not find it in other dictionaries in Punjabi.
Dr Shackle’s depth of knowledge of the linguistic treasures of Guru Granth are further revealed in some of his research papers. Dr Shackle is an undisputed authority on Lehandi also called Saraiki in South-western Punjabi. His three learned essays on the language of Adi Granth are landmarks in the linguistic study of Adi Granth: such as “South-Western Elements in the Language oJ the Adi Granth; Approaches to the Persian loans in the Adi Granth; The Sahisakriti Poetic Idiom in the Adi Granth.16 Our three Uni-versities in Punjab have Linguistic departments, Guru Granth Departments and extensive ‘Sikh Studies Departments.’ But none of them have produced such a deep, profound study of the Languages, poetic analysis of Guru Granth as Dr Shackle has done. I hope he will carry on these studies to produce a learned work on the various Linguistic Aspects of Guru Granth.
Dr Christopher Shackle also happens to be the first to share the agony of the Sikhs by writing a Report on “The Sikhs” for the ‘Minority Rights Group’, winner of the 1982 United Nations Association Media Peace Prize. The historical events of the past are historically authentic and correct, but he has leaned heavily on the news given out by the Indian Government during the period. The Blue Star sacriligious attack was carried on not only in the Golden Temple, Amritsar but over fifty historical shrines all over the Punjab by brutally killing hundreds of pilgrims every-where. The whitepaper of the government pub-lished the blackest lies about the military operation. Mrs Indira Gandhi in her white paper gave the number of killed as 94. Dr Shackle gives the number of persons killed as 220. The present Prime Minister who was then Home Minister has given 1000 a fortnight ago. From the 320 tokens of shoes left by the dead, the number of men, women and children killed was over 6000. The number of Sikh men, women and children killed in Delhi riots organised by the rulers and their party is now admitted to be over 8000 in Delhi alone.
Now that the detailed re-ports are available it is hoped Dr Shackle will correct the facts of the carnage. The booklet will become historically indispensable.
AMERICAN REACTION TO HEW MCLEOD’S
HOSTILE CRITICISM OF SIKHISMProfessor Noel Q. King has closely studied Hew McLeod’s books and he sums up briefly and sunccintly McLeod’s attitude towards Sikhs and Sikh ism saying “Hew McLeod more often than not introduces utterly vulgar street gossip and cheap jokes against the Sikhs”. Professor King calls them “Sardarjijokes’ and rightly comments “that this is a genus of story invented by people wishing to show that the Sikhs are as stupid or obstinate as their own buffaloes.”17 Professor King adds, “Whatever Dr McLeod intended, many readers will ask his books the wrong questions and get the wrong answers. The books to an unintiated reader seems to reiterate the notion that a great amount of Sikh belief appears to be based on uncritical religiosity. The reader seeking the well-springs of what Sikhism is will not be assisted. The only successful opponents to thousands of years of passing conquerors must have something that “makes him tick”.
Nowhere in these books is there an attempt to tell us what it is.
The reader wishing to know about the heart of Sikhism will turn to these books and be offered meticulously and exhaustively carried out drills in certain methods of western criticism. Such readers’ de-sires and the purpose of the books differ. The reader will hardly be able to understand the true import of what is being said unless he or she possesses a background knowl-edge of the history of criticism.” Dr Noel King further says, “Applying his own method 321 of judging by the internal evidence only, it has to be objectively noted and allowed for in any appreciation of his work, that he had absolute faith in the intellectual critical method as he understands it and has passed beyond treating religious criteria on any wider or larger scale. This is not to imply on my side that reason and religion are opposed or that one takes one from another. For me they go hand in hand, but finally the intellect and its methods, as we presently know them, are not perfect nor as absolute nor infallible nor do they see things in focus or whole.”18 In his concluding remarks Dr King puts his finger on the most sensitive spots of the intellectual atmosphere that prevails in the country and lack of genuine critical scholarship. He says, “I would like to point out that I am not calling for a moratorium on critical scholarship. I have merely tried to point out the bluntness of the critical bludgeon, the need to be humble, considerate and cour-teous. I have asked that it be put in a context of the wholeness of the study and of the group being studied. As part of this I would ask that due place be given to the deshi home-grown production of critical scholarship.
Im-ports should not prevent the development of natural prod-ucts. I must equally emphasize on the other hand that Sikhism like all great religions needs critical scholarship if it is to meet the intellectual needs of its increasingly highly educated followers. Perhaps Dr McLeod’s works stand out so much in this respect because the leading scholars writing in English in the Punjab need to keep in the good books of the Establishment and therefore studi-ously avoid “sticking their necks out”. They as much as Dr McLeod, have produced the present situation.