«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 young Sikh critical scholar is in no enivable position and he must be helped and encouraged soon at all costs.”19 DR JAMES R. LEWIS I have read only two learned papers of this eminent Professor of Religion, and I have referred mainly to his 322 scholarly article: “Some Unexamined Assumptions in Western Studies of Sikhism” published in journal of Sikh Studies, Vol. XIII, No. II, August 1985. This article alone convinces me that if all the source material mentioned in this book had been given to Dr James R. Lewis he would have written exactly what I have said in this book about Ernest Trumpp and Hew McLeod, and surely in much better way and forceful manner. We will briefly sup up his learned expo-sitions.
In the key para of his essay Dr James R. Lewis says, “The focus of this paper will be on the treatment of Sikhlsm by current (second half of twentieth century) Western (mostly North American) scholars of religion. Their portrayals of the Sikhs are like Browne’s, not con-sciously prejudiced but (and again like Browne) their cat-egories of analysis tend inevitably to, distort as much as they reveal. The categories are, as will be seen, far more subtle than Trumpp’s and Browne’s.20 I agree with every word of Dr James Lewis’ comment, but it would not be correct to call the attitude of these ‘North American scholars unconsciously prejudicial like Browne’s and Trumpp’s. Brown and Trumpp were helplessly dependent on their Brahmin advisers for all information about Sikh history.
These Brahmin advisers did not conceal their ingrained contempt and hatred for the Sikhs and my detailed analysis of Trumpp’s work in Chapters I and II of this book reveals the extent of information Trumpp could have gained from Cunningham’s History of the Sikhs, but he avoided it because the book and the author were condemned by British Imperialists.
But these ‘North American Scholars’ have spent nearly a decade as teachers in Baring Christian College, Batala, after 1965 when Dr C.H. Loehlin, the noblest bridge-builder between Sikhs and Christians was the Principal. This is one of the reason why I call them Batala-Berklcy Missionary Group. They had at their disposal the best equipped libraries of three Universities in Punjab which have taken over libraries of many scholars of early 323 twenti-eth century and the Sikh Reference Library, in the Golden Temple. They came into contact with almost all living scholars. I remember having met Hew McLeod at a number of seminars and conferences from 1966 onwards. The impressive bibliography given in books written by Hew McLeod shows they are in the know of works on Sikhism, which refute their themes. They never even mention or cursorily refer to our four-fifth of the books mentioned in their bibliography. In the light of these facts it would not be correct to say that “they are unconsciously prejudicial, more so when Hew McLeod arrogantly asserts “I am responsibly for my views.” Dr James Lewis is quite correct when he says that the “works of these North American Group of Critics, have adopted such categories of analysis which tend inevitably to distort as much as they reveal.” They reveal practically nothing beyond the superficial features of Sikhism found in all Popular books on Sikhism, but they distort everything which is picked up by them for negative analysis and repugnant critical evaluation.
Dr James Lewis aptly sums up the British Imperialis-tic
towards the Sikhs as follows:
British Sikhs civilized savage superior inferior intelligent not intelligent prejudiced21 unprejudiced He, however, analyses the psychological attitude of this North American Group in a very scholarly manner after studying their methods and motives clearly percep-tible to discerning students of Sikh religion and philosophy.
In order to bring out the narrow and overtly prejudiced Christian perspectives Dr James Lewis refers to an article of Dr John C.B. Webster, one of the low-profile member of this group.22 Dr James Lewis rightly remarks: “Among western students of the Sikh religion, it has become common place to observe directly 324 or by implication the supposedly baneful effect of orthodoxy on “Sikh scholars studying their own tradition”. And he adds “Do non-Sikh academics really bring an objective, unprejudiced perspectives to their work? To anyone familiar with the contemporary phenomenon in such areas as hermeneutics, philosophy of science, post-structuralism etcetra;
the answer to this question must be “no”.23 We certainly notice that throughout the books and essays of this North American Group, the clear and shining Truth of Sikhism is ignored or dismissed as orthodox and hearsay stories and street-gossip comments are accepted as doctrines deserving their critical analysis. In history irrefutable facts from contemporary and near contemporary records are wilfully ignored and speculative theories based on twisted and abberrant conjectures are presented as scientific and academic analysis.
Dr James Lewis puts it thus :”In the latter part of the Twentieth Century, it has been “forcefully brought home to us that despite our best efforts to be as neutral and as objective as possible, we inevitably bring certain pre-sup-positions to the task of understanding. Thus the agenda which Sikh academies bring to their work is not inherently different (except for the fact of being more conscious and hence one could argue, less pernicious) than the various agendas of Western academics.24
CHRISTIANS PROJECT THEIR OWN SELF-CONTRADICTIONS ONTO
SIKHISM BY IMPOSING CONCEPTS OF
SYNCRETISM AND NEO SIKHSHad the scholarly views expressed on “Syncretism and Neo-Sikhs come from a Sikh scholar these North American exponents of Sikhism and others who think like them might have dismissed them as orthodox Sikh reaction. But they are the views of a learned Christian Professor of the Philosophy and history of Religions, who has the courage and insight to see the beauty of his own religion in Sikh ism and also to see the shortcoming of his own religion reflected in the criticism of Sikhism by Christian scholars under study. He severely criticizes these Western academics who project Sikhism as either an off-shoot (a sect) of Hinduism or as Syncretism of Hinduism and Islam. Even those Sikh scholars who lean more on Western opinion than on search for the truth in Sikh Scriptures and history followed them.
No religion, however, original and creative falls from the sky and remains uninfluenced by its surroundings. The Prophet of every religion has had to react to existing religions and also be influenced by them in some ways. No Muslims would accept the Koran as complete without its chapters on Moses and Christ. The New Testament could not have been given the present interpretation without leaning heavily on Old Testament ideals and history. Dr James Lewis says, “The principal objection to the appellation syncretism however is that within western religions the term was traditionally used to denounce sub-groups within the religious community who were perceived as having defiled the original revelations by grafting on foreign elements.”25 But the word is used to run down Sikhism as “spurious” and not worth any serious attention. It is safely dismissed as “off-shoot” of Hinduism or a Hindu Sant Tradition as the “North American Academics put it.” Dr James Lewis asks: ‘’Why then are the principal western religions never labeled “syncretistic”? Islam, for example, was shaped by Judaism, Christianity, and ancient (pre-Islamic) Arabian religion.
Christianity contains ele-ments of Judaism, Mithraism, Hellenistic religions, and who knows what all else. Surely all great world faiths have been at least partially influenced by their encounter with other religions. In what way then is Sikhism, and not other faiths, a “syncretism”.26 Dr James Lewis calls this purely arbitrary distinction as structurally similar to the civilized savage contrast; i.e. “our religion is revealed while their religion is mere syncretism.27 Dr James Lewis criticises the misuse of another term “neo-Sikhism” used for Singh Sabha Reform Movement.
326 Those who have written about Singh Sabha Movement have failed to grasp that the Singh Sabha Movement only aimed at getting rid of Hindu Brahmanical ceremonies and replacing them with Sikh ceremonies of marriage, initiation and death. It did not produce any new or reformed Sikh cult or type. The orthodox and the liberals joined hands and succeeded in completely eliminating Brahmanical Hindu influences, which had crept in only during the last days of Ranjit Singh, and under Dogra influences.
Dr James Lewis informs us : “The only area in Christainity that comes to mind as a place where ‘neo’ is employed is when it is used to designate certain schools of theology, e.g.
new orthodoxy, neo-Thomism. “Neo” gets applied to religious communities only when westerners are describing other peoples religions e.g. neo-Taoism, neo-Confuciusism, neo-Hinduism et cetra,” “One caricatures a process which one sees in other religions while repressing awareness of the fact that the saner process has occured within one’s own religion.28 “They employ one set of criteria for evaluating western religions and another set of criteria for evaluating others. All religious communities attempt to remain faithful to the essence of their tradition while adapting to changing conditions, and such accommodation does not axiomatically imply either the end of the community or the substitution of practical concerns for religious devotions.”29
GUILT-PROJECTION OF WESTERN ACADEMICS: PACIFICISM/
MILITANCY INTERPRETATION OF SIKH HISTORYDr James Lewis makes a very important contribution by refuting the standard observation of these Western academics on Guru Nanak’s pacificism and Guru Gobind Singh’s militancy and their attempt to misinterpret both. We have already shown in a whole chapter on the subject that Guru Nank’s writings are much more militant and sharp in social and political criticism than those of Guru Gobind Singh. But Dr James Lewis points out that even 327 Buddhism and Christainity were pacifist in the early period and then took up militancy to such extreme limits as not found in early history of Sikhism.
Dr. James Lewis writes, “To the extent that the au-thor is Christian or at least from a Christian background, it might be possible to postulate that a kind of “guilt-projection” is at work here. In other words, if one is uncomfortable with the tensions/ contradicition between theory and practice in the Christian religion, but refuses to face the issue squarely (and thus partially represses it) then one is likely to project that contradiction onto other traditions. Thus the discomfort which is felt about Christainity’s self-contradiction gets displaced onto an object which had nothing to do with the original problem.”30
THE BRIDGE WHICH DR C.H. LOEHLIN BUILT
BETWEEN CHRISTIANITY AND SIKHISMWith nearly half a century of concentrated labour Dr C.H. Loehlin not only understood Punjab, Punjabi culture, Sikhs and Sikhism but he built a bridge between Sikhs and Christians by presenting a reverential and correct study of Sikhism, little knowing that the new breed of Christian Missionaries that had entered Baring Union Christian College, Batala, where he was the Principal in 1966 or there about namely Dr Hew McLeod, Dr Juergensmeyer, Dr Webster and others had up their sleeves sinister plans to destory this Bridge. The Bridge has been destroyed only in the minds of the readers of what Dr Hew McLeod has propagated since 1968, but the personal bonds of the Sikh people and the Christian community remain untouched and unmolested so far in Punjab and the West. Dr Loehlin was kind enough to come to my house a number of times in late sixties to discuss how the bridge could be strengthened, and my children who were just kids met him and still remember him with great respect.
It was at a Seminar held in Institute of Advanced 328 Study, Rashtrapati Bhavan, Simla in 1966 for nearly a week that Dr Hew McLeod tried to prove in low key that Sikh ism was offshoot of Hinduism, while Dr Loehlin proved that Islamic influence was predominent. None of the books of Dr. Hew McLeod had as yet been published. His paper was strongly criticized by Sardar Kapur Singh and some Muslim scholars also. Dr Loehlin has summed up all his views on Sikh ism in his book: “The Christian Approach to the Sikh” published in Edinburgs in 1966. All the quotations given below are from this book, and the reader will note how diametrically opposed they are to the views propagated by Hew McLeod. That is probably the reason why Hew McLeod never mentions this book, Dr Loehlin published in U.K. even in bibliographies of his books.
Guru Nanak Founded Sikh Religion “Nanak (1469-1539) was the Founder of Sikh reli-gion.