By Dr. Trilochan Singh, Perspective on Sikh Traditions,* Edited by Justice Gurdev Singh, may rightly be called, “A Critique of three books written by Dr. W.H. McLeod, namely: “Guru Nanak and Sikh Religion,” “Evolution of the Sikh Community”, and “Early Sikh Traditions”. When the first book appeared, Sikh scholars ignored it, hoping that discerning readers (Sikhs and non-Sikhs) who know something about Sikhism, would not be misled by Dr. McLeod’s perverted analysis and highly disparaging remarks about Sikh Gurus and their thoughts in this book, which happened to be his Ph.D. thesis for London University, It was expected that in the face of strong criticism in some Sikh Journals by learned historians and scholars, exposing the fallacies of his research work and his misinterpretation of genuine historical facts, this book would soon meet the fate of Dr. Trump’s work sooner or later. :
But, as if he had not done sufficient damage to some portions of Sikh history, to the image of Sikh Gurus revealed in their own writings, and more so, to his own reputation and integrity as an historian and scholar, he has carried his campaign of denigrating the image of the Sikh Gurus and debasing Sikh doctrines by using his own brand of dialectic of denunciation to the ultimate limit of creating confusion and contempt in the minds of the readers, who cannot who cannot study the original Sikh historical records.
Justice Gurdev Singh rightly draws our attention to another factor of which the Sikh community is slowly becoming conscious. Some of our University professors, under some temptations, greed or some other motive, have done irreparable damage to some well-established historical truths. Justice Gurdev Singh writes in his essay in this book, “He, (McLeod) has been emboldened by the fact that in our universities even the scholars who are working in the Departments of Sikh Studies have not cared to rebut or even examine his thesis and to place before the people the correct picture and real facts. This neglect has already resulted in considerable harm as even uncommitted scholars and without examination of the issues involved is prone to accept the word of McLeod in the absence of any challenge by the Sikhs themselves or availability of the other point of view.
There are two types of Christian scholars who have given us exposition of Oriental religions. One group is those who have made a profound in depth study of some religion and given it such remarkable interpretation that even the followers of that religion, orthodox and liberal scholars and laymen say, “We could not have done better”. In the study of Islam and Suffism, we have Gibbs, Reynold Nicholson, Arberry Annemarie Schimmel, Nassingnon and many others. In the study of Buddhism, the well-known names are, Rhys Davids, Edward Conze, E.J. Thomas, Even Wantz and good many others. Macauliffe and Duncan Green less, great Roman Catholic scholars are well known in the study of Sikhism, and new scholars are emerging. In this Category may also be included eminent scholars of Comparative Study of Religions like Geoffrey Parrinder, Radhakrishnan, Zaehner, Rudolf Otto, who command tremendous respect for their studies in Religions other than their own.
There is a second Category of scholars of Religions, other than their own. It is wrong to call them Oriental scholars. They dismiss outright nonChristian religions as Pagan and worthless. Most of them have been trained or have been associated with missionary Institutes. Earlier scholars of this breed used to write contemptuous books about nonChristian religions without analyses them. The new breed of scholars pick up some books, sacred or just historical and present analysis in the manner bigoted Communist writers analysis some Western Writers with all the Marxist jargon at their disposal, and dismiss such writings as not worth their attention. Much of such analytical studies and criticism appeared under Stalin, Hitler, and Mussolini, and we now have piles of this Marxist and Fascist criticisms lying in libraries not worth the paper on which they were printed. To this second category of obnoxious and highly prejudiced critics belong Dr. W.H. McLeod and a few of his colleagues from Baring Christian College Batala, in India.
Dr. McLeod has distinguished himself as outstanding in presenting the most rabid criticism of Sikh doctrines and some hagiographic records, which no Sikh holds sacred or very important. He does not, time and again, hesitate to introduce utterly vulgar street gossip, and cheap jokes against the Sikhs. Dr. Noel King calls these “Sardarji jokes” and rightly adds that “this is a genus of story invented by people wishing to show Sikhs are stupid or obstinate as their own water buffaloes”.
Dr. McLeod knows some Punjabi, but as he wrote to me once, just sufficient to read Janamsakhis written in colloquial Punjabi which can be understood even by housewives, who have gone to elementary schools for about two years. For studying the Sacred scriptures, the Gurbilases and other works of far greater importance one must have a deep knowledge of Sanskrit, Persian, Braj Bhasha, an equipment which Macauliffe and Duncan green less undoubtedly had, but Dr. McLeod completely lacks. Dr. Noel King pinpoints this shortcoming found in all the works of Dr. McLeod, when he says, “Even when Punjabi has been mastered, it did not mean a scholar could be confident that he or she understood the varied languages and the dialects used in the scriptures and related literature. Again, till recently efficient “instruments for the study of Punjabi were not available abroad. The study of Sikhism demanded years of residence. While pointing out the difficulties, it is important to emphasize that Sikhism is one of the most open of religions in the world. Outsiders who conform to a few reasonable requirements of good taste and custom are made welcome. Everything is put before them without reserve” (p47).
Commenting on the reader’s reaction to Dr. McLeod’s books, Dr. King writes, “Whatever Dr. McLeod intends, many readers will ask his books the wrong questions and get the wrong answers. The reader seeking the wellsprings of what Sikhism is will not be assisted. The only successful opponent to thousand years of passing conquerors must have been something “that makes him tick”.
Dr. McLeod has written all these three books with such intellectual arrogance and demeaning vanity that he pretends to know much more about Sikhism and Sikh traditions than the Sikh scholars do; that, in the process, he has created considerable contempt for the Christian missionary writers of his class. Dr. McLeod probably places himself among the rational exponents of the Gospels, as an eminent British scholar suggested to me in London, but even these rational scholars and exponents of the Gospels rejected only the miracles, and gave a rational interpretation of the “Life of Jesus” and even of his miracles. Scholars like Strauss, Bruno Bauer and M. Renan produced excellent biographies. Renan’s fascinating “Life of Jesus Christ” passed through eight editions in three months and he ends his story with profound reverence for Jesus thus: “Jesus will never have a rival. His religion will again and again review itself. His story will call forth endless tears. His suffering will soften the hearts of the best. Every successive century will proclaim that among the sons of men there hath not arisen a greater than Jesus”. A profoundly reverential image of Jesus is stamped on the minds of the readers,
But there was such a widespread indignation and protest against M. Renan’s book in France that the government was forced to remove him from professorship. The book was considered an insult to “State Religion” and on this basis some even suggested that such laws should be invoked by which he could be sent to prison. But his moral stature as a scholar and his status as a genuine Christian thinker were too great to allow any government to take such drastic steps.
But Dr. McLeod is neither honest nor rational, nor anywhere correct in his much displayed analyses, nor has he followed the minimum rules of academic ethics in his style of historical criticism. From page to page, from para to para he spins arguments based on discursive logic and desultory discussions; and with all the punditry at his disposal he throws smoke screens of doubts and dubiety on every well-established historical fact, by distorting them and misrepresenting them. Instead of sifting the right from the wrong, he sifts the wrong from the right, and displays prominently all that which Sikh historians have rejected over a century ago.
He ingeniously conceals the historical contents and doctrinal truths in these stories and anecdotes. Dr. McLeod, however, has to be admired for not concealing his sinister motives behind such presentation of facts of Sikh history. He says there are compulsive reasons for skepticism; 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 rein scribed. Thus, revealing his malicious motives behind his so called historical analysis, Dr. McLeod seems to be hell bent on not only wiping clean the slate of historical traditions, but he is hell bent on breaking the slate so that it cannot be rein scribed. With this arrogant and presumptuous attitude, Dr. McLeod uses the hammer of his compulsive skepticism, to work havoc, believing that Sikh scholars are a pack of ignorant fools, and Sikh intelligentsia is as indifferent towards their historical traditions as brainless asses.
The Sikhs are very tolerant and liberal in all matters but they are not so insensitive and stupid dunces as to go on remaining silent in the face of such nasty and malevolent attacks on Sikh historical traditions, doctrines and scriptures on the basis of what he calls compulsive scepticism. Behind this facade of historical criticism Dr. McLeod’s aim and objective, as Justice Gurdev Singh puts it, is” ‘to offend the Sikhs and injure their Susceptibilities, and to lead astray students of Sikh religion and history”.
Although some portions of Dr. McLeod’s first book have been trenchantly criticized, on the basis of authentic historical documents, like the damning refutations of his views on Guru Nanak’s visit to Baghdad by Prof. R.S. Verma, Jus- tice Gurdev Singh has taken up the task of bringing out two more books on genuine and scholarly research and criticism of the so called historical comments of Dr. McLeod on Sikh religion and traditions. This book deals with the following salient features of his critical works, each of which is dealt by a well-established scholar of outstanding reputation in his field:
1, Methodology and Sikh his tropical Records. 2. Militarization of the Sikhs and the Khalsa Holy Orders. 3. Authenticity of Guru Granth and other Canonized scriptures. 4. The absurd theory of Jat- Cult domination in Sikh history. 5. Dr McLeod’s futile attempt to plant Sikhism in Hindu Sant Tradition and to differentiate one Guru from the other in thoughts and actions.
Methodology and the Sikh Historical Records. In Dr King’s hurriedly written article the learned scholar has thrown considerable light on this aspect, particularly on Dr McLeod’s – crude methodology of his own – which does not conform to any. Well known tradition of historical criticism either in secular history or religious history. Dr King concludes by saying, I have merely painted out the bluntness of the critical ludgeon, the need to be humble, considerate and courteous. I would ask that due place be given to the deshi homegrown production of critical scholarship. “While personally, as I have – known him, Dr McLeod is a perfect gentleman, in his three books he has not only shown a complete lack of courtesy and consideration and but also lack of respect for truth and historical records. He has shown even greater lack of understanding of the ethical and mystical doctrines of Sikhism,
Christian scholars have to be seriously concerned about his tropical approach in Christian studies because the whole Christian faith depends on the authenticity of Gospels which are the historical as well as the Doctrinal records on the Life of Jesus Christ. If they are proved wrong, Christianity virtually collapses. This is not the case with our Janam Sakhis, .Dr McLeod makes a misleading statement when he says that he is criticizing the sacred records of the Sikhs when he is criticizing the Janamsakhis. There is nothing sacred about Janam Sakhis and no sanctity is attached to any historical works by the Sikhs. Guru Granth Sahib and the Canonized works of Guru Gobind Singh, Bhai Gurdas and Bhai Nand Lal are the only works considered sacred and we have quite authentic versions of these Sacred Writings. For knowing the intellectual and spiritual life of the Sikh Gurus we go to these Sacred Scriptures. The Gurus have given us a vivid portrayal of their intellectual and mystical: personality, and their relation to God and humanity.
In Christianity we know the methodology adopted by Strauss, Bauer, Barth, Paul Tillich, and Bultmann, whom Dr King has known personally. All these methodologists were influenced ~ by Western philosophic systems of their times ranging from ‘Rationalism of the eighteenth century to Existentialism of the twentieth century. Bultmann and Tillich have made abundant use of the phenomenological method, especially in the form of Existential analysis associated with Heidegger. This methodological approach becomes irrelevant in the study of Janam Sakhis and Sikh historical traditions.
Sikh historical records have to be studied the way eminent Orientalists’ have studied Buddhist hagiographical records and translated them with illuminating commentaries. Just as Buddhist records were made known piece by piece even to the Buddhists by tireless researchers, and then translated, Sikh records shall have to be presented after a critical evaluation and after all the oldest versions and noted the corrupted copies generally quoted’ by Dr McLeod are made available to researchers.
Critical evaluation of Janamsakhis has always been there. Guru Arjan warned the Sikhs against Meharban’s Janamsakhis, and asked Bhai Gurdas to prepare a historical Var (JanamSakhidi Var) refuting the errors and presenting the truth about incidents of Guru Nanak’s Life which had been misrepresented by Meharban Mina. Then Ghai Mani Singh a contemporary of Guru Gobind Singh warns us against Handaliya version. In 1825 A. D, or so Kavi Santokh Singh also warns us against some Janamsakhis, Sikhs have never accepted any of their historical records Uncritically and) they will not accept the malevolent distortions of authentic facts of Sikh history by, Dr McLeod) and other historians of his clan, uncritically. Scholars of Buddhism like David Neel, Burnout, George Turnour, Fausbell Rhys Davids, Edward Conze and E. J. Thomas use distinctly different methods for studying Buddhism and this is the only methodology suitable for a critical study of and exposition of Sikh historical records. The only methodology Dr McLeod has used’ in his books is that of the Sanskrit scholar Swami Dayanananda, who in his Satyarath Prakash has given a damning picture of Islam, Christianity and Sikhism in its thirteenth chapter. It is the misfortune of the Sikh community that its Universities have just started publishing some historical records, and their choice has fallen more often than not on the wrong type. S.G.P.C. with its fourteen corer annual budget has not been able to publish a single historical’ record, and to our misfortune our best library controlled by them has gone up in flames in the ravages of Blue Star operation. Sikh Capitalists are prepared to spend money on poultry farms and motor parts factories but not on a good publishing House.
- Militarization and Creati0n of the Khalsa Holy Order: Dr Hari Ram Gupta and Prof. Jagjit Singh have presented scholarly papers on this subject refuting all theories of Dr McLeod. Resistance to political and social tyranny to the point of condemning them and exposing their evil consequences are quite visible in the writings of Guru Nanak, even to a superficial reader of his works. The natural outcome of such resistance was martyrdom and militarization. Only few and rare persons can attain martyrdom who have to be witness of the ideals of what they live for and are prepared to die for. But when masses are slaughtered by ruthless rulers they are not called martyrs. These innocent masses have to be protected. The natural consequence is militarization of the people and giving them training in self-defense.
In this cyclic process the Sikh people were marching ahead but betrayal and treachery came as another factor which has to be met. In the writings of Guru Gobind Singh we have a clear Picture of these three stages, which became the three wings of Sikh society and culture. As the
Masands (early missionaries) had brought in corruption and the breakaway cults were engaged in betrayals, Guru Gobind Singh taught the Sikhs how to remove corrupt religious leaders, a lesson which they have either forgotten or ignored.
Political power in this multinational and multicultural! Country like India has to be shared by all on the democratic principles of equality and fraternity, but if any dominant power deprives the Sikhs of the legitimate share of freedom, self-respect, the Sikhs fight for it in all spheres till they have won it. But Dr Hari Ram Gupta, the well-known authority on eighteenth century Sikh history, has quoted Guru Gobind Singh:
Kou Kise Ko raj na de hai Ja lai hain nij bal sion lain hain
No people can have self-rule as gift from another,
It has to be seized through their own strength.
Guru Gobind Singh: Dasm Granth.
Unfortunately for us the rulers of this country in the past and present have never understood Guru Gobind Singh and his writings. The vision and inspired ideals of Guru Gobind Singh form the blood and bones of Sikhism even today.
The creation of the Khalsa has been vividly portrayed in countless historical documents. It was not necessary for contemporary Sikhs to have any written instructions about the Khalsa Code of Conduct, even though Guru Gobind Singh asked some of his disciples to record the basic Code of Conduct (Rehatnamas). The Khalsa was created in 1699 A. D. and Holy Mothers, Mata Sundari and Mata Sahib Devi and many eminent disciples like Bhai Mani Singh, Baba Binod Singh were present at Anandpur on the day the Khalsa Holy Order was ordained. They gave everyone eyewitness accounts of the events up to the year 1734, when the great apostles suffered martyrdom, thus many eye witnesses were living for about fifty years after the event, and there are no fundamental differences about the basic ceremony and the Khalsa Code of Conduct. The letters of Guru Gobind Singh and Mata Sahib Devi, still being unearthed throw tremendous light on these events. Dr McLeod has either avoided them as they are in script of old calligraphic style, or misquoted the Rehatnamas, by tearing them off from the context.
- Authencity of Guru Granth Sahib: Dr McLeod gives the impression that he has seen and studied the oldest recessions (Birs) of Guru Granth, viz, Kartarpur recension, and Damdami Bir. Dr McLeod was not shown the Kartarpur Bir. As a matter of fact it is never shown to any foreigner for reasons best known to the Keepers of Kartarpur Bir. Only Professor Archer was able to get High Court orders to see it. He has not left any record of his study of it. It appears he only saw it. The Sikh Gurus did not wish to introduce any fetish worship of any particular Bir (recension). During the life time of Guru Hargobind many complete and incomplete versions (like the Bidhi Chand copy which is still available) were autographed by the Gurus. Bhai Hari Das, a Caligraphist, prepared a Bir at the end of which he writes, “I am a disciple of Guru Tegh Bahadur.”
Guru Gobind Singh prepared the first complete recension at Damdama in Anandpur Sahib when he was hardly ten to eleven years old. There are available in our libraries many copies of this version which were prepared at Anandpur before he was eighteen years old. Bhai Mani Singh was sent to Amritsar in June 1700 A. D. with a Damdami version which he installed in the Golden Temple. At Damdama in Malwa more copies were prepared. There is no difference between the texts of hundreds of these Birs, except the error made by copyists. Dr McLeod has constructed quite damaging stories about the authenticity of Guru Granth, ignoring the fact that we have hundreds of copies of the correct versions,
With his usual demeaning dialectic Dr McLeod spins one offensive argument after another to mislead the readers who have no access to the original scriptures. Dr. Ganda Singh’s essay on the installation of Adi Granth as the Guru was published long before Dr McLeod wrote his last two books. Ever since the Namdharis started projecting their religious leaders as eleventh and twelfth Gurus of the Sikh community countless books, some quite learned ones, like Gurupad Nirnai by Bhai Sewa Singh, former Editor of Khalsa Samachar, were easily available to Dr McLeod. They have a convincing answer to the questions he poses, but Dr McLeod ignores them all in order to construct his ideas of deceptive misinformation. He ignores even the findings of Dr Trump who is neither fair nor favorable to the Sikhs throughout his work. Dr. Trump writes in 1877 about Guru Gobind Singh’s last injunctions thus; “I have entrusted the whole society (of the disciples) to the bosom of the Timeless divine Male (Akal Purkh). After me you shall everywhere mind the Book of the Granth Sahib as your Guru; whatever you shall ask, it will show it to you. Whoever be my disciple, he shall consider the Granth as the form of the Guru” Having uttered these verses he closed his eyes and Expired A. D.1708 (pp xcvi) Dr McLeod ignores such positive evidence because it does not suit his offensive criticism and his carefully selected odious themes.
- Caste and Jat Prominence in Sikh History: Prof Jagjit Singh has debunked all Dr McLeod’s theories about the existence of caste prejudices among Sikhs. He has also given overwhelming evidence to refute threadbare his theory that the majority of the Sikh in the Guru’s durbar and armies were Jats and that accounted for Jat hegemony amongst the Sikhs and gave the Sikh community real military and muscle power. From innumerable historical records of the Guru period and the eighteenth century, Prof Jagjit Singh has shown that there is not an iota of truth in it. Jat or non Jat, the real inspiration and power to fight all types of battles toes came to the Sikhs from Guru Granth Sahib and historical experiences of the Gurus.
All the military commanders in the armies of Guru Hargobind and Guru Gobind Singh except two of three were non Jats. All those who distinguished themselves in the battles and whose names have come down to us in history were mostly nonJats. The majority of the administrators in the Guru’s durbar kept on the basis of experience, merit and efficiency were nonJats. Prof. Jagjit Singh, who he comes from a Jat family writes: “Bhai Gurdas has given the names of about 200 prominent Sikhs of Guru Arjan. Of these ten were Brahmins, eight Jats, (including two whose caste is given as Jatu, which is a Rajput sub caste; three fishermen, three calico printers, two chandals, two brick layers, two Bhatts, one goldsmith, and one Mohammedan. The rest either belonged to Khatari and other castes connected with commerce, trade, etc. or did not have their caste specified”. This is the ratio in the list of disciples of Guru Hargobind. The Central command during the Misal period was always led by two nonJats, Jassa Singh Ahluwalia and Jassa SIngh Ramgarhia because they were outstanding in qualities of military and political leadership.
But Prof. Jagjit Singh is not correct when he says that Jassa Singh Ramgarhia was called Ramgarhia because he belonged to the village called Ramgarh. Ramgarh was not a village but the first fort of the Khalsa built to protect the Golden Temple complex. It is now called Ramgarhia Bunga. This fort was given to Jassa Singh who came from carpenter professional caste, because he distinguished himself as a great and fearless warrior and an intensely religious man. He remained the Superintendant of the Golden Temple Complex and even after his death during the British period his descendents Mangal Singh Ramgarhia and Surinder Singh Ramgarhia became successively the Sarbrahs, (the Superintendents) of the Golden Temple Complex. The fort was named Ramgarh because it was to defend the City of Ramdaspur named’ after the fourth Guru. Jassa Singh Ramgarhia named even his cannons and guns. After Guru Ram Das: Ram top, and Ram ban. These Missal leaders were deeply attached to Baba Dip Singh whose Shahidganj and the. Four lower stories of Baba Atal were built by Baba Jodh Singh Ramgarhia, whose Samadhi is built close to that of Baba Dip Singh.
Castes in Hinduism were always distinguished by their pankatis caste rows. While taking food during a religious festival each caste and sub caste was supposed to sit in a separate row. If a person of lower caste satin a Caste row of higher caste, the whole of their food got polluted and was thrown away. Guru Gobind Singh made all his disciples taking baptism from him to sit and take the sacramental food (karahprashad) from one bowl, be they Muslims, Hindus, Brahmins, or Pariahs. In the open kitchen (langar) all persons were to sit in one row (pangat) be they rich or poor, or be they Sikhs or non-Sikhs. This firm practice which has persisted uncorrupted since the time of the Gumus, practically removed caste prejudices in social| relations. There were always inter caste marriages among the Sikhs.
Brahmanism reemerged during the period of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Because Brahminism or shall we say Hinduism allowed multiple marriages of the type Ranjit Singh craved for. Even during the worst period of caste prejudices, Sikhs were proud of having such great intellectuals and reformers as Giani Dit Singh who came to Sikhism from the lowest Hindu caste. They formed a dynamic creative force against massive dirty propaganda of Swami Davanandar against Sikhism and other religions.
- Sikhism and Dr. McLeod’s Imaginary Sant Tradition: It is as ridiculous to call Guru Nanak and his successors mere Sants (Saints) of a Hindu set (which Dr. McLeod euphemistically calls Sant Tradition), as to call prophet Buddha a mere ascetic (monk) in the Hindu ascetic tradition. The founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, was a brilliant and towering religious genius of the highest order, and distinct and original in his inspiration and mystical perceptions like Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. However, much the founder geniuses of new faiths like Buddha and Guru Nanak were influenced by their contemporary religious thoughts and traditions, as were Christ and Muhammad, their fundamental contribution was something new, original in form and its ideological contents. They were both religious geniuses par excellence and prophets and Messengers of new doctrines and new religious idealism, which struck a new path and led to. The creation of a new religion and a new faith. At certain stages of their’ development, both Buddhism and Sikhism have been disowned and opposed by Hinduism.
There is no such thing as Sant tradition as a religious movement either in the field of Indian religions or in the field of Indian philosophy. The word Sant means “Saint” and there are saints of every order and sect both in Hinduism and Indian Islam. There are as many Sant’ Sampardayas (orders) in Hinduism as there are gods and goddesses. One can see many Jain and Naga Saints going stark naked in the streets and one can also see the women followers of s O m e K a r nataka saints going to the temples naked for worship.
The word has been used in Hindi literature only recently. And its origin is interesting and strange. Rabindranath Tagore started a Hindi department in Shantiniketan during the thirties and appointed Dr. Hazari Prashad Diwedi as the professor of this department, When Tagore asked Dr. Hazari Prashad Diwedi to do research work on “Kabir” he told Tagore frankly that Kabir was considered a rustic and uncultured Poet and he is not given any place in Hindi literature. Tagore was greatly shocked to hear this. He told Hazari Prashad Diwedi that he must work either on Kabir or leave Shantiniketan. He would rather close down the Hindi department than to tolerate such a view. He was advised to work under Kshiti Mohan Sen who had done a lot of work on Medieval Saints. The word “Sant tradition” to my knowledge was first used by him.
Dr. McLeod told me in 1966 that he has followed the thesis of Dr. P.D. Barthwal’s book, “The Nirgun School of Hindi Poetry”, to build his concept of Sant tradition and fit Guru Nanak and Sikhism into it. It has been translated into Hindi by Dr. Chaturvedi, who in later period has been considered authority on “Kabir” and frequently uses the word Sant Sampardayas: when his book in Hindi was published.
Dr. Barthwal’s book is as confusing and vague on the subject as Dr. McLeod’s work though far less misleading in its logic and conclusions, Out of four major chapters in his book, Dr. Barthwal’s main thesis is in the chapter entitled: “Wirgun Panth”. No one has ever heard of any Nirgun Panth, either as a creed or a distinct religion. To clarify this thesis he writes on the Sants of the Nirgun School and the total list of Dr. Barthwal’s Nirgun Sant Sampardayas includes: Kabir, Nanak, Dadu, Prannath, Baba Lal, Maluk Das, Jagjiwan Das, Din Darvesh, Yari, Paltu, Darilyai Das, Bulleh Shah, Charan Das, Shiv Narayn Das, and Tulsi Das.
We fail to understand how could the Punjabi Sufi poet Bulleh Shah be included among Hindi Nirgun poets, and we also do not know how could Tulsi Das, a Sargun poet who worshipped Rama as God could be included among Hindi poets of Nirgun school or Nirgun Panth as he calls it, We also do not understand why Ravidas, a contemporary and companion of Kabir who lived all his life in Benaras, and was prolific Nirgun Saint poet of Hindi literature could be excluded from the list. Is it because he was a cobbler (chamar), and because he was proud of being one? Have these low caste poets been excluded because they were ganwar: uncultured, a term which Swami Dayanada uses for Guru Nanak in his Satyarath Praksh?
Dr. Barthwal devotes half a page to Guru Nanak’s life and another half to his works. He quotes Gurbani from Macauliffe. Although he asserts Guru Nanak is a Hindi poet, he does to seem to have opened ten pages of Guru Granth to study Guru Nanak in the original, to know the truth about the language and dialects used by Guru Nanak in his works. But to contradict Picncott’s statement that Guru Nanak was a Muslim to all intents, he writes, “Dr. Trump may be an unreliable translator which I don’t think he was, but incidentally or otherwise his estimates of Guru Nanak’s views is nearer than that of Frederick Pincott. Dr. Trump says, “Nanak remained a thorough Hindu, and according to all his views; and if he had companionship with Musalmans, and many of these even became his disciples, it was Owing to the fact of Sufism that all these Mohammedans were following; it was nothing but a pantheism, derived directly from Hindu saints, and he only inwardly adopted Islam”.
Thus these works of Dr. Barthwal and Dr, Chaturvedi on Sant Kabir are the last straws on which Dr. McLeod floats his theory that all Sikh Gurus were a sect of Hindu Sant tradition, an imaginary concept of his own. He had never Clarified, what his brand of Sant tradition is and who are the Hindu saints that can be included in this tradition, apart from Dr. Barthwal’s list. This boat of “Sant tradition which he has built on his discursive dialectic and arguments based on false premises and wrong facts will sink as soon as it has to face the truth and reality of Sikhism and other Indian religious traditions.
Dr. McLeod comments on these traditions not like an historian of religious movements but like a Darwinian biologist. He studies the spiritual and mystical aspects of Sikhism like a Mathematician utterly lacking musical sense but writing authoritatively about the music of Tansen and Beethoven.
Alfred Bartholet has said: “What a prophet proclaims is more than what is known to ordinary persons; the prophet has a special gift. The eyes and ears of a prophet are open to things which the everyday person neither sees nor hears. He is generally imbued with a powerful consciousness of his mission. “Anyone who reads the works of Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh becomes conscious of this mission. Guru Nanak’s address to Bhai Lallo, his carpenter disciple, and Guru Gobind Singh’s utterance in his “Thus Spoke God unto Me: Akal Purkh Vach Is Kit Parti’ are expressions of this sense of divine Call and prophetic Mission. These references are well known to all students of Sikhism.
Dr. McLeod also tries to prove that each Guru took a different path and he tries to prove that Guru Gobind Singh drifted from the teachings of Guru Nanak. This is what Guru Gobind Singh has to say about such thinkers:
*Guru Nanak was Founder of this dharma: Sikhism;
*He gave a new Way of life: Rah for all seekers of
*Those who walk on Nanak’s Path.
Would never suffer from inner affliction and inequality.
*The Light and Spirit of Guru Nanak,
Manifested in the body of Guru Angad;
Who developed the Master’s Faith in abundance.
*Then Guru Nanak’s apostolic Spirit
Came to be known as Amar Das
It was unique spiritual transfiguration.
It was one resplendent Lamp lighting another.
*Angad was accepted as an embodiment
Of the eternal Spirit of Sri Nanak;
Amar Das was recognized as Angad.
Amar Das in Spirit became Ram Das.
Only Saints and Seers know this.
The ignorant fool (mud) cannot comprehend this.
Guru Gobind Singh: Autobiography: Apni Katha; Bachitar Natak, chapt 5, Verse 710.
For those who look at Sikh history and doctrines the way Dr. McLeod looks at them, it is as impossible to understand the unity of spirit and thought between the Gurus as it is for a purblind man to describe the colors of a rainbow which reflect unity in diversity. This is the theme on which Bhai Nanad Lal has written countless verses in their massive writings. They lived with the Gurus and understood their life and teachings from intimate knowledge and experience.
But Dr. McLeod has conveniently ignored them. He has consciously timed a blind eye on facts: and truths which are given by majority of the writers of books mentioned in his long bibliography. This was not expected from a sincere student of Sikh history and an unprejudiced scholar of Sikh religion. He should have either accepted them or rejected them’ giving valid reasons for his acceptance or rejection. The more is the truth about Dr. McLeod’s opinionated and jaundiced! Study of Sikh history and religion examined, the more his works stand on the side of misinformation and misconstruction. Discerning and knowledgeable leaders feel shocked’ at the attitude which he maintains quite consistently in all his three books under his inescapable craze for “compulsive scepticism”.