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Adi Granth Our Living Guru is not for Research

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An Essay on the Ph.D. thesis of Dr. Pashaura Singh

Adi Granth Our Living Guru is not for Research

Dr. Pashaura Singh and Dr. W.H. McLeod please note!

An Essay by Dr. S.S. Sodhi

This essay is based on a careful analysis of the Ph.D. thesis on Adi Granth written by Dr. Pashaura Singh and submitted to and accepted by the University of Toronto, Canada. Dr, W.H. McLeod, a noted Sikh historian was his supervisor.

Dr. McLeod a brief History

First some facts about Dr. W.H. McLeod. Dr. McLeod is a native of New Zealand who came to Kharar, Panjab, India to work as a missionary teacher in 1958. At that time, he was not at all aware of Sikh history and Sikh Gurus. In collaboration with other Christian missions in Panjab such as those at Ludhiana and Batala, he began research on Sikh Gurus and Sikh history and started writing on the Sikhs and their Gurus. In ten years, he produced a Ph.D. thesis on Guru Nanak. Since 1968, he has produced numerous articles and books on Sikhism and at present is considered, at least in the West, to be an “authority” on Sikhism. He is now a Professor of History at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand.

The present writer, Dr. Sodhi, had a chance to spend a few days with Dr. McLeod when he visited Halifax, Canada. Even though his writings and lectures were pro-Sikh, yet it was very clear that his identification with and emotional knowledge about the Sikhs was more historical than personal, relational, or emotional. Dr. Pashaura Singh’s thesis which he supervised reflects that emotional detachment for the sake of historical-scientific-factual research.

Dr. Pashaura Singh writes that, “The process of compilation of Adi Granth began in 1603 A.D.” (P. 231).

Dr. Sodhi Continues

Sikhs do not believe that the compilation of Adi Granth was a process. It was the directive of Sat KARTAR that made the Gurus recite. Wahe-Guru intuitively and spiritually instructed Guru Arjan to compile those hymns. Dr. Pashaura Singh should know that Sikhs’ cognition of Bani is “Dhur Ki Bani,” not pothies or various recensions that are being cited in the “Process” of the evolution of the Guru Granth. Pashaura Singh’s view is a historian’s view, whereas Sikhs view is faith, emotional, spiritual and intuitive. Spiritual beliefs based on faith should not be tampered with because it causes emotional turmoil in the minds of the faithful. Cognitive dissonance generated by Western historians such as McLeod, Pashaura Singh, J.T. O’Connell, M. Isrial, W.G. Oxtoby Oberoi and Mark Juergensmeyer to mention a few, is causing a great deal of agony in the minds of the sad Sangat, and the result is, that Sikh institutions such as Canadian Sangat; S.G.P.C., Amritsar have started turning the heat up on these historians "in a hurry."

Some bothersome, inaccurate and intentional distortions in the concluding chapter of Dr. Pashaura Singh’s thesis (P. 231-237), are listed below for the benefit of the readers:

  • 1. Compilation of Adi Granth was a “Process”.
  • 2. In this “Process”, Guru Arjan worked over a number of drafts as an “Editor”.
  • 3. Bhagat Bani was included in Guru Granth Sahib to point out the identity and differences of the Bhagat Bani from the distinctive Sikh viewpoint.
  • 4. Sikh ideals were compared with Sant, Sufi and Bhagat ideals in Guru Bani.
  • 5. Guru Arjan used inclusive and exclusive approaches in the selection of Bani while acting as an “Editor” of the Guru Granth Sahib.
  • 6. Because Vaishnava Bani was excluded by Guru Arjan, Bhagats of Vaishnava tradition got Vaishnava Bani included when Guru Hargobind was imprisoned in Gwalior.
  • 7. Bura Sandhu/Lahore recensions of Adi Granth (1610 CE) reflects these inclusions.
  • 8. Banno group which consisted of Hindali, Udasi, Bhatra, and Brahmanical interests exerted their influence within the panth in the area of Khara Mangat, Gujrat District, Pakistan and produced the Bano recession of Guru Granth Sahib in 1642 CE.
  • 9. Banno recension and not KartarPur Wali Bir written by Guru Arjan was used by the Sikhs in the seventeenth and eighteenth century.
  • 10. Guru Gobind Singh at the age of nine, added Guru Tegh Bahadur’s Shaloks at his father’s insistence to the earlier text of the Adi Granth.
  • 11. “Damdama Wali Bir” was made by Guru Gobind Singh using Kartar Pur Wali Bir while living at Anandpur in the last quarter of the seventeenth century (1675-1700).
  • 12. The popular tradition that Guru Gobind Singh prepared the final Damdama Wali Bir at Talvandi Sab in 1705 CE. does not stand the test of historical research. More manuscript evidence is required.
  • 13. Singh Sabha scholars have attempted to impose a “single correct interpretation” to Guru Granth Sahib replacing the plurality of interpretations which was part and parcel of the Sikh approach to the Adi Granth throughout its history.
  • 14. As a result of post-1984 events in Panjab, a phenomenon of “scripture literalism” leading to fundamentalist interpretation of Adi Granth seems to be emerging in Panjab. This interpretation is being done due to the rise of Hindu fundamentalism in India.
  • 15. A rare manuscript (GNDUMS 1245) housed in Guru Nanak University, Amritsar, India, should be further studied to develop “Open attitudes” of further research on Adi Granth. The Adi Granth scholars can agree or disagree on crucial issues while maintaining their difference and dignity and mutual respect.

Well, the above “mentioned facts” sum up the direction and historical “correctness” which the Western historians want to bring to Sikh history. This "historical research" has become a part of an ongoing struggle of the Sikhs to save themselves and their faith from overt and covert attacks by linear, myopic, "instant" non-emotionally involved Western “Scholars”.

Those of us who have internalized Sikh traditions are bound to be offended by what is written and carried on in the name of research. A careful study of Dr. W.H. McLeod's writings will reveal that he is a very difficult author to read. He produces a conceptual analysis which is different from story telling. In most of his writings he appears to be pro-Sikh, but he firmly believes in rewriting Sikh history using his Western reality. He was looking for a docile Sikh student (scholar) as a “Medium” to say things about Adi Granth and the “Process of its Compilation”. Pashaura Singh who wanted to earn a Ph.D., readily obliged.

Only He knows the description of the Indescribable,
Whom the Lord awakens and offers the sweet nectar of His Nam.
Guru Arjan Dev Ji (Gauri Rag)


The Source Book On Sikhism

Edited by Dr. S.S. Sodhi, Halifax, Canada
Dr. J. S. Mann, Fullerton, California
Produced by Sikh Sangat of North America
Box 25111, Halifax, NS, Canada
(902) 443-3269

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