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Western Writers' thinking about Sikhism and Gurbani

Dr. Gurbakhsh Singh

1)    Miss Pearl S. Buck, a noble laureate, while giving her comments on the English Translation of Guru Granth Sahib, wrote, "I have studied the scripture of great religions, but I do not find elsewhere the same power of appeal to the heart and mind as I find here in these volumes. They are compact in spite of their length and are a revelation of the vast reaches of the human heart varying from the most noble concept of God to the recognition and indeed the insistence upon the practical needs of the human body. There is something strangely modern about these scriptures and this puzzled me until I learned they are in fact comparatively modern, compiled as late as 16th century, when explorers were beginning to discover that the globe, upon which we all live, is a single entity divided only by arbitrary lines of our own making. Perhaps this sense of unity is the source of power I find in these volumes. They speak to the people of any religion or of none. They speak for the human heart and the searching mind."

2)    H.L.Bradshaw, a well known professor, after thoroughly studying the philosophy of Sikhism observed that Sikhism is a universal world faith, a message for all men. This is amply demonstrated in the writings of the Gurus. Sikhs must cease to think of their faith as "just another good religion" and must begin to think in terms of Sikhism as being the religion for this new age. The religion preached by Guru Nanak is the faith of New Age. It completely supplants and fulfills all the former dispensations of older religions. Books must be written proving this. The other religions also contain the truth, but Sikhism contains the fullness of truth. Bradshaw also says that Guru Granth Sahib of all the world religions alone states that there are innumerable worlds and universes other than our own. The previous scriptures were all concerned only with this world and its spiritual counterpart. To imply that they spoke of other worlds as does the Guru Granth Sahib is to stretch their obvious meaning out of context. The Sikh religion is truly the answer to the problems of modern man. Archer very rightly commented that, "The religion of the Adi Granth is a universal and practical religion....Due to ancient prejudice of the Sikhs it could not spread in the world. The world today needs its message of peace and love."

3)    Another writer Dorothy Field writes: Pure Sikhism is far above dependence on Hindu ritual and is capable of a distinct position as a world religion as long as Sikhs maintain their distinctive. The religion is also one which should appeal to the occidental mind. It is essentially a practical religion. If judges from the pragmatically standpoint - a favorite in some quarters - it would rank almost FIRST IN THE WORLD (Emphasis by the author). Of no other religion can it be said that it has made a nation in so short a time. Field further observed: The religion of Sikhs is one of the most interesting at present existing in India, possibly indeed in the whole world. A reading of the Granth strongly suggests that Sikhism should be regarded as a new and separate world religion rather than a reformed sect of Hinduism.

4)    Arnold Toynbee, a historian who has done much work in comparing cultures writes: Mankind's religious future may be obscure, yet one thing can be foreseen. The living higher religions are going to influence each other more than ever before, in the days of increasing communications between all parts of the world and branches of the human race. In this coming religious debate, the Sikh religious debate, the Sikh religion and its scriptures, the Adi Granth, will have something special of value to say to the rest of the world. In other words, it is not only Sikhs who see that Sikhism unlike most other religions is a philosophy which has validity for all cultures but non-Sikh writers also endorse this view.

It will be interesting to know the comments of Dr.W.O.Cole, Chairman Consultant, Religious       Education Projects, U.K. who has written half dozen books on Sikhism. In 1985, he visited India where communal disturbances had created a virtual turmoil and thousands of people had been killed. He gave a message to Punjabis (through them to the whole of humanity): Remember the tenets of Guru Nanak, his concepts of oneness of God and Universal Brotherhood of man. If any community holds the key to the national integration of India, it is the Sikhs all the way.

After a key note lecture by him on the "Mission and Message of Guru Nanak" he was asked what drew him to the study of Sikhism. He replied, "Theologically, I can not answer this question. You may call it the purpose of God. But to be more specific, the unique concept of Universality and the system of Langar (free community meal) in Sikhism are the two features that attracted me to the study of Sikhism. Langar is the exclusive feature of Sikhism and found nowhere else in the world. Sikhism is the only religion which welcomes each and everyone to the Langar without any discrimination of caste, creed, color or sex."

The opinion of some Hindu mystics also need to be quoted to know their experiences with Sikh faith. Swami Nitya Nand (expired at the age of 135 years) writes in his books "Gur Gian": I, in the company of my Guru, Brahma Nand Ji went to Mathra...while on pilgrimage tour, we reached Punjab and there "We met Swami Satya Nand Udasi. He explained the philosophy and religious practices of Nanak in such way that Swami Brahma Nand Ji enjoyed a mystic lore. During the visit to Golden Temple, Amritsar, his soul was so much affected that he became a devotee of the Guru. After spending some time in the Punjab, he went to Hardwar. Though he was hail and hearty, one day I saw tears in his eyes. I asked the reason for that. He replied, I sifted sand the whole of my life. The truth was in the house of Guru Nanak. I will have to take one more birth in that house, only then will I attain Kalyan." After saying that the soul left his body.

Swami Nitya Nand also wrote of his own experience: I also constantly meditate on WaheGuru revealed by Guru Nanak. I practiced Yoga Asanas under the guidance of Yogis and did that for many years. The bliss and peace that I enjoy now had never been attained earlier.