Sardul Singh Caveeshar: Scholar-Statesman and Sikh Theologian
A Review by Pritam Singh
Book: Sardul Singh Caveeshar - Vidwan - Siastadan (Punjabi)
Author: Dr Paramvir Singh
Publisher: Institute of Sikh Studies, Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Kanthala, IA Phase 2, Chd
Pages: 31; Price: Rs 20/-
S Sardul Singh Caveeshar was more of a multidimensional institution rather than an individual. It was his unique achievement that he could simultaneously discharge his secular duties to the nation in his capacity as the Working President of the All India Congress Committee along with his deep interest in Sikh Community’s contemporary concerns and his scholarly dedication to the Sikh Philosophy and systematic theology. While working for the AICC, he cooperated with SGPC for the Gurdwara reform movement. He did not find any contradiction in these two roles.
He was able to integrate the past with the present and to perceive the future direction of the contemporary movements-secular as well as religious. He had deep understanding of the historical processes both in the fields of politics as well as of religion. His firm view was that as we have progressed from states based on tribes to national and international states, similarly we are bound to progress from ethnic religions to the concept of a World religion. Such a view was based on his understanding of Guru Nanak Dev Ji mission of bringing the entire humanity on one religious platform constituted by the best principles and practices of all religions without any conversion. Caveeshar Ji was very fond of referring to the proceedings of Punjab historical society at Simla in the second decade of twentieth century when on presentation of a Paper on Guru Nanak Dev Ji by S. Joginder Singh Airaa waley, a Hindu scholar said that Guru Nanak was a Hindu reformer while a Muslim one claimed that Guru Nanak was a Muslim. To top it all, Micheal Dwyer presiding over the conference said that Guru Nanak was a Christian. This explains his strong conviction in religious pluralism and is the basis of his effective and simultaneous participation in political and religious organizations.
His philosophical attitudes were not only governed by a rigorous working out of premises in a logical manner but also by emotional attitudes, cultural passions and the practical concerns of a particular historical situation. An analysis of the political thought and career of Caveeshar Ji as detailed in this very well researched monograph authored by Dr. Paramveer Singh of the Punjabi University, Patiala will show that in Caveeshar Ji’s vision, time and change signify the most important aspect of reality as it is through time and change that nature and the world of man find their destiny. The vitalistic impulse implied in his resignation from the primary membership of the Congress party on account of differences with Gandhi Ji on important issues and his joining of Forward Bloc party floated by Subhash Chandra Bose was shaped by such a vision. The teachings of Guru Gobind Singh Ji on the theme of time and change were the source that provided inspiration for such a vision.
In one of his Papers, McLeod had asserted that the “Sikh Theology for the modern times is yet to be written”. His assertion was based on his view that the Sikh scholarship in the early 20th century had focused mainly on Sikh history and commentary on Gurbani. The Sikh books like “Gurmat Nirnay” and like, in his view, dealt with individual Gurmat concepts without any attempt at projecting an integrated and systematic Sikh theology.
If McLeod had studied Caveeshar’s writings on Sikh Philosophy and Theology, “Sikh Dharam Darshan” in particular, he could not have made the assertion noted above. Caveeshar Ji, in his “Prastawnaa” chapter of the aforesaid book makes a very valid claim that this book in its totality is an explication of Sikhism’s twin principles:
i. Loving devotion to God;
ii. Loving relationship with humanity through virtuous deeds.
The most favorite themes in the Gurbani of Guru Nanak Dev Ji and of other Gurus are Akal Purakh, Srishti, Humanity and the moral conduct of the human beings. It is for the integrated, comprehensive and systematic explication of these themes that Caveeshar Ji wrote this book in four Parts titled:
i Akal Purakh; ii. “Srishti Rachnaa”;
iii. “Jeev Aatmaa” iv. “Mukti Marg”
Each part of the book has 8 to 12 chapters dealing with the individual theme in its various dimensions and from different perspectives. The outcome is the most integrated, comprehensive and systematic theology related to these themes. We may examine the theme of “Akal Purakh” in Part 1 of the book. It has the 12 chapters:
“Nirgun and Sargun; Aprampar Param Tat; Alakh Kartar; Nirankar Di Hasti; Dib Drishti; Sarab Vyapak; Ishwari Gunn; Akal Purakh de Vidhanik Gunn; Parmatma Prem Ras; Akal Purakh de Anek Naam; Aasatkaa atey Sarab Brahmvadian de Vichar; Sufi Mat te Sikh Mat.
Some of the unique features of his theological writings include:
i. Explication of most of the theological themes in a comparative context backed by views expressed by the modern thinkers like Vivekanand, Tagore, Arvindo Ghosh, Emerson, Darwin, Bergson, William James, Russell and Einstein;
ii. Orientation and thinking influenced by the principles of religious pluralism;
iii. Projecting Sikhism as a World Religion based on two main principles of God as father/creator of the entire universe and the brotherhood of the human beings.
iv. Focus on the religious humanism dimensions of Sikhism.
I congratulate Dr. Param Veer Singh for authoring such a very well researched Monograph fully backed by authentic references from historical documents. The keen interest taken and inspiration provided by Bhai Ashok Singh Ji Bagrian for this Monograph is commendable. There is a dire need to publish the life history and contributions of eminent Sikh scholars and statesmen like S. Sardul Singh Caveeshar Ji for inspiring the younger generation and for boosting up the self esteem of the Sikh community. This Monograph is a good model for other monographs that ought to be published on other eminent Sikh personalities. I commend this Monograph for very wide circulation.