Universal Message of Guru Granth Sahib
A Review by Gajindar Singh
Author: Gurbachan Singh Makin
Publisher: Guru Tegh Bahadur Educational Centre, 1585, Sector 34 D, Chd.
Price : Rs. 1150/- (4 Vols Set)
The name of S. Gurbachan Singh Makin is well known in Sikh Jagat, as the translator of the whole corpus of Sri Guru Granth Sahib in English language; the project which took him ten years of total devotion and labour of love to complete. An Electrical Engineer by training, who served as an officer in the Indian Navy for the best part of his youth and qualified thereafter as a Marketing and Management consultant from London, he settled in Chandigarh. At about 65 years of age, when people normally prepare to call it quits, he was inspired to render Guru’s sabd for the common man’s perception. There were earlier attempts by scholars who were fanatical to do literal translations rather than transliteration without capturing the central theme of the sabd. It resulted not only in a skewed interpretation and an inappropriate construction of the sacred hymns but created a misunderstanding of the subject matter.
Regarding the books under review, in 1996, the first volume was ready and work on the other three volumes was to commence, but the author ventured on the task of wholesome production of the Guru Granth Sahib entitled “Essence of Guru Granth Sahib”, in a more elaborate edition with the original text in gurmukhi script in a five volume de-luxe edition. That was very popular and the experiment of GS Makin to go for the central theme rather than mere transliteration succeeded beyond expectations. The methodology employed by the author was to make notes of each line from the original into Punjabi to understand the gist and choose the correct English phrases for the best possible interpretation. He could hardly attempt one sabd in a day. This tedious but sure method took over ten years of hard work to complete.
The second volume of the Universal Message of the Guru Granth Sahib could only be compiled by 2004. Indifferent health and other projects further delayed the remaining two volumes so that the 3rd volume was ready by 2009 and the fourth and final volume was published in 2010. While the first volume was readily disbursed in 1996, the remaining three volumes were released simultaneously late in 2010 and the first volume had to be reprinted to make up the full sets. Whereas the Essence of Guru Granth Sahib is grasped by the initiate by referring to the original sabd along with the interpretation the ‘Universal Message’ mentions only the first line of the original text and dwells on the gist of the matter. It takes less space and readily conveys the central theme of the sabd or part thereof for those who are conversant with the original gurbani text.
In the first volume, the Prologue gives a detailed study of the Jap ji, and the central theme of the Guru Granth Sahib. The author has simplified the study by defining the spirit of Sikhism into four constituents which he calls the Four Pillars of Sikhism. These are the Gursabd, Hukm, Sadh Sangat and the constant remembrance of the holy Naam. The author has explained these four Pillars beautifully in a short book, ‘The Four Pillars of Sikhism’. The present effort of the distinguished author is a monumental work, which took him more than fifteen years of hard labour to complete and reading through its pages, one is sure to get an insight (as it is not a bid at counter-poetry in English to match the unmatchable gurbani) into the central theme of the Guru’s message to mankind.
It will be appropriate to quote the author’s own observation in his lecture at the SGPC sponsored presentation:
Quote: (SGGS- Page 438)
ਤੂੰ ਸੁਣਿ ਹਰਣਾ ਕਾਲਿਆ ਕੀ ਵਾੜੀਐ ਰਾਤਾ ਰਾਮ ॥
ਬਿਖੁ ਫਲੁ ਮੀਠਾ ਚਾਰਿ ਦਿਨ ਫਿਰਿ ਹੋਵੈ ਤਾਤਾ ਰਾਮ ॥
ਫਿਰਿ ਹੋਇ ਤਾਤਾ ਖਰਾ ਮਾਤਾ ਨਾਮ ਬਿਨੁ ਪਰਤਾਪਏ ॥
ਓਹੁ ਜੇਵ ਸਾਇਰ ਦੇਇ ਲਹਰੀ ਬਿਜੁਲ ਜਿਵੈ ਚਮਕਏ ॥
ਹਰਿ ਬਾਝੁ ਰਾਖਾ ਕੋਇ ਨਾਹੀ ਸੋਇ ਤੁਝਹਿ ਬਿਸਾਰਿਆ ॥
ਸਚੁ ਕਹੈ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਚੇਤਿ ਰੇ ਮਨ ਮਰਹਿ ਹਰਣਾ ਕਾਲਿਆ ॥ ੧ ॥
a) Gopal Singh has translated as follows:
“O Black dear ! Why are you attached to the beauty of the garden? The fruit of verify is sweet for a day and then it giveth immense pain. Yea, giveth pain the fruit which intoxicates, thee now (for) without the name one gathereth sorrow. The world yea, is like the sea-wave the lightning flash. And without the Lord no one is there to protect why him forsakest then? Nanak speaketh the ‘truth’ dwell then on thy Lord in the mind for tomorrow thou diest, O black deer!”
Prof G S Talib has translated it as:
“Listen, Thou black buck, why in this orchard art so absorbed! The fruit of poison tastes sweet for a few days only, then will it begin to torment thee. This fruit which has intoxicated thee will then torment without the Name Divine is deep suffering will there be. Pleasure is unstable like the stromy ocean like the flashing lightening. None other than the Lord is thy protector – Him hast their forgotten. Believe Nanak in thy self. Contemplate this. Death to thee must come, thou black deer.
The Essence of Sri Guru Granth Sahib (by G S Makin) in English prose is stated as follows:
“O my mind! Wandering like the black deer! Why are you so much pleased with your involvement in worldly vices as this world is transient and does not last long and you will end up in great suffering? This life without true name is going to be full of afflictions, so why are you so much amused with its enjoyment? This world rises and falls like the waves of the ocean and flashes like the lightening are noticed.
O man! You have totally forgotten the Lord, who is your only protector and saviour and none else could save you. O Nanak! Let us meditate on True Name. O my mind! The truth is that without the True Name you will suffer like the deer, being caught up by god of death in great distress”. (Unquote)
From the above example, it would be clearly understood that each line and stanza of the Holy Guru Granth Sahib requires macro and micro study. It is for the disciple to venture as deep into it as one’s intellect allows. The four volumes of the Universal Message of Guru Granth Sahib, now available, will assist in widening the horizons for the seeker. This set is invaluable for an individual as well as the Gurdwaras in India and abroad and is a must for every Sikh who cherishes the essence of Gurbani.
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2012, All