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FOREWORD

In the early 1960s in Uganda I was trying to teach Great Scriptures of the World to my Amrican students. I very much wanted them to have the benefit of knowing something of the Guru Granth Sahib but finding a serviceable and handy translation seemed impossible until I came upon a copy of the UNESCO Selections from the Sacred Writings of the Sikhs of which Dr. Trilochan Singh was the premier translator and editor. Since then I have tried to read everything he has written on Sikh ism in English. His is a powerful and beautiful English prose second to no other on Sikhs themes during this century. But in addition the deep profundity of his understanding of Sikh mysticism, his grasp of the inner meaning of Sikh spirituality and the dimensions of his love for the teaching of the Gurus, put him high in the ranks of those who have tried to promulgate the Sikh message in English.

I would prefer to focus on his expositions of the life and teaching of the Gurus but in the meantime a sad skirmish has arisen to throw up a dust storm which gets in the eyes of poor scholars coming to do reverence to Sikhism and study the Gurus. Dr. Trilochan Singh has for years given close attention to the way in which foreign scholars have studied and written about Sikhism. Since at the moment the cloud of misunderstanding is increasing in density, he has decided to publish at once that part of his findings which deals with two notable scholars from abroad who most clearly illustrate some of the utterly sad and tragic mishaps which have befallen one of the most exciting cultural encounters in history, that is, the meeting between the teachings and life of the Sikhs and the mind' of Western scholarship. His purpose is to clear the dust and to promote understanding. I very much hope he will soon complete and publish the full scale work in which the work of Cunningham and Macauliffe will sweeten and temper the whole.

My western friends and colleagues for all their open mindedness and willingness to learn will be angry. They will within their own methodologies accept some points and deem others unfounded or unfair. But they will overall reject the brunt of what is being said. But this is a work to be likened to the genre "A Mirror to Princes." An honest, clear thinking Sikh somehow still unbrainwashed by western academic method, with his mind saturated with traditional Sikh scholarship and his life permeated with a praxis which goes back in unbroken succession to the Gurus themselves, is telling us something. He may seem innocent of our kind of critical demolition of the tradition as received but he is logical in his own kind of logic and he is steeped in an understanding of the whole literature in the original which no foreign scholar can hope to equal. He is holding a mirror to certain persons, certain groups, and saying "This is how you look to a beholder."

Dr. Trilochan Singh's book is not only "A Mirror to Princes," it is the presentation of a tragedy after the fashion of Kalidas, Aeschylus and Shakespeare. The main personae "persons" in the drama, wearing their "prosopa ", "personal ities" "masks", outfits as seen by the outside observer," are three. There is Dr Ernest Trumpp. Dr Trilochan Singh depicts him as the lackey of the missions and the British, the victim of his own arrogance. He also shows him to us as the scholar who first accurately revealed the Guru Granth Sahib as an unsurpassed treasury of clues to the history of the North Indian languages. He clearly presents and rejoices in Trumpp's achievement in so acutely and accurately explaining some of the metrical secrets of that great Scripture. At the same time he sets out the scene in which Trumpp vitiated his own endeavor by insulting the Holy Book and the Granthis and Gianis. He tells of the Preface Trumpp wrote so heedlessly and needlessly: one of greatest still-circulating monuments to European racist arrogance. Its pages from then till now have brought misfortune on the work and memory of Ernest Trumpp.

If we look at the official German biographical reference works concerning Professor Trumpp we read of a son of the Manse born in 1828 who achieved a brilliant student career in Theology, Greek and Latin. He followed up with Sanskrit. Because of his part in the liberal revolutions of 1849 he had to get out of Germany. He found a job as an Assistant in the East India Company Library. In 1852 the Church Missionary Society was looking for a language expert and lexicographer and sent him to India, the land of his fantasies and dreams. Perhaps Karachi never has been a dream village but there he did great things in Sindhi and "Neo-Persian" (Urdu).

In a pilgrimage visit to Jerusalem he met his first wife who within a year died in circumstances he associated with the last great struggle of pre-colonial India to throw off the outsider. Trumpp crept home broken in body and mind. Within a few years, thanks to the loving care of his second wife who cherished and strengthened him throughout everything, he had recovered enough to go again to India. At Peshawar he did fundamental work into Pashtu and the relationship of the Iranian and Indian languages. Yet again his health broke down and he struggled home.

Some ten years later the British government of India asked him to do a translation of the Holy Book of the Sikhs. Trumpp sensed that the Books and notes he had would not be enough and he would need local help. Despite medical advice he went to Lahore'

Dr Trilochan singh tells us of how the British agents convened a meeting of Sikh gianis and granthis who met with Dr Trumpp as he was trying to understand the Holy Book. Apparently he lit a cigar and in other ways showed total disregard for elementary good manners and decorum.

From the vantage point of outside spectators of the drama looking on a century and more later, we can see the pathetic agony of both sides. The Sikh scholars were at the lowest point of their humiliation just before the Singh Sabha and other movements arose to revive their chardi-kala (undefeatable optimism like .the waxing moon). This unspeakably arrogant outsider exhibited his disdain for them and their Gurus and their Holy Book. They showed their own good manners and restraint by not striking him down. They withdrew in silent dignity. Oral tradition at Amritsar still tells the story of Trumpp and his cigars and his feet on the table. Dr Trilochan Singh re-tells the story in terms by which a foreigner is able to grasp its full horror and shame. Macauliffe was able to write early in the twentieth century of his work on the Holy Book as "a kind of reparation." The work of reparation is still by no means complete.

On his side Trumpp who had thrown away one of the noblest possibilities of foreign scholar has ever been granted, and having guaranteed his own failure, turned back to his Indo-Germanic book etymologies and brahminical Sanskrit helpers. He was too good a scholar not to have realized the inadequacy of both sources for the purpose in hand. Far from home, tired, frustrated, going blind, in the grip of a breakdown, he again turned towards home broken in spirit and body. His pride and arrogance had postponed for a whole generation one of the finest opportunities any scholar can have.

St. Paul says although we may have every brilliance and skill and wisdom, even if we give up our lives, it profits nothing if we lack love. The Gurus says if we wish to play the game of love we must bring our head in our hand. Love includes humility, surrender and submission.
On his return to Germany Trumpp recovered enough to achieve promotion to the Professorship of Oriental Languages at Munich. He continued important research into Indian languages, Arabic and Ethiopic. Before the Royal Bavarian Academy he delivered a lecture on Guru Nanak which was published. In 1871 he published his Adi Granth, in which his Preface speaks for itself, as Dr Trilochan Singh so ably shows us. Probably it contributed to the refusal of the Government in India and of Max Mueller to publish the finished work. (Mueller's series, Sacred Books of the East, made the world's Scriptures, except the Guru Granth Sahib, available in English translation in University libraries throughout the world.)

Trumpp complains in his Preface that his eyesight was failing. His behaviour at Lahore indicates his other problems as well. The German reference sources conclude by saying he was a founder of the new Indian philology and gain an honorable place in the ranks of the orientalists of the century. They add that he died blind and deranged in 1885.

The second persona or prosopon (Latin and Greek for the actor's mask and thence of the "personality" presented in a drama) is Dr W. Hewat McLeod who is presently Professor of History at the most senior University of New Zealand. Dr Trilochan Singh speaks of this gentleman's personal modesty and quietness. Indeed this is true. He is exemplary in his personal life, a loving friend, father and husband, a householder generous in service and hospitality. He loves the Punjab and has devoted his life to Sikh studies. To be unable to travel freely in the Punjab is to him the bitterest of exiles. How does he come to be the monster figure who as Dr Trilochan Singh points out is how he appears to be in the sight of many honest and distinguished Sikh scholars? How can he appear to so many learned scholars to be undermining the very foundations of the edifice they are trying to build? That edifice is a joint intention to build an international academic structure of sound learning able to prosper amid the buffets and storms of the next centuries. Or to vary the metaphor, Sikhism is leaping the gap between old and new, between oriental and ecumenical. Apart from the innate difficulty of the task, there are many who are inimical to the attempt. One has to ask, why does a self-professed friend, servant and lover of Sikh teaching and culture appear to join the deadliest enemies just at this most hazardous moment?

Dr McLeod cannot see the situation in these terms. He is devoted to Sikh studies and for that reason he seeks the truth according to the methods of critical scholarship as he understands them. It is not possible for him to allow that the methods in the hands of outsiders and without the considered co-operation of the community to which these truths have been committed, cannot lead to the wholeness of truth. Ai; he sees it, to compromise would be to betray the truth and those Sikh scholars who agree with him against what he considers a militant segment who have chosen to oppose his work by means which jeopardise the whole en terprise.

As the chorus in this drama we will take some steps to right and left and in unison call upon the divine for help and bewail the human condition which makes our strengths into weaknesses and makes us victims of our fatal flaws. Other clues to the mystery may be discovered by looking at the third persona dramatis Dr Trilochan Singh presents. This third persona is what he terms the Berkeley-Batala missionary group. By this one must suppose he means a few scholars who were at Batala a quarter of a century ago when Dr McLeod was there. Some of them met again at conferences held at the University of California at Berkley in 1979 and 1985 and published their papers from there. But Dr McLeod has in a recent statement said "I have not been a missionary for many years," probably since that same quarter century which has gone by. He continues: "I am not a Christian, nor even a believer." Certainly there is no one competent to do deep research into Sikhism at Berkely at the present time or indeed for some time past.

Few Sikhs have studied in detail the history of the Christian missionary movements. The Batala people of the old days came mainly from the Presbyterian and central Anglican background. The Presbyterian Church in South Island New Zealand from which Dr McLeod came has been with occasional lapses notably liberal, academic and non prosletyzing. The tradition of Alexander Duff of Calcutta and Charles Forman of Lahore is also in the back-ground of his time as a missionary. In the late 1960s this kind of missionary had realised and repented for the mistakes and sins of the nineteenth century. They were seeking to be "a Christian Presence Among Other Religious." Dr. C.H. Loehlin was a staunch exponent of this school but was reaching the age limits for service in the field and indeed his academic limits. Hew McLeod was sent for deeper study to the School of Oriental and African studies at London. Some young Sikh scholar would do well to study the interweaving of high academic achievement, imperialism, missionary interest with post: Jewishness, post-Christianity and Marxist theory (among other things) which has ebbed and flowed there. Thus Dr McLeod re-entered the main stream of the western University and European (including British and American) thought. He remains a clear-sighted, hard-working, immensely able devotee of the ideals of the. western University. He is obedient to the truth as he sees it from within that point of view.

Western thought as summed up in the western University has for two hundred years boasted of an "Enlightenment." There is no need of a God-hypothesis. To this view-point everything said about the divine and revelation must be a human artefact and explained in non-supernatural terms. Community belief and tradition cannot discover historical truth in the way that critical and analytical scholarship can. Everything must be critically studied. Things were seen in terms of problems which could be Isolated and analysed by the human itellect. But below all this high academic endeavour the most deadly features of the clerical medieval University remain. These include the desire to remake others in one's own image the conviction that there is one truth and its servants have the only methods for reaching it, and the need to bring all others by all means to that truth.

In this atmosphere it is hard to believe in any religion. At times it seems everything traditional and religious must be a construct of the human mind, analyzable and to be evolved beyond as we become modem. Christianity has two centures of this kind of modem critical scholarship and I have myself watched the process closely for half a century. Dr McLeod found himself unable to be a believer. One respects and admires his honesty and understand the logic of his position. In my own case I have sometimes had to put belief and criticism in watertight compartments but more often I have found it good to call pure intellect to a temporary halt and seek the company of people living out the religious life and giving it meaning. They encouraged me to go on with the critical path for if it were really true it must lead to the truth itself. More recently the latest up-to-date critical methods have begun to lift us out of textual and historical analysis into trying to grasp large issues for in stance of discourse, of narratology, of overall inner meaning and intent, of the importance of the community and its vocation and beliefs and traditions. The western University has had a bad habit of being monolithic and killing other ways of higher education. It has tended also to obliterate religious belief. But these things need not be so. If religious people turn their backs on the University they themselves will suffer from their own seminary-like lack of cross-fertilization. The University also suffers if it refuses to include the highest spiritual dimensions of knowledge and the ferment they bring. There is a way for them to live together. It is in the light of all this that one must appeal to all concerned to give heed to the needs of the young. What ever else Dr McLeod and his friends and many Sikh well-wishers of the University idea have achieved or not achieved, four posts at least in Sikh studies have been set up in the North American Universities.

Studies of any sort related to religion are hard enough to get into and maintain in the system. The position of a young scholar without tenure fulfills the hazards of the siege Perilous of King Arthur's rough table. Let us be careful not to endanger the future of these hardwon positions, let us not embitter the lives of incumbents with any needless hullaballoo. In the Universities of the Punjab many young scholars may be scared away from vital religious research. The present ferment and flourishing of Sikh studies could be lost. Sikhs have their own ways of settling matters despite the too easy sad recourse to creating a public tumult or appealing to an outside tribunal. There is a middle way between extreme western-style critical study and the kind of fundamentalism which has grown up among certain Christian groups in America. This can be created by a grafting of the home-grown, deshi, organic, traditional community type critical and exegetical heritage and stock onto a selective and critical use of western method. Dr Trilochan Singh's work puts before us a vision of this way ahead.

So I commend to you Dr Trilochan Singh's thought provoking and powerful study. He comes into the struggle in a manner reminiscent of his chivalrous forebears repelling the invaders in the eighteenth century, raining blows on all sides. It is a glorious effort and Dr. Singh is seen for who he is, a true scholar gentleman and a noble Knight of the Order of the Honourable Khalsa, the lion-hearted

Professor Emeritus of History and Comparative NOEL Q. KING
Religion in the University of California at Santa Cruz, USA.
8th Feb. 1993

 

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