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Spirit of the Sikh Vol 2 Puran Singh

Spirit of the Sikh Vol 2 Puran Singh

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Published by: toshaak on Dec 06, 2011
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 Attention has briefly been drawn to the history of the composition of 
Spirit of the Sikh 
in theintroductory notes to Part I and to Volume One of Part II of this book. Professor Puran Singhboth in his English and Punjabi writings maintains a uniform style of expression, whose prominentfeatures are a vehement lyricism and formation of sentences which because of the almost breathlesspassion which is at their basis, tend often to go out of hand. The reader has to learn to live with thistrait in this writer, which with an overwhelming play of imagination and emotion, helps constantly tothrow out passage that are sublimely lyrical. This quality of his style, which has long ceased to be theruling style in English writings, and has mainly characterized the idealists and visionaries like Carlyle,Emerson and Ruskin, is as a matter of fact as much the result of the author’s own characteristicquality of mind as of the strong influence on him of Carlyle, his favourite author. In many places his writing indicates half-conscious echoes of Carlyle. The other great writer favoured by Puran Singh is Walt Whitman, whom he has quoted more than once. The author’s contact with his contemporary  writing is again remarkable. He has more than once referred to
a literary magazine of thetime and to John Middleton Murry. He has also quoted in full Markham’s
 Man With the Hoe,
acontemporary poem of the time, later deservedly famous, and echoing the passionate plea forsocialism, then a recent phenomenon. No less contemporary is the author’s gushing enthusiasm forthe Russian Revolution, imperfectly understood by him though, as by most intellectuals of the Westand the East then. All this indicates the author’s voracious reading and his almost insatiable hungerto keep himself abreast of such thought and literature as according to him, would aid andsupplement his own idealistic vision of Sikhism.In the present volume, the matter is cast in the form of separate and distinct theme headings,elucidating the idealistic vision of the Sikh faith, along with illustrative translated renderings fromSikh sacred literature. The total quantum of such literature quoted and entered in this volume is lessthan in the earlier. That is because of the scheme that is formulated in this, which is to make it thecollection of nearly a score of essays pertaining to Sikhism, couched in a highly lyrical style. Theearlier volume is of the nature of a running lyrical passage, with the chapters marking only thesuccessive steps of this total lyrical experience. Following on this lyricism, there are long andcopious excerpts from Gurubani in English rendering, which as has been pointed out in theintroduction to that volume, is extremely soulful and imaginative. The overwhelming emphasis in these writings, as in all others from Puran Singh, is on thespirit of devotion (Nam and Simrin) in Sikhism, its underlying message of sacrifice and love. In themiddle chapters, those entitled
War, Ethics, Aesthetics, At the Feet of the Lord 
Sikh History, Religion,The Worker and Love,
the various idealistic aspects of the Sikh creed are brought out in deeply felttones, which invest the practice of Religion with a romantic fervour. Puran Singh’s Sikhism is, as would be obvious, not the adoption of a creed in a mindless way by birth only, or by the practice of ritual and formalism. His is a passionately held conviction, in the spirit of the Sikhs of old, to whomtheir Keshas (long unshorn hair) symbol of Sikhism, were dear as breath itself. There occur in thecourse of these essays, eloquent passages on the Keshas. Another of Puran Singh’s loves isBuddhism, the creed which he adopted and later left for the creed in which he had been born.Buddhism, standing in the effulgence of its spirit against orthodox Brahmanism, to which PuranSingh appears to be allergic for its quietism, he praises ecstatically in one of the earlier chapters. Towards the close are two chapters, unparalleled for their lyrical exposition of the Sikh spirit and thequalities of the Sikh people—one entitled
The Sikh People 
itself and the other,
Guru Gobind Singh the  New Gita Himself 
. None else has ever expressed himself with such fervour of devotion to the TenthMaster as Puran Singh here, though of course, devotion all through is the inspiring force in his writings.
 To draw attention to some of the most striking features of this remarkable work, the like of  which on Sikhism or on religion for the matter of that, is rare, depending on the mystical vision inthe writer. In the chapter
Guru Gobind Singh the New Gita Himself 
already referred to, is brought out
the essence of the nishkām karma philosophy of the Gita as it
manifested itself in the life-long endeavour of Guru Gobind Singh to establish by the force of self-sacrificing and ascetic heroism,justice and right, of which the Gita and later, Guru Gobind Singh’s own
Bachittar Natak
have giventhe splendid vision. This part is highly creative, though of course, the entire work is imaginative andcreative to a high degree. In the chapter
The Sikh People 
is presented the idealized image of theSikh—a simple peasant and worker, devoted to the Guru’s teaching, sacrificing himself and in thecourse of his life eschewing the inanities of the speculative gossamers for which India is famous, but which often find mention here in pejorative terms. The much misunderstood Sikh in this chapter,and in these volumes as a whole, will find his way of life held up for admiration and justification.One other chapter to which particular attention may be drawn, and which present-day criticsof Punjabi may take note of, is that entitled,
The Sikh-Muslim School in the 
Punjab. This school is amystico-cultural tradition that after the message of the Gurus was delivered and percolated to themasses, caught on among the Muslim Sufi poets of the Punjab. They spoke in a terminology,composed of elements Indian and at the same time tinged with the hues of Punjabi Sufism, whichthe Gurus themselves had fashioned to give expression to their own message, meant for the simplerural masses, Muslim no less than non-Muslim. That this message was the expressioncharacteristically of the soul-force of the Punjab, with its freedom from acrimonious dogmatism,Brahmanical or Muslim, is further proved by the fact that it found such loving echoes in the songsand lyrics of the Muslim Sufi poets of the Punjab, such as Bullah Shah, Shah Hussain and others.Earlier, such a school may be said to have begun in the shabdas and slokas of Baba Sheikh FaridShakarganj, whom the holy Gurus made an inalienable part of the Sikh tradition by incorporating hisBani, brief though, in the pages of the holy Granth Sahib. It is to be regretted that this chapter, sopregnant with meaning and insight, is so brief and leaves the reader craving for more.Before closing, a few passages, rich with the high gifts of imagination and eloquence may bereferred to. These are meant only as brief instances, to whet the reader’s appetite for more, whichhe will find scattered all over the work. These come suddenly upon the reader’s attention, like asublime vision behind a tuft of trees on a hill, leaving him almost reeling with the ‘inebriation’ of ecstasy. One such may be taken from one of the earlier chapters,
 Nam and Simrin,
a theme as centralas it was dear to the author’s heart. On the emancipating quality of Nam and Simrin thus opens thisparagraph: “In these dark regions of the spirit-world live all the desire-bound beings, who do not letman go safe beyond. In these dark regions are the slums of those who have violated their purity.Here is man, self-fettered by his own violent deeds which have been suicidal to him in as much asthey created a “curvature” in his soul, and he cannot be freed even after physical death. Unless onehas by luck been introduced to the higher regions of absolute freedom, men rot in their own desiresfor centuries, in their own violent crimes, in their own filth and more of sin that sticks to them evenbeyond death. A Sikh saint of Simrin (whom I have seen) told us one day that there are souls thatby their own heaviness sink into the earth, others live on its surface. Very few rise up and they arecaught by their earthly relatives who died before them—mothers and fathers and uncles andgrandfathers. Then there are men gurus, the mental hypnotists and charlatans who crushed menhere by their mental power. Many a soul like that of “Lilith” flutters like birds caught in the nooseof someone’s mental powers. Many souls are rotting in the eternal prisons of unillumined dungeonsof the minds of those occults, divines, those who passed as great saviours of men, by the excitementof their intellect here on earth. Both masters and disciples are fettered to each other. And there areinnumerable soul-worlds where many such live. The Yogis who make on earth tremendous effort tobe something extraordinary, live eternally in their own little cocoons. They have no power. After

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