Spirit of The Sikh - Part 2 - Volume One - Book By Puran Singh

Publisher: Punjabi-University-Patiala
Authors: Puran Singh
Page: 246
Format: Hardbound
Language: English
Product Code: SPE193
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Table Of Contents For 'Spirit of The Sikh - Part 2 - Volume One' Book By Puran Singh

 

 

CONTENTS

Page No
1. Introduction (by the Editor) v
2. Foreword (by the Author) 1
3. Music of the Soul 52
4. Readings From Guru Granth Sahib 134
  From Rag Parbhati 135
  From Phunehas by Guru Arjan Dev  
  Majh and Other Banis 142
  Asa-ki-Var  
  (The Morning Chant of the Sikh) 167
5. Readings from Siddha-Goshti 218
  (The Discourse with the Siddhas  
  by Guru Nanak)  

 

Introduction To Book 'Spirit of The Sikh - Part 2 - Volume One' Book By Puran Singh

The manuscripts of Spirit of the Sikh, as left by Professor Puran Singh, is in three large-sized type volumes, corrected at numerous places in the author's hand along with additional matter which suggested itself to him after the typing had been done. This voluminous work was in the process of composition from 1923 to 1930, but because of the fatal illness that came upon the author in 1930, the publication of this as also of a good deal of his other work could not be arranged in his life-time. A group of lyrical essays of homeage to the holy Gurus, entitled 'The Kinship of Ages' was completed in 1923-24 and intended for publication the same year as a separate work. This arrangement could not come through, as the Lahore publishers who was approached, kept silent. 'The Kinship of Ages' has already appeared in this series as Part I of 'Spirit of the Sikh'. The larger work was projected in three volumes, including 'The Kinship of Ages', which was later included as Part III of volume I of Part II of Spirit of the Sikh, to be followed by its companion volume II.

The portion entitled 'The Kinship of Ages' which has already appeared under the imprint of Punjabi University, Patiala, appears from the internal evidence in the autobiographical reverie attributed to the Yogi Bharthari Hari to have been composed in 1923, when the author was forty-two years of age. In the reverie occurs the sentence : 'Infancy seizes me at times, and I find myself now, even at this age of forty-two, a little babe lying  in the lap of my Mother, covered under her shawl, with both my tiny, white hands still clutching at her breasts, with the life-nipples in my mouth, and sucking the Nectar of love from those fountains of love from those fountains of immortality'.........The date 1923, which perhaps spilled over into 1924 is supported by the brief preface prefixed by the author to the 'Kinship of the Ages', appearing after the English rendering of Siddha Goshti that closes the present volume. This Preface is dated August, 1924 and is signed at DehraDun. Professor Puran Singh's younger son, the late Raminder Singh, however, in a short monograph on his father, has indicated 'Spirit of the Sikh' as written at Jaranwala between 1927 and 1930. This last statement, however, appears to be substantially correct. In the opening chapter of Part I of the present volume, the author in the first paragraph indicates that at the time of undertaking to pt down his spiritual experience in this work he is forty-five years of age . So , while 'The Kinship of Ages' published already as Part I of the total work belongs to 1924, the major work now being published, must come after 1926. Spirit of the Sikh is the author's testament to his faith in extenso, and brings to fulfilment what has been his theme in the rest of his writings, in English and Punjabi.

While 'The Kinship of Ages' stands out as a distinct work, containing reveries on the teachings of the holy Gurus and the Spiritual experience under the names of several personae, the other two volumes following now, are a continuity, expressing the author's own meditations and outpourings, along with renderings from Gurbani in his own soulful, though somewhat free, manner of treating the sacred Word.

About Puran Singh's literary achievement some studies have already appeared, and others are under preparation, which should give an adequate idea of the astounding range and output of this writer, who in the course of his brief life of fifty years beset with various distractions, was able to create a vast  mass of writing in English and in his mother-tongue, Punjabi, in which he is acknowledged as a per-eminent poet and a pace-setter in the modern idiom of poetry, which with freedom from the conventions of prosody combines the qualities of superb imagination and rhythm. At a time, back in the twenties, when hardly any Sikh writer had been published abroad and little on Sikhism itself was published from any Sikh, or for the matter of that any Indian writer, three of Puran Singh's books got published in Britain and won high acclaim. These works, Book of the Ten Masters, Nargas and The Spirit of oriental Poetry have ever since remained classics of Indian poetry in English, on themes expressing the mystical experience.

The reader, as he goes through the expository portions of this work, will meet a flowing harmony, a uniformity of style and vision. This writing,saturated with influences from Gurubani and enshrining half-conscious memories of expressions from poets of spiritual experience like Blake, Tennyson and Whitman, becomes lyrical in style, in long, flowing sentences and turns of phrase, somewhat in the manner of carlyle, whose influence may be noted not only in the vehemence with which the writer asserts his vision, but also in 'The Kinship of Ages' where persona like Carlyle's Teufelsdrockh in Sartor Resartus are created to voice the author's own convictions. Puran Singh also translated Carlyl's Heroes and Hero-Worship into noble Punjabi prose. The selections of this work is indicative again, of his preference for personalities whose mystical vision found expression in socially valuable, heroic action. Another influence on the poet is Walt Whitman, the appeal of whose free verse style, as has been pointed out often, Puran Singh so successfully captures in his own Punjabi poetry. Over and above these influences, Whitman's gospel of work as dedication appeals to Puran Singh's grasp of the Sikh ethos. Sikhism has evolved a unique synthesis of mysticism with socially beneficial work Seva. Writing in the twenties, when to idealistic Eastern eyes, oppressed by the shackles of European imperialism, the new dispensation in the Soviet Union appeared to presage the fulfilment of all that mankind in their visions of utopia had dreamed, he is again and again slipping into a somewhat hazy identification of the Sikh idealism with the new Soviet order. In the course of the editing of this work, such an imbalance, as certain others, had necessarily  to be set in proper focus. On certain other Asian countries, especially Japan and China, his views again echo the situation in the twenties. For Japan, where Puran Singh had lived and imbibed the Buddhist faith which he later outgrew, he felt great fascination because of its ordering of its corporate national life. The harsh, imperialist face of Japan was yet to show itself more than a decade later.

Buddhism and Christianity held great appeal for this writer, whose mysticism partook of the basic teachings of each of these faiths. Time and again he expresses himself in the mystic phraseology of these faiths, which again tend to get mixed up with and overlay his passion for Sikhism. Such spots too needed delicate handling by the Editor.

The writer's power in capturing vision and experience and the prophetic mode of his expression will encounter the reader too frequently to need isolated pointing out. This is his characteristic style, in which alone he can satisfactorily express himself. In the course of his outpourings, sometimes he tends to break loose form the laws of controlled prose-writing, but most often what comes form his pen has significance and appeal. Here is a man who is recording his testament of faith and relating it to what insights he feels he has got from other systems of faith and from certain social organizations. As a necessary corollary, he is seen to be allergic to the religion of mere contemplation divorced from action and a dynamic vision of society. That is what makes him such a severe critic of the ancient thought of India. And yet, embedded as his thought is in the best that belongs to modern Indian idealism, he is always able to balance his reaction. In a passage on India in the rather lengthy Foreword he thus builds up his synthesis in India : 'Our mother-country is India, our language is derived form Sanskrit, but we are modern in our outlook, though also ancient as Prahlad and Krishna. We have got a new and intensely reactive past of over 400 years and we are cut off form the decadent past of India. In view of the political solidarity of India it is mischievous for any to suggest that we are not of the Hindus, and not equally of the Muslims. It is mischievous to multiply the points of difference with the Hindu, which are not fundamental. Now the process of Hindus joining the Guru under his flag for the freedom of India has been discontinued by the Hindus themselves. It is suicidal for them to have done so. The Gurus have shown the Hindus the way to freedom of mind and soul and also to political freedom.....for the Hindus, the way to survival and freedom is the Guru's way.'

Not all Hindus may be expected to assent to this above viewpoint, but it proceeds form Puran Singh's fervour of faith in the Guru's teachings and practice, no les than his sympathy for the Hindu, through long ages lying torpid and victim of aggression. The theme of the books has been summed up by the author himself in words breathing deep and fervent faith at the opening of Part I in the chapter entitled 'Music of the Soul.' This nobel passage, expressive so masterfully of his source of inspiration and his mode of embodying it may here be reproduced:

"In the following pages I try to indite what I, as a Sikh, a disciple of the glorious Gurus, have in a dim way felt to be the rhythm of their life-giving hymns. As to its authenticity, it is what I imbibed with my mother's milk. Most of what I took into my subliminal mind by my association with the Sikh song and life for the last Forty-Five years, has now come out in a day or two as fast I could write. This writing is like a nestful of birds coming in one swarm out of their eggs. I feel this is the condensed translation of a small portion of the Guru's writings that has so impressed me. They are all flowers of the Guru's garden. I have only gathered some out of them in this particular mind-born configuration of colour.

"I know I am dealing with the untranslatable beauty of music of the soul, and yet I dare to put in prose the poetry which is understood only when it is sung, and that too, when sung by angels in the soul of man, when it is heard chanted by him who is lost in it."

These outpourings of a soul inspired by the mysticoromantic appeal of religion, bring to the reader's consciousness the fervour and passion of faith, binding itself to the personalities of the holy Gurus of Sikhism. While constituting running points of experience, they at the same time touch on philosophical issues, that may be seen to lie at the basis of the cosmic vision of Sikhism. Sikhism is viewed also as a great liberating force, and the Khalsa of Guru Gobind Singh as the embodiment of the ideal of man's spiritual and moral life. The emotionally directed life----generous and full of faith is commended, and mere speculation, such as has characterized the decadent aspects of Indian thought, discountenanced. All through is in evidence what the author himself has called his inebriation-the inebriation of one who at the appeal of religion cannot restrain his emotional fervour. The appeal that touches the reader in these pages is of a life of dedication, with the urge to express itself in beneficent action. The writer goes out to seek sympathetic echoes for his Sikh ideal life in Whitman's America and in the Soviet Union of the twenties of the present century. Along with these, the scientific and industrial progress and elegance of Japan holds a powerful appeal for him. Some of these views would be looked upon as the rather passionate commendations of a mind that did not care to go into the realities of things in the cold analytical spirit, and hence perhaps made blurred judgements. That is a matter not only for opinion but also for a careful study, so that Sikh ideals do not get presented in a wrong light.

This ecstatic exposition of the ideals of the Gurus, and a devotee's outpourings bespeak a soul hungry for self-dedication. Withal they are joined with social ideals upholding liberalism and humanitarianism. A simple but healthy approach to such synthesis, as has been in evidence in the course of the history of Sikhism, has throughout been maintained. Thus, a mason's work, honestly undertaken, is regarded as true religion. Other aspects of the Sikh spiritual life, such as Nam (the holy Name), Simrin (remembrance, contemplation), Sangat (the holy congregation), the Khalsa salutation are dilated upon in a spirit so as to draw one's devotion and fervour. Brought in for estatic presentation are also Kehas (long, unshorn hair, the wearing of which is enjoined upon a Sikh) and Guru Gobind Singh's conferring sovereignty on the Khalsa, the corporate body of devout Sikhs.

A valuable feature of these studies in Sikhism is the author's rendering of several portions of Gurubani, texts taken out of Guru Granth Sahib. Earlier occurs Bara-maha in the measure Tukhari, Guru Nanak's outpourings of Divine love, in the yearly cycle depicting the pangs of separation from the Divine Person and joy of union. Later, in PartII 'Readings from Guru Granth' and extensive renderings from Raga Prabhati, Var Majh, Var Asa and Siddha-Goshti. Brief study-notes about the characteristic quality of these renderings have been appended by the Editor in the course of this prepared text. As said there, while these renderings have power and fervour, they remain in the nature of transcreations, with the translator's elucidatory insights added. Especially valuable in giving exposition of the Guru's teching and its contrast with the hath-yogi Siddhas is the rendering of Siddhu-Goshti, a difficult text, but one whose spirit the mystic Puran Singh was particularly equipped to interpret. Of no less value are the renderings from the other texts, including the two Vars, in Majh and Asa.

Part III of this volume, written earlier but appended to it, and entitled 'The Kinship of Ages' has, as already stated, been published earlier as Part I of this series.

While these outpourings bring the reader close in spirit to the essence of Sikhism, they are inevitably placed in the background of the author's own period, that is the early twentieth century and the spirit of Buddhism and Christianity that held such appeal for him. For anyone attuned to the spirit of religion they are a source of spiritual joy; for anyone seeking to understand the essence of the Sikh spirit, they are a valuable guide.

This work, Spirit of the Sikh, is being brought out by the Punjabi University, Patiala, as part of their scheme to present the complete works of Puran Singh on the occasion of the centenary of his birth, which falls in 1981.

Gurbachan Singh Talib

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