Pashaura’s Prejudicial Sikh Studies Thesis

Charnjit Singh Bal

Pashaura Singh’s published Sikh Studies thesis The GURU GRANTH SAHIB Canon, Meaning and Authority, which is subject of this Critique, is a litany of skeptical and cynical arguments, postulates, conjectures and inferences; and bears typical hallmarks of Sikh Studies works of his doctoral Supervisor and Mentor William Hewat McLeod, an ordained Reverend and a Christian Missionary whose controversial literature on Sikh Scriptural anthology, History and culture has perturbed the sensitivities of the concerned Sikh scholars.

Being the first contemporary Caucasian to obtain Ph.D. in Sikh Studies for a Joke [see Discovering the Sikhs autobiography of Historian, p.40], Hew McLeod was perceived to be an authority on Sikhism by the International, especially Western Caucasian, academia. His ill perceived status has spawned an academic clique whose incredulous Sikh studies Works too have riled the Sikh intelligentsia.

Orientation and Affiliation

Pashaura Singh’s Sikh scripture’s references and quotes from the unauthentic, quasi-Sikh literature to support his radical premises, arguments, inferences and postulates are typical of Hew McLeod; and the scholars who owe their Ph. Ds directly or indirectly to him and subscribe to his school of thought.

Pashaura Singh’s doctoral thesis bearing references and quotes from the works of this alliance evidences his orientation. His acknowledgements and appreciations of some of the scholars from the same clique are indicative of his affiliation.

Note: Excerpts, passages and references from Pashaura Singh’s dissertation are italicized.

‘The most rewarding experience in this study has been the opportunity to work with Professor W. H. McLeod, an eminent historian of the Sikh tradition. Arguably the foremost academic in the field of Sikh studies, Professor taught me skills that have added expertise to scientific inquiry. I am profoundly grateful to Professor Gerald Barrier for his comments on an earlier draft of this study. Special thanks are due to Professor Joseph T. O’Connell, who has always provided with stimulating feedback and watched my progress very carefully.’

‘During the difficult period of the controversy over my doctoral thesis, a number of academics institutions and colleagues supported me wholeheartedly. I am particularly thankful to the Canadian Society for the Study of Religions, the American Academy of Religion and the South Asia Council of Association for Asian Studies for upholding my right to free inquiry’. Professors Harjot Oberoi, N. Gerald Barrier, Milton Israel, Louis E. Fenech, Piar Singh, Harbans Singh, J. S. Grewal provided me with unflinching support at a time when my academic freedom was at stake.’ Pp xii, xiii


‘Guru Hargobind was evidently arrested because of the shift in the role of the Guru in the direction of political and military involvement. He traditionally donned two swords symbolizing (piri) as well as temporal (miri) investiture. He also built the Akal Takhat (throne of the immortal lord) facing the Harimandir (the Golden Temple of Amritsar), which represented the newly assumed role of temporal authority.’ P. 207

Advancing Dr. McLeod’s controvertible premise that Guru Hargobind’s militancy stance motivated his arrest, Pashaura Singh scribes a paraphrased passage of W. H. McLeod in ‘Who is a Sikh’ on pages.23-4 and copies his translation of stanza 26, Vaar 24 of Bhai Gurdas. In the footnote he writes,

"The translation is taken from one given in Hew McLeod, ‘Sikhism’, (London: Penguin Books, 1997), p. 35. I have added the translation of the fifth line, missing in McLeod’s translation." Footnote, p. 207

Note: Harjot Oberoi’s student at UBC Doris Jakobsh too has interpolated McLeod’s paraphrased passage and his translation of stanza 26, Vaar 24 of Bhai Gurdas in her Sikh Studies doctoral thesis, Relocating Gender in SIKH HISTORY Transformation, Meaning and Identity’. Pp. 36-7


Read of Pashaura Singh’s dissertation indicates that he too, just like his Western Universities doctoral Sikh Studies colleagues, lacks erudite scholarship of the Sikh scriptures expected of doctorate caliber. His woefully poor translation of Gurbani verses reveals his rudimentary knowledge of Gurbani, Sikh scripture.

‘It should, however, be emphasized that the reverence of the Adi Granth as Guru lies not in the text, but in the minds and hearts of the Sikhs.’ P 4

The word Guru means a spiritual guide who dispels ignorance and enlightens the disciples’ spiritual consciousness through his Word or edification. It is because of the enlightening Word or edification enshrined in the Guru Granth’s scriptural text, that the Sikhs revere the Granth as the Guru.

A quote from Peshawar’s own works controverts his assertion, "He (Wilfred Cantwell Smith) maintains that scripture functions not simply as a text but as a symbol of the transcendent, that is, as a supratextual (transcendent) source of authority for a religious community.’ P. 5

‘The most frequently employed phrase dhur ki bani (utterance from the beginning) refers to the transcendent origin (or ontological status) of the hymns of the Adi granth.’ P .6

In contrast to author’s ambiguous definition, the Gurbani phrase ‘dhur-ki-bani’, literally means celestial or heavenly scripture and connotes divinity-inspired-scripture.

Guru Nanak says, "As (divine) Master’s Bani (Word) comes to, [inspired in] me, so I imbibe its (spiritual) knowledge and profess O Laalo." GGS 722

‘Bible itself states, "All scripture is inspired of God [literally, God breathed"] and beneficial for teaching." Thus, the scriptures were written under the influence of God’s active force 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 Int.’ Watch Tower Bible Society Publication, Mankind’s Search for GOD, p. 240

‘Finally Guru Ram Das’s warning against the circulation of ‘unripe utterance’ (Kachi bani) among the Sikhs must be understood in the context of the struggle for legitimacy. P.38

Pashura Singh’s impertinent inference casts Guru Ram Das in the role of a contender for the Sikh Guru-ship. And his translation of Gurmukhi phrase ‘Kachi-bani’ as ‘unripe utterance’ is inapt for a doctorate scholar. The appropriate translation is ‘spurious scripture’.

‘The original Goindval pothis went to Guru at the time of succession, which is clearly indicated in the testimony of Sundar’s saddu in the Ramkali mode. [The true Guru] gave Ram Das Sodhi the apostolic mark and ‘token’ of Guru’s true word. The token of Guru’s true word (gur sabadu sachu nisanu) in the text refers to written collection of gurbani in the form of the Goindval pothis.’ P. 40

The referenced verse ‘Ram Das Sodhi tilik diya, Gursabd such nisaan jio’ [sudd 5, GG p.923], that Pashaura Singh has misinterpreted, actually means, Guru Amar Das, at the succession investiture, anointed [venerated] Ram Das Sodhi, [i.e. passed on the Guru-ship] as per ‘divine writ’. There is no reference to Goindval pothis in the verse.

‘Mul Mantar or root formula with which the Adi Granth opens is the basic theological statement of the Sikh faith. It consists of different epithets, all of which are traditionally understood as characteristics of the ultimate reality or Akal Purkh. According to the orthodox view, the Mul Mantar was created in its present form by Guru Nanak himself. For instance, Pritam Singh writes: ‘In the sacred book of the Sikhs also, one may come across any number of divine attributes, but those which must have struck the founder, Guru Nanak, as most prominent and essential, were woven by him in a short rhythmic composition, called Mul Mantra, the seminal formula, consisting of 14 basic structural units.’ The number fourteen here may refer to the sacred number of fourteen jewels (chaudan ratan) of Indian thought.’ P. 84

The transliteration, translation and/or interpretation of Mool-Mantar, [Munter] are rather ambiguous. Mool means primal or core. And Munter in India’s most dialects means invocative incantation or chant. However in the Sikh scriptural usage Mool-Munter is the rubric or title of the primal hymn or tenet elucidating Guru Nanak’s concept of the One-God’s divine attributes. Words formula, epithets and seminal bear ambiguous, rather negative connotations. And author’s reference to Hinduism’s ‘chaudan ratan’ myth is indicative of author’s ignorance of Sikhism’s scriptural anthology’s textual fundaments and doctrinal concepts.

Ludicrous Inferences

‘It should also be noted that the Gurus were looked upon as true kings (sacha padshah) by the Sikh community, since by that time the status of guru was supplemented by attributes of royalty. The Sikhs started venerating the Gurus in a most dignified way, a way which was marked by the symbols of royalty such as the use of a canopy, a throne and waiving of a whisk over their heads. The conventional use of the symbol Mahala in the title of Guru’s hymns, therefore, may even signal a new development in Sikh self-understanding with respect to the status of the Gurus.’ Pp 103-4

Dr. Pashaura Singh’s inferences and interpretations of terms, symbols of royalty, sacha patishah, throne, Mahala, whisk and canopy are ludicrous. The followers of all religions, sects and cults use metaphorical appellations similar to Sacha patishah [true king] for their spiritual leaders and throne for their seats. And, since six Sikh Gurus 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 9, all stamped their scriptural compositions with Nanak’s signature, the term Mahalla 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 9 is used in the Sikh scriptural anthology to identify the Guru who authored the hymn or composition. The word whisk denotes a sweeping or whipping device i.e. flywhisk: Fan is more appropriate. And there is no authentic historical evidence that the Sikh Gurus, paragons of humility, encouraged use of pompous ceremonial fan [whisk] or parasol [canopy] for their aggrandizement.

‘It appears that the tradition of conferring royal honour upon the volume containing gurbani must have come into vogue by this time. Indeed, the installation of the Adi Granth in the newly-built Harimandir was under way when Guru Arjan declared: ‘The scripture is the Lord’s dwelling place’. P 155

The misconstrued verse, ‘pothi permaser ka thaan’ [GGS p. 1226] actually means ‘Pothi, is the source of enlightening Bani, scripture, that facilitates rapport with the divine Lord. It is an idiotic assumption that Guru Arjan would accord royal honor to Sikh scripture that professes humility as the cardinal pious virtue. Religion’s august Holy Scripture and pompous royal honor do not mix as they belong to two totally different realms.

Gurbani’s Single-Meaning Concept Refuted

‘However stable the text of the Sikh scripture might be, its interpretation has varied at different times and places. This study argues that the text of the Adi Granth has an enduring potential for further interpretation.’ P. 25

‘Unlike Bhai Vir Singh, Sahib Singh (1893-1977) was quit adamant on the principle of ‘single meaning’ of a scriptural passage. His approach is based upon grammatical explanation of gurbani, which he developed fully in his Gurbani Viakaran in 1939. He also maintained there is complete identity between gurbani and bhagat bani. In his commentary, Sahib Singh argues that the refrain-verse of a hymn provides its central meaning. That is why he begins his explanation with it and weaves the whole meaning of a hymn or composition around it. He tries to free the explanation of gurbani from history. He also maintains that there is always a theme running as a continuous thread throughout a composition. In order to justify this he sometimes offers strained interpretation.’ P.256-7

‘Western-trained interpreters are now applying historical-critical method to reconstruct the linguistic and historical context of an utterance.’

Singh Sabha Scholars, IOSS Chandigarh, Center of Sikh Studies California Chided

An examination of recent literature, originating from such circles as Institute of Sikh Studies, Chandigarh, and the Center of Sikh Studies, California, clearly indicate that certain groups within the Panth are busy projecting ‘a correct image’ of Sikhism and Sikh community in India and abroad. They perceive critical scholarship as an attack on their faith and are always ready with their defensive approach to rebut perceived distortions or misrepresentation of Sikh religion and history. Their emphasis on a single correct meaning of gurbani is result of a distinctive approach of certain Singh Sabha scholars, particularly the grammatical approach of Sahib Singh.’ P257

‘Many Sikhs are quite adamant about the meaning of the Guru Granth Sahib. The sacred scripture is indeed the Guru, but it conveys its message in different ways to different people, communicating with some on one level of perception and others on a different level. The range is infinite as people differ in their perception and their diversity.’ W. H McLeod, ‘Sikh Fundamentalism’, Journal of the American Oriental society, (Jan.-Mar. 1998) P.258

Whereas it is true that different people interpret Sikh scripture differently, but that due to miscomprehension, misconstruction or deliberate distortion. People, who literally translate and interpret select verses in isolation, are of ignorant of Sikh scripture’s thematic continuity and contextual consistency. Deliberate distortion is the work of people with ulterior motives.

Dr. Sahib Singh, schooled in Sanskrit and Persian, matrixes of Sikh scripture’s multi-language anthology, had the requisite scholarship and aptitude to discern and profess that a number of hymns treating various spiritual, temporal, social or moral issues are often stringed together, and have thematic continuity and definitive essential meanings consistent with the specific context. And that to convey the essential meanings the Guru Granth’s co-authors made liberal use of metaphors, analogies and allegories.


Dasam Granth claimed as Second Scripture of the Sikhs

Joining the ranks of Sikh and non-Sikh lobby groups, that promote apocryphal (unauthentic) Dasam Granth, a collection of mythological and erotic works, for the most part, Pashaura Singh states that the Dasam Granth is second scripture of Sikhs. ‘The Adi Granth is the sacred scripture of the Sikh community. Literally the word granth means a religious book. The adjective Adi, or first has been appended to distinguish this Granth from the second scripture of the Sikhs, the Dasam Granth, which contains the works attributed to the tenth (dasam) Guru, Gobind Singh.’ P. 3

Manuscript MS 1245

‘This manuscript was purchased in 1987 [CE] by Guru Nanak Dev University [GNDU] from Harbhajan Singh and Harcharan Singh Chavla, antique and manuscript dealers in Bazar Mai Sevan (now Jallianwala Bagh), Amritsar, at the cost of Rs. 7500 at the recommendation of Piar Singh. It was entered in the catalogue of rare collections of Bhai Gurdas Library on March 1987, with accession No. MS 1245. MS 1245 bears neither the signature symbol of its writer nor the year of its writing. Not much information about history of its circulation is available.’ P. 41

‘Piar Singh has rightly dated this document as prior to the writing of Kartarpur bir in his examination of the manuscript. However, his dating of the Kartarpur manuscript is wrong. That manuscript was certainly completed in 1604 and this date is recoded in the handwriting of the primary scribe who prepared the table of contents.’ P. 44

‘Piar Singh maintains that the compiler of the GNDU (# 1245) manuscript acknowledged only bani of the Sikh Gurus and the Sikh bards. Similarly Gurinder Singh Mann argues that the GNDU pothi may have been the result of a decision to drop the writings of non-Sikh saints from the Sikh canon. This suggestion raises important question: does this mean that the compiler was drawing line between Sikh and non-Sikh writings of the bhagats? Was there any tension between the followers of the bhagats and the Sikhs that led to the exclusion of the bhagats bani from the Sikh scriptural tradition at that particular time?’ Pp. 49-50

‘All these internal features of MS 1245 place the document well before the writing of the Kartarpur bir. However Balwant Singh Dhillon refers to certain features such as repetitions, omissions, apocrypha, and the discrepancy between the index and text to discredit MS 1245 as a legitimate source of in compilation of the Sikh scripture. His arguments are based on the premise that in order to maintain the traditional view it would be best for the faithful to deny the very existence of early manuscripts.’ Pp.51-52

‘In sum, the GNDU manuscript represents the pre-canonical stage of Sikh scriptural tradition. It is still in its incomplete form, and illuminates the textual process through which the evolution of the Sikh scripture took place. Its relationship with the Goindval pothis and the Kartarpur bir is quite obvious. It is of rare value to the textual critic.’ P. 52

The Kartarpur (Bir) Manuscript’s authenticity Disputed

The Kartarpur manuscript is generally held to be the first document actually inscribed by Bhai Gurdas at the direction of Guru Arjan and that is why it has attracted so much scholarly attention for the last fifty years. The editorial comments in this manuscript, which are unique and revealing, are not to be found in any other manuscript.’ P. 53

‘In the present century Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha, the celebrated Singh Sabha scholar, raised the question of the authenticity of the Kartarpur bir, and was followed by long line of other scholars who expressed their doubts even without examining the manuscript. It was Bhai Jodh Singh who came to its defence with his thorough examination of the manuscript. He was followed by Daljeet Singh who became too dogmatic in his attitude towards a particular view of the creation of Sikh scripture. He maintained that the Kartarpur bir consisted of the actual words uttered by the gurus and was recoded under the direct supervision of Guru Arjan. Indeed, his approach represents the fundamentalist variety in the strict sense of the word. More recently, Piar Singh has provided a strong rebuttal to Daljeet Singh’s arguments and set aside the authenticity of the Kartarpur bir with his scholarly approach.’ P. 59

Guru Arjan Sahib anthologized the scriptures of five Gurus and a dozen-plus Hindu and Muslim holy Saints, into the volume, called the Pothi, precursor to Guru Granth. Obviously it was monumental task for the Guru Arjan Sahib to compile and redact the final volume of this magnitude. Since, the scriptural anthology was meant to be Sikhism’s pragmatic, enlightening and authoritative Gospel, there could be no margin of error. Towards that end Guru Sahib must have prepared several drafts prior to redaction of the final incontrovertible volume, the Pothi.


Ascription of Guru Teg Bahadur’s Sloke to Guru Gobind Singh

‘It is then followed by the Shaloks of the ninth Guru, including one couplet attributed to Guru Gobind Singh (Mahala Dasvan (10)// balu huo bandhan chhutai sabhu kachhu hot upai// sabh kachhu tumre hath mai tum hi hoi sahai54// in folio 576b.’ Pp.72-73

‘Eighth, there is one Shalok attributed to Guru Gobind Singh among the couplets of Guru Teg Bahadur in folio 700b.’ P. 80

The passages from Pashaura Singh’s thesis indicate that the author blindly accepts the erroneous ascription of Guru Teg Bahadur’s sloke to Guru Gobind Singh. The account, that Gobind Singh sent the [optimistic] sloke # 54, in response to his father, Guru Teg Bahadur’s, rather pessimistic, sloke # 53, to boost his father’s sagging morale in face of his ominous martyrdom, is just a myth. The notions, that the invincible Guru Teg Bahadur or any other Sikh Guru or Sikh scripture’s Hindu and Muslim savant co-authors needed morale boosting, or Guru Gobind Singh would have inserted his own sloke in Guru Teg Bahadur’s slokes under latter’s signature, are preposterous.

Moreover considering India’s1675 A.D. communication and transportation modes, it would have been literally impossible for Guru Teg Bahadur in Delhi and [Guru] Gobind Singh in Anandpur to communicate with each other within the short time span; i.e. between Guru Teg Bahadur’s imprisonment and martyrdom. It is idiocy to think otherwise.


‘Although the decision to include the compositions of his father was taken by Guru Teg Bahadur himself, it was the tenth Guru who closed the canon during the last decades of the seventeenth century at a place called Damdama in Anandpur.’ P. 81

‘G. B. Singh suggests that the ninth Guru himself gave instructions before he left for Delhi that his bani should be included in the Adi Granth. In light of this fact, the Damdama tradition that Guru Gobind Singh did so in 1705 becomes questionable.’ P. 78

Note: Damdama, also known as Guru Ki Kashi, is near Sabo-Ki-Talvundi, Patiala.


Gurus and Guru Granth’s Hindu and Muslim co-authors, stratified

Kabir a Solitary Spiritual Seeker

‘However Kabir is strongly opposed to any kind of association with sinners. He describes them with loathsomeness as meat-eating, liquor-drinking, Devi-worshipping saktas. By touching a blackened vessel, one is sure to get stained. For Kabir sinners are totally lost and for them the door of liberation is closed. Hence one must stay away from the bad moral influence of sinners. P. 162

To support his erroneous conclusions Pashaura Singh quotes his literal interpretation of Kabir’s sloke #131, and adapts Charlette Vauerville’s ridiculous interpretations of Guru Arjan’s two slokes #s210 and 211 and inserts commentaries of Karine Schomer, Mark Juerenmeyer and N. Gerald Barrier.

‘Do not associate with sinners (saktas), flee from them. By touching a blackened vessel, one is sure to get stained.’ (Kabir, shalok131, AG p. 1371)

‘On the issue of dealing with sinners Guru Arjan makes two comments on Kabir, which are inserted in his Var Ramkali and which are repeated in Kabir’s shaloks in the epilogue of Adi Granth.’ P.162

‘Salok Mahala 5’

‘Kabir, though the earth belongs to the saints, thieves have taken possession of it. Yet the earth feels not their weight, and for them (the thieves) it is all gain.’

‘Mahala 5’

‘Kabir, on account of the husk rice is beaten with pestle. If one sits in the company of the wicked the god of death (Dharamrai) will take one to task.’

‘(The translations are adapted from Charlotte Vauderville, Kabir, Vol. 1 p. 322, AG. p. 1375)’ Footnote, p. 163

‘In contrast with Kabir, guru Arjan seems to keep company of the sants open for sinners. This serves to underline the optimistic Sikh view that it is never too late to turn towards Akal Purkh and that every sinner is a potential sant. Kabir remains a solitary spiritual seeker who does not seem to have a sense of social mission or the idea of an organized religious community. Karine Schomer, ‘Kabir in the Guru Granth Sahib’: An explanatory Essay’ in Mark Juerenmeyer and N. Gerald Barrier, eds. ‘Sikh Studies: Comparative Perspective on a Changing Tradition [pp. 75-86].’ P. 163

‘By contrast, the Sikh Gurus have strong sense of mission which compels them to proclaim their message for the ultimate benefit of their audience and to promote socially responsible living. While as a mystic Kabir can afford to stay away from sinners (saktas) the Sikh Gurus cannot do so, and they keep doors open for them principally because of their mission.’ P. 163

Guru Arjan, in his slokes 209, 210 and 211 do not criticize or contradict Kabir but elaborates further on the influence of the company one keeps. While Kabir, in his sloke #131 cautions the pious against maleficent influence of a saakut’s (Idolater’s) company, Guru Arjan states the beneficent influence of Saint’s/ Guru’s company on a felon. If Guru Arjan were to criticize or contradict Kabir he would have inserted his slokes #s 209, 210 and 211 just after Kabir’s in sloke #131. Translations of Dr. Sahib Singh’s Punjabi translation and interpretations of Kabir’s analogical sloke #131 and Guru Arjan’s sloke #210 are,

Kabir, avoid an [Shiva’s] Idolater’s company, run away from it.

If we touch a sooty utensil we get a stain. Kabir, sloke 131, Derpun, Vol. 10, p. 220

Kabir, if a felon comes to Guru’s place and sits in the congregation, his evil influence doesn’t effect the congregation. In fact, felons benefit from the (saint/Guru’s) company. M: 5, sloke 210, Derpun, Vol. 10, pp.265-6

Sheikh Farid characterized as Gloomy, Sufi Sectarian, and Ascetic

‘Shaikh Farid stresses that one must adopt the sectarian Sufi dress (Kambalari, blanket) and renounce the world to follow the mystic path of love (Shaikh Farid, shalok 103, AG p. 1383). In his comment, Guru Amar Das provides a corrective to Shaikh Farid’s view of renunciation by stressing the ideal of the life of the householder. (Shalok 104, AG, p. 1383) However in order to guard against the temptation to become too worldly, Guru Arjan adds a further comment to assert that one must create balance between renunciation and worldliness.’ Shalok 105, AG, P. 1383).’ Pp. 164-5

Contrary to Pashaura Singh’s erroneous conclusion, Sheikh Farid in sloke #103 does not advocate renunciation of familial life in favour of ascetic life but advises to discard the flamboyance and wear humble apparel befitting a pious seeker. Sheikh Farid’s own sloke repudiates his ridiculous assertion.

Farid, why wander in jungles, treading on jungle’s (sharp) needles?

(When) God is in your heart, why seek him in the jungles? Sheikh Farid, Sloke 19, AG p. 1378, Derpun Vol. 10. Pp. 311-2

Guru Amar Das in sloke #104 elaborates that one need not exchange fine apparel for holy garb to seek God, if one cleanses his/her mentality. And Guru Arjan in sloke #105 states that because of high status, affluence and/or glamorous youth the egoists remain without God’s redeeming grace, just as sand dunes remain dry even after rainfall.

‘A careful examination of Shaikh Farid’s bani in the Adi Granth suggests that its dominant theme is linked with ‘gloomy view’ of life in the world. In fact, Guru Arjan took special pains to restore social sanity to the views of Shaikh Farid where they touch borders of nihilism and total denial of life here and now.’

‘Farid, if my throat had been cut on the same day as my navel string, I should not have fallen into such trouble nor undergone such hardship.’

‘Farid, I thought I alone was in pain, but actually the whole world is in pain. I went up on the roof and looked on every house on flame. (Shaikh Farid, Shaloks 76 and 81, AG. pp. 1381-2)

‘In responding to the issues raised by Shaikh Farid, Guru Arjan offers solutions from Sikh perspective.’

‘This lovely world is like a garden, Farid, in which some poison-bearing plants also grow. But they for whom the master cares do not suffer.

How sweet is life Farid, with health the body blooms! Yet those who love their dear, sweet (lord) are rarely found. (shaloks 82-3 AG, p. 1382).’ Pp. 165-6

The Gurus, Prophets, Saints, holy Sages and Theosophists’ concepts of source and cause of mundane maladies and their remedies are different than rest of the mankind. They believe God is the sole source of joy or sorrow, the profound belief that conditions the mind to accept bane or boon as an immutable act of His Will.

"Do not fancy that sorrow is the work of man-he is but an instrument in the hands of God." Leo Tolstoy, WAR AND PEACE, Vol. 2, p. 234

"Ask nothing for yourself, seek nothing, do not worry yourself, and envy no one, the future must remain hidden, but when it comes it must find you ready for whatever it may bring."

"What did these miserable trifles signify in the plans of Almighty, without whose will not a hair can fall from a man’s head." Ibid, Vol. 1, p. 226

Nanak, the whole (materialistic) world suffers. Only those who believe and rejoice in His name, succeed in achieving life’s ultimate aim (spiritual rapture). M: 1, 1, GGS P. 953, Derpun Vol. 7, pp. 119-120

Hey Nanak, (man) is miserable in any eon (age), if he doesn’t contemplate God’s Name. M: 1, (4, 5, 2) AG. P. 1110. Derpun Vol. 8, p. 156


‘In the pauri, (M5, Var Ramkali 1-2 (21), AG P. 966) Guru Arjan adds further comments on Shaikh Farid, that human life becomes fruitful if one joins the spiritual fellowship (sadh Sangat) to cultivate virtues in life. Here again his intention is to extend an invitation to the contemporary followers of the sufi poet in the Punjab to join the Sikh movement. It is important to note here that Guru Arjan’s comments on Shaikh Farid facilitate the integration of his verses into Sikh scriptural tradition. Also, by providing a corrective to sufi ideas Guru Arjan seeks to show which of the two traditions posses true insight.’ P. 167

‘The use of Dhanna’s signature here has confused many scholars. By employing the signature of the bhagat, the fifth Guru is addressing the contemporary followers of the bhagat.’ P. 172

‘Finally, it is important to note that a clear distinction is always maintained between gurbani and the bhagat bani in the very structure of the Sikh scripture. The writings of the bhagats are kept separate from those of the Gurus and are placed at the end of each raga section. In other words, the primacy [superiority] of the writings of the Gurus is always maintained, even though the hymns of bhagats are held in great esteem.’ Pp. 187-8

Pashaura Singh’s sly remarks are charged with insinuations that Guru Arjan, with his condescending comments, not only patronized Sheikh Farid, but also rendered his scripture compatible with the Sikh scriptural tradition and shrewdly lured his followers to Sikhism that possesses true insight as opposed to Sufism.

Pashaura Singh has misconstrued, misinterpreted and/or distorted Muslim and Hindu co-authors’ Slokes and hymns to validate his skeptical, cynical and schismatic conjectures pertaining to collection and inclusion of their scriptural compositions into Sikh scriptural anthology. He even questions their scriptures’ compatibility with the Sikh Gurus’ scriptures and stratifies the two into separate classifications.

Contrary to his conjectures, the Sikh Gurus added their comments to Hindu and Muslim authors’ compositions, that are integral part of Sikh scripture, not to patronize, criticize or contradict them, but to expound the compositions so that half-backed scholars, theologians and preachers do not misconstrue and distort these compositions. Yet Sikh Scriptural compositions, whether authored by Gurus or Hindu and Muslim holy savants haven’t escaped the sad irony.


‘The dominant Church did not drop the Jewish-scripture idea, but adapted it rather. It did so with tour de force (skill), some might say: accomplished over the next couple of centuries. There are partial parallels later in principle, though in practice, in the Qur’an: a thousand years still later the Sikh scripture emulated this again in a minor fashion’. P. 177

‘Wilfred Cantwell Smith, ‘What Is Scripture?’ pp. 54-5’ Footnote, p. 177

‘In this context, Wilfred Cantwell Smith raises an important issue of how one religious movement explicitly incorporates the scripture of another within its own, ‘adding things new but making the old part and parcel even though in ways to this day never fully clarified: a somewhat subordinate part and parcel, heavily re-interpreted. Although the author claims that the Christian scripture provides the ‘only instance in world history’ he cites the example of Sikh scripture, the Adi Granth, emulating the idea in a minor fashion.’ P. 177

‘It is partially true that the hymns of bhagats are included in the Adi Granth because of basic agreement with the belief of the Gurus. It is also true that Guru Arjan edited the bhagat material before incorporating it in the scripture and chose only those aspects of the bhagat bani that were in basic agreement with Sikh teachings. But these assertions may not tell the whole story. They tend to underscore the traditional view of absolute agreement between the teachings of the bhagats and the Sikh Gurus. This is too simplistic a view of what may have been a complex phenomenon.’

‘There are for instances, some verses of bhagats which are juxtaposed (placed together) with comments on them by the Gurus. Particularly, the verses of Kabir, Shaikh Farid, Surdas and Dhanna have received direct comments from the Gurus. These comments are not always made because of agreement between the Gurus and the bhagats, but are sometimes made to register clear disagreement with the views of the bhagats.’ P178

The word ‘Adaptation’ literally means 1) to adapt to the environment, 2) to make suitable. Pashaura Singh’s rubric [Chapter’s Title] ‘Scriptural Adaptation in Adi Granth’ bears negative connotations and reveals his prejudicial view of Bhagat Bani and cynical view of its incorporation in the Sikh scriptural anthology. He, not only agrees with Smith’s controvertible views, but also, in his jargon, reveals his own jaundiced view that the Bhagat Bani is subordinate to; and incompatible with the Sikh Gurus’ scriptural compositions and joins the ranks of the fringe clique that advocates stratification and/or separation of the Sikh Gurus and Bhagats and their scriptures.

The incorporation of Bhagat Bani in the Sikh scriptural Anthology attests to Sikhism’s novel concepts, doctrines and ideals, i.e. all-inclusiveness, universality, versatility, equality and liberality. As for the dominant Church’s adaptation of Jewish scripture idea, it is merely a little-known maverick scholar’s opinion, Wilfred Cantwell Smith’s that happens to suit Pashaura Singh’s agenda. It is not shared or supported by other worthy Christian/non-Christian scholars or theologians.

‘The Christian Bible consists of the 59 books of the Hebrew Scriptures, called by many the Old Testament, and the 27 books of the Christian Greek Scriptures, often called the New Testament. Thus the Bible is a miniature library of 66 books written by some 40 men in the course of 1,600 years of history (from 1513 BC. to 98 AD).’

‘That so many persons of diverse backgrounds and living in different times and cultures could produce such a harmonious book is strong proof that the Bible is not simply the product of human intelligence but is inspired by God.’ Watch Tower Bible Society Publication, Mankind’s Search For GOD, P. 240


‘One extra-canonical hymn of Namdev is usually found in the Dhanasri mode in some later manuscripts of the Adi Granth. It is not recorded in the Kartarpur volume, which clearly indicates that it was turned down by Guru Arjan at the time of the compilation of the scripture in 1604.’

‘This hymn is the most striking example of Krishan bhagti. Here Namdev presents the four important incarnations of Vishnu in his native Marathi style.’ P.198

‘There is one extra-canonical hymn of Trilochan in the Gujri mode, which was first recorded in the Lahori bir written in sambat 1667 (1610) during the period of Guru Hargobind. It is important to note that this hymn is not to be found in the Kartarpur volume. Evidently Guru Arjan had not approved its inclusion when he finally produced the authoritative text in 1604. It appears in some later manuscripts of Adi Granth.’

‘Clearly the key word in the hymn is Gobind, which is an epithet for Krishna. This word is probably a Prakrit form of gopindra, which means chief of cowherds. The linkage of ardent devotion to Gobind with ‘Bhagvata’ worship (Gobind keri bhau bhagvat) further supports the Vaishnava context of the whole hymn.’ P.200


Apparently, Pashaura Singh engaged himself in a witch-hunt rather than an objective pursuit of doctoral Sikh Studies. Had he done intelligent and diligent study of Kartarpur Bir, widely accepted as the final redacted manuscript, and Guru Granth instead of sifting through numerous dubious authors’ unauthenticated manuscripts and grapevine traditions, he would have gleaned that Sikh scriptural anthology’s co-authors, Gurus and Hindu and Muslim Saints addressed the ‘One-Absolute-God’ by numerous names, including Ram, Rama, Ramyya, Krishan, Kahna, Gobind, Govind, Gopal, Hari, Narayn, Beethal, allah, etc. common to Eastern religions in medieval India. These names depict His providential virtues and divine attributes. Guru Arjan addressed the God as Beethal in half a dozen hymns. [See GG pp. 205, 536, 624, 925, 1206, 1223]

Sanskrit word Gobind, Govind or Go-vind, literally means one, ‘who is realized through spiritual knowledge’, ‘who nurtures and protects’, ‘who is sought through gurbani i.e. God’. Marathi language word Beethal or Vi-thal means one, who embraces an ignoramus. Encyclopedia of Sikh Literature, p. 429,  p. 878 repectively

"Namdev’s Beethal is Ram i.e. the all-pervading God." Dr. Sahib Singh, Bhagat Bani part 3, p. 24

In their compositions Namdev and Trilochan address God as,

Karima, Rahima, Allah, Ganni, Namdev, GG, P. 727

Hindu worships [God] in the Temple and Muslim worships [Him] in the Mosque.

Namdev worships Him who is not [immured] in Temple or Mosque. Namdev, GG, P. 469

Beethala [come] meet me and take me in [your] arms.

Ramyya [come] meet me and save me [from material attachment]. 1, Rahao [Pause]

When [a saint] preaches to me, Naraina is revealed in twigs of forest [flora].

You are omniscient O Raamyya, Trilochan prays [to you]. 5, Trilochan, GG, P. 92


Pashaura Singh, at the very beginning of his published thesis states, "This study seeks to answer three closely related questions in the process of canon-formation in the Sikh tradition: How did the text of Adi Granth come into being? What is the meaning of gurbani? How did the Adi Granth come to be the Guru Granth Sahib?

Although I do not claim to have discovered satisfactory answers to all the questions raised in the debate, I have tried to stick to the three questions of my inquiry." P. XII

The read of his published thesis obviates that he failed to find satisfactory answers to his questions. On the contrary he ended up with more dubious questions.


William Shakespeare’s phrase concisely, but aptly describes much of Pashaura Singh’s verbose Sikh Studies thesis. It serves no useful purpose in the pursuit of objective Sikh studies discipline or cause of Sikhism. On the contrary it stokes the old controversies and sparks new contentions. His askance Sikh Studies perspective furthers his master, incredulous W. Hew McLeod’s skepticism, cynicism and schism pertaining to Sikhism’s philosophy, ideology and scriptural anthology; and provides munitions and impetus to forces inimical to Sikhism.