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Sant Tradition or Sant Mat

- Baldev Singh


Doris R. Jakobsh earned her Ph.D. under the supervision of Professor Harjot Oberoi from the Department of Asian Studies, University of British Columbia (UBC) in Canada. Currently she is an Assistant Professor of Religion at the University of Waterloo, Canada. Her understanding of Sikhism seems to be based on W. H. McLeod’s writings and she has quoted him repeatedly in support of her thesis.

W. H. McLeod has almost single-handedly transformed the academic study of Sikhs through his near exhaustive scope of inquiry.1

In her work "Relocating Gender In Sikh History: Transformation, Meaning and Identity" published in 2003, Jakobsh repeats in verbatim what McLeod has written about Guru Nanak to make him a part of the “Sant tradition.â€

Guru Nanak has been characterized as fitting squarely within the Sant parampara (tradition) and also in a wider sense, the Bhakti milieu of North India. The tradition rejected the worship of incarnation and Hindu forms of professional asceticism, spurned the authority of Vedas and other scriptures, and ignored the ritual barriers between low and high castes. Further, the sants stressed the use of vernacular language in their rejection of orthodoxy. Central to their doctrines, and binding them, were their ethical ideals and the notion of interiority, rituals, pilgrimages, and idols were worthless in the quest for liberation; only loving adoration of the Ultimate mattered. These strong similarities between the various groups who lived by these ideals have been characterized by W. H. McLeod (1989:25) as Sant synthesis, a combination of Vaishnava tradition and the Nath tradition, with possible elements of Sufism as well. What the Sants also had in common was a stress on the necessity of devotion and practice, the repetition of the divine name, the devotion to the divine guru (satguru), and the need for the company of sants (satsang).2


The “Sant tradition†is a combination of Vaishnava and the Nath traditions with possible elements of Sufism as well. Let us now examine the relevance of these so-called traditions to the Nanakian philosophy (Gurmat) and infer from it whether the claim of Guru Nanak belonging to this tradition is valid or not.

Sant Tradition

The word “sant†means saint in English however this interpretation does not convey its proper meaning the way it is used in the AGGS. The term “Sant tradition†was also used by other scholars,3 but it was W. H. McLeod who applied the label of “Sant†to Guru Nanak and placed him in the “Sant tradition†in Guru Nanak and the Sikh Religion published in 1968. It is McLeod who popularized this term in the domain of Sikh studies. We argue that applying the label of “Sant†to Guru Nanak and placing him in the “Sant tradition†is problematic due to following reasons.

First, there is no evidence that there was a tradition called the â€Sant tradition†in India (or in South Asia) during the time of Guru Nanak. All bhagats (bhakatas) of diverse background, whose thoughts are incorporated in the Aad Guru Granth Sahib (AGGS), preceded the Sikh Gurus. The word sant and bhagat occur frequently and interchangeably in the Sikh scripture. In the Adi Granth, compiled in 1604 C.E. by Guru Arjan, the honorific “bhagat†is used for Namdev, Kabir, Ravidas and others, and their banis (hymns) are collectively labeled as “bhagat bani.†Had they been known, as “sants†at that time, Guru Arjan would have used the honorific “sant†for them. Thus, the honorific “sant†has no historical relevance or authenticity in Sikhism. It appears that McLeod either did not study AGGS seriously or he ignored the fact that Guru Arjan did not use “sant†for sages whose thoughts are incorporated in the AGGS.

Second, Nirvikar Singh (in 2001) in his thought-provoking and analytical article “Guru Nanak and the ‘Sants’: A Reappraisal†questioned the existence of Sant tradition in Guru Nanak’s time.3 In response to this article, McLeod said:

I fully agree that although ‘Sant tradition’ purports to describe poets who lived half a millennium ago, the label first emerges in the nineteenth century.4

Having acknowledged the fact that the “Sant tradition†label, which is used North Indian bhakats (bhagats) such as Kabir and Ravidas, did not emerge until the nineteenth century why would Dr. McLeod apply this label when writing about Guru Nanak. To justify this contradiction in his views McLeod states, “Something had to be found for poets such as Kabir or Ravidas in order to distinguish them clearly from the Vaishnava saguna bhakatas of the Bhakti tradition.†And he goes on to say: “Was Guru Nanak a Sant? The answer is both yes and no, as I attempt to explain on pages 101-02 of Sikhism.â€

Unfortunately, McLeod evades the issue with a clear intent to confuse the readers. In light of such statements and his other writings on Sikhism5, 6, 7 I conclude that McLeod called Guru Nanak a “Sant†and placed him in the Bhakti milieu of North India to undermine the uniqueness of Nanakian philosophy (Gurmat).

Third, ever since I studied Guru Nanak and the Sikh Religion in 2002, it has been a recurring thought in my mind that Reverend McLeod got the idea of “Sant tradition†from the Radhasoami dera (camp, center) at Beas. Beas is not very far from Batala where he held a teaching job at Baring College, and “Sant tradition†is a literal translation of “Sant Mat,†the name Radhasoamis of Beas use for their brand of teachings. Regrettably, I was unable to find any references in his writings about this possible connection. Nonetheless, McLeod’s statement the “Sant tradition label applied to North Indian bhakats (bhagats) such as Kabir and Ravidas does not emerge until the nineteenth century†points in the direction of the Radhasoami sect founded by Shiv Dayal Singh (1818-1878) in the 1850s in Agra. Further, in his autobiography published in 2004, McLeod mentions that in 2001 he attended a conference of Namdharis8, who do not believe that Guru Gobind Singh consecrated Aad Guru Granth Sahib as the Guru of the Sikhs, and they have their own line of physically living Gurus after Guru Gobind Singh. And, McLeod keeps repeating that Guru Gobind Singh did not anoint AGGS as the Guru of Sikhs.

My quest for the evidence of how and where McLeod got the idea of â€Sant tradition†was rewarded soon. My friend Colonel G.B. Singh surprised me with a book: “The Japji: The Message of Guru Nanak†authored by Kirpal Singh, a disciple of Baba Sawan Singh, once a head of the Radhasoami dera at Beas. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the endorsement of this book on the cover by Mark Juergensmeyer who wrote:

This classic sixteenth century prayer hymn of Guru Nanak, the Sant who is regarded by Sikhs as the founder of their faith, has been rendered into powerful English and adjoined with extensive commentary by a modern master in the Sant tradition, Kirpal Singh. He has unpacked the dense philosophical language of the original, and provided us with his own distinctive interpretation, one in which the insights of Guru Nanak are enhanced by those of Kirpal Singh’s more recent predecessors - Sawan Singh, Jaimal Singh and Swami Shiv Dayal Singh. For that reason the reissue of this readable little book will be best appreciated by those who wish to understand not only the medieval Sant tradition but its modern revival as well.9

Juergensmeyer, whose expertise on Guru Nanak, it appears, is limited to what he learned from Radhasoami masters like Kirpal Singh, had no compunction in advertising this book, which is full of gross distortions, amounting to repudiation of Nanakian philosophy. Juergensmeyer has also authored Radhasoami Reality: The Logic Of A Modern Faith.10 McLeod is one of the persons acknowledged who read the manuscript. McLeod and Juergensmeyer are close friends as reported in McLeod’s autobiography.11 It is also worth noting that Juergensmeyer had some input into Harjot Oberoi’s The Construction of Religious Boundaries: Culture, Identity and Diversity in the Sikh Tradition, which received worldwide criticism from Sikhs for blatant disregard for truth and flagrant misrepresentation of Sikh theology and history.12 When Oberoi finished his doctoral dissertation he thought his questions stood answered, until Mark Juergensmeyer, Jerry Barrier and Robin Jeffery read the dissertation:

They had their own set of questions, and over the past four years these also became my questions. Answering them started yet another journey towards revising and reformulating my graduate exercise, and as a result this book does not resemble the dissertation, particularly in its overall argument and specific discussion. Although I am still far from finding all the answers to the questions so gently posed by the three readers of the dissertation, particularly in its overall argument and specific discussions.13

It becomes more and more obvious where McLeod, the missionary from New Zealand, picked his other odious ideas about Sikhism. It is likely at the Radhasoami center in Beas where he learned the ideas such as Guru Gobind Singh not having invested Guruship in Aad Guru Granth Sahib14 and, the numerically preponderant Jat Sikhs bewail that there was never a single Jat Guru.15

Now, who is this Kirpal Singh? What are his credentials that qualify him as a great exponent of the Nanakian philosophy, as advertised by Juergensmeyer? According to Kirpal Singh (1894-1974) he investigated the claims of many yogis and saints for years before his initiation by Baba Sawan Singh of Beas where he studied diligently for 24 years under him. Further he stresses that Sawan Singh had chosen him as his spiritual successor.16 However, he is reluctant to divulge why he couldn’t succeed Sawan Singh at Beas. But it is not difficult to figure out why? Kirpal was muscled out of Beas by Jats who wanted Jagat Singh Klare, a Jat as their guru. Jagat Singh, who used to look like a typical Punjabi lala17 (term used for Punjabi Hindu shopkeepers) started supporting a lavish white beard and kesh (scalp hair) covered with a neat impressive “Sikh style†white turban thus becoming “Sardar Bahadar Jagat Singh Ji Maharajâ€, characteristic of a typical thug pretending to be an embodiment of piety.18 One may ask what was wrong with his “lala†appearance? And who gave this “Hindu Jat†the title of “Sardar Bahadurâ€? The British colonists used to bestow “Rai Bahadur†and “Sardar Bahadur†titles to Hindu and Sikh toadies, respectively! Who were Sawan Singh and Jagat Singh trying to deceive and mislead? It is a mystery why Jagat Singh left for “sach khand†in such a hurry in 1951 only three years after Sawan’s flight to “sach khand.†The Radhasoami literature says that “Masters†can live as long as they like:

Death does not come to them as it does to other human beings. When a Master wishes to leave His body, He simply steps out of it as one casts off an old garment. Daily they pass through the experience of death in their meditation, when they take their soul to Higher Regions. … They could remain in their bodies for centuries or for any number of years if they so wished, but they do not get any pleasure in doing so.19

Then why was Jagat Singh in such a hurry to reach "sach khand"? Could it be that Sawan’s favorite grandson, “Charana†was in a hurry to become “Maharaj Charan Singh Ji� There are other mysteries about Jagat Singh. According to Radhasoami literature, The Science of the Soul:

He passed away quietly on the morning of 23rd October 1951. The day before, He had dictated His will and given instructions about his funeral. He wanted no show, no waiting for people to attend the cremation. The body was to be cremated within a few hours and the remains were to be consigned to the river on the same day. There is a custom in this country to bathe the dead body, anoint it with perfume etc. and cover it with a clean, new sheet of cloth. He completed this process very simply the night before His death by asking the doctor to give Him an enema, getting His body rubbed with a wet towel and changing into a clean sheet.20

These statements raise many questions. Why was it necessary for Jagat Singh to have an enema on the night before his flight to “sach khand� Radhasoami literature is filled with references to Yoga and the Chakras in which the yogi’s “Brahmand†is reflected.21 Yogis were by and large homosexuals who lived in their own camps on hills and mountains away from the general public. They practiced the art of sophisticated trickery and magic for their livelihood. They were essentially parasites without any spiritual attribute or any positive contribution to society. They indulged in all sorts of sexual activities for gratification and they were particularly preoccupied with the “Guda Chakra, Muladhar (anus plexus).†They were also obsessed with the cleanliness of their internal organs, particularly the rectum. They developed a technique, Wasti Karam (enema) for flushing the rectum with water through a hollow bamboo stick, one finger broad and four fingers long passed up through the anus.22 Radhasoami Masters indulged in this practice more or less routinely. That is why Jagat Singh wanted enema before flying to sach khand.

It was Jaimal Singh (1838-1903), a Jat of Gurdaspur District, who established the Radhasoami dera at Beas in 188923 after his retirement as a Havildar from the British army. It was Swami Shiv Dayal Singh who persuaded Jaimal in 1856 to enlist in the British army at Agra.24 It would be interesting to find what role Jaimal and his Swami played during the mutiny of 1857! According to Kirpal Singh, Jaimal Singh’s regiment was disbanded after the great rebellion of 1857. It seems that Jaimal must have earned laurels from the British, as he wasted no time in re-enlisting in the 24th Sikh Regiment at Peshawar in 1858.25 Kirpal Singh describes Jaimal Singh as pursuer of rigid brahamcharya for he remained celibate all his years.26 But this does not seem to be correct, as it is quite evident that he made up for the lost time by having good time with Bibi Rukko, “the spiritually advanced disciple†of Baba Chanda Singh, who was also initiated by Swami Shiv Dyal Singh. When Chanda Singh was ready to fly to “sach khand,†Bibi Rukko asked, “What was to become of her?†â€Fear not my child,†replied the sage, “Another greater than myself shall take care of you.†“Where shall I find him, Sir,†asked Bibi Rukko. â€Find him? No, you shall have no need, for he himself will seek you out.â€27 After Jaimal’s ascent to “sach khand,†Bibi Rukko’s “spiritually advanced soul†floating in heavens descended to the mundane sphere, she “fought†with Sawan and, with a wooden club beat the hell out of others who were staying at the dera in Beas.28 It would be really interesting to find out what Sawan did to poor Bibi Rukko! Far more important is to know how and why that scoundrel Chanda Singh destroyed the life of a poor helpless woman?

Jaimal used to amuse himself by calling himself “Jat-guru.â€29 The Punjabi proverb, “j`t mclw Kudw nUM lY gey cor (Jat machla khuda nu lai gae choar): a Jat can even pretend that thieves stole God†depicts Jaimal’s character so accurately! Kirpal Singh also claims that Bhai Bala of “Bala Janam-Sakhi†had prophesied that he would reappear in some future age at some Jat home and that Jaimal Singh was the reincarnation of Bhai Bala, who incidentally was also born in Gurdaspur district. He further claims that Jaimal Singh’s followers “did not fail to note the resemblance between the two.â€30

The Radhasoami dera at Beas headed by Jats is like another heretical Jat cult, the Hindalis or Niranjanis founded by Bidhi Chand, the son of Baba Hindal of Jandiala. Baba Hindal was a devout follower of Guru Amar Das, who on account of his dedicated service in the Guru’s langar was appointed to a position of authority in the Langar (community kitchen).31 The Bala Janam-Sakhi was created by this cult32 to undermine Nanakian philosophy.33, 34 The Hindalis were bitter enemies of the Sikhs.32, 35It is no wonder why Bala Janam-Sakhi is the favorite literature of the Radhasoamis. Kirpal Singh says, “Guru Nanak had Bhai Bala and Bhai Mardana, one a Hindu and the other a Mohammedan on his right and left through his travels in Asia.â€36 But there is no evidence that Bhai Bala was a close associate of Guru Nanak. In Bhai Gurdas’ list of prominent Sikhs, the name of Bhai Mardana is near the top but there is no mention of Bala.37

Moreover, Guru Nanak rejected all the essentials of Hinduism including reincarnation, celibacy and ascetic life, and he denounced yogis and their methodology to attain salvation. But Kirpal Singh interprets Guru Nanak’s Japji as if Guru Nanak was a practicing yogi. For the sake of brevity let me cite two instances:

iqQY sIqo sIqw mihmw mwih]

AGGS, Jap 37, p. 8.

Kirpal Singh interprets this verse as: “Here dwell devotees with devotion, incomparable as Sita’s (Sita: The wife of King Rama Chandra known for her great devotion).â€38

He interprets “sIqo sIqw (sito sita)†as Rama’s wife Sita whereas it means "stitched together" (fully absorbed in contemplation on God i.e. to be one with God).

Similarly, in his commentary on celibacy, Kirpal says, “In the Shastras (Hindu scriptures) it is stated that to waste even a drop of semen is equal to death and to conserve it is life. Guru Nanak has also said, “Whosoever loses semen looses every thing.â€â€39

Now, Guru Nanak was a married man. He rejected and denounced celibacy and ascetic way of life in no uncertain terms. For Guru Nanak a householder life is the proper way to realize God/Truth.

Gwil Kwie ikCu hQhu dyie ]

nwnwk rwhu pCwxih syie ]

guru pIru sdwey mMgx jwey ]

qw kY mUil n lgIAY pwie ]

One who works hard to make an honest living and practices charity finds the righteous path. Never touch the feet of the one who claims to be a spiritual guide but goes around begging for alms.

AGGS, M 1, p. 1245.

ibMdu n rwKih jqI khwvih ]

Yogi calls himself jati (celibate) but has no control over his sexual drive.

AGGS, M 1, p. 903.

jqn krY ibMdu ikvY n rhweI ]

In spite of all efforts the yogi/ascetic cannot control his sexual urge.

AGGS, M 1, p. 906.

The Radhasoami “masters†are not different from other Indian holy men or evangelist preachers.

Vaishnava Tradition

The term Bhakti movement is a Western/European construct. There is no evidence that the Vaishnava bhagats as a group or as individuals had any specific objective/agenda for the Hindu society, which was conquered by Muslim invaders. If it was anything it was symbolic of total political surrender of Hindus to Muslim rulers: Ishwaro va Dillishwro va (The emperor of Delhi is as great as God) had become the maxim of the Hindu elite under Muslim rule.40

The Vaisnava bhagats (bhakats) were generally Brahmans/upper caste like Ramanuja, Madhava, Nimbarka, Ramananda, Vallbha and Tulsidas. They were monotheistic and pantheistic at the same time. They worshiped and adored God whom they called Narayana and Hari but they also had their favorite deity, Rama or Krishna, the reincarnation of Vishnu. They adored Rama and his wife Sita, and Krishna and his consorts. They accepted the authority of Vedas and Upanishads and all the doctrines and systems prescribed therein including the caste system and its social ramifications. They also accepted the doctrine of incarnation and the external forms of worship, including idol worship, formalism, rituals and the sanctity of Hindu pilgrim centers. Above all they were ascetics who advocated celibacy and their thoughts represent the mainstream of Hindu philosophy going back to the Vedas.41

Furthermore, their so-called “bhakti†was an escape from their societal responsibilities. The advent of political Islam, thrust on the Indian horizon in the medieval age, resulted in the alienation of the Hindu society from political power. Instead of responding to this situation in a positive way, Hindu society of the period adopted an escapist attitude. Through the bhakti ethos, the drifting of the “Hindu collective alienation†from political power was completed in due course of time. The conservative, retrogressive, nihilistic and pessimistic nature of the Vaishnava bhakti provided the Hindu elite an ideological legitimatization to their political alienation, thus rendering them incapacitated and paralyzed on the sociopolitical level. In other words it was an “illusionary†compensation of moksha (salvation) in Baikunth (heaven) for their loss of political power and all the privileges that come with it.

Niharranjan Ray hits the nail on the head when he points out that the Vaishanava Bhakti movement betrayed an attitude of surrendering abjectly and absolutely as much to their personal God as to the established social order.42 Professor Mohammed Iqbal, a celebrated poet and a great Islamic thinker of the twentieth century, does not see any visible impact of the bhakats on Indian society:

kOm ny pYgwNm goqm kI zrw prvwh nw kI [

kdr pihcwnI nw Awpny gohr jkdwnw kI [


Awh CUdr ky lIey ihMdosqwn gmKwnw hY [

drdy ienswnI sy ies bsqI kw idl bygwnw hY [

iPr auTI AwiKr sdw qOhId kI pMjwb sy [

ihMd ko iek mrdy kwml ny jgwieAw KuAwb sy [

The Indian people did not pay any attention to the message of Gautam. They did not recognize the value of their "flawless diamond". India is a land of sorrow and suffering for the Shudar. There is no compassion in this place. … Eventually, a voice rose from Punjab proclaiming the unity of mankind under â€One and Only" God. A “perfect man†from Punjab awakened the conscience of the Indian people with his message of “universal love and humanismâ€.

Poem: Nanak

The abnegation by the Hindu elite of its responsibility to Hindu society and the country, and their abject surrender to Muslim onslaught did not go unnoticed by historians.

In the history of the fateful forty-five years (1295-1345) traced by us so far, the one distressfully disappointing feature has been the absence, in Maharastra, of the will to resist the invaders. The people of Maharastra were conquered, oppressed and humiliated, but they meekly submitted like dumb driven cattle.43

What is painful is that, sometimes, a handful of foreigners overran vast tracts of the land without countering any sizable resistance. Shihab-ud-din Gauri won the second battle of Tarain (near Delhi) in 1192 C.E., and within fourteen years his General, Bakhtiyar Khilji had reached the bank of Brahmputra. Nadiya was occupied with an advance party of no more than eighteen horsemen and this opened the way for the establishment of Muslim rule in Bengal.43 (parenthesis by B. Singh)

Nevertheless, the Brahman who was the kingpin, ideologue and the center of Hindu Dharma, missed being a raj mantri (minister of state), raj guru (religious advisor to the king) and raj prohit (family priest of the king) after the defeat of Rajput rulers. He was not satisfied with status quo. He turned to the Chanakya (Kautilya) niti44 (policy of perverse morality -- morality turned upside down), instead of seeking moksha (salvation) in Baikunth (heaven). Instead of praying to goddess Durga, he turned to the goddess in flesh (Rajput princess) in order to get back not only into the Mughal court but also into the Mughal palace. He advised the royal Rajputs to give their daughters in marriage to Emperor Akbar. Now, it is an anathema even for an ordinary Rajput to marry his daughter to a non-Rajput Hindu, not to speak of a royal Rajput marrying his daughter to a Muslim, whom he considers as malesha (polluted/defiled). But this case was different as this matrimonial alliance was blessed and sanctified by the Brahman.

The Rajput rulers led by the Ambar family accepted this proposal without blinking an eye45 thus opening the door for Brahmans, Rajputs, Khatris, Banias and Kayasthas in Akbar’s administration. Many of them held prominent positions, Birbal and Todar Mal were among the “jewels†of Akbar’s court and Raja Man Singh was a very distinguished and decorated commander in the Mughal army. In gratitude, Akbar cancelled the Jizya (poll tax on non-Muslims) imposed by earlier Muslim rulers. The Rajputs played a major role in the expansion and consolidation of Mughal Empire. The Brahman chanted a new mantra, Ishwaro va Dillishwaro va, (The emperor of Delhi is as great as God).40

Akbar’s Rajput in-laws made it sure that there was no royal Rajput left who would taunt them by saying: “You have sent your daughters to the haram (concubine quarters) of a malesha.†The only Rajput sovereign who refused to kowtow to Akbar was Maharana Partap. All the Rajput vassals joined Akbar in defeating this valiant man.46

Radical Bhagats

Namdev, Kabir and Ravidas repudiated most essentials of Hinduism. Calling these bhagats as Hindus or Hindu reformers betrays ignorance of their ideology or it is a disingenuous attempt to hijack their ideology. These bhagats denounced the tyranny of caste system on the one hand and bigotry of the Muslims on the other. They were neither Hindus nor Muslims; they were humanists. That is why Jagjit Singh and Daljeet Singh have characterized these bhagats as "radical bhagats"47, 48 to distinguish them from Vaisnava bhagats.

BYrau BUuq sIqlw DwvY ]

Kr bwhn auhu Cwr aufwvY ]

hau qau eyku rmeIAw lY hau ]

Awn dyv bdlwvin dY hau ] rhwau ]

isv isv krqy jo nru iDAwvY ]

brd cFy faurU FmkwvY]

mhw mweI pUjw krY ]

nr sY nwir hoie AauqrY ]

qU khIAq hI Awid BvwnI ]

mukiq kI brIAw khw CpwnI ]

gurmiq rwm nwm ghu mIqw ]

pRxvY nwmw ieau khY gIqw ]

If one worships Bhairo (dreadful incarnation of Shiva), one becomes bhoot (evil spirit). If one worships the goddess of small pox, one rides a donkey like her covered with a cloud of dust. I meditate only on the Beautiful One, God. I will exchange all your gods for God. Pause. Anyone, who worships Shiva, rides a bull, beating a tambourine. A man who worships Parvati (great mother) shall be born as a woman. You say Bhawani (goddess Durga) is the source of all power, but where does she hide when her devotees ask for liberation? My dear friend, Namdev appeals to you to seek shelter in God--that is the right way to praise God.

AGGS, Namdev, p. 874.

Bhagat Namdev is speaking to his audience, who understand the context of Hindu worship and imagery. In a satirical humor he explains that the maximum reward one can achieve by worshipping gods and goddesses is to become like them (one could become what one worships is a Hindu belief). So a man who worships the great mother (goddess) could expect to be incarnated as a woman.

Bhagat Nam Dev was tormented by the Brahmans who did not allow his entry into the temple because of his birth as a Sudra. He expressed his anguish in a hymn addressed to a Brahman priest (pandey).

Awju nwmy bITlu dyiKAw mUrK ko smJwaU ry ] rhwau ]

pWfy qumrI gwieqRI loDy kw Kyqu KwqI QI ]

lY kir Tygw tgrI qorI lWgq lWgq jwqI QI ]

pWfy qumrw mhwdyau Dauly bld ciVAw Awvqu dyiKAw Qw ]

modI ky Gr Kwxw pwkw vw kw lVkw mwirAw Qw ]

pWfy qumrw rwmcMdu so BI Awvqu dyiKAw Qw ]

rwvn syqI srbr hoeI Gr kI joie gvweI QI ]

ihMdU AMnwH qurkU kwxw ]duhW qy igAwnI isAwxw ]

ihMdU pUjY dyhurw muslmwxu msIiq ]

nwmy soeI syivAw jh dyhurw n msIiq ]

Listen! O pandey, I meditate on the Almighty God and I have found Him. O ignorant one, what have you gained from your holy mantras and gods? I have heard that your Gyatri was a cow in previous life. When she strayed into the field of a farmer, named Loda, he broke her leg with a club and she became lame. I have heard about your god Shiva, the rider of white bull. He went to the house of a devotee for a feast. He didn’t like the food, so he killed the host’s son with a curse. I have also heard about your god Ram, who fought with Ravana, who kidnapped his wife. Hindu is blind whereas a Muslim is one eyed, spiritually. Wiser than both is the one who sees God in all. Temples are sacred to the Hindus and mosques are sacred to the Muslims, whereas Nam Dev focuses his mind on the One and Only, Who is not restricted either to the temple or the mosque.

AGGS, Namdev, p. 875.

byd purwn swsqR AnMqw gIq kibq n gwvaugo ]

AKMf mMfl inrMkwr mih Anhd bynu bjwvaugo ]

I shall not sing the endless verses and songs of Vedas, Puranas and Shastars. I shall play a steady tune on the flute of love for the "Formless One" Whose abode is Eternal.

AGGS, Namdev, p. 972.

eykY pwQr kIjY Bwau ]

dUjy pwQr DrIAY pwau ]

jy Ehu dyau q Ehu BI dyvw ]

kih nwmdyau hm hir kI syvw ]

One stone is adorned whereas another is trodden under feet. If one is god then the other is also god. Namdev says, “I serve only God.â€

AGGS, Namdev, p. 525.

Alhu gYbu sgl Gt Biqir ihrdY lyhu bIcwrI ]

ihMdU qurk duhUM mih eykY khY kbIr pukwrI ]

“O mullah, ponder over the fact that God resides within all,†Kabir proclaims loudly, “The same God is within both Hindus and Muslims.â€

AGGS, Kabir, p. 483.

byd kI puqRI isMimRiq BweI ]

sWkl jyvrI lY hY AweI ]

O my brothers Simrti is based on the Vedas. It has brought the chains of the caste system and ropes of liturgy to entrap you.

AGGS, Kabir, p. 329.

grB vws mih kulu nhI jwqI ]

bRhm ibMdu qy sBu auqpwqI ]


jO qUM bRwhmxu bRhmxI jwieAw ]

qEu Awn bwt kwhy nhI AwieAw]

qum kq bRwhmx hm kq sUd ]

hm kq lohU qum kq dUD ]

O Brahman! Inside the womb there is no lineage or caste! All are created from the seed of Brahm (God). If you are Brahman born of Brahman mother then why did you not take birth by some other route? How come you are Brahman and I am Shudar? How come I am defiled (blood) and you are holy (milk)?

AGGS, Kabir, p. 324.

kbIr rwm khn mih Bydu hY qw mih eyku ibcwru ]

soeI rwmu sBY khih soeI kauqkhwr ]

kbIr rwmY rwm khu kihby mwih ibbyk ]

eyku Anykih imil gieAw eyk smwnw eyk ]

After thinking over the meaning of “Ramâ€, Kabir says that there are differences in the usage of this word. While everyone uses “Ram†for God, the actors use it for Ram Chandar, the son of Dasrath. Kabir dwells on “Ram†Who is present in all whereas the other (Ram Chandar) was only himself.

Awpn bwpY nwhI iksI ko Bwvn ko hir rwjw ]

moh ptl sBu jgqu ibAwipE Bgq nhI sMqwpw ]

The Supreme Ruler is not the inheritance/monopoly of anyone, except those who love Him. The whole world is under the influence of worldly temptations whereas His devotees are free.

AGGS, Ravidas, p. 658.

qnu mnu Arpau pUj cravau ]

gur prswid inrMjnu pwvau ]

pUujw Arcw Awih n qorI ]

kih rivdws kvn giq morI ]

I have dedicated my mind and body in place of ritual worship which has made me realize the Perfect One. I can’t adore You (God) by performing Hindu rites. Ravidas says,†What would have been my condition if I had not found You?â€

AGGS, Ravidas, p. 525.

krm Akrm bIcwrIAY sMkw suin byd purwnu ]

sMsw sd ihrdy bsY kaunu ihrY AiBmwnu ]

If one determines good or bad actions on the basis of Vedas and Puranas, one’s mind is filled with doubt and worry. These scriptures do not tell how to cure self-conceit and arrogance.

AGGS, Ravidas, p. 346.

Guru Arjan honored the radical bhagats by incorporating their compatible thoughts in the AGGS, whereas there is no mention of the contribution of any Vaishnava bhagat. However, it needs to be stressed here that notwithstanding their radical ideology these bhagats did not set up organizations to carry their message forward to oppose the tyranny of caste system and oppression of the rulers. Nor did their followers join the Sikh revolution in response to Guru Nanak’s call:

jau qau pRym Kylx kw cwau]

isru Dir qlI glI myrI Awau]

iequ mwrig pYru DrIjY]

isr dIjY kwix n kIjY]

If you want to play the game of love (follow the righteous path) then follow me and be prepared to sacrifice your life. Once you step on this path, do not hesitate to offer your head.

AGGS, M 1, p. 1412.

This proclamation is central to the Sikh revolution; it is the basis of Miri-Piri (temporal and spiritual sovereignty) and the evolution of the noble Khalsa Order. Only a moral person (gurmukh) can be a mir-pir/Khalsa. Inspired by Nanakian philosophy (Gurmat), the Khalsa forces forged mostly from the downtrodden stock of the Hindu Society--Sudras and Untouchables--fought against three formidable foes: the mighty Mughals, the caste hierarchy and the foreign invaders for about half a century! Eventually the Khalsa established a Kingdom over a vast tract in the Northwest region of the Indian sub-continent about which Baron Hugel, an Austrian traveler, wrote:

The state established by Ranjit Singh was the most wonderful object in the whole world.49

Nath Tradition

In his long composition, Sidh Gost and other hymns Guru Nanak rejected ideology and practices of the sidhas/yogis. Guru Nanak’s attitude was the same for other ascetic orders. The sidhas were searching for salvation through acetic and celibate life whereas Guru Nanak championed householder life as the right path for salvation, as it is the householder who sustains society. The presence of Nath terminology such as kundalini, ida, pingala, sushmana, chakra and pranayam in Guru Nanak’s composition can in no way be construed that it has any relevance to Nanakian philosophy. These terms are there because Guru Nanak refuted unequivocally the rationale behind such practices for the realization of God.

Gwil Kwie ikCu hQhu dyie ]

nwnwk rwhu pCwxih syie ]

guru pIru sdwey mMgx jwey ]

qw kY mUil n lgIAY pwie ]

One who works hard to make an honest living and practices charity finds the righteous path. Never touch the feet of the one who claims to be a spiritual guide but goes around begging for alms.

AGGS, M 1, p. 1245.

inrMkwir jo rhY smwie ]

kwhy BIiKAw mMgix jwie ]

Why should he beg for alms who claim to dwell on God?

AGGS, M 1, p. 953.

ibMdu n rwKih jqI khwvih ]

Yogi calls himself jati (celibate) but has no control over his sexual drive.

AGGS, M 1, p. 903.

jqn krY ibMdu ikvY n rhweI ]

In spite of all efforts the ascetic cannot control his sexual urge.

AGGS, M 1, p. 906.

muMdw sMqoKu srmu pqu JolI iDAwn kI krih ibBUiq ]

iKMQw kwlu kuAwrI kwieAw jugiq fMfw prqIiq ]

AweI pMQI sgl jmwqI min jIqY jgu jIqu ]

Adysu iqsY Awdysu ]

Awid AnIlu Anwid Anwhiq jugu jugu eyko vysu ]

O Yogi, let contentment be your earrings, hard work a begging bowl and bag, and meditation on God be the ashes you put on your body. Let the thought of death be your patched quilt, chastity your yoga, and staff faith in God. Let your Aee Panth (a sect of yogis) be universal brotherhood and subdue your mind to conquer worldly temptations. Salute again and again to the One, Who is eternal, immaculate, timeless, indestructible, and changeless throughout the ages.

AGGS, Jap 28, p. 6.

It is abundantly clear to any objective reader of Aad Guru Granth Sahib that Guru Nanak rejected both the Vaishnava and Nath traditions in no uncertain terms. Even McLeod himself reaches the same conclusion, for example, when he says, “Guru Nanak himself explicitly rejected Nath beliefs and his works bear clear witness to open controversy with Nath yogis.â€50

Here there is no kundalini, no ida, pingala, and no susumana, no chakra and no pranayam.51

In light of McLeod’s above statement, it is astonishing when Jakobsh says, “Guru Nanak’s theology is a combination of Vaishnava tradition and the Nath tradition, with possible elements of Sufism as well.â€2 McLeod has purposely made self-contradictory statements to confuse the readers to create doubts about Nanakian philosophy. This is exactly the same technique, which is followed by Jakobsh. For example, first she quotes McLeod in order to fit Guru Nanak squarely within the Sant parampara (tradition) and also in a wider sense, the Bhakti milieu of North India.2 But immediately in the next paragraph she contradicts herself by quoting Grewal when she draws the distinction between Guru Nanak versus Kabir and yogis:

To understand Guru Nanak’s attitude towards women and gender in general, it is useful to compare his theological underpinnings with those of Kabir, the fountainhead of Sant synthesis. Though Kabir lived 150 years before Guru Nanak, the similarity of their teachings is striking, and as Karine Schomer points out, it is precisely this aspect as opposed to historical connection or institutional foci that closely binds Guru Nanak and Kabir. … Yet, especially with respect to Kabir’s attitude towards women, there appears to be a subtle break in the similarities between the two. Grewal (1996:150) explains this in terms of their relative standings in the sant tradition of Northern India. … For Yogis, whose primary aim was the vanquishing of desire, particularly sexual desire, women were great obstacles to be conquered. Kabir’s attitude towards woman was similar to that of the yogis in that he viewed women as seductive, as tempting men away from their true calling. Guru Nanak, on the other hand, criticized yogis for their solitary, acetic spiritual search. Contrary to the yogic apprehension of sexuality, Guru Nanak furthered the ideal of householder.52


There was no Sant tradition during the time of Sikh Gurus. McLeod himself admits that the term “Sant tradition†did not emerge until the nineteenth century.

During the days of slavery and colonization, missionaries used to be blunt in ridiculing and denigrating native religions. However, nowadays, because of changed circumstances missionaries have changed tactics but their intent is still the same — casting doubt on the validity of other religions. In McLeod’s works on Sikhism there is a very clear persistent pattern of distortion of Sikhism. He has cast doubt on the authenticity of the Sikh scripture, teachings of Gurus and Sikh history and traditions. He has used contradictory and ambiguous statements to confuse the readers. His response to Nirvikar Singh’s article is a typical example of how he evades the issue and cleverly confuses the readers by asking “Was Guru Nanak a Sant? The answer is both yes and no.†His statements on page 70 of Exploring Sikhism, [New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2000] represents a typical example of the technique he uses to confuse the readers by casting doubts about Sikhism.

The questions ‘Was Guru Nanak the founder of Sikhism?’ and ‘Is Sikhism a variety of Hinduism?’ are misleading because the answers have to be both yes and no.

McLeod claims that he is a Western historian trained in Western methods of historical research and adheres to Western notions of historiography. And in his lectures and publications he describes himself as a “skeptical historian.†But where did he learn the rigors required for implementing “Western methodology of historical research,†for his training was in the field of Christian theology as a Christian missionary -- a profession riddled with blind faith, which carries barely a hint of “Western methodology of historical research!†McLeod may have taken undergraduate courses in history. He got his Ph.D. on Guru Nanak bypassing the norms, standards and ethics of academic research and requirements. Neither McLeod’s thesis supervisor nor examiners knew anything about Guru Nanak and the Sikh religion, yet the University of London had no problem accepting his thesis for the award of a Ph.D. degree. Moreover, he concealed the contents of his thesis for three years until the review of the thesis in the Times Literary Supplement by Prof. Zaehner hailed him as being among the foremost scholars of Sikh Studies in the world. Furthermore, Prof. Zaehner was not known for his expertise in Sikhism. May I ask what is it that McLeod calls “Western methods of historical research and Western notions of historiography?â€

McLeod’s agenda from the very beginning of his writings on Sikhism was the subversion of Sikhism. That is why he called Guru Nanak a Sant and placed him in the Bhakti milieu of North India to undermine the uniqueness of Nanakian philosophy (Gurmat). It is a sad commentary on academic scholarship and integrity when people like Doris Jakobsh who know little of Nanakian philosophy53 as enshrined in Aad Guru Granth Sahib repeat verbatim what McLeod had written about Guru Nanak.


1. Doris R. Jakobsh. Relocating Gender In Sikh History: Transformation, Meaning and Identity. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2003, p. 233.

2. Doris R. Jakobsh. Relocating Gender In Sikh History: Transformation, Meaning and Identity. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2003, p. 23.

3. Nirvikar Singh. â€Guru Nanak and the ‘Sants’: A Reappraisalâ€. International Journal of Punjab Studies, 2001, 8 (1), pp. 1-34.

4. “Guru Nanak and the ‘Sants’: A Debateâ€. International Journal of Punjab Studies, 2002, 9 (1), pp. 137-42.

5. Baldev Singh. “Understanding W. H. McLeod and His Work on Sikhismâ€. SikhSpectrum.com, August 2005; www.globalsikhstudies.net.

6. Baldev Singh. “My Favourite Authorâ€. SikhSpectrum.com, May 2007.

7. Baldev Singh. “Un-academic, Unethical and Unsolicited Adviceâ€. SikhSpectrum.com, May 2007.

8. W. H. McLeod. Discovering the Sikhs: Autobiography of a Historian. Delhi: Permanent Black, 2004, p. 213.

9. Kirpal Singh. The Japji: The Message of Guru Nanak. Delhi: Sawan Kirpal Publications, 1981.

10. Mark Juergensmeyer. Radhasoami Reality: The Logic Of A Modern Faith. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996.

11. W. H. McLeod. Discovering the Sikhs: Autobiography of a Historian. Delhi: Permanent Black, 2004, pp. 85, 93-94.

12. Jasbir Singh Mann, Surinder Singh Sodhi, and Gurbakhsh Singh Gill (Eds.). Invasion of Religious Boundaries. Vancouver: Canadian Sikh Study & Teaching Society, 1995, p. 303.

13. Harjot Oberoi. The Construction of Religious Boundaries: Culture, Identity and Diversity in the Sikh Tradition. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1994, pp. xi-xii.

14. W. H. McLeod. The Evolution of the Sikh Community in Sikhs and Sikhism. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1999, pp. 17-18.

15. Ibid., pp. 87-88.

16. Kirpal Singh. The Japji: The Message of Guru Nanak. Delhi: Sawan Kirpal Publications, 1981, p. about the author.

17. Mark Juergensmeyer. Radhasoami Reality: The Logic Of A Modern Faith. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996, p.53: photo of Sawan Singh with disciples.

18. Jagat Singh. The Science of the Soul. Beas: Radha Soami Satsang Beas, 7th edition, 1987, photo of Sardar Bahadur Jagat Singh Ji Maharaj.

19. Daryai L. Kapur. Call of The Great Master. Beas: Radha Soami Satsang Beas, 7th edition, 1986, pp. 79-80.

20. Jagat Singh. The Science of the Soul. Beas: Radha Soami Satsang Beas, 7th edition, 1987, p. ix.

21. Philosophy Of The Masters, series IV. Beas: Radha Soami Satsang Beas, third edition, 1977, pp. lxvi-lxvii.

22. Philosophy Of The Masters, series III. Beas: Radha Soami Satsang Beas, third edition, 1977, p. 21.

23. Kirpal Singh. A Great Saint, Baba Jaimal Singh: His Life & Teachings. Delhi: Ruhani Satsang, 1973, pp. 19, 55, 83.

24. Ibid., p. 42.

25. Ibid., p. 46.

26. Ibid., p. 55.

27. Ibid., pp. 63, 71, 75, 81.

28. Spiritual Letters. Beas: Radha Soami Satsang Beas, 7th edition, 1998, pp. 259-60.

29. Kirpal Singh. A Great Saint, Baba Jaimal Singh: His Life & Teachings. Delhi: Ruhani Satsang, 1973, p. 82.

30. Ibid., p. 84.

31. W. H. McLeod. Guru Nanak and the Sikh Religion. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1996, p. 23.

32. Ibid., pp. 23-25.

33. J. S. Grewal. The Sikh Of The Punjab. New Delhi: Cambridge University Press, 1994, pp. 62-63, 76.

34. Surjit Hans. A Reconstruction Of Sikh History From Sikh Literature. Jalandhar: ABS Publications, 1988, pp. 204-206.

35. Sangat Singh. The Sikhs In History. New Delhi: Uncommon Books, 4th edition, 2001, pp. 97, 100-101.

36. Kirpal Singh. The Japji: The Message of Guru Nanak. Delhi: Sawan Kirpal Publications, 1981, p. 79.

37. Bhai Gurdas. Varan Bhai Gurdas (Punjabi). Amritsar: Jawahar Singh Kirpal Singh and Co., pp. 90-102.

38. Kirpal Singh. The Japji: The Message of Guru Nanak. Delhi: Sawan Kirpal Publications, 1981, p. 121.

39. Kirpal Singh. The Teachings Of Kirpal Singh. Delhi and Bowling Green, VA: Sawan Kirpal Publications, three volumes in one Book, 1985, Vol. II, p 50.

40. Gokul C. Narang. Transformation Of Sikhism. New Delhi: New Book Society of India, 5th edition, 1960, p. 98.

41. Daljeet Singh. Sikhism: A Comparative Study of its Theology and Mysticism. Amritsar: Singh Brothers, 1994, pp. 61-82, 157-174.

42. Niharranjan Ray. The Sikh Gurus and the Sikh Society. Patiala: Punjabi University, 1970, p. 26.

43. Jagjit Singh. The Sikh Revolution: A Perspective View. New Delhi: Bahri Publications, 4th reprint, 1998, p. 149.

44. Sangat Singh. The Sikhs In History. New Delhi: Uncommon Books, 4th edition, 2001, p. xvi.

45. Jagjit Singh. The Sikh Revolution: A Perspective View. New Delhi: Bahri Publications, 4th reprint, 1998, pp. 213-216.

46. Ibid., p. 216.

47. Ibid., pp. 70-76.

48. Daljit Singh. Sikhism: A Comparative Study of its Theology and Mysticism. Amritsar: Singh Brothers, 1994, pp. 157-174.

49. J. S. Grewal. The Sikh Of The Punjab. New Delhi: Cambridge University Press, 1994, p. 113.

50. W. H. McLeod. Guru Nanak and the Sikh Religion. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1996, p. 158.

51. Ibid., p 192.

52. Doris R. Jakobsh. Relocating Gender In Sikh History: Transformation, Meaning and Identity. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2003, pp. 23-24.

53. Baldev Singh. â€Relocating Gender In Sikh History: Transformation, Meaning and Identity: A critical Analysis.†SikhSpectrum.com, November 2006.

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