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General Any Criticisms of the Book, "Sikh Religion," by Max Arthur Macauliffe?

Discussion in 'Hard Talk' started by Hardas Singh, Dec 23, 2008.

  1. Hardas Singh

    Hardas Singh
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    I have read a little bit of this book a while ago and found it quite good, and I've considered buying it for a while because it's highly reccomended for anyone who wants to be a scholar of Sikhism. The full name is Sikh Religion: Its Gurus, Sacred Writings and Authors : Max Arthur Macauliffe
    It's kind of expensive though, so I wanna know if it's worth the price. I've read some other books about Sikhism that were filled with innacuracies so I want to be smart with how I spend my money. My goal is to eventually create as large of a collection of books and information on Sikhism as possible.
    If anyone has any criticisms of this book, or if you know of any innacuracies then please let me know.

    Thank you!
     
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  3. Gyani Jarnail Singh

    Gyani Jarnail Singh Malaysia
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    re: Any Criticisms of the Book, "Sikh Religion," by Max Arthur Macauliffe?

    ALL books and all authors have inadequacies..inaccuracies.
    This is one of the better resources on Sikhism..well worth your money.
    You will learn about inaccuracies and inconsistencies as you collect more books - and you will learn how to become a discerning reader.
    Regards
    Gyani Jarnail Singh
     
  4. Hardas Singh

    Hardas Singh
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    re: Any Criticisms of the Book, "Sikh Religion," by Max Arthur Macauliffe?

    Thank you very much, I feel much more confident in my purchase now.
     
  5. spnadmin

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    Satyadhi ji

    I agree completely with Gianni Jarnail ji. You will hear some critics say that Macauliffe wrote a corrupted version of Sikh history because he was a British official during the Raj and had the ulterior motive to undermine Sikh identity. When people offer this criticism they most likely have him mixed up with another British colonial Ernest Trupp. Ernest Trupp was a Christian religious figure in India who did complete a biased translation of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, along with other treatises that were an assault on Sikhism.

    Macauliffe retired in India where, under the British rule in India, he was a chief solicitor (this is not his exact title). He converted to Sikhism and died a Sikh. He consulted with Sikh religious scholars of his day and used authentic source materials in writing the history of the Sikhs. He read and wrote in Gurmukhi himself. It is reported that on the morning of his death his servant heard him reciting Japjui Sahib. So even at the hour of death he completed his Nitnem.

    This would be a lot of extra effort on the part of someone whose motives were supposed to be wicked and who wanted to undermine Sikhism. Why would he go to these lengths? So I suggest that you do not believe any of it if you hear it.

    Of course there are, as Gianni ji states, inaccuracies. And you have to read widely in order to put a complete picture together. When you read the book you will on the other hand get a very clear picture of the social, political, and religious corruption that surrounded Guru Nanak, and understand the fierce devotion of Sikhs to their religious tradition and their sense of justice.
     
  6. dalsingh

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    My two cents worth:

    I think it is important to remember that Maucauliffe's work was written in the context of an apology from the British establishment for the earlier work they commissioned by Trump (A German linguistic specialist). Trump's work was highly offensive about Skhism, Sikhs and their Gurus. He really struggled with translating the SGGS and is remembered for blowing cigar smoke over the Granth whilst attempting to decipher it. Needless to say, Sikhs had little to do with him.

    By the time of Macauliffe, Sikhs had become very important to the British military machine and so this book was created to provide a more symphathetic portrayal of the Sikh religion, acceptable to Sikhs. So it is politically motivated in this way.

    That being said, as Aad mentioned, the work was created with the full support of top Sikh intellectuals of the time (I think Kahn Singh Nabha was involved). It is also an invaluable source of oral traditions that we would have lost to time otherwise. It is a historically important document for these reasons but some aspects of the work has been superceded by more modern research.
     
  7. spnadmin

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    You drive a stiff proposition dalsingh ji :)

    Do you think that Macauliffe was politically motivated to undermine Sikhism? If so, he would be undermining himself. My questions are offered in good faith because there are some radical perspectives out there who would completely discredit Macauliffe. In my humble opinion no other work so far has so clearly outlined the historical exigencies of Guru Nanak's day that made the birth of Sikhism the liberating religion that it is. This would be my reaction as one not born into Sikhism; and I have not found any sources by Sikh authors born as Sikhs who were able to describe the historical context in such a clear way as Macauliffe.
     
  8. dalsingh

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    No, but what he was keen on doing was ensuring the imperialistic benefit that the British gained from keeping Sikhs "subdued" was perpetuated. That is not to say that he never admired Sikhs/Sikhism and may well have been heavily influenced by them/it as indicated within the work. Ultimately, however, his loyalty lay with the foreign administration more than the Sikhs.

    Contrast this with another earlier pioneer of Sikh studies, Cunningham. This man fought against the Sikhs in the Anglo-Sikh wars but quite openly condemed the actions of his own government in attacking Sikhs in his famous "History of Sikhs". He was made to suffer for his 'disclosures' in various ways, including removing him from employment.

    As I said, his work is very valuable to my mind and you may well be justifed in your opinion of his explanation of the context around the birth of Sikhism. I haven't read it in a while. But, if you look in the books preface and his comments on how the Khalsa is now required to take a vow of loyalty towards the British King when taking amrit. This starkly highlights the true underlying reasons for the promotion of "Sikhism" by himself and the government he represented, which was serving the imperial agenda. Obviously that is not to say the books contents are not valuable in their own right.

    My position is not one of trying to discredit him at all but rather attempting to fully understand the political background under which the work was created. Like I said, it is a source of important oral traditions that cannnot be found elsewhere.

    :)
     
  9. spnadmin

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    Dalsingh ji

    Thanks for this additional information. I will also definitely follow-up with Cunningham. Very interesting knowledge. :)
     
  10. Hardas Singh

    Hardas Singh
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    This information is all quite interesting. I do recall reading about that Trump felow and his rather inaccurate and offensive portrayal of Sikhism.

    I've always wondered though if Mcauliffe ever actually became a Sikh or if he just held Sikhism in high regard and found it's teachings comforting. I've always felt he was a Sikh, but I know some people disagree.
     
  11. spnadmin

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    Satyadhi ji

    Macauliffe did convert to Sikhism.:happy:
     

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